“I thought you said something about ten thousand dollars,” he said. I saw he wasn’t finished yet.
“That’s what I overheard. Why?” I asked, afraid I hadn’t taken enough.
“I’ve already reached ten thousand and there’s more, a lot more, maybe another ten.”
“That’s good for us!” I cried.
“I don’t know,” he said, wavering. The sight of so much money frightened him. “Your father might not want to write off this much.”
“Don’t worry about it, Del.”
“Maybe your parents won’t be as happy to see you gone as you think, Teal.”
“Trust me, they will.”
He continued to count.
“Twenty-two thousand,” he reported, took a deep breath, and put it all back into the envelope.
“That should get us where we want to go and help us get started, don’t you think?”
“Yeah,” he said.
“I’m tired now,” I told him. “You can drive.”
If he was at the wheel, he would think less about it all, I thought. I slowed down and pulled to the side of the road. Cars whizzed by. More people than I thought traveled late at night. Maybe they were all running from something, too.
Del got out, went around the SUV, and got behind the wheel. I slid over to the passenger’s seat. He adjusted the driver’s seat, and we were off again. When we drew closer to Buffalo, Del decided we should pull into a motel.
“It will be daylight soon, and I’ll feel better if we’re off the highway, resting.”
“Sure,” I said. “Whatever you want to do.”
Del wasn’t happy with the first two motels we found off the exit. He thought they were too busy and too close to the highway. He drove on until we found a motel that looked out of business. Its sign had some blown letters, and there were only two other cars parked in front of units. The office was small and very dimly lit.
“I’ll check us in,” he said, taking out one of the hundred-dollar bills from the envelope. “Watch the kids.”
He got out and went into the office. I saw he was standing at the desk for quite a while before a short, bald-headed man in a white undershirt came out of a back room. He scratched his head and looked past Del at the SUV. For a moment I thought there would be a problem, but then Del showed him the money, and he nodded and turned around to fetch a key.
“That’s Norman Bates’s older brother,” Del muttered, getting back in. Norman Bates was the name of the psychotic killer in the movie Psycho. I laughed nervously.
We pulled in front of unit twelve, and Del handed me the unit key.
“Open the door first, and then we’ll bring in the kids,” he said.
Calling Shawn and Patty Girl the kids really made me feel that we were a family now. I hurried to do it and prepare one of the double beds for them. He carried the two of them in his arms, neither really waking up. I took Patty Girl and gently placed her in the bed. He put Shawn in, and we tucked the blanket in around them.
“I wish I could sleep like that,” Del said.
“We’ll bring in what we need for them tomorrow,” he said, and went into the bathroom. I fixed the bed for us and took off my sneakers, jeans, and blouse.
“I’m exhausted,” he said, coming out. “I hope they sleep late.”
I went to the bathroom and washed up. When I came out, Del was already asleep. I crawled in beside him, bringing myself as close to his warm body as I could without waking him. Then I closed my eyes and wished that Shawn’s and Patty Girl’s dreams would make their way over to me, even for a few minutes. I underestimated my own fatigue. Moments after I closed my eyes and snuggled up to Del, I was asleep.
The drapes were heavy enough to keep the morning light from jolting us awake. Shawn and Patty Girl were exhausted enough from the emotional trauma and all to sleep late into the morning, too, but when I awoke, I found Del was up. I turned and saw him sitting there, all dressed, staring at me.