Getting out of the house was the hard part. Everything after that took care of itself. She got a lift almost as soon as she got to the freeway, from a hard-eyed man in a business suit who took her two hundred miles to the south and kept talking the entire time, funny stories about the weirdoes he’d seen while selling vacuum cleaners all mixed up with warnings about the dangers to a young girl out hitchhiking alone. She laughed at his jokes and nodded at his lectures and when she got out of the car he pressed a twenty dollar bill into her hand and roared off into the distance.
Colleen kept moving for three days, heading south toward where it was warmer and sometimes looking back over her shoulder. She never had any problems from any of the people who picked her up, though they all warned her that she was tempting fate thumbing rides, all of them, except for one large woman in a tatty sweatshirt with Tweety Bird on it who was driving a beat-up minivan.
“Good for you,” said the woman, who’d told Colleen she was a Christian before she’d even got into the car. “Everyone’s so scared these days. There’s no faith in the world. I used to hitch all over the place when I was your age and I never had any problems I couldn’t handle. Most people are safe as houses.” When she dropped Colleen off, the woman leaned over and handed her a knife through the window. “Have faith,” said the woman, “and take care of yourself.” There was a cross etched into the blade, wrapped around with thorns. In her hand it was hot, heavy, and dangerous, like a storm just coming over the horizon.