By the time I arrive at the hospital and get put into a room, I’m at my wit’s end. My body is exhausted from having nothing really substantial to eat or drink over the last couple of days, and my mind is a mess from what I have just survived. On top of all that, I need to get to Hope.
“I’m really okay,” I repeat for what feels like the hundredth time to the doctor, who has been checking me over since coming into my room a few minutes ago.
“Ruth, let’s start an IV,” he says, looking over my head at the nurse, once again ignoring me and pulling my arm towards him, prodding It with his fingers.
“I need to get to Hope,” I whimper, yanking my arm out of his grasp when the nurse walks around the bed with the needle in her hand.
“Let the doctor put in the IV, Ellie,” the guy named Jax says, taking my other hand in his and smoothing his thumb over my palm. He hasn’t left my side since I walked out of the woods. I’ve been trying to ignore him, but am failing miserably. He’s a giant, and intimidatingly good-looking, which makes it nearly impossible to be in his presence without acknowledging him.
“You don’t understand. Hope needs me¸” I cry as the doctor takes my arm again, placing the needle into my skin, causing tears of frustration to fill my eyes.
“Hey, don’t cry. I’m sure your dog is okay,” Jax says softly, running his fingers over the back of my hand.
“Ex-excuse me?” I sputter, turning my head towards him.
“Cat?” he asks, frowning.
“Hope is my daughter,” I hiss, pulling my hand from his grasp.
“Daughter?” He pales, searching my face. I’m not surprised by his reaction. That’s the normal response I get from men when they find out I have a kid, but something inside of me whimpers from his response.
“Daughter,” I affirm, lifting my chin, and then look at the doctor to glare. “I need to get out of here now,” I growl through clenched teeth.
“Fuck me,” Jax mumbles, but I ignore him and continue to shoot daggers at the doctor, which does nothing as he places the IV bag on a hanger above my head.
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Anthony¸ but you’re severely dehydrated and we’re going to need to keep you here for at least a few more hours before you’re released.”
“I’ll drink some water,” I tell him, tempted to rip the IV out of my hand and stab him with it.
“Get some sleep.” He ignores me once more then walks away to speak with the nurse.
“This cannot be happening,” I mumble, falling back against the bed and feeling my eyes suddenly grow heavy, making me wonder if they put something else in the IV.
Waking to the sound of whispering, my eyes blink open slowly. The room is dark, with the only light coming from a TV in the corner, casting a blue glow throughout the room. As my eyes focus on the TV, I double blink. Jax’s uncle, Nico, is standing with a group of officers in front of the house I had been taken to, and the woman in front of the camera is speaking, but the volume is so low I can’t hear what she’s saying as the cameraman pans from the woman to the truck that had been driving after us. Sitting up, I find the remote next to the bed and turn up the volume.
“The two women were then chased by this truck while trying to get away on a four-wheeler they took from one of the assailants. One captor is dead and the other is still missing. If you have any information regarding the whereabouts of the suspect, please call the number listed below,” the woman says before the scene is gone.
Replaced by a man and woman sitting behind the desk at the news station, announcing, “Tonight, you can watch Dan Seagan’s special report about sex trafficking in the Nashville area.”
Pulling my eyes from the TV and sitting up, I reach for the phone next to the bed, dialing the only number I can think of that will lead me to Hope.
“Hello?” my aunt answers on the first ring.
“Aunt Marlene,” I get out through a strangled breath, holding the phone closer to my ear. “Have you seen my mom?”
“Did, but she’s gone now,” she mutters, and I hear her light a cigarette. I’m sure she’s sitting in her recliner, where she always is, with her feet propped up, smoking cigarette after cigarette and watching TV.
“Where’s Hope?” I close my eyes, praying my mom didn’t take her with her.
“Hope’s with me. When are you coming to get her?”
“I’m in Tennessee,” I whimper, not knowing exactly how far away I am from Kentucky.
“I know. Your mama was here when the news came on,” she tells me.
Tears fill my eyes, but I refuse to let them fall. I refuse to let these people hurt me anymore. I wasn’t surprised my mom told my aunt what happened or that she didn’t care. My mom stopped caring about me when my dad died, when she no longer had to pretend my brother and I mattered to her more than her next high.
“I’m on my way. Please tell Hope I’ll be there soon.”
“I gotta work tomorrow night, so keep that in mind,” she says right before the line goes dead. Setting the phone in its cradle, I rub my eyes.
My family is what most of America would classify as trailer trash. I hated that term growing up, but we were poor and lived in a trailer. There was a time in my life when I was okay with the kids at school calling me that, because I knew I might’ve lived in a trailer and been poor, but at least I had my family. Then, when I was seven, my dad died in a coal mining accident, leaving my older brother and me alone with my mom, who had an addiction to pain pills. Even though she was sick long before we lost my dad, we never suffered because of it. My dad always made sure we had food and clothing. We didn’t have much, but we had each other. After he passed away, we lost everything.