Days of driving later, Sandra knew she would have to explain herself soon. She'd urged Craig into crossing an unmanned international boundary and now even she didn't have the foggiest idea where they were in Canada, or if they'd even gone back into Michigan by mistake. She was attempting to keep their trail as hard to trace as possible, but her companions were starting to get peevish. Andy may have looked content enough in the back, snuggled in Ashley's arms, which he had not left since he'd first accepted being in them, but the way he watched her with a cold calculating gaze from his icy eyes told her otherwise. And Ashley and Craig, both more concerned with just not ending up in jail and protecting their loved ones, were both obviously resenting not being kept in the loop.
Bemoaning the situation internally, Sandra gazed over the top of her sunglasses at the world outside their little adventure. It was getting dark, the sunless sky overhead not quite that of night yet, but fading quickly into different shades of darker and darker blues and greys. Evergreen trees seemed more ever black as shadows engulfed them. The houses around these parts were widely dispersed, but those that they did pass had warm inviting yellow light streaming from the windows and tiny twinkling fibre optic stars lining the guttering. That was right, she remembered. It was almost Christmas. California was never cold and the short time she'd spent in Ohio was unusually mild. Further up north though there was a chill in the air and dreams of sugarplums already danced through heads, even if it was only late November. Through one window she even spied a fully decorated Christmas tree, a young family seated around it drinking cocoa and watching cartoons on a bright television, smiling with rosy cheeked happiness, the two young children laughing merrily, the mother and father sharing a quick kiss. It was hard to imagine such a perfect, story book life, but Sandra reassured herself that they were most likely just doing a photo shoot; nothing real is that stereotypically perfect.
Turning her head slightly, she could see the reflection of the seat behind her. The couple in the back were their own sort of perfect. Andy slept soundly, wrapped in one of his blankets, strong arms securely in place around his shoulders. The softest of snores escaped his dreaming, more of an endearing moan than anything else. Ashley dozed, eyes half open, but mind somewhere completely different, most likely the boy he was holding. It was so obvious to everyone (meaning her and Craig) that the two would be hooking up again any day now, if they hadn't secretly already. Sandra wasn't sure how she felt about that.
On one hand, they were perfect for each other. Probably the cutest, most amazing couple she'd ever met and she knew Jinxx and Sammi Doll who even sounded by name like some perfect cartoon cannon. They loved each other desperately, and nothing seemed to be able to stop that.
On the other, her big sister instinct over Andy was kicking in. Ashley had hurt him terribly, so much he'd actually been driven to try and kill him, and suddenly that was all forgiven? He couldn't be thinking straight and she didn't want to see him hurt again…either of them when it came to that. That kind of love wasn't exactly healthy and maybe it shouldn't be allowed to continue.
It wasn't her business though. But she wished it was. She wished she could just be like any other friend and poke her nose into their relationship, without so many hundreds of other things to worry about. She knew what Ashley thought of her; that she had changed, become nothing but a cold and calculating watcher, working to her own schedule, playing a game no one knew the rules to and was totally detached from anything else like the emotions of her friends.
He was wrong though. The Sandra he knew was still in there, she was exactly where she'd always been. She had a job to do though, and she was going to do it, she needed to, even though it wasn't her game she was playing, she was as much a pawn as everyone else. Even she didn't know everything. And while she was still furious with Ashley for what he'd done to her little brother, if not for this task she'd been set, she would've been the same old Sandra, with Andy at least. As it was, he was starting to think like Ashley, along with his own suspicious and even at times scared thoughts. That made her very sad.
She looked around from the window, to the blonde driver, silently inviting him to talk. Craig wasn't scared of her, or resentful or suspicious; he was just really, really confused and didn't know how he'd ended up in the situation he was in now. And he missed Matt. That was no secret. He missed Matt a lot.
"Yeah Craig?" she said with a smile that was for once one hundred per cent just out of kindness, no smirk or sarcasm or hidden message. She did it just to prove that she still could.
"Those two are out for the count," he was keeping his voice low, but he returned the smile. "And I don't know about you, but I could easily join them in the land of nod. You don't think we could pull over for a little while do you?"
Sandra considered his proposal. It really was best to keep moving, and this wasn't an area she or Craig knew, so its safety was questionable. It seemed secluded enough, but there were houses and she could still see the lights from the last one they'd passed, so they'd either have to keep driving until they were certain they were far from any sort of civilisation or find a safe place to go off road and hide in the cover of the plentiful trees. That was a lot of effort and planning and thinking to go to just for forty winks.
However, it would be better if they could keep their driver well rested. Ashley could drive, but he didn't like to leave Andy's side, and though he hadn't complained, it was obvious too much movement pained him. As for the other two passengers…well, Andy needed to stay hidden, if they were pulled over by the cops it would be better if a wanted criminal wasn't what they rolled down the window to reveal. And Sandra herself… this was a big car and she was a tiny girl and though she was embarrassed to admit it she, well, couldn't quite reach the pedals.
In a decision rotating mostly around not wanting to end up in a duck pond, she gave the all clear for Craig to find a suitable place to park and get some shut eye. He didn't have to drive for too long before finding a densely tree covered area with a small clearing a few kilometres in perfect for the Jeep. Once the parking break was safely applied, Sandra handed him a spare blanket, which he wrapped around himself snugly before leaning the seat backwards so he could stretch out. In minutes the blonde was deeply asleep. The car was completely quiet apart from deep breathing, Andy's little moans and Craig's one tiny whimper of "Mattie…"
Deciding that if you can't beat them, join them, Sandra lay out on the middle, cushy leather bench seat, pulling her own blanket over herself. She wasn't very tired, but behind her glasses she could feel her eyelids getting heavier. Giving in, she took the black plastic off and lay her head down, letting the dark engulf her. She struggled to sleep though, her brain refusing to turn off. It chattered away, worrying and scheming and niggling and complaining and shouting and whispering and it all turned into a whirlwind of survival methods, none of which she could see working in the end…
She guessed she must have eventually drifted off into a distressing, paranoid slumber however, because the next thing she knew, there was a scrambling sound and a little squeak of pain, a tiny bump and a lot of fidgety noises.
Opening one eye in a squint, expecting Craig had fallen off his seat or something, she was surprised to see Andy now staring at her with big eyes from the floor beside her in the gloom of midnight. She opened both her eyes wide at this and pushed herself up, obvious unsaid questions directed at the young man.
"Sorry I woke you," he whispered. "I just…I had some really weird dreams and…I'm not going to sleep peacefully until I ask…or until you answer."
Sandra sighed. She knew exactly what was coming. It had before and it had been bound to again. She'd just hoped she'd had more time…so she could get him to someone who knew more, and was more willing to tell it. But she couldn't refuse to answer again, especially if he was starting to get dreams about it. She nodded, resigned, for him to continue.
"Sandra…" he chewed at his lip ring for a second before plunging right on in. "Tell me what's going on. Where are we going, what do you know that the rest of us don't? It has something to do with that secret city under Hollywood, doesn't it? And those buildings, you know about them, don't you? And…you know about…" Tears started to build up on the bottom lips of his eyes, taking Sandra aback. He looked so innocent right now, so young, like the first time she'd met him. "Sandra, what's wrong with me?"
Her fingers twitched to replace her glasses, but she knew that would make her answer seem cold and uncaring. So instead she reached out and took one of his spindly hands and rubbed the smooth back of it soothingly. At that last comment she could've wrapped him in a hug made out of cotton wool and never let go, so scared and young and vulnerable had he sounded. What she had to say was bound to hurt him more, but she guessed it had to be done. She just really wished she didn't have to be the one to do it.
"Get comfortable Andy," she said softly. "It's going to be a long night."