Thumb protruding out into the highway, I can feel the eyes of people in their cars coming to rest on me. Little me? I paste on my most charming smile, hopeful, and look as pathetic as I can - too thin and dwarfed by clothing three sizes too big. All in black, blond hair turned to near white today with hazel eyes, I know I look bleached, colorless, especially lit only by the pale glow of car headlights. Change of smile to disappointed sigh, eyes dropping to trace the curve of my thumb (perfect thumb for hitchhiking), as no one seems to want to stop. Hardly worth it, is it, to stand out here for an hour in the cold, in these light, worn jeans, and soft shirt - especially when no one comes to help?

There's a skid of tires on the barely dried road as a station wagon draws to a halt before me, and I life my gaze up to the passenger window, the glass slowly lowering to give me a clear view of the elderly couple there. Both eyebrows raised in hope, I listen as they murmur about how much I look like their child at my age, first going off to college. My mother used to tell me that I looked quite a bit like my father did, when he was younger. She'd laugh, and tell me she'd find me a picture to show me, to prove it to me so that I'd stop scowling at her, but she never really got around to it. I get the feeling, from the warm smiles of this couple as they ask where I'm going, that they would have made time.

"Anywhere but here would be nice."

Another flash of that pretty grin, glimmer of teeth between cracked lips to show them it's a joke. They laugh quietly, and exchange a look that must have some meaning between them, before she smiles gently back at me, and tells me they could manage that. I scramble enthusiastically into the back-seat, with a thanks. It smells funny in here, the way strange cars always seem to, until you get used to them. This one smells like cigars, and cheap perfume, and the musky smell of wet dog. I curl up on the seat, careful not to put wet boots on the leather covers, and turn my attention to the closed window. It's cold enough that, when I breathe on the glass, it forms into a light fog that I can trace shapes into with one finger. A lilac, a snowdrop, a lily, her name...

I swipe my hand across, clearing my doodles - if only it was that easy to make a clear slate for myself. My eyes are locked on the window, the image of my own face reflected back at me (white and thin), and dark, ghostlike figures of skeleton trees, and trees that have shed most of their vividly colored leaves fly past in such a blur that I can't make out one from the other. Or perhaps that's just tears, stinging my eyes; tears that I brush away as the elderly man asks me a question.

"What are you running from, child?"

Slowly, I blink the remaining saltine water from my eyes to trickle down my cheeks, one shoulder pulling upward in a slight shrug. I'm not quite sure if I do know what I'm running from, and even then I don't think I'd want to tell this couple about it. The flicker and change of trees is begininng to give me a headache, so I turn, hazel eyes fixing on the man, who's staring at me, both bushy eyebrows pulled together with concern. I let a touch of a genuine - though meloncholy - smile tinge my lips.

"I'm not sure...I'm just running."