Zack. That was what they called him. Jack Freaking Sullivan. Close enough to his real name, Zach Monaghan, so he’d remember it, but every time someone called him Jack, he felt like a phony, a fraud. The worst thing was, he had to answer
by the name at home too. He’d lived as Zach all his life, and now even his mom was calling him Jack. When she remembered anyway. It pissed him oﬀ.
Zach pulled his baseball cap lower on his head and stepped
through the doors of the Greyhound bus terminal. His T-shirt clung to his back, and he wasn’t sure if the sweat was from nerves or the overpowering Phoenix heat. He stood, knees weak, hands trembling, unable to believe he was finally doing what he wanted with his life— returning home, to Chicago. At last he didn’t have to do what his parents told him to do. He wasn’t a little kid anymore, doing whatever they said without complaint. At almost sixteen, he was plenty old enough to make his own decisions and his own choices. He thought of Lindsey and smiled. In just a couple of days, he’d see her again. Without meaning to, he laughed out loud but quickly stopped and covered his mouth. Standing by himself, laughing like an idiot was a sure way to attract attention.
Zach glanced around the terminal. Along the front wall, behind a long counter, several ticket agents stood in front of computers, display boards behind them showing the bus schedules. He shuﬄed toward the ticket counter, stood in line, and reached into his pocket to make sure he still had his money. He’d cleaned out his savings account the day before. All his birthday money, everything he’d earned from mowing lawns and shoveling snow back home, and from his summer job working at Dad’s old company. Money intended for his college education—close to three thousand dollars—was now divided between his pocket and an envelope at the bottom of his backpack.
The line moved quickly, and it didn’t take long for one of the ticket agents to motion him over. Zach ordered a one-way ticket to Chicago. He was afraid the ticket agent would ask him questions or make some comment about his age. At five foot nine and one hundred forty-five pounds, he wasn’t exactly the biggest kid, but with his wide shoulders, he could probably pass for at least a year or two older. He readjusted the baseball cap, covering his reddish-brown hair, and took a pace forward. The ticket lady barely glanced at him, punched something into the computer, and announced the price. Zach glanced behind him to be sure no one was watching, then pulled the money out of his pocket and counted out exact change. She handed over the ticket and told him the bus would be leaving within the hour.
Simple as that. Why had he been so worried?
Zach found a seat toward the back of the room where he could keep track of what was going on. He reached for his cell phone before remembering, again, his parents had taken his away when they moved and refused to replace it—even though everyone else in his class had one. The kids probably thought he was Amish or some- thing. He took the old iPod from the top of his backpack, slipped his earbuds on, and sat back to wait. The rush of excitement hit him again, churning his gut and making his pits sweaty. He couldn’t wait to step on the bus and get out of town. Arizona, probably the hottest, grimmest, grimiest, most boring place on earth, could go to hell.