The Runaway

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
March 2018

By Frances Brogan

“Go to your room!” my mom shouted. “It’s not all because of Rose—it just didn’t work out this year!”

“Didn’t work out because of her!” I said and stomped upstairs into my room. I knew I was acting like a baby. As my strict English teacher, Mrs. Hood, would say, “Grade six or age six?”

The first thing I noticed when I got to my room was the picture of my mom, Daniel, Rose, and me in the bed at the birth center. We looked so much younger, so much more carefree. I passed my hand over the glass, looking at my brother’s face, forever frozen in laughter as he held the tiny bundle of newborn life that was Rose.

I flung myself onto my bed and cried for a long time. Eventually, I heard the soft, slow pitter-patter of footsteps as Rose toddled into my room. She came over to me and slobbered on my face.

“Mwuh!” she said triumphantly.

For a moment, my heart melted. Rose looked so proud of herself. Even though she was only a baby, I could see how desperate she was for closeness to me. But this tenderness was quickly overpowered by anger and resentment. “Get out of my room!” I shouted at her. She saw that I was mad at her, and she ran out of the room—awkward, precarious, baby running.

Every year since I was four-years-old, we had visited Lancaster, my grandma’s hometown and like a second home to us, on the first weekend of May for the annual carnival. I remember when I was four, the carnival was overwhelming, exhilarating. There was so much to hear and see! Now that I was almost twelve, the carnival didn’t give me the same kind of excitement, didn’t have its old charm. The rides were really for kids my brother Daniel’s age. But the previous year, my parents had taken a year off work and we had rented a house in Lancaster. Even though we only spent one year away from Annapolis, where we had lived since I was three, I had made lasting friendships there. I felt Lancaster would always be my true hometown.

Transitioning back to life in Annapolis was harder than it had been in my nightmares. For months I had been looking forward to the carnival, a chance to reunite with my friends and forget my worries, albeit only for a weekend. But because of Rose, Rose’s sleep schedule, Rose’s needs, we’d had to break tradition and skip the carnival this year. I was devastated. My mom had tried to console me, saying things like, “Aren’t you getting too old for the carnival anyway?” But nothing she said made a difference. Even though I knew that the real reason for skipping the carnival was Daniel’s soccer tournament that Saturday, I desperately wanted a reason to blame Rose.

Annapolis was lonely. A year away had been enough for my old friendships to fade. I was growing farther apart from my family, too. As a child, I had always been so close to my parents and even Daniel. What was the rift between us?

Eleven. It had been the best year yet, but still not enough. I had so much. Why did I always want more?

My emotions were like an M&M—anger the hard, colorful coating, covering up the sweet, rich sadness that lay beneath. I’ve always been a private person, masking my true feelings with another feeling, usually anger. My sadness and fear stays bottled up inside. I’ve always just convinced myself that one day, they’ll explode.

When you’re feeling so upset, you often act impulsive and reckless, even stupid. I so badly wanted to go to the carnival, so badly wanted to see my old friends and leave behind my lonely, friendless life for the weekend. My mom didn’t understand how much it meant to me. So I decided I would run away for the weekend, go to the carnival myself. My parents would be worried sick, but they deserved it, I thought savagely.

Silently I packed a few t-shirts, a sweater, and two pairs of jeans. I stuffed them in my backpack, and left the room. Rose was waiting for me at the door, her face tear-stained. She reached her chubby arms toward me, so pathetic. I hugged her. “I’m sorry,” I said, and I really was.

Daniel was in his room, my dad was at the store, my mom was on the phone. This was my chance to escape. I slipped out the door.

By the time I was at the end of the block, I realized I shouldn’t have just run off. I should have come up with a ruse, a story about where I was going. My overprotective mom was probably already panicking. Without looking behind me, my heart beating at an impossibly fast rate with terror, I ran.

The wind seemed to be whispering my name. “Eva,” it echoed in my ears, “Come home, Eva, come home.” I shrugged it off, running faster. I glanced at my phone. The next bus was leaving for Philadelphia in less than an hour. I silently thanked heaven for my phone. With its help, I found the bus stop, surprising myself that I had made it this far.

The bus driver, a burly, intimidating man, asked me where I was going. I hesitated, barely able to breathe.

“Oh, hurry up or we’re leaving without you,” he burst out.

“Philadelphia,” I gulped.  I handed him the transaction. I only had enough money left for the ride to Lancaster from Philadelphia; there was no turning back now.

I pushed away my guilt and felt a swoop of thrill in my stomach. I was finally on the way to Lancaster! After almost a year of waiting, I was making my dream come true!

From Philadelphia, I caught a bus to Lancaster. I felt much more comfortable on the road to Lancaster. This was my true home! I knew my way around Lancaster much better than Annapolis. With deft navigational ability, I found my way to my best friend, Annabelle’s house. I didn’t even bother to knock on her door, squirming with excitement.

“Annie!” I called. “I’m back!”

Annabelle’s mom was home, too. She made me tell her the whole story, from the very beginning. She stood stiff and perfectly still the whole time, her lips pursed and her hands on her hips. But she didn’t doubt that what I said was true.

“All right,” she announced. “Get in the car. We’re driving to Annapolis, now.”

I was surprised she was so angry, and her decision was so sudden. I had thought she would be proud. But on the long, miserable drive back to Annapolis, I pictured the rage my mom would feel if the situation had been in reverse, and Annie had run away to our house. I realized that it’s part of a mom’s nature to be so protective.

Soon my reckless adventure was over, and I stood wrapped in my mother’s embrace. I whispered, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” over and over again, almost rhythmically. My mom whispered back, “I know, I know, I love you.” She forgave me so readily it made me feel even more ashamed. I said goodbye to Annie, but somehow it was less painful than I anticipated.

After a long talk with my mom, I went to straight to bed, exhausted by my endeavor. My last sleepy thought before I fell asleep was: how could I have done so many things in one day?

Even though I had longed for a friend for that whole year, I wasn’t ready to face my fears of judgment yet. That month I spent my lunch hour in the library, confiding in the librarian. I told myself this was practice for when I was ready to make a real friend. I started reading memoirs and diaries. I imagined a future where I wrote a memoir of my own life, and hundreds of years later it was found in the ruins of our house. This was kind of far-fetched, but it got me thinking: I could write a memoir of my life, too. I could become a writer. Maybe this was a talent that was buried within me. A few weeks after I had my adventure, I sat down at my desk, picked up a pen, and began to tell my story . . . . .

Frances Brogan The Runaway

Frances Brogan, 11
Lancaster, PA

About the Author

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