When her parents tell her they’re getting a divorce, Kate runs away
Smooth waves of water crested up out of the foamy blue sea and crashed down on the empty beach, rushing out along a darkened strip of sand, and then were sucked back into the depths of the blue ocean. Kate paced the rough sand, gritty crystals coating her bare feet and tickling her ankles. A heavy fog hung over the beach, covering the sky and the air in a thick gray mass that did nothing to help lighten Kate’s mood.
Her usually warm light-gray eyes were stormy, dark, and wild and focused on the never-ending expanse of sand and water before her, dotted by washed-up shells and pieces of driftwood. Her strides were purposeful and determined, carrying her across the beach in a direction that seemed to go on forever. Kate was fine with that. She did not want to go back to her house, now just a small blue dot on top of the hill. Kate walked faster.
While normally Kate would stop to brush the sand off of her feet before continuing on, such a thought never even entered her mind now. She was set only on walking as far away from her house as possible. She tried not to think about the things she loved about it: the creaky stair; the fading blue paint that she herself had picked out; the kitchen table with many scratches from her cat, Rocket, who refused to use his beautiful scratching post and instead ruined their furniture; her bedroom with the glow-in-the-dark star stickers and pale blue bedspread, among some things. The reason Kate did not want to think about her house was because she was leaving. Forever, at least in her mind.
Her parents were getting a divorce. They had sat her down last night at the kitchen table and announced it. Kate had sat there gaping for a moment. Then when it had sunk in, she had jumped up from the kitchen table, not minding the chair that had crashed to the ground, and raced upstairs, slamming the door to her bedroom.
She had heard her parents fighting. But it was never about anything serious. They weren’t even fights— more like arguments, whispered conversations late at night that Kate could hear. She had thought nothing of it. Until the Announcement.
To make matters worse, her parents had used formal names. They had called each other “Marina” and “Aleksander” instead of Mom and Dad, and—worst of all—“Katarina” for Kate. She had certain opinions of her own about her name.
All she could think about was her warm, warm bed with Rocket sitting on top of it on his usual place on her pillow.
When they had called her “Katarina,” she had just about exploded. That was when she had slammed her door. She had slept fitfully that night and in the morning decided to run away and find a better life. So here she was on the beach.
Wind sailed across the beach, twisting and turning and blowing Kate’s long, dark braid out behind her. Locks got dislodged and tangled together, pulling on Kate’s scalp. She tucked her braid into the collar of her shirt. Not thinking, she had not brought a jacket. The cold turned Kate’s cheeks rosy. She hid her face by her neck.
Wind howled in Kate’s ears. Her bare feet turned cold. The thoughts inside her brain roiled around like a thunderstorm. But still she walked.
When at last she found a small cave in the side of the rocky cliffs bordering the beach, Kate was almost faint from exhaustion and cold. Searching for somewhere to sit, she eventually curled up in the corner by a pile of driftwood. Something slimy rubbed against her leg. Kate stifled a scream. But it was only a piece of kelp by her feet. She breathed a sigh of relief.
Her throat felt dry and hoarse. In her haste to leave, she had not thought to bring any food or water. Or, for that matter, anything. Kate tried her best not to swallow or speak. Suddenly, she missed her cat, Rocket.
She could imagine his soft, furry body nestling up in her arms. She would stroke his white fur, especially the brown patch near his throat. He would purr and she would feel satisfied and happy. Kate choked back a sob and rubbed her eyes fiercely to dry the tears that had collected there. She put her head on her knees.
All she could think about was her warm, warm bed with Rocket sitting on top of it on his usual place on her pillow. She could imagine the star stickers on her ceiling glowing cheerfully and the faded, warm wood of her bookshelf covered in different colorful spines.
Now Kate couldn’t hold back the sobs. They racked her body as she buried her face in her hands and cried until she could cry no more. Looking out at the beach, she finally came to her senses. There was no way she could survive out here with no food or water or clothes; she knew that there were no neighbors she could go turn to for help, and after all, she was only twelve. Sighing, she stared at the beach. The rhythm of the waves crashing on the beach and then receding calmed her. She sat as if in a trance, mesmerized by the beach as she always was.
Finally, she worked up the will to go back. Standing up, she stretched out her long legs and began to walk. Soon she was running, her feet pounding the ground and sending up mini geysers of sand. Wind rushed at her and she welcomed it. Her feet touched the ground only long enough for them to send her up again.
Her house became more than a blue speck on the horizon. Coming into view, she could see the white shutters and fading wood. Her lungs were burning and there was a stitch in her side, but still she ran. Finally, she neared the wooden steps leading down to the beach.
Not caring about splinters in her raw, bare feet, she darted up the stairs and onto the prickly plants in the sand lining the walkway to her house. When her feet touched cool, gray concrete, she stopped to catch her breath.
When she felt more composed, she opened the door to her house. Her mother was sitting there, waiting with a cup of hot chocolate in her hands. Rocket was sprawled over Kate’s chair. She picked him up and sat down, the cat in her lap.
Sipping from the hot mug, she felt its warmth go down her spine. An unexpected thought entered her mind: This is what love feels like. And my parents still love me even if they don’t love each other. Maybe that’s okay.
As if on cue, her father came in and sat on the other side of Kate, wrapping his arm around one shoulder while her mother got the other shoulder. They stayed like that for a while, a family, and Kate knew that her parents knew that she was okay about the divorce right now. She relished the moment, snuggled between her mother and her father with Rocket in her lap. A family, at least for the time being.