After a fight with her dad, the narrator decides to run away
My fists were still clenched. Anger coursed through my veins like acidic fire. Just minutes ago, my dad and I had been arguing about a math problem I didn’t know how to do. I gritted my teeth just thinking about it. I had realized the answer after a lot of yelling and arguing. Then, red-faced, Dad had ordered me to go to my room.
The anger was a burning pit of rage in my chest. I realized how unfair this was. I had to stop it. I hated all of these rules. They held me back, confining me in restraints much stronger than typical chains. Just this one time my parents had treated me horribly made me think of all the other times. They were like bars striking at me, cold and unforgiving. My rage fired up, threatening to overtake my thoughts. I looked around, trying to calm myself.
Then my eyes landed on my bookshelf, where Hatchet, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, Caddie Woodlawn, and a bunch of survival guides were displayed proudly. I love the wild and reading about it. An idea started to form, gaining traction and growing until it took up my entire mind. My anger ebbed away, replaced by steely determination. I was going to run away.
I thumped down the stairs. Our floorboards creaked. I raced out the door, not caring if my parents heard me, and pulled my bike from its rack, the scraping sound screeching like an angry animal. Mounting my bike, I turned my head and hollered at the top of my lungs: “I’m leaving and you can’t stop me.”
Then I pushed off and hurtled down the street, dirt and pebbles skittering out of my way like frightened people. A shout of anger could be heard, most certainly from my dad. And as I peddled away, I looked back. I got farther and farther away, and I saw the figure of my dad, seemingly yelling at me. I smiled. I had made my parents angry, and this time, they couldn’t punish me.
After endless peddling, I sat on a rock near my new camp. I was free. I felt as if the tight bonds that had been restraining me all my life had broken. Finally, I could do whatever I wanted to do; no one could stop me. I looked up. The sky was a warm russet, stained with pink, blue, and purple. But what caught my attention were the birds that flew toward the scarlet sun. They dove and spiraled through the endless open air, getting further and further away, as if they loved the wind on their wings.
Night began to fall, and the light faded away. I found myself suffocating in the darkness around me, and even worse, strange sounds started to cut through the quiet—crackling and snapping, and squelches and thumps. They sent shivers down my neck. Mosquitoes gathered around me. I shook out my can of bug spray, only to find that it didn’t work.
“It will work,” I muttered, panic creeping into my voice. “I haven’t messed up . . .”
I pressed over and over. Nothing. The buzzing of the bugs around me sounded like the jeering of my parents. I hated this stupid can. I flung it to the ground, the clatter of metal against rock jolting me. I dashed into the cave, flinging myself into my sleeping bag. This was all wrong. I was supposed to have a good night. I was supposed to be victorious. I lay there for a few minutes, the disappointment engulfing me thoroughly.
It began to get cold, too. Really cold. I shivered. My sleeping bag felt threadbare. Chills racked my body in fits of shaking. The bugs were still there, but the cold outweighed them by so much. I rolled around restlessly, and soon the bottom of my sleeping bag was drenched in dew. It felt like ice under my body. My teeth couldn’t stop chattering as I forced myself out of bed. I pulled a lollipop from my backpack and tried to take off the wrapper. The lollipop seemed to be stuck to it. I was determined to make something go right, so I pulled once more. Finally, the wrapper came free. The candy was melted and sticky, all over the place, and flecks had clung to my hand, and now it was stuck to the stick. Tears stung my eyes as I looked at another failure.
Suddenly, a car screeched somewhere nearby. The door opened; footsteps rang out. I dropped my lollipop. It fell to the ground. A light shone through the woods. My heart jumped into my throat. Was that a mass murderer, shining a light through the woods, looking for me?
Then a voice sounded from the darkness. It was shaky, high, and familiar. It was the voice that had scolded me, chided me, and known me for ten long years. Mom and Dad. A million thoughts raced inside my head. Should I call out to them? But at the same time, I felt so satisfied that they were worried. It was clear from Mom’s quivering voice, and the trembling beam of light, that they were worried. I moved forward, trying to get a closer look, but then I stumbled, scraping my knee hard on the ground. When I managed to get up again, no voice or light could be seen or heard. My parents were gone.
A light shone through the woods. My heart jumped into my throat. Was that a mass murderer, shining a light through the woods, looking for me?
I curled up in the sleeping bag. The bug bites on my face, neck, arms, and legs itched furiously, and I rolled around trying to scratch them. The freezing wind stung my face, and there was a numb cold all throughout my body. The place where I had scraped my knee burned with raw pain. I could feel blood leaking from the wound. My stomach was a churning hole. I would have thrown up, but I had eaten almost nothing since lunch. My throat was dry, begging for water, but all of my water was gone. I had drunk it when I’d arrived. My muscles ached. I scrunched into a ball, tears falling softly from my cheeks. I wanted to go home.
I don’t know how long I lay there. I kept seeing my bedroom, where I could have been had I not run away. At the same time, I remembered the feeling of awe and happiness I had felt during sunset. I tried to hold onto it, but I couldn’t. Slowly, it started to shrink, until it was only a speck in my memory. Had I really been so happy, when I was so despaired now? It didn’t seem possible. I realized something then, with the mist of early morning dampening my battered, bruised, and bug-bitten face: I couldn’t survive like this. I had to go home.
I mounted my bike, starting to pedal up the road. I felt as if I might combust at any moment, not just because of my weariness and my battered state, but also because of the emotions—anger, pain, despair—that were fighting inside of me.
As I rode, I thought maybe I hadn’t been the best during the times my parents punished me. Maybe . . . No. I couldn’t believe what I was thinking. My parents had been wrong. But still, maybe running away hadn’t been the best approach to my problems.
I looked up. I saw a house up ahead. It looked so familiar. I seemed to remember picking flowers with Mom in this very backyard. I thought I could recall sitting with Dad on the porch swing while he told me a story. These happy memories seemed so long ago, part of a different life, yet so close, full of warmth that was in my heart now. I felt as if our family was slowly mending, as if our bonds, the bonds that had withered in the past years, were regrowing.
The lights were on in all the downstairs windows, and figures could be seen pacing inside. Mom and Dad. Excitement and fear battled inside me. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh and wave my arms, or hide, or stomp in and demand a lawyer. But then the two figures stopped and looked out the window.
I couldn’t help it. I unlocked the door and flung myself into my parents’ arms. Tears, this time of joy, poured down my face. I was home again!