Runaway — Inspired by Mandy Rose

Congratulations to Amy Sue Williams! Her story idea for Killing Urges received the most votes. 

Don’t miss Monday’s story,  The Removed — Inspired by Megan Sayer

Today’s inspired by Mandy Rose. 

I attended Great Lakes Christian College with Mandy. The first time I saw her I noticed her pretty, chocolate brown eyes. Behind those eyes is a woman who is thoughtful, considerate, kind and very, very smart. I’m so honored that she shared this extremely challenging idea. Whew. I think I can, I think I can. Here’s her idea…

“Teen girl (name is a mystery until the very end). In a major metro city. Conflict: Girl runs away from home (abuse?), but is somehow injured along the way. Story starts when she comes to a place and has no idea where she is, who she is and all she has in her pocket is an address with no city and no name and $20.”

I woke up. The alley was dark and smelled like every bad odor mixed into one. My head was bleeding. And I had no idea who I was.

“Look at that. Runnin’ so fast you fell down and cracked your head.” That voice sent chills through my blood. When I looked at him, I was even more terrified. “Baby, why you gotta act like you don’t want it.”

“No. I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said. I wished I could make my voice less pathetic. Less pleading. “Just leave me alone. I’m hurt. I need help.”

He started at me, hand on his belt buckle. He licked his lips in a way that made me want to throw up.

There was a crashing sound. He fell down. A woman stood behind him with a rolling pin.

“You okay, honey?” she asked.

It took me a minute to realize she was talking to me.

“Yeah. I guess so.”

She stepped over him to help me up. “Let’s get you inside and call the police on this scum bucket. I figure he’ll be down for a good half hour.”

“I have no idea who he is.”

“Well, you sure are lucky. Cause you was just about to get to know him pretty bad like.” She looked upwards. “Hey, Glen! Get yourself down here and make sure this dude don’t get back up. I’m callin’ the cops.”

She pulled me into a doorway. Had me sit at a dining room table. Gave me a glass of orange juice and a few crackers.

“Thank you,” I said. “Can you please tell me where I am.”

“You’re in Detroit. You from around here?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Whatchu mean you don’t know? Don’t they be teaching that kinda stuff in school no more?”

“I don’t know. But something’s wrong. I can’t remember anything.”

“We should get you right to the hospital. You got insurance?”

“I hope so.”

“Well, you got yourself a wallet?”

I checked my pockets. Just an address and $20. “Do you think this is my address?”

“Ain’t no city or state written on there.”

“Is that weird?”

“Honey, this all be weird.” She drew her face near to mine. “Your eyes be lookin’ funny. We better get you a ambulance.”

The doctor examined my eyes. Used tweezers to pull dirt out of the gash on my head. Cleaned me, stitched me, bandaged me.

“You don’t remember anything, eh?” he asked.

I shook my head. The  movement sent shots of agony down my neck.

“Well, then you probably don’t know that you match a missing child profile.”

“Do you mean, like, I was kidnapped or something?”

“Runaway. We’ve contacted your parents. They’re on their way.” He stood. “Would you like a sucker?”

“Yeah. That’s cool.” I took the treat. “Hey, did you talk to my parents?”

“No. One of the nurses did.”

“Can you ask her if they sounded excited?”

“Of course. But what parents wouldn’t be enthused that their lost child was found?”

“I don’t know. I just had a feeling.”

“Interesting. I’m going to make a note of that in your chart.”

Two adults walked into my room. A man. A woman. They stood, awkwardly far apart. They were afraid to touch me or show emotion or say anything.

“Are you my parents?” I asked. “The doctor said that I might recognize you. But I don’t.”

“Yes, sweetie,” the man said. His voice cracked. “It’s daddy and mommy.”

“Oh, I’m so glad they found you.” The woman rushed to me, held my head close to her chest.

“Please let go. You’re hurting me.” I pulled at her arms, knowing that the bandage would have to be wrapped again.

“Do you feel okay?” The man walked to the other side of my bed.

The man and woman both held my hands. Trying to see who could get the most eye contact. Competitive over me. Their daughter.

“Why did you run away? Precious, we’ve been so worried.” The woman let a tear fall on my bed sheet.

“I called the police right away.”

“I made sure they did an Amber Alert.”

“The news stations came to me for a press conference.”

“Well, who got the prayer chain going?”

Were they fighting over me? A memory slipped back. They were fighting. All the time. Screaming. Throwing things against the wall. Cheating on one another.

“You’re getting a divorce, aren’t you?” I asked.

“The doctor said you wouldn’t remember anything.” My mother put her hand on my forehead. I wondered if it was instinct or a power-play.

“I remember the fighting.”

“Oh, honey, you weren’t supposed to hear all that.” My father placed the back of his hand on my cheek.

“It was so loud. How could I not hear it?”

And so, I ran away. I remembered. I ran because I couldn’t take it anymore. All the battles over custody. Money. The house. The cars.

My father’s voice reverberated in my memory, “If we’d never had her this divorce would have been over long ago!”

I remembered the pain of realizing that I was part of ruining their lives. They could have been happy. But I was there, forcing them to remain miserable. How many nights had I sobbed, trying to be quiet so they wouldn’t hear me? Countless. Far too many.

And so I left. So they could be happy without me and without each other.

“If you wouldn’t have fought so hard for the house, she would have never left,” my mother said, accusing my father.

“Oh, don’t you put this on me,” he answered. “She was fine. The divorce wasn’t bothering her.”

They yelled over my hospital bed. Cussing and spitting venom and not once listening to the other.

“Okay, listen up!” The voice was loud. Smooth. “The last dude that bothered my friend got a rolling pin to the skull. Anybody else wanna tango with me today?”

“Excuse me,” my father turned his tempter toward her. “This is a family affair here. It doesn’t concern you.”

“What’s her name?” she asked, smiling at me.

“Vivianna.” My mother looked at me. Scowling. “His mother insisted on that name. Otherwise we wouldn’t get an inheritance.”

“That’s not true. She just wouldn’t put money in Viv’s college fund.” My father pointed his finger into the air.

“Yeah. A lot of good that college fund did. She’s just a runaway now.”

“Vivianna,” the woman said, her dark eyes sparkling. “I know enough Spanish. That name means ‘life’.”

My parents backed away from my bed. It was like some kind of magic repelled them.

“Vivianna, your parents be some selfish peoples. You know that, right, sugar?”

I nodded.

“But that don’t mean you gotta be runnin’ around, gettin’ jumped by every scum in Detroit.” The woman put a hand on my foot. “It sure be hard to know which is better. The street or bein’ with these two. They be unhappy folk, ain’t they?”

I nodded again. It felt like a trance I was being pulled into.

“It ain’t your fault. You know that? It’s their fault. They be the ones messed up. They be the ones not workin’ it all out. But it ain’t your fault at all, baby girl.”

I felt a freedom. A new life. Fresh air. Brighter light. Weight left me.

“I know somewhere’s in their hearts they love you. I suspect they ain’t gonna be so hard on each other. Not no more.” She looked at my mother and father. “Right?”

They nodded at her, in awe.

“You be precious, Vivianna. You live. You stick around at that house of yours. Don’t come back to the streets. Ain’t no place for you.”

“But the address…” I said.

“That address ain’t no place you wanna go, doll. You be findin’ all kinds of trouble there. I had a friend check it out. Full a’ no good. More a’ what that thug wanted in the alley.” She waved the thought off. “Now you go on home with your mom and dad. They ain’t gonna put you in the middle no more.”

Then she was gone.

My parents sat in the chairs. Looked at me. Were quiet.

I closed my eyes, trying to remember my family as whole. Happy. Smiling. That memory never came.

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