Waking up in the same clothes I had on all week, the last thing I wanted to do was go to school. Showers weren’t a regular thing in my life so I didn’t think twice about the stench I was giving, or the knotted mess that my hair was in. At this point, my mind was foggy and the only thing I was sure of was that as soon as the car stopped, I was going to run.
There were teachers and students everywhere; running, walking, screaming, laughing. Didn’t everyone know what was happening to me? Didn’t everyone know the pain I was in? I felt angry; angry that no one had stopped to tell me they were sorry or that everything would be okay. Before I knew how far I’d gone I found myself in the schools hallway, staring into the cafeteria windows. Realizing I had gone too far I knew I couldn’t go in there or I’d lose my chance at getting away.
Before today I had never skipped school, never argued with a teacher and always did what I was told. Except that one time I got suspended for writing down a rap song my teenage cousins taught me the year before. A girl reported it to our teacher and you could say it was definitely NOT my best moment. On the flip side, my brothers praised me and finally “welcomed me to the family“.
I looked behind me at the dozens of students pushing through the doors, I knew if I was gonna do it I had to do it now. So I ran.
Anxiety filled my body, I was cold and wet from the rain I hadn’t noticed was coming earlier that morning. My ankle hurt from the running but I knew I had to get as far away as I could before a teacher noticed my absence. I was soaking wet and at 10 years old had no idea where I was or where I was going. So I walked.
After walking what felt to be a million city blocks, tears began to stream down my face and I let them flow. They mixed perfectly with my already soaked face so I knew nobody would know.
I had never been more scared in my life; where do I go? Who would help me? And who knew which “friend” my parents were staying with. Obviously past the “running” part, I had not come up with a concrete plan.
Streets started to look familiar and I remembered after several blocks from the school that my aunt Julie lived nearby. I couldn’t remember what her house looked like or even the street that she lived. The only reason I knew I was close was because the QT on the corner was a regular stop for my mom to “pump and run”.
She had pulled up to the same gas pump to fill her tank many times. She’d bolt without paying while I sat in the passenger seat watching guard for any police cars that might be following our tail. One time We did get caught; A police officer pulled us over and somehow she talked her way outta that one with little more than a warning and even coaxed 20 bucks out of the unsuspecting gentleman.
Debating whether or not to dry off inside the gas station, I decided instead that I couldn’t take the risk and would wander the couple streets that seemed familiar enough to feel safe.
After what felt like hours of walking and hundreds of gallons of tears falling from my face, the last hope I could think of was to begin praying I’d somehow stumble across my aunts house by accident or pure coincidence.
The rain was still pouring, my eyes hot and hurting from the non-stop tears. Before long my ankle had me stumbling and I could only see through a pinhole of vision as my eyes began to swell and the cold numbed my face.
A yellow taxi cab pulled up beside me and I struggled to see through the passenger window at who it could be.
I thought about running and any other day I’d have been frightened enough and done just that but I had already decided 3 blocks ago that if someone wanted to gun me down or steal my shoes, they could do it and I’d be at peace with whatever.
Thankfully no one jumped out to kidnap me, or my shoes. Instead, In broken English I heard my name, followed by “get in”. And I did.
I was exactly 4 houses away from my Aunt Julie’s when her husband, my uncle picked me up in his taxi cab. Still crying I begged him to take me to my aunt Wendy’s, my mom and Aunt Julie’s sister. I knew my mom would be there and even if she wasn’t I knew “Auntie” would take care of me. She always did.
There were 5-7 people who stayed here off and on so I knew if I asked, I had a good chance at being number 6 or 8. After changing into the fresh underwear and clean clothes my aunt always seemed to have for me, I sat in the corner of her room waiting to be allowed in the living room where I could hear the mumbles of multiple adults talking. A few moments later my mom walked in. She wasn’t there when I showed up so I was wondering how she had got there so fast but before I could ask many questions I was ushered to the car by her and my aunt Wendy.
No one would talk to me, the only thing I would get when asking where we were going or what was happening was that “everything was going to be okay”.
Before I could register what side of town we were on I realized that actually, everything was not going to be okay. I knew where we were and apparently so did my mom as I watched her slump to the floor whilst passing a police car and circling the parking lot of our local DHS office.
My heart broke… Right there, as if the past week of events hadn’t broken it enough I felt it leave my body and fall to the floor board. They were taking me back! They didn’t want me! What was I going to do now? If they didn’t want me, that meant I had nowhere to run… No ONE to run to.
Reluctantly, I waited in the car with my mother who was still on the floor board accompanying my still melting heart while my aunt walked inside. A few moments later she opened the doors to the building with a police officer and my social worker gesturing for me to come inside.
My mom spoke harshly, telling me to get out and go inside as the police officer started making his way towards our car. She was wanted, again, or still; who really knew anymore. Regardless, I know she was and for a split second I almost decided to let him reach my door so he could see this cowardly excuse for a mother that was so willing to give up her daughter for the second time. But alas, I did not. After everything she had done, I still wanted to protect her so before the officer made it even halfway to the car, I jumped out and slowly walked into the building.
As the buildings door began to close behind me I looked over my shoulder watching my aunt slowly walk away, get in her car and drive out of the lot.