Running Away: A Short Story

 

 

     “Hi sweetie, my name’s Carol. What will you have?”

     “I’ll have the country omelet and a full stack of the Belgian dark chocolate pancakes.” I ignore my mother’s voice in my head telling me I should have ordered some stupid low-calorie option.

     I don’t really know what people do when they run away. I went to the nearest iHOP because I was hungry. Also, I don’t know if you can call it running away when you’re nearly 22 years old.

     But that’s what I’m calling it. I’m running away. But I’m going to eat first. And then I’ll figure it out. I have a backpack full of clothes and absolutely nowhere to go, but I’m going to go anyway.

     I told my mother I was going to the library to study with Sydney. I don’t know a Sydney. And I turned in the paperwork to drop out yesterday. I figured I’d just run away, you know? Like in the movies? I could waitress at a diner and live in a crappy apartment with a weird neighbor.

     I know that I won’t be able to do that. I know I’ll just end up back at home in a couple of hours, telling my mother exactly what I did. But until then, I can pretend like I actually have a plan.

     “Okay, honey. Here’s your omelet, and your pancakes. Do you want ketchup or hot sauce?”

     “No, thank you.”

     “Alright. I’m going on break, so if you need anything, Emily over there will help you.”

     “Sounds good, thank you.”

     I pick up my fork, ready to eat, but I set it down again. I feel the tears coming. I think they will be subtle, just some water gathering in my eyes. But the tears are not in the least bit delicate. They come in a rush, like a waterfall. It hurts my chest to cry this much, but I can’t stop.

     Suddenly, I feel an arm around me, holding me close.

     “It’ll be okay, sweetie. Everything will be just fine.”

     I am still crying, but I instinctively gather into the stranger’s embrace. It is comforting to have someone holding me, letting me cry. I feel comforted. It feels good to cry after holding in everything for so long.

     I slowly start to calm down and look at the person holding me. It’s Carol. She looks at me and smiles. “What’s going on?”

     “I, uh, I’m...I’m running away.”

     “You’re running away?” She asks, worried.

     “Don’t worry. You don’t have to call the police or anything. I’m 21. It’s more like moving out, really.”

     “Where are you moving to?”

     “No clue.”

     “Do you have a job?”

     “Nope.”

     “Did you tell anyone?”

     “No. Not even my parents. They think I’m still in school. And that I’m studying with Sydney.”

     “Who’s Sydney?”

     I laugh. “I have no idea. I just made up the name.”

     “Why are you running away?”

     “I can’t do it anymore. I can’t handle the pressure. I can’t deal with my parents. I can’t be here anymore.”

     “So what? You were going to eat your pancakes and then just drive away?”

     I nod. “Yeah, pretty much. It’s not much of a plan, is it?”

     Carol looked at me silently for a few minutes. “It’s better than what I did.”

     “What did you do?”

     “I ran out on my kids.”

     “Why?”

    “Same reason you’re running from home. I couldn’t take it anymore. I thought it was the only way to get out of the life I was living.”

     “But you have kids.”

     “And you have parents. Family is family, kiddo. No matter if you’re the mother or the daughter.”

     “Should I go back?”

     “I can’t answer that for you.”

     “I can’t go back, Carol. I can’t. I have spent my whole life doing exactly what my parents want. They chose my school. They chose my major. Hell, they even choose what I can wear sometimes. I’m not living like that anymore.”

     “Then it seems like you already have the answer, sweetie.”

     I smile at Carol. I don’t feel any better about my position, but I feel like I’ll be okay. That I’ll figure it all out.

     “Could I get this to go? I need to make a phone call.”

     Carol smiles at me and pats my back. “Sure, sweetie.”

     As Carol walks me out, I thank her for comforting me. “I don’t get that a lot. Thank you.”

     “I’m glad I could do for you what I couldn’t for my kids.”

     “I’m going to call my mother. Tell her everything. And then go my way. Maybe you should call your kids.”

     “They hate me. How could I call them?”

     “They can’t hate you. You’re their mom. Kids will never hate their parents. The same way parents will never hate their kids.”

     “I’ll give it a shot, kiddo. Thanks.”

     I smile at her one last time. “Thank you, Carol.”

     I walk to my car and call my mother.

     “Aren’t you studying?” My mother answers. No hello. No mention of where I am. She really believed me.

    “No, ma I’m not.”

    “Why not? You went to study.”

    “Actually that’s why I called, ma. I dropped out.”

    “You what?” Her voice is harsh. She is angry. But I only feel more confident. I’m going to tell her. I’m going to live my way.

    “Ma, I hate college. I can’t do it anymore. I don’t like my major. I don’t like the school. I want to do something else.”

    “Like what?”

    “I don’t know. But I’ll figure it out.”

    “No. You’re going back to school. We can figure this out. Come home, and we’ll talk.”

    “No, ma. I’m not going back home.”

    “Then where are you going to go?”

    “I don’t know. I’ll figure something out.”

    “You won’t be able to do anything without a degree. You’re a Senior. Why would you drop out when you’re so close? Just come home, and we’ll get you back in school.”

    “No! Ma, why don’t you get it? I’m not going to go back. I’m not going to do what you want.”

    My mother is silent. I take that as I sign that I can keep talking. “Ma, I just need some time. I need to find myself.”

    “You don’t believe in those stupid cliches.”

    “I didn’t until now, ma. I have to live for myself now. I need to do things other than study and do homework. I want to have fun for once.”

    “You’re leaving behind your entire life for fun?”

    I laugh. “Yeah, I guess I am. I’ll call you when I can, ma. Love you.”

    “Wait—”

I don’t wait to hear her yell. I put my car in drive and leave the iHOP parking lot. I don’t know where I’m going, But for once, I don’t care. I have always known where I’m going, what I’m doing, and what I have to do. But this time, I don’t. Because this time, I have a clean slate. I have a chance to do things my way. No rules but my own. No expectations but my own. No one to live for but myself. That is the glory of running away.

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