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The Meaning Of Life
November 21 8:00 A.M.
Everything I had is gone. A family, friends, my only chance at education, gone. Most people think that I miss the warm, comforting hugs from my family, the nice, welcoming smell of home. But I don’t. I miss one thing and one thing only. Knowing that you have a purpose in life. I have no idea what I live for. I have nothing TO live for, now that everything has disappeared. And now, I am a brain dead zombie, crawling amongst the people I envy, looking for something I could put to use. My name, Avery. Not pretty, nice, funny. Just a boring color of brown, tannish hair. Non-vibrant green eyes. Just Avery. And every time I get close to finding the meaning of life, something horrible happens, and I’m back to nothing. It’s a horrible feeling, but I’ve gotten used to it, disappointment. I live in a cardboard box in an alley. I wear the same too small, stained, moldy clothing each day. I smell like garbage sitting out in the hot summer sun. And trust me, its not something that I enjoy. So now, I have decided to share with you the big mystery, the meaning of life.
November 22 5:23 P.M.
I haven’t eaten for days. I’m starving. I’d kill for a bite of hot dog. I’m starting to get scared that my stomach might eat itself. To make it worse, it’s getting closer to winter. And I’m in Chicago. I remember last winter, being in a warm bed. Being comforted by the covers and the knowledge that my family was surrounding me in different. parts of the house. Now all I have is the comfort of cardboard over my head and a piece of paper for a blanket. And no one surrounded me, except if you count the creepy old guy across the alley with faded eyes that don’t stop looking at me. For some reason, I feel like I know him, but whatever. I’m probably hallucinating. Anyways, I wouldn’t be surprised if I was going to die this winter. But it wouldn’t matter. I have no one left that would care. Or notice. Except of course, the old man.
November 23 Midnight
I walk down the dark, lingering alley. The only light was the street light laying about two hundred yards away from me. The sides of the alley were completely covered by sheets of darkness. I start to wonder if there are any “somethings” hiding under those sheets. I start to walk closer. The longer it takes, the more I imagine something horrid trailing behind me. My heart beats more rapidly by the second. I reach my hand out to touch the lights that lay now only two feet away now. The second a bit of relief takes over me, it is stopped. I feel boney fingers on my shoulder, holding me back from going further. It felt like my heart was being squeezed to death. I open my mouth to scream, but nothing seems to come out. My voice is stopped by the cold finger now wrapped around my mouth. Hair. Old hair. Hair from knuckles. In my mouth. I gag at the thought of that. And that’s when i knew who it was.
I turn around. All I see is a broken, yellow- toothed smile staring at me. I look up at the unshaved face. I was right, faded eyes.
“Avery, what are you doing around this time of hour walking the streets of Chicago? It’s almost midnight.” The old man says with a crunchy voice. The grin is still there. How does he even know my name? He starts to grab a piece of my brunette hair and stroke it. I quickly yank away, in an effort to prove a point. I try to keep a disgusted look on my face, fighting back tears of fear. That is the last thing I want to happen. Liquid waterfalls coming from my eyes. I swallow. “You’re strong. Stay strong. Don’t let him see your fear.” I think to myself.
“None of your business. Go away.” I say, keeping the blank yet meaningful look on my face. I try to walk away, escape, but he stops me. I resist the urge to scream and run and kick. That would just create something worse.
“Are you sure you don’t want... an acquaintance?” His smile stayed, now more dreadful than ever. I couldn’t think of what to do. Thoughts overwhelming my head with thoughts, keeping me motionless. Then, involuntarily, my leg raises. My father always told me if there is ever a situation where a boy is threatening me, to kick him in between the legs. So I did. He made an umph sound and fell to the floor, curling up in a ball. At first, I was paralyzed. But then reality hit me and I took a run for it. I ran like I never had before. I had no idea where I was going, but I didn’t stop. I didn’t plan on stopping.
I took a quick glance behind me. Nobody. I realized then, he was old. He wasn’t going to get very far. But my adrenaline rush kept me moving. I didn’t stop until the inside of my throat felt like it was being scratched by sand paper, slowly. I was breathing heavily. I looked around. A half-empty soda cup lay on a green, chipped-paint bench. What else was I supposed to do? I had no money. I couldn’t steal. Could I? I don’t know. All I knew was that if I didn’t drink this, I was going to die of thirst. I grabbed the cup, plugged my nose, inhaled a gigantic breath of air, and drank it. It tasted like carbonated vile.
After that, I went off to look for food, the whole reason I left paradise alley. It took me what seemed like hours before I found a dog-chewed chicken bone in a dumpster. Hey, it’s a luxurious breakfast for me. At least it’s something. I also found a moldy, dried up apple, a piece of pigeon-pecked bread, and another vomit like soda cup. It was starting to get light outside. I knew I had to leave or the patrol might get me. But where was I to go? If I went back to the alley, the old man might try to pull something again. But if I went anywhere else, I would be too easy to find. After a lot of thinking, I decided to go back to the alley. It was my only choice.
I walked back to the alley, keeping in mind that there was someone hurtful there, probably waiting for me. When I got back to the corner, my heart was almost flying out my chest. I imagine him on the other side, waiting, with his disgusting smile. I shake everything out, clear my mind, and go for it. I close my eyes and turn my head around the corner, ready for anything. After a few moments, I open one eye, expecting to see him, but he isn’t there. In fact, he isn’t anywhere. Neither were his things. Confusion pumps through my body with my blood. I guess he must have moved. Why would he do that? Even though we had that incident, I’m surprised he moved. “Oh well.” I think. “At least I won’t have to worry about him anymore.” But I knew deep down inside, that little thing that happened, it won’t be the last. I walked over to my cardboard box. As I ate the apple, I didn’t even realize how revolting it was. The entire past few hours just kept going through my head. It was like someone was hitting the replay button. It seemed suspicious. Maybe something had happened today. Something I was too stupid to notice.
November 24 1:00 P.M.
I didn’t get much sleep last night. Too many nightmares. Memories. Memories in the form of nightmares. Fire. Flames. Ashes. All sinking into my face. Heat waves beat on my skin like drums. Screams of my mother. Torturing not only her, but me. The word “Help!” piercing my ears, digging until it reaches my eardrums. The wails of my little sister, her blonde hair bursting into a sea of ashes as I stand there paralyzed. She was so innocent. Helpless. She had the most to live for out of me, my mother, and my father. She was extremely intelligent, unlike me or my mother. She could have done so much. But her life had to be stopped for some reason. Why wasn’t it me? And my father, his longing face as the waves of flame drag him into their endless sea. His sharp, handsome hair. The reflection of orange, red, and yellow merged together on his gleaming glasses. And all I could do was stand there, watching my house, my family, my LIFE rain down. What was I to do? It was too late by the time I arrived. They were gone. Long gone.
The patrol took me into their orphanages. They told me everything was okay. Everything was going to be fine. All I had to do was pull myself together. But how was I supposed to do that? I was nine! I had just watched my parents slowly die until they disappeared! I was in agony just watching them! But I didn’t tell them any of this. In fact, I didn’t tell them anything. I was mute for over a year.
Anyways, every time I would drift off into a slumber, I would be awakened by the sickening feeling of not being able to breathe. It was torturous.
November 25 9:29 A.M.
Stirring in the bushes awaken me from the only sleep I’ve had in weeks. I wake up, jolting my head towards the roof, or ceiling, or whatever this cardboard piece of crap is, choking on some saliva. I get angry. It was probably just a stupid rat. I attempt to go back to sleep, but the stirring occurs again, this time much closer. I sit up. I listen closely. All I can hear is the wind breathing on the trees as they slowly sway. Right when solace begins to take over me, I hear it again. This time outside this cardboard junk. I shuffle around, looking for something I can put to use that will protect me. My hands shake vigorously as I search for something. Tears try and burst out of my eyes, but I hold them back. I find a stick. Holding it up, I get ready for whatever monster is about to kill me. I swallow hard, making a “gulp” sound.
An outline of a hand slithers through the crack of my door. It was too dark to point out any details of the hand. I could feel my eyes widen with fear. I held my breath, opened the door, and starting whacking the stick around. Whoever it was, was fast, and ran away as quick as it could. I didn’t even get a glimpse of the face. Only a glance at the arm, as it quickly slid away. In the little light from the moon, I could see a scar. It was long, deep, and looked very painful. And for some reason, it spoke of all my memories. It stung my eyes with pain. I looked around the alley. It was almost dawn. I sit in the corner in a ball, crying my eyes out, wondering why?
When it is morning comes, I decide to wipe the tears off my face and look for more food. As I step on the alley sidewalk, something sharp jabs into my foot. I can feel it on my bone. I scream out in agony as the tears come again. I fall to the floor and look at my foot. A gigantic knife is lodged into it. Blood is everywhere. I don’t know what else to do except yank it out. It takes a lot of force, and it hurts. A lot. I find a newspaper and wrap it around my foot. I’m still screaming. And crying. Why was that knife there? I can’t even think. Pain is the only thing going through my mind. But then I realize why it was there. It was dropped by whoever had come to meet me last night. They had attempted to murder me.
And my only goal in life, was to get out of Chicago.
November 25 5:32 P.M.
I was thinking about how to get out of Chicago. I came up with a list of ways. Some of them are pretty dangerous and risky, but that’s life. So here it is:
Jump a train
Hop on a truck
Steal a bike
Take someone’s car
Get someone to take me
So that’s It. I think the last three can be crossed off already. I don’t know what I was thinking. But the other ones might possibly work. I only have a few minor issues. Jumping a train or hopping a truck would take a lot of energy, which I don’t have. And it could injure my foot even more. But stealing a bike is really risky. They could catch me and send me back to the patrol. That would be a nightmare. Honestly, I think jumping a train is the best Idea. It would take me the farthest. It wouldn’t be as easy to get caught. I could sleep without thinking I was going to die. That’s it. I’m jumping a train. Tomorrow. It would be safest. All I need to do is go get a bunch of food. Which I’m going to do right now. Goodbye.
November 26 4:32 P.M.
I woke up early this morning, hoping to get a move on. I needed to find the nearest train anyways. Luckily, it was close to the alley. But I still had no idea how I was going to do this. How did they do it in the movies? The trains usually stopped. This train probably wasn’t going to. So how was I going to do this? Maybe I could make a running jump for it. No, I might not make it and fall. I could try to hoist myself up quickly. No. That wouldn’t work. And as I was arguing with myself, it was interrupted by the faint sound of a train horn. It was coming already. This quick. I was going to have to figure out how to do this, fast.
Before I knew it, I could see the train from a distance. My adrenaline was pumping, as well as my heart. All I do was invision me trying to jump on the train, almost getting there, and then falling off to a horrible death awaiting me. Or I wouldn’t make it and the patrol would pop out of the bushes and take me back to their torture pits. But the train was almost here, I couldn’t think like that. I had to think strategy. The train was getting close. The horn was getting louder. The smoke was touching my face. What was I going to do? Soon I caught myself running with the train,then jumping up to get a hold of the handle. My feet felt like they were a million miles away. I try to lift them up onto the train. I get one foot onto the cart, but the other stays dangling. I put all the force I have into it and try and lift it up. Both feet are now on the cart. Now all I need is my hands to be there, and this will be over. I push up and my hands meet the cart floor. A smile comes across my face, but then is destroyed by the fact that i’m slipping. Fast. There is no way I can help my self now. I accept the fact that i’m dead, well about to be dead. I stop fighting, let go, and fall. But then a miracle happens.
My fall is stopped by not me, but someone else who has not grabbed hold of my hand. The person is fighting hard to keep me from falling. It surprises me greatly. No one has ever done anything like this. When I get onto the train. I see the face. It is what looks like a fifteen year old teenager. He is tall, brown-haired, seems nice. I look behind him. Two other people. Also teenagers. One a girl, one a boy. The girl has blonde wavy hair and turquoise eyes that stand out. The boy I can already tell is a stud. Bulky shoulders, serious face, blonde hair too. Obviously, they came in a package, because they all back up into the corner when I look at them. I don’t know what to say. I haven’t had a social life in three years. The only thing capable of coming out of my mouth is, “Thanks.” And I smile. I must look creepy. I can’t remember the last time I bathed.
“No problem.” says the boy that helped me. “I’m Josh. That’s Annie, and Michael. We all came from Burbank, near here. We’re what you call ‘Runaways’. We ran away from home. Not that hard to figure out. We didn’t like the way our parents were treating us. We felt like garbage. Like we had no purpose in life. So decided to change that, go travel the world, well U.S.” His accent was unique. Not southern, not northern. Not really anything. I liked it. But I had no idea how to respond to that. He had just told me his life story. And there was no way I was going to tell him mine. He would think I was a screwed up mess and kick me off the cart.
“Oh. Me too. I mean, I’m a Runaway too. My name’s Avery.” I said in the most hushed voice ever. I didn’t know how to reply. I probably just made myself sound like I was some creepy girl walking the streets of the cities.
“Where ya’ from?” Michael said from behind Josh. His accent was thick and southern. What was I going to say to this? The last time I went to school was 4th grade. I tried to remember what my awful teacher had taught me about states and things like that. I tried to remember a really important one. Something really well known.
“Los Angeles” I said. Yeah. That sounded cool. Good job.
“Cool!” Annie said. I was right. That did sound cool. I laughed under my breath. I think that’s the first time I’ve laughed since my family died.
After we broke the awkwardness, we started complaining about our parents, and what they did to make us run away. Josh said that his parents beat him with a stick, made him be their mini-waiter, and he had to help his little brother all by himself. He said that was the hardest part about leaving. Leaving his brother. And I could tell he was about to tear up, so he quickly asked Michael the reason why he left. Annie and Michael’s were similar. And they both made them sound like spoiled brats. They were about how their parents didn’t let them do fun stuff, made them do work. It made me angry, yet envy them at the same time. The fact that they actually had parents. I was starting not to like them. Then they asked me why I left. I was hoping they wouldn’t. I had to come up with some great big lie that would probably result in more lies. I told them that I hated my parents. They were horrible. Made me do things that I really didn’t want to do. I told them my dad was an alcoholic, and stopped there. Tears were about to burst from my eyes. How could I say this? My parents were the greatest people on earth to me. But I had to or it would blow my cover. But the words still stung as they crawled from my mouth. And I think they could tell something was wrong, so they quickly changed the subject.
It was fun, talking to people my own age. They were funny. I laughed a lot. And smiled. I loved the way they didn’t look at me in disgust like most people. It was the best I had felt in a long while. Was this the meaning of life? Happiness? I don’t know. But obviously, my luck was changing. For once, something not- terrible was happening.
November 27 Noon
Nightmares, memories. They are back. This time they go deeper. At the patrol orphanage, they put me in a category for age groups. Everyone there was terrible. They all made fun of me because I was mute, different. They would call me names. Laugh at my face. But I would never respond in any of them. Not even if they made me the angriest person ever. I would just walk away. Ignore them. But then came a day where all of that changed.
There was one extremely tall girl for the age of nine. Boy, was she fat. Brunette, too. Ugly as heck. I guess putting me in misery made her think that she was a better person or something. I don’t know. Anyways, one day, she somehow found out what had happened to my parents and my sister. I was sitting cutting some paper and she decided to come over and torture me. As usual, I ignored her. But she kept saying “Ya hear me?” and I wouldn’t answer. This bothered her. So she decided to tell me exactly what I had seen that day my life fell into shattered pieces.At the end she laughed hysterically. I wasn’t laughing. For the first time, I decided to respond. Not by talking though. I picked up the scissors and threw that at her. I purposely tried to miss so I wouldn’t be sent anywhere. Unfortunately, that plan didn’t work, and it hit her right in the hand. I personally didn’t think it was that big of a deal. But the patrol came and got me. I was locked in a room for several days. I cried each day every day. Finally, the head patrol chief came and talked to me. He told me that he knew i had been through a lot, and he thought it would be best if I was sent to a mental hospital.I didn’t like this idea. So the next night, I escaped. They didn’t notice until I was already out the gate. They did try to shoot me about a million times, but they never got me. And that’s when my life really fell apart. When I had to live in an alley. Every night I cried myself to sleep, thinking about the comfort of my family. After a while, I got used to it. And faced the fact that they weren’t coming back.
I was woken up from these dreaded dreams by the feeling of someone shaking me. It was Josh.
“Are you okay? You were moving around a lot. Whimpering. I just wanted to let you know...” He said. I felt stupid. Ashamed. I didn’t want any of them to know I had a soft spot. I looked over. Michael and Annie were asleep, rather close to each other. Thank god they weren’t awake to see that. I turned back to Josh and gave him just a shrug as a reply.
“I’m homesick too.” He said. He must have thought that I was dreaming about home. “Even though I hated it, it’s still home, right?”
“Yeah, I guess. Home is home.” I said. I tried to act as believable as possible. I wanted him to think that I was homesick. I didn’t want him asking questions.
“Do you feel like it was a mistake? I mean, like running away and all?” He asked me. He looked me directly in the eyes when he said this. His eyes were blue. A sea like blue. I didn’t know what to say. I had no idea how he was feeling. But I had to act like I did.
“Yeah. Sometimes. Especially at night. I miss them a lot then.”
“Yeah. Diddo.” He said. My father used to say that. And then I realized why I had such an interest in Josh. He reminded me of my father. The way he acted. The way he looked. The way he would randomly just pour everything out on someone just to get it off his chest. That was something I liked about my father. He couldn’t keep things in. I snapped back into reality. My father is gone. There is no point in thinking about him. I look at Josh. He looks at Annie and Michael.
“I don’t really relate to them, do I?” He asked me. Why answer was no. They were snobs, he was nice and caring.
“Not really. But I find that a good thing. Why would you want to?” I ask.
“I felt like being with them, I would have an adventure. They always seemed so cool. But they are actually really boring.” We both laugh.
“You know, we could leave them.” I whisper, making sure that they don’t hear.
“What?” He asks. He is confused. I can tell it by the tone in his voice, the way his eyebrows lifted.
“You know. Ditch them. Leave them here. Me and you could just run off. They wouldn’t notice.” I say. I have a sly look on my face.
“What..what... No! We can’t leave them! We could be nothing without them!” His voice is raising.
“You just said that they aren’t what you thought they were, am I wrong?”
“Well. I don’t know what I was thinking. There’s no way I’m leaving them. You can go. Whatever. But I’m staying.” He is firm with his words.
“Fine.” I say. I get close to the cart opening. “Goodbye, Josh.” And I jump out. I fall face flat on the floor. Some rocks scrape my knee, but it isn’t too bad. I turn over and watch the cart that I have just jumped out of drive away. Josh looks right at me. He looks at me the way my dad did before he died.
November 28 9:23 A.M.
I found out that I have landed in Portland, Oregon. Everyone is fairly nice here. I don’t blame them from not talking to me. I look like a used rag. I need to find somewhere to bathe. And I’m starving. I left all my food on the train with Josh. Josh. My only friend. Now gone. Just like everyone else. You’d think I’d be used to it by now, but I can’t stop thinking about him. I almost regret jumping the train.
Forget that, I need food. I could steal some bread. No, then I would already have a bad reputation in Oregon. I already looked around in the dumpsters. It’s nothing like Chicago. People in Oregon act so different. It’s going to be much harder to find food around here. I think I’m going to move again. Maybe closer to Los Angeles. They would have a lot of food. I’ll go there. But first, I need to find a place to sleep. Maybe a bench?
November 28 10:00 P.M.
I walk down the street. It is almost completely empty. I try to find a bench that is open for me to sleep on. It’s dark. Very dark. So dark you can only see the outlines of people as they walk past you. It’s rather frightening. There is one person I walk past who is very unusual about the way he walks. It’s slower. He slouches. I’ve seen it before. I just can’t remember where.
When me and this mystery person meets, he stops. I stop too, and look at the person. He whispers something, but I can’t hear him. “What?” I say. I’m confused and anxious all at the same time. He says it louder “Miss me, Avery?” His voice sounds like someone who has been smoking for twenty years. I squint. It’s the old man.
As soon as I recognize him, I try sprinting away, but he grabs my arm. I scream and kick, but he won’t let go. My head is spinning, round and round. I can’t believe this is actually happening. My vision starts to get blurry. I’m light headed. How did he find me? Was he watching me the entire time? This time, I do start crying. I scream “Help!” and there is a crack in my voice. I kick and kick but he won’t budge. I try biting him. He doesn’t move. “What do you want from me?” I scream, tears now pouring out of my eyes. “Calm down. I just don’t want you to be alone when you walk the streets at night. You could get hurt.” He says, in a surprisingly calming way. He’s so... creepy.“I know more about your life then you do, Avery. Trust me.” He smiles. I hate it. I hate it more than anything. I want it to stop. I want him to disappear. Go away. Die. But that’s not going to happen. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m probably going to die. Who cares. I give up. I stop trying and fall to the floor. But then, another miracle happens.
A man I can’t see the face of hits the old man from behind and tells me to run. He runs with me too. I don’t know who this is, or where he’s going but I’m following him. No matter what. He probably just saved my life. We don’t stop for a long time. I start to get very tired, but I keep going. I am past the sandpaper stage. But now my legs are feeling like jelly. I try to think about what has just happened. Somehow the old man tracked me down. There must be some way, unless he’s living in my backpack. I need to find out how or else it will happen again. And what does he know about me? I need to find that out too. It might help me answer my entire life.
I look ahead of me and swing back into what is happening right now. I am following a man I don’t know to somewhere I don’t know. Finally, we stop, with train tracks in front of us. He doesn’t speak. I look at his face. Too dark. I can’t tell if I know him or not. After a while he says “I realized you were right.”
At first, I don’t understand. But then the moon shines on his golden brown hair. And I know it’s Josh.
November 29 11:00 A.M.
Since my last journal entry, me and Josh have jumped a train to Los Angeles. Me nor Josh could sleep last night, so Josh has had much time to tell me about his story. He told me how after I jumped off the train, Annie and Michael woke up and asked where I was. He told them that I had jumped off, and they said they were fine with it. Then the train stopped because they were at a supply station in Portland. When night came, it still wasn’t moving, so they decided to just fall asleep. Josh woke up in the middle of the night to hear Annie and Michael whispering about something. He didn’t want them to know he was awake, so he acted as if he was asleep.
“Can’t we just ditch him now?” Annie had said in a hushed and almost annoyed voice.
“I told you Annie, we gotta’ wait until we get to New York. Then me and you can run off together and leave the bag of potatoes behind to rot. Okay?” Michael had said in a reassuring voice.
“Okay Michael. I trust you. But why do we have to wait until we get to New York?”
“Because the kid’s our only navigation system. That’s the only reason we let him ride with us, remember? We wouldn’t have persuaded him to run away either. Too bad all those things we said ain’t true. He’s gonna’ wish he was back with his Momma.” And they both broke into a hysterical evil laugh. So after Annie and Michael went back to sleep, Josh hopped off the train and ran. After he got into the city, he started to look for me. He knew that I couldn’t have gotten that far, it had only been a few hours. So when he saw what looked like me getting threatened. So he came to the rescue, just like he had when he saved me from falling off the train. I really owe him. He saved my life twice.
November 29 3:00 P.M.
Josh looked at me with desire in his eyes. I knew it was coming. I knew he was about to ask about my life, and I was going to have to tell him the truth.
“So, I’ve been meaning to ask you, who was that guy?” He asked. This was going to be the death of me.
“Well. It’s a really long story. Are you sure you want to hear it?” I replied. And revealing the old man’s story, I was probably going to have to reveal my story.
“Yeah. We have time. We’re like, 2 days away from Los Angeles. Talk away” He said, with the most gorgeous smile on his face I have ever seen. The way the moonlight sparkled on his completely white teeth. His lips perfectly symmetric. I got lost in it. And it was hard to escape.
“Well, Josh. I lied. About being a Runaway and all. I’ve actually been homeless for about five years. I lived in an a stinky, dark, musty Alley that I only left for food, which I have to scavenge in dumpsters for. That old man was living in the Alley, too. He had always been creepy and suspicious to me, but one night he came up to me. Started to touch me and ask if he wanted me to come along with him or something. So I kicked him and ran. When I got back, he was gone.” Josh was a very good listener. His eyes were pointed directly on me. “Then, someone tried to murder me. I don’t know who though. So that’s the reason I got on the train. Then the night that I jumped off, he appeared from nowhere. It was horrifying. I have no idea how he found me or anything. And there was one thing that he told me, that kind of stuck. He said that he knew more about me than I did.” I took a deep breath. I was revealing something know one else on this earth knew.
“But, but why have you been homeless for so long? What happened?” He asked. I was dying inside.
“One day, when I was nine, I decided to take a walk to the library. It was only a block away, so I decided my parents wouldn’t care. There, I got a book called “Goodnight”. I was planning to read it to my little sister. She was only about five. I walked home in the perkiest, happiest mood. I was very excited to read this to my little sister. But when I got home, my entire house was on fire. Everything. Even, even my family.” I swallowed the lump in my throat. Tears were about to burst from my eyes. “ I watched my family get burned to death. There was nothing I could do. But yet I feel like it was my fault in some way that they died. Well anyways, the patrol came and took me. They said that the fire was probably started by a kitchen stove or something. It wasn’t intentional. They put me in their orphanage and left me to stay with their rotting, good for nothing other kids. They bullied me. A lot. And one day, I just completely went berserk. They told me I was going to have to go to a mental hospital, so I ran. And ever since, I have been walking the streets of Chicago, hiding from them, in the hope that they never catch me.” There was a long pause. His facial expression told me he was thinking, thinking of what to say.
“Wow. I’m really sorry. And I thought I had a rough life. You know, my parents and all.” He said. It was simple, but I could tell he really meant it.
“You know, you probably shouldn’t have run away. I can tell you miss your family.” I said.
“Of course I don’t. Why would I? They were horrible to me. I would never miss them. That’s crazy. I did what I did for a reason. I’m not stupid, Avery.” He said. His tone was raising. He was acting like he did when I suggested that we run away together.
“Come on, Josh. Admit it. You regret even running away.” I wanted to get even, so I had the kind of tone a bully from middle school does. And I had a ‘winner’ look on my face. This was turning into an actual argument. We weren’t playing around anymore.
“I’m an independent person, Avery! I can deal with myself. I don’t need them! Besides, how would you know? You don’t even have parents!” He shouted. He had just crossed the line. I got up. I looked at him.
“N-no Avery. I didn’t mean that. You know I didn’t.” He said. Now he was quieter. I could tell he meant what he was saying, but I didn’t care. I was a grudge-holder. I walked up closer to the cart opening. I turned around and looked at the ground as it quickly passed by. I was ready to jump when held my hand. I turned around to see his eyes, digging deep into my soul.
“Avery, I lost you once. I don’t want it to happen again. Please. Stay.” He said. His words touched my ears, and I was sold. He pulled me closer to him, and I let him. I looked up into his blue, mesmerizing eyes.
“You are all I have left. And I know i’m all you have left.” He was now whispering. He had a smile on his face. He gently pulled me in a little further and our lips met. They were soft. Gentle. Kind. I hadn’t felt this kind of love in years. It was healing me, and suddenly, I dropped my dreadful past.
That night, I slept cradled in Josh’s arms. The way I had when I was two, cradled in my father’s arm.
November 31 2:00 P.M.
Once we saw the ‘Welcome To Los Angeles’ sign, we immediately jumped off the train. Ever since last night, Josh hasn’t let go of my hand. I think it’s also the intimidation that the old man might still be around. He just wants to protect me.
I’ve taught Josh the ways of dumpster diving. He’s actually quite good at it. You know, for a beginner. We have found some nice food in Los Angeles. Coming here was definitely not a mistake.
We found a dead-end Alley to sleep in. It is much nicer and cleaner than my old Alley. Los Angeles is a very nice place for homeless people. I can’t believe I just said that.
December 1 3 A.M.
Josh and I walk back to the Alley corner carrying a bunch of food in our hands. We are laughing. Having a good time. Occasionally kissing. But little did we know, things were about to drastically change.
We got back to the Alley to notice the outline of someone short, or slouching. The street light was shining on the only thing we could see. A torturing smile. A smile I knew. A smile I hated. A smile that belonged to someone I wish was dead. I couldn’t process what I was seeing. Was I really seeing him? In the night, waiting for me, again? Everything was a blur. I couldn’t see anything. I wasn’t in reality, until I heard the gunshot.
I look beside me to see Josh on the floor, screaming in agony, clutching his abdomen. A pool of blood starts to form beside him, as tears drip from his face. I look ahead of me to see the old man pointing a gun right at Josh. He has the smile. I run over at him screaming and start to kick him. He points the gun at Josh’s head.
“Touch me, he dies.” He says. I sit down on the floor. Crying and screaming in frustration. What does this man want from me? He has just shot the only person in the world that I love! He’s the only one left! I’ll go back to being a zombie if he dies!
“What do you want! What do I have? Do you want money? What do you want!” I scream in his face.
“Right now, I’d like it if you calm down. I want to do what I have for a very long time. But first, I think it’s only fair for you to know the truth.” He says. I don’t reply. I just sit there in a curled up ball looking at Josh. Not caring about anything but him. I cry and cry. I can’t look at him anymore. I force my head away.
“I said I want to tell you the truth! Listen to me!” And he kicks me in the gut. All I can do is shake my head yes.
“Well first things first. I killed your parents. It was all me. I set the house on fire. I laughed as the house burnt down.” The words stung my ears, piercing them. What? Was he serious? He was the reason my parents are dead. And now I really did want him dead. I screamed at him. Kicked him again. And bit him.
“I warned you, girl!” He screamed, and then he shot Josh again. I burst into tears. I had completely forgot about Josh for a moment. “Anyways, I meant to kill you too. You see, your father was a very smart person, as you know. He was so smart that he put my business out of business. And what was a better way to get him back then to kill his children and wife? And himself? When I did, I was very proud of myself. But then I saw you walking the streets and what I had accomplished was gone. To fulfill my goal, I had to kill you. So, the night I left, I left a knife at the foot of where you sleep, in the hope that you would step on it. It wasn’t meant to kill you, it just had a tracking device in it, so I knew where you were at all times. I wanted to watch you slowly die.”
“You are a sick man! A sick, sick man!” I scream in his face.
“Well don’t worry. You won’t have to live with me anymore. In fact, you won’t have to live at all.” He smiles and points the gun at my head. I close my eyes. This is it. After all this torture, I’m going to die. The worst part is, I never found the meaning of life. Or did I? Is it hidden in the riddles of my life? I think for a while. And I figure the most important riddle of life out, its meaning. It’s love. Love is the only thing that has kept me going all these years. The love of my family, even though they are dead. The love of Josh, even though both he and I are going to be dead in a couple of seconds. It’s love. Too bad I waited this long to realize it. Now I’m about to be dead.
I thank the world for my life, even though it was tough, it had meaning. I clear my mind as hear his hand touch the trigger. I shut my eyes as tight as I can. My heart is beating fast. There has to be a reason for this, I think. But I can’t find one. I guess the world just wants me dead. I open my eyes to have one last look at the world I am leaving behind. I see the old man’s vain pop out as he is ready to pull the trigger. But then I hear screeching in the background. Not screeching from a human, but from a car.
I quickly move to the side of the Alley, which Josh has already somehow managed to do. And right before my eyes, I watch the old man get hit, killing him. It is relief. This is all over. All of it. And I didn’t have to die.
I walk over to the old man to make sure he is gone his skin is as pale as snow, and his lips are crumbled. He is dead. I look around, and the car is gone. I look down to see an envelope left by whoever was in the car. I pick it up and open it. Inside there is a letter and 1,000 dollars. I am astonished. I begin to read the letter.
Use the money in the envelope to pay for the boy’s injuries. It would be a tragedy if he died. Don’t worry about the old man. He is gone and his body will soon be picked up. I want you to know that you are the bravest person I have ever met. And please, don’t waste the leftover money on stupid things. I want you to have a life. You and the boy still have a chance. Don’t waste it. Also, I suggest that you get a job. That will help much.
I wish you the best
-An old friend