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A Life to Lead Alone

She walked slowly but deliberately to the telephone, mental words of protest falling upon deaf ears. She knew all of her own arguments, and for once in her short, sorry life she just wanted to chuck them down a flight of stairs like she did her suitcases not ten minutes ago. "Don't do this," the little voices of 'reason' whispered desperately. "Don't throw it all away. You don't know what's out there, and you haven't got any money. Life isn't like the books or the movies. You could die out there." But she already knew those arguments, and the ones that came after. "What would they do without you? Think of the repercussions this could have on your family." Still, she continued to ignore them. Fidgeting with her purple hair, recently dyed and very soft, she picked up the phone, closed her eyes, and dialed. She knew the keys by heart, having traced them with her fingers in the dead of the night dreaming for a rescue squad. "Yellow Cab. How may I be of assistance?" Opening her eyes, she smiled genuinely for the first time all year.

She looked around her in amazement. O'Hare had changed since she'd last seen it, the bubbling and continuous colored lights changing in perfect rhythm to the live music being only a distant memory, and nothing compared to what she saw. Somehow, it was already midnight and she had yet to leave the terminal. She figured that airports were always open, and no one would notice her long enough to kick her out. Finally, the loudspeakers announced that the last train for the night was coming. She grabbed the one suitcase she had decided to take, a tidy black duffel bag that held everything she couldn't stand to leave behind even if she wouldn't need it, and strolled down to the station. Plugging her headphones into her iPod, she took a seat in the middle of the train, and watched as the station slowly faded away, a song about going home snaking into her ears. Surrounded by lights, she could not have been happier.

But at the same time, she missed her family. Desperately wished for her sister to laugh with, her mother to make faces at, her father to laugh at. She was alone and tired in a city that was not her home with no place to stay and no place to go. She wondered briefly if they missed her too, if they wondered if she was safe out in the big wide world all alone. She wondered if she would be considered missing like that boy and his girlfriend were not too long ago, or if her parents would just know, instinctively where she had gone and why. She knew in that moment that she could not stay in Chicago, and prayed for a moment that the train would return to the station so she would not have to face a night in a city she had visited twice and yet was haunted with what had been and what could be.

When she awoke, the sun was just beginning to peek over the tops of the buildings tentatively, like a child that had been yelled at before for making too much noise too early in the morning. She couldn't see the sun, but began to feel a stirring all around her, as if her surroundings were preparing for the day ahead while she slept. She looked around, dazed, clutching her small bag to her chest and feeling her heartbeat in return. She couldn't remember how exactly she had ended up there, but recalled distantly that she broke into the theatre through a side entrance. She quickly changed and snuck back out, fearful of being caught and landing in jail. Though she was only seventeen and still technically a child, she had never been in trouble before, and felt that now was not the time to start.

She sat nervously on the plane she had recently vacated, and waited anxiously for the plane to begin moving. She wanted to leave Chicago just as much as she had wanted to leave home, and tears fell down her cheeks as she imagined the worry on her parents faces when they realized that she had gone, and had yet to come back. For the third time, she wondered if she should call them. And for the third time, she decided not to.





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