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In a Better Place

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12 o'clock. Has it really been that long?

That means it's been roughly six hours since I left my family's cramped apartment and hitched a ride on this run-down bus. The aisles are filled with greasy wrappers for fast food and soiled newspapers whose stories I do not care to read. I focus on nothing but the bus driver's digital clock, its green digits glowing eerily. That is the only thing I want to see: the clock.

The clock seems to hold the balance of my situation. The clock tells me how long it's been since summer vacation started. The clock describes when I told dad that I was leaving. The clock confirms my worst fear, time itself. Clocks have always been what I look for first in a room.

I was always the subject of bullying, and I was always the middle child who didn't exist. One of five who was stuck in the middle made me dull. One of five meant that I inherited my family's unpopular reputation. Being one of five made me itch to leave my home city of New York and go somewhere that wasn't so judgemental.

That's why I looked for clocks. Because even though I couldn't wait to move on with the day and finish it so I could pass out on the couch, I also hated home life. Thus began my obsession.

I trace the lines on the leather seats of the bus, trying to see a pattern. But the wrinkles are just as unpredictable as this day has been. I hadn't made my decision to leave home until I had said it. The choice had just sort of spilled, and then, I had forced myself to leave. Bullies and lack of attention had influenced this ridiculous plan.

Dad hadn't tried to stop me, so I'd packed up all my worldly goods and the money I would need to get...wherever my mind would take me. The youngest sibling, Timmy, had sobbed about how he would have no one to play with if I left. I recall shedding a tear or two, but not saying anything as he bawled, "No, Lexi! Don't leave! Who will be Big Brontosaurus when I play with my dinosaurs?"

I narrow my eyes and fish through my bag for a moment. In it, is Timmy's least favorite dinosaur toy. Its name is Vicious Velociraptor. He always said that it looked less like a dinosaur, and more like a chicken.

I feel a stab of anger with myself. How could I have been so selfish and cold to innocent, five-year-old Timmy? He tended to be the only one who could sense my turbulent emotions, he was the one who played dinosaurs with me in an attempt to cheer me up. I suddenly realize that Timmy loved me, and that I hadn't been alone all along.

I try to block out my guilty feelings, but my shame drowns me. I flounder in my thoughts and the imaginary ocean that is consuming me.

"Get a grip, Lexi," I say to myself. But as I gaze into Vicious Velociraptor's hungry eyes, I wonder if this bus ride will make me as free as I thought it would.

Will I really be able to steer clear of the images in my mind of mom's car crash? Will I be able to mute the teasing voices of my classmates that I had to tolerate this eighth grade year? What will I do with Vicious Velociraptor, who I brought along as a sentimental token but is turning out to be a horrible reminder?

"I just wanted to get to a better place," I choke out. I make an effort to restrain my tears, and succeed. The only thing I have to do to stop myself from sobbing is look at the bus driver's balding head and the empty bus seats around me. But inside my heart, the turmoil and agony is still there.

Fifteen minutes have passed since I last looked at the clock. My eyes begin to sag with much needed sleep, but then, the bus swerves. My stomach jumps into my throat and my heart pounds as we start to spin. I scream when I hear glass shatter. I don't want to die the way my mom did! Abruptly, my screeching stops.

There's a flash of blinding light and then, my home appears before my eyes. Timmy rounds a corner and races up to me, his arms filled with dinosaurs.

"Play with me, Lexi! Pretty please?"

What just happened? Is this some sort of trick? Is my life flashing before my eyes, or have I been given a second chance. Is that what's going on?

"Lexi?" Timmy asks, confirming my hypothesis.

"Of course, Timmy. Whatever you want." And suddenly, I know that what the old saying says is true. There really is no better place than home.



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