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We Should Run
The thing that bothered me was all the rain that night.
Sure, it was dark and I was a little worried that I’d get caught at any moment…but the only thing that made me really uncomfortable was the pouring rain.
I was at a bus stop, sitting on a bench not far from my house. In fact, if my parents looked out the window, they might be able to see me out here. That’s why I had the hood of my jacket pulled up and my head ducked down.
It probably hadn’t even been that long of a wait, but it felt like years before he showed up. Alex, I mean.
When he walked towards me, his feet sloshed carelessly through the puddles on the sidewalk. His tall and lanky frame seemed to sway as he swiftly made his way up to the bench.
He sat down next to me without a word, just like I had asked of him earlier…before we made our plan.
Over the months we had discussed possibly running away. At first it started out as an idea, a fantasy. But over time those discussions turned into plans.
I told him earlier that night that when it was time to go, not to talk to me about what we were doing because I would most likely lose my nerve.
So there we were, sitting on the wet bench in the pouring rain, waiting for our bus and not saying a word. It was horrible. I silently prayed for Alex to say something, but he apparently wasn’t getting the message.
I ended up breaking the requested silence.
“Alex…” I whispered.
Alex shook his head and put a finger to his lips.
“Alex, c’mon… say something.”
“I made you a promise, Elise.” He said before I finished my sentence. I gave him a look he probably couldn’t see and scoffed.
“F*** the promise. Talk to me.” I said, almost desperately.
Alex slid the jacket hood off his head to reveal a dark beanie covering his thick brown curls, which had been matted down on his forehead from the rain. When he looked at me, one corner of his mouth lifted up, exposing a dimple in his cheek. Seeing that made me remember all the times I had kissed that dimple…here, in this place…the place we were leaving behind pretty soon.
He put one arm on the back of the bench, behind my head, and scooted closer to me so that his face nearly touched mine.
“You’re scared.” He said quietly.
I nodded my head slightly. I could feel his eyes burning into my skin and I hoped he didn’t think that I was a coward.
As if reading my mind, Alex touched his forehead to the side of mine and said, “You’re not stupid for being scared. You know that we don’t have to do this—.”
“No! I want to. You know I want to.” I said quickly, cutting him off. Alex reached up and pinched my nose. It was something he did to calm me down, but it always made me even more pissed.
“Hey, hey…I know you want to. But I’m just saying that it wouldn’t be bad if you didn’t want to leave anymore.” He said, chuckling.
Embarrassed, I abruptly changed the subject. I could feel myself starting to lose my nerve, just as I had predicted.
“What are you going to miss?” I asked as I turned and looked him in the eyes.
“Nothing.” Alex said flatly.
“Not even your family?”
Alex shrugged his shoulders and looked out into the street, which was bare and glistening with rainwater. “They don’t give a s*** about me. They’d probably be relieved that I had gone.”
“Hey, don’t say that…” I say, pinching his nose this time.
“It’s fine, Elise. Things are just the way they are sometimes. We can’t control everything.”
We stayed quiet after that. As we sat there, I asked myself the question I had asked Alex earlier: What are you going to miss?
I had my parents and my two brothers, but much like Alex, I doubted they cared about what I was up to. Mom and Dad were literally always busy. And if I ever came to them wanting to share a piece of personal information, they would usually just pretend to be listening.
Or worse…they would find a way to make anything I’d say sound foolish.
I won’t miss that.
And I definitely won’t miss this small, centuries-old town and it’s snooty, closed-minded people. Here, conformity was basically expected. It’s easy to be like these other people, but I like being my own person, just to spite them.
Alex was that way, too. Instead of resorting to the polo shirts and penny loafers, he stuck with beanies and Doc Martens. Instead of joining the lacrosse team, he spent his free time in the library—smoking weed, of course, but in the library nonetheless.
Naturally we became friends and soon enough, something more.
Thinking about the memories we made here almost made me begin to regret my decision of running away. But then I remembered how unhappy I was when I wasn’t with Alex. I was unhappy most of the time here.
I needed to leave.
Suddenly, Alex shifted away from me and bent down to grab his duffel bag. I sat up straight and watched him.
“What are you doing? You’re not getting cold feet on me, are you?” I said in a panic.
Alex shook his head and pointed to something behind me. “The bus is here. Get your things.”
I whipped my head around and saw the blinking lights above the windshield of the bus and the shining headlights approaching us. I picked up my bag and joined Alex at the curb.
The bus was only a hundred feet from our stop when I suddenly grabbed Alex by his sleeve and started to walk back from the road. Alex shuffled behind me a few feet but then stopped me in my tracks.
“Elise! What’s going on?” he said, surprised.
There were tons of things swirling around in my head, making me think and rethink this decision in a matter of seconds. I wanted to say everything I was feeling at once but even I couldn’t make much sense of it. The feeling of doubt and fear suddenly began to bubble up inside the pit of my stomach.
Alex lowered his face, as if to ask for more of an explanation.
“I…I don’t think I can do this…” I said quietly.
The bus pulled up to the curb and the doors squeaked open. The bus driver looked at us sleepily, waiting for us to get on.
Alex held up his finger, telling him to wait a minute, and the driver sighed loudly.
“Hey, listen…listen, Elise. I know you’re scared. But think, okay? Just think about how better things may turn out just by getting on this bus.” He said, squeezing my shoulders and locking eyes.
“But what if things don’t get better? What if this was meant to be a stupid fantasy? What if…I don’t know, what if this isn’t what’s supposed to happen?” I said, beginning to panic for real this time.
“If you get on this bus with me right now, there won’t be any ‘what-ifs’. If you come with me right now, you won’t be unhappy anymore. That’s all you’ve been feeling lately, I can see it. I’m not gonna let you feel that way ever again. I can promise you that.” Alex whispered fiercely.
“How can you promise that?”
“I just can.”
The bus driver suddenly spoke up, interrupting us. “Hey! Are you kids going to get on the damn bus or are you going to stand out here in the rain all night? I’ve got a schedule!”
I looked at him and then back at Alex, wanting him to do something. Then, he did. He placed his hand on my back and led me up to the stairs of the bus. With nowhere to go but up at this point, I climbed in.
Alex guided me down the aisle and into a seat towards the back. When the bus lurched forward, the lights shut off and the streetlights were the only things that made anyone visible.
I sat against the window and watched my house as we drove off. Just as it was starting to fade away, Alex took my chin in his fingers and turned my head away from the window.
“Don’t look back,” he said. “Just look at me, okay?”
“Yea…yea, okay.” I whispered.
“It’s just me. You don’t have to be scared anymore.” Alex kissed me softly and I rested my head on his shoulder.
I fell asleep after that, not thinking about where we’d end up next.