The River

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“Kay!” exclaimed my sometimes-boyfriend Ryan happily, and then scooped me up in a huge hug as he stepped over the doorway into my family’s townhouse. He was so tall that my feet left the ground. I stiffened, waiting for it to be over. He got the message and put me down, giving me his best wounded-puppy eyes. “So, what’s up?” he asked, perking up. He waved to my best friend Emma who was already occupying my breakfast nook, reading a book. I opened my mouth and right on cue, the phone rang.

I hurried over and picked it up. “Hello?” I asked in a monotone.
“Hi Kasey! I need a favor!” my mom answered cheerily. I heard soft music in the background. She was probably standing outside her favorite Oahu spa, Saluki. I was so jealous.
“Uh, yeah?” I asked, shuddering in anticipation. I hated doing favors for my snotty family.
“Well, Jamie’s train gets into Manhattan tonight, right? Maria was supposed to go pick him up from Grand Central but she has the flu. I really hate to ask you on such short notice, but could you go get him? I know it’s terrible but there’s cab money and you’re old enough that it’s safe to be in the city alone. Please, Kasey?” Mom spit out quickly, and then took a deep breath. Sometimes I felt bad for her. She got pretty frazzled.
“Ugh, Mom!” I whined. I hated my family so much right then. My stupid brat of a little brother, going to spoiled rich kid camp in New Hampshire or something, my mom, taking a “much needed” vacation with her friends in Hawaii, Dad always on a business trip. They were going to spoil the only day I’d had with my friends in over a month. Soon I was overcome by guilt so I picked the phone back up. “Okay, Mom. I’ll do it. What time does the train get in?”
“Oh thank you thank you thank you! Okay, his train gets in at 6, you’ll need your drivers license or some kind of ID, cab money is in my drawer, take your debit card for emergencies” she gushed out. I smiled.
“Okay, Mom. Call you later,” I said mildly as I hung up. Ryan and Emma were standing together behind me, looking fairly amused. I grimaced. “Uh, I have to go pick Jamie up from his train,” I admitted.

“We know,” Emma replied cheerily, “and we’re coming with you!” Ryan nodded in agreement, and then Emma started bustling around. “Okay, don’t forget your purse, we should probably leave by 5 to get there at six”. I was suddenly overcome by gratitude to my best friend.

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It was around 6:30 when I got the call. Emma had her feet propped up on my lap, and I was relaxing my head against Ryan’s shoulder. We had been waiting for 30 minutes and Jamie wasn’t there. I heard my cell vibrating and answered it quickly. “Jamie?” I asked worriedly.
“Help me Kasey! I think I got on the wrong train!” he squealed. I froze and my mouth fell open.
“Okay, what’s going on?”
“Um I switched tickets with my friend from camp who said he was going to New York too and uh I think he got confused cause I just realized now that this ticket says…Washington DC,” he rushed out. I hit my head against the back of the seat as my eyes widened. Ryan and Emma looked over at me in alarm.
“Alright, Jamie, I’m going to try and get on the next train to Washington. Don’t you dare leave the station,” I growled. He yelped as I hung up the phone. I felt terrible afterwards. My idiotic but still defenseless little brother was alone on a train to the huge city of DC. My insides jumbled up. Ryan had heard our conversation and was pointing at a train schedule on the wall.
“Alright, the next one leaves in 15 minutes. If we really hurry, we might make it. Kasey, do you have enough money?” he rambled. I pulled out my debit card; He grabbed it out of my hand before I could protest and ran off towards the ticket counter.
“Are you okay, Kasey?” Emma asked, sounding very serious. This was a change from the lighthearted, ditzy Emma I knew and loved. I put my head on her shoulder and bit my lip. She rubbed my back and I tried to relax.

It was only five minutes until Ryan was back, holding 3 tickets. “Dang, Kay, your debit cards are loaded,” he teased, passing me a first class ticket. I glared at him. Did he REALLY have to mention money? I mean, everyone knew the truth: my family was, well, loaded. I hated it with a passion. Ryan grinned sheepishly and passed Emma her ticket. “Okay, we have to run to make it on time,” he added quickly, and with that, we were off.
We made it to Acela train number 234, compartment A, and took our seats. The first class cabin was definitely deluxe, full of cushy chairs, bowls full of snacks, and waitresses running around taking dinner orders. Suddenly I was very tired. I lay my head on Ryan’s shoulder and drifted off, trying not to notice how amazing his cologne smelled.
*
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We were about an hour away from Washington when Jamie called again. The train ride had taken all night and I felt somewhat refreshed. The ringing had woken me up, but I wasn’t annoyed. I was starved for news.
“Jamie! Where are you? Are you okay?” I asked worriedly
“Kasey, I’m really scared,” he whimpered. He lowered his voice to a whisper. “There are some really scary men in black suits sitting by me and staring at me,”
I grimaced. “Jamie, it’ll be okay. I’ll be there in an hour,” I attempted to comfort him. He inhaled sharply.
“Kasey, they’re coming over! Oh god, what do I do?” he squealed and I heard him stand up. I bit my lip.
“Um, Jamie, they’re probably going to walk right by you and you’re going to feel stupid!”
“They’re looking right at me Kasey, I swear!”
“Jamie, please calm down,”
“I love,” he began, but the phone cut out to a series of beeping. My phone beeped ‘Call Ended’. I gasped and sat up straight. Emma jerked awake. She looked like a little angel, her mascara smeared under her eyes and her hair sticking up at odd angles. She looked at me in confusion. I swallowed my tears and explained my conversation with my brother. Emma gasped in horror and slapped Ryan awake.
“Mom I don’t wanna go to school, I feel sick,” he grumbled, still half asleep. Ryan needed to be filled in, which Emma did quickly. His eyes widened. “What do we do?” He asked, still in shock.
*

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“Ma’am, did you notice a young boy, about ten, leaving the building?” I hurriedly asked the information desk receptionist
“Oh, yes, he asked me for directions to the Washington Mall. It’s not far from here; Take a left at the light, then a right at Pennsylvania Avenue. But it’s weird before dawn, be careful,” she said kindly, pointing out the door. We took off running before the lady even had a chance to say goodbye. Ryan gained on me as we ran, and soon we were running side by side.
“Why would he go to the Washington Mall?” he asked, his face contorted in confusion.
“Ugh, I don’t know,” I sighed as we approached the Mall entrance. I scanned it quickly, but my heart sank when I realized that Jamie was gone. A flip-flop sat alone on the grass, Jamie’s name written in sharpie on the sole. I picked it up and held it close. Then, I noticed something odd. The other flip-flop stood about ten meters away. I ran towards it and saw a trail leading up the street. I squealed with joy and started running. Jamie must have forgotten to zip up his backpack! Emma and Ryan looked utterly baffled and stayed where they were. I raced onwards until I saw the only person I wanted to see right then: my brother Jamie. My lovable, adorable, beautiful, familiar, bratty, and irresponsible brother Jamie sitting alone on a curb, crying. I ran up to him, and all I could think was how very lucky I was to have him, and to have my family safe and sound. I vowed to never take them for granted again.





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