"I Ran Away" This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

By , Philadelphia, PA
Outside the foreboding metal door of the police station, a small girl stood shivering. It was late at night, and there was a stark contrast between the cold sharp light of the station, and the murky shadows in which the girl stood. Wild winds pulled and tugged at the girl’s tan pants and purple sweatshirt— they offered little protection from the frigid weather.
The girl did not notice the chill in the air, as she stared in through the glass panel—she peeked over her shoulder, eyes darting back and forth, breath catching in her throat—as she waited for the Monster to materialize from the dark. A small stuffed frog was clutched in the girl’s hands; she kneaded it as she made her decision— could she enter the station? She could not go home, as something far more sinister waited for her there. What if the Monster were already inside, talking, convincing? She peered over her shoulder again. Was it coming? She could not let it find her. She had to trust they would save her, that they would believe her this time.
Her chest tightened and her muscles involuntarily tensed as she thought back to the last time the police came, when they still lived in the apartment: Grandma was still alive— she was still somewhat protected. It was better then. The police had come, and the girl had been frightened. The tall men in their blue suits did not belong in her home; she did not talk to them. She had been afraid to tell them, scared that they would not believe her. After they talked to the Monster, they patted her on the head and left.
“Be a good little girl,” they whispered, believing every one of the Monster’s lies.
Maybe the Monster wasn’t lying. Maybe this was normal. Everything that happened, happened to every one. It is just one of those secrets that is never said in polite company. Shaking her head, the girl banished that thought. She could not believe that; the things the Monster did were not normal, they couldn’t be. What happed behind the closed wooden door of their house had to be different, it had to be.
Maybe she was a bad kid like the Monster said. The therapists she had been taken to over the years certainly seemed to believe that. They spouted their own versions of the policeman’s advice to the girl — they whispered their own diagnoses into the Monster’s ear. The Monster loved those diagnoses; they became ideal excuses. Anything the Monster did, it was always for the little girl’s good—fixing her before it was too late. Or when that excuse could not work, the girl had done it to herself—the Monster tried to stop her, but it was too late. Everyone looked on with pity, for the Monster.
Again the girl dismissed the idea. She was not as bad a kid as the Monster alleged: she did what she was told, even when it hurt. Even if everything that was happening was her fault, she needed to get away. How much longer could she survive in that house of horrors? She wondered. How many more nights like last night could she endure?
The girl took a step forward, and another. Sharp light from inside hurt her eyes. She reached forward and pushed the door, but it did not open. After a brief moment of panic, she noticed the intercom box, and with-a-shaking-finger she pressed the silver button.
“How can I help you?” a voice crackled out of the box.
The girl jumped, “ I … I ran away from home. I need help.” she said shakily and then wiped her runny nose on her sleeve.
“I am going to unlock the door” the voice said. “Pull it open and come in.”
Hearing a pop as the lock opened, the girl quickly pulled on the cold metal bar and stepped over the threshold into the police station. The bright light made her blink, but she quickly glanced around afraid that the Monster was there, that the Monster had already convinced them. A lady cop, her brown hair up in a bun came over to the little girl. “What’s your name?” she asked. “What’s wrong?”
“I ran away,” the little girl repeated. Now that her eyes had adjusted to the light, she saw more of the room around her. The cedar block wall painted an institutional tan—the benches and chairs bolted to the floors, the man who sat behind a Plexiglas window watching her. Suddenly her eyes filled with tears—she did not know why.
The lady noticed and gestured down a before un-noticed hallway. “Let’s go talk okay?” she asked gently. After wiping her eyes with the grimy sleeve of her sweatshirt the girl nodded and followed as the lady led the way. They came to a small room, painted the same tan color. This room had a large wooden table and filing cabinets. On the wall posters were scattered seemingly at random. On the table sat a tape recorder. The lady turned it on and closed the door. She gestured for the girl to sit down. “What is your name?” the lady asked again. The girl sat down, glanced at the closed door— a worried look momentarily crossed her face.
She looked away from the door and focused her wide eyes on the lady. “I’m Anna,” she whispered.
“Okay, Anna, why did you run away? What happened?” the lady asked softly, with a small smile that upturned the sides of her lips.
The girl swallowed nervously. “I can’t tell. She will be mad.” She could not meet the lady’s eyes, so she pulled the stuffed frog out of her pocket and set it on the table.
“What is that?” the lady asked with a smile. She could see the little girl shaking— something had this kid spooked. Until the little girl was more comfortable, she knew she would not learn anything.
“It’s my frog,” the girl answered looking down. “I got it for Christmas when I was little. My grandma gave it to me.” The girl glanced up and then back down again. “I was afraid when I left. I wanted one of my friends to be with me.”
“I see,” the lady said. “Do you live with your grandmother?”
“I used to. But, she died two years ago. Right before Christmas.”
“Okay, so who do you live with now? Do you know your address?” the lady asked.
“I live with my mom.” The girl said nervously. Were they going to call the Monster? Were they going to give her back?
“Anyone else? How about your dad? Do you live with him, too?”
“No, I’ve never met him.” the girl replied.
“Do you have brothers or sisters?”
“ No, it’s just me and my mom.”
Nodding, the lady made a note on her pad of paper. “Okay, well does she know that you’re gone? She must be really worried. It’s not safe for little girls like you to be wandering around at night.”
“They are going to make me go back,” the girl thought. She suddenly looked up at the lady, her eyes sad. “You are going to make me go back,” she stated miserably. “Please no, don’t!” she begged. “She will hurt me more, she will be so mad that I told.”
“ Who will hurt you? Your mom? Is that why you ran away?” the lady asked, as she leaned forward in her chair.
“Yes,” the little girl said meekly.
“What did she do?”
For a long time, the girl spoke, airing the dirty secrets that had been carefully hidden for so long. Occasionally, she would pause to show a scar or bruise to the lady—to show proof that she was not making everything up. The little girl was tired, so tired. “Can I go to sleep?” she asked while her heavy eyelids drooped.
“Okay,” said the lady. She turned off the tape recorder and led the girl back down the hallway to the room with the benches. “You can take a nap here,” she said. “I’m going to call some people and we are going to find somewhere for you to stay.” The lady left the girl on the bench and walked away.
The girl curled up on the bench. She was still scared. She wondered who would walk through the metal door next, would it be her mother, or would it be some other kind of monster? Gradually, her sleepiness overwhelmed her fear, and she fell into a restless sleep. When she awoke, she would have a new life.





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