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I sat upright at my desk, staring at the clock. My leg bounced up and down, partly because of my high anxiety and partly because of the copious amounts of coffee I stole from the kitchen downstairs. I looked around my bare room, a simple twin sized bed to my right in the corner, a closet on the opposite wall, and on the far wall behind me was the closed window, the faintest light from the stars and a streetlight far away shining in.
“I need to escape. Now.” I thought. The only things in my way was the messy dresser in front of the window, the screen, and him. I looked at the clock again. It was blinking at eleven past three. “Do I have enough time tonight?”
This wouldn’t be the first time I tried, and failed, to get out. First time I stupidly didn’t bring any supplies, and had to begrudgingly return. Second and third times, each a few months apart, I had gotten caught. The lesson that had been ‘taught’ stayed in the back of my head, giving me anxiety. Terror. Now almost half a year later my fear had subsided enough that I was ready to try again.
I raised my fingers to my mouth and started chewing on the already non-existent fingernails. For the past week I had been increasingly been staying up later and later to see when father comes home from his nightly debauchery, and I had yet to see him arrive. Tonight, though, with the help of coffee, energetic Beyoncé music with a little of Hamilton and Dubstep mixed in, and the ever present teenage angst, I promised myself to make it to his arrival. Something told me that tonight would be different though. Whether that something was a voice from above or just caffeine-fuelled-sleep-deprived hallucinations, I was determined to find a way to escape.
I leaped up from my chair in a fit of bravery and pulled the hood of my sweatshirt over my headphones for extra security. I stood before my door, my hand hesitating on the handle for a few moments before finally pulling it open.
The dark hallway stretched before me. As I stepped out of my carpeted room, shivers ran up my legs as my bare feet came into contact with the cold, wood floor. I had one goal in mind: get the screwdriver form the tool box under the kitchen sink. Then, I could unscrew the screen from my bedroom window, without getting caught. I started on my quest down the hall.
Or so I thought.
Time seemed to be going slower than normal in this house, alone in the dark at three in the morning. The usual walk past the bathroom, linen closet, and my father’s room seemed to take five times as long, though that may have been due to me taking slower steps to prevent the floor from creaking. I knew he wasn’t home, but over the years I had become accustomed to making as little noise as possible, especially at night.
My father doesn’t like me to make noise past 8 PM.
I learned that the hard way.
I reached the stairs after what seemed like an eternity and began the descent.
These stairs obviously had it in for me. At least I had access to water in the bathroom. I jumped down the last few, bending at the knees to soften the fall.
In front of me was the door.
I know, I know, why not just go out the door? Why the whole window thing?
Well the stairs were the first issue, and the more problematic obstacle was the motion sensor light and camera. I don’t know how to hack into a security system, but I do know how to use a screwdriver.
I made my way past the living room with the muted TV and dusty withering house plants, and soon arrived in the kitchen. It took me a second to ground myself, for the shadows and odd shapes of the kitchen at night confused me. Looking back on it now, I realized I could have used my phone flashlight, but at the moment I believed myself to be on a stealth mission, and good thing too.
I had taken five steps into the kitchen when I heard the car door slam.
Oh God! Oh God! Oh God! Oh God!
I rushed over to the sink and sunk to my knees, pulling open the cabinet doors and grabbed the toolbox. The gravel path outside crunched underfoot. This stealth mission had turned into a speed run. I combed through the various pliers and wrenches scrambling for a screwdriver. I pulled one out: a flat-head.
Do I need a Philips head? Oh God! Oh God!
By now Father had reached the porch on the other side of the house. His footsteps were heavy. Offbeat.
I continued my frenzied search for another screwdriver. Thump...thump thump thump...thump...thump. Slowly and unevenly,he was getting closer to the door. I finally found a Phillips head and slammed the lid of the toolbox shut before shoving it back under the sink. I shut the cabinet doors and hurried back to the steps, putting the screwdrivers in my hoodie pocket.
Was that the sound of keys rattling in the door? Oh God!
I reached the stairs and bolted up head first, using my hands and feet to go up quickly and quietly by spreading my weight--a habit I had picked up over the years. I had just made it to the second level when the door banged against the wall as it was flung open. I pressed my back against the dingy paint, hopefully out of sight from the door. “Please don't come up here, don’t come up here, stay down there, just leave me alone.”
My heart beat a mile a minute. My anxiety kicked up another notch, and I suddenly began to worry that he could hear my chest and heavy breathing from the downstairs entrance. I stayed there for what seemed like forever until I heard the TV go on. I let out the breath I didn’t even realize I was holding.
Slowly, I made my way back to my room.
Back inside home base, I relaxed slightly. My nerves jittered and jumped and for the briefest of moments I considered taking a rest on my bed.
“Bad idea, genius. The second your head touches anything soft and horizontal you are out.” I scolded myself, rubbing my face to stay awake. “Your next step is to remove that screen.”
I headed over to the dresser and removed some of the junk on the top. I decided that the black hole under my bed would be a good place to put it. I pulled the appropriate screwdriver out of my pocket and started working my way around the window, unscrewing the screen and putting the loosened screws in my empty pocket.
The last few screws were the hardest; in the top corner, the screen kept falling down on my face. The last screw fell out, and before I could grab it and put it with the others in my pocket, the screen started to tip over, threatening to crush me and probably knock half the stuff on my dresser off in the process.
I dropped the screw and put my hands up to catch the screen, and just in time too. I slowly moved my hands to the edge of the screen when I noticed something missing.
The odd thing about being hyper-aware of all the sounds in your house is, that you take the silence for granted, but not this time.
The TV in the downstairs living room was now silent. And the next sounds I heard made my blood run ice cold.
He was coming up the stairs.
I hurriedly grabbed the screen and pulled it from the window frame. “Where do I put it?”
I looked around the room, and rushed over to the closet door.
I opened the closet and shoved the screen in as best I could. The doors wouldn’t close. The screen was too big.
I threw my shoulder against the door and it closed.
“Oh God, did that make a sound; did he hear me?”
I looked about the room for anything out of place.
The screwdriver, it was still on the windowsill. I rushed over to it and picked it up. I turned around again looking at my room.
I leaped over to my desk, pulling off my headphones and putting them, my phone, and the screwdriver in the drawer of the desk.
He was at the top step I knew it. Running over to the light switch I turned off the overhead light in my room.
My feet leaped into my bed, and a second later I pulled the covers over me, laying as still as one dead. I know I said after a second in bed I would fall asleep, but now my muscles tightened with fear, wide awake. The steps had stopped making noise, but a slight creaking could be detected from the hallway. Staring at the door, I waited.
My father walked in. He smelled heavily of alcohol and vomit, and his shirt was off. I suspect that had something to do with the vomit. The smell was repulsive, and I wished he would leave. Somehow he didn’t see me quite literally vibrating under the covers.
He stood staring into the darkness of my room for what seemed to be quite a while, and when he started to move I expected him to leave. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a phone, then after a second, turned the flashlight on and pointed it directly at me. I shut my eyes.
Did he notice me looking?
Did he see the shine of the light off my eyes?
Is the closet door still shut?
Did he notice the missing screen?
Questions fired through my head, but I dared not open my eyes. After a minute I noticed the light in the room disappear behind my closed eyelids, and the door creek back closed. I opened my eyes a sliver, and when I noticed the coast was clear I opened them all the way, still not moving from my position. His room sat right next to mine and I could not risk making any noise until he was asleep. The clock on the desk now read a quarter to four, and I stayed in my fake sleeping position until it read 4:30.
My arm had fallen asleep, so to get the feeling back, I shook it. Slowly getting up, I swung my feet out from under the covers and placed them on the floor. The glowing clock made odd shadows on the wall.
Walking over to the window, I started to open it by turning the crank handle on the window sill. It slowly and silently opened inch by inch. Soon, it hung open all the way, and the warm air rushed in. Smells of cut grass and rain washed out the smell of alcohol from my room, and something about opening the window without the screen seemed to make the whole experience real.
Without the protective barrier between me and the rest of the world, the window felt bigger and more important than before. I heard some crickets chirping and briefly thought about the bugs that are probably already swarming into my room. I stood there for a moment, basking in the experience, before I realized I still had one more hurdle to jump.
I removed some more of my junk from the dresser top and climbed on top. My chest hurt with anticipation as I slowly leaned out the window.
Unlike the movies, below me a pile of deadly bricks covered the ground instead of a roof to climb on. I looked around for another option. The edge of the forest started a ways away, and the closest tree to my window sat unreachable. I scratched my head as I looked for another angle.
I scooched myself closer to the window, and then stood up on the edge, gripping onto the inside top ledge for dear life. “This is a mistake,” I thought.
The ground seemed to be an infinity away, even though I had just raised my vantage point by a handful of feet. I started to rethink this whole plan. “Maybe I should just quit, it’s too high up, it’s too dangerous, I haven’t planned this all the way through.” I almost started to lower myself back into the safety of my room, when something caught my eye.
The downspout snaked up the edge of the wall a few feet away from me. It was old, and probably not structurally sound, but it was the best shot I had. I climbed back into my room, and grabbed my empty backpack, starting to shove t-shirts and jeans into it. Under my mattress was a secret stash of food, money, and toiletries, and I also emptied that out into the bag. Finally I grabbed my phone, charger, and headphones. Putting my shoes on, I climbed back out to the window.
Standing up on the windowsill was the first step, letting go of one hand holding myself to the wall of my house, was the second. I reached over to the water spout and grabbed the rusty pipe. A shiver ran up my spine, the same way it does when you hear fingernails against a blackboard.
“You got this, just don’t fall.”
I swung out of the window and latched on to the pipe. My hands were gripping the rough waterspout with all their might and my legs were griping it with my thighs. Slowly, inch by inch, I started making my way towards the ground. This process was taking a while and I could already feel my body trembling with the effort.
“The itsy bitsy spider,” I sang to myself through gritted teeth.
The ground was only a few feet away, and I jumped, almost falling over because the backpack threw off my core balance. Standing up on the pile of bricks, I looked into the forest, then back up to the window. There was no way I could close it, but I guess that would just have to be a flaw in my plan. Father was bound to notice I was missing eventually. I pulled out my phone, and deleted the app he had downloaded that gave away my location, and as a second thought, turned off my location as well.
For the first time in 16 years, he wouldn’t have any hold over me.
“No looking back.” I shuffled my backpack higher onto my shoulders and turned into the forest. If I walked away from my house until I reached the small creek--thank you Google Earth--I could turn East and make it to the road. A few winding miles later, I’d reach the first town. They’d all know my father, especially the ones who ran the bars, but no one would know me.
You can’t know someone if they never existed to begin with. From there, maybe I’d take a bus, or hitchhike until I could get as far away from the house, as far away from him as possible.
The trees of the forest loomed over me, but whatever wild creatures were in there couldn't do as much damage as Father. Thankfully my eyes had adjusted to the dark and I could navigate through the trees. I looked up at the stars before the dense canopy blocked them from view. I stood still for a second, staring into the dark tunnel before me, the wind howling and an owl hooting in the distance.
I took my first step, and I didn’t look back.