Here we go. Still in the present.
I crawled to the edge, grabbed the eavestrough, and swung down to the ground. From there, it was pretty easy. I started running. My greatest rivals — thoughts — started crowding my mind. I raced across the road, not bothering to look both ways. “As if anyone would care if I died.” A bitter thought. I shoved it away. But it wasn’t done yet. “I’m just a burden on the government. Not even my own mother wanted me, else she’d never have left me on the James’ doorstep.” “Enough!” I yelled. I focused on the thumping of my feet on the hard ground. The rasp of my breaths. The burning of my muscles. The sting of sweat in my eyes. I vaulted over a roadblock, ignoring the danger signs. My feet tossed up gravel.
Then suddenly, the ground was yanked out from under my feet. Everything dimmed. I was falling in slow motion. Then I hit the bottom. I lay there for a couple seconds, half-submerged in muddy water, air knocked from my lungs. Slowly, I pushed myself to my feet. Light filtered into the hole from a small opening 12 feet above me. I grabbed a rock, found a foothold and started to climb up. Just then, the dirt crumbled and I sprawled into the tepid water. Dirt and rocks cascaded down on me. I groaned.
Many tries later, I finally gave up. “Arghhh!” I kicked at the walls of my dirt prison. The vibrations sent a shower of dirt and stones. Great. I was stuck in a hole, in big trouble with my foster parents and probably would be in more trouble after I was found. Could the day get any better? It could if they can’t find me. A thought whispered. “Shut up,” I muttered. Still, I couldn’t help imagining the landslide of rocks and dirt that would entomb me if the construction workers started working before I was found. A nagging pain pulsed behind my eyes. “Help! Anyone?” I yelled. Silence was my only answer.
I huffed and sat down. After a couple of minutes, my legs began to get numb. Half an hour later, I began to resign myself to my eventual death. I wondered what my obituary would say. Maybe: “Died at age 13, as peacefully as anyone who has ever suffocated. Missed by twin, Theo. Feared and hated by everyone else.” Perhaps my death would catch the attention of my birth parents. Unless they were already dead. That was a possibility that I hadn’t considered.
I drifted into a light and fitful sleep.
“Tara!” My head jerked up. It was dark. Very dark. I heard yelling in the distance. “I’m over here!” I hollered. “Are you okay!” a voice yelled. Running footsteps shook the ground, sending an avalanche of debris down on me. “Cool it! If I was okay before, I wouldn’t be for long, not with this landslide!” I sputtered, covering my head. There was a chuckle from above. Then a floodlight flashed into my eyes. I squinted. “Grab my hand.” the voice rumbled. I jumped up and caught the disembodied hand. “Okay. Hold on tight.” With a grunt and a heave, I was out of the hole. I flopped onto the ground. “Thanks . . .” I glanced into the face of . . . a policeman? Whoah! I was in bigger trouble than I had thought. My stomach curled itself into a knot. “Don’t even think about running,” he ordered, eyes twinkling.
“She’s over here!” he yelled over his shoulder. Mr. and Mrs. Robinson dashed over. “Thank God you’re safe! I was terrified!” Mrs. Robinson breathed. She wiped sweat from her forehead and sagged into her husband’s arms. My headache was back. “Come on. Let’s get you home.” The policeman motioned to a police cruiser. I balked. “No worries. This is off-record. I’m a friend of the Robinsons’. I’d just come off duty when they asked me to help find you.” He chuckled again. I sighed and followed the Robinsons into the car.
It seemed like only a couple seconds before the policeman pulled up at the Robinsons’ house. Theo and our foster siblings gaped at me from the doorway.
It’s not every day that a muddy kid gets dropped home in a police car, but, come on. Staring is still rude. “What on earth happened to you?” Theo asked incredulously. “None of your business,” I growled, pushing past him. I jogged up the stairs and took a quick shower. Glancing through the window, I noticed Ms. Brown’s car in the driveway. Yikes. Getting kicked out on the second day was shocking, even for me. I trudged to my room and pulled my suitcases outside my door. “Tara! Would you please come down!” I tramped downstairs. “Ms. Brown would like to speak with you.” Mr. Robinson said.
Ms. Brown motioned me outside. I prepared myself for a lecture about good behaviour and talking about what was bothering me. But oddly, it didn’t come. Ms. Brown closed her eyes for a long moment. Finally, “Tara. I’m sorry to inform you that this is your last chance.” What? What was she talking about? Ms. Brown took a deep breath and continued. “If the Robinsons decide that they can’t manage you, then you’ll have to go to a group home.” The words thudded in my brain. Group home. Group home. The pounding in my head intensified. “This is your 12th placement. Because of your difficult behaviour, it’s unlikely that anyone else would volunteer to foster you. Please. Don’t waste your last chance.” I don’t know how long I stood there after Ms. Brown drove away. Last chance. Last chance. The words burned themself into my mind. Group home. Group home.
“Don’t ruin my chances here!” Theo hissed. I spun around. His eyes blazed. It was a rare expression for him. “What do you mean?” I heard myself ask. “You know exactly what I mean.” I stared at him blankly. “What kind of stunt did you pull earlier? That was foolhardy, even for you!” He spat. “Look, I dunno about you, but I like it here! But if you keep on acting like a jerk, they’ll kick us out! I don’t want to go to a group home any more than you! So get your act together!” I gaped as he marched back into the house. Suddenly, I felt pretty numb. I slunk upstairs, swallowed a sleeping pill and flopped onto my bed. I’d heard that things seem better in the morning. I sincerely hoped that statement was true.
Okay. This week’s questions. Why do you think Tara ran? What do you think will happen next?
Feel free to share comment and suggestions. Don’t worry, things will get better soon.