Another in my series of short stories inspired by song titles. Runaway was released by Del Shannon in 1961.
That was it; I’d had enough. Slamming my bedroom door behind me I threw myself onto the bed and let the tears flow. It wasn’t fair. Anything I wanted to do the answer was always “It’s not safe at night. We’re responsible for you. You’re too young. Maybe next time. No, you’re not going and that’s the end of it.”
They treated me like a slave, I never had any time for myself, but at least I’d had my own room where I could escape to listen to my music, or use my phone in peace. Now even that was being taken away. I’d been summoned and told to sit down while they told me the news. Within a few weeks there’d be another one in the household, and I’d have to share my room with her. This weekend I was to go through my stuff, throw out anything I no longer used, take redundant clothes to the charity shop and clear the larger of the two wardrobes. The same with my books and DVDs. It was up to me which I kept, as long as half the space was cleared for when she arrived.
‘Why should I have to do everything?’ I asked. ‘How old is she anyway? I’m not sharing with some stupid kid.’
Mum glanced at Dad before she replied. ‘She’s the same age as you, but has had some problems. We need you to make her welcome until she finds her feet. It won’t be easy for her so we’re relying on you to help her settle in. Now you’d better go and make a start on your room. We’re having it decorated next week so you might have to sleep on the put-you-up for a few days. The sooner you get started the quicker we can get organised.’
Great. More work, no privacy and now it looked as if I was going to be a nursemaid too. I hated her already. I decided to run away. Let her have the place to herself, but where could I go? London. I’d always wanted to go to London. It was big enough so they’d never find me. I’d get a job, find a flat and have no one telling me what to do. It would be heaven. Better than this boring backwater. I’d seen on the news there were restaurants and clubs everywhere, people enjoying themselves. Right, what should I take with me? I couldn’t carry everything so perhaps it would be a good idea to start sorting through my possessions.
Three hours later I was sitting on the floor, surrounded by piles of things I’d forgotten I owned. I’d dragged the suitcase down and hidden it under my bed in case I was disturbed, but it was already full to bursting with the things I couldn’t bear to leave behind, and I hadn’t even started on my clothes yet.
‘Oh, good. You’ve made a start. Dinner will be ready in five minutes, so leave it for now. I’ll find you some black sacks and then we can give you a hand carrying them down once you’ve finished sorting everything.’
How many times had I asked them to knock before coming into my room? I should insist they put on a lock, but then, it wouldn’t be my room for much longer. After the meal I came back upstairs and looked at the mess surrounding me. I’d need some money until I got settled. First thing was to check my savings account. How much? £9.72. What had happened to all my Christmas and birthday money? I’d been saving up for a new phone but when I realised how long it would take, I’d blown most of it on some new jeans. Everyone had them, but I’d only worn them once, and didn’t really like them. Should they go in the suitcase? Maybe I could borrow another case, but then, how could I carry two of them? I’d better leave it for a while. The cash I had wouldn’t even be enough to pay the train fare.
Perhaps I could get a job locally and save up. The take-away was always advertising for staff, but it would be night-work, and I knew my parents wouldn’t let me. Anyway, I didn’t want to end up washing dishes; it was bad enough having to do it here when there were only three of us. Throwing some things off the bed, I crawled in to get some sleep. I still intended to run away, but it would have to wait for a while.
The weeks passed, and although the room was now half empty, the suitcase stayed hidden under my bed, ready for me to make my escape as soon as I could.
‘Kerry, this is Abbey. Abbey, I hope you’ll be happy here. Kerry will show you the room you’ll be sharing. Come down once you’ve unpacked. I’ve made a cake. I hope you like chocolate.’
‘Thank you, Mrs Jackson. Hello, Kerry. I hope I haven’t been too much of a nuisance. I’ve only got a few things.’
I stared at the girl in front of me. She was about my age, but much skinnier. Her eyes looked enormous in her ravaged face, and I couldn’t help noticing her arms and legs were black and blue. Her fingers tightly clutched the two supermarket shopping bags which seemed to be all she had.
‘Hi. Come upstairs and I’ll help you unpack. Can I take one of those for you? There’s plenty of room, and I needed to have a clear out anyway. You’ve done me a favour. As long as you don’t touch my Zack poster, we’re get on fine. Do you like him? He’s my idol. Who’s your favourite?’
It took a while but gradually Abbey told me her story. An abusive father, a drunken mother, one beating too many and she had run away and ended up on the streets. Some of the stories she told me were horrific, almost beyond my comprehension. That was over a year ago, and now we’re like sisters. She’s filled out a lot and the bruises are gone. I gave her some of the clothes which were too small for me so she could throw away the rags she had when she arrived. She even took over the washing-up duties so now I only have to do it occasionally.
The suitcase is no longer under the bed. I emptied it when I realised being a runaway wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. I’m getting on better with my parents. I suppose I could do a lot worse, but if anyone touches my poster there’ll be trouble.
© Voinks April 2019