By Tiffany McGouran
We stood in front of the locked back door, looking out its window at the inky darkness that covered the backyard. Carissa and I were dressed in our outside play clothes, long sleeved shirts and jeans, tennis shoes on our feet and trepidation in our hearts. Our sweaty hands alternately gripped our walking sticks and adjusted our large checkered bandanas, which were tied to the ends of our sticks, each bulging with what we considered our necessities.
“Why are we only taking these again?” Carissa whispered as she adjusted her pack on her shoulder to a more comfortable position. I sighed in exasperation. It was a new habit I had picked up recently that none of my family seemed to appreciate, but I thought it made me sound more intelligent.
“Because we’re running away. Everyone who runs away carries stuff they need in bandanas, obviously.”
She nodded her head but still looked confused. “Okay, but why?”
“Because if they took everything they owned they would be slow and get caught.”
“Oh . . . That makes sense.”
Of course I didn’t know that for sure, but it sounded logical, and that’s really all it took to get Carissa sold on the idea.
All of my experience with running away came from reading Huckleberry Finn and Pollyanna, but then again Pollyanna didn’t really run away. She came back and broke her spine, but Huckleberry Finn didn’t break anything that I could remember, and it seemed to have worked out for him.
Our backyard didn’t look nearly as welcoming as it did during the daytime, but I was not to be deterred. We had been wronged one to many times. What happened this morning simply made up our minds. Who lets all their kids have chocolate chip cookies at tea time except for one of them? So what if I hadn’t eaten all of my breakfast? It didn’t even taste good. The way I figured it, the only way for Carissa and me to get our way was to run away. I shuffled my feet against the hardwood floor, then steeled myself. As the older sister I was automatically in charge, so I turned to Carissa.
“You got everything?” I whispered.
“I don’t see why I could only take my Coca Cola Bear.” She whispered back. “All of my other stuffed animals will be so sad that I left them behind! Can’t I take a few more?”
“SHHH! You’re being too loud! You’ll wake up Mom and Daddy if you keep going like that!”
I scowled at her. “And no you cannot take more. I already explained this to you. They won’t fit in your bag, and you’ll have to carry them, where anyone could see them. Do you want them to be stolen or something?” Carissa looked horrified.
“Why would someone steal a stuffed animal? Who would do that?”
“People will steal anything.” I said knowingly. As Carissa and I spoke, I glanced toward my parents’ room. Their bedroom door was barely visible in the dark of the hallway, but I could tell that it was closed as usual. Still, the longer we stayed inside, the bigger of a chance we had of getting caught.
“Wow. That’s awful.”
“Yeah. Now, do you have everything?” I asked again, eager to be on our way.
“Yeah—Oh NO!” Carissa said before running away from the back door and down the hallway towards our room that we shared with Katie and Victoria before I could stop her.
“CARISSA!” I whisper-yelled. “What are you doing?”
I waited for a few seconds before I started after her but stopped when I saw her coming back down the hallway. “What in the world were you doing?!” I was incensed that she would jeopardize our escape like that.
She was out of breath from her sprint and bent over, hands on knees for a few seconds before she looked up and smiled at me. “I almost forgot my toothbrush!”
I just looked at her for a minute. “And you had to run like a maniac through the entire house to get it?”
“I didn’t run through the entire house.” She looked deflated.
“You might as well have!” Ugh. All that over a toothbrush? I didn’t even bring mine. Who needs things like toothbrushes when you’re running away to a life of adventure?
“Whatever,” I said. “Now we’ve got everything, so let’s go.”
We were pretty well supplied for our impromptu escape. Carissa had brought an extra shirt, her toothbrush, her stuffed animal Coca Cola, and some health food bars she had smuggled from the kitchen earlier in the day. My own pack was much better stocked, at least in my opinion, with a few ponytail-holders, my savings, some extra clothes, a book called Old Mother West Wind, and a Ziploc bag of frozen chocolate chip cookie dough. When Carissa and I got far enough away, we were going to buy our own house and bake some cookies, but first we had to make it out the back door.
I stepped forward and twisted the gold-colored knob, slowly easing it open. A high-pitched creaking sound made Carissa and I freeze, but we were ready to bolt if anyone heard it and came to investigate. For a few seconds we stayed still until we felt it was safe to move again.
When the back door was open wide enough, we slipped outside, Carissa accidentally knocking her walking stick against the wooden doorframe as she slipped out behind me. I closed the door just as carefully as before. It wouldn’t do to make it all the way outside and be caught now.
After successfully making it out of the house, we stopped. For some reason the backyard looked different than it had looked through the window. Now it looked even less inviting, and I was even more nervous. I didn’t say anything though. I was the older sister. I had to be the brave one, like Huckleberry Finn. I had to be the one to step out first into the open space of the concrete patio, navigate past the large green wooden deck furniture in complete darkness, guide Carissa past all the creepy shadows to the back gate, and lead the way out of the safety of our home into the silent dark world beyond. I wondered if Huckleberry Finn had been this frightened. Carissa looked about as frightened as I felt.
“You know,” I said, “it would be a lot easier to navigate the streets with the sun out . . .”
“It would?” Carissa asked, looking up at me hopefully.
“Absolutely. It would be better to run away when Mom’s busy cooking lunch.”
Carissa nodded her head vigorously, her pigtails practically bouncing. “That sounds like a good plan. And we’ll get a lot of sleep, so we’ll be well rested.”
“Okay, let’s go back inside and get in bed. We can hide our bags in the closet.”
I quickly reopened the back door, still making sure to be careful, although we came back in a lot faster than we had gone out. After closing the door, we tiptoed back to our room, being as quiet as we could so we didn’t wake up Katie and Victoria. We changed into our pajamas, neither of us talking. We were both in our trundle bed, me on the top bunk swaddled in a cocoon of blankets and Carissa practically smothered by her numerous stuffed animal friends, when I heard Carissa ask, “Why lunch? Why not before breakfast?”
I sighed. “Because tomorrow’s Saturday, dummy. Mom’s making pancakes!”