“Do it or don’t do it - you will regret both.”
The full week of planning seemed almost unnecessary after she left.
All the contingencies and alternate plans fell aside, useless. In the end it was as easy as just walking out the door. The walk was long. The negotiation for a ride was not. Ultimately, after paying a local teen to drive her the half hour over to Colebrook, she couldn’t help but feel stupid. A bird only just realizing the door to the cage had been open all along, and her wings were a far cry from clipped.
The airport was miniscule at best.
One terminal. Three flights at current. One arriving, two leaving. Neither of them headed where she wanted to go. Which posed the question- where did she want to go?
Sitting in the mostly empty lobby, she wasn’t sure. She stared at the inactive board, thinking. Someone asked if she was lost. Asked her where her parents were. She assured them she was fine, and when a security guard shortly thereafter came over she promptly showed ID and proved she was a legal enough age to be alone. People backed off. But they kept staring from their corners. She didn’t appreciate it.
After nearly an hour of contemplation, she left the airport.
Colebrook itself was a flat, fairly desolate town. People who lived there could argue it had its charms. All she saw in every direction was a lot of nothing. Boring. Plain. Quiet and still and dull.
She’d spent a week planning how to get out, how to evade and escape any pursuit. How to dodge the sparse cops of her hometown and how to avoid any house staff or parental interference. All to wind up half an hour away, staring at a bare bones town with an airport that couldn’t take her anywhere that felt appealing.
Paying a new stranger to drive her somewhere else was an option. A big city, somewhere with taxis and actual life to it. But what, then? What was the plan, beyond escape? What did the world beyond the open cage have to offer, really?
The sudden questions came on like a truck.
She walked. Staggered a step- but she walked. Slowly but surely along, until an intersection sprawled out to show a variety of shops and two restaurants of only one she recognized the name as a chain. Settling in there and buying what was both an early dinner and belated lunch, she contemplated her next move. The first, and most vital step: get the hell out of Colebrook.
It was too much like Pittsburg. Empty. Boring. It had nothing to offer someone like her.
She bit into the sad attempt at a sandwich she’d ordered, a certain kind of resentment swirling internally. This state was a cage. A damned deathtrap. She refused to let it have her- to keep her. She’d find a way out. To.. somewhere. For.. something.
One step at a time.
The nearest place to hitch a bus was a half hour away.
The airport was less and less an option with every passing minute, and the selection of “hotels” her phone offered was pathetic at best. Ultimately it was a matter of pride on if she wanted to sleep somewhere in town or not.
Her pride won.
She hefted her bag over her shoulder and started walking, with no direction in mind other than “west”, with the aim of getting to Vermont and hopefully something there that would help her journey along. Carefully as she started pacing out of town, she turned off the location tracking on her phone and opened the app that would entirely cut off and reroute any attempts to locate the device. With it running idly, she pocketed her phone and adjusted the strap of her backpack. Within it was everything she’d decided she’d need. Spares clothes, bottled water, some packed no-heat foods just in case. A few of her favorite books, and a bag of toiletries in the hopes she found a decent place to sleep for the night. The rest of the vital core of her travels was in her jacket pockets- phone, wallet. IDs and money collected over the last several weeks in cash from her parents. It wasn’t as much as what rested in her bank account, which she had the card for in case of absolute emergency. But it was a good amount. Enough for a plane ticket outright, and a hotel after that. She knew she’d need to make a withdrawal eventually, if she still could later. And that would start a physical trail she’d need to outrun for who knew how long..
Running away wasn’t easy. She knew that going into the plan.
But walking on foot to another state as the sun set further beneath the horizon.. It began to really settle exactly what she’d just started. Refusing to admit she’d bitten off more than she could chew, she walked on. Farther and farther into the expanse of open nothingness and brilliant stars.
If there was no other takeaway from the moment, there was at least that.
Out here alone, far from even the sparse lights of town, the cosmos overhead were brilliant. A beauty that demanded to be seen, acknowledges, appreciated. And she did. Because for the first time, it was a view she’d earned. One not stolen in glances out of a second story window. This rolling openness was hers to claim. The overwhelming glory of that understanding was enough to smother any fears waiting in the back of her mind for later.
For now, the night was gorgeous, and it was hers.
There was a surreal quality in trying to accept what was happening.
In digesting that home was no longer home. She could argue with herself that it never really was. But that didn’t change the fact that a part of her craved the familiarity. The safety of what was known, over the absolute abyss of unknown risk that surrounded at every side.
Already in walking alongside the highway leading out of town, a man slowed to a stop in his truck and offered her a ride. She had declined. Kept walking. Instinctively mapping every route to run and try to escape, trying to gauge her own strength and speed against the man at a glance.
He had asked if she was sure. She’d said yes, coldly. He’d been reluctant, but he’d driven on.
For the next hour on foot she dwelled on him. On if he’d really been a concerned stranger, or a demon with dark motives. How different would the story of her running away have been, if she’d said yes to him? If he’d been kind, or unkind.. The path untaken would always be a point of interest, on some level. But logic reminded her the risk wasn’t worth it. The chance of good fortune was not worth the chance that it wasn’t. She was better off on this path. As such, she continued onward.
Another hour drained by.
The absolute lack of safety net in what she was doing started to occur more and more. There was no profound moment, no climax, no singular event to deliver her into epiphany. It all came slow, subtle. Stacking on itself more and more as she went, until everything tipped and scattered and in the aftermath a perfect design was formed in the rubble of thoughts.
If she died out here, who would know?
If she were hurt, who would help?
If she screamed in the face of the skies, who would hear?
There was nothing and no one out here but her.
That isolation was freedom.
No one was there to help, should she fall.
No one was there to hold her back anymore, either.
She kept walking.
Her feet hurt. Blisters no doubt forming. Her body felt heavy and tired. But she kept walking, because she could. Because this space was hers. This body was hers. No one was going to stop her, save for herself. No one was going to control her. To chastise her. To tie her down with the promise of protection or the illusion she was ‘too young to understand’.
This life was hers to command how she pleased.
So she walked. As afternoon bled the night, night bled darker and darker all around- she walked.
Each step was her decision. A sign of her willpower. Her pride. Her choice.
Every moment from here on out was a symbol of her resolve. Proof of her own power and control. Every extra breath out here was a testament to the fact she could do it. She could make it. She could leave, and be free, and do whatever she wanted.
If she was hurt, it would be by her own design. If she died, it would be thanks to no one but herself. The dizzying, intoxicating nature of that realization her her going even when her feet no longer wanted to cooperate. One foot, in front of the other foot, in front of the other foot..