'Today.' Jack thought. Today he would run away from
home. He'd been planning it with Jess for a year. They were
finally sixteen, he had a van, and they had saved enough money
from babysitting and part-time work. Hewas fed up with his dads
drunkenstupors. Having to work to support the both of them was
tiring. She couldn't take her mother's verbal torture, or her
older brothers 'playful fighting'. The latter leaving her with
large, ugly bruises. She was scared for her life.
Jack walked quietly past his father's prone form on the shabby
couch in what was left of the living room. The house had slowly
become a war zone. His dad's fists had taken large chunks out of
the drywall when he was angry. Jack hoped he could get his things
outside before his dad woke up. It would take at leastfourmore
Thankfully they'd been storing their things in the garage for a
few days, minimizing what they would have to carry out that
night. He opened the screen dooras quietly as he could, propping
it open with the box in his hands before returning to the landing
where he had left the rest of his belongings. He looked at the
mattress leaning against the wall. It was a risk. It would make
more noise than the boxes when he tried to get it out of the
house. He hoped it wouldn't be too much. If his father caught him
it wouldn't be just the drywall that took a beating.
I woke up with a start. The nightmare had been so realistic.
*My mom had been awake for work earlier than normal and had
caught us as we tried to make our escape. She had woken my
brother and Jacks dad. They had beaten him while my mother laid
into me, calling me ungrateful, spoiled and selfish.*
I breathed a sigh, relieved knowing that my mom was still in bed,
and my brother over at his girlfriend's house. I was relatively
safe. Not that I ever felt completely safe in this place. I
glanced at the clock. Four AM. We had two hours left to finish
packing and go. I hopped out of bed and headed for the bathroom.
I showered quickly, not knowing how long I would have to go
without one. I dried off and dressed in track pants and a
sweatshirt. I put the last of my shower things into a box.
Looking at my discarded towel it occurred to me that Jack may not
pack towels, blankets or pillows. I found an extra box and packed
as many as I could. I walked all the boxes down to the front door
one by one. I was looking around, saying my finals goodbyes to
hell on earth when I realized, neither of us was in charge of
bringing food. I opened a box, packing as many cans, boxes, and
bags of food as I could from the cupboards. I then found our
cooler bags and filled them with water, juice, fruits and veggies
taking no meat. It would go bad before we could eat it all. Jack
had a camp stove in the garage. We could bring that with us.
I lugged the boxes and the coolers over to his driveway. There
were no lights on in the house, but the things from the garagehad
been packedthe night before, there were new boxes sitting beside
his car and the front door was open. I returned to my front porch
for the last time. I grabbed my backpack having filled it with
ways to kill time on the road, including my laptop and cell
phone. Jack had found a way todeactivatethe GPS tracker in the
phone. I carefully locked the door and walked back across the
street, where Jack was pulling a mattress out the door.
As Jack hauled the mattress out the front door he glanced up,
spotting Jess as she walked across the street. Her bag slung over
her shoulder and her face set with determination. She was ready
"Think we packed enough?" he asked, gesturing to the pile of
boxes that still neededto beput away.
"No. But I'm glad you thought about a bed. I guess the best part
of you buying the van is that we can sleep in it, and fit all our
boxes in too."
"Well," he responded, lifting the mattress "I thought you might
like a place to sleep since we don't have enough money for hotels
every night. And we needed something big. You have a lot of
clothes." he smirked, sliding the mattress into the back of the
Jack thought about when he had bought the van. He had gone to the
second-hand dealership in town, looking for the perfect runaway
car. He had come across the van near the back of the lot. It had
been perfect. Enough space for sleeping and storing their
belongings, with folding back seats. As well as getting good gas
"It'll keep us warm at night too. I hope."
"How soon can we be out of here?" she asked, glancing back and
forth between his house and hers.
"Once I get everything in the car we can go."
She smiled, lifting a box. "Then we'd better get started. It's
almost four thirty. My mom leaves for work at six.
"That's the last of the boxes." Jack said as he closed the back
of the van.
"Alright!" I fist pumped the air and hopped toward the passenger
door. "I think we should head south, towards Toronto, maybe as
far as Hamilton for now. It's about athree hourdrive. I think
that could be far enough. At least for now."
He nodded. "Okay. I suppose that will do. I will miss it here
"But nothing good has ever happened here. Why would you miss this
place?" I asked. Neither of us had ever liked living in our small
town ofSundridgewith our families. The only things we had to
console ourselves were the beautiful forest and beach that
surround the area.
"We may not have loved the way wewere raised, or thepeople whodid
the raising, but we still had plenty of good times here too. Like
the tree fort we built last summer, or the baby deer we saw with
its mother. Living here wasn't so bad, was it?"
"I guess you're right." I responded, opening the door to climb
into the van.
I suppose life hadn't been horrible, but it hadn't exactly been
ideal. Every happy memorywas tingedwith sadness by the simple
fact that we used our time there to hide from the problems of our
home lives. Most of the time I sported a black eye. I wasn't
going to miss it.
"Hurry up and get in Jack. I want out of this place, fast."
Jack rolled his eyes at Jess as he climbed into the van.
"Yes your highness." He laughed, closing the door as quietly as
he could. She punched his arm.
"Let's get some coffee. It's early, and we're goingto bedriving
for a long time. Might keep you awake."
"Anything else?" he sighed, pulling out of the driveway.
"Yes,lighten up. We're finally free!" she grinned at him, the
most beautiful face splitting grin he had ever seen from her.
Jack stopped at the nearestTim Hortonsin Huntsville before
continuing their journey south. Jess quickly fell asleep and Jack
was left to his thoughts.
'What will we do if we get caught? No one will believe us if
we say that our home lives aren't right. They'll say we're just
kids. They always say that. And what am I supposed to do with
her? She's like a sister to me, but how do I keep her safe in the
city, especially one I've never been to before?' he was
worried that she would want to run around and explore their new
surroundings. She may want to shop and spend some of their
precious savings on new clothes, and anything else she may find
I slept while Jack drove. It would be another two hours, at
least, before we got to Hamilton.
I woke up as Jack pulled to a stop on King Street. He jumped out
of the van and looked around.
"Stay here." He said. "I'm going to find a place to sleep
We had driven straight through fromHuntsvillewithout stopping,
and now that we were inHamiltonJack wanted to find a place to
stay and then go in search of work. We were planning on finding
an apartment to rent the next day.
I nodded my head, and as he turned to shut the door I said "Be
careful." I whispered
Without turning he nodded and kicked the door closed behind him.
Once I gotbored withchannel surfing the radio I turned my gaze to
the window. Jack had driven us into the 'downtown' area
ofHamilton. There were a lot of old brick buildings mixed in with
thenewerbuildings with glass everywhere. This place scared me.
I'd never been one for big cities. I'd gone to Northbayonce as a
child and had refused to leave Sundridgeever again and except for
school I never did, until now. It hit me then that we had really
done it. We had run away from home! Free at last! I punched the
roof of the van in triumph.
"I will never go back." I said proudly as the van door opened
"Glad to hear it. I don't want to have to drive yourbuttall the
way back there. I found us a place to crash." He said climbing
into the van. "But hopefully we're able to get into an apartment
soon because after tonight we'll be sleeping in the van."
"Why?" jess asked, pouting slightly as if disappointed things
weren't going to be easy.
"Because," he said, rolling his eyes "all I could find was a
hotel, and it's incredibly expensive to stay in a hotel."
"Does it matter? All you need to know is this: if you want to
eat, and find a place to live, wecan'tafford it. Especially since
I had to bribe the concierge. Normally they don't rent to teens.
And you're supposed to pay with a credit card."
"Sorry." She mumbled
"Never mind. Anyways the building we're parked across fromis
calledJackson Square. It's a mall, butthere'salso a hotel inside.
There's an underground parking garage too. We'll park there and
then go to our room."
"Will you leave me alonein order tofind a job?" jess asked,
"Well,you'llbe safe in the hotel, so yes."
"What if I want a job too?"
"You can get one later. Let me try first." He said, putting the
key in the ignition.
Jess huffed and crossed her arms as they pulled into the street
and then shortly after into the garage.
After jack got her settled, he left jess to explore the hotel
room while he went to fill out job applications and hand out
resumes. He even stopped by the library to search
When he came back to the room several hours later, Jesswas
curledup on the bed reading a book. He smiled, finally feeling as
if they could do this.
I spent the entire day in our hotel room. I thought I would get
bored and sneak out, but with the TV, freeWi-Fi, books and room
service I was entertained. In fact, Ineverwanted to
leave. I wanted to spend the rest of my life in theSheratonwith
its Jacuzzi tub and scented bubble bath. It was heaven.
By the time Jack returned to the room at seven Iwas curledup on
the bed reading 'Pride and Prejudice'. I quickly finished the
page and closed the book.
"What are you reading?"
"My favorite book." I grinned, holding the book in his direction.
"Ah. Jane Austen. I should have guessed."
"Is it that obvious? Then go away!" I yelled playfully. "Darcy
was just about to confess his love for Elizabeth."
"Oh, well pardon my intrusion ma'am."
I huffed in response, throwing a pillow at him as he headed
towards the bathroom. Opening the book again I returned to Mr.
Darcy and his fumbling proposal of marriage.
When he exited the bathroom half an hour later Jess was still
engrossed in her book. Shaking his head at her he turned on the
TV., hoping to kill some time until she had read her fill and
wanted to sleep.
Since the channels in Hamilton weredifferent fromthose
inSundridgehe decided to start at channel three and keep going
until he found something interesting. When he got to channel
twelve, he stopped. There on the screen were pictures of him and
Jess. They had already made the news.
Turningup the volume he turned to face Jess "Put your book down
and come here." He said quietly.
"What's wrong?" she asked, getting up off the bed…
"The news." He said, turning back to the screen. I turned to face
the tv and felt my eyes grow wide as I stared at my picture next
to Jacks on the screen. Our parents had already figured it out. I
started to shake. If the news had already made it this far, we
were in trouble. The police would be on the lookout for us.
I glanced at Jack, an idea slowly forming.
"Jack, have you read 'The Outsiders?"
"Yes, of course. But what does that have to do with anything?"
"Think about it. WhenPonyboyand Johnny run away they cut their
hair, and even dye Ponyboy's. We can do that! We'll go buy
somehair dyeand scissors! We won't be as easily recognized then!"
He beamed back at me. "You're agenius! Why didn't I think of
"Because you, my friend were in panic mode. you weren't exactly
"I guess. We need to find a job even more now. We're going to run
"Money?" I ask, confusedas towhy he'd stopped talking.
"no. Well yes, but no. I just realized that I sent out all those
resumes with my name on them."
"oh.my…I guess I hadn't thought of that where will we go now?"
"Nowhere. We'll stay here."
"What do you mean?"
"We're all over the news. If we run they'll still come. We'll cut
anddyeour hair, and look for work. Just because we have the same
names as runaway teens,doesn'tmean we're them. Get it?"
"Yes." I nod.
The next morning they headed out of the hotel lobby for breakfast
and disguises. As they browsed the Rexallin the mall jess jumped
"Glasses!" she whispered "we should buy glasses!"
Jack looked at her, trying to decide if she'd gone crazy or not.
"Uh, why?" jack asked
"Because, neither of us wear them! We'll look even more
Jack smiled at her. She really was very smart. Always thinking on
After purchasing their items they headed back to their room,
where Jess helped him cut anddyehis hair before she did her own.
He watched as the blonde slowlydisappeared, being taken over by
"Look at that! Black hair suits you!" she said, kissing him on
"Oh. I guess." He replied dryly. "Well, finish your hair, and
then we'll go look at apartments. We'll hand out some resumes as