The Bullied, pt 1
Eileen woke up ridiculously early, as usual. She never slept well anymore; thoughts raced around her head keeping her awake and morphing into dreams of running, always running. She never saw her pursuers, but she knew them well; their voices pounded her ears incessantly each day at school.
It was 5am by her huge red digital clock. Dark, still, and cold. She had forgotten to wear socks to bed, and she could by now barely feel her own toes. Eileen crept out of bed, taking care to avoid the creaky floorboard in the middle of her room; it wouldn't do to wake her mother at this hour. Her sock drawer was almost empty, but a moment's scrabbling around in the dark located one mis-matched pair of socks, which she put on hurriedly. Halfway back to bed, she paused.
She knew she wouldn't sleep now. She was too wide awake, too cold, and too hungry. Too full of dread for the day and the week ahead: another Monday, another long and terrifying school week.
Her schoolwork was easy. She got on well with most of her teachers. She enjoyed classes, and learning. But her fellow students were the very bane of her existence. 'I lean,' they would leer at her, 'What kind of name is I lean?' Or comments about her troubled mother, her absent father. Small things, each on their own, but adding up to a mountain of thinly veiled hatred and animosity.
What if I just don't go? she asked herself silently. It was far from the first time this thought had crossed her mind, but this time she felt a resolution strange to her. I won't go. I will run away. Maybe I can find my dad.
Eileen stood stock still, surprised by her own thoughts and conviction. It didn't seem so difficult; she knew her father's name and suburb, surely she could find him. And then she could live with him, and go to a different school, and make friends.
Warmed by the thought, friends, she tiptoed back to her drawers and wardrobe. She quickly pulled everything out of her schoolbag, pausing occasionally to listen for her mother's footstep. A heavy book does not come out of a bag with utter silence, and Eileen was quickly becoming paranoid, more than her usual caution, about waking her mother. At last the bag was empty, but not for long. Into it now went clothes, some photos, a couple of treasured knick-knacks.
Food was the next problem. Could she make it to the kitchen without making a noise? How much would she need, anyway? How long would it take to get to her father's house? Would she need money, would she take public transport? She could - she gasped a little at her own audacity in thinking this - she could hitchhike!
Immediately all the horror stories and cautionary tales of hitchhiking rushed into her mind, making her shake a little where she stood by her bedroom door. Ready to leave, yet so unready for what awaited her. Her feet felt cemented in place by the memories of the girl last year, who was kidnapped and raped by a driver while hitchhiking. Eileen had known the girl by sight; an older girl at school by the name of Nancy. Nancy hadn't come back to school, and the few times Eileen had seen her since she had been a small, timid, quivering thing, so unlike her former bold and flirtatious character. The concept of rape was an abstract in Eileen's mind; she was so young and so, as she thought, undesirable. But the concept of ending up like Nancy was something to hesitate over.
But no. Eileen was decided. Such a fate would not await her. She would boldly go in search of her estranged father, and nobody would stop her! It was her quest, and she was to be rewarded with a new and happy life. With this thought, she began to feel rather like a character in a storybook. It uplifted her, and she stepped quietly through her bedroom door.