I awoke with a scream, my pillow soaked with sweat, tears cracked in the crevices of my eyes, hyperventilating so hard I couldn’t feel my chest. My heartbeat raced, and my head ached, it didn’t just feel like a dream, it was so real, so vivid. She was there, I saw her, I know I saw her. We talked “mom” I screamed over and over “come back” I awaited the answer that never came. The answer that was never going to come again.
The lights flicked on in an instant “what the hell!” My no longer quiet roommate shouted. I stopped screaming and held out my hand ignoring the crank beside me.
In the dream she appeared to me I couldn’t stay mad at her, she was only trying to help and after all she was my mother. In the dream she gave me a locket heart shaped and golden, the chain was embedded with small diamonds, and on the locket there was a faded word, a word that read love. I opened my palm now conscious and smiled as I saw the same locket in my hand. I gave out a breath, then squeezed it back up in my hand and looked up at my aggravated roommate, now groggy from getting up so fast. She muttered, “just go back to bed” she looked at the digital clock on the nightstand, “it’s three in the freaking morning and we have school tomorrow.” The light flicked back off, and I lay back down. I hadn’t gone to school since it happened, it seemed like such a small obstacle now with what all I’ve been through. I used to stress over that little bit of hair that was out of place behind my high ponytail, whether anyone would notice or worse mention it. I used to cram for tests and get nervous before handing them in, even though I had triple checked every last word. Laying there in the single plane bed with grey covers, I ran my finger down the outlined edges of the necklace, tracing the word love. In my mind it made perfect sense, but the words would never come out of my mouth, not in public or around anyone, not with what happened with the nurses at the hospital. “They’ll think I’m mental, at the hospital they blamed it on the meds but now that I’m off them with what all I’ve been through, they’ll have no doubt that I’m crazy.” I clenched the locket and whispered, “this will be our secret I stared at the ceiling imagining mom then I shut my eyes.
I woke once again to a loud beeping noise, the alarm was so loud I jumped from my bed and slammed my fist down on the button. Panting I crawled back into bed and huddled under the covers. “The alarm must be on snooze” I thought to myself “it’ll go off again soon” but I was just so sleepy. I shut my eyes yawning “I’ll just rest my eyes” and out like a light I drifted back into my unconscious dreamland.
I woke to the startling scream of my roommate, she nearly passed out “we must’ve slept through the alarm” she gasped. Throwing on whatever she could find still dazed, I watched her stagger across the room. “I’ve never done that before” she said in a panic, she looked at me and screamed “get up, we have to go” I rubbed my baggy eyes, and muttered “alright, alright I’m up.” I stumbled to the bathroom as she grabbed her backpack off the bedroom floor. “They left without us” she cried “we are so late” I figured I’d join in on her one man conversation “even Jane?” I asked “no” she replied “she leaves before we get up, she goes to work.” “Work?” I was confused “isn’t watching us her job?” “no” she rolled her eyes “Jane is a social worker, she has to find more kids who need help, and transfer them to other homes, as well as take care of all of us” I shrugged and walked out holding the locket in my hand. After brushing my hair and teeth, I opened the bag the nosy trespassing social worker gave me and found all my clothes carefully. I shuffled through them trying to find my favourite ripped jeans, and laced black top. When I came down the hall all ready to go, there was my paranoid roommate, pacing. She stared at me with wide eyes “it’s one o’clock in the afternoon, you couldn’t of hurried up a bit more?” She stumbled through the sentence before turning the doorknob, but she slammed it shut as soon as she opened it. “Jane’s home.”
White knuckled, she squeezed the doorknob as if still shutting it. I shook my head, and saw her expression. “Follow me,” I said and hurry we raced down the hall and went into our bedroom. Closing the door behind us, I dropped my bag at the window and slid it open, sitting on the sill I held it open with my one good arm. “Come” I said “grab my bag, and throw it out before you go.” She hesitated but she started obeying when she heard the creak of the front door opening. When we were both out, I carefully set the window down making no sound, then I took the shaking girls hand and ran off.
At first I was guiding her but then she started leading me, “this way to the school” she said. “Your fast for a girl with a fake leg” I chuckled, lifting the obvious fear off her shoulders. She turned and smiled, rolling her eyes. “yeah, it gives me bounce” not knowing quite what she meant, I changed the subject, “what’s your name?” She stopped running and I stumbled into the unexpected halt, “my names Cleo.” At first I was confused “why did we stop?” Then I looked up, “were here” she stared at the enormous school with fear in her eyes. “School ends in an hour, how the hell are we supposed to pretend we’ve been here all day?” I smiled “operation ditch” Cleo furrowed her eyebrows “operation what?” “My brother taught me how to make it seem like you were at school all day, when really you could be anywhere.” Cleo smiled, “your brother sounds cool, where is he now?” I hesitated, still staring at the school “he’s dead.” Her eyes turned bleak and sympathetic “my sister is in a mental hospital because she was prosecuted for murder at twelve.” She was trying to relate but I just wanted to talk about something else anyway, so I changed the subject quick. “This is how it’s done, I will distract the principal and secretary while you sneak into the office and grab the attendance for our class. Mark us as if we’ve been here all day and then we’ll hide in the bathroom till school’s over.”
“But why do we have to hide?” Cleo interrupted “because” I said annoyed “we have to make it look like we were never late, which means the teachers can’t see us walking in at the last minute. All that matters is that we were here today, understand?” She nodded “good then you know what to do.”
Outside the office, I gave Cleo a thumbs up and winked, then I screamed a torturous scream the principal, secretary, and half the teachers in the hall came rushing out. I screamed until I could no longer breath. “What, what” the principal looked concerned “are you okay?” She breathed heavily. “Do I need to call the hospital?” I stopped before she could turn to the office phone. “I saw a rat, a big one, it ran over my foot.” Half the teachers unnoticeably shivered “a rat?” The principal questioned, “it was here” I demanded “that’s a real health hazard you know,” I shook my head in disappointment. “You should really take care of that, somebody could seriously get hurt” I leaned in close, “or rabies” the principal had small beads of sweat clouding her forehead as Cleo snuck out of the office and around the corner. “Just go back to class” the principal turned on her heal and made her way back to the office.
All the teachers and the secretary followed each other down the hall to attend their business. I turned the corner to where Cleo awaited and she led me down the hall to the bathroom. “Did you do it?” I asked impatiently “yes” she huffed the word as if she had been holding her breath the whole time. “Relax” I calmed, noticing her tense features. “I broke a rule” she said, “I’m unclean.” “Unclean?” I mocked “it’s not like we committed a crime,” “yes we did” she lashed out at me “this is called truancy, and trespassing, and lying I’m a terrible liar I’m gonna get an ulcer this is bad this is really, really bad” I grabbed her shoulders “snap out of it” quickly bringing my aching arm back to my chest squinting at the to fast motion. “Cleo look at me, you won’t die everyone makes mistakes, we slept in, we missed one day of school okay, it’s gonna be alright.” She took a breath and calmed down “so now what?” “We just wait here for forty five minutes?” I scanned the room and gave a simple “yeah, have patients unless you wanna end up having truancy, and lying on your permanent record,” I mocked. She turned and without saying a word sat on the dirty bathroom floor I leaned against the wall, tapping my finger lightly against the slightly fogged glass beside me. Annoyed Cleo let out a gasp, “would you stop making that reached sound I thought the whole point of not getting caught was to stay quiet.” “Paranoid much” I snarled under my breath the harsh words that ended in a huff. Five of the longest minutes of my life passed by when a loud siren sounded, “dammit” Cleo jumped “a lockdown, quick” she raced “get in one of the stalls, close the door, and stand on the toilet.” I jumped up and snapped back, “I know how it works, I’ve been in a lock down before besides it’s probably just a drill.” Those were my last words until I shut my stall door, in my head I cowered, but I dare not make this known to Cleo, she was already nervous enough. If they check the attendance for our class the teacher would report us missing, but it was too late by now all the doors would be sealed shut, all the windows covered, and all the halls empty. We were stranded, even if we went banging on the doors the teachers and students would think it was either someone trying to get in to hurt them, or that it was part of the test. “Amelia” Cleo whispered “yeah” “it’s not a drill.”
“What?” I turned on panic mode “what do you mean, how could you possibly know that?” “My friend Nala just texted me. Apparently the whole county is in lockdown” she replied with a shake in her tone. “An elegit murderer escaped from the local police department today.” I looked down and sighed “what’s his name?” I asked gently “wait how do you know its a guy” Cleo paused awaiting a response “just tell me the name!” “Kevin something” relenting I answered “Cleo, he was part of my legal defense when I was arrested for killing my mom.” The silence was overbearing I could hear her breathing get heavier, and the toilet seat squeaked as she tried to scoot closer to the door.
“I didn’t” I said in anger as if she had been the one to put me behind bars, “I was accused of killing her,” I corrected despite my effort to break it the room was still silent. I decided to stop trying to convince her, everyone who knows me already thinks I’m a murderer. Why not my temporary roommate just to cake things on. it’s not like I was going to stay in that nut job of a house anyway as soon as I got the whereabouts of Lily I was out of there.
Escaping would be easy all I would have to do is what I did today when we were on our little run to school. I had noticed the forest directly behind the house, it would be simple to climb out the window again. All I would have to do would be survive in a forest until I reached Lily, then I could finally be happy again.
The alarm went on for what seemed to be hours until we heard the loud boots stomping across the bathroom floor. “Is anyone in here? We are the FBI and we have come to get you out.” A long pause came over there voices before I broke the silence, “we’re in here.” I opened the door and peeked my head out “are you injured?” The agent asked as Cleo emerged from her stall. “No,” I bombarded any chance that Cleo had to speak. She hadn’t talked to me for hours, like anyone else she saw me for a deranged murdering psychopath. So why should she get the chance to speak now. Despite my best efforts to help her escape the house, and avoid getting caught, despite our shared laughs she still didn’t trust me. I stared at Cleo with a firm scowl while listening to the agent talk into his radio, “yeah” he said “we got two female students in the bathroom, most likely the two that were missing, I’m bringing them out.” The voice on the other end started after the agent let go of the walky talky. “Copy that” it said, “I’ll inform the principal.” Marching down the hall into the fresh air brought relief into my system once again. We were not going to get caught, they found us as if we were just two girls trapped in the washroom during the lockdown.
When we arrived with the rest of the class outside it was obvious that the teacher noticed our absence for the whole day. As soon as I caught her eye I looked down and whispered to Cleo. “Look at me, don’t let the teacher see you or she’ll know we played hooky. Just keep your head down, and don’t cause too much attention.” With that I turned, determined not to act nice to Cleo just informative for a moment. I thought we could actually make it out of this alive without being caught. That was before I heard the footsteps. The clip clops of our lady teachers high heels, and the voices they were faint almost unnoticeable, almost. “Those two girls over there the teacher began pointing at Cleo and I, I haven’t seen them all day. A few dirty stares from the principal normally would have meant nothing to me. But this school seemed way bigger, fancier, and stricter than my old school, and with a new warden around the house I was unknown to her temper or the rules. Maybe I would be kicked out before I got any information about Lily.
After the voices stopped I heard the sloppy trudges of the principals wet shoes come of the soaked grass, and once again the teachers clip clops coming onto the pavement. “Girls,” the principal said firmly “come with me.” Cleo looked at me with wide eyes again, just as she did when she saw the car pull up in the driveway at D.O.C. It was the same look of caught I saw in her earlier.
As we followed the principal, I stared at her fearful face. “How bad could it be?” When we arrived in the one secluded area of the lot. the principal began “sorry for the inconvenience of location” she said, “but my office is currently under lockdown. You two do realize that we have security cameras in the office right? So at any given moment I could pull up the footage, and see you sneaking into my office, and changing the attendance record. You know that’s grounds for suspension” she said this while looking directly at Cleo.
“You should know better Cleo,"
I bit my tongue, then glanced at Cleo’s ashamed, and defeated face then piped up. “I turned off the alarm, then I took to long to get ready. It was my idea to sneak out of the house through the window, and then I told Cleo to steal the attendance while I distracted you. So if anyone should be suspended, its me.” Cleo looked at me in shock “you did what?” She said in a fierce whisper, “well then I guess I’ll have to call Jane and sort this out with all of you.” I looked at Cleo who was still staring blankly at me.
When the principal left I stuck my hands in my pockets and held my breath. I didn’t know why I cared so much what this girl thought of me. I was always good at letting go of people, I didn’t want in my life even before mom, but I could’ve easily walked away. Ran off into the woods, and found Lily some other way. It would’ve been the obvious choice for me, but guilt ate me alive as Cleo’s eyes degraded in front of me. “Can you just talk to me please?” I said impatiently “you destroyed my life, you know that right?” I rolled my eyes “it’s just one day,” “no don’t you get it,” she shivered. “Jane she only gives one chance, the last girl that stayed in the D.O.C, she had a broken arm just like you.” It’s not broken, it was impelled with a stick, I shivered at the memory, but didn’t say it aloud. I was craving the truth ever since Cleo blew up in fear when she realized she’d slept in. “The girls name was Katrina, she was the nicest girl you’ve ever met, but one day she was caught shoplifting. It wasn't major just a candy bar, the next day Jane kicked her out. she didn’t send her to another home though,” Cleo warned “she sent her into the world, and told her to never come back.” “Isn’t that illegal?” I asked. “She could have just gone to children’s aid and reported Jane.” Cleo gulped, and looked into the distance, “she was going to, but Jane has eyes everywhere.” Cleo teared up “before Katrina could get to the station she...she…” Cleo sniffled. “She turned up dead in the ditch not far from the station the next morning.” “I’m so sorry Cleo,” I mustered the words but they came out in nothing but screechy mutters. “Was she your friend?” I asked softly, Cleo cast a shaky smile “Katrina was my little sister.“
My eyes grew even wider, “and your afraid of getting kicked out?” I asked “yeah, I told you before about my other sister outside the school.” “Yeah I remember, the one that’s in the psych ward for murdering” “yeah well, she murdered our mother, and I turned her in, she's gonna kill me.” I sighed, that’s why she was so quiet when I told her about mom. I thought she was scared of me. Seeing her fear, I held her shoulder, “she’s locked up, she cant hurt you,” “I lied to you before,” she said all teary eyed. “My sister was released a month ago,” “I’m sorry” I said, than walked over to the crowd of people. I talked to myself on the way there, “what did you do Mil, you idiot. You asked now your gonna have to help her, no the only person that matters is Lily.” I reached into my pocket searching around for the locket I had stashed in a hurry, and pulled it out. Then I opened the heart something I’ve been afraid to do since it was given to me.
The picture inside made me stop dead in my tracks, and drop instantly. I held my mouth sobbing as the tears rolled through my fingers dropping onto the earth as they made there way to there final destination. “I remember this,” I whispered aloud it was my sixth birthday, in the picture Charlie and I, our faces lit up in the presence of the giant Oreo cream cake sitting in front of us. Behind us standing were mom and Dave, mom told us that day we were spending it with an uncle and made us promise not to tell dad. His facial features though were not of a forbidden uncle, they resembled Dave, mom and Dave, Dave and mom. Then it hit me, maybe mom wanted to be with Dave but dad was getting in the way. Maybe she was afraid of dad, not Dave, maybe it was an accident. “No” I shook my head and stood up on my shaky legs, even if mom’s death was an accident Charlie’s wasn’t. I traced the photo with my thumb before shutting the locket, and making my way once again to the crowd of parents, students, and “oh no. This can’t be Jane and the principal stood talking intensely to each other. I looked back at Cleo who still hadn’t seemed to notice the parent teacher conference in the yard.
I quickly ran back to Cleo, if the price was being kicked out anyway what good would running away be? I grabbed Cleo’s arm and yanked her up off the rock she had been sitting on. “We have to go, like now!” I glanced at Jane and the principal who were obviously just finishing there conversation. Cleo pulled her arm out of my grasp, “why would I go anywhere with you? I told you my story, and then you just left, no reaction, no nothing. You left me to deal with the situation you put me in, so forgive me if I don’t fully trust you.” I fought the urge to launch at her, and calmed before I told her about the certain death round happening with Jane and the principal. “Fine, I’ll leave you to sob about how everyone’s against you, but first you might want to look over there.” I pointed to Jane and the principal she rolled her eyes then slowly followed my finger to the view. Almost instantly she whipped her head back at me, and staggered to get up. “What’s your plan?” I grabbed her arm again with my good one, and took her behind the school. “First we get out of sight, the last thing we need is to be discovered and picked out before we have a chance to actually make a plan.” “So you don’t have one yet” she tugged her arm out of my grasp, “okay” I pulled back holding my hands up in a sarcastic surrendering motion. “I don’t know what to do,” “figures” she grunted “hey I don’t see you lifting a finger to help, think of a plan” I said peering cautiously around the corner at Jane who had ended the conversation. My heart skipped a beat as she caught me lurking over the corner. I instantly whipped my head back behind the wall safely out of sight, and crunched my face up hoping she didn’t see me. Cleo grabbed my arm shaking my face back to normal, “what, what is it?” “I think Jane saw me.“
I thought she was going to explode, but instead she broke down. “I’m gonna die,” her face turned beat red, and her eyes started to water, as the tears spilled from her sockets, she dropped to her knees. I breathed out “your not gonna die” I held out my hand and helped her up, follow me. Without any backlash she quickly wiped the mess off her face, she was desperate and afraid, and she was willing to get help from just about anyone.
By memory I counted the steps through the woods, turned at the big rock, and weaved through the vine shaped branches, attached to the big oak tree on our way to the home. Cleo knew what was happening when we got to the blackberry bush just before the halfway mark. Through the sniffles I heard a soft voice “why are we going back there?” I stopped and turned to face her, I saw the lost look in her eyes. All the colour was flushed from her face, and she whimpered softly hanging her head. I took a deep breath trying not to think of Lily, I had to help Cleo, she was all alone and tormented by her thoughts. I had to stop for just a moment, and help her instead of ignoring yet another cry for help. I smiled “it’s okay, we’ll go back, get our stuff, and get out before she comes back.” Cleo nodded and we started again.
When we arrived at the back of the home, I told Cleo to stay hidden while I snuck around the front to see if the car was there. I scaled the wall, and ducked at any windows, than at the end of the side I peeked my head out just enough to see the empty driveway. I knew the lockdown would keep everyone at school, so I knew that we had some time. What I didn’t know was if the front door had an alarm, so I ran back to where I left Cleo. She was ducked down below the window ledge where we had escaped this morning, her face was in her hands but she wasn’t crying anymore. She was simply broken, when she heard my footsteps she looked up, and jumped. Her expression rattled like a deer in the headlights of a moving vehicle. I ignored the awkward silence, and opened the window half way before turning to Cleo. “Can you help me with this?” I struggled to hold it open as she stood up and grabbed the window, releasing most of the pressure from my arms. Together we pushed open the iron framed window, and crawled in. Once inside our room, we gathered all our belongings. Even though we both knew the lockdown would keep everyone at school, we still buzzed around the room, jumping at every sound or footstep. Every time something was dropped, we jumped and that’s when I heard it the thump, and voices. It was coming from down the hall. Cleo nearly had a heart attack, hyperventilating, as she gripped the window, ready to tear it open at any given moment. I froze and listened at the door “stay here” I ordered, I gulped as I barely got the words out. I turned the doorknob slowly, and gently pushed it open. Being careful not to make a sound, I crept up the hall, and turned at the corner into the living room.
I let out a deep breath, swallowed, and called to Cleo, it was just the TV. Still breathing heavily, I held my chest letting all the nervousness escape. A warm chill ran up my spine, as I reached to grab the remote. “Man wanted for kidnapping of 14 year old Amelia Andrews, retrieved from collision, is now being treated at a local hospital. Doctors just gave issue today that he is going to make a full recovery.”
Dazed, I didn’t notice Cleo walk scarcely around the corner “Amelia,” she muttered, “is everything okay?” I gritted my teeth, and turned. I desperately wanted to tell her, but all I could do was nod my head, “yes, everything’s fine I smiled and lied through my teeth. Then clenching my fists, I strolled out of the living room, and into the bedroom where I grabbed my bag. “you ready?” I shivered, seeming to ignore my hostile attitude she took a hold of her bag “let’s go.“