(aka a story written for my ninth grade english class)
It’s late night, just past midnight, when Mira slips out of her house, through the window, down a tree, and into some bushes. Her bag is on her shoulder, slung haphazardly, with one of the arms of a sweatshirt poking out. She is vaguely aware of leaves and twigs stuck in her brown and slightly frizzed hair, scratching at her skin. Quietly, she slinks herself out of the bushes and onto the lawn, her feet picking up speed when she hits pavement, barely stopping even when she realizes she doesn’t even know if she’s going in the right direction.
Her hand slips into her jean pocket, feeling for the money that was shoved in earlier. Sure, she’s been planning this for a while, but that doesn’t mean that she was ready. Mira’s never been ready for anything, and if she could name her best talent, it’d be procrastination. Still, feeling the crumpled bank notes saved up from all her pay cheques are soothing and she realizes she’s stopped running. It’s about ten blocks from her house, but she can still see the tip of its roof, where her brother’s room is located, dark and unaware of what has just happened.
Maybe that’s the problem. Her family is only unaware for now, a blissful sense of security that threatens to shatter in the morning. By then, Mira wants to be out of New York State, or at least as far away from her house as humanly possible. And they’ll be wondering where she is, of course they will. God, this is stupid. This is really, really stupid. Mira isn’t sure what possessed her to do this except for the fact that it’s like she’s being suffocated, everything in life handed to her. It’s a growing experience, isn’t it?
But maybe she wants them to find her, that’s why she left a note goodbye, that’s why it feels like her phone is a dead weight in her bag. She’s never been able to ignore calls from her family—from anyone, really—it was drilled into her that that was rude and improper. They’ll call her, and she’ll pick up and her mother or father will go to pick her up at some shoddy bus station in Maine and then all this will be played off as a phase in her life, a phase in the life of Mira Brewer.
She’ll go home, she’ll get a job, she’ll start acting twenty-three, she’ll pay off her college debts—and as much as she hates to admit it that terrifies her. She’s afraid to admit it, but the problem isn’t that her parents won’t care (because they will), or that she’s had an awful life (she hasn’t)—it’s that she has zero reason for wanting to do this, no motivation she’s just running.
At the bottom of Mira’s bag is a rumpled collection of letters, one written each time she thought of running, for various reasons—school was too boring, it was too miserable and rainy, she wanted to go to Europe. Documentations of her life—some were letters to her best friend, Nick, elaborate plans of escapades to new places: England, California, Japan, Mexico, Thailand, Denmark, everywhere. Others were letters to her parents, her friends, detailing how wonderful they were and how much she appreciated them, but in her own words, “it is high time I got out and saw the world, do things on my own, be independent.” In essence, they were letters describing parts of her she’d locked away. Some aspects had revealed themselves over time, like her wanderlust. Others stayed shut away, forgotten until she wanted to run again.
Mira’s so caught up in her thoughts that she barely notices the slim figure of a person slip out from an open door behind her. When the figure taps her should, she nearly screeches, except there’s a hand on her mouth and a girl in front of her, index finger raised to her lips.
“Do you want to wake up the entire neighborhood, you idiot?” the girl asks, and Mira relaxes. It’s just Aria Reyes, cool and calculating Aria with stupid smirks and quick remarks. Aria Reyes, who she’s known since she was three, who used to hold lavish parties, whose mother made the best enchiladas, who would visit her family in Mexico every summer. The girl whose parents never come home before midnight not after the discovery of a poorly hidden affair, the girl who once held Mira’s affections. Mira’s too caught up in her glare to hear Aria’s next words. “Seriously, what are you doing?”
Mira smacks away Aria’s hand, eyebrows furrowed. She opens her mouth to speak, but hesitates when Aria’s eyes travel to her shoulder, where her bag is slung. Aria cocks her head to the side and lets a smirk form. It all feels so natural for them.
“Oh,” she says, voice light with teasing. “So you’re running away.”
Mira bristles at the accusation. Aria’s crossed her arms over her chest, hip popped and Mira has a sudden urge to punch her, maybe break her nose. Aria has always known how to push buttons, and Mira doesn’t want to hear anything from her, not now.
“I’m—I’m not running away, Reyes,” Mira hisses, instinctively taking a step back. “I’m twenty-three. This isn’t—this isn’t running away.”
Aria straight out laughs at her remark, throwing her head back, and it’s a quick, short, sharp bark that would have normally earned a teasing slap on the arm.
“That’s what they all say,” she says. “And then they run. Start up new lives in new places, or they come back and the world falls on top of them.”
Aria unfolds her arms and shrugs, twirling a strand of hair that didn’t quite make it into her bun around her index finger. She takes Mira’s chance to retort and says, “But I’m not going to stop you.”
“You’re not?” It comes out as a whisper, hoarse and slow and distrusting.
Aria shrugs again, a cocky shrug full of nonchalance and apathy. It’s unnerving; it’s always been unnerving, ever since they were three years old and fighting over silly sandbox toys. It makes the air around them seem colder, unfriendly. It almost makes Mira want to stay and try to prove Aria wrong, she’s not running, not really.
“I don’t see why I should. You’re not going to listen to me either way. You’re not under the legal protection of your parents. It’s your life; you’ve got control of it, don’t you? And besides, we all die in the end, why not go out with a bang?”
“Are you implying something?”
“Yes. No. Maybe. I suppose I am, aren’t I? Well, let me tell you something, Mira Brewer—how do you expect to be able to survive on less than a thousand dollars? We both know a recent college grad isn’t going to be able to do very much. We’re both dead broke, that’s why we’re still here, isn’t it?”
Mira almost freezes, limbs going stiff and jaw almost dropping into a gape. She composes herself a few seconds later, letting her face go blank. She doesn’t owe Aria Reyes any explanations, not anymore.
“It’s not like I’m wandering blindly into this. I know what I’m doing, thanks,” she says. Then, in a whisper of sorts—“I have a plan.”
“You know what you’re doing? Ha, I remember the last time you said that—look how wonderful that turned out! Just tell me something, Sunshine, why do you want to?” Aria asks, almost cautiously, but somehow still mocking.
Mira snorts, “I don’t know. Maybe I’ve just been wanting to run away my whole life—and when the opportunity presented itself, I took it.”
“Ah. That’s deeper than I thought you could’ve managed.”
Aria’s words sting, if only a little—it’s hard to tell when she’s joking, now. Whatever vague attachment Mira’s clung onto when it comes to Aria is rapidly dissolving. It’s strange to be able to pinpoint the moment when she’s stopped caring what Aria thinks. She duly notes that Aria hasn’t made a comment on the fact that she’s got a plan; she half expected to be laughed out the door. It’s a start.
“Well aren’t you a wonderful example of a friend,” Mira says, dryly. “Was that supposed to make me feel guilty?”
“Only if you want it to,” Aria snorts, strands of hair falling from her bun. It was an old habit of hers that signaled when she was trying to get comfortable in an unfamiliar situation. Mira allows herself to relax, now, and there’s an air of familiarity between them—it’s nice, comfortable. Having a little of their normal banter back is nice. Tempting, even, tempting to turn back around and go home, to stay for a little while.
But the temptation of the Blairs, up north in Maine—it’s just within reach, a manifestation of Mira’s own desires for adventure. She’s known them since she was little, she’d been there for the birth of the two youngest—Nick and Lacey—and that’s were she used to spend her summers. And in any case, the plan is to take Nick and go on an exploration of the world. It’s always been the plan, ever since they were little, even though back then it was a joke.
“I’m going to see the world,” Mira breathes.
“Yes, of course you are,” snorts Aria. “How exactly do you plan on doing that?”
Breathing deep, Mira turns around, facing away from the black-haired girl and her sarcastic smirk. “It doesn’t matter. It’s not—you’re not—Aria, you’re not a part of this.”
“Oh, you wound me, Sunshine,” Aria mutters. But it’s stiff, guarded.
Mira begins walking away, walking towards the bus station seven blocks down. She walks away slowly, carefully, as if she might turn around and run home if she doesn’t steady herself. It’s not like she hasn’t thought about this before, she doesn’t understand why it’s so hard.
“It’s a shame, Sunshine, I think I might miss you.”
It’s right there. Mira can pinpoint it, the moment that Aria Reyes begins to crumble, desperately trying to cling to something, everything. Aria Reyes, having feelings—Mira thinks she could cry in that moment, laugh bittersweet hiccups. And she’s not going to lie, each step hurts, maybe a little more than the rest, maybe a little less.
When she finally reaches the station—Aria and her stupid, stupid existence behind her—she impatiently waits for the bus, silently begging it to come a little faster, the ticket that she bought a week ago burning holes into her hand. Her foot taps lightly against the cement, and the sound of wheels screeching to a stop approaches. Maine awaits her, and she thinks maybe it’s time to send her letters home.