I open the door a burst of cold air immediately hits me. As I step outside, I close the door with a click and think, Is this really what I want to do? I’m sick of fighting with my parents every day about what I can and can’t do. I am fifteen now, and they still don’t let me make my own decisions.
Glancing back at the house I see Jada sleeping in her room; I feel bad about leaving Jada behind, but she would make this ten times harder. This is what must be done to teach my parents a lesson. Jada is just caught in the middle. Looking down at my watch, I see it is almost 3:00 am; I better get going. In this small town of Newport, VT no one is ever out before 4:00, but shortly after 4:00, everyone comes out to work. Slowly, I walk away not wanting to get caught running away by my crazy parents or neighbors.
The crunch of the leaves startles me as I step into the deep woods. As I get further into the woods, the sun starts to rise lighting up my path. It was supposed to warm up, but the cold hasn’t gone away. I regret my decision of not bringing a coat. What did I expect for a Vermont November? Maybe I should just go back, I think. I could just say I went out for a run.
Looking around for the path back to my house I notice that it is snowing. The strong thick trees are covered in a sparkling layer of bright white snow. The fresh, cold, wet snow soaks through my socks as I stand lost in the woods. The harsh wind blows golden brown leaves of the frozen tree causing them to float in the sky. The snow comes down like someone is sprinkling sugar over the forest. The air is damp and smells of wet birds and worms. The only sound is the soft chirp of a bug. There is no way I will be able to find my way back now. I brush off the thought of going home and continue on trying to get as far away from my family as possible.
My stomach starts to growl. “ It’s already 12:00 pm!” I exclaim looking down at my watch. Wandering here in the woods with nothing to do, no one to control me, no rules or schedules, I completely lost track of time. Digging into my small bag where I packed some snacks, I grab out a granola bar and a squashed banana. Just as I sit down to eat my lunch, I hear the bark of a dog behind me. I must not be far enough in the woods, I think to myself.
Quickly, I get up and look for somewhere to hide. Finding a tree house hidden in the distance I start to run towards it. Getting to the tree house, safely I climb up into it. I can’t hear the dogs anymore, which means I must be far enough away from the town. Cold and tired, I find a small rug in the corner and lie down for a nap. The carpet is old and itchy, but it keeps me warm. As soon as I lay down, my eyes drift closed. I fall into a deep sleep.
Just as I start to sleep, a horrible image pops into my head. I usually do all of the cooking, but I imagine my mom trying to cook for the family because I leave. She is using the stove and left to go help Jada get ready for school. The wind from the open window in our kitchen blows Jada’s homework from our unfinished wood counters straight into the bright blue flame of the stove. The papers ignite and turn into a bright orange flame. The fire takes no time in lighting up the ancient wood counters and cabinets. This is just the beginning, for the fire spreads through the kitchen demolishing everything in its path. The fire grows bigger and bigger turning into a deadly monster. Fire starts to ascend the stairs, sending a warning to all. Mom feels the blazing heat and smells the thick smoke and reacts in seconds, giving her just enough time to get out the rusty old ladder and set it up out the old window. Jada climbs down the ladder out the window with each step sending a storm or peeling paint down with her. With her last step, she is surprised by the snow touching her foot and falls. The ladder comes down with her. Jada is not strong enough to carry the heavy old ladder and mom is trapped. The fire travels to mom’s room and she shouts for Jada to go get help. Jada runs towards the neighbors her soft bare feet freezing with each step in the deep snow. Dad is not lucky either, for he is completely oblivious to the fire and was only enough to be in a room without windows. Dad get trapped in the office full of papers for work, the fire gets to his room and in seconds the whole room is aflame and he can do nothing but wait. The fire department comes and drags out my mom who is shortly followed by my dad, but they are in critical condition. Jada is sent to stay with the neighbors until they can see how bad my parents are injured. Sirens from the fire trucks fade away into the distance until I see nothing. I wake up sweaty and trembling with worry. Will this really happen? I think to myself. Has it already happened?
It is bright outside and I look down to see it is already 7:00 am. I slept for almost the whole day! I hear a loud grumble like the sound of an angry bear coming from my stomach. I realize that I didn’t eat at all The day before because I had to hide from the dogs, and I fell asleep before I could eat it safely up in the tree house. I grab my snack and gobble it down in seconds. Climb out of the tree I decide to take a walk. I need to decide if I am going to go back home or not. As I walk I think of reasons to why I would want to try to go back home and reasons not to. The only reasons why I would go back are: because no one was supposed to be physically hurt, Jada shouldn’t have to suffer, and I didn’t know how they relied on me. There were many reasons not to go back as well: I’m teaching my parents a lesson, I just got here, I don’t know the way back, how I would explain myself when I get back, and I would get in trouble. I find that my reasons not to go back outweigh my reasons to leave. This means I am staying here in the woods, it was just a silly dream anyway.
I spend the rest of the day walking around trying to find water. Just as I find water, the sun starts to set. I decide to go back to the treehouse to sleep. Another dream happens when I fall asleep. This time in my dream Jada finds out my parents will be in the hospital for a few months at least. We don’t have any relatives left which is why Jada is being sent to an orphanage. The social service workers walk up to our neighbors house and knock, when Mrs. Arborlynn answers the door her face immediately falls, the people come into the house and sit down, Jada comes down and sits down with them in the living room, her face get serious, she is old enough to know what this means. The social workers describe that Jada’s parents aren’t doing well and Jada must go to the local orphanage until they get better. It takes Jada a minute to take this all in, but you can see when reality hits her. Jada’s face drops into a frown that holds more pain than any nine year old should ever experience. We’ve always had a hard life, our family doesn’t have lots of money, but neither of us expected anything close to this happen. You could see right through her to where they just made the biggest hole in her heart. Her shoulders sag carrying the heaviest weight in the world, losing your parents. She starts to sob, the tears come out like waterfalls her whole body shaking with the pain of this moment. Her tears drench her clothes and collecting in a puddle on the wood floor. The social workers pick her up and drag her out of the house sobbing.
Waking up, I am all wet and realize I had been sobbing. I love Jada with all my heart, this was never supposed to hurt her. I didn’t think this through enough and realize I need to get back. I can’t do this to Jada no matter what my parents did to me.
I get up out of the treehouse and see that it is still dark. Stomping out, I try to get a general sense of forward. I start walking in a way I am hoping leads towards home. The sun starts to rise and I can see some paw prints in the snow. It didn’t snow the day before. Lucky for me this means that anyone who went in the woods must have left tracks. I follow the boot prints in the snow hoping it will lead me home. The snow soaks right through to my feet, but I don’t care because I am determined to get back to Jada. I don’t even know if these dreams have happened, but I can’t risk that or anything else happening to Jada.
In the distance, I hear the sound of cars flying by on the street and dogs barking at their houses. I am home, I sigh. Feeling relieved I start to run home, tears start falling down my face. Then all of a sudden, I stop short. My house is all burnt down and it still smells like smoke. An awful realization hits me as I find that my dreams did come true. I knock on the neighbor's door and Jada answers. Jada is clearly surprised at my arrival. I can see Jada’s face go through many emotions before landing on a smile.
“Clara, you’re back!” Jada shouts engulfing me in a bear hug. A huge wave of relief washes over me as I see her hopeful face. She has not yet been taken by the government.
“Where are Mom and Dad?” I ask, hopeful they are safe, too.
“They are in the hospital, but they will be out soon. You will never believe what happened!” she exclaims letting me into our neighbor’s house.
“What happened to our house?” I question her. Looking out the window, I see dark ashes from our house are swirling in the wind. I ask even though have a feeling that I know exactly what happened.
“There was this huge fire when mom was making dinner. I will tell you the whole story later. I wish you were there. You would have known what to do,” she explained. We walk toward the living room so I can sit down.
“Mom was making dinner? That must have been the first time in ages she has touched that stove,” I laugh. “This means my dreams did come true.”
“What dreams?” Jada asks. “Wait, that is not the issue. Where were you? You worried us all sick! I can’t believe you’re back. Mom and Dad will be so happy! We have to stay with Mrs. Arborlynn for a while, but she’s nice to me.”
Jada floods me with questions about where I went and why I didn’t tell anyone. I sigh and roll my eyes, classic Jada. Normally, this would annoy me, but I’m just happy that she is safe. I know I will spend the next month trying to show them my reasoning, and they may never understand. Also, I know I won’t get let off the hook easy or without punishment, but at least we are all together now. I can’t say I won’t get mad at my parents again, but I can only hope that we will find a better way to resolve our problems in the future.