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Anna Gustin


It’s All Write: Short Story Contest

February - 5 - 2019


Van Buren Middle School

3775 Shroyer Road

Kettering, OH 45429

(937) 499-1800

Teacher: Megan Byer

Teacher Email:

                               Home Away From Home


 Mother left when I was five years old, Jess was only a baby.  At first, father seemed to cope pretty well, but as years past he seemed to be at the bar more and more and at the house less and less.  By the time I was seven I did all of the cooking and all of the caring for my brother.


Four days before I turned ten I decided Jess and I would be better off living with a relative.  My Aunt was our closest relative and she lived two states away. I get out my phone and map out a clear path.  Then, I pack a change of clothes for both me and Jess, a few books for Jess, a blanket, my dad’s wallet (which had nearly six hundred dollars and all of his credit cards), two reusable water bottles, and stuffed a bag of wafers and some oranges into my backpack.  In one and a half days I was ready.


I roused Jess from his toddler bed and led him to the back yard.  I placed him and my backpack in a wagon, which I then pulled to the front yard.  Our neighbourhood is desolate all except for us (which is good because no one will see us).  Right in front of our house is a long straight road that no cars ever drive over. I wheel the wagon onto the road and head north.  “Where are we going Billie?”, asks Jess. I think long and hard about how to explain this to Jess. “Anywhere but here.”, I say. Jess lets out a big yawn and falls back asleep.  I’m glad it’s night because otherwise the air would be humid and I would swelter in the heat, but the night brings a cool breeze. I walk for three more hours before I step off the road to rest.  I know I can’t rest for long, but my legs hurt and I’m tired. I hold Jess close (so he won’t run away he wakes up) and let my eyes slowly close.


When I wake the sun has barely risen and Jess is still asleep in my lap.  I plop into the wagon and start my trek once more. I wish I could see something other than the barren wasteland we call home.  There is not a cloud in the sky nor a single living plant. Every mile or so I see a few trees but that’s really all there is to see.   It’s another hour before Jess wakes up. His eyes flicker open and almost immediately he asks, “What’s for breakfast?”. “Reach inside my back and peel yourself an orange.”, I say.  “Billie I don’t want an orange!”, Jess whines. I let out a small moan of frustration. I look around and see a sign on the side of the road. “Hey buddy, just hang in there a little longer and you can have McDonalds”,  I say still staring at the sign. I hate McDonalds, but it’s only one mile away and Jess seems to like it.


For the rest of the walk Jess sits without saying a word.  I follow the road until the McDonalds billboard is in view.  I cut off the road and head straight for the sign. I open the door and pull Jess and the wagon inside.  I walk to the counter where a short girl who looks to be about fifteen says, “May I take your order”. Her tone was monotonous as if she had been there for the last three days.  I order Jess hot cakes and milk, and get myself a coffee and a hash-brown. It takes Jess nearly thirty minutes to devour his pancakes, so I have plenty of time to study the path I created.  I pull out my map and try to figure out where we are. From what I can tell, the state border isn’t all that far away. I think I will be able to reach the state border by the end of the day.  “So… why are you kids here alone?”, said the cashier. I turn my head and say, “We live in town, just a few minutes to walk. Our parents gave us permission”. The cashier nodded slowly. I doubt she believes me.  “You know...”, she begins, “You kids look strangely familiar”. I widen my eyes in panic. I look at Jess to see if he’s done eating. He’s not. “You two look a lot like two runaways a I saw on the news”, she says staring at her phone.  Oh fudge. Did my dad already report us missing? Or did he just find his wallet missing? Before I can respond to the cashier she diles a number on her phone. I don’t know who she’s calling, but I don’t want to find out. I grab Jess and his food and charge out as fast as I can.  “Young lady, where are...” she starts, but I’m already out the door. I pull the wagon back onto the road and run as fast as my legs will carry me. Jess is crying now, but I can’t stop to comfort him. I keep running. I keep running. I keeping running.


After nearly seven hours, I finally run past the state border.  The roads are more crowded here so, I’ll just have to use some other path.  I haven’t eaten all day and haven’t taken a break from running. I think I may pass out.  I look around for a place to stop. There’s a forest area north of here. I think I can make it there in about thirty minutes.  I dash towards the trees without a second thought.


It’s louder here.  With the sounds of cars gone, my ears are flooded with sounds of birds and animals.  My head is spinning. I can’t handle noise very well, it jostles my head to the point where I can’t think straight.  When I was in the third grade, I nearly passed out from the sound of the other children. I dropped out of school four months later.  I see Jess chasing after a butterfly. I try to move towards him, but I can’t. I’m too tired. My legs won’t move.


A scream from the woods wakes me up.  I run in the direction of the sound. There sitting with a bleeding forehead is Jess.  “No, no, no, no, no!”, i say, “You’re gonna be okay buddy. You gonna be okay.”, I repeat myself over and over again.  Never once did I believe what I was saying. I wish I had brought my phone. I could call someone. I could mapquest the nearest hospital.  I could do something. I’m going to have to ask someone for directions. I place Jess in the wagon and run to the city. I run until I enter a grocery store.  I pull the wagon to the closest cashier and say, “Excuse me, my brother hurt himself while playing. May you please point me in the direction of the nearest hospital.”  I’m trying not to cry. “Take a left, then another left, then turn right, and walk forward”, says the lady. “Thankyou”, I plead.


I follow the cashier directions exactly as she told them.  I arrive in about six minutes. I wheel Jess in and tell the man at the front desk what happened.  Jess is taken into a room where the doctors and nurses took a look at him. “He’ll need a few stitches.”, the doctor tells me.  I nod slowly without looking up. I’m trying my best not to cry, but I’m sniffling and whimpering like a wounded dog.


Did I  make the right choice to run away?  I blame myself for what happened to Jess.  If I had just stayed at home none of this would have happened.  It’s my fault. It’s my fault. It’s my fault. I wish I hadn’t left home.  I miss sleeping on a mattress. I miss wearing fresh clothes. I miss home. I miss home.  I miss home. But would Jess and I be any safer had we stayed?


I realize I haven’t showered in days.  I doubt there’s a shower here, but can at least wash my hands and face.  I walk myself to the bathroom to wash myself as much as I possibly can. It’s the first time I’ve seen a mirror in a long time.  I hate what I see. My face is tearstained, my hands are cached in dirt, my clothes are filthy, and my black hair is greasy. I splash water onto my face and wash my hands.  I have no idea how to wash my hair. Desperate times call for desperate measures. I rub the hand soap into my hair then stick my head under the faucet. The water is cold, but when I finish I feel better.


When I return to the lobby to wait for Jess, a nurse approaches me.  “May I have a word?”, she says. I lock eyes with her and don’t say anything.  “Right this way”, she commands. I follow her down the hall into a room that resembles an office.  “So...”, she begins, “What happened?”. I tell her the same thing I told the doctor. “Why were you kids in the woods without a parent?”, she continues.  I think I need to come clean. “Jess and I were going to live with our Aunt. I thought we’d be safer there”, I mumble. “I see”, she replies. “Tell you what”, she says, “How about I drive you and you brother the rest of the way to your Aunt’s house?”.  My eyes widen. “Thank you”, I try to say. My words are muffled by sniffles.


Thirty minutes later Jess is good as new.  I put the wagon in the trunk of the nurse’s car, and sit Jess and I in the back seat.  The nurse starts the car and drives away. The car ride is about four hours long. I wish I hadn’t put the food in the trunk.  I can see my Aunt’s house in the distance. I can’t wait. The car comes to a stop and we all step out of the car. I get the wagon out of the trunk and pull it to the front door.  I knock four times. The door opens, revealing the person I’ve been looking for all along.


The End


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