A girl singing her heart out about a miracle boomed inside my ear. A miracle would get me what I needed: a chance at a semi-normal life.
The bedroom door hitting the wall expelled the thought from my mind. With his hand tangled up in his copper hair and with huge brown eyes, Dad’s figure filled the entire doorway. “Pack your bags.” He had that set to his jaw, the one that meant there was no way out of this. He bolted out of the room just as suddenly as he had appeared.
My teeth ground hard against each other, and the sharp pain behind my eyes, I guessed from the lack of sleep, grew stronger. Every fibre of my being wanted to explode.
Ever since I could remember my name, Dad and I had been on the run. From what? Beats me.
For the last t
wo weeks, I’d been pacing up and down through the house, struggling to fall asleep at night, waiting for this day.
For the love of blue berries, no sixteen-year old should live this way!
I climbed off my bed, and the first step I took left my toe tangled in the wide leg of my jeans. I tried to regain my balance as the closet inched closer, but with wildly flailing arms, I came crashing down. The thud reverberated across the wooden floor, and it sounded as if I’d broken something.
Dad darted back into my room. “Are you okay?” He lifted me back onto my feet as if I weighed nothing.
Tears lurked in the corners of my eyes, threatening to burst, as I stared up at him.
“Don’t give me that look, Elena. Please, we need to hurry.” He pulled my suitcase from the top shelf and chucked it haphazardly onto my bed. “We need to go. Now.”
He started to grab my clothes from the shelf and tossed them messily inside my small suitcase. Then he paused, sighed, and looked up with soft eyes. He stroked the side of my cheek with his hand gently. “This wasn’t the right place, bear. Please, you’ve got to trust me.”
His hand reached back to pull everything off my shelf, while my hands curled up into balls of fury. My heart pounded fast as those two words bounced inside my skull. “Trust you, Dad?”
“Elena, we don’t have much time,” he yelled. “Pack your bags! You can ask questions later.” He left, and the hollow “doof” sound from his footsteps stomped loudly as he made his way into the hall.
Ask questions? Yeah right! I’ll only get answers that don’t reveal why we are on the run for the gazillionth time.’ “Trust me” and “I’ll tell you when the time is right” were the only two answers Dad gave. ‘Guess time with him will never be right.’
It was no use arguing with him anyway. The last time, he threw me over his shoulder and carried me out without any of my things.
So I grabbed the stuff I needed: my mp3 player, a photo of Mom that Dad didn’t know I had, and my journal from underneath my bed. I tossed them into my backpack. It wasn’t much, but it was the stuff that made my miserable life felt less pathetic. I zipped up my suitcase and took a deep breath. Looking around my bedroom for the last time, I said goodbye to my sixtieth-something room.
Dad almost ran me over in the hall with his army bag slung over his shoulder. He grumbled, which I assumed was an apology, took my suitcase, and ran down the stairs. He always rented these huge old houses, pre-furnished and near the countryside, and we always left after three months.
The pickup’s horn honked as I shut the front door. I closed my eyes and took another deep breath. Just two more years, then I’ll be eighteen and free from this freak show. Huge raindrops fell hard onto the ground. The smell of wet dirt filled the air. It was my favorite smell.
The water that pooled on the ground covered all the gaps in the driveway, forcing me to hopscotch around all of them. My shoe got caught in one of the gaps and I smacked down hard in a huge puddle. By the time I reached the truck, my jeans and shoes were soaking wet.
Warm heat from the vents inside the truck hit me full blast as I jumped in; a million goose pimples erupted across my skin. As soon as I shut the rusty door, Dad floored the gas pedal. Tires screeched and the truck spun away as if the Devil chased us. My lower lip quivered softly as he swerved onto the road. The streetlights flew by in a blur as I plugged in my earpieces. The same stupid song about a miracle boomed from my mp3, drowning the sound of the engine and the hard dribbles on the roof, a percussion that became the perpetual soundtrack to my misery.
A feeling of utter loneliness consumed my heart as I stared out the window. Homes with white picket fences and the convenient store whizzed by in a flash. A tear rolled down my cheek as I said goodbye, and my breath on the glass created a foggy condensation. Reaching out my index finger, I drew a small heart. These were the reasons why Mom had left. She couldn’t handle his paranoia, but why she’d left her daughter to deal with it was a mystery. Dad constantly reminded me of the latter, and that was the only time he ever spoke of her. If he ever discovered I had that picture, he would kill me. That was how much he hated her for leaving us.
The lights of a vehicle in the upcoming lane shone directly into my face. I shut my eyes, waiting for it to disappear. As a little girl, I used to watch Dad as we drove away from yet another house. He would glare into his rearview mirror every five seconds, every muscle in his face clenched, and his knuckles white on the steering wheel. I hadn’t been able to force myself to peek out the window then, as it used to scare the living crap out of me to consider the possible reasons he was fleeing from, or who might be following us. Now, I didn’t look at him or care much for what he was going through. He created this problem. With me becoming the luggage. It was a ritual I endured every three months, and nothing over the past sixteen years had ever changed that.
The “Interstate 40” sign flew by in a whirl, and the pickup slowly moved onto the turnoff lane.
My eyes started to burn as I stared at the rain running down my window. Each rivet resembled another town, another place I would never again call home. Exhaustion consumed me and my eyelids felt heavy. I laid my head against the window and struggled to stay awake.
Suddenly, a dark and huge figure flew past me. Dad swerved to the left, which made me crushed into the side of the passenger’s door. My entire body pumped with adrenaline. I jumped straight in my seat and wrenched the seatbelt over my shoulder to buckle myself in. I tore out my earpieces as I tried to process what had just happened.
“What was that?” I looked at Dad.
He stared straight ahead with huge eyes. Beads of sweat rolled from his hairline down to the side of his temple. He looked terrified, something that conflicted with his personality. I’d never seen Dad look that scared in my entire life.
“Did you see where it went?” he asked, attempting to inject calm into his voice, but I could hear the fear lacing each syllable.
“See where what went? Dad what was that!”
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
“For once in your life, just tell me!” I screamed. Sixteen years of frustration exploded from my lungs. I couldn’t take the unknown anymore.
“Fine.” He mumbled something else that I didn’t catch. “Do you remember the stories I used to tell you?”
“Stories? What stories?”<
“The ones about Paegeia, Elena.” He looked in his rearview mirror again with huge, unblinking eyes.
Vaguely, but I didn’t tell him that. “What does that have to do with this?”
I froze and I stared at him.
“All of it, it’s real. The dragons, the magic, the wall, everything is real.”