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“Get away from me!” I shouted as I ran through the hall of my high school. Students in the hallway quickly moved out of my path as I charged through, seeming to be unaware of them. I wasn’t unaware, though. I was just distracted. I made my way outside as fast as I could and kept running, ignoring the stares as I left the school, despite the day being only halfway over. I ran as fast as I could, disappearing from my peers’ view in no time. I didn’t have any reason to stop. I knew what they were saying because I had heard it all before.
“He’s so weird,” some girl would remark.
“Won’t he get in trouble for ditching?” another would probably wonder.
“Probably,” the first would agree, but she wouldn’t really be concerned about my academic record. “What do you think he was shouting about?”
“Who knows?” Her friend would shrug as they walked to class. “He’s always doing weird things like that, isn’t he?”
“Must be a mental disorder,” the first would decide and they would drop the subject, knowing it wasn’t their problem. That was how it always went. People got used to me doing things they didn’t understand and wrote me off as insane.
Everyone in the school knew I was a strange kid. I’d only been there a few months, but most people knew my name and not just because I was the only boy any of them had ever met with the name of a cartoon princess. My name is Ariel, in case you are wondering. Try not to laugh.
By now, everyone at school knew I was prone to getting freaked out over imaginary things that I seemed to see in random places. Sometimes, I would scream or fall out of a chair. On rare occasions, I could even be seen running through the hallways as if I were being chased. Everybody talked about my antics (when they thought I couldn’t hear), but they weren’t really bothered by them because these weren’t their problems.
For they record, the things that chased me weren’t imaginary. They were very real and the kind of things that give children nightmares. You probably don’t believe me either, but you’re still reading, so that’s something, I guess.
That day, I ran until I came upon an old church. It was nothing fancy and no one had used it for service in years. I’d been there several times before and knew it would be unlocked, partially because the lock had broken some time ago. In case you’re wondering, I wasn’t the one who broke it. I may be crazy, but I’m not a vandal.
I slammed the door behind me as soon as I was inside, and breathed a sigh of relief. Once inside, I allowed myself to sit on the floor and catch my breath. I leaned against a wall and closed my eyes, grateful for a moment of peace. You have no idea how hard it was to get a quiet moment those days.
I didn’t mean to fall asleep. I’d just wanted to rest my eyes for a moment, but I hadn’t slept well in a few nights. I was tired and, when I opened my eyes, there was no light coming through the door. I jumped up in a panic and opened the door wide to see that night had fallen while I rested.
“Crap!” I shouted as I looked around to make sure the coast was clear and rushed out of the church, running home as fast as I could (which is pretty fast, if I do say so). I didn’t know what time it was, but it was definitely past my curfew. I was relieved to find the front door was unlocked. I’d thought I might have actually gotten lucky. I slipped inside silently, hoping against hope that no one would be awake. I closed the door as quietly as I could, but that didn’t help much.
“Do you have any idea what time it is?” an all-too-familiar voice demanded from behind me.
I took a deep breath before turning to face my foster mother, Anne. “I’m sorry. I was out and lost track of time.” There was no way to explain to her what had actually happened and I just tried to figure out the best way to avoid making the situation worse.
“I know you were out,” she informed me, curtly. “We got a call saying you ran out of school again. That’s the second time this month.”
“I’m sorry,” I repeated, looking as morose as possible. “It won’t happen again.” That was an obvious lie, but I figured it might work temporarily. In these situations, I just did whatever I could to avoid making things worse. It’s not like I could tell her the truth, after all.
Anne sighed, dramatically, and shook her head. “You know how much trouble your actions put me through? I don’t need apologies. I need you to get your act together or I’m not going to be able to keep you here. Is that what you want?”
last place I wanted to go. “I’m sorry to have caused trouble.”
She sighed again. Anne was very good at dramatic sighs. “Get to bed, then. You’ll be grounded for a week, so you’ll have to come straight home from school tomorrow, understand?”