As footsteps fade past my door, I dare to open my clenched eyes. Don't move yet. No chances.
The small thud of my mother's bedroom door carries down the carpeted hallway. I count to three in my head, then throw my blanket covers back. This time, I will not get caught. This time, I'll make it to her.
Sitting up slowly, I slide off my bed and let my feet fumble for the black sneakers waiting on the floor at the edge of my bed. I slip them on successfully. My hair. I pull it into a brown ponytail high on my head. Now for the window, and I'm gone. The window rests above my mattress, which is so old it squeaks with every movement. I realize suddenly it's deliberate. They've always been watching like this.
I manage to turn my body to the window and shove the frame open. I kick out the screen and watch it tumble three stories down. It hits the air conditioning unit below, but the impact is so far, I barely hear it. The lattice was removed after my last attempt, as was the fire ladder from my closet.
They missed the rope I stored in my sock drawer. Thanks to Izzy, I always have one ready. Thanks to me, she was gone. I shake off the thought. I'll see her soon enough.
I lean out the window and glance to both sides. My parents' window was right next to mine. I halt all movement as a light flicks on across the way. Sleepy steps and the outline of a person shown through the dark of the world. I quickly shut the window and throw the blanket back over myself, pulling it up and over my shoulders, hiding my outfit. I pinned it tight and lay with my eyes staring at the door, hoping she won't open it.
The knob turns, and I see my mom's silhouette in the doorway, then shut my eyes as naturally as I could. I don't move an inch, holding my muscles too rigid, but unable to move, or she'll notice. She takes a few steps in, pauses. I can hear my heart beating out of my chest. I want to move, to cover the rope even more. If she sees the rope or notices the screen is gone, I'm done. But I won't stop.
I gently crack my eye open as subtly as I can. I see her in my vanity. She's going through the drawers. She shakes her head slowly and pulls out a picture. I close my eye. I don't have to see it to know who it's a picture of. I hear the door close lightly and wait at least another minute. My heart still rapid, my hands still unsteady, I tie one end of the rope to my bedframe and let the other end hang out the window.
I look down the rope, imagining that I'm back in P.E., though the rope is much farther down. I hesitate. I close my eyes and set my chin, just like P.E.
I grip the rope and gently climb down. Hand under hand. Ankle-wrapped around the rope. Knuckles white. My breath comes rapidly, and I feel my hands slipping. Muscle memory takes over as I picture myself doing this every day the entire school year, racing Izzy to the top, then the bottom. My feet hit something metal, and I look down.
The A.C. unit. I was done. I release the rope and dust my hands on my light green khakis as nothing had happened. I push away the fear that had screamed at me. I glance at the rope, contemplating what to do with it. In the end, I decided to leave it. Let them find it. I'll be long gone by the time they find it. I jump off the unit and pick up a thick black coat I had stashed in the bush a few feet over. Tucked inside the coat is my white backpack, that holds everything else I'll need.
I slip the backpack over my shoulders and hold onto the straps with my thumbs. An ecstatic smile spreading over my face, I step out onto the road. I've traveled this part of the road so many times I no longer need to check my map. Without a glance over my shoulder, I walk on the edge of the road, close to the forest line. Step after step of my worn-out Converse, I walk into the dark horizon. This is it. I'm finally going to make it.
No one knows I'm even gone yet.