Brianna runs for hours, her chest heaving. She can't stop, can't turn back. She slows to a walk to catch her breath, and then speeds up again. As the sights fly past, she counts to close her mind to the voices. When she gets to one thousand, she stops and starts over, but she can't keep them away for long.
When they come back, they come with a vengeance. The voices hiss in her ear, harsh rough whispers, created by her mind, but they've become real. They tell her things, and she tries so hard not to believe them, but the pictures they create in her mind are the truth to her. She sees herself as she is, running from what she's become, and she believes the voices when they tell her she's not good enough, not strong enough, not worthy of love. They remind her of her past, chastise her for her sins, and it destroys her. The voices are like swords, piercing her with hatred, for herself, for the events that made her this way.
Tears run down her face, burning like acid. The world blurs, then slows to a stop, and she falls to the ground, sobbing. She thinks of everything she's leaving behind, her family, her friends, and she knows she's now alone in the world. She can't bear to accept the reality, but she couldn't go on like that anymore. She reminds herself of this, and she gets back up and keeps running. She runs until her breathing becomes too labored and her legs can't carry her.
That night she sleeps alone in the cold. She shivers and her arms have goose bumps, but she's so tired that she falls right to sleep. Her bag is her pillow, though a hard one, as all it holds is a notebook, an extra pair of shoes, a CD player and extra batteries. She's been planning this for days, and now that she's finally in the midst of it, she can't be sure that this is the right decision. She was so convinced, only hours ago, but now the choice isn't as clear. This all rushes through her mind in the few moments before she falls asleep, but when she awakes, the fear is gone, and a peaceful feeling has settled over her.
She sits up and looks around. Gentle white snow flutters to the ground, landing in soft pillows on the cold ground, where moments before she lay. Her surroundings are bleak and the sky is dark. A brick building stands in front of her. She realizes that she was sleeping near a dumpster, and disgusted, she stands up and moves away.
Sitting down again against the wall, she reaches in her sweatshirt pocket, pulls out a pack of Marlboros and lights one. She inhales deeply and the smoke floods her body and relaxes her thoughts. She sits until she finishes her cigarette, then gets up and starts to walk.
Days pass like this, walking during the day, sleeping behind buildings at night. Eventually she ends up at the train station, and she uses some of the money she's been saving up to buy a train ticket. She doesn't care where she goes, as long as it's far away from here. Getting on the train, she trips on the steps, her dizziness making her body weak. Suddenly she's filled with frustration, and she collapses on a seat sobbing. The voices, which have been with her constantly in the last few days, intensify. : you bitch you failure you can't even face life you have to run away and now look where it's gotten you you're homeless sleeping on the streets at night wandering them during the day your life is going to go nowhere you're going to live on the streets forever look what you've done you weak failure…
She falls into a trance of sorts, stuck in her own misery. Her sobs fade away, and her daze leaves her still and emotionless. She snaps out of it when an older woman shakes her on the shoulder. She looks up to a concerned face; the woman obviously can see the streaks that the tears left on her face. "Are you okay dear?" the woman questions.
"Yeah, I've just…had a rough week."
"Where are you headed sweetie? Where are your parents?" Brianna realizes that her size makes her look younger than she is. The woman probably thinks she's about 10, not the 16 she really is. She plays on this, hoping that the woman won't guess that she's a runaway. Her brain scrambles for a believable story.
"I'm going to meet my…aunt in Boston. My mom is sick and my dad's away, so I'm staying with her." She feels bad deceiving the kind, motherly, woman but at least it's partly true. Her mother IS sick…sick in the head, after her car accident she doesn't really know what's going on most of the time. And her dad almost seems to be away, he works so much. There is no aunt in Boston.
"Oh you poor thing!" the woman says. "I'm getting off in Massachusetts, after you're stop, so I'll sit with you and make sure you get off okay."
The woman's kindness brings tears to Brianna's eyes. They sit together for the next few hours, talking about everything and nothing. When the woman asks Brianna her name, she's hesitant to give it away, so she responds, "Rose. Rose Matthews." She's always loved the name Rose, and Matthews was the quickest answer she could come up with.
The woman introduces herself as Nancy, and they exchange pleasantries, "Nice to meet you"s and "that's a nice name"s. It's not until a few minutes before they reach the Boston stop that Brianna finally gets up the nerve to say what she's thinking.
"Thank you so much for everything…I don't think I'd have made it through this trip without you."
"No problem, honey." Nancy wraps the girl in a motherly embrace, and Brianna's mind flashes back to before the accident, feeling the same sense of security in her mother's arms, and the voices are back. It's your fault you caused the accident she'd be fine if it wasn't for you its YOUR FAULT.
She's used to keeping the tears at bay; she needs to be strong for Erin, her 12 year old sister, so she doesn't cry again. Thinking of Erin fills her with guilt; she left the one person she really cared about alone in a broken home. She decides she'll call her little sister as soon as she finds a phone, she knows that Erin can be trusted to keep her secret.
The train stops in Boston, and Brianna gets off, leaving behind the comfort of the one person who has actually cared about her in a long time. She walks out onto the streets with nowhere to go and no plans for the future. She knows she's leaving behind her old life, and starting a new one, for better or for worse.