The prompts are bolded…
Mrs. Burien! Charlotte! I’m here! God, you make me crazy. Staring out the store window the way you do, with that look on your face.
Fourteen years. That’s so weird. And they say stuff, like, “seems like yesterday.” I say it is still today! I didn’t leave, I’m here!
OK, yeah. I left. I packed what would fit in my school backpack, stopped by the store to say goodbye to my mom and dad, and bought a bus ticket to Nashville. I’ve always wanted to see Nashville, so I thought, what the heck. I’ll go to Nashville.
The bus ride was fun. I sat next to a dad and his daughter. She was about five years old and she had a doll and she told me what she and her doll like to play. I told her I used to have a doll, too. I taught her how to do cat’s cradle and her dad let me split my bag of potato chips with her. Her name is Casey. His name is Vegas. Charlie Vegas.
The bus made several stops, but at Gulf Port, the driver said we’d be there for an hour, so I got off, like most everyone else. Casey and Charlie Vegas went one direction and I went the other. There was a little park behind the station with a couple of picnic benches. I wandered around the park just for something to do to kill the time.
A ravine, is what I remember. A thump and then another thump, and then I fell, the sky and dirt and rocks and grass and trees, all jumbled together. I opened my eyes and saw my backpack hanging off a shrub and I thought I better get it, but I couldn’t move. Something heavy was on me and then I saw Charlie Vegas looking right at me. He was yelling to little Casey he’d be right there but he was looking right at me. I knew I was hurt and was glad Charlie Vegas was going to help me. I heard another thump.
I ran in the store when I got back, right up to my mom and threw my arms around her. She didn’t move. She didn’t even look at me! I walked over to my dad and put out my arms. I’m back, I said. I told him I was sorry. He didn’t look at me or say a thing.
They keep saying it’s been years. I don’t know what that means. It’s been a long, awful day, is all I know. It wasn’t right, me going off like that. I’ve tried apologizing and I know they are pissed with me. I get it. I’m in big trouble. But I’m here, I keep telling them, and always will be here. I’ll never leave, ever again. I’ll just keep saying it until someone finally looks at me. I’m here! I’m here!