“You’re going to regret it. Maybe not right now, maybe not tomorrow, but you will—and for the rest of your life.”
The words echoed in Miranda’s ears as she marched away from the house that day. Away from her birthplace, away from her mother, away from the screaming and the fighting and the guilt. She never looked back, her feet kicking up whorls of dust with every step taking her further and further away. Away—that was all Miranda thought about, not toward. She had no idea what she was marching toward; all that mattered was getting away.
The duffel hung heavy across her body, its strap digging in on the right side of her neck and the body of the bag thumping against her left thigh with each step. All her worldly goods in one ratty bag that still smelled faintly of her older brother’s gym clothes. He had gone away years before. Away, as in not there, not where Miranda was, not around when she needed him—or someone, anyone—to be in her corner.
The duffel wasn’t the only thing she carried. She thought it was at first. The bag weighed 20 pounds at most, and she kept switching it from one side to the other to even out the load. It seemed to get heavier with every step, but she wasn’t going to let the weight slow her down. Dumping cargo to lighten her escape, she pulled a thick sweater her mother had knitted from the bag and dropped it on the road. It slumped in the dust and she marched on.
Next to go were the shoes that were last year’s Christmas and birthday rolled into one. They felt too heavy now, filled with the tears and tension of that nasty night. Miranda marched on, dropping more and more along the roadside as she went, but as the bag got lighter the load on her shoulders only worsened. The last to land in the dirt was her only dress, a red one that had not grown as she did, the hem now only hitting midway down her gangly sprouting legs. She let herself feel no attachment as she let it go and carried on.
When she reached the bridge across the river that marked the edge of town, for the first time she stopped and turned around. She dropped the empty duffel but the heaviness remained even as she looked back at the molted skin of her childhood strewn along the roadway in the dust. In the middle of the bridge she stared down into the murky swirling eddies and thought of only one more thing she could leave behind. She had to make a choice—save herself and have a future, or stay behind and feed the past. With a long, cleansing sigh she dropped her guilt in the muddy river and crossed the bridge toward the bus that would finally take her Away.