It’s hard to explain what those first few minutes were like, as I made my way across the field to the neighbors’. I had a million emotions – fear, anger, sadness, grief, excitement, and uncertainty, just to name a few. At any moment, I expected the sliding door to open and the back yard lights to go on. I expected one of the boys, or – worse- my father, to hop on the ATV we kept in the yard.
Looking back every step, though – all I saw was a quiet house. No one had noticed my leaving, even though I was sharing a room at this point. In hindsight, I’ve always wondered if my sisters had slept through my feverish gathering (maybe they thought I was gathering clothes for a late night load of laundry?) or if they knew I was leaving and knew I was unhappy? Either way, they didn’t stop me or raise any alarm.
My neighbors were shocked to see me standing on their porch. Mr. and Mrs. Kline* (pseudonym) had had their doubts about my family for years. They’d called protective services one day after watching my dad dole out a punishment to my brother. Protective services did nothing – deeming the incident to be within the scope of parental discipline, but the Kline’s intervention made a deep impression on me. I knew someone was watching our family.