The next week at school was exhausting for me. I decided to try out for the cheer squad for next year. I knew most of the current team and a few of the girls auditioning, but as we practiced I found them to be catty and shallow. I walked away after that week deciding that the Pep Club would be the only activity I would stay with. Elections were being held for next year's officers and I had been submitted for Vice President. Long story short, I was elected VP and the new officers planned to meet monthly through the summer to set up events for the next school year.
With all this going on in my life, I didn't notice that Veronica was ditching school until a letter was sent home to Grandma. Grandma grounded her for a month and Veronica declared WAR. She was a real bitch to Grandma and just about anyone who got near her.
She went to school, got into fights and was on her way to failing most of her classes. But she had a plan and she let me know late one night as we lay in bed. She said that she was running away. I asked her what was she thinking, didn't she know that Grandma would be worried sick? She didn't care, she wanted her freedom. I asked where she going, back to Aunt Tina's house. She said that Becky would give her a ride to friends in Goodyear and she could stay there until it could be arranged for travel back to AJ. I tried talking her into staying and trying to work out something with Grandma telling her that I would be there for her and help her. Her mind was made up. I asked her when she was leaving. She said next Friday night because Grandma was working the overnight shift and wouldn't find out until late Saturday morning.
I told her that I was going with her, not because I wanted to leave Grandma, but to keep her safe. I knew that Veronica would eventually be back at Grandma's because Aunt Tina couldn't take her in and I felt that she was angry and hurting over mom's death and time would help heal her. As much as I hated the fact that Grandma would be hurt over us leaving I had to keep Veronica safe and running away with her was the only choice.
Friday night came and found us with backpacks stuffed with clothing and other processions. The night was clear and lit by a full moon and stars to guide us along the wash up to the curve of the dirt road. We ran silently to the car that waited. We looked around us to make sure no other cars were coming and got into Becky's car. I sat in the back while Veronica sat in front talking a mile a minute to Becky.
Becky told us that she new the guy well and could trust him to let us stay with him until it was safe to go to AJ. His backyard butted up to a strip mall that had the bar that Becky danced and waited tables at. She would check on us each day. She told us that we needed to stay in our room and not talk to anyone.
The drive took about an hour and I sat quietly in the back hating the situation. I planned to call Tumbleweed in a day or two to try to help get us back home and help for Veronica. The house was dark when we arrived and Becky used a key to open the door from her key ring. We were ushered in and led to a bedroom next to the bathroom and told that we needed to stay in the room until after 9 am the next morning. Becky would come over at lunch and dinner time every day bringing us food from the bar. She told us that we could help ourselves to cereal in the mornings and she would contact our Aunt in AJ next week to set up our trip there.
I noticed that there was a phone on the kitchen wall and felt that it was very important that I call Tumbleweed the next day. I was beginning to feel uneasy about this set up and felt that we couldn't trust Becky to keep us safe. We went to our room with a promise to Becky that we wouldn't come out until after 9 am the next morning.
I couldn't fall asleep right away and heard Becky came back hours later with a man that I assumed rented the house. I heard him ask if the girls were here. Becky told him yes and not to worry. We wouldn't get into anything, that she had it all planned out. Their voices became muffled as they moved further down the hallway and I heard a door close.
The next morning I waited long after 9 am before going out of the bedroom to the bathroom. I showered, brushing my teeth and got dressed in the bathroom because that door had a lock on it. Veronica was still asleep, but I wanted to wait until she got in the shower before calling Tumbleweed, so I went into the kitchen to fix my breakfast.
I sat eating my cereal when Veronica finally went to the bathroom. I got up and decided that I would peek out through all the windows to see if I could tell exactly where we were. The kitchen window revealed a fenced backyard. The living room windows confirmed that we were at the end of the street, but I could not read the street sign. I heard the bathroom door open and quickly turned to the TV to turn it on.
Veronica went into the kitchen, came out with her cereal and sat down on the couch beside me. We both looked up as the lock on the front door turned and in walked Becky. She looked at us both before saying morning and handed me a paper bag. She told us that we should change our hair colors because she saw a Sheriff's car at our trailer that morning.
Both Veronica and I had long hair, she was blond and mine brown. The two hair colors Becky brought us were black and red. Veronica chose the red and I took the black. Becky set up the kitchen to start the process of coloring our hair. It took most of the afternoon to get both of us colored. Becky went to the bar to bring back dinner asking if I wanted to walk with her. We went out the kitchen into the backyard, through a gate in the fence to the back entrance of the bar.
Becky told me not to talk to anyone, she would say I was a younger sister visiting and I should use my middle name if anyone asked. She told me to sit at the end of the bar while she got dinner and left me there. The bartender came down and asked what I wanted to drink and I told him I was Becky's younger sister and a 7 UP would be great.
I turned to look around. The bar, dark, and smoky, was packed as it was Saturday night. A jukebox played an Eagle's song and there were girls dressed in skimpy clothing dancing on a raised platform. Someone touched my shoulder and I turned around to find Becky standing next to me with our dinner in a bag. She said that if I wanted a job as a dancer, she could get me in. Dancers could make pretty good money from tips. I said I didn't think, I could do that and we left.
We all ate dinner in the living room and Veronica asked Becky if she had contacted Aunt, Tina yet? Becky said no, not yet. She was concerned about getting into trouble because our grandmother had called the Sheriff. We might have to stay here longer than planned. Becky then asked if we wanted to get jobs, maybe at the bar in case we had to stay put for a while. Maybe we should consider not going to AJ. She told us to think it over. We would need our own money and we couldn't stay here for longer than a week or two. Becky left us to go to the bar and we went to bed. Again I couldn't get to sleep and decided that I really needed to contact Tumbleweed the next day.
Sunday morning was much like Saturday morning. I got up first, went to the bathroom to get ready for the day. I was eating cereal when Veronica finally came out and said she wanted to suntan that day. I told her to go ahead that I wanted to go through my things first. After she went out, I went to the phone and called the number for Tumbleweeds. I was so nervous that I almost hung up when a voice asked how they could help me. I explained the situation, gave our names and where Grandma lived. She asked if we were in a safe location. I told her that I wasn't sure how safe it really was and that we needed a way to get home and my sister needed help dealing with the death of our mother. Could they help us?
The Tumbleweed volunteer asked for the telephone number and I said that it would be better for me to call back, maybe later that night. She said that she would talk to someone and please call back later and they would help us to get home. I hung up and decided to go out back to suntan with Veronica to pass the time.
Becky came with a late lunch and told us that she wouldn't be there on Monday as that was her day off. She again told us that we needed to stay in our room until after 9 am and not to go outdoors at all tomorrow. She didn't want the neighbors to see us and she was getting concerned about the Sheriff. She left us to go to the bar telling us that she would see us Tuesday morning.
I decided to call Tumbleweed back around 6 pm and told Veronica what I was doing. She yelled and screamed, but I held fast telling her that I didn't think we were safe here and that I didn't want to dance in a strip club just because she couldn't get along with Grandma. I dialed the number and when I asked for the person I talked to earlier they asked if I were Ramona and told me that I would be speaking to the Director. He came on the line and told me that the Sheriff's office had been contacted and that a Mike Sleeseman was interviewed on Saturday as a possible kidnapper. I yelled that Mike had nothing to do with this and he didn't know that we ran away.
I was frantic. I didn't want Mike to be under suspicion let alone arrested for kidnapping. I told him that we needed to get away from here but we needed help to do this. He asked if I knew our exact location and I told him no, but I did describe the bar and general area. He asked for the telephone number and I gave him what was written on the phone. He said that we should be prepared to open the door for the Sheriff's department when they got there and that they would drive us back to the Buckeye Police Department and our Grandmother would pick us up there. He also told us that we needed to give a statement to the police about who helped us and how we got out so charges would not be filed against Mike. I told him that we would be ready to leave as soon as it was arranged. He promised to call back with info on when we would be picked up.
I hung up the phone and yelled at Veronica to get her stuff packed, that Mike has been questioned and there was no way, I would let him get involved in this mess. She wanted to fight me but I guess she finally saw something in my face that told her not to push me. She went to start packing and when she came out she asked that we not give Becky's name either. I told her fine, but we were going and Tumbleweed would help us work out things with Grandma. We waited on the couch for some time before the phone finally rang. I picked it up and just listened to see who was calling. It was the Director at Tumbleweed and he had bad news. We couldn't be picked up, until the morning. Did we feel safe being there one more night? He said he didn't want us to go to the Police Station overnight either. Could he contact our Grandma or Aunt and have them pick us up tonight?
I said that I thought we were safe, but if he could get our Aunt Ruth to pick us up we would go with her, but we should do it Monday morning. I asked if we still had to make a statement at the Buckeye Police Station. Yes, but we could do that later on Monday. He told me that he would make the arrangements and he would have the Sheriff's Department notified of the pick up time. I told him that it would be best after 9 am because we would be in the house alone after that time. He promised to call us back in the morning to let us know who would be there to pick us up and the time. He also said that we should be ready to run tonight if we felt threatened and call the Tumbleweed number from a payphone collect if need be. I hung up the phone knowing that this would be one of the longest nights of my life.
I wished I could talk to Mike, to make sure he was ok and to let him know that I never intended for him to become involved in this mess. I guessed that Aunt Ruth told the Sheriff about Mike, thinking that it was the right thing to do. I wished many things that night, most of all just to be safe at home and to know that Mike was cleared off any involvement in our adventure.
Morning came finally and I ventured out of the bedroom as soon as I heard the front door close. I ran to check the locks on all the doors, making sure to bolt them, so I could feel safe while we waited. Veronica came out and I told her that this was a stupid ideal that could have gotten us murdered or worse and she needed to work things out with Grandma because I was done. We hurt a lot of people for no good reason. She didn't say anything, just sat on the couch to wait.
The phone rang, I picked it up and as before I listened to see who was on the line. It was Tumbleweed letting us know that our Aunt would be there soon and that they would stay on the line with us until we confirmed that we saw her car. I told Veronica to stay by the door and be ready to run when I said to. She said that it looked like Aunt Ruth's car was two houses down, should she open the door and run out to the street to wave her down? I said I'd go look out the window myself to make sure about the car.
It was Aunt Ruth. I told the person on the phone that she saw us, was parked in the drive and that I was going to hang up now and leave. I also thanked them and promised to call when we got back home. I grabbed my backpack and out the door, I ran. I knew, I wouldn't feel safe until we were in the car and down the road. Veronica was in the back, so I jumped in the front. Aunt Ruth looked at us and said, "We will talk about this when I get you home."
We actually ended up at Auth Ruth's house. I went inside and called Tumbleweed to let them know we were home. I was told that they were meeting with our grandmother today to offer her assistance. It would be up to us all, where we went from here. I thanked them again and turned to face the music with Aunt Ruth. I noticed that she looked older, like she hadn't slept and I guess that she hadn't.
She started by saying, "Don't you ever do anything like that again. You almost killed your grandmother with worry. We didn't know if we would ever see you alive again. Why, why would you do this?"
I looked at Veronica; she just had her head down, not looking at anyone. So I told Aunt Ruth the whole story, with the exception of Becky's name. Aunt Ruth pushed for the name of the person who drove us there, but I just said I couldn't.