A shotgun was fired.

Sarah and I leapt off the guys lawn from behind the bushes and ran onto the street.

“Hurry the fuck up!”

She was already out of breath and who knows how many rounds that guy was gonna fire.

Sirens could be heard all around.

We dove into a ditch on the side of the road, me first, Sarah ten seconds behind me.

Headlights came right towards us.

“fuck”

“shhh!!!”

Suddenly the lights slowed down and started slowly inching towards us, no more than a half mile per hour.  I bet there wasn’t even a foot on the petal, it was just idly rolling forward.

Then the headlights went off.

It kept coming.

“What is that?  A cop??”

She gave me another “Shhhhhh!!!”

We held our breath as the truck pulled up to us.  Who was driving it?  A hick? Gangster? Cop? Everybody drove trucks in Opelousas, Louisiana.

It stopped.

Gulp.

My heart froze frozen.

Sarah and I didn’t move so much as a quiver.

I was too scared to look at the window.

I had no idea what was about to happen. It couldn’t have been more than five feet from us.  Sure we had covered ourselves in dry leaves but there was no way that truck didn’t see us.

This was it.

Not even ten minutes into our big escape and already we’d been shot at and now about to either get run over, thrown in jail or chopped to pieces.

But then the strangest thing happened.

The truck pulled away.

Huh?

We waited for it to be completely out of sight then ran as far back into the woods as possible.  A deep forest full of dark vegetation and powerful brush.

The Sheriff showed up.

We threw ourselves on the prickly dirt as soon as the blinking lights through the thick forest started casting shadows in odd directions.

I took off a few layers of sweatshirts and put them on the ground over the sticks and branches and rocks jutting out from all over.

The stars could be seen as Sarah and I remained motionless, still as an oak tree while the search party started their routine.

We weren’t the first runaways, far from it, and after six months of watching all the trials and errors, I had a strategy.

Instead of running the first night, we’d just lay low in the backyard of the rehab until the search had ended, and we’d start our run as soon as the police had given up for the night.

Most everyone got caught the first night.

Not us.

We were gone four whole days… and what a full four days they were.

I can only assume it was sometime around 3am when my eyes opened and my heart started beating rapidly.

I had no idea where I was or what was happening, but then I saw Sarah.  She was sleeping.  It all came back to me.  I couldn’t even focus on the runaway.  I had to make a move on her.  After all, that’s the point of running away with a sexy chick, right?  She opened her eyes and smiled at me.  I knew she wanted me to kiss her and start the action, but I was so scared.  I had no self-confidence at all.  My whole life was a jumblefuck of weird memories and all I could say was

“You ready?”

Night number one:  Failed.

We walked for hours until we accidentally ended up on a bridge over a humungous swamp.

In Louisiana, the ground turns to swamp every few feet and roads turn to bridges just as often.  We found ourselves walking on a highway bridge over a creepy swamp with no shoulder to walk against.

We passed alligator road kill.

AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

“What is that?!?!?!”

It was a possum.  Thing jumped out of nowhere and scared the shit out of us.

THEN…

On the other side of the highway were two people outside of a small beaten up house.  They were dressed in white about fifty yards from the side-door of their house.  We could barely make out what they were doing, but it was some kind of dance looking thing.  We got closer and realized it was two people in full Ku Klux Klan costumes dancing.

Yeah.

I tried to disrupt the awkward silence that had developed ever since Sarah realized we were a long way from safe by saying

“Good thing we’re on this side of the bridge”

but nope.  Nothing.

It started raining.  That’s when Sarah’s makeup ran all down her face and she flipped out even more.

“Just find me a place to sleep!”

It was probably about 6AM by then… we had walked MAYBE six miles… no idea in which direction.

Then she made a wish.

“I wish there was just a couch—“

Stop.

Through the heavy rain we spotted an RV park.  There was a tin roof outside one of the RVs hovering over a small, shitty… COUCH!

We ran through the high grassy field of wet weeds which tickled our knees with sharp ends as we trudged and finally plopped on the soggy old couch and shivered our way to sleep.

The sun was out when a little girl, maybe eight or so years-old, woke us up with a blanket in her hand.  She said

“Here”

as she handed it to us to warm ourselves up.

Sarah’s face lit up as she thank her

“Aww thank you so much sweetie.  Do you live here?”

But the little girl disappeared.

No idea what time it was, the sky was still grey, the rain still rained and the couch was still soggy, but at least we had a blanket now.

We fell asleep again.

Fast forward three hours.

A beaming sun and humid smack of air woke us up as the RV park was in full swing.

When I say that everyone was staring at us, I mean EVERYONE was staring at us.  Who the FUCK are those kids?!  And what the HELL are they wearing?  Sarah had tight black pants with purple hair and an eyebrow ring.  I had baggy jeans, a crooked hat and a loose-fitting orange sweatshirt.

We got off the couch and found the little girl and gave her the blanket back and thanked her again.  She asked if we wanted to see her grandma’s trailer.  We said sure!

Bad move.

Her grandma was not happy about us in her trailer.

Sarah asked for a water.

“Do you have a water sweetie?”

The little girl nodded her head and pointed to a cooler.  She opened it up with all her little-girl strength and I immediately spotted a beer.  I grabbed it.  Sarah looked at me.  The grandma looked at me.  The little girl didn’t care.

Maybe I do have a drinking problem?

“I think ya’ll bett’r be leav’n now” her grandma said with an angry furrow of the brow.

Sorry.

So we left asap.  I took the beer and drank it as fast as I could.

We had a very simple plan.  The plan was to make it to Massachusetts, where Sarah’s boyfriend lived…  (yeah, she had a boyfriend) and let him hide us at his apartment until we found a better place to stay.

“Hey boyfriend, this is Greg.  I want to fuck him but he’s too pussy to actually make a move, anyhow he needs to stay at your apartment until he and I find a place of our own because I like him more than you.  Oh, and then I wanna break up and live with Greg.  Is that okay boyfriend?”

HA!

What FUCKING IDIOTS we were (I was).

Nevertheless, Sarah had a calling card and took a big gulp of air as she made her way to the payphone to call him and let him know the change of plans.  That we had successfully escaped from rehab and we’d be coming back up North.

Ring ring ring.

Brief chatter.  Then started her shouting at the top of her lungs, cursing up a storm in her New England-clad accent.

Shit.

I ran over to her but it was too late.  Some lady came up to us and said

“ya’ll got one minute t’git fore’ I call the sheriff.  County line thattaway, suggest ya’ll move fast an stop cussin fronta ma little girl! NOW GIT!”

Vrooooommmmm!!!  We ran the hell out of that place back to the highway and started our trek.

We walked on the heat-baked cement road, nothing in sight for hours and hours, thirst killing our souls (and I STILL hadn’t even kissed her!)… no time to think about that.  We had to get to some water.  Sarah had her thumb up and I had put my arm down when

“put ya fuckin thumb up!  Ya makin me do all the werk!”

So I put my thumb back up… but there were no cars anywhere.  It was just us.

Then a church sprung up on the horizon to our right and we could see one car in the parking lot making it’s way to the road.

“QUICK!!! RUN!!!!”

So we ran after the car hoping to God it would see us, and just as the car made a turn out of the church, it stopped.

We were completely out of breath, sweating, thirsty, tired, hungry and weak.

The car reversed until it was side by side with us and a nice middle-aged church woman rolled her window down

[cheery with a smile] “Where ya’ll headed?”

We were in the backseat soaking up her air conditioning in the car with sweat still pouring from our pores as she asked us questions we couldn’t really answer.

“ya’ll aren’t runaways now are ya’ll?”

“No no, just heading back to Lawrence where my boyfriend is” Sarah replied, which answered pretty much nothing.

“Lawrence?”

“Massachusetts”

“Well how ya gettin all the way up there?  Thatta a long ways away!”

I cut in with a quick

“We’re just gonna catch a ride with a truck driver already heading in that direction” I said in a casual, not to make a big deal of it kinda way.  But given the fact we were both only fifteen-years-old in weird-ass clothes, none of what we said went by smoothly…

“A TRUCK DRIVER?!  YA’LL CAN’T BE TAKIN RIDES WITH TRUCK DRIVERS!  Where’s ya’lls parents??”

“We don’t have parents.”

Silence.

“Well I feel real horrible just droppin ya’ll off at a truck stop-”

“— no no, ma’am, really, it’s totally fine.  And thank you so much for the ride.”

She stared at me through the rearview mirror, not happy, but not sure what to say.  I looked away to avoid eye contact.

When we got to the truck stop she asked

“Ya’ll mind if I say a prayer with ya’ll before ya’ll leave?”

Sarah and I were a bit caught off guard… but uhhh….

“Yeah!  Sure!”

So the woman put her car in park, opened her door, ran around the trunk and grabbed Sarah and my hand.  She asked Jesus to keep us safe along our journey and some other things…  It was really uncomfortable.  People passed us by and looked at us like we were aliens.

When we were done, the church lady handed me a twenty-dollar bill and said

“it’s not a lot, but hopefully it’ll help.  God bless.”

And like that, she was gone.

We stood in front of a beaten down truck stop in the middle of shitty Opelousas.  We were safe!  It felt like we had made it!

We spent some of the twenty bucks on candy bars and I stole some Tylenol PM to save us money and get us high later on… night fell and a older black truck driver walked in the back room where the small broken TV was playing a steady static and took one look at Sarah and I curled up on the floor with some dirty blanket we found in the laundry room keep to us warm and said

“What in the hell you two doin?”

“Are you heading North????”

He stared at us, took out a cigarette and sat down on a fold-up chair right next to a small table that had an ashtray on it.

“The hell ya’ll doin?

We explained to him the story, the real story, about the rehab and about how I had to get the hell out before they sent me to the Samoan Islands and how we just needed to get back to New England (which is a whole other story).

He listened with about as much clarity as he could grab onto.

“I’m headin to Shreveport”

“where’s that?”

“The other way.  Toward Texas.”

Fuck.

He sat in what looked like a cloud of thought then finally asked

“Ya’ll can’t be hangin round here.  It ain’t safe.”

We didn’t really have a choice so we just kept shut.

“ya’ll hungry?”

And so he took us into the fast-food part of the truck stop, right next to a small casino room with nobody in it, and offered us each a cheeseburger. Sarah said she wasn’t hungry but I ate the shit outa that burger.

Afterwards he bought us each a shower from the shower station outside and two packs of Newports from the part of the truck stop where the gas station was.

We went back to the TV room in the back by where the truckers did their laundry and laid back down on the floor and put our blanket over us as the trucker sat next to us, like he was guarding our safety.

Our guardian angel truck-driver fell asleep.

Okay.  Now’s my shot.  MAKE A MOVE!  Here I go…

“Should we take these?”

I fumbled and pointed at the Tylenol PMS.

She nodded with disappointment as if she knew I didn’t mean to say that.

FUCKING DO SOMETHING GREG!

After the drowsiness kicked in I finally gathered the courage.  And out came the most romantic line since The Notebook…

“I could really use a blow job.”

Just like that.  That’s exactly how I said it.

Sarah smiled.  Uneasy.  I pretended like nothing had been said and made a comment about the TV.  I kept talking about the TV.  For like ten minutes I talked about this fucking TV.

“I could do that.” She said like twenty minutes later.  Actually it was more like ten minutes but it felt like an eternity.

It was such a delayed response and I was getting so tired from those pills that I had totally forgotten what she was referring to and made the biggest, dumbest, bimbo-est mistake of my life and said

“Do what?”

“Nevermind” she sighed.

OH NO!  THE BLOW JOB! SHE WAS TALKING ABOUT THE BLOW JOB! NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! HOW DO I BRING IT BACK UP?!?!?!?!!??!

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!

I had to numb the idiocy out of my head.  It was too late.  My chance tonight is gone.

POOF.

I was asleep.

I woke up to cowboy boots in my face.

It was Wayne.

Our black truck driver guardian angel had called through on his radio where we were, and now… well, now, it was all over.

“I’m gonna give ya’ll a ride to one’a two places, juvie hall er New Beginnings.  Which you want Juden?”

And that was that.  I never made a move. I blew it, and now I had to go back and lie and tell all the guys that I fucked her or risk getting the ever-loving shit kicked out of me.

But HERE’s the WORST part…  It’s called Hidden Lake Academy