The living room table was turned over, and the bottles and glasses that it must have worn were on the ground, smashed into maybe a hundred pieces. Beer cans and paper plates were spread over the couch and poured over to the floor, acting as breadcrumbs, leading toward the filthy kitchen.
We had to kick our way through broken things to get to her bedroom, where the door hung off of the hinge and leaned against the wall.
The bedroom smelled foul, like mold and an animal left to die in the sun. The walls were dirty with hand prints and dead insects. Spider webs were stung up in each corner like Christmas decorations.
Sandra let go of my hand and moved around the room, picking up her belongings. The mattress that sat in the corner was where she’d slept for sixteen years. It was yellowed from the urine stains of her or one of her six older siblings, and the springs from inside were exposed.
She picked up clothing quickly, not looking up because she was embarrassed. It was good a thing she didn’t, because she would only see the sympathy in my eyes. It was the first time that she’d invited me over, and it’d be the last.
I covered my nose with my left hand and started to pick up trash with my right.
“Don’t,” Sandra said with a quiet voice and continued to shove things into what looked like a child’s backpack. I laid the crumbled paper back down on the floor and straightened. I rub my hand against my jean skirt and watched her movements, quick and shaky. She didn’t know if running away was the way to go; she didn’t know how it would all end if her father caught up with her. I’d convinced her it was the right thing to do though. She’d been beaten and bruised in a broken home, and on several occasions would come to my house, crying after a forty minute bus ride. Her flesh blackened and ripped like worn money. I needed her to save herself.
Sandra pulled a deteriorating teddy bear from the side of the mattress, rubbing its face. It was her bear, Leon. The first night she’d slept in my bed, she told me about him. He kept her from feeling alone through her parent’s screaming fights and he was always there to collect her tears. Sandra maneuvered him into the bag and then turned to me.
“Finished,” she said, moving toward me. She flashed me an unsure smile, grabbing my hand and I followed her out of the room.
We walked quickly through the mess, stepping over everything she was leaving behind, including the scuff marks on the floor from the most resent clash.
We headed down the stairs back toward my car. I could hear the people in their apartments. They were talking, shouting, yelling, and screaming. We reached the car within minutes after crossing the parking lot.
I started the car and turned to survey her, making sure that she was okay. She seemed fine, and if she wasn’t, she would never tell me. She kept things bottled up, and wouldn’t talk about something unless I nearly begged. If I grew up the way she had, I would hold as many things as I could close.
I cleared the parking lot and headed north on Dearborn, toward my house to pick up my things. We’d trumped a childish plan where she would run away, move in with me and my parents would adopt her, but we knew that would never happened when my mother walked in on Sandra giving me oral sex. My mother hasn’t looked at me the same since, and Sandra couldn’t sleep over anymore. That’s when I decided wherever Sandra was going, I’d be with her.
We were going to travel like we were Thelma & Louise, except we were lovers, and I’d hope not to kill anyone or drive off a cliff. Or were like Bonnie & Clyde except no robbery or death. We were like Lewis and Clark, except for the obvious reasons, and we were on an expedition.
I pulled in front of my small, comfortable house on Haden Ave. The suitcase was already packed and in my closet waiting for me. It carried my clothes and all the necessities.
The goodbye was left on the nightstand beside a nightlight that I’d had but never actually needed since I was about nine. I moved back out to the car, never missing a beat and climbed back into the car. She was staring out the window, and then smiled when I’d finally gotten back into the car.
To be continued.