No More Games of Run and Hide

Submitted into Contest #235 in response to: Write a story that includes someone saying, “You can’t run forever.”... view prompt

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Fiction Friendship Speculative

Susan shoved a second slice of buttered toast in her mouth as she searched for her running shoes. Boxes upon boxes which should have been clearly marked, announcing their contents somehow eluded that particular task. Never again will she move and think as she’s packing, “I’ll remember what’s in this box.",because she misplaced her marker for the fifth time that afternoon. Well, at least she was able to find the box containing the toaster, and more importantly, the coffee maker. Susan amused herself with thoughts of a new social media sensation where she encourages people to pack their entire lives in unmarked boxes, move to their intended destination and unpack on camera, entertaining tens of thousands of desperately bored followers. Oh, the intrigue as the unpacker peels the tape away from the seams, reaches in and liberates one hidden treasure after another. “Oooh, Ahhhh.”, like fireworks on Independence Day. She’d call the channel, “Mystery Moving.” The very idea, ridiculously viable, solicited a giggle as Susan continued the search for her running shoes. 


The third box was no luckier than the first two and Susan’s patience was growing thin. She needed fresh air and time to clear the anxiety driven thoughts from her mind; a simple walk will have to suffice, any pair of sneakers will do, for now. The walls, however, pleasantly painted and cheerily decorated, were much too close together for Susan’s comfort. She hoped clearing the clutter of boxes from the hall would open the space alleviating the plaguing claustrophobia she hadn’t realized was an issue until today. If she were to be thoroughly honest with herself, the walls themselves had little to do with what she was experiencing. “Oh, for the love of God, where the hell are her shoes?”


Finally, unearthing an old pair of Converse in a plastic bin Susan thought was packed with pots and pans, she set out to reacclimate herself with the very same environment she deemed so toxic all those years ago. She fled far and fast, leaving behind her family in favor of her freedom from the vapid notions which served as the backdrop of her childhood, swearing to herself never to return. Unlike the irrational urges of a teenager, her adult self, had little choice but to prioritize the needs of family over selfish whims. Sandie and the girls were overjoyed when she agreed to come home and stay with them, to live in the tiny rental cottage among the cookie cutter new construction, cul de sacs, and professionally manicured lawns. Sandie’s only concern was to keep her daughters in the same school they’d been attending for the past three years. The divorce devastated them, not only emotionally but financially, and she felt fortunate to have come across one of the few rental properties in the district and didn’t hesitate to secure it with a signed two-year lease. Just shy of the third month, Susan’s sister and her twin daughters began to struggle financially. Sandie reached out to her cheating bastard ex-husband for support, only to suffer the same emotional abuse she had endured for years. With no regard for the well-being of his children, he denied assistance, leaving Sandie no choice but to turn to her sister for help, begging her to break that self-made promise and return home. 


Sandie’s desperate pleas infiltrated Susan’s recall as she set out to try and clear her head. She walked quickly down the sloped drive and turned right away from the confines of the cul de sac, disallowing the infinitely gray sky to further her discord. The treelined streets begged to be regarded for their beauty, but the leaves had only begun to turn, and the familiar stench of decomposing crabapples detracted from any appeal that may have been cloaked by the overcast murk; she missed the sunshine. Hands stuffed into the pockets of her sweatshirt; Susan walked from the rental home to the main road leading into the neighborhood. She paused at the corner to survey the changes, the evolution since she last graced the old stomping grounds. The convenience store on the corner was now a storage facility, and directly across where she now stood was the very road she and Sandie grew up on. Merely reading the bright green and white road sign sent a wave of nausea from her gut into her throat. Oak Street; innocent, non-menacing, unoriginal, boring, ominous. It would be perfectly ironic had she grown up on Elm instead of Oak, as the nightmare was just as real for Susan. She was “that kid” from the time she was in first grade; the one everyone targeted with hurtful, insulting nicknames and rumors. Devastated by the severity of constant tortuous taunting, Susan learned to flee from the bus stop as quickly as her two feet would carry her, dodging traffic as she crossed the main road. Still, as she ran Susan could hear the rantings of her tormentors calling after her, throwing words like daggers hoping to pierce their target no matter how quickly it moved. 


Turning back after only a few moments of recollection, Susan silently vowed to put her anxiety aside; she wasn’t that vulnerable, impressionable little girl anymore. The bullies: her monsters have all gone and there was no rationality in her trepidation. “Shake it off, Sus.” Sandie and the girls should be home soon, and those boxes aren’t going to unpack themselves. Maybe she’d ask her nieces to help, at least send them hunting for her running shoes. She’d offer to bake cookies as a reward; certainly, Sandie was not adventurous in the kitchen; she didn’t even own a toaster. Sandie and her waning credibility among the morally affected; traded her designer handbags for a discount big box membership, and her fall from social grace saddened Susan. But there was something rather poetic in the potential for personal growth through the harrowing circumstances of a messy and complicated divorce. Susan felt hopeful for her sister and possibly for herself as well. Coming back, facing her inner demons could prove quite purgative and therapeutic. She breathed the autumn air, choking back a gag from that infernal rotten stench of crabapple goo clinging to the sidewalks, driveways and dried edges of the lawns. Winter would be better; the holidays were coming, and the triggering smell would surely dissipate into the frigid air. 


She stepped on to the rickety porch, just about to the front door when she heard the irritating screech of a woman's voice calling out to her. “Hello, yoo-hoo, new neighbor, over here, hello?” 


Susan squinted at the reflection from the front window as the feminine figure awkwardly jogged toward her wearing skintight jeans tucked neatly into thigh high boots with stiletto style heels, reminiscent of a baby giraffe trying to keep up with the herd. She wore perfectly complimenting leather gloves, matching the most ostentatious boots Susan had ever seen. Her designer handbag swung to and fro from the crook of her elbow, smacking itself into her legs with every hurried stride. Susan took note of the woman’s oversized sunglasses dominating her thin, birdlike face. Her brassy highlighted hair fell perfectly around the square frames as if she had intentionally had her hair cut while wearing them. “Oh, neighbor, hello?” she called again in an affected tone, common with the indigenous people of the cul de sacs. 


Susan spun on her heels to face her relentless aggressor, “Hi.” she managed with some semblance of congeniality. It took a moment but all too soon, Susan recognized the woman who just comically bungled her way down the street and across the lawn. “Aubrey Saunders.”  she thought to herself as the woman removed her ridiculously large sunglasses revealing her true identity and fortifying Susan’s worry. “shit.”


“I tried to get your attention last week at the elementary school, but I suppose you didn’t hear me.” she began.


“Oh, that was probably my sister. I just got here two days ago.”


“Wow, you could pass for twins” she commented with evident disinterest.


“We’re two years apart, actually.”


“Oh, well, never mind then, unless you have kids who would want to schedule a playdate?”


“No, no kids of my own.” Susan informed her, thinking this exchange, as weird as it felt, could easily have taken a less desirable path. Strained, maybe, but not at all like Susan's past encounters with Aubrey or her clique of pretension. 


 Wait? Can it be that this idiot doesn’t remember or recognize either Sandie or herself? The blank behind the painted-on friendly countenance confirmed Susan’s hypothesis. After all this time, after every horrifying experience she was responsible for from elementary school through high school, this vapid, depthless, trivial being hasn’t the faintest idea who she’s attempting to befriend.  Susan found the occurrence quite satirical and fought to suppress her laughter. 


“So, you’re all ruddy and disheveled, have you been running?” Aubrey Saunders, or whatever her last name may be these days placed her glasses back on her face, tilted her head and once again feigned interest in Susan.


“Well, that was my intention, but I can’t seem to find my running shoes.” she confessed. 


Aubrey tilted to the other side, “Well, when you find them, or maybe buy new ones, we should run together. I drop my kids off at seven forty-five, and I’m home by eight. Let’s say tomorrow at eight fifteen, does that work for you? I can show you the various paths through the park. Would you like that?” 


Her condescending tone made Susan cringe. “I know the park and paths; I grew up here you dolt.” Susan shook her head from side to side, but her words spilled out before she could organize them, “Sure, sounds good.” 


“Yay, oh, make sure you find those shoes. See you bright and early.” Aubrey sang as she navigated her gangly giraffe strides over the hard ground back to the sidewalk and down the street toward her house in the cul de sac. 


“What the hell just happened?” Stunned by her own idiocy, Susan found Sandie in the kitchen and began her confession. “I said yes to hanging out with Aubrey Saunders.” 


“Sus, I’m not one to take up for Aubrey or anyone like her, but maybe she’s changed.”


“Sandie, she didn’t even know who I was! She mentioned trying to get your attention at the school and mistook me for you.” 


“I have other reasons for avoiding the likes of her. I’d rather not be made to feel obligated to share the sordid details of my divorce and why my girls and I are living in a tiny rental, just to remain in the school district. I cannot keep up with the Aubrey’s of the neighborhood, nor do I feel the need to do so.” 


“Oh, but you’re endorsing my friendship with her?” 


“You can’t run forever, sis. If we’re to make a go of this new life, it would be beneficial for you to find a way to deal with Aubrey. I doubt she will be moving out of the neighborhood any time soon. Besides, you can’t be certain she didn’t recognize you. Is it possible she thought I was you when she first spotted me at the school? Give her a chance, is all I’m asking. You’re home now, no more running unless it’s in the park, ok?”  


Sandie’s desirous words lingered in the air before taking up residence in Susan’s mind. She’d do anything for the betterment of her family, even if it meant going for that run in the morning. Running from and running with are two very different ideals; literal or metaphoric. Susan sat on the floor in the hallway and busted open yet another unmarked box hoping to finally find those shoes. 


January 29, 2024 02:35

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6 comments

Michał Przywara
21:52 Feb 06, 2024

You can never go home again - except, of course you can, only everyone's gotten older and things have changed, and some have forgotten things while others haven't. Susan's back due to unpleasant circumstances, but she's treating it all as an opportunity for growth - despite the Aubreys of the world. “Mystery Moving” - this probably is viable :) There's some good characterization in Aubrey, and while there's a dark undertone to the story, both with the divorce and the history, there's nevertheless a light mood, kind of stressing that feel...

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Myranda Marie
22:14 Feb 06, 2024

Thank you so much. As always, your kind words are so appreciated. Oh, and maybe Mystery Moving will be the next TikTok trend. I'll have to suggest it to someone younger and savvier than me, though. haha

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Helen A Smith
14:46 Feb 04, 2024

Interesting to see how that run progresses! I like the way you kept it open - may be they both have something to learn from each other! It’s not clear whether Aubrey recognised her. Either way, a freaky meeting up of past and present. Good story, full of interesting possibilities.

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Myranda Marie
18:12 Feb 04, 2024

Thank you so much! This one sort of took its own direction, so I just ran with it. {haha}

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Helen A Smith
21:18 Feb 04, 2024

Ha ha 😆 It’s great when stories go in their own direction. It’s the best feeling.

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Mary Bendickson
07:24 Jan 29, 2024

Don't think she'll enjoy that run much. Thanks for liking my 'All for Science'.

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