I started at 16 years old and never really stopped until a few years ago. Finally, after spending almost half of my life running from the monster under the bed, I got tired of it. I ended the pattern with a new approach to life in general. It was a gradual change, I suppose. Though to me it seems to have happened almost over night, almost like I simply... woke up.
The first time I ran away, I was only 15 years old. My parents were coming down on me really hard and accusing me of things I had never even thought of doing. I had been accused of being on drugs since I was 13 years old and didn't even know what marijuana looked like. By the time I was 15 all of my parents friends thought I was sleeping around with anyone and everyone. In reality, I was still a virgin. More than once my mother threatened to take me to the doctors to verify that fact, but my parents never followed through with that threat. I wish they had.
I stayed with a male friend of mine the first time I ran away. He lived just down the street and his mom was out of town for a couple of weeks. I stayed in his room and he slept on the couch during that time. I always thought that was very kind of him. I had a huge crush on him at the time, but that never became an issue. We never so much as held hands. I knew what people would say and think if it became common knowledge, so we did what we had to in order to prevent people from finding out. That was the moment I knew I could trust Steve with my life.
I was working at Wendy's in Roy, Utah at the time. It was easily 3 miles from Steve's house, and I walked to work every single day while I stayed with him. I would work my entire shift, then turn around and walk back down the hill toward my temporary home. For the first time in my life, I felt a taste of freedom and I loved it. I couldn't imagine life any other way, and from that moment on, that was all I wanted. I wanted to have a chance to go to work and go home, to take care of myself, come and go as I pleased and know that I never once had to sacrifice my morals in order to accomplish my day to day life.
One night while working the change window at the Wendy's drive thru, a guy from school came in to the restaurant. He knew that I looked familiar and asked which school I went to. Right off the bat I knew who he was. I was amazed he even looked my direction. The Libby's were popular kids in school, and I was scum in the bottom of the tank of small fish in the big school. When he asked for my phone number and invited me to go play miniature golf, I thought it must be a joke!
We had a glorious time that night. We played miniature golf for the first time in my life. We stayed out until around 9:30 at night and then went over to his cousins house, where we sat in a group of 5, watching a favorite Disney movie. I was tired from work though and ended up falling asleep on the couch, my head leaned back against a very soft pillow. When Andrew woke me up later on to drive me home, I was incredibly embarrassed that I had fallen asleep in the first place.
I kissed Andrew on the cheek and for some reason I expected a call from him the next day. The call didn't come that day or the next. Nor did it come the next week, and by the time I had gone back home to my parents, I had all but forgotten about Andrew. I could only think that perhaps he didn't have fun with me, or he simply didn't like me.
When school started back up, I passed Andrew in the hallway one day. I said hello, he looked in my direction and simply nodded. He didn't say hello, he didn't smile. He didn't even really seem to recognize me at all! I was crushed. I had actually had a lot of fun, and Andrew Libby was my first date.
There's a strange unspoken rule still very much alive in the small town in which I lived. I wasn't a part of the religion, and I wasn't willing to convert. To many people (not all, but many) that was like having a swastika tattooed on my forehead. Andrew Libby found out somehow that I wasn't a member of the same religion, and because of that simple fact, was told not to speak to me again.
Steve remained my best friend for many years. When the world turned its back on me, he was my brother. When things went well for me, he was there to pat me on the back. There were times that Steve was more of a family to me than my own family was. I'll always love Steve for that.
Steve's little brother was another story though... Dan and I were involved in Breaking and Entering a private property. But that's another story.