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The Miller Miles

The first time I ran away with Byron Miller, he snuck me into his Grandparents house without their knowledge.

Byron Miller went to the "Alternative" school with me. We met one day in our Math class, I think. He was a cowboy, and back then I had a weakness for wranglers and Stetson hats. He was adorable at 5'10 and 175lbs. His dark hair and eyes were a sharp contrast to his fair skin pigment. His ancestry was Scottish, and anyone who's ever known me would know I've had a weakness for the Scottish blood lines and pride my whole life. Even my last name (Blackwood) is a Scottish name, though it's not my actual last name at all.

So few of my friends had cars that when I discovered Byron had his own car, he suddenly became a God in my eyes. He had it all; Wranglers, a Stetson, Scottish blood, a license and a car. He was a dream come true! I flirted mercilessly.

For some odd reason, Byron liked me right off the bat. Perhaps it was because I showed an interest in him while he was still new to Washington High. He was scared, much as I was the first few days I spent there. The school had many suspected Gang members in it, and each looked scarier than the next, but what Byron didn't realize was that we were all equals. Even the gang members were respected and were respectful of others. They even made sure to pay attention in class, lest a teacher get upset with them. They treated everyone like family and were even protective of the kids that would have normally been picked on in any other school. We were the Misfit Toys.

Byron's car was a little 1989 Honda CRX. It was white with black details, and before then I never even noticed them before. After I saw Byron drive into the parking lot one day before school, I noticed them everywhere I went. I even ditched my wonderful English "Business Writing" class one day to sit out in his car, claiming I wasn't feeling well. A few of the kids tried to pressure me into driving it, but I'd never driven a car before. I put the key in and turned it. The car lurched forward and jerked to a stop just before smashing into a light pole. It died instantly. All the kids laughed at me. They chanted something about a stick shift, but I didn't get the joke. I just closed the doors, rolled up the windows and took a nap.

By the time Byron came outside after class, the battery to his car was dead. Since the car had died, I didn't realize I had to turn off the car all the way and pull the keys out. Once more I had to endure an onslaught of laughter. It was a different laughter than I had been used to at Bonneville, though. They weren't laughing at me to be mean, but rather because the whole thing was quite funny. One of the kids with a big truck pulled around to give Byron's battery a jump start, and Byron kissed me on the cheek sweetly, telling me that it was ok. I confessed to him what I had done and why the key was in place to begin with, and he smiled ear to ear.

"You don't know how to drive?"

"No," I said, ashamed of myself. I was 17 years old that past December and I wasn't allowed to learn how to drive due to my grades.

"I'll teach you," he said to me, kissing me on the cheek again. "But in return, you have to promise not to steal my car." The kids around us laughed again and I smiled broadly. Byron held my hand in his, and suddenly I went from being a friend of his to being his girlfriend. That was automatically what it meant when a boy held a girls hand in front of everyone like that.

I got in trouble for skipping that class when I got home that evening. I was yelled at and screamed at. I stood there and took it, never once shedding a tear, never once breaking down or giving in. They had taken away everything but the mattress on the floor - what more could they do to me?

I bottled up my anger and frustration that night and let it all out when I saw Byron the next day. Even then I had very alternative ways of showing anger and frustration, though. Instead of crying or whining, I explained the situation in a matter-of-fact way. I even laughed at the cruelest of details, like the reason I wore the same clothes each day and why I chose to walk 4 miles each day in the snow and rain to reach a bus stop rather than catch the one by my house, because I wanted to get out of the house before my parents woke up. I told him about Tirzah Tolman and Steve; the two times I ran away from home. I laughed when I told him about my parents taking away everything I owned, thinking they could control me that way. What more could they take away from me? They would never control me, I wasn't the kind of person to be controlled by anyone, especially through acts of cruelty. Byron listened. He asked questions. When all was said and done, he asked what I would be leaving behind if I left.

"Only my dog." I didn't want to loose Cookie, but I knew that my mother loved her as much as I did. In the back of my mind, I knew she would never get rid of her just to punish me. Taking away everything I owned was one thing. Gambling with another living thing was something even my parent's wouldn't dare do. Would they?

"You're not going home tonight," he said. "You're coming home with me."

I protested, but only a little. After all, being the manipulative teen that I was, this was exactly what I wanted. Byron pulled me close and held on to me. I let him think I was in pain and that the hug was helping me, but in the reality of my mind and heart, I was once more getting exactly what I wanted. I found a place to stay other than with my parents. An evil grin spread across my face as I hugged him back gently with a weakening, sad grip.

He smuggled me into his Grandparents house and I stayed there the next several days. It wasn't easy coming and going. They didn't know I was there. I had virtually no freedom, but I was ok with that. Byron brought me food from the kitchen, and I lived the life of luxury, sleeping under a quilt and watching TV in the bedroom. I had soft pillows, there was a computer to play on and I could finally stretch out and touch something with the tips of my fingers no matter where I stood. The room didn't echo like my own did. What a wonderful feeling that was.

Three days went by before my parents showed up at the front door. Since Byron's grandparents didn't know I was there, I watched from the bedroom window as they knocked on the door. Byron's grandmother answered, told my parents that they didn't even know who I was, and watched them walk back down the steps to Mom's car. As they drove away I breathed a sigh of relief. Then I heard the footsteps coming down the hall.

I shimmied under the bed and grabbed my shoes to pull under with me. As I had predicted, they entered the room, looked around, turned off the television and walked back out. Unfortunately, they forgot to close the door behind them. I was trapped under the bed for the rest of the afternoon.

When Byron came back that evening, the look of panic on his face was as broad as a search light. He grabbed the door handle to his room and looked around wildly, obviously wanting to know what happened to me. His grandparents called him to the living room and I could tell he thought the world had just ended. They had surely found me.

They asked Byron who this Amanda girl was, because her parents had come looking for her. He told them that I was his girlfriend and that I hadn't been in school for a few days. He also embellished, and told them that he thought my dad beat me every night. He told them that he was worried about me, that maybe the reason I hadn't been in school was because my dad had beaten me so badly that I couldn't walk. His grandparents gasped in astonishment and told him that if he heard from me to please let them know. I slapped a hand over my mouth and sat there, stunned.

"Did you go in my room," he asked them both.

"Yes, why?"

"I just remember closing the door this morning before I left," he explained. "Did you need something?"

"We were just checking to see if maybe you had smuggled someone into your room. We didn't see anything so we just turned off the TV and left again. We didn't disturb anything else."

Byron came back to his room and closed the door. He sat down on the bed, trying to sort things out in his mind. I reached out and grabbed his ankle - probably not the smartest thing to do if we were trying to be quiet. He yelped.

"Byron? Are you ok?" His grandfather called out to him.

"Yeah," he said, obviously through a smile, "I just," he paused, searching, "stubbed my toe."

He jumped up from the bed and got on his hands and knees to peer under the bed at me.

"I'm so glad you're still here! I thought for sure when I saw the door open..."

"I've been here all day long," I told him. "I heard them coming down the hall and I just found a spot to hide. It was either under here or in the closet, and I thought they might look in the closet."

"That was smart."

"Yeah, but when they left the door open, I knew I'd be here for a while. I probably wont sleep much tonight. I've been sleeping almost all day. There was nothing else to do."

The next day we decided it would be best if I snuck out through the window and we both went to school. We would look around and ask friends throughout the day to see if any of them were willing to take me in for a while. About half way through the day, the Police showed up at the school. All the kids faces were pressed to the windows, wondering what was going on. They came straight into my classroom and asked the teacher which one I was. Then they had me get in the car with them and they took me directly to the Police Station where my parents picked me up. I was humiliated. I felt betrayed. I had trusted Byron to take care of me and yet I was being sent home.

I forgave him the next day.

There really wasn't much my parents could do to me, though they threatened even more. Physical pain only lasted so long. I was numb to it all. They said that they were going to pick me up from school each day and drop me off in the mornings. I scoffed.

"I'll get up before you and be gone. I'll skip my last class of the day and disappear. The only way you'll know where I am at any time is to be handcuffed to me all day." I kept a straight face, numb and devoid of emotion. I spoke calmly and rationally. It infuriated them. The threats and ideas continued, each one a weak attempt of gaining control over me and crushing my spirit. None of it worked.

That was the moment when I discovered that no person of the face of the Earth can force another to do their bidding. The human spirit is too strong for that. Even with a gun to our heads, we still have a choice.

"So what happened," Byron asked me. I told him everything, not skipping a single detail. I told him about the fresh bruises I expected to see in various places. I explained how they had planned to control my every move even more. I told him everything just as calmly as I had replied to my parents the night before. He hugged me tightly again and I knew I had him where I wanted him. He's surely find me a permanent place to stay now.

"Look," he said, "my Dad lives in Arizona. I wanted to go down there this summer to stay with him. I was going to drive. My little sister lives with her mom over in Clearfield right now. I was going to take her with me. Why don't we go now? We'll plan the whole thing out and I'll take you with us. School is almost out anyway, we'll only miss the last week."

And so it was planned. We would scrape together every cent we could between the three of us, eventually growing the group into four people. We piled up into Byron's two-seater car and we began the long journey to Arizona, three fugitives and a free spirit.

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