"I ran away from home, you know that, and went to Newra, where I thought I could start a new life. I thought that some orphanage or maybe a kind family would accept me. But the Newrans are as nice as the people back in Shelaan."
"So I found a cheap motel in the ghetto that doesn't care about runaways. So I paid them for a three day stay and went up to my room. There I found a small box and I put the rest of my money in it, along with my picture of you guys and the flashlight I stole from dad."
"So that's why we were missing $500 from the savings jar," he says. I nod and continue. "Well, now I had already blown $25, so I figured I better use the money as wisely as I could. The way I used it lasted a while, because I used the last of it today." Anderson nods approvingly. "After the hotel, I stayed away from the crowd for a little while, hiding in the alleys and abandoned buildings. One day, I was starving, but I already went through my one meal that day. So I crashed a wedding and took some tasteless cake. Neither the bride or the groom recognized me so they called the Waymen. They took me to their station and put me in a weird gizmo that extracted thoughts from the back of my mind."
I glance at Anderson for any emotion. Nothing.
"I didn't like it, so after they locked me in a cell, I tried to pry the cell window open." I show him scars on my hands. "They were covered in tiny points that were like knives on my skin, but kept trying to open it anyways. Eventually my hands were so bloody that I gave up." I look out the window to see the bridge that is still crowded with cars. "I stared out the window, ready to just scream. Which I almost did. But I blinked once, and the next thing I knew, I was outside the cell. I was confused, but I didn't just walk in again to ask them why I was suddenly out. So I ran into my little alley with my box and set up a home there. It worked for a while until the Waymen found me again."
The memory is as clear as day. Well, day back in Shelaan. It's nice there, no pollution, no gray skies.
"I grabbed my back and jumped over the fence, and I lost them. But I knew I could not stay there. So I went to the other side of town, where it was busier. No one would ever notice a lonely little 11-year-girl wandering the streets parentless. I found a new alley and hid my stuff behind a dumpster. I dyed my hair purple and cut it short so the Waymen wouldn't recognize me that easy."
I hang my head so my angled hair falls. Anderson looks at it. It's obvious that he doesn't approve.
"I took my stuff and went to the alley where I just left today. I was safe for a couple of years, up until a couple months ago."
I pause and look at Anderson. Still nothing.
"They almost caught me. They saw me hanging out in the alley. They sneaked up on me, but I saw them at the last second. I shoved my box under the garbage and leaped over the fence. They followed. I needed to lose them, so I ran into another alley. Some girl with brown hair like I used to have stayed there usually, and the Waymen took her instead. I never saw her again."
We sat in silence for a moment and then I continue. "They must have figured out that wasn't me, and then they started hunting me down again. They found me today on the bridge."
I lift my shirt to reveal the bullet wound. "They shot me as I jumped in the river."
Alarmed, Anderson pulls over and reaches in the back. He brings back a first-aid kit and pulls out hydrogen peroxide. It'll help a little, but not much. A hands me a peroxide-soaked cotton ball that I put on the wound. It stings a little, but not much.
Anderson also pulls out a big bandage to put over it. "It's not much," he says, turning back to the steering wheel, "but it'll do." Then he gets back on the freeway and we drive west to Shelaan.