Tell Me Why

We sit on this bench. There are three in this park and we've been to all of them twice. This one's surrounded by all these fallen leaves, reminding me that summer's almost completely gone. As if I needed reminding - autumn's around us all the time.

You want me to talk to you. Why is it always my turn? I want you to talk to me. I want you to tell me what you're thinking for once, what you're feeling. It's always me that has to give it all away.

You don't have the words. I text you. Grateful for the chance to get out of saying anything out loud, you reply, and we continue like that. But nothing changes.

I told you to wait, yet you're behaving like I didn't. Behaving like I just said 'no' in public, 'yes' in private. Behaving like I said I knew what I wanted and didn't care about how everyone else would feel about this. I don't want them to talk about me like that. I know, I shouldn't listen to what other people think about me, but I do. I don't want to be thought of like that.

You see me cry. I guess that's the first time. But I don't know why I'm crying. And as soon as I recognise the first tear in my eye, more are coming, and they're streaming down my cheeks. And you're holding me and wiping them away and I'm hating myself for liking that. I want to be repulsed by everything you do. I want the courage to tell you 'no' straight off.

I don't have it.

We talk. You tell me how you feel. I tell you that I can't do this. That I can't cope, and don't want to. That I want it to all go back to how it was before. And then we laugh and talk about something else and I can't bear it any more, so I grab my bag and I begin to run. I'm over the railway bridge before I've worked out if I'm just messing and if I want you to come after me.

The first thing Jennie did was run, too. You know that. You're the one who asked to be my Alex.

When I'm on the other side, I realise I can't stop now.

I've no more breath for running, so I just walk as fast as I can, turning round the whole time to check you're not following me, and there's no one there that I can see. The children in the playground glance at my face and don't say anything. I walk past them.

I reach the end of the little lane and the roads that lead to home. I know the way down one of them. Two of them, perhaps. But the one straight ahead I've no idea where it leads, except that I'll get home at some point. I take it.

You text me. Where did you go? I text you back: Away. That's my answer to your next question too. So you phone me. "Where did you go?"

"Away."

"Have you crossed the bridge yet?" I don't answer. I'm too out of breath from running and anyway, I don't know what to say. "Have you crossed the bridge yet? Hello?" You wait a few seconds more and I close the phone, looking away.

You call again, but I reject the call. And again, and again, until I'm moving almost on auto pilot to the red button when my phone begins to buzz. I'm too late to see that it wasn't your name on the screen, but our friend's, and I have to call her back. You called her - you're worried. You don't know where I am.

Away.

I don't know where I am either. I'm wandering down this road, slightly lost. My friend's convinced you've done something awful to make me run away. No, you didn't. I just didn't want to be where I was any more. I didn't want to be who I was any more. I didn't want to feel what I was feeling any more. So I did the only thing I've ever been able to do - I ran away from it.

Some day it will catch up with me. Some day I'm going to have to face things that I don't want. Some day I'm going to have to stand where I don't want to be, and feel what I don't want to feel.

But not today. For today, I will run. And while I can outrun it, I can outrun anything.

The End

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