~Parts 1 and 2~

In the POV of Taryn

I don’t know how many hours passed between the time the others finally settled into bed and the lights were turned out. All I knew was the burning anxiousness within me, miserably aching to get back to my sister. To say that I missed her would be the understatement of a lifetime – being with her was all I wanted for Christmas.

Even after everyone had happily snuggled underneath their blankets, I laid awake for hours after, making plenty sure they were well into their slumber. I waited in torment, every second feeling like an hour. Have I waited long enough yet? I impatiently wondered over and over to myself. After for what seemed like an eternity, I inched myself up to lean over the side of my bunk.

Stuffed full of treats and goodies and in the midst of joyful Christmas dreams, every one of them was fast asleep. I closed my eyes, breathing in a silent breath and shakily letting it escape. I had never ran away before, but there was no time to lose. It’s now or never, I reminded to myself, and I slowly made my way over to the ladder.

I silently crept down each rung, trusting them not to creak under my weight and blow my cover.

I reached up to the bunkbed post and curled my trembling fingers around the strap of my messenger bag. That was the most important; there was so much from big sis inside. Especially my compass necklace.

“You know who your True North is,” my sister had told me as she pressed the beautiful reminder into my hands. I nodded, even though I had no idea what she meant. Who was my True North? My throat was too choked with sobs desperate to escape for me to say anything, so I didn’t trust myself to speak and ask her then.

Clenching the strap so tightly that my knuckles were white, I fought hard the unshed tears that stung my eyes. Don’t think of that, I told myself sternly. You’ll see her in no time.

After hastily slipping on my boots and tip-toeing over to the wardrobe, I began to remember all of the clothes I had unpacked. Was it worth it to re-pack my suitcase all over again and risk waking the others up?

No, I finally decided. They can keep my clothes. It’ll be my way of saying thanks for how kind they were to me.

I did, however, grab my coat. I was in the middle of swiftly pulling it on when red sparkles caught my eye, halting my movements.

It was the stocking I had been given, right where I had left it; hanging on one of the wardrobe’s knobs. I swallowed hard, finding myself again questioning what I was about to do. Is this the right thing?

Big sis always said that home is where the heart is, I mused, continuing to stare at the gift my new “family” had given me. And my heart is breaking at the thought of never seeing her again. This is not where my heart is. This is not my home. And this is the right thing.

I reached down into the drawer to pull out my warm hat, knowing I would definitely need it for the journey ahead of me.

I’m coming, big sis! I wished her silently. I’ll be home – with you – for Christmas. I promise.

With that, I began my escapade. My toasty warm boots made soft sounds on the wooden floor as I darted through the doorway, far away from them all.

The house was still lit up, even though it was some crazy early hour in the morning, and I figured the humans must still be up. As I neared a long hallway and heard a movie playing in the human’s living room, I knew I had been right. Who stays up until crazy early in the morning having Christmas movie marathons? These people, I’m assuming.

Knowing better than to chase my freedom through the front door where the humans could see me, I took a shortcut and quickly swung the creaky laundry room one open. I had learned that trick from my sister; with creaky doors, the faster you open them, the less they creak.

I gently closed it behind me and then broke into a sprint. My boots pounded against the concrete floor of the laundry room as I sped toward the door at the end of it.

I breathlessly threw that door open, too, desperate to get out of the house already.

I flung myself through the doorway and immediately stopped cold (pun intended). My jaw dropped as a freezing blast of wind whipped at my bare legs. If I thought it was cold earlier that evening, I was gravely mistaken. The temperature was below freezing on that surprising Floridian winter night (or should I say early morning), and I was feeling the brunt of it.

What am I doing? Cold certainly isn’t going to stop me, I forced my mindset determinedly.

I trudged on through the night undaunted and unfazed by anything and everything; absolutely nothing would stand in my way.

Nothing, that is, except for the fence that just so happened to be blocking my path.

“Nice try, fence,” I smirked. “I’m on a mission here.”

Without hesitance I scampered up the wooden beams. The things I do for my sister, I grunted to myself as I reached for the next thick board.

The higher I climbed, the more I could feel the wind. I grit my teeth so hard that my jaw became sore as I faced the freezing gale unperturbed.

I swung one leg over, eying the ground below. Unafraid, I swung my other leg over and released my grip on the wooden boards.

My stomach lurched within me as I fell through the air in a breathless straight drop.

Before I knew what had happened, I collided with the ground harder then ever. My wrists and knees buckled as the wind was knocked out of me, and I just stayed there, stunned with pain for several dumbfounded moments.

When I could breathe again, I whipped my head around to look for my messenger bag. Wrists throbbing and all, it was a mad hunt for the bag that contained the necklace that meant so much. I hadn’t wanted to wear it for fear of the others seeing it and asking questions, but it was the most important to me all the same.

When the moon peeked out from behind a cloud and lit the grass around me, I could finally see the edge of the strap outlined in light. I sighed in relief, feebly stooping down to snatch the bag up and sling it over my shoulder once again.

My knees felt weak beneath me, but I broke into a run all the same. Sensing my motion, the security light turned on and brightened my path as I sped across the backyard.

Heart pounding, arms pumping, and legs running, I cleared the distance between the road and I in no time at all.

Panting in the freezing air, sprinting along the street, yearning to be with big sis; I was so devoted to finding my sister that I didn’t stop to think about where I was going. The twinkling Christmas lights at the end of the road were the first checkpoint, and that’s all I knew.

Sometimes, I don’t think about things before I do them. And before I know it, I get caught up in the momentum; I just keep going and going, and I don’t stop.

But it doesn’t last for long.

All of the sudden, I had the rare, fleeting thought of; What am I doing?

I stopped in my tracks, huffing loudly for a second and then relapsing into breathing hard with my mouth shut.

Where was I going? I didn’t even know where the orphanage was. It wasn’t like I had a pen pal and had to memorize our address. All I knew was “American Girl Doll Orphanage” and that it took two hours to fly here and one hour to drive from the airport to the house via Uber.

So how was I going to get to my sister?

Oblivious to my numb fingers and legs, I suddenly found it hard to breathe.

I couldn’t.

It took a minute of that suffocating piece of information running through my mind multiple times before it finally clicked; I couldn’t get to my sister. There was no way.

I began to tremble, and my lips began to quiver. I was stuck there, and there was no possible way I would ever be able to get to my sister again.

Overwhelmed by a dream-crushing wave of hopelessness, I fell to my knees and began to cry. The more tears I let out, the harder they streamed down my cheeks. My entire trembling body shook with the violence of my shaking sobs, as hard as I tried to contain them for fear of waking the whole neighborhood up. At most, I’d be home with my sister for Christmas only in my dreams!

After a minute or two of tears, I stood to my feet quickly, no longer trembling from the weight of the newfound knowledge but shivering from the lowness of temperature. I felt ridiculously silly – I couldn’t even remember the last time I cried like that.

I swallowed hard, squared my shoulders, and clenched my fists. There was more than one way to skin a cat.

And with that, I stoutly turned around, chin up and tears dried thanks to the freezing wind. Dedicated, devoted, and more than determined, I marched back to the fence that I had climbed up and slid down.

Wait a second – slid down? How was I going to get back up, then?

Defeated, I plopped down on the landscaping rocks in front of the fence. What was I going to do, ring the doorbell? “Yeah, I don’t really like living with you guys so I ran away, but that strategy didn’t work so I changed my mind.” I didn’t see that going over well.

I looked around, intent on making it inside before I became an 18-inch popsicle. There had to be another way to get in…

My face lit up with a smile at the sight of a tree surrounded by the landscaping rocks that I was sitting on and right by the fence. I wasn’t extremely active and sporty like my sister, but I had the guts to do anything.

After having made sure the messenger bag was securely on my shoulder, I began to climb the tree without an ounce of doubt.

Unwavering and without uncertainty, I took a deep breath and began stepping on a thin branch leading up to the fence like a tightrope.

The branch dipped toward the ground under my weight, and I bit my lip, setting my gaze on that fence. With my eyes fixed on where I wanted to go, I was sure that the rest would follow.

When I could step no further along on the thin branch lest it break, I bent my knees for momentum and jumped for it.

After being propelled through the air, I made a rather forceful landing on the fence. My thrustful impact and the boards sticking straight up combined with the fact that I touch-downed right on my stomach meant ouch.

I scurried down the climbable side of the fence and darted for the laundry room door, only to find out that it was locked.

“What next?” I groaned aloud. I couldn’t feel my fingers, my legs, my toes, or my nose. I turned around to look at the rest of this small area of the backyard and glowered at the night. I would find another way.

I headed toward the other side of the backyard, wishing miserably that I was with my sister. Wouldn’t it be funny, I figured to myself, if she was just around the corner and waiting for me?

Wouldn’t it be funnier still, I continued to muse as I walked, if that actually happened?

I turned a corner, stepping on a brick path, smiling to myself and wishing my musings were reality.

That’s when I stopped short and dropped my jaw. My eyes widened in shock and surprise. There was unmistakably someone on the other side of that lanai door – someone awfully, awfully familiar.

Had my dreams come true? Was that my sister?

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