"I'm running away," Emily said. Mom and Dad weren't home. Sarah, being the oldest, was in charge, and Emily didn't want to take a bath. So she decided to run away and David was going with her. David was about 4 years old and seemed to have enlisted out of obedience rather than a true revolutionary fervor.
"It's a long time to New York," Sarah said as Emily busied herself gathering stuffed animals, makeup kits and shoes and stuffing them in Walmart bags. David did the same, trying to grab as many of his toys as possible. "We're going to miss you."
I thought, perhaps, that Sarah needed to speak for herself.
I was about 8 and though I hadn't taken any wilderness survival classes, I wondered how the stuffed Care Bears and friends collection would be very helpful.
"Are you going to bring Lina?" I asked. Lina was Emily's imaginary friend.
"Of course," as if I had asked if the sky was blue.
Lina lived in New York City, she spoke Spanish, and had already died at least twice in the last two weeks.
It was hard for Emily to keep her imaginary friends because she kept killing them off. Lina, had, however, come back to life and would surely provide a lot of one-sided conversations for David to listen to on the way to the Big Apple.
At six years old, Emily had already tried to run away to New York City once, but she only made it a couple doors past the Brantley's house before she changed her mind.
"You know there's bad people out there that would like to catch little girls and boys and do bad things to them," Amanda said, joining in, which caught my attention. Emily didn't seem to hear her.
I did. Sarah started describing in sordid detail the horrible crimes that bad men had committed against small children that had run away from home. She had me convinced. I was mourning Emily and David already, and they weren't even gone. What were Mom and Dad going to say when they came home and found that I was the youngest again?
With that thought, I began suggesting that David leave certain toys, just in case they were to need a new owner in the near future.
Emily was really going to do it, and David, willing or not, was going with her. They didn't have shoes on. On both arms, the two of them had strung Walmart bags filled with all of their prized possessions. The older girls had helped them get everything loaded and the two of them looked like homeless people, which was appropriate, considering the circumstances.
It must have taken an hour for them to get packed. Every doll was considered, every extra sock given a place in a bag.
During all the preparations, Edward, Joseph, Michael and Jonathan had disappeared.
Their parting was ceremonial. Emily and David said goodbye. Sarah, Amanda, and Anne-Marie were sad. I was curious.
They made it off the front porch. Suddenly, with screams and barks that must have been characteristic of some of those bad men Sarah had told us about, four big figures leaped from the shadows and grabbed both of them. Emily shrieked.
I guess I could have tried to rescue them, but the ambush seemed so exciting that I ran into the fray and screamed myself, pretending to have been involved from the beginning.
Edward, Joseph, and the other two carried the would-be hobos back into the house, and while my brothers often qualified as "bad men", at least in my opinion, learning who they really were was somewhat anticlimactic.
Emily was furious but too traumatized to consider attempting another escape. I've never seen her look so betrayed, and David, I think, renounced ever going outside again, deciding to take an early retirement and live with Mom for the rest of his life.