Jenny Healey is a new writer, who lives in Orere Point. After attending the 2010 First Chapters writing programme, her story “The Nullabor Plain” was published in Translucence: Life Writing from Manukau and Papakura.
The idea of my running away came about after my older brother and sister had told me yet again to go away. “I’ll show them,” was forefront in my mind as I planned my escape. Going to my Nana’s in Auckland wasn't an option. She lived over 100 miles away from my hometown of Dargaville and anyway my piggy bank was empty. What my family needed was a shock. What if I just pretended to run away? Now there’s a thought.
I had contemplated several good hiding places before deciding on the perfect spot. It was in the old oak tree that grew next door by the road, a collection of gnarly planks nailed between the branches, called “The Tree House.” From this hiding place I would have a great view of any unfolding drama. With a jumper, drink and sandwich stowed in my school satchel, I was up that tree as fast as my agile nine-year-old body could climb.
Invisible to the world below, I watched my brother and sister walk up our drive; Mr McQuin, from across the road, returning from work and getting a thorough licking from Dick, his German Shepherd and there was Dad’s brand new 59 Hillman minx turning into our street. It must be 6 o’clock, tea-time. Dad pulled up. He looked up briefly and I ducked down. He didn’t see me, did he? I was pretty sure he hadn’t.
I settled down to wait. In an hour the police would be here; then I would casually climb down looking slightly confused. I’d fallen asleep I’d say. I heard Mum call me in for tea. This was it then. Here comes the drama.
I waited. A second call, louder, insistent pierced my ears; still I waited, listening in the darkened evening for sounds of grief, the general uproar of a family when the youngest is discovered missing. Any moment now I will see the police car pull up. The neighbours wondering what drama could have happened on their quiet uneventful street in their quiet uneventful town.
I waited. The sun had all but gone when I finally clambered down and peered into the kitchen window. There was my family eating and talking. I strained my ears for snippets concerning me. Dad might be saying that any time now the police would have found her…she can’t have got far. But all I heard him say was ‘Pass the salt please John.’ I opened the door, rubbing my eyes and yawning. Mum looked at me and said, ‘It’s about time you came down from that tree Jenny. Your tea has been getting cold.’
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