The Mysterious Disappearance of Caroline Hill
I didn’t mean to kill her.
I wasn’t thinking. My mind wasn’t clear.
I wasn’t even supposed to be in that forest by the lake.
There was a body on the ground next to my feet. Rain fell down my arms, washing the blood from my hands. The sound of shoes scuffling in the wet grass pounded in my ears.
I was crouching behind a fallen pine tree, listening to the waves on the lake. I paused for a breath, my heart threatening to burst out of my chest as it threw itself against my ribcage.
A walk in the woods, that’s what it was. That’s what I told myself before it was too late – before it threatened to question who I really was inside. I told myself that all I needed was a stroll by the lake, thirty minutes away from the constant, happy buzz of my home.
It was too late before I had even realized what I had done. I was in shock, paralyzed by fear. I couldn’t move as I replayed the last moments in my head over and over. After all, how can one forget the pine needles stuck between her sneakers? How can I forget the blood on my hands? How can I forget what I did to Caroline Hill?
My name is not Allie May.
I don’t live in Tampa, Florida.
I’m not twenty-one years old.
I never used to steal IDs from frat girls putting makeup on in the bathroom.
I used to live in Ohio with my mom. I went to school like everyone else at Silver High. Everyone knew me. The popular kids liked me because I was a cheerleader, while the geeks preferred to come to me to get help on homework. I was loved and cherished in that little town of Silverton, Ohio until the night where I messed up.
I panicked and ran into the woods, disappearing behind slim oak trees and their emerald green leaves. I could hear footsteps behind me, following my every move. Every sound was a warning, from the rustling of the leaves to the trickle of the creek.
I slowed to a stop as I reached the main road. The streetlamps flickered, their soft yellow light eerily projecting onto the road before me. I was bathed in a crown of light, the opposite of where I was supposed to be. I stepped off of the road and faded into the shadows, tossing my cell phone into the ditch. No one would find me here on an abandoned road in a small town.
The moon shone from behind the expanse of wispy gray clouds, casting a ghostly white light onto the world below it. Stars twinkled in the midnight sky as an airplane passed overhead.
I tore across the road, leaping over a barbed wire fence hidden in the bushes. The wire snagged my gray sweatpants, tearing my thigh open as I hit the ground. I shook my head and kept on running.
I didn’t know where to go. I knew that I needed to hitch a ride and leave Ohio. I’d need to reach a place where no one would recognize me. A tear threatened to fall out of my eye, but I forcefully wiped it away. What would my mother, an unemployed woman who knew how to sense danger, say to me if she saw me now?
“Nicole,” she would say to me. “If you don’t know where to go, you don’t hesitate. You leave this state and you take off. If you’re ever in danger, you run as fast as you can until no one will be able to catch you. You hear me?”
“Yes, mama,” I would murmur.
“You won’t be prepared for change,” she’d say. “Being in danger, you’d think that you’d stay true to yourself. But would you steal a piece of bread to prevent yourself from starving? Would you set a building on fire to keep you warm?”
“Steal? Set a building on fire?”
“Stealing may be your only choice in times of need. You have to make a choice: are you willing to sacrifice your soul in order to save your body?”
“Mom, I- “
“No!” she’d scream. “If anything happens to you, no matter what, you run. You will do whatever you can to get away from the person who is looking for you. You’ll change your name and your appearance just to get away with a crime.”
“Mom, why would I get in trouble for -”
“Promise me, Nicole,” she’d say. “Promise me that when you are in danger, you will run.”
I collapsed onto the ground, holding my head in my hands. I’ve never done this before. Where do I go? What do I say if people start asking?
“Run,” I said to myself aloud, answering my own question. “Run until your legs can get you as far away from Silverton, Ohio as you need to be.”