Nate slept late the next morning. When he woke up the house was quiet. He could not hear anyone downstairs. He got up and looked around, the family was all gone. Nate went into the kitchen where there was a note from his mother “Gone out to pick berries. Be back after dinner. Love, Mom”
Nate crumpled up the note and threw it into the trash. He poured himself a bowl of cereal and went into the family room and flipped on the TV. SpongeBob was on. Nate laughed as he ate his cold breakfast. But the show quickly lost his interest. He put his empty bowl back in the sink and wandered back upstairs. He looked into his parents’ bedroom and saw their unmade bed. He found himself drawn to it. He snuggled into the covers and pressed his face into the pillow of his mother.
The scent brought good memories with it. He lay there and remembered when he used to be loved by his family. He remembered being a little boy and lying in bed with his mother and father. His mom would wrap her arms around him and hug him tight. She called him her little man. He would giggle as they rubbed their noses together.
Nate found himself crying again, just like he did at the waterfall. Nate wanted to know what had happened, why things had turned out the way they had. He did not understand why he was not loved anymore. Had he changed that much as he grew older? Or was it the fact that he hadn’t changed but everyone else had?
Nate rubbed the tears from his eyes and peeked out from under the covers and spyed his mother’s scrapbooks on a bookshelf across the room. He went and found the one with his name on it, taking it back to his parent’s bed.
There was a picture of him on the day he was born. As well as ones with him and his older brother and sister holding him the day he came home from the hospital. Nate could see how excited Stephen and Beth were to have another brother. There were lots of pictures of the three of them with their parents. Then John joined the picture and they were a group of boys with their beloved sister, Beth. John fit right in, they would all play together and have fun. Life was really good. There were pictures of birthday parties and Christmas celebrations. Nate’s mom also had some pictures that he did not know that she had taken. They were pictures of him doing things around the house like playing outside or sitting with Grandma and Grandpa, playing with his younger brother, John. There were pictures of Nate with his mother when she was pregnant with the twins. Even one of when he brought his mom breakfast in bed when she was on bed rest. His mom had captioned it “My little man.” The scrapbook pretty much ended there. There was nothing of the homecoming of the twins or of the move. He just did not understand it. Nate put the book back up on the shelf and laid back down on his parents’ bed. He must have fallen asleep, because the next thing he heard was the back door slamming and laughter coming from downstairs.
Nate was confused as he awoke, not recognizing where he was. He quickly got out of the bed. He could hear the family downstairs, laughing and talking. They were home early; well before dinner. He had not expected them back so soon. Nate went to his room and put on some fresh clothes and brushed his hair. He went down to the kitchen. Everyone was sitting around the island, but no one noticed him when he walked in the room. For a second, Nate thought that he might still be dreaming.
Karen and Kerry were the first to see him “NATE” they yelled in unison. They came over and gave him a big hug and started telling him all about picking berries. He listened just as a big brother should asking them questions about the berries and how many they picked. He knew that he would miss the two of them the most.
That evening they had breakfast for dinner with homemade blackberry muffins from the berries that the family had picked. Nate told Karen and Kerry that his muffin only had the berries that they picked, because theirs were the best berries. They giggled and started playing one of the games that they often played at the dinner table while the rest of the family talked about things of the day.
Nate was thankful that no one had asked about what he had done with his day. He didn’t know if he could bring himself to tell them that he had spent the entire day asleep. Especially, considering he was going to be heading out on a camping trip day after tomorrow; which reminded him that tomorrow as church. He liked going to church. He enjoyed hearing the lesson in Sunday school and singing the songs during worship. He was not looking forward to going to church tomorrow though. He was afraid that someone was going to ask him about his trip and that he would have to say something that might reveal what he was planning on doing. He did not want anyone to know that he was going to runaway.
Runaway, something about that word sounded funny to Nate. He hadn’t said that before, he always just thought of it as leaving, moving on to something different, but now, he could not deny it, he really was planning on running away. He had seen runaways in the other cities that he had lived in, but never in Brevard. He suddenly got concerned that he would end up on the streets like the kids he had seen in other places. Nate excused himself from the table and went upstairs.
When Nate got to his room, he locked the door and pulled out his money. He had been saving for quite some time. His parents made all of the kids get jobs as soon as they could, plus they gave them each and allowance. He counted out all his money and then remembered that he had the cash that he was going to use to buy his backpack that Stephen paid for. All told he had almost a thousand dollars. He wondered how long that would last him. Nate stayed in his room and created a list of things that he was going to need to get when he finally made it to the city on his trip. After everyone had gone to bed, he snuck downstairs and turned on the computer. He found a website that had the cost of apartments. Nate had just enough for one months rent, but he did not know what he would do about the security deposit or for food until he got a job and started getting paid. Nate had the feeling that he just needed to be patient and trust. He knew that people worked odd jobs along the trail, making money so that they could continue on their journey. Nate did not know how it was going to happen, but he knew that it would, because it had to.