TITLE: Rules for Running Away
GENRE: Middle Grade Realistic Fiction
My whole life, Mom told me that my dad was dead.
But all this changed the day I found that letter in the recycling bin. There was my name, Annie Berger, below Mom’s and stained in oil. Care of Ellen Berger. Apparently, she hadn’t cared enough.
I tugged the envelope out from under a bottle in the trash. The left-hand corner, where the return address should’ve been, was torn off. Wasn’t it illegal to throw away someone’s mail? I dug deeper.
“Hey!” someone said.
I jumped back. My chest was throbbing. “You can’t just walk up on people like that--”
“Sorry, Big A,” Mom’s fiancé said.
It was the most annoying nickname. Every time he said Big A, I heard, You’re fat. Which I wasn’t.
“What’re you up to?” His grape-colored yoga shorts matched his sweatshirt.
“Recycling! Gotta take care of the earth, you know?” I swallowed and told myself to act normal.
“Right on,” he said. “I didn’t hear you come home. I was meditating. I must’ve gone into another world.”
Craig was always in another world. Thanks to him, our East Village walk-up was a yoga shrine. He’d dragged our TV to Goodwill and lit incense in its place. He’d purged everything in our kitchen, including my unopened box of Lucky Charms.
Dairy gave him gas.
MSG made him break out in hives.
Pecans gave him headaches or heartaches or something.
Our home, where I’d lived all my life with Mom, was now sugar-free, dairy-free, pesticide-free, and smoke-free. I’d give that to Craig: thanks to his herbal remedies and woo woo, Mom had quit smoking, although the other day, I swore she smelled like tobacco. Behind Craig’s back – I mean, behind his butt – I called him Health-butt.
I’d never get to the bottom of anything with him around. “Mom told me you held a headstand for two minutes the other day,” I said.
“ Almost two minutes!” He laughed. I could see where one of his front teeth was chipped.
“I bet you can beat that record.” I reached up and gave him a high five.
What a relief when Health-butt unfolded his sticky matt in the living room with a slap. I dove back into the recycling and as my two minutes ticked by, I pushed little scraps of paper under my shirt. Then I raced into my room.
Every girl knows the best hiding place is in the back of her closet. Crouched on the floor, I taped together the bits of paper.
I’ve written to you tantas veces... Tantas veces?
Even though I looked like the kind of kid who spoke Spanish, with my jet-black hair and big brown eyes, the only word I knew was hola. Taping that letter together was like doing a garage sale puzzle. A few pieces were missing, but even with the holes, I had an address:
P.O. Box 3939, Philadelphia, PA
R.J. Blanco, it said in black jellybean letters. That was my father’s name and one of the few things I knew about him.