After walking for a half hour, Alex turned into a small park that was two blocks away from her friend Stacy’s house. Stacy was usually an early riser, even on the weekends, but seven thirty was too early to go ringing doorbells. She walked up to the swings that hung silently in the still morning air like gallows ready for their next victim and plopped down in one of the cracked plastic seats. It bent under her weight and when she lifted her feet off the ground, the swing began a lazy pendulum trip forward and back.
Alex and Stacy had spent many days and evenings on these very swings when they were younger. They were perfect seats for trading gossip from school and for the two of them to bitch about their families. Once they got bored of talking, they would spin around in place and watch the chains curl around each other only to let go and spin back to earth with arms and legs spread wide, staring at the spinning sky until they fell to the ground laughing at the dizzy feeling.
There were a few times when Alex had run here with Stacy after school to avoid her grandmother. It wasn't that Grandma hit her all the time. And it wasn't like she could even feel it anyway. To that extent, what Grandma had said yesterday after smacking Alex across the face was the truth. But while Alex couldn't feel the physical pain, her emotions were much more fragile and having to look in the mirror and see a bright red welt slowly turn into a purple bruise hurt her more than the physical pain that she couldn't feel. The fact that Grandma had such little respect for her and treated her literally as a punching bag was more than Alex could handle.
Alex’s heart skipped a beat as she looked up to find the source of the voice.
“This swing taken?”
Stacy grabbed the chain supporting the swing next to Alex’s and slowly sat down next to her. Alex relaxed a bit knowing that her friend was nearby. They sat in silence for a few minutes, Alex staring at the same six inches of the ground under her feet as she swayed gently back and forth, Stacy looking around the park and trying to figure out what to say to Alex.
“Where were you last night?” Stacy asked.
Another minute of silence.
“Where’d you go?”
Alex didn't answer this time. She was already getting tired of being interrogated and didn’t look forward to all of these same questions if the cops ever caught up to her and brought her back to Grandma’s house.
“I don’t want to talk about it!” She said it a little more forcefully than she had intended. “I ran away.”
The silence returned for a few minutes as Stacy had understood the underlying message that the conversation about Alex’s whereabouts last night was over and it would be pointless to try and continue it. After a few minutes, Alex slid out of her swing enough to set her feet on the ground.
“Can I borrow a few clothes?”
Stacy put her feet down too and let a big smile spread over her face.
“Yeah, come on.”