Looking back across the soccer fields from my vantage point of the ditch, I began to second guess our plan. My friend Katie and I were only third graders after all, we had plenty of time to ditch school when we were teenagers. But it had seemed so important that we do it, really run away and live off the land. And not run away just any day, but that particular day. It was so important that we had neglected to bring any supplies. Well, I had a pencil and a bit of string from my pocket lint to entertain us and help us survive.
Only I was getting sick of sitting in the tall grass of the ditch. I wanted to sneak under the wire fence at the end of the ditch, but Katie had arrived at her limits. I huffed at her and wondered why she would give up so easily. Wasn’t she the one that went to the bathroom first to give us an excuse to meet up? I had watched carefully from the doorway of my classroom until she exited hers, and then I grabbed the bathroom pass and bolted. She seemed surprised in the bathroom when I told her it was time to run. I guess she never really thought we’d do it, but she agreed and out the door we went. We didn’t want to go on any major roads, so we had cut across the kindergarten playground to the fence that bordered the school yard. The old irrigation ditch was my idea. Katie needed a break and I didn’t want to get caught, so in the ditch we went.
“Why don’t we just go back now?” Katie whined.
“No,” I thought, “We can’t stop now!”
“Because we’ll get in trouble,” I declared diplomatically. Then, trying to figure out a way to get her to agree to leave, I told her to lie down and take a nap. I figured she’d be more willing when she woke up, and I wouldn’t have to convince her to stay every five minutes. It was mid morning, and all the little kids were at recess. I wondered if anyone had even noticed we were gone. I figured they hadn’t yet because no alarms sounded and everyone seemed to be perfectly normal. I sighed. I had thought that they would miss us a bit more than that.
We stayed in that ditch for hours. Katie eventually slept, and I found some sweet peas and was trying out their taste. Everyone came out to lunch recess, and trickled back indoors for their afternoon classes. That’s when Katie decided she’d had enough. Frankly, I was bored out of my mind. This was not supposed to happen. We were supposed to be in the mountains by now, not in some smelly ditch. Katie declared her independence and got up to leave. I glared at her, readying myself to convince her to stay, but shoved her down instead as I saw someone coming our way. It was the custodian, and he was searching the playground and corners of the soccer field. I wondered what he was looking for. I figured some kid lost their watch, or someone had gotten sick or hurt. We watched him curiously, Katie becoming more impatient as he got closer. Finally, he was nearly on top of us. Katie wrenched out of my grip and ran up to him. He looked amused as he asked us what we were doing out there. We made up some story about playing hide-n-seek and simply not hearing the bell to come in. He took us to the principles office where we repeated the story. The principle spoke to us kindly, and then called our parents to let them know we were ok. When our teachers came to get us back to class, mine looked at me suspiciously and said “What I don’t understand, Leisl, is that you said you were playing hide-n-seek at recess, but you left before recess.” “She’s on to us,” I thought, deciding right then and there to dislike her.
The next day Katie confessed and presented brownies to both teachers and the principle. I was furious– she had caved! And beyond that, it made me look bad. My parents had grounded me. They had almost called the police, and had gotten my oldest brother out of high school to aid in the search. They mentioned kidnappers, which I hadn’t thought of before, but sounded pretty dangerous. I wondered if the school would have sounded an alarm if we had been kidnapped.
I felt pretty guilty about our lie, and was pretty peeved that Katie wasn’t even grounded. Eventually, all the pressure of the guilt ate at me, as well as lessons of honesty in church, so I decided to confess. I did it fast, so I didn’t have to taste all the words.
“I lied.” I mumbled to my teacher on the way to music class.
“What?” she asked, startled.
“I lied, ok?!” I said exasperated, “there was no game of hide-n-seek. I’m sorry.”
She didn’t look like she forgave me. I knew I should have given her brownies like Katie did. She didn’t even look very happy with me, and I still wasn’t allowed recess for a couple more days. I decided that even though I was sorry, I still didn’t like her.
Katie and I didn’t try to run away from school again. But as soon as I wasn’t grounded any more, we went right to work on devising a plan to catch some robbers.