I try to run faster than I had yesterday. I lift my feet as soon as they touch the sidewalk, not wanting to waste any time, and also to push my exhaustion as far as I can, because the beach is just a few meters ahead. I can feel the saline air on my face. There, my legs would stop running, and then my mind would start.
Everyone on this planet has an escape. Escape from their lives, their present that they didn’t accept. Escape from school for the young or from work for the old. Some even wanted to escape their past, and some, their future. Everyone had different mediums. The desperate took drugs, the stressed took alcohol, and the naïve took the playground. I was young too, only thirteen, but the park held horrible memories for me, remaining as scars on my knees and elbows. Bullies and stupid kids were dangerous.
Instead, I escaped through dreams.
It was my favorite word. Dreams. I loved dreaming, and my favorite place was the shore. The ocean was limitless, like my dreams. There was no end, no paved way to follow. Most eyes would seek the finality, the horizon. But my eyes would seek the mystery that lay beyond the horizon, the unknown and the unseen. I loved to stray in imagination of what was behind the curtain of this sky.
Sometimes it was just innocent daydreaming, sometimes it were strong hallucinations. I inhaled the magical, salty, but fresh scent of the vast ocean in front of me. Then, I would let my mind wander into the distances unknown. Of Vampires, werewolves, witches, wizards, goblins, elves, fairies, angels, demons, princes, princesses, kings, demigods, martyrs, and the woods, the castles, the cities, the villages, the clouds. Of the real mixed with the unreal.
I called myself a ‘nefelibata’. The one who walks on clouds.
These dreams were precious to me, as a toy was to a child. I didn't trust my memory enough to record them when they flowed from my mind. So I penned them down. The thin translucent images in my mind were drawn to perfection. Stories were spun on paper from the same pencil. I called it my book of dreams. No one knew about it. Not my parents or any of my friends. No one even knew about my daily escape. I didn’t want anyone to find me when I was in my favorite place at my favorite time, twilight.
But there was also guilt. I had to lie to my parents to come here, because they would always want me to sit home and study or play physical games to remain fit. They reprimanded me heavily the one time when they saw sand on my shirt and discovered that I had been to the beach alone. It was dangerous, they said. Another day, when I had told them about my dreams, they shook their heads and said that this would detach me from reality. And that I would never know how to be tough. I never believed them. But when I told them this, they locked me in my room.
That's when the lies started. Mild lies, going to a friend's, making a project, group studies, were common. I was struggling to come with more original ideas of excusing myself.
I reach the beach. The sun is just a little above the horizon, at the same angle as everyday. I take my usual place at the bench on the shore, since I don’t want to risk getting sand on my clothes again. I place my book beside me and pull up my knees to my chest and stare at the horizon and the sun approaching the ocean.
I let the exhaustion wash over me, and the zephyr through my hair. I love this feeling.
Today, I want to forget many things. The time when I got up late for school because of the nightmare last night. The moment when I answered the question wrong in class and everyone giggled. The second I fell on my knees while playing football. The lie I told my mother ten minutes ago, that I was going downstairs to play with my friend. I stare at the sky as it turns golden yellow, then golden orange, then crimson red, then blood red, to…
I never realize when I fall asleep.
Where am I? It is so dark.
I sit upright, to feel the coarse sand sticking to my clothes. It is too late!I am supposed to be home before night falls. What will I tell them? My gaze drifts the shops of the beach. The shops are bright, neon fairy lights decorating their stalls. There are two people though, running frantically around, talking to the vendors. They look familiar.
My parents? My parents!
My father looks furious. He shouts at me badly when he is mildly angry, but this was definitely not mild. I can see him throw his hands up while talking to a stranger. Fear freezes me. I can feel myself sweating, even though it is cool. I am scared.
I feel my heart pounding in my chest. I want the waves to wash me away, as they did to the princess in one of my dreams.
“Leia!” It startles me. Oh God, they are looking at me now.
Not looking, but blazing me with their looks, even in the dark.
Last time, my mother had broken a glass in anger, when I told them I went to the beach. But, I can't face them here. This fury was too much. I can’t face them now. I have to- I have to run.
As quick as I can, I gather my pencil and notebook together, and run off in the opposite direction. And I just run, away, away from them.