Following Emma
Grace, Age 11, Henderson, NV

I was standing in the corner when I saw her. I saw Emma. With her torn and dirty jeans and her patched shirt. Her hair was like a rat’s nest, brown and all tangled. She always wore the same shoes, pink and green hand-me-down Converse with holes in the toes.

You see, Emma did not have a wealthy family. I don’t know if she had a family at all, anymore. She always played by herself at the park and never went to school because nobody signed her up, not her aunt, not her uncle, nobody.

Nobody played with Emma, either. All the kids ran from her when she came close. Each kid had a different reason for running. They said she smelled bad. She looked scary. Their parents told them she was no good. Or they ran because their friends did. Some kids were mean just for the fun of it.

Emma got teased, too. She was called things like “smelly” and “homeless.” One boy called her “a joke.” She didn't think it was very funny.

I was remembering this, when I saw her leave, and so I followed her.

Emma was traveling far from Nevada. She went past the bright signs of the strip, and I followed her. She got on a train, and I followed her. When she got off the train, I still followed her. California is a long way from Las Vegas.

That’s when Emma caught me. I saw her looking at me and she smiled, but not a sweet smile, an angry one. She was missing a front tooth.

“You've been following me,” she said.

I looked away.

“Go home!” she screamed.

That’s when she made a run for it. I ran after her all the way to the southern part of California. I saw her looking around to see if she lost me, while I hid behind a tree, panting and catching my breath.

I watched her pull a map from her back pocket and carefully unfold it. I guess she’d been planning this for a while.

We walked for another three miles, me about ten steps behind her, until we arrived at a small bus station where she sat on a bench and waited until a bus stopped for her. Then she got on. Then I got on. It was about ten hours before she got off, and I got off, too. We were in Mexico. I could tell from a sign on the wall and all the people spoke Spanish.

When Emma climbed into a taxi, I got one, too. I followed her all the way to the gray and grainy beach, where we snuck onto a big yellow ferry boat. Birds followed us while we rode for another thirty minutes. That’s when Emma suddenly dove off the boat and was swimming fast towards an island. She seemed to know where she was going, like she’d been there before.

The island was a tropical forest, green and lush and beautiful. It smelled like the sea and fresh lime. The waves crashing the shore sounded like welcoming drums. The sand was hot under my feet. The short beach was deserted, but from the forest came the sounds of life, hundreds of birds of all different kinds and colors, screeching beetles and long-nosed monkeys. And there would be people, too, Emma knew.

I raced behind her into the trees, up the hilly path, jumping the creek and running across the rope bridge that led to the village, and to my family. I ran! I screamed! I cried! I hugged them so tightly, I would never let go!

You see, I am Emma. 

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