Home is Where the Heart is"

Chapter 4 THE RUNAWAY

When Grace came down for breakfast the next morning, the whole family except Carrie were already sitting at the table.
“Ma, can you help me read this?” she asked “I found it by my bed”. She handed a letter to Ma, who looked really surprised. She read the letter out loud.
“Dear Grace, I’m really sorry I have to leave you like this, but I can’t stay anymore. I think you’ll all be better off without me. Love, Carrie”. Ma almost fainted as she read the letter.
“Isn’t your sister upstairs?!”, Pa asked Grace. He was so worried he was almost yelling.
“No, I haven’t seen her this morning”, Grace replied with tears in her eyes. “Has she really left us?”.
“Oh, Charles! What are we going to do?” Ma said.
“We have to stay calm. I’m sure we’ll find her”, Pa said. “Cassandra, you take Grace and go to school, all right? Albert, you and James will have to help me look for Carrie. And Caroline, you stay here in case she comes back”. Everyone just nodded.

When Cassandra walked to school with Grace she couldn’t help worrying about Carrie. Sure, she was angry with her, but she still didn’t want her to get hurt, and she didn’t really want her to leave them. Grace’s talking didn’t help either.
“Where is Carrie? Isn’t she ever coming back? Why did she leave?”. Cassandra didn’t know what to tell her.

While Charles went to look for Carrie at the railway station, Albert and James went around town looking for her. The boys walked around the streets, asking everyone they met if they had seen her. They also checked all the places where they thought she might be hiding.

“I hope we find her soon”, Albert said.
“Yeah, well at least we get to miss school”, James commented.
“Well, I don’t have time to miss school, James. Besides this isn’t a joke, I’m really worried about Carrie. We’re not in Walnut Grove anymore. Something could happen to her”, Albert said.
“I wonder why she ran away”, James said.
“I don’t know”, Albert replied, “she didn’t used to be like this. She’s changed since we came here”.
“Yeah”, James said, “Cassandra has changed a lot too. Maybe we all have.”

Charles was getting really worried. He had asked for Carrie at the railway station, but no one there had seen a young girl with long dark braided hair. Now he had borrowed a horse and was riding along the north road that led out of town, calling out Carrie’s name every other minute. Out of all his children Carrie was the one least likely to run away, or at least that was what he had always thought. He remembered the time Laura had run away, many years ago. It was shortly after little Charles Jr. had died, and he still had nightmares about finding Laura dead out in the woods. She had been gone for two days when they finally found her alone up on a high mountain. Laura insisted she hadn’t been alone, she said a man named Jonathan had taken care of her. She was convinced that Jonathan knew God, and Charles was almost inclined to believe her. After all, it had to be some kind of miracle that his little girl was alive and well up on that mountain. Even Albert and James had run away together once, and James and Cassandra run away from their old foster parents, but Charles had never thought Carrie would run away. She had always been such a happy and sweet girl. Not the kind of kid who got into trouble. Unless you count that time she fell into an old mining shack when she was little. They were all terrified they’d never get her out of there alive. But when they finally got her out she was just fine. Although she had always been afraid of the dark after that incident.

Charles kept calling out for Carrie, as he rode along the road, but there was no reply. It was one thing to run away when they lived in Walnut Grove, but Burr Oak was a big town. Anything could happen to her!

At the same time Carrie was walking on the very same road, just half a mile ahead of her Pa. She was wearing an old, pale, blue dress, and for once her hair was hanging loose on her back. She hadn’t had the time to braid it when she sneaked out of the house early this morning. The only things she had brought with her was her new dress, and some food and water. Her plan was simple. She was going to walk back to Walnut Grove. It might take a few days but it would be worth it. She was sure Laura wouldn’t send her back to Burr Oak once she told her how horrible it was living there. She smiled when she thought about her sister, but she soon stopped smiling. The road was long, and Carrie’s feet were getting soar from walking for such a long time. But Carrie didn’t want to take a break too soon. For a moment she wondered if anyone was looking for her. She knew her family must have noticed by now that she was gone, but she didn’t really think they would care enough to look for her. “They are probably just happy to get rid of me”, she said out loud to herself.

Charles had just decided to turn around and ride back to town to arrange a search party, when he all of a sudden saw Carrie walking on the road ahead of him. But when he called out to her, she started to run. But she couldn’t outrun his horse, and she soon gave up and stopped.

Charles got of his horse, and gave Carrie a hug.
“Carrie, what’s going on? Why did you run away? And why didn’t you stop when I called?”, Charles asked her.
“ Cause I didn’t want you to find me. I was going to go home to Walnut Grove. I didn’t think you were going to look for me…” Carrie replied. She was crying, but she looked a bit angry too. Of course her Pa would make her go back home now.
“What?! Have you got any idea how far away Walnut Grove is? There is no way you can walk all the way! And how could you just leave like that? Burr Oak is your home now. “, Pa said.
“No! It’s not my home, it will never be my home! I hate it, and I want to go home!”
Charles looked hurt. He was happy his daughter was all right, but he was shocked to hear what she had to say. He knew she wasn’t as happy as she had used to be, but he didn’t think things were this bad.
“We can talk about your behavior later. Lets go home now”, he said. He lifted Carrie up on his horse, and they started riding back to Burr Oak.


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