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Claire

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A stab of pain pierced Opal's side as she tried to roll over in what used to be her sleep awoke her. She must've fallen asleep sometime after her run from her family. Sleeping on the grimy grey tile, which had once been white but she was much too young at the time to remember it, of her bedroom floor, during the evening and early morning hours had let the chill of last night seep into her bones. Her tiny body felt achey as she got up, the momentum of her hands meeting the ground to push herself up tossing her sticky pigtails in front of her face momentarily, all the straw colored hair in the two pigtails moved as one piece as if each strand was melded together like she were a plastic toy. Peering out her window for a moment, standing on her tiptoes to do so, from her sleeping spot near it she could see a reflection of what she wished for most in the world staring back at her. Maybe, if she could find whatever this Opal's burgers thingy was she'd meet the family she wanted there?

She'd have to wait a long time for that. It was still dark out and because of her family's nocturnal habits they'd likely still be awake. She scuffed her shoe on the floor in frustration. T.V always helped pass the time, but grandpa had firm control over it. So she searched in her closet instead tossing the clothes covering it’s floors around before finally finding her crayons.

Pealing back the flowery wallpaper, with the help of one of the many holes in the wall, she set to work. Perfect! She skipped away happily when she was done. “Claire!” The resounding shout from her grandfather froze her in her tracks. She stepped as gingerly as possible down the stairs, cringing at every squeak or squeal they let out.

The only thing left to do was avoid the wrappers on the damp carpet to avoid letting anyone know she was out of her room. It took a lot of stretching over the garbage, but she did it. She stood and listened to the voices on the television her, allowing her grandfather’s raspy breaths to become background noise. Hearing aforementioned breaths even out she slowly shuffled to the door slipping out as quietly as possible. “Claire is that you?” She heard her mother slur as she stumbled down the steps of the stairs. Opal froze up, only the sounds of her father coming down the stairs as well jolting her into action. She walked briskly out the door before they could see her. She looked up again stepping away a bit to see the billboard. “7 miles” it told her with an arrow pointing to the direction the would sun set in each night.

Off she went, her too small shoes cutting into her every step. As she got further and further away from her house she realized how cold it was out. Everyone she saw around her was at the very least wearing a scarf or sweater. She was bored. Counting the sidewalk pieces could be fun!

1..2..3..Never mind that. Fear started to grip her as she continued walking. Could she get there? Would she? She sweat even in the chilly middle of autumn that had almost finished its transition into winter.

She gladly took a seat at the bus stop, ignoring the strange glances from those around. She tried to count the little grains in the cement before she noticed the warmth of a giant thing next to her. The bus, she realized. As the bus stopped it might as well have been a snow day! Running out of the bus, almost tripping over and falling on her face multiple times over the legs of the jungle of adults surrounding her.

Ignoring her legs almost being jello themselves she pressed on to freedom! Only to smack face first into the door and fall on down. Getting up she wiped away tears and tried to open the door again. Nothing. The door didn't give.

She tried pulling. Then pushing. Still nothing. Face burning and vision blurring she hit the glass door repeatedly until it hurt too much to continue. Giving up she let out a shriek, flopped herself against the door, and slid down the glass as she wailed.

Her head flew a few feet back from the glass in a blur of motion. Wincing and covering her face away from the sudden and startling bright light from within the building it took some cooing from a soft voice to convince her to get out of the almost ball she was curled in. Looking up at the squatting man in front of her she squinted. Mom used to tell her not to talk to strangers, but this one looked nice. So she hesitantly stood up when prompted by the stranger.

"Hey, um, what are you-what are you doing out here." He stuttered. She starred up at him when he returned to his full height, simply pointing to the inside of the restaurant. "I don't think I can let you in there." Not waiting for an answer she pushed past him. "We're closed!" She starred at him blankly. “Um, alright. I guess I’ll get you some water.” She nodded. He knew he couldn’t let the kid out of his sight for long. She looked dirty, malnourished, and seemingly came here without her parents. He grabbed a cup and filled it with water. Returning to the girl he guided her to a table and set the cup of water where she could reach it. She hastily grabbed it and did that thing children do when they’re very thirsty and don’t want to stop drinking so they start panting. He moved the cup away from her lips. “Whoa, whoa, slow down.” “Hey! Is this place open!” A customer shouted. The little girl, started by yelling got up from the table and ran. “Come back”. He held up a finger signaling for the person to wait before he ran after her. She sprinted, chest heaving while trying to outrun the person chasing after her.

Turning corner after corner she found a swinging door that let to a wonderful smelling room. She sat on the tile, attempting to regain her strength. Burning lungs forcing her to stop she took in her surroundings. The white tile shone, she could even see her reflection in it! This would be a much nicer spot to go to bed in.

On that note the red wallpaper was in perfect condition. As she thought it was an improvement. Now for the smell. She recognized little yellowish sticks people are in the commercial she watched, but these were in bubbling water. People ate these right? This was food?

Shaking she plunged her hand into the liquid. It was surprisingly warm. Perhaps a bit too warm. It burned. Wrenching her hand out she pulled it to her stomach.

The world wobbled around her as time started skipping. The floor rapidly came towards her face one moment, then she floated away from it, and a person mumble-whispered something. Everything moved around her. The trees past her by. She was in a car. “It’ll be ok. It’ll all be ok.” The person next to her repeated, to comfort them both it sounded like.

Then she was in a hospital. A bandage wrapped around her arm where she put it in the boiling oil. “We’ll have to call the police and have her legal guardian investigated.” Came a voice she didn’t know. The blue curtains around her fluttered as to show their presence before revealing themselves. They opened to a nice looking doctor and the man she met at Opal’s Burgers. They both wore concerned eyes, but she felt better than she had in a long time. “Hello kid, can you tell me what happened?” Opal stared at her with large eyes and shook her head. A long time later, some scary people, a lot of paperwork, and a long line of adults later she was told she would be getting new parents.

In her case specifically a dad, the man who she had met that day at Opal’s. Now she had clothes that always fit perfectly, not too big and not too small. Just right, like the story book her new dad read to her said. She hopped out of her warm, fluffy bed and started getting ready for school, her now short hair fanning around her face. Her father laid out a breakfast of pancakes for her and had her bright pink backpack ready for her. Before she could even say good morning to him, he started to brush out her hair, she sighed exasperatedly. She then sat down to eat with her father, before dashing out of the house exclaiming “See you after school, Dad!” on her way out.