Runaways – Mileva Anastasiadou

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Dad asked me to play along. He said we’d play runaways.
I wasn’t sure mom would approve of the game. She never liked hide and seek or chasing after me.
“You’ll leave tonight,” she said.
She waved from afar, watching us leave.

We walked for hours.
“What happens if we win?” I asked. Dad stood still for a while, pondering.
“A better life is the trophy,” he replied.
That sounded worthwhile.

We walked for hours.
I asked dad to stop for a while. I was tired and hungry and cold.
“We can’t stop now,” he said. “We’re almost there.”

He took off his jacket and put it on my shoulders. He offered some water and a piece of cake.
“That’ll do,” he said and urged me to keep walking.
“Don’t you want us to win?” he asked.
“We haven’t come this far to lose now,” I told him and he smiled like he was proud of me.

We walked and ran and crawled.
Until men in uniforms appeared, pointing guns our way and I wondered if that meant the game was over.
“They’re on our side, son,” dad whispered.
They didn’t seem on our side.
“Stay strong, I’ll come back to find you,” he said wiping a tear with the back of his hand, before the men took him away.
Dad promised he’d come back, yet he didn’t. That was the last time I saw him.

I’m now trapped; I’m in a zoo, only this time, I can’t leave. Sometimes I feel like a lion, strong and proud, even in a cage, yet I mostly feel defeated.
“We will win in the end,” I hear dad’s words from time to time. Other kids tell me it’s not a game. Yet I still believe dad. Dad wouldn’t lie to me.
Only this game doesn’t feel like fun anymore.

About the contributor: Mileva Anastasiadou is a neurologist, from Athens, Greece. Her work can be found or is forthcoming in many journals, such as the Molotov Cocktail, Jellyfish Review, Sunlight Press (Best Small Fictions 2019 nominee), Ghost Parachute, Gone Lawn, Ellipsis Zine, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Bending Genres, MoonPark Review, Litro and others.

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