The sand was cool inside the wreckage, cool and smooth and almost silky. The sun had fallen below the horizon a couple of hours ago and despite planning to be awake, Leelah Chaplin was not. Above her, beyond the cold and rough metal of the downed vessel was a blanket of stars that went on to the edge of infinity before circling back around again.
Next to Leelah, a little red headed girl was wide awake, lying on her stomach and examining barely perceptible grains of sand in the palm of her hand, like she had been doing for nearly an hour. She would slide her fingers into the ground, pull them upwards and let the sand flow through them until there was but a pin head sized grain resting on the tip of her finger.
She did this for 40 minutes after waking up, she always woke up before everyone else. Even as a runaway she was still up before her other runaways and this girl Leelah hadn’t even noticed her shifting about and rattling her belt cantina with every movement.
Adaline rubbed her hands together to get the sand off and sat up in the gloom of the small crawl space that she and Leelah were in. She yawned and began crawling along through the former cargo deck, pushing away wires, maneuvering around beams before coming to the opening she crawled in through and wriggled through it.
She emerged into the biting chill of the open air, her pores gasped and her eyes closed against the sandy breeze. The night was receding and the morning was approaching. Streaks of red and gold were seeping into the coal inked sky above and In the developing pearlescence of the sky, a silver swift stroke of a moon could be seen disappearing below the horizon.
It had been just less than one day since Leelah had found Adaline hiding in the carcass of the ship and in that short amount of time since being discovered she had felt calmer than she had in days. Not being spoken down to just because she was young felt good but she was still shy, her fear and anxiety kept her from saying more than a word when all she wanted to do was chat incessantly.
She missed her parents of course though their lack of compassion and controlling pessimism made her feel hollow and unaccomplished. She didn’t hate them and in many ways she missed them but she didn’t feel obliged to like them particularly either.
There was a tang of guilt as she realized how fervently panicked they must be, it was the third day since she had gone missing and no-one but this sleeping girl and maybe the truck driver whose truck she stowed away on knew where she was.
She wasn’t technically missing from her own perspective, she knew exactly where she was and she knew exactly how she got here. At the very least, to her, she was just lost. The vehicle she had stowed away on had taken her west, she knew that much and when it stopped to unload its produce, she was pretty sure that was Dipper Canyon. After that, though, a sand storm meant that she had stumbled about for hours and that’s when she couldn’t place her location.
This wreck had been her shelter and point of reference until now, but once Leelah had arrived she was able to place that she was a short distance from Truman and a trudge away from the outer bowl.
She wasn’t quite sure where she was going to go from here, all she knew was that she had to see Glass Town with her own eyes to believe it, then she could make everyone back home believe it and she would be the hero girl to everyone at school and maybe get her family to stop being damn pompous.
Yet right now she was stuck, unable to fathom the next part of her journey. Leelah had said that she could accompany her but she had only laid out plans as far as Dipper Canyon, then she had fallen asleep.
A part of Adaline thought about scoffing at the thought of these Dust Folk and their silly ways but she corrected herself and instead scoffed at herself for thinking too much like her parents. There was something about this girl that she trusted, whether she helped her on her journey or not, she knew that she was intrinsically good.
There was a sudden noise from behind and a voice drifted out from the wreck. “You were supposed to wake me”. groaned Leelah as she stepped out and stretched, sliding on her jacket before sitting down next to Adaline.
“Sorry bout that” sighed Adaline as Leelah held out a sticky golden bar wrapped in foil which she split it between them. There was a moment of brief quiet as the sun rose higher into the sky, the inked heaven slipping away. Once they had stopped chewing Leelah yawned and stretched her arms above her.
“Did I miss much?”
“No, I mapped out the route” She removed a fold of paper from a dress pocket and handed it to Leelah who frowned at it then began nodding.
“This is pretty impressive for a, how old did you say you were?”
“Well, that’s nice, you’ve got all the coordinates and distances. I don’t even know that stuff” She handed the paper back to Adaline, who pocketed it. There was a pregnant pause between them as Adaline drew her legs to her chest and sat staring out across the desert.
She liked this girl, she was friendly and seemed smart, if only her own shyness didn’t feel like a hindrance. Adaline rarely spoke to anyone that wasn’t an adult, when she hung out with other kids, they were always too spoilt to get along with and they never acted like kids anyway.
Leelah was older, yes, but she’d already been playful and fun, cracking jokes even when they were in a scary situation. So why didn’t she feel like she could just talk?
Adaline realized that she had been quiet for a while now and that maybe it looked like she was being rude or weird. Luckily, before she tried to force the words out, Leelah spoke up first.
“I know we didn’t talk much yesterday, Is everything ok?”
“I didn’t want to appear too eager” Adaline spoke softly, her dry lips barely opening with each word.
“I can be shy too. I know I was surprised to see you but I was just glad you were friendly I didn’t want to overwhelm you with questions” Leelah dipped her hand into the sand and moulded it in her fingers.
Adaline looked up at Leelah and a feeling of safety washed over her “I was happy you were friendly too” They both smiled at each other.
“I know you’ve been through a lot but I just want you to know that I’m going to keep you safe” Leelah held out her hand and after a brief pause, Adaline grasped Leelah’s open palm.
For the first time in a few days, both girls felt positive about their situation. Though they were runaways, by being together, it felt like a hard journey had become easier.
“Ready?” asked Leelah chirpily. Adaline nodded and stood up, brushing the sand off her impractical for such conditions dress and grabbed her bag that had been brought outside.
There was a look of determination between the two as they set off up the nearest sandy bank heading east. Neither of them knew quite what to expect at Dipper Canyon and neither of them had any particular goal but to simply escape. After that, neither of them knew, except that they wanted to do it together
In the back of her mind, Leelah was looking for Ellis and though she had vowed to keep her safe, Adaline was perhaps a distraction, a slight one, but a distraction none the less. But she just couldn’t leave any child on their own, not in the wilds of the Dust Bowl, nor with dangerous animals wandering across the plains, most of all, not with Glass Town approaching.
As usual, feedback is welcome. Sorry for the delay, it was my birthday last weekend and I wanted to keep this to every Sunday. I’ll soon post an update on my creative writing schedule. Check it out 🙂