Slowly she opened her eyes. The dark, dank space was familiar, a place of isolation, a place she had sunk into before, a place to flee from those who tortured her. A hiding place all her own. She ran to this place in desperation. She had nowhere else to go. She needed this place to rest, to breathe, to gain courage to run again.
Magnolia was just fourteen when she started to run. Lost from her family when young, she found herself living in a one room shack at the end of an isolated mountain road. She had been there five years, with a couple who insisted they were her aunt and uncle. But she knew better. No relative of hers would have stolen her from her Ma and Pa, and taken her away. No. No one in their family had ever been like these two. Little did she know what was to happen to her when she agreed to go to the hospital with them, “because your Ma and Pa have been in an accident. Come with us. We’ll take you to them. The hospital contacted us to find you.” It had all seemed so real back then. If only she had run from them!
Five years. Magnolia had always been a compliant child. Doing what she was told. Trying to please. Desperately needing affirmation and love, as do all children. Yet the kind of love and demands these two made on her had begun to be frightening. Something deep inside her rebelled, threw up warning signals in her soul that she did not understand. It was confusing, bewildering, and only through building walls of defense around her crumbling self could she go on. Sure, she did the chores, and complied with their demands, for that was what she had been taught to do, yet a whispered voice inside kept repeating itself, “This is wrong.”
Magnolia had no idea where she lived. Only her name, Magnolia Evans, was hers. Her new family had changed her name to Priscilla Barton. It had been a game they played, they told her; then decided they liked to call her Pris instead. “It fit’s you,” she was told. And so it was.
Hiding in the small cavern she had found on a rare day when her captors were away, Magnolia had freed herself from the prison walls of the locked shack, deciding this was the day to run. She had had it. Bruised and beaten for the last time, something had welled up inside of her that said, “Enough!” She had listened and observed well over the years to know that the road had to lead to somewhere. Were her parents really dead as she had been told? She had wondered many times, thinking that surely they would rescue her from this horrible situation if they were alive, yet year after year no one came.
It had been surprisingly easy to slip away this day. Sure she was unconscious they had been a little lax as they left and locked her in. No ropes this time. Little did they know she had learned to fake unconsciousness, really a wall of defense as she pulled inside herself to withstand what they did. It was a survival mode that seemed to come naturally from down inside of her. And it worked well, like an insulating blanket that kept the abuse outside her being. However else could one endure such treatment? It was unbearable if one actually stayed in the moment and experienced it. No, it was better to withdraw deep inside, behind her own closed walls.
Dark now, Magnolia knew her time had come. The cavern was well away from the shack, and though the couple never mentioned it, she knew she must go before they returned. Her plan . . . follow the road and the river, but stay far away from sight. No way would she be caught again. There was only one way to find out if her family was still alive . . . to run from beyond the walls, and seek the truth for herself.