Paul was seventeen. His Mum’s new boyfriend, the antipathy of his sisters who were too young to understand what had happened and the fact that their father was a useless waste of time who in any case was the devil knows where, were all the stimulus for him to make a break. He left his family at Altona outside Melbourne and hitchhiked his way not to Sydney where everyone would imagine he had gone, but to Adelaide. He had never talked about Adelaide. He chose this city because the one person who meant anything to him said she came from there. That was Megan Watts, his teacher at school a year or two back. She was the one person that talked to him and encouraged him to do what he wanted in life. He felt a special bond with her. She won’t be there but at least no one will look for me in Adelaide.
He hitched the 800 kilometres using highway 1. The first lift only got him as far as Horsham, the next dropped him at Bordertown. The last leg got him put down at the Old Toll House at the end of the freeway with directions to walk down the last few kilometres to the city which he could see in the distance. It looked magnificent with the high rise buildings standing tall and the line of the sea stretching away in the distance. Everything was so bright and clean and green. Every street was lined with trees. Even the Jacarandas were in blossom.
And now less than two weeks later after sleeping down by the River Torrens or in the parklands that circled the city he was finally in a bed again! And clean!
He looked up at the paint flaking from the ceiling. The dog which had chosen to sleep in his room made snuffling noises in his sleep and he could still hear Maisie fiddling about in the kitchen.
OK, so her cooking was a bit basic, the house certainly needed a tidy up but for once in his life he felt good about things. He went through his possessions again. I’ll have to give her some money for board he mused as he took out a small torch from his backpack. He unscrewed it and tapped the body against his hand so as not to make a noise. Instead of batteries a tightly wound up roll of notes dropped into his palm. “I’ll give her $50 to start”.
“I’ll never go back, not in a thousand years” he murmured. He got up, went to the door and switched the light out then felt his way back to bed. Even Maisie was quiet now and night fell on the household.