It was a familiar feeling that she had experienced throughout most of her life.
She purchased her first bus ticket at the age of 17 with only a backpack hanging off her shoulders after years of feeling trapped in her life. There was no room for baggage that reeked of judgement and expectations set by her strict parents. She had entertained the thought of breaking free from her family’s lifestyle before.
It took an unexpected pregnancy to getting disowned by her parents and being left with no choice but to put her baby up for adoption. Maybe if her life had been different. Maybe if her family had been more supportive then maybe she would have kept her child and got to learn how to be a good mother. The maybes and what ifs had drove her to a breaking point. That was the moment she turned those idle thoughts of running away into a reality.
Freedom to choose how she wanted to live her life. A chance to heal and discover who she truly was as a person. She could finally break free of being molded into her parents’ idea of the perfect daughter. It was a much desired fresh start for her.
With the money she had withdrawn from her account, it had been enough to get her out of the state of Maine. It was blissful weeks of traveling from town to town by bus before realizing she needed to do something about her rapidly depleting cash. It was a regret that she hadn't taken any of her family's money or any items to pawn off. She was wanting to distance herself completely from her family because everything felt tainted. It was something she felt she had to figure out on her own without being dependant on anyone else or their money. She just needed to think of how to proceed with this new wandering lifestyle of hers.
She had settled into a small unknown town and checked into a cheap motel in search for work. After a few months of working, she would quit her odd jobs and ride a bus to a new location. It went on like that for several more months until she was left relying solely on the income she was making. When payment for her motel rooms began coming up short, she wrestled with her pride and began staying at a shelter.
It wasn’t the life she had envisioned when she dreamt about running away from home but she had stubbornly kept at it for a good year because honest work had to pay off. She had to prove to herself that she hadn’t made a mistake to leave. She couldn’t face the possibility of being a failure again. She had to make it work no matter what. That didn’t stop the creeping doubts and the unhappiness she felt about her living conditions but those thoughts had to be pushed aside for her to continue forward.
Her 18th birthday had come and gone. There was no cause for celebration as she was constantly working at her waitressing job trying to save up money. She felt stuck in place. She wanted to pick up and travel to the next designation but she’d been struggling to get the amount of cash she needed. Her wanderlust wanted to steer her back toward the east coast of the country. However, prices were steadily rising and minimum wage was still minimum wage.
Finding people willing to pay her under the table had been difficult because she was obviously a stranger staying in a close-knit small town where everybody knew everyone. It was the longest time she had been forced to stay in one place. She wanted to get back into visiting new cities, seeing new sights and creating memorable moments. She just needed to figure out how to improve this new life of hers and to find a much happier balance.
She never would have thought that her new life would lead her down a criminal path.
It was after she had just finished her shift waitressing at the diner one day. She was walking down the sidewalk heading toward the shelter when someone had suddenly bumped into her back and made her stumble.
Her patience had been worn thin that day and she remembered the urge to lash out the way her HBIC self would've had to anyone she thought beneath her. Instead she shoved her hands into her pockets and glared at the rude man that was in an apparent rush. Then a sudden realization hit her.
Her wallet was missing from her pocket.
“Hey, asshole!” She yelled without a thought. “Stop!”
The man that she believed stole her wallet glanced back alarmed before taking off into a run. She cursed under her breath as she ran after him, weaving in and out between startled people to close the distance between them. Her heart was matching the pounding of her feet against concrete. Her eyes were still locked onto the fleeing man’s head, seeing him stumble after shoving another person out of his way before turning a corner.
She pushed herself to run faster, not wanting to lose him from her sight and quickly turned the corner to see him running across the street and nearly getting clipped by a car. She wasn’t going to let some thieving punk get away stealing what little she had made from her shift. Maybe it was foolish and dangerous, but those things did not enter her mind. It definitely should have entered her mind when she crossed the street to follow the guy into an alleyway.
“Give me my wallet back,” she demanded. “Stop right there!”
To her surprise, the man actually slowed down to a stop, looking out of breath, and holding tight to her wallet.
“Will you stop?” the robber huffed back out in return.
She stopped a few feet away, taking in the pickpocketer with his dark blond hair and hunched over form. She frowned at seeing him shoot her a look of annoyance.
“What? Give me back what you stole,” she held a hand out to receive her wallet back.
“Stop chasing me,” the guy suggested before straightening up with a tired sigh. “I need to work on my cardio, dude.”
“I will if you just hand over my wallet and we can pretend this whole thing didn’t happen,” she stated, her hand still outreached and waiting. “No, hey, what are you doing?”
The pickpocketer had opened her wallet and was looking at the contents inside
“No way,” he scoffed. “I ran and nearly got hit by a car for this? You made me run ,” he pointed accusingly at her before tossing her wallet back to her.
She caught the wallet and took a quick peek inside to make sure nothing was missing.
“Are we forgetting that you stole from me? If anyone is going to point fingers, it’s me. You started the whole thing,” she shoved her wallet back inside her pocket and pointed firmly back to the person responsible for the whole incident.
He waved her off and gave a slight nod. “Yeah, but then you actually chased after me and didn’t give up like most people eventually do. It’s not usually worth it to them to risk going after me. The fact you didn’t stop had me thinking I pocketed gold but no,” shaking his head in disbelief, he chuckled. “No. You chased me to get a measly $11 and change back.”
“Are you crazy?” he questioned.
She had no idea how she found herself in this situation. What backward world did she accidentally stumble into? How was it that the person that robbed her was now laughing at her misfortune and asking if she was crazy? Maybe she was but she’s pretty sure this wasn’t how an expected situation between a thief and their victim would go.
“You just failed to rob me because you can’t run more than a block away. What makes you think you have any right to judge me? You have no idea what sort of life I live or how hard I’ve been working to save up what you called measly dollars. It all adds up!”
The failed pickpocketer raised his hands in attempt to ward off the growing tension.
“Oh shit, I meant no offense. I'm just shocked at how this is playing out too. Maybe that's the reason I found myself targeting you to pickpocket. You intrigued me. You're certainly not from around here, are ya?”
Suddenly she felt herself being scrutinized by the stranger before her. Feeling exposed was not a feeling she enjoyed. Certainly not by some criminal trying to charm her or whatever he was attempting to do.
“I think you should know that I used to be the Captain of the Cheerleading team. You're pushing to learn first hand why everyone envied how powerful my kicks were.”
It was very tempting to release every ounce of stress and frustration out on this guy by kicking him repeatedly between the legs.
It made her smirk when he took a wary step back.
“No need to bring violence into this. I'm already positive you'd kick my ass.” He sheepishly shrugged “Look, I'm just trying to say I've been in your position before. I know what you're going -- hey, no, wait!”
Quinn had turned away ready to leave the whole bizarre situation behind and not wanting to hear how this person could possibly relate to her situation.
“Please, hear me out.”
She hesitantly paused in her footsteps but didn't dare to turn and look back at him.
“I was homeless. Long story short, I got mixed up in a bad crowd and did drugs when I was younger. Because of that I lost everyone that I cared for because they didn't want me around anymore. They did the right thing.
It took me awhile to distance myself from all the bad. I slept in alleyways like this one and sometimes in shelters when there was space. I tried to turn my life around but people would took one look at me, see a homeless bum and wouldn't hire me for a job. You'd think the fact I was seeking work would have clued them in that I was trying to change that.”
Hearing that had made her finally turn back around to show that he had her full attention. It was a startling reminder that she had been lucky enough to find space in the local shelter so far. It hadn't even crossed her mind that eventually there would be days where shelters would be full.
She couldn't imagine having to sleep outside in dirty alleyways or on a park bench. It became an even scarier thought because she was a young attractive woman which unfortunately left her more vulnerable to the dangers of being sexually assaulted or worse.
“It all changed for me one night. I was starving and it was getting colder. I probably wouldn't have survived the winter if I hadn't been so desperate to survive. It took this well off looking asshole that basically told me to get a job when I asked for a few bucks to get myself a meal.
I… snapped. It's not a moment I'm proud of but after scuffing his fancy suit up, I took his wallet. I got my necessities and got the hell out of that city. I don't have to worry about my needs anymore. I can focus on enjoying life and not only on survival.”
It was unfortunate that it took having to rob someone all for the sake of survival and fulfilling your needs. However, she couldn't even be upset at him for having done that. If that had been her…
“If I had been in your shoes in that moment, I think I would've done the same thing.” She admitted, feeling torn about the morality of stealing from people, even from assholes that kind of deserved it.
“I see you're kinda conflicted about it. I get it and that's a good thing. I've not let myself forget that morally, it is wrong. Life isn't black and white though. It's all different shades of grey and people are usually a contradictory mess.
This is not the life you wanted for yourself. I can see it. You're unhappy and you're unable to move forward. Don't you want to have the freedom to seek what you're looking for without things like money holding you back?”
That hit a little too close to home. He was right. She just wanted to be free and discover what this life can truly offer her. To travel far and wide, creating new wonderful experiences that she'll cherish forever. This was not what she envisioned when she ran away. But could she really pick up this certain lifestyle and fight her morals so she could live a more comfortable life?
“So, how ‘bout it? Are you ready to pursue the life you truly wanted? We both know that this is not it. By the way, the name's Chase.”
He smiled warmly and offered his hand to her to shake. It was suddenly a major life changing decision. She could just walk away or take his hand into hers and take a leap.
“My name is Quinn…”
Having made the decision, she shook the hand of the man who would soon turn into being her mentor and a trustworthy friend.