No sooner did they place Ronald J. Chaney into the ground did his daughter Meagan make her escape: from the crowd of mourners, from her mother, from everybody. Perhaps even from herself.
She wasted no time in leaving the funeral once she threw the white rose down onto the coffin. Her mom had claimed she couldn’t attend, said that it was all too much to bear. Meagan, by consequence, had to bear it all alone. There was no one there she knew anyway, no reason to stay. Her dad, well… he was already gone. So with a solemn face, and a straight back, she turned and walked away. As she did that, she made a vow to herself: Just me,myself, and I. From now on, no one has my back but me. No one is my friend, and no one is my savior, and it’s just as well. I’m living for MYSELF, no-damned-body else!
“Friendly fire” was what they kept telling her, every time she asked what had happened. It was a term she hardly understood. “How do you ‘accidentally’ shoot somebody that’s on your own team?” She once demanded this answer from a school counselor, who had been assigned to Meagan during the school days to help her get through her “trying times.” But all Ms. Nelson — a young, twenty-something with a brand new college degree — could say in response to such a question was “It happens a lot in the military, unfortunately.” In a soft, overly sympathetic tone, she’d drone on: “There are many reasons. A weapon can just discharge unexpectedy, for example…” Several months into the so-called therapy sessions, she would transition into the tougher “Look, this isn’t going to get any easier for you, but it will become manageable” speech, complete with “We can focus on the negative things, and all of the things that have already happened and are beyond our control, or we can put our focus into the more positive: How can you control your future? How can you do something that will make your daddy proud?” That, of course, would lead into the lectures about going to college. Meagan was talked at so many times about college that year that she resented the hell out of its very existenece.
And in that time period, Meagan learned to be resentful of basically the entire world and everybody in it. She would have several angry outbursts — in class and during her hour-long segments with Ms. Nelseon. As a result, she lost a lot of the kids she used to hang out with and talk to before her father’s passig, because they feared she would hurt them. School administrators called for psychiatric care, but it wasn’t soemthing Meagan’s mother believed in nor could afford.
In Karen, it is believed that something snapped psychlogically, catapulting her into a deep, depressed state for the remainder of her life. She became utterly useless, barely making a sound, and all but ignored her own daughter’s very existence. It left Meagan feeling neglected, more lonely than she ever had at any other point in her life. After all, her mom and dad were the only two people she ever really had in this world. At just sixteen, she suffered the remainder of the school year before running away. A backpack filled with everything she owned slung over one shoulder, she didn’t have to sneak out at dawn. She crossed the threshold of the front door, in the middle of the day, with the only adult supervisor sitting in a chair in front of the kitchen window, staring out into nothingness. Meagan would have called someone for Karen, have her placed in an institution, but she refused to get herself placed in the foster care system. Instead, she crossed the neighbor’s lawn and left a note on the door: IT’S MEAGAN. I’M LEAVING. FOR GOOD. TAKE CARE OF MOM. GET HER SOME HELP. With no more reasons to stay in that North Carolina town, Meagan disappeared for good.
To accomplish her first goal, all Meagan had to do was hail a cab and get to the airport… which was deep in the city and about an hour drive from the town she was in. It was no problem, though, since Meagan had been saving up her money for this moment. She would have just enough. As the cab pulled up at the curb just outside her mother’s house, Meagan ran for it like there was no tomorrow.
She did at least have a specific destination in mind: Chicago. Why there? For no other reason than a friend at school had mentioned it. Well, not really a friend, the girl was barely an aquantance. And she didn’t really just mention it. She offered Meagan an extra ticket to come along, and also to stay with her at her father’s multi-bedroom mansion. “My dad won’t care,” she stated sourly. “He hardly pays any attention to me.” Meagan thought she was just bragging about the mansion, and also questioned her motives for being so kind. Really, though, what choice did she have? This was the only opportunity she was going to get if she wanted to strike out on her own. Not wanting to leave her friends in North Carolina, Katrina Wayworth had been able to make a deal with her dad, who had moved to Chicago for his job. She was to stay with her auntie Carrol — whom she couldn’t stand — during the school year and in return she would return to visit him over the Summer. Daddy Wayworth had also been providing Kat — as she liked to be called — with a more than sustainable allowance, provided on one of his many credit cards. “It’s got a thousand-dollar limit on it,” she had once bragged to Meagan in art class. She was a spoiled rich kid, no doubt. With violet red hair that went down just below her shoulders and existed in spiraly curls, big, brown eyes, and a pair of breasts that were more than just handfuls, she was pretty much everything a horny teenaged boy dreamed of. Meagan’s impressions of her weren’t all that great — in fact, she though her peer to be pretty shallow — but enduring a twelve-hour bus ride with her seemed to be the ticket to freedom. She put no thought into what she was going to do once she got to the city, other than to probably ditch Kat once she got there. All Meagan knew was that she desperately wanted to start over.
The trip to Chicago wasn’t nearly as bad as Meagan had thought. For one thing, Kat met her as promised, and she did indeed have a ticket for her fellow traveler. It was Meagan’s first time boarding a plane, and boy, was it exciting! Kat shared her first time riding on a plane, then the girls talked about other first-time experiences — a lot of which Meagan hadn’t experienced yet — until the conversations grew more serious. Kat talked first about her annoying aunt, since Meagan was less than enthusiastic about opening up to someone who was still a stranger. After hearing Katrina’s stories of her crazy fights with her “insanse psycho freak” of an aunt, Meagan identified with that feeling of “being trapped” and “like no one ever understands me.” So she decided to see Kat’s crazy aunt with her own addicted mother, and raise her a father who was almost always gone on military exploits and trainings only to die and leave his tiny, broken family behind. She even confided to Kat that when she had left for the bus station, she left her mom “wigging out” at home and “had to ask the neighbors to get her into a psych ward or something.” Meagan wanted to sound just as cold and unattatched as Kat, even though on the inside was neverending hurt, a trick which seemed to work. “Wow,” Kat said, looking sheepish after a long pause. “I would have shut my trap about my own problems had I known how bad yours were… No offense.” Meagan didn’t have anything to say to that. Kat put an arm around Meagan’s shoulders. “Let’s make a plan. You can forget all about your life back there. I know a guy — he’s my boyfriend, really — who can help you get a job. If you wanna finish school, my old man can help you get your GED. Swear to God, he’s cool like that. And like I said, he won’t be the wiser. I’ll just tell him you’re staying for the summer, and he’ll buy it. Carlos will help us figure it out from there.”
It all sounded really good to Meagan… Still, she wasn’t sure she could trust this girl. Or her folks, if she was even telling the truth about them. At any rate, Meagan had no chance at this point to make another escape today: Waiting for them at the bottom of the escaladors in Chicago’s air port was none other than Kat’s father.