Lisa Mallory, Lisa Mallory. It’s one of those names. The first and the last spill into each other. It seems funny now we met where we did. Sad funny, if that makes any sense. She laughed just like I did and she had more to lose. Some things are just born under a bad sign, I guess.

“Habitual runaway”. That’s what they call it at juvenile hall. I get mad, and I run. Or bored or sad. From juvenile they sent me to Opportunity House. That’s where we met, Lisa Mallory and me. There were counseling sessions three times a day. At the end, we all shouted, opportunity’s free!

We laughed at that. And we laughed at the name “Opportunity House”. Opportunity for what? To shout stupid slogans? To mop floors and wash walls, to be told how lazy and thankless we were?

To have strangers come into the room late at night, shine a light in our eyes; make us do jumping jacks and squat thrusts and Simon—to a man, they were bad but he was the worst—he stood there and watched us all squatting and jumping, while he rubbed it and stroked it and shined the light on it.

He was pale and his hair was the color of wheat. He was one of those men with a whip in his eye. But they were all bad, and we thumbed our noses, Lisa Mallory and me. And for every up yours and each fuck you and finger, they tacked on three days to our time in that piss-hole.

Lisa Mallory, Lisa Mallory; we walked hand in hand. Break it up, lovebirds, staff would say. We’d walk a few feet and hold hands again.

She was my golden girl; she was golden to me. In my eyes, there was no wrong Lisa Mallory could do.

It was a bittersweet morning when they told me, get packed. Get your things, you go home today. It took less than ten minutes; all that I had, I could fit in one bag. Runaway. Habitual. Hard to say now what I ran away from. But I was happy to leave Opportunity House, however I left. A sad kind of happy, if that makes any sense.

I was leaving behind my heart and soul; Lisa Mallory, Lisa Mallory. Where was my golden girl now.

I looked in the dayroom. The kitchen, the classroom. No Lisa Mallory. At the end of the hall, there was a room with a TV where they made us watch movies. “Sarah T.”, “Clean and Sober”. Movies like that.

His eyes were closed. His hair was the color of wheat. And there was my golden girl. Down on her knees.

I ran to the dayroom and plopped on the sofa. I stared at my shoes. Lisa Mallory. Lisa Mallory. How could you. How could you.

When I was a kid, sometimes my folks would ask Uncle Roger to babysit. He wasn’t really my uncle. Roger was a friend of my dad’s. He had blonde curly hair. Sort of long. I liked him. I thought he was cute. I was ten, or eleven. Open up for the tickler, Uncle Roger would say, and roll his finger around in my mouth. Pull it out with a “pop”. Then he’d touch me. It tickled. You know. And I’d giggle.

I had almost forgotten, until juvenile hall. They take a psych history. I’d never told anyone about Roger before. Why not, they asked. I tried to explain. It just wasn’t that bad.

Can’t you see, they all said, you’re still running away. And they sent me to that piss-hole where I met Lisa Mallory.

Good kitty. Kitty hungry, he’d ask.

Be good. Be still. Be good, she would say.

Almost…almost…oh what a good kitty...

That’s what Lisa Mallory would go home to, and soon. My folks would take me to a steakhouse for dinner.

I get it, I told her. It’s a deal with the devil. You keep Simon happy, and he keeps you here.

She looked at me hard.

What choice do I have.

There’s running, and there’s running. There’s abuse, and there’s abuse. And places like Opp House talk a lot about choices. Some things are just born under a bad sign, I guess. But between bad and worse, which one would you choose; it’s funny. Sad funny.

If that makes any sense.

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