Running: Chapter One

Hazel woke up and knew something was wrong. She climbed out of her bed and walked across the dusty cement floor to a window covered by cardboard. She peered through a sliver she had left to see outside. Her eyes searched the bushy landscape and stopped when she saw the three figures approaching the rotten wood door. Silently she grabbed her floppy backpack, and was once again glad she had slept in her clothes. 'Gotta jet' she thought as she slid through the back window out into the cold dawn. Suddenly she shivered, realizing how close she had been to getting caught. Hazel turned away from the shed and started running down a well-used path, her long golden hair trailing behind her.

Hazel had been running alone for a year, ever since They had taken her mother. She wasn't sure what she was running from, all she knew was that when They had taken her mother, she had screamed for Hazel to run from them. If They got her, she was as good as dead. Or worse.

The shed that Hazel had found, on the outskirts of bush, had been her home for three weeks. She didn't know if she had any other relatives because she had been running with her mum for her whole life. Thirteen years of only knowing one other person. Until now. She was alone, with no one.

Hazel reached the edge of the bush just as the sun was rising above the unknown horizon, but she didn't stop there. She ran onto a dirt track that obviously hadn't been used for years. Searching into the horizon, her vividly blue eyes spotted smoke rising up into the sky. 'A town, maybe!.' Her legs were aching from running though the bush, but she took in a deep breath and kept on running. Never stopping. Never looking back. Until she reached the town.

It was around seven in the morning and Hazel was in the small town of Cintay. She looked at the town's surroundings. There was a General Store, which seemed to have been freshly painted, a small Motel, what looked like an old abandoned school, and no more than seven houses. On the outskirts, to the left was lush green grass and rolling hills. To the right was a dense forest.

She sat down on a bench and opened her pack, to see what she'd lost. Her few clothes were there, the money she had gained a few months ago working in a shop, her brush, a large water bottle and the pocketknife her mum had given her when she had turned thirteen.

Hazel walked into the General Store and looked around. No electric lights were in the store. Light came through the glass at the front and a skylight. But it was still quite dark inside. No one seemed to be in the shop so she walked around and got necessities. Food, mostly cans of soup and some savory biscuits, and some matches. She walked over to the counter and rang a bell. No sooner had she done that, when a woman came out of a room at the back of the shop that Hazel hadn't noticed at first. She was tall, large in the stomach with light blonde hair and piercing eyes.

"I didn't hear you come in", she said looking suspiciously at Hazel.

"I didn't want to disturb anyone, so I didn't make too much noise", Hazel explained. The woman looked at her, giving the impression that she didn't quite believe Hazel.

"Are you staying in town?" The woman asked.

"I don't know yet", Hazel evaded the curious question. She didn't trust anyone.

Quickly Hazel paid for the items and walked outside. She felt the woman's eyes boring into her back as she walked back over to the bench. But when she sat down and looked into the shop, there was no sign of the woman.

After she had eaten, Hazel walked out of the town at the far end. She wanted it to seem like she was leaving. 'Not that anyone's watching', she thought. But she didn't see the pair of grey eyes watching her. Hazel was going to stay in the town, at the deserted school. But she didn't want anyone to know that, especially not that woman. She walked into the forest and turned so that she was walking back towards town, but no one could see her this time. The school would be on her right, so she stayed near the edge of the forest and walked quietly along, searching for it. Finally she found it. She was in a cement playground, which now had grass struggling to grow out of cracks in the hard surface. Rusty metal benches were scattered around what used to be a canteen. There were ten classrooms, connected to each other by a wooden veranda that faced the bush that was on Hazel's left. 'This is great, I'll be able to blend in and the forest could be an easy escape route.' She smiled as she walked along the wooden veranda to the last classroom. 'Perfect.'