I started running away at 12, the first time was to Edinburgh.

I was standing in the school office, numbing up for the inevitable telling off, and there they were, a huge roll of grass green dinner tickets sitting staring at me. They were even the colour of money. The 6th form prefect, deep in her own self-righteous story, undoubtedly a fantasy of praise about to be bestowed upon her for reporting my latest indiscretion, wouldn’t have considered how swiftly I might have stuffed anything of value into my school bag. Just too easy.

I couldn’t wait to tell Jana. Jana was a late comer to the high school. Who knows how she ended up at such a posh school, but the way she told it, her story began and ended with the fact she was a gypsy. She looked it with her dark, gold speckled green eyes and sallow skin but then she had this one canine tooth in her massive slightly jutting jaw that gave her a devilish appearance. I wouldn’t have been surprised to catch her doing voodoo if she thought no-one was watching. Later, she certainly got her claws into my boyfriend: “I just asked him if he wanted to see my tan and when I showed him my belly….” As if animal lust was mitigation for breaking a girlfriend rule. Anyway, I found her, and working on my shifty eyed squint, I said. revealing the booty under my blazer:  “Look what I’ve got! We’re selling them!”. There was no protest and gamely forgetting that this was a school for young ladies and not those of the St Trinian’s ilk, either, that’s what we did. We sold loads. Later when the inevitable summons came, we knew someone had snitched, I said: “Let’s not even go there”. We sneaked out the back next to the bicycle sheds, walking with nonchalant upper bodies and sneaky striding legs all the way down the back lane that separated the tall town houses from the mansions on Albyn Place. Out of school bounds we openly scooted down the back streets to Aberdeen joint station and jumped on a train. Phew!

You could do that then, no barriers, no turnstiles, no security guards looking for runaways and fraudsters. We simply got on board then stayed in the toilet the whole journey. In my head we were going to London although neither of us had thought to check the sign at the front of the train. It turned out the train only went as far as Edinburgh.  During those three hours or so we took off our school shirts and ties, stuffed the ties in our school bags, wore the shirts back to front so that the front looked like white polo-neck, hitched our skirts up so they were miniskirts and turned our school blazers on inside out. That’s what we did. I think I was 12. We walked around Edinburgh for a while, it was amazing yet overwhelming, we got scared quite quickly and reported ourselves to a policeman who took us to the police station and phoned my dad. Dad told me later, how with hardly any petrol in the car and freewheeling as much of the way as he could, he drove all the way down to Edinburgh to fetch us. A farmer topped us up on the way home. I didn’t see the love then, I only saw a jailer come to take me back to custody.

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