The envelope I'd found with the address on it was almost ten years old. I had no way of knowing if my uncle and aunt still lived there. Nor did I know if they'd be happy to see me. I knew that my father and his only brother Wes had had a terrible falling out when my parents were excommunicated from our old church for their belief in the fundamentalist doctrines, and I knew that there had been no contact between our families for years.
Yet for some reason I felt confident that I would find some way to survive. I had just the bare minimum of clothing and enough money to live frugally for a few days, and no back-up plan if I couldn't find my uncle or he wouldn't help me. But the fact that I'd gotten this far -- that I'd managed to get away at all -- made me feel like I was ready to face any challenge that was thrown my way in search of my freedom. It wasn't clear whether this was bravery or innocent foolhardiness...
We continued traveling all morning, and in the afternoon the bus finally arrived at the bus depot in the south of Provo. I attentively studied the local map on the wall. I was still too far away from my uncle's house in Orem to go on foot, so I figured out exactly which local bus lines I needed to take to get there, and parted with a chunk of what little money I had for the ticket.
Riding towards Orem, I dug through my old memories for anything of my uncle and his family. The only image that really came to mind was sitting on a dock with my cousin Sam, floating some toy boats in some sort of pond or lake. Then I remembered Sam's older brothers Matt and Spencer pushing both of us into the water and laughing. Typical kids' stuff. I couldn't remember anything more.
Getting off at the bus stop and walking towards the house, things started looking strangely familiar. It was definitely the neighborhood where I had visited them so long ago. But that didn't mean they were still there.
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"This is it..." I thought to myself as I finally reached the house. I stepped up onto the porch and rang the bell.
A blond boy my own age answered the door. Looking at his features, I could barely make out that it was Sam.
"Sam?" I asked.
"Yes?" he asked, looking at me blankly.
"Sam, don't you recognize me? I'm your cousin Joe. Joe Hobbs."
He looked at me a minute, seeming to just barely comprehend. "Joe?"
"It's me, Sam. Don't you remember? We played together as kids."
"But we thought you were... I mean..." He seemed confused and flustered as he stood there taking all this in.
Then a voice came from inside. "Well, don't just stand there staring, Beavis! Let him in."
"Won't you come in?" asked Sam, showing me into the living room where a slightly older guy was sitting on the couch watching a baseball game on T.V. I figured it must be either Matt or Spencer. Sam went and sat by him, so I took a seat in the nearest arm chair.
"Hey Joe, what brings you to our neck of the woods?" asked the other guy.
"I ran away from home."
"Really?" asked Sam. "And where are you planning on going?"
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