It's hard to explain what those first few minutes were like, as I made my way across the field to the neighbors. I had a million emotions - fear, anger, sadness, grief, excitement, and uncertainty, just to name a few. At any moment, I expected the sliding door to open and the back yard lights to go on. I expected one of the boys, or - worse- my father, to hop on the ATV we kept in the yard. Looking back every step, though - all I saw was a quiet house. No one had noticed my leaving, even though I was sharing a room at this point. In hindsight, I've always wondered if my sisters had slept through my feverish gathering (maybe they thought I was gathering clothes for a late night load of laundry?) or if they knew I was leaving and knew I was unhappy? Either way, they didn't stop me or raise any alarm.
My neighbors were shocked to see me standing on their porch. Mr. and Mrs. Kline* (pseudonym) had had their doubts about my family for years. They'd called protective services one day after watching my dad dole out a punishment to my brother. Protective services did nothing - deeming the incident to be within the scope of parental discipline, but the Kline's intervention made a deep impression on me. I knew someone was watching our family. The Klines also made attempts to talk to my mother and us girls whenever they could. My father would speak about how nosey they were and how they were "the wolves". Mrs. Kline worked and my father would use their childlessness as an example of how worldliness "deprived a woman of her Godly appointment". As I came to discover, Mrs. Kline was infertile.
I stood on their doorstep and explained, or tried to, that I had been engaged and I didn't want to be and I was hoping they could help me get to my brother. Mrs. Klein told me later that she would've adopted me that night but Mr. Klein was rightfully worried about taking in a minor. He said we should call the police or call my parents. I opted to call the police because I knew calling my parents would only result in them calling the police to make me come home.
The police came and listened to my story. I will never forget their kindness. One of the officers was female - a rarity for our town at that time- and I think it was God's gift to me that she arrived to take my statement. Both she and her partner were disgusted by the possibility that things were the way I said it was (being forced to accept Adam's proposal) but they kept it professional and said they were going to go talk to my father. I told them I didn't want to go back home and stammered that I feared being sent away again. The Klein's confirmed that I had disappeared for a few months not too long ago and the cops took that into consideration. They went to my father's house to get his side of the story.
My father was irate and demanded that I be returned to him or he would "retrieve me" himself. He demanded that it was all a misunderstanding (his favorite excuse) and that if he could just talk to me, it would be fixed. When the officers repeated my fear of being sent away, my father told them that was silly because the previous detention had been my choice! He produced a letter I'd been encouraged to write my parents telling them how grateful I was for being sent away. The female officer had the wisdom to see this for what it was. She started asking about our family. She wanted to talk to my mother (who was standing in the room, not saying a word) in private. My father allegedly told my mother that was not wise and my mother wouldn't answer in more than one word answers. The female officer suggested that maybe we all needed the night to calm down. For whatever reason, my father agreed and I stayed at the Klein's.
The next morning, my mother arrived bright and early to retrieve me. Mrs. Klein asked if I wanted to leave and as much as I wanted to go to my mother, I knew I would be punished for my stunt. I told her I didn't want to leave but I knew I couldn't stay and she said Mr. Klein was handling that. What I didn't know at that moment was that Mr. Klein had already gone to retain an attorney on my behalf.
To make a long story short, within two hours, the cops arrived to take me home (a different set of officers this time) because I was a "run away". Mrs. Klein explained the situation and the officers told me I had a choice - go home or go to their offices and file a report against Adam and my father. I chose the latter. It was my first time in a police car and I was terrified. Mrs. Klein followed us in her car. As we passed by the front of my house, I saw my mom and sisters watching through the windows. It was humiliating and I can only imagine what my father was saying in the background.