The job gave me cred with my fellow students, gave them fewer reasons to bang my head against a wall for being an American in their country (we did not have an anti-bullying curriculum back in the day), and gave the owners the weekend off, when they handed me the keys one Saturday and said, "You're in charge."
I used the money I saved to buy my first ever pair of sweet ass kicks. I had walking around money. It allowed for travel beyond the 10 ride clipper card my mother gave me for the bus each month. I cruised record stores, met up with friends, explored the nether reaches of the town, going to places so far away I rarely made it home for dinner on time. My parents barely batted an eyelash the night I ran away the first time. "I'm going out," I said, at 730pm on a Wednesday. I wondered how long it took for them to realize I was not coming back.
The first thing I did when I left the house was walk up the enormous and hilly road that led to the village. I went into the off-license and bought a can of Shandy. That's right, beer and lemonade, considered tame and totally legal for a 14 year old to buy. I walked across the street and entered the telephone kiosk, just like the one in Dr. Who, except red. It was raining, so I had to take shelter. I looked through the remaining change in my hand and decided to risk an investment in calling my Biology teacher. She was a friend, someone who realized I was getting the shit kicked out of me at home and took an interest in making sure I wasn't murdered or at least called my house if I didn't show up to school after a few days. My attendance was spotty; I was truant for so much of high school until the headmaster decided I was underutilizing my capabilities, made me a Prefect, thus giving me daily responsibilities to come to school for - lessons alone not being enough of an incentive.
I still had trouble staying there most of the time.
I would arrive, do my tuck shop job, then go to my form room for registration, making sure I was there to guide the students in an orderly manner during change of class, and if it was English, Geography, Religious Studies, History, Chemistry, or Biology, I would go to a class, otherwise, I would leave, right after I dropped off the big ledger off to the Registrar.
My Biology teacher sounded mildly hysterical the night I called her to mull over my next steps. She offered to come get me. I turned that down. She offered to call a social services person. Also turned that down (later, when I returned home, as all children must, unless the state steps in to save them, my mother told me flat out I would be raped repeatedly if I ever ran away again, reasoning that I would be sent straight to a children's home). I did not let this deter me from running away three more times and once back in America, they ran away from me. Problem solved.
I wouldn't agree to anything on the phone that night. I only wanted to hear her voice. I wanted the reassurance of someone else caring for me to know as I was about to leap into the unknown, that I wasn't entirely alone. I walked a few miles past all the bags of glue hanging from the trees (glue sniffing was big in the 80's as was heroin, but when hasn't heroin been big?). I walked through the council houses, through the rough parts of the village until I arrived at the row of houses of two youth leaders from church. They opened the door and didn't ask any questions. They took me inside and got me something warm to drink to de-ice me.
The youth leaders called the pastor. The pastor, a guy who hated my dad, called for my presence. It turns out the pastor was the father of my boyfriend, so it was just a little awkward to arrive in their foyer with now 4 youth leaders in tow for a conference in the dining room. The pastor was trying to frame my father for some bad stuff he actually did, but once I realized they weren't there for my well-being, I lied and pled the fifth. I spent the weekend at the home of another youth leader who had two other girls staying for similar reasons. The two girls had invested most of every day at high school bullying me; I wasn't sure if I was in the frying pan or the fire. Further, given lack of space, I had to share a bed with one of them and I got my first kiss that night. People are abusive for a surprisingly large array of reasons, it turns out.
The pastor had a heart attack years later. He worked so hard to oust the former pastor, to gain control over the congregation, among which existed a subversive list of dark characters doing things they should not, my father one of them. I am still waiting for those things to be shouted from the rooftops, and who knows, maybe one day, I will do the shouting.