EXT. SUBURBAN STREET – DAY

We open to a classic American neighborhood. The “American Dream” embodied. Lush green lawns. White picket fences. A spirited golden retriever frolics around a yard. A squirrel scurries up an oak tree.

Aside from the melodic CHIRPING of some sparrows, the street is DEAD QUIET.

THEN, walking up the street comes MARIAH (pronounced MA-RYE-UH), a 16-year-old girl dressed in all black. Wisps of electric blue hair jut out from beneath the hood covering her head. Her makeup is heavy and dark around the eyes like she belongs in a band. On her back, she carries a black RUCKSACK.

She makes her way up the street tentatively, well aware that she sticks out like a scarecrow in this neat and orderly neighborhood.

With caution, she approaches a nice three-story weatherboard house. She sneaks through the well-nurtured garden and around the perimeter of the property, ensuring nobody’s home. The driveway is empty. The coast is clear.

She tries to open the back door. It’s locked. Checking over her shoulder, she slides open an unlocked WINDOW at the rear of the house. She throws her rucksack inside and climbs through.

INT. HOUSE – DAY

Mariah picks up her rucksack. She’s quiet and light-footed as she surveys the ground-floor. There’s nobody home. Relieved, she immediately heads for the kitchen.

INT. KITCHEN – DAY

She opens the fridge. PHOTOGRAPHS and NOTES are plastered on the door, OUT-OF-FOCUS. Inside the fridge is a smorgasbord of food and leftovers.
She takes out a BAKING DISH of leftovers, sets it on the counter, tears off the cling wrap and begins wildly munching on a CORNCOB.

She half finishes the corncob and grabs a carton of MILK from the still-open fridge. She guzzles it down, straight from the carton. She sets the carton on the counter beside the dish and pulls out a tray of leftover ROAST CHICKEN. She strips back the cling wrap, rips off a leg and begins scoffing it down.  It appears she hasn’t eaten in days.

With a mouth full of chicken, she reaches for a roll of PAPER TOWEL on the counter. She wipes her hands and mouth and closes the fridge, satisfied for now.

She opens the PANTRY cupboard and begins filling her rucksack with all she can carry – GRANOLA BARS, CHIPS, COOKIES, a jar of PEANUT BUTTER. She zips up her rucksack and heads into the living room. The half-eaten dishes are left strewn out in a mess on the kitchen counter.

INT. LIVING ROOM – DAY

Mariah enters the living room. She sees some old children’s FINGER-PAINTINGS on display. PICTURE FRAMES, BOOKS, and TRINKETS are purposefully scattered around – it’s a cozy, homely place.

She sees an antique UPRIGHT PIANO in the corner of the room. It doesn’t seem like anyone’s played it in a long time. She removes the books and junk from the FALLBOARD and opens it up.

She sits down and begins to gently touch the PIANO KEYS. She PLAYS a few notes. The piano clearly needs a tuning. She takes a moment to familiarize herself then begins to play a sad but beautiful piece. She plays well, even though it seems to have been a while. She gets partway into the song and realizes she’s forgotten how to play the rest of it. Deflated, she stops playing, gently closes the fallboard, and stands up.

She makes herself comfortable on the lush leather SOFA and turns on the TELEVISION. Lying on her back, she clicks at the REMOTE, flipping through the channels. Nothing catches her attention. THEN, a TELEVANGELIST comes on rambling fervently:

TELEVANGELIST (ON TV)
Repent! Turn away from thy life of sin! Jesus died on the cross for thee! He took the weight of the world upon his shoulders. Yes, indeed! Hallelu–

Mariah changes the channel quickly. A baseball game comes on. She leaves the television on and gets up off the sofa. She heads upstairs.

INT. STAIRWAY – DAY

Mariah makes her way slowly up the staircase. The sound of the television fades away until we can’t hear it anymore.

INT. MASTER BEDROOM – DAY

Mariah enters the master bedroom of the house. It’s decorated quaintly, a little old-fashioned. Clearly an adult’s room. She scans her eyes around only for a brief moment then heads out.

INT. SECOND BEDROOM – DAY

Mariah opens a door and enters a second bedroom. It appears to be a young teenage girl’s room. It’s every bit as teenage-girly as one could imagine. Bright with daylight through SHEER DRAPES and littered with floral tones – pale pink, lavender, dusty blue. On the wall is a life-size POSTER of Johnny Depp. POLAROID photographs line a mirror above a dresser. On the dresser is a PERFUME BOTTLE and VASE of completely dry DEAD FLOWERS. MAKEUP accessories and cheap JEWELRY occupy nearly every surface. The BED is PRISTINELY MADE.

She looks around the room, taking it all in. She opens the closet – it’s full of CLOTHES. She looks in the mirror. The Polaroids are OUT-OF-FRAME AND FOCUS. She picks up the perfume bottle and sprays a little on her neck before putting the bottle in her rucksack.
She sits on the edge of the bed in a quiet moment of thought. After a while, she unlaces her DOC MARTENS, slides them off and lies down on the bed. She drifts off to sleep.

FADE OUT.

INT. SECOND BEDROOM – AFTERNOON

Hours have passed. Mariah is still sleeping. We hear a CAR pull into the driveway. The IGNITION STOPS and the CAR DOOR OPENS and CLOSES.

Mariah springs up in the bed, wide awake. She rushes to the window and looks out. She sees a woman getting GROCERY BAGS from the trunk of the car.

Mariah quickly grabs her boots and jams them onto her feet. She fumbles, attempting to tie the laces, then gives up trying. She grabs her rucksack.

EXT. FRONT YARD – AFTERNOON

MEANWHILE, KAREN (40s), the woman with the grocery bags, makes her way across the front lawn. She approaches the front door of the house, puts the grocery bags down and unlocks the door.

INT. HOUSE – AFTERNOON

Karen enters the house and hears the TELEVISION PLAYING. She carries the groceries into the living room, sets down the groceries and turns off the television.

KAREN
(calling out)
Honey, I thought you weren’t coming home ‘til later.

No response. She carries the groceries into the kitchen. As she enters:

KAREN (CONT’D)
Bill?

She sees the mess of dirty dishes on the counter. The pantry door is wide open. Karen sets the grocery bags down and closes the pantry. She heads upstairs.

INT. STAIRWAY – AFTERNOON

Karen makes her way up the stairs hesitantly.

KAREN
Bill?

She opens the master bedroom door and looks inside. She turns around and notices the second bedroom door is ajar. Fear washes over her. She slowly creeps up to the door and pushes it open. She sees the MESSY BED and BOOT-PRINTS on the floor and realizes somebody’s inside the house. She hears the back door BANG SHUT. She runs downstairs and through the kitchen. She opens the back door.

KAREN (CONT’D)
(shouting out)
I’m calling the police!

CUT TO:

EXT. SUBURBAN STREET – AFTERNOON

Mariah runs down the sidewalk. She passes a POSTER taped to a TELEPHONE POLE – the poster is OUT OF FOCUS.

THE CAMERA HOLDS ITS FRAME and the poster comes INTO FOCUS as Mariah fades into the distance. In the center of the poster, we see a photograph of a slightly younger looking Mariah. In large, bold text it reads:

“MISSING PERSON
Mariah Grace Linney
Age 16
5’4”
130 lbs
Caucasian
Light Brown Hair
Blue Eyes
Last seen at Bayside High School
September 17th, 2015
If you have any information please call
The Great Neck Police Department
603-352-2222.”

INT. HOUSE – AFTERNOON

Karen comes back inside. Her heart is racing with adrenaline. She anxiously scans around the place one more time. She walks through the kitchen and passes the fridge.

The camera HOLDS on the fridge as she exits the frame.

For the first time, we can see in plain sight the photographs and notes plastered on the fridge door – there are photographs of MARIAH AS A LITTLE GIRL, of her with Karen and Bill in a FAMILY PORTRAIT, a child’s crayon DRAWING signed “MARIAH”.

INT. SECOND BEDROOM – DUSK

It’s getting dark out. Karen sits on the edge of Mariah’s bed, holding a PICTURE FRAME. She weeps softly.

EXT. HIGHWAY – DUSK

The sky glows magenta and orange as the sun dips below the horizon. Car HEADLIGHTS glisten in SOFT FOCUS. Mariah walks along the side of the highway with her rucksack on and her thumb out, trying to hitch a ride.

FADE TO BLACK

Tom Yoannidis’s script “Runaway” won second prize in the Fifth Annual School of Visual Arts Writing Program Contest. Tom was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1990. Raised by a wild/artistic mother (model/private pilot/photographer) and an adventurous father (commercial pilot), he moved to New York on a whim in 2012 to study acting, and graduated from the Maggie Flanigan Studio in late 2014. He then moved to Toronto to work as an art director/art director’s assistant on TV commercials before returning to study Film at SVA. Tom is a hopeful director/writer in the making and an impulsive watcher of 70s cinema.