Jed’s laughter in the tent as he pulled another royal flush against the pair of sevens in my hand, his whisky-breath harsh as he insisted on helping me take my t-shirt off. His eyes narrow and cunning as he stared at my breasts swelling beneath a tight sports bra.
Theresa just looked uncomfortable, her body still swollen from the birth of her son. Who drags their wife on a camping trip a week after she’s given birth? Jed, that’s who. I’d come to help my sister out, maybe protect her and little Ben from Jed’s drunken rages.
Maybe if I’d been stronger he wouldn’t have pawed at me. I wish I hadn’t pushed him so hard. Drunk, he’d knocked over the heater and the old tent had gone up in a blaze of glory. Hellfire in the frozen north.
I wish he’d died. I wish he hadn’t got drunk. I wish he’d let Theresa stay at home.
More than anything, I wish I’d never pushed him.
I stopped running and stood bent at the waist with my hands on my knees. The pain from my ankle tore into my stamina, but if I rested now I’d never get back up.
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But the exhaustion held me, dimming the glow of the ground and sketching cobwebs across my hands, before my face. I felt as if I’d been running for days, for weeks. I thought of that first escape, how the trees had seemed to dance before us, the clunk of the torch batteries, and the scent of ashes as we flew.
At first, the empty hunting shack had seemed like salvation. Even as the snow went on falling, a static that would go on and on, that would eventually seem to creep inside us too, as maddening and relentless as the baby’s thinning cries.
I rocked heavily on my heels, reliving that morning in the cabin when Theresa had reached for me, sitting up abruptly in her sleeping bag to catch hold of my ankle as I crept across the boards.
With a startling clarity, I could still feel the knowing press of her fingernails. I remembered the tug of her gaze, and how despite everything, we were suddenly kids again. Children with secrets. Briefly, her grip had tightened.
She understood as well as I did that Jed wasn’t the only one to blame.
Your turn . . .