Last scene of previous:
A deer perked it’s head up from among the shrubbery of the forest. It looked at her for a moment and then bounded away into the foliage. E saw it, but didn’t envy it at all; it ran from even someone who’d never harm it, not knowing the difference between danger and safety in other beings—and it would probably be someone’s dinner by this evening because it was also none-the-wiser. Upon thinking this, she realized she was probably much more like that deer than she wanted to be. And maybe that is why she did not envy it. She would have never laid a hand on that deer, but it saw her and ran, it ran from arms that would only give it care…and isn’t that what she just did? Run from V? V who would never lay a hand on her?
The tears came again, welling up thickly in her eyes, her mouth contorting into a smile, and then to a frown. God, V. Her eyes and her face denied her any control, and it forced her to sit in the painful emotion of missing someone who truly cared.
E wanted to turn back, to run to V, to go back to that little hotel room where she was safe… except for S…but at least in that case even, she had V…No, I won’t let V have to protect me. I won’t let her put herself in that place. The whole thing was twisted. The whole thing was insane and crazy and confusing. There honestly wasn’t a clear answer, not even selflessness or ego could answer this one, because there was a case for both on either side.
She could still change her fate, she could still turn back. It was still only the first half of the day, she could be not even a day away from safety if she just walked back now. Now. She was still only half a day from her decision, she wasn’t too far even in miles. Go back, go back now, E! She looked back toward the city, then toward the scarce, barely suburb countryside.
Her feet started taking her back to the city. She was numb and overwhelmed. Safety. Warmth. Care. V. “No!… No, no, no!” She turned on her heels and ushered herself toward the countryside. Pulling hard on the reigns of her own feet, she forced them away from everything she needed, and away from everything she wanted, too. V will move on…but what if she doesn’t? And she’s stuck here, waiting for me, and her family finds her? “God, she doesn’t care, and why do I? No excuses. None.” She kept herself tied to this track that surely led to nowhere good. I’m protecting V. That’s it, I’m protecting her. By leaving. She won’t be targeted by S. But E knew she would be. E knew that all these things she listed as reasons, were plain lies. Masked lies—a whole parade of masqueraded excuses blindly walking in circles around her mind. Blind lies, except she knew that they were lies, and she let them stay there and make their home in her head, and forced them to have meaning. So her mind forced her body to walk in a way opposite its knowledge, and her soul stayed behind in that lot for a long while; tarrying where her decision was pivotal, regretting the choice she made, and trying to hold onto any chance that it hadn’t quite been made yet and trying to stay in the world where she hadn’t made it yet, before disaster would surely strike. This left her to walk emptily and numbly and only half-consciously long into the evening.
V’s meal comes quickly; a bowl of green beans, a side of potatoes, and rice pilaf. Three small bowls. The burnt ends or small plate of brisket were too expensive, so a starch, a grain, and a legume had to be sufficient.
She already knows what E would want: a baked potato, ribs, and cornbread,…maybe a side salad. She smirked a smile. Ranch dressing with a side of lettuce, is how it really would be. The little green leaves of the salad would be crying for help, swimming in the thick white sauce. V laughed to herself. That’s the only way E eats salad. Drowned in ranch dressing. She shook her head, Oh, dear E. You precious, beautiful soul.
Here we see that our protagonists have found themselves lonely and missing each other. E walking through the grass of the countryside on the brink of a storm, and V picking at potatoes with a fork in a nice restaurant, nonethewiser about the weather. Nothing each could do would get the other off their mind.
We turn back to E who hears a low rumble of thunder now and looks up to the sky to see grey, angry clouds. A sprinkle that hits her forehead makes her squint as she puts out a hand to feel the rain quicken. She is promptly soaked from head to toe, her hair sticking to her cheeks and her chin, her shirt clinging to her body and her shoes beginning to fill with water and slosh with every step. But she runs now, in the direction of some far trees near the rolling hills. Farther from the city she dared go.
But V, sitting inside the steakhouse, was far from soaked. In fact, she didn’t even quite know it was raining yet. A roof over her head gave her sweet ignorance of the weather. Nor was she running, she sat quite still as the thoughts she pondered on haunted her.
Both of these are escaping. Escaping in the exact opposite realm than the one she faces her struggles in. One on foot from the things in her head, and one in her head from the things in her life. Of course, one is escaping only once, and away from everything, not only the menacing—or perhaps, that is precisely what she is escaping to? And the other escapes doubly, but lands on shaky ground and uncertainty.
One operates in full fear and flight; the other leans heavily into possibility and hope, great hope who often births disappointment.
V goes home with her stomach only little full of food, carrying most of her meal in take-out containers placed in a bag. Her stomach was instead, full of worry and pain, confusion, and even fear.
She sits back in the office chair by the window, staring out into the thick trees which hugged the city on the side to which she believed E ran. A tear stung her eye and ran warm down her cheek. She looked over at E’s empty bed. There was nothing on her side, at all. The sheets were twisted about and the bed was slightly rumpled, but that was the only evidence that someone had ever been there at all. It was entirely clean with no trace of E’s belongings.
The poptart is gone. V suddenly realized, after staring at the emptiness of that side of the room for an eternity. E’s been here! She’s been back! A swell of joy welled in her chest, thinking E could be just down in the lobby, but then it quickly sank again…If she had meant to come back, her things would not be gone. Her backpack, at least, would be here. …Wait.
V got up to go survey which backpack was hanging by the door. Hoping to see two, she only saw one, and it was hers. E had noticed, and she had come back and swapped them out, and V had not been here for them to cross paths. A pang in her heart stung. E had been here, and she had missed it. If only I’d stayed in and not gone out to lunch, I would have intercepted her! How long was she here for? Maybe she sat here for a while trying to wait for me, maybe she sat here as she toiled over the decisions and confusion in her mind. Maybe she watched the TV? But the remote was where V had left it, and no evidence of someone having used it presented itself. Ugh! V sunk into her bed as tears welled in her eyes. She didn’t know what to think or what to believe. But e had been here, and she had missed it. And now, E was gone again.
E trudged to the trees. She’d ran most of the way, but it was farther than she’d thought and, already being soaked, she decided it was no use to run. She made it to the edge of the thicket and leaned against a tree on the shaded side (shady, more or less, really) and looked out over the hills hidden by gray sheets of zooming raindrops. Drops still fell between the trees above, but they fell much less quickly and much more sparsely; the broad canopies above took most of the torrent.
Once she’d rested and caught up to her breath, which seemed to have run further than she did, she looked around at her green home. Viny branches hung from trees, brush and bushes covered a lot of the footage, and the trees stood altogether as a stubborn, hard-headed army. This forest didn’t seem as scary up close as it had from far away. She indeed discovered an ounce of peace she hadn’t expected. It wasn’t near as dark as it had seemed, either; its vulnerability is more visible from within.
She finally sat down and decided to see how much damage had been done to her change of clothes. She unzipped her pack, which had been puddled with water on the top, and saw that her clothes were quite dry, except for a stripe across them, where the zipper had not been a great barrier. Part of the puddle had seeped through its interlocking.
She zipped it back up and heaved out a sigh, turning her head about to look toward the direction of the city, now hidden by another forest of trees, opposite her, across the tiny, rolling hills. She tried to picture exactly where the hotel was, and where V probably was right now. She sighed another sigh and turned back to the forest in front of her, closing her eyes in preparation and self-forgiveness for a brief second. But now she must plan. Where will she go? Where to find warmth? Privacy? I’ve gotta pee. She suddenly thought. And I’m really cold. I need to dry off.
E hated to use her only change of clean, dry clothes, but as she squatted behind a hidden bush to relieve her bladder, she decided it was the only way to dry off quick enough before getting sick. So she changed right there, and then took a stick to hang her wet clothes on and hoisted it over her shoulder. She was afraid of her red shirt being a banner, but she had nothing else to do with it, and she didn’t want to get the inside of her backpack wet, so on the bottom of the stick it hung, closest to her and lower to the ground.
“Miss? Hello, miss?”
E swung around toward a faraway, feminine voice. Shit. Her eyes went wide, but she didn’t see the person who spoke. I must be hearing things. Oh fuck. She was about to turn and go on her way again.
“Miss?! I saw you sitting across from my house…and then run here.” The voice waited a moment; she didn’t seem to see E either. She spoke tentatively, as though she expected that she spoke to nothing, or as though she were searching. “Are you okay?”
E considered just running away from the voice and not answering, but whoever it was would hear her run, anyways, so she hesitantly replied, “Y-yes, I’m…I’m fine.” She waited to see if the person would move so she could discover where they were. “Thank you.” She added.
“Okay, well. If you need a place to stay… I’m happy to accommodate.” The two were both having a conversation into air—neither knowing who they were actually talking to, neither seeing the other, and talking to trees and thin air and nothingness.
“Hello?” The voice beseeched again, asking as if she wanted to see who it was in the brush that she had watched run here.
E could lightly hear the person tramping on the leaves. They were quite far away from where she was, probably on the edge of the forest near the highway, barely stepping in.
The tramping stopped, and it seemed that the woman gave up her search. She spoke one last time, “Alright, well… stay safe. If you stay near here tonight, you’ll be safer. …I can hear a scream from my house.” The voice added, to give her assurance, and then E heard the steps tramp further and farther away until she heard them no more.
It did give E assurance. She waited a few seconds longer before making any noise and turning back around to recalculate. Right now, she was feeling a little like that deer she saw earlier, probably running from harmless and helpful hands.
She would stay close to here. She walked a little bit toward the direction of the highway where the house sat by, stopping a little ways to look and see if anyone stood there. The coast was clear, and she could see the little blue house through the trees. There was a shrub nestled against a Southern Red Oak tree, nearby. This would provide a good little hedge for her to sleep by. She dropped her backpack by the tree and transferred her wet clothes to a low-hanging branch. Then she sat in front of the bush and ate a granola bar. She looked in her pack. She only had three granola bars left…she felt that was enough, but she knew granola bars weren’t really enough food for nourishment or to fill a hungry stomach. She could maybe push it off for a week, but after then, she’d need to figure something out.
She hoped that the raining would stop tonight so that these clothes would dry and she’d have a change of clothes again. Dusk would set soon, and she wouldn’t have to worry about her red shirt being seen easily, and that gave her some comfort. There were enough trees between her and the quiet highway that she would not be spotted. But if someone stood at the edge of the forest, they would be able to see her, so she just hoped that she wasn’t sharing the forest with anyone tonight. She hoped that it was just her and the trees and the crickets… scratch that. She hoped there were no crickets, either. And she hoped that no one would come up and cover her mouth to silence a scream before she could even wake up… eesh. She shuddered at that.
It was nearing evening now, and E had still not returned. She wouldn’t be coming back and something in V knew that. So she prayed protection over E. That, even if she never saw her again, she’d get to wherever she’s going safely. But, something else in her knew that it wouldn’t be the last time she saw E, not by a long shot.
But right now was not whenever that would be. Instead, today, it had been raining the past couple hours and E had no roof over her head, nor any car to sleep in. V pictured her soaking wet and sleeping on the side of the highway under some trees. And I suppose her idea was not far off. And it was still raining, so she had good reason to think that E would be drenched and cold.
Continue to Part 10 –>
I also finally put up the Introduction 😂 available to read here