I lay in bed staring up at the ceiling as the noise of the house began to simmer down. My mother was sleeping and my little brother at a friend’s for the night. There was only the light purr of the cat across the room and my father’s padding feet travelling up the stairs left to be heard. I closed my eyes and thought about what my day had been like, pretty normal with just a hint of excitement. My best friend Jamie and I had gone to the woods after school to look for squirrels. We gave up looking after about ten minutes as little children often did. At the age of seven you don’t have much patience, not even for something as wonderful as squirrels.
Jamie and I had been friends since first grade and told each other everything. Almost everything. We had sat deep in discussion for about half an hour about nothing of great importance, just the usual subjects. Music, television and how icky boys were. Secrets were shared on her part and I fed her lies to replace the secrets she hungered for.
I had a secret, but I knew she wouldn’t understand. She wouldn’t believe me. She’d think I was a slut. I thought I was a slut.
I thought about my wedding. I often did that when I should have been sleeping but couldn’t. I wanted a dress, like all the ones in the magazines. White and full of the promise of a future I’d never have to dream my way out of. It would be a chance to start again. Trade my name for something new, and be truly loved, just like in the movies.
I heard the door of my bedroom slowly creak open and was dragged from my dreaming. I tried to hold on by closing my eyes and running back to the church. I held my breath and hoped I would die. I felt his hand on the body he was too big for, and I knew the dream was dead.
I pulled the blankets up over my head as the lights flickered on. This couldn’t happen tonight. I had gone a whole day without thinking about it and felt nothing but air on my skin, and the innocent blades of grass. I curled my body up until I thought it would break, and I ran from the church, and the future I wanted, to the forest, for the squirrels I’d seek sanctuary with.
“Come on, wake up.” The forest began to burn around me, and I heard the desperate screams of the angry, attacked animals. Mine were silenced by a huge hand across my lips. We burned together, huddled in our helplessness and thrashing against the cruel, scorching flames. I closed my eyes, but was tortured by the bright, endless stream of light, determined to leak past my eyelids and blind me.
I prayed. I wept. I ran and I ran, until all I could do was grab the nearest object and swing. Swing for my life. The flames engulfed me, and the world was so still, in it’s destruction, as if every part of the cosmos had taken a half day to watch me finally defeated, but I was strong, for someone so small, and I was wide awake, fighting for my life. They’d have to understand. They’d have to believe me. They’d have to think I just did what anyone would do. I just did what anyone would do.
I opened my eyes, and my lamp had been broken, and the fire, finally put out, and put down, fell to the ground, leaving me free, in the forest, to search for squirrels, once more.
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