The second part of this 3-part story is a WIP that my friend Lola Gentry-Dey and I worked on jointly several years ago. We never finished it.
I decided to post it to coincide with the month that will lead us to Halloween.
Reader Advisory: The story may contain strong language.
~ 2 ~
I knew the way back to Clearview. I also knew the many miles that lay ahead of me.
When I reached the highway, I didn’t slow down. I popped up a thumb and prayed for someone to pick me up. No one stopped.
After walking for nearly three hours, my stomach complained of being hungry. I was well into the countryside and had passed several cornfields. It was three weeks past the Fourth of July and the cornstalks were barely above knee level. Rain had been scarce this year, but a storm was brewing somewhere nearby. The humidity smelled ripe with impending thunderstorms as the white sky grayed and became bruised with purple. I glared one last time with all the hate I could muster at the town of Odinwood behind me and that bitch Julie. She could find someone else to harass.
My stomach complained louder and even yelled at me, so I scanned the area for food. It was too early in the summer to find any ripe fruit, berries or nuts, and I had no clue to what lay inside the woods on either side of the highway. After walking a quarter-mile, I spotted an apple tree with green apples along the edge of a field. I went to it and found that the apples on the ground were hard and dry and bitter. I climbed the tree and found the softest, juiciest ones there. They were sour but helped ease away the thirst and soften my hunger pangs.
After I ate, I was able to think with a clear mind for the first time since moving into that creepy Odinwood house. I looked out over the countryside, and despite the humidity still pressing its wet weight on me, I enjoyed the view and the feeling of leaving Julie behind. Canada Geese honked from a pond just beyond the branches of pine trees, and I could see glimmering water from my perch. I felt thirsty again and I knew I needed to go there and replenish the liquids I’d lost during my walk if I planned to—
What? What did I plan to do? Julie had me on the run and it pissed me off. I had no phone, a long way to walk, and where was I going to go once I reached Clearview? Sure, I could hide out with friends, but my mother would find me missing and call the police and I would end up back at that house and in Julie’s clutches again.
I was damned no matter what I did. I felt trapped, and the apple tree’s branches seemed to take on a sinister feel, like fingers with claws closing around me. I scrambled down and nearly ran toward the water, seeking to quench my thirst and revise my plan.
I staggered through the tall grass and scratched at the dust and flies settling on my sweaty neck and arms. I slapped at the flies biting at my arms and stumbled through the trees and scrub until I saw the pond. There were no thoughts of snakes or quicksand or any other danger as I raced to a deserted clearing at the water’s edge. The pond was small and except for a group of Canada geese swimming in the middle, the place was deserted. Green brush and willow trees surrounded the area and there were large crops of rush along the shore that served as refuge from the highway behind me. I hurried out of my clothes and draped them across the rush. I enjoyed the cool air as it pleased my exposed body. Then I “oohed” an “aahed” as I treaded cool summer water until it covered my breasts. My feet sank into the dark ooze of the muddy bottom, clouding the water as it rose all the way to my chin.
I stayed there for several minutes and let my body relax and go with the gentle push against me until a fly bit at my face and forced me to submerge. When I surfaced, a gentle wind rustled in the trees. The cool breeze prickled my skin. My exposed body became adorned with crystal jewels of water that glittered like diamonds when I returned to the shore, and the cooling air brought relief to the welts made by the biting flies. I sat and stretched out in the grass at the water’s edge and basked under a willow tree while I worked on my plan. I had to get to Clearview and to Annie Freemont’s. The Freemonts would let me stay for a day or two, and then I would have to work hard at convincing mother we needed to either move back to Clearview or find another place to live. More than anything, I had to make sure I was far away from Julia Stillman.
Ready to go, I managed to dress into my underpants without too much difficulty of sliding the cotton over wet skin, and was about to hook into my bra when a knife’s long silver blade flashed in front of my eyes. I turned and stared wildly at the blonde-haired witch who smiled at me with a beguiled look that twisted from ice blue eyes.
I screamed in anger and frustration at the sight of Julie Stillman, but with alarm at the hunting knife gripped tight in her right hand.
She put a finger against my lips. “You’ll scare away the geese,” she said. She wore the blue cotton T-shirt that said BITCHES, WITCHES AND RICHES, and her neck throbbed as she pressed the knife blade against my chin. I covered my breasts with my hands even though she stared into my eyes.
“Is this your knife?” she asked.
My jaw had turned rigid and my mouth became useless. I shook my head no when she asked again if the knife belonged to me.
Then she said, “Found it lying here in the grass, of all things. A real beauty with no rust or nicks or any blood on it. If it isn’t yours, I think I’ll keep it. Finders keepers, you know, and I could use a knife like this.”
I tried to speak, but my mouth stayed closed. My mind churned with ideas of escape. As soon as she moved that knife away from my face, I planned to run.
She pressed the cold blade against my throat and backed me against a willow tree. I tried to scream but my voice was gone. I pleaded with my eyes for her to leave me alone.
She laughed. “Cat must have your tongue,” she said. “Lucky cat. I love tongue.”
I clenched my jaw as she touched my right breast with her left hand. She pinched gently at the nipple. “Hell of a shock I gave you,” she said. “Your nips are like pencil erasers.”
Her words felt numb to my ears as I wondered if she would actually kill me. The point of the knife pricked my skin. I stifled a cry and looked past her, out at the geese on the pond, their bodies and the wind rippling the water’s surface.
Julie took her hand away and held up a fat aquatic worm. “Can’t believe you didn’t feel this bloodsucker feeding on your tit.” She tossed it away. “That nipple will get sore. Why don’t you come back home and let me take care of it for you?” She sucked the blood from her long fingers. “We could be friends, you know. Besties.”
Tears flooded my eyes. “Wh-What do you want?” I managed to ask in a raspy voice.
She lapped again at her fingers, and then said, “I came to see if you really think you can run away from me. That’s all.”
“Please leave me alone.” I struggled to breathe properly. The words felt dead as I watched the pond disappear from a wall of tears building in front of my eyes. I felt my mind leave me and take my sight with it. I was somewhere in grayness where nothing existed. I was unafraid in the grayness. In the grayness I could move again, breathe again, speak again.
In the grayness I screamed forth my anger.
The pond hurried into view as my mind and sight returned to my body. I found myself leaning against the willow tree, naked. Julie was gone. I yelled and bawled in frustration as I hurried into my clothes.
Across the pond, a goose honked. It sounded like mocking laughter.
Then the first rumble of thunder traversed the sky.