Beginning of a story I never continued. I do that fairly often unless I absolutely adore the piece.
I was five years old. Winter brought aching winds of red lashes to our pale cheeks and numbing fingers. My feet kicked up broken twigs, dead grass and muddy snow as my mother pulled me by my arm through the woods. I was lost in a moment that didn’t catch too much of my attention. I stared deeply at the trees and how they looked so lonely. Mother ushered me to keep very quiet before we left the small cottage that I knew..running. Why were we running? That I couldn’t answer. Tears streamed down her face, red and pinks swallowing her face whole. She was heaving and tired but, her strength seemed greater than ever. A sky of ash and grey clouds painted the world around me in a way that didn’t make me feel so comfortable. My joints ached at the continued amount of force that was being pulled onto my left arm. But Mother told me to be quiet. I didn’t say a word. Racing past dead bushes and leaping over fallen trees, not turning back once. My mind felt empty. Thinking too much of leaving the animals behind, the little garden of tulips and Ruby back at the cottage would throw me into hysterics. The wind would slide against my face and tears, making my body more freezing than it was. So I didn’t cry. “Nova.” Her voice sending a storm of chills down my spine. Something in her voice made me want to break to pieces. We stopped running and I could feel the soreness growing in my arm already. She looked directly into my eyes. I’ve never noticed the dark circles that rimmed underneath her lashes until this moment. She must have aged in those very seconds, wrinkles stretched along her forehead in fear like I’ve never seen before. “I need you to trust me.” Mother says. Why? Why are we running? Where are we going? “I need you to hide here until I return, okay? It’s like Hide and Seek!” her lips danced in a rush, her eyes staring into mine and over my head behind me constantly. Leaning in front of me so we were about the same height, she grips both my arms and smiles. “I love you.” She’s holding back an avalanche of tears, I can see them faltering behind her eyelashes but she knows she has to be strong. For me. She pulls me into her chest. Her touch is cold but her chest is warm. Running her fingers through my hair, I lay my head on her shoulder. This is the part she picks me up, I fall asleep in her arms and we go back home. I’ll wake up to warm soup and Ruby at my side in my little bed of meshed sheets and fluffed pillows. Wrong. Oh, I was so wrong. She lifts me up and places me into a hole in the ground that squeezes my sides. Dirt stretches across my elbows as she lures me down. “I’ll be back, I promise. I love you. Don’t be scared. You’re strong and so very beautiful, Nova.” We stare at each other for a few more seconds before she leaves me in the quietness of my hiding space. I listen to the sound of her feet digging into the snow as she runs in the direction of the cottage. I fiddle with my fingers and poke holes in the mud beside me. My legs grow tired and all I want is the warmth of my bed, Ruby at my side. Ruby. My only friend. Roughly damaged at the ear and stains from many stories on her belly, but still as fluffy as can be. Mother went back to get Ruby. She’ll be back. She promised. Wrong again. As the exhaustion flowed throughout my body and finally met my eyes, I couldn’t help but curl into my knees and sleep. As I began to dose off, the greatest sound I had ever heard rang through the holes of my ears.Boom. I lifted my head from my knees and managed to my feet. Fire. Drowning the trees in an orange and black, spitting through the sky, dancing on the leaves. I placed two hands on the outside of my cubby in the ground and raised my eyes to meet ground level. Miles and miles of fire. “Ruby..Mommy..” I say in a whisper. I was no longer strong. No longer scared of the freezing of winter on my cheeks. Tears swam from my eyes and whimpers cried out from the pit of my throat. “Mommy!” I screamed. No answer. Just the crackle of the dying woods and creatures burning to death. A hand reached for my mouth and yanked me backwards. I was running. No not running. I was being carried by someone who was running. My eyes met his and I lost all urge to cry. Who are you? What have you done with Ruby and my mother? Why are you killing the forest? My eyes focused on his. Gentle lips and a scruffy face. His hair bounced at every step he took, and for some reason, I wasn’t scared. We ran for what seemed like forever. That was the last time I had seen my mother.
““I’ll be back, I promise. I love you. Don’t be scared. You’re strong and so very beautiful, Nova.” Wrong yet again.