By Tenaya Jayne
The pain woke me. I clenched my hands on my stomach, the shredding pain made it hard to breathe. I stood up, heat running down my thighs. The heavy moon pushed its light through the window. The blood blossoming on my nightgown looked black in the pale moonlight. I understood what was happening to me. I was a girl no longer. Life would change when the sun came up. Fear gripped me harder than the pain.
Mother never cried, yet her eyes were bloodshot as she held up my new dress.
“Do you like it?” her voice shook and her bottom lip trembled.
I nodded. The lace on the skirt distracted me from her behavior. I’d never seen anything so fancy, not even on any of the other, wealthier girls in the village.
“Put it on then.”
It slid on over my head and mother laced up the back. Her fingers trembled as she combed them through my hair and braided it.
“What’s wrong?” I whispered.
“Nothing…You didn’t tell your father did you?”
I shook my head.
“Good. That’s good…You’re ready. We need to pick some red flowers. The ones that grow in the forest.”
“Why?” I asked.
“For the tea. It’s important your drink it tonight before you go to sleep.”
Her hand was icy as she laced her fingers through mine and led me out of the house. We moved swiftly through the village and out into the forest, not speaking to anyone as we passed.
“I love you. You know that don’t you?” she asked.
I nodded. “I know, mother. I love you, too.”
We walked for an hour in silence.
She huffed in agitation. “I don’t see any flowers. Maybe we should split up to look for them, otherwise, we might not get home before dark…I’ll go this way, you go that way.”
“But what if we lose each other?”
“Just sing. I’ll hear you.”
She kissed my cheek abruptly and turned to the side. I watched her back as she wound through the trees. I scolded myself. I was a woman now, childish fears must be put aside.
I stopped in a bright sunbeam and closed my eyes for a moment. The sunlight pushed through my eyelids, scorching black dots in my retina. When I opened my eyes again, all the color of the forest was gone. Everything was black and white. I blinked rapidly as I walked, trying to force my vision to readjust. Against the colorless landscape, bright red flowers began popping up like smears of blood on the ground. A sense of relief washed over me. I’d found the flowers.
I leaned down and began picking them. Mother didn’t tell me how many we needed. I moved on to another place and picked more. “I found some!” I called out. I listened for her to call back. Nothing. I inhaled, about to sing as she’d instructed me, but my breath stilled in my lungs.
Silence. I’d heard quiet before, but never true silence. I hadn’t noticed the singing birds or the whispering, gentle breeze until they were gone. The flowers in my hands fell to the ground.
“Mother?” I whispered so quietly I barely hear it myself. “Mother, please…”
I turned in a circle. I was surrounded by red flowers. My eyes locked on the tree in front of me. The symbol carved deep into the trunk caused my heart to still and tears to slick over my eyes.
“Why?” I screamed.
I wasn’t lost. I’d been left. Offered. I was the sacrifice and the beast would be here any second to claim me.
His growl vibrated through the silence. I backed up until my back hit a tree. He shifted through the shadows as he came to me. I pinched my eyes shut. I didn’t have the courage to look upon my death. His breath fanned hotly across my tears. All my muscles braced. The moment stilled in time, dragging out mercilessly. From a great distance, I heard my mother, weeping. It was the last sound to touch my ears.
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Reading my bio, huh?
Real life sucks. I bet you feel like that sometimes, maybe even right now. That’s why I write fantasy. I need to escape depression, bitterness, bills, illness…I could go on, but you get it. In the pages of fiction, I can slay the dragons, triumph over the bad guys, be immortal, and never struggle with love handles. For a short time, I can let it all go, and be everything I can’t be in real life. Maybe you’re hurting right now. Maybe you’re in the waiting room of the hospital, or just stuck in traffic. I’ve brought a portal. Come with me…Let’s ditch this crappy popsicle stand and go somewhere great, where we can forget all this, at least for a while.
That’s why I write. I’m not an author, I’m an escape artist.