I fly past the trees, scrape against branches and stumble over stubborn rocks in my desperation to get away.
I can’t hear his footsteps anymore.
I come to a halt and whip my head from left to right, left to right. I crouch on the ground in a painful attempt to catch my breath. All I hear is my too-loud pants, and the wind that rustles the orange and brown dying leaves as they flutter their way to the damp, earthy ground.
There’s a sharp pain in my left shin. A dirty trail of blood carves its way through my faded grey jeans, staining it a deep red. Crap!
Suddenly, I am overcome by fatigue, I lean my head against the bark of a huge tree and wearily shut my eyes. This is not something a 17-year-old girl should be going through. I would rather be stuck in my stuffy library cramming for finals … which is saying something.
My eyes fly open and I clamp my trembling hand over my mouth to stifle a whimper.
I’m so stupid! What was I thinking? I should have kept going!
To my left? Yes. To my left. There’s no point in moving now. That would just hand me right to him. I press against the tree so hard that it feels as if the grooves of the tree bark have permanently carved into my back.
I freeze at the sound of his voice.
“I swear I’m not going to hurt you.”
His voice starts to fade as he heads in the opposite direction from where I stand, practically molded into the tree.
I seize the opportunity and sprint in the direction of the main road. Tears blur my vision and the wind furiously rushes by my ears, disorienting me. I pause, spin around, and try to get my bearings. I used to come into this very forest with him every day after school on my way home, but now, in my fear-filled state, everything looks blurred and unfamiliar.
Crap. His footsteps again. My frantic eyes finally land on a huge, thick tree which, despite the fall season, still has enough greenery to shield the meek rays of the sun above. I forget the fact that I’ve never climbed a tree in my life and heave myself onto the first branch with a strength that never appeared during gym push-ups. It’s amazing how much power comes along with fear and desperation.
“Viola, please, come on!”
That familiar voice causes me to repress a violent shiver. I reach for the branches above me and pull myself up, numb to the pain in my arms and legs from the exertion, and numb to the splinters from the rough branches imbedded in my palm.
“I just want to talk! Seriously, you’re overreacting,” he pleads loudly.
He’s getting closer. My fear is slowly replaced with tears and fury.
Why can’t he realize that this is all wrong and just go back to where he came from? I thought it was over, and I thought I made that clear to him.
“Vi, I don’t know w-what to do—I’m here because of you! You’re the one who cried yourself to sleep every night for the last month and begged for me to come back. And now you can’t even bear the mere sight of me. I—” His quavering voice breaks off, and I hear him sigh in a way that makes my heart go out to him. Even now, despite my fear.
“I never wanted this!” I want to shout. “Of course I miss you. But I never, ever wanted this.”
I miss him so, so much. And it’s true, I wanted him back, but I never dreamt of this.
I just wanted my brother back; not this messed up version of him, but the way he used to be.
Before he died.