The rain falls ominously around us where we sit huddled underneath a fallen tree. Our clothes are blood stained and shredded. Ena huddles against my side, her face hidden under my arms. I wrap a protective arm around her and look out into the misty surroundings, my senses alert for any sign of pursuit. A flash of lightning illuminates the small copse of trees followed almost momentarily by the distant rumble of thunder. Now is our one and only chance. The storm will cover our tracks; make us more difficult to follow. I tighten my arms and pull my sleeping daughter into my arms and cradle her against my chest. She’s seven now, but I’m strong. I can carry her and run. The rain makes the mud slick and conditions treacherous, but I’m still faster than all the people hunting us. All but him.
Ena wakes up in my arms and whimpers in pain. I’m shocked; I hadn’t even noticed she was hurt. As soon as the thought forms in my head I slide to a stop and sit her on a tree branch that hangs low over the track. Her face, so like mine, is pale and drawn with pain. Slowly, I lift her thin t-shirt over her stomach and gasp. There’s a large red welt about the size of a tennis ball. The edges are a deep, angry red but it darkens into a violent purple at the centre. A snarl rips between my teeth. I know exactly what has caused the mark, and her Father will pay for it.
As if on cue, the sound of hunting horns echoes behind us. It is so like Benjiman to do things traditionally. Not that pursuing your wife and only surviving child is traditional. I feel my heart tear, as though a knife has been dragged through it, at the thought of my other daughter. Ozzy was Ena’s twin and now, because of their masochistic Father, she is lying dead at the base of a tree. I hadn’t realised she was bleeding internally. That her injuries would be fatal. Tears burn in my eyes making the surroundings dangerously blurry. I blink them away and snap back to my senses. The hunting horns are closer now.
Without a word I pull Ena to my chest again and break into a sprint. I can hear the road. Once I get out of the trees we’ll be safer. We can blend in. Then I remember the mess of our clothes and features. My hair is matted with blood from a long gash on my forehead. My clothes are covered in my blood and Ozzy’s. My eyes are wild and frantic. My skin deathly pale. I’ll stand out like a diamond amongst stones. What other choice do I have? I inhale deeply and frown. The storm is working against me just as much as it is working with me. Just as Benjiman cannot smell me, I cannot smell him. He could be standing just around the next bend, or crouched behind the next bush, and I won’t know until he’s on me. Despite the morbidity of the scene, the trees are beautiful in the rain. The smell is so rich, so... natural. It lulls me into a false sense of security which is only broken by the loud snap of a branch somewhere behind me.
After what feels like hours of darkness, I break the boundary of trees...