“I just want everything as perfect as you.”
Julia scratched her knee, the mosquito bite was hardening, poison crackled through her skin. She’d hated the outdoors. At ten she’d been lost in the woods on a school hiking trip for hours, the forest had since been her enemy.
It was appropriate then that she should die there, surrounded by dead trees dropped around a dirty clearing, on her knees with a blackened shotgun barrel pointed at her nose. The taste of tree bark was on her lips... Gerry had bulldozed her into a white cedar. The ash-gray bark had been like a textured brick wall. Her bottom lip was split and bleeding from the inside to the top of her chin. Blood soaked her collar bone.
“I’m not perfect.”
“Sure you are.” He laughed and when he did the barrel of the gun bounced just enough to shake her. “How else could you judge my mistakes?”
The wet leaves soaked through the knees of her denims, her skin chaffed, Gerry was laughing but she couldn’t hear anymore, sound was turning as black as the forest ground.
“I love you Julie, that’s what you have to understand.” He sounded far away though this had been as close as he been to her in the past three months. Julia hid quite well for a dumb tramp, so maybe she did have half a brain. But she couldn’t stay hidden for long. Not from him. “When someone loves you, you don’t get to trample them and walk away.”
Julia started to speak, for god sake’s she wanted to beg but hysteria made her words stop in her throat. Ten years old, lost in the woods wearing her school’s cheese-doodle orange tee-shirt, she remembered a needling crawling through her skin. She ignored for a long time what she thought was panic and continued fumbling through the trees, tripping over roots and slapping mosquitoes from her neck.
She had begged then. For someone to find her, for a chaperon to spot her yellow head of hair between elms. Or even for the sweet forest squirrels and birds to do a Snow white tribute and join in song, rescuing a pretty young damsel from the quiet.
The latter never happened, but for a long enough it had seemed like no person would be racing to her rescue either. Julia hadn’t remembered what turned her around in the first place. Was it a bed of flowers? Her third grade class had been moving quite fast through the shade trees, no one wanted to stand very long in the Floridian sun. Julia couldn’t blame them but she thought she’d spotted a bush of berries or flowers.
An hour later she was alone, shaking and crying from whiplash with her bony back against a tree stump. There were too many trees around her, too many hiding places for goblins and witches or even bears. The plugging smell of a dead animal was too close. Needles were all over her and they had nothing to do with the mosquitos or panic.
And that was when she had stopped begging and began waiting to die. At any moment a beautiful tawny mountain lion would come through and pick her right off the bed of leaves on the ground. Right, a huge set...