Split splat went the drops that fell from the sky. And they fell so slowly that it seemed time was standing still. Their heavy weight drowned the air with a thick choking humidity. Oppressive, they closed in on the tall stems of thin grass, either stealing its dirt life or sending them back into their homes. Further around the patch stood tall trees tense with tightened branches making sure not one drop left its grasp and none was accidentally given. Each tree held their trunks far upright hoping they would be the first to reach the sun. But battling against other trees and its own sickened foliage, it had no knowledge of its forever failure.
Among the patches of jade thorns that covered the floor was a tiny home. It was a small box rounded around the edges, made of wood so thin it was supported with hay tucked into tiny holes that had broken through. From above rested a lopsided hat of hay pulled together into the center by a small thin piece of string. Inside there was a table in the corner and just two chairs, nothing more.
A gunshot echoed in the woods, and the woman shivered. Force of habit, nothing more. As she sat removing the shells from the nuts, the children roughhoused grabbing on each other’s limbs and throwing them to the ground. The woman’s hands stopped moving and she stared at the ground wondering God knows what. The youngest child, although no more than 3 years old, caught her lifeless eyes.
‘Mommy? Are you ok? … Mommy?’ ‘What? Oh yes my dear. I’m just waiting for your father.’ ‘Mommy look.’ ‘Oh wow. It’s beautiful! Did you make it? ‘Mmm hmm.’ ‘I’ll keep it on the table for now.’
And the child went back to entertaining himself with yarn. The mother laid back into her rocking chair and her hands started to work again. She would spend the next hour waiting for her husband to return home.
A thud echoed at the broken door. The mother stumbled across the room and opened it. A figure, not much taller than herself came striding in. But he had to tilt slightly so that his broad shoulders would fit through. He turned around to lay a long rifle next to the door against the wall. She continued to stare at him until she gathered the courage to look away and ask, ‘How many d’you get today?’, a slight shaking, unnoticeable in her voice, perhaps old age. ‘5 this time. One big one. They brought some friends this time.’ She sighed, touched her skirt, half-smiled, and turned away.
He eye’d her as she walked back to the children, eye’d her clothes, her face. The unusual paleness that spread over. Did she know? His own face started to sweat. He turned back to the rifle. His hand crept toward it, but just before touching it he flinched. The youngest one ran up to her father and jumped into him.
‘Ha ha ha! Hey kiddo! What’d you do today?’ ‘I made some blueberries with yarn.’ ‘With yarn?! Can I see ‘em?’ ‘Mmm hmm. Come.’ They both walked over to the others, the child pulling his father’s hand.
‘Look.’ ‘Wow, cool kiddo! Where’re your brothers and sisters?’ ‘They’re playing outside in the back.’ ‘Ok, thanks.’
The man walked outside the back door and put his hands in his pockets. He stared at the children as they chased each other in circles. The mother came outside and stood behind him, resting her head on his shoulder.
‘Marie, I have to tell you something.’ She jerked her head towards his face with worried eyes and said, ‘What now?’ He paused a second then said, ‘I wanted to tell you…’ ‘Mmm?’ ‘I went into town. I got the money. They let me keep the kill. I’ll skin ‘em for you. You can make new clothes.’ ‘Oh, well that’s nice of them.’ ‘Yeah.’
Sweat started to drip down his face and his hands started to shake. He pulled away from her and walked inside. She took a long hard stare at the tall man as he disappeared through the door. A breath was exchanged from the heavy air and her lungs sat low in her chest for the next minute. She forgot to breathe.
Laughter broke the silence and the mother swiveled her head back toward her children who were playing so delicately. A smile swept her face as her eyes grew small. They fell with small thuds seeing who could fall faster to the ground, embracing the thorns that tried to invade their clothes.
There came another thud, but this one louder. The mother turned back around as her lungs rose again, higher than before. She glanced back at the kids then back at the door with a startled expression. She crossed her arms and started to slowly walk over to the door. Her feet steppe heel first and her face tilted sideways as though trying to peer through the ajar door.
‘Honey?’, her voice quivered. ‘Honey, are you ok?’ An arm went up to the door. One push and it creaked open. Light steps warily brought her inside as her eyes overlooked the room. Her heart started to beat faster. Something had caught her eye. The rifle. Her husband’s. It was gone.
Her mind started to race. Rapid uneven breaths grew larger. Something took hold of her shoulder and she whirled herself around.Her hands went up as though she would defend herself. But she couldn’t. There was nothing she could do. There stood a figure not taller than herself. Broad shoulders and a rifle in hand. He was poised, but his eyes told a different story. Tears flooded her eyes first. And her hands started to shake again.
‘Honey? Will you at least tell me what they’re faces looked like?’ His came now. Faster than waterfalls. He choked on them, unable to speak. Vision turned blurry, face red. ‘They were all kids.’, he confessed, yelling through his thick sadness. ‘They were kids. They would play … play near the river. Come in from town. And they use… They used me. I couldn’t… I wouldn’t. They used me Marie. Please… Please trust me.’, he cried, pleading for life to spare him. ‘I don’t want to. I don’t know what they’ll do to us if I don’t.’ She tried to come closer but he warned her with a step back. ‘Don’t come closer. Stay there. I’ll kill you if I do.’ ‘You have to anyway. Honey.’, her voice stopped shaking and she closed her eyes. ‘I’ll be with those kids. I’ll raise them a life they would’ve lived here. Finish your job and run away from here. Hide from them.’ ‘Don’t leave me please.’, his fingers that rested on the trigger tightened.
A thundering sound echoed from inside the lopsided hay house. The youngest one felt a shock radiate through him and turned curious. He smiled and ran to the door, wobbling in his steps. His hands pushed it open with whatever strength he could muster. Proudly, his feet hit the floor, pattering against the floor as he walked inside. His eye caught a figure laying on the floor and beside her a pool of red. ‘Mommy?’ ‘Mommy where’s dad?’ Confused, he brought back his blueberries and rested them on her breasts. ‘Mommy look, I made blueberries.’ ‘Mommy are you sleeping?’ ‘Mommy look.’ ‘I made blueberries.’ ‘Here you go.’ ‘You can keep ‘em.’ ‘They’re blueberries.’ ‘I made them from yarn.’
Writer Anya Wardhan is a 15 year old girl from the state of Arizona, USA. Born in Chandler, she loves writing fictional stories. Having gone from winning literary competitions in school to writing poems for loved ones, she anxiously awaits the future and its possibilities. Apart from books, she also has a unique love for singing and enjoys helping others in her free time.