I'm in. For the first time.
This is scary.
|# ¿ Feb 4, 2015 11:15|
|# ¿ Jun 20, 2019 11:33|
Those Left Behind
1017 words (yes, I know, sorry)
The woman was waiting for Elaine at the crossroads.
She’d been at the inn last night, eating her dinner at the table next to Elaine's and sending her strange looks, never speaking. Now, an hour after sundown, she was sitting at Elaine’s planned camping spot, stirring a pot over a small fire.
“You must have been up early to get here before me,” Elaine said as she approached. She tried to smile at the stranger. “Mind if I join you by the fire?”
“Go ahead,” the woman said. Her tone was flat, and she didn't look away from the pot.
Elaine unpacked her bedroll and laid it out a few meters away from the stranger. Then she sat down by the fire and started to unpack the bread and cheese from the inn.
The woman was looking at her. Elaine hesitated, and then started eating, trying to ignore the staring stranger.
The sound of her own chewing seemed loud in the silence. Elaine stared into the flames. The stranger stared at her.
“What’s your name?”
Elaine looked up, almost choking on her food. “Elaine.”
Elaine nodded, taking another bite so she wouldn't have to say anything. She didn't want anything to do with Marianne, who was at least twenty years older and seemed to enjoy unnerving her.
The next morning, they each packed their things in silence. Elaine was faster, and simply started walking without waiting for Marianne. An hour later, she was walking briskly, whistling to herself, and pointedly ignoring the woman walking thirty paces behind her.
Around midday, Elaine looked back and saw that Marianne had disappeared. By early evening, she was back, now with a freshly killed rabbit hanging from her backpack.
Elaine made camp early that evening, hoping that Marianne would keep walking. Instead, the woman put her pack down next to Elaine’s. “If you fetch wood for a fire, I’ll skin the rabbit.”
“I didn't say I wanted a fire.”
“You’ll be cold without it. Besides, if you get wood, I’ll share the soup with you.”
With a sigh, Elaine went to gather wood.
True to her word, Marianne made enough soup for both of them, and Elaine supplied some bread. The older woman didn't stare nearly as much this evening, and it got almost cozy around the fire. Soon, Elaine was stretched out under her blanket, her stomach comfortably full, looking at the starry night sky.
“So,” said Marianne, who was still sitting by the fire, “what brings you out here?”
“None of your business,” Elaine said, her eyes still on the stars.
“Young thing like you, on her own - I’m guessing you ran away.”
“What if I did?” She hadn't meant to say that.
“They’ll be worrying about you. Your family.”
“How would you know?”
“It’s none of your business anyway.”
A few minutes later, Marianne put the fire out and went to bed.
The next day was much the same. Walking, in silence, not quite together. By evening, they reached a town. It was too small to have an inn, but Elaine bought more bread and cheese, and one of the townsfolk let them sleep in his stable. Curled up in the hay with her back to Marianne, Elaine finally broke the silence.
“What about you? Where are you going?”
“I’m looking for someone,” Marianne said.
Marianne offered no more details. After a while, Elaine fell asleep.
When Elaine woke up, Marianne was sitting on top of her already-packed bag, waiting. She handed Elaine a plate of bread and sausages, and sat back with her eyes closed while Elaine ate.
That day, they walked side by side. The road followed a small river, and Elaine spend most of the morning just enjoying the wide-open landscape.
They held lunch break at the edge of a forest, and Marianne started asking questions again. “Why did you run away?”
“Why do you care?”
“I’m looking for someone who ran away.”
“Ah. The person you spoke of.”
“Yes. And maybe knowing why you ran away will help me understand.”
“I doubt it.”
The silence between them was tense for the rest of the day. Marianne went off the path for a while, and came back with berries and mushrooms. Elaine declined a share of the berries, so Marianne ate them herself while she walked.
It got dark early under the trees. When Marianne stopped to make camp, Elaine kept walking, but the other woman caught up quickly. “Don’t be stupid. You’ll fall and break a leg in this darkness, and who’s going to help you then?” She reached out and took Elaine's arm.
“Come back to the clearing. We’ll make a fire. I’ll fry the mushrooms and some of the sausages from the village.”
“Why do you do this?” Elaine pulled her arm free. “Why can’t you just leave me alone? Why do you keep following me, acting like you care about me?”
Marianne had taken a step back. “Because you remind me of someone.” Her voice was quiet after Elaine's shouting.
“Oh, I do? Who is it, your daughter? Well, maybe there was a reason she ran away! Did you think about that, when you set out to drag her back home?”
Without a word, Marianne turned away and walked toward the clearing. A while later, Elaine followed.
When she got there, Marianne was building a fire. Her back was turned, and she didn't look up when Elaine approached.
“I’m sorry,” Elaine said.
Marianne continued adjusting the branches for a long couple of seconds. “It’s my son.”
“It’s not my daughter I’m looking for, it’s my son. He’s been gone for two weeks.”
“Oh. I’m sorry.”
Marianne finally turned to face her. “I don’t know why he left. It’s been years since he came to me with his problems.”
They cooked and ate in uncomfortable silence. It was only later, when they had both lain down to sleep, that Elaine spoke.
“You feel like it’s your fault, don’t you?”
“Of course,” Marianne said.
“Do you think I should go home?”
“Maybe I will, tomorrow.”
|# ¿ Feb 9, 2015 00:30|