Writer's Wednesday!

Writer’s Wednesday! Home at last

*This is the seventh edition in the Kate Paxton series. Find the rest in the archives!

The world blurred around me as I sailed through the open air. It was so right. It was so wrong. It was just so… different. Something about it felt wrong. But, in the same way, it felt better than ever before. Crack! I collided with the branch, a sickening crunch and crackle of the wood bending echoed in my ears. Frantic shouts drifted through the window, and deja vu hit me like a hurricane.

“Come back… Kate, come back!” a student shouted after me. The same thing that someone had screamed after me the first time I’d run away, the first time I’d given in. Their sheer force slammed down on me like a ton of bricks. Tears brimmed in my eyes, my heart crumbling with each beat. Those words that I had heard before pounded my brain, indecision flooding in before I could even begin to scamper down the tree.

It had been so much simpler last time. The woods had called. I had answered. Simple. Not easy, but simple. But now? My heart sang for the mountains and the trees, beat for the feeling of my feet against the mossy ground. Each step I took in Sapphire Peaks felt like a step wasted, each thought was a yearning cry for freedom. Every night since my capture I had dreamed of that beautiful wooden bowl drifting away across the lake, a reverberating echo of the pain of that day. A small water dish that had fragmented my heart. It was like I was Tom Hanks in Castaway, watching Wilson be pushed under the waves over and over each night as the earth cried out to me.

Boom! The branch I had been climbing down on snapped, and I tumbled the rest of the way down, hitting the grass with a thump. Pain ricocheted through my bones, my knees throbbing from the impact. Some small part of my rational mind was still trying to saw away my will, saying, Stop. You could get better. The counseling will help, you can learn to be normal again! You could live your life, have friends, find a way to stay connected with the wilderness…

Leaping up, I felt the fire burning in my soul, ignited by the hopeless attempts at reason my mind had conjured. My feet flew across the ground, so fast I could barely feel the grass beneath them.  Clouds of dirt and grass billowed behind me as I whipped across the yard, sprinting for the woods that lie just beyond the clearing. I felt more sure of myself with each dismissed doubt.

Why? Each speculation, each hope of my rational mind was easily debunked by what I knew in my heart. You could get better. My mind insisted, but deep down I knew it wasn’t true. The only place for me to heal had always been nature, the mountains, the crystal blue lake on the shore. My feet hit the earth faster and faster, a drum beat wildly increasing tempo. The counseling will help, you can be normal again!  It cried desperately, and I almost snorted at the thought. The only thing Emilia Pavledes had done was 1) drag up the past, making me sink deeper into despair and 2) singled me out for running away, trying to make me feel guilty so that I wouldn’t do it again. Even the reasonable half of my brain was being silly at this point.

Quickly, I made a split second decision when I came to a crossroads. I could either book it for the woods, like I did last time, with nothing but the clothes on my back and the fire in my heart. Or I could do a quick run past my house, grab some supplies and do a more strategic plan that would hopefully limit the chances of the search teams finding me.

A bang erupted off in the distance as the school’s front doors swung open. There was no time to think. If I didn’t choose soon, a horde of teachers and School Resource Officers would see me, and then I’d have no chance at all. Visions of being dragged to the police station flashed through my mind, visions of wailing red sirens and my mom’s cold blue eyes coming alight with fury, snapshots of a future where I was under constant scrutiny. A future where I was never allowed near the forest, years going by without the dirt beneath my bare feet and the soft, springy moss beneath my hands, where I could never sink into the cool blue water of the summer lake or watch the golden grains glimmer on the shore.

Perfect job, perhaps, a decent living and a family further down the road. But at the cost of my freedom. At the cost of the feeling that nobody could ever restrict you, the glow when you realize that you are one with nature and that you lived a life of complete independence.

I shuddered at the idea of it, and without another second of thought, I took off down the trail towards my house. Sticks and branches cracked and popped beneath my feet, like an exclamation point on every step. Wind throttled my ears, hair coming loose from the ponytail and cascading around my shoulders in wild waves. Run! My heart cried. Stop! Some small part of me insisted. But my heart beat for the woods and the mountain stream, and I would always listen to my heart first. Run! My feet hardly seemed to hit the grass as I sped down the winding path.

After a solid minute, my cabin-like house came into view. The cozy wooden home was nestled among oaks, barely visible in the sea of leafy green. Rusty, our new red bone coon hound and my “therapy dog,” was baying in the front yard, his howls echoing through the silent woods. I’ll unchain him before I leave, I thought, eyeing the small silver chain that tethered him to an oak. Smiling, I sprinted past him, knowing that this time around I would have a companion.

Throwing open the screen door that was never locked (despite my mom’s insistence that I “needed to be more responsible” and actually click the lock), I ran to the linen closet. The kitchen was just a streak of sparkling black tile in my peripherals as I opened the door, wasting no time in yanking down the hatch to my attic bedroom.

Sunlight streamed through the windows, illuminating my small twin bed and the wooden desk in the corner that was strewn with papers. My mom had always called it a “loft” before… before the accident with Dad. Fine. Before his overdose, before the heartbreak, before the cold, heartless Mae took over.

“Loft.” Ha! She had made the cramped space sound cozy and homey before, always crawling through the hatch with a tray of cookies to leave on my bed as I read a book, smiling and asking how I was enjoying my “own personal loft.” Ever since Dad, she never came up anymore. She called it simply, “the attic.” Lately when something would creak and I would look over, half-expecting to see the Mae Paxton of before opening the hatch, with a tray of warm cookies in hand and a grin spread over her lips. But there was nothing there but empty space and the ache of loneliness deep in my gut.

Shaking away the thought, I walked over to the corner, crouching beside the desk and pushing it away from the wall. A smirk lit up my face at the sight of it, though I knew it would be there. My secret spot. Now, when I say secret spot, I mean just a small crevice in the wall, big enough to fit your arm into but not much else. Though so much had changed through the years, that never had. Wiggling my sun kissed fingers into the hole, I had a flashback that struck like lightning, sending waves of shock through my body.

Deja vu bubbled in my soul and my vision swam, remembering a similar moment almost a year before. It was a chilly November evening and the dust danced in the dull gray light. Rain pitter-pattered against the panes, dozens of droplets streaming over the glass. The instant I heard the click of the lock, signaling my mom had left, I practically ran over to my desk, straining my weak, thin arms to pry it from the wall. Shaking with effort, the small crevice finally appeared. Shoving my hand into it, I pulled out the supplies. Today’s the day. I have to do it today! I thought, producing a tiny flashlight, a plethora of foods, an extra pair of shorts, undergarments, and a shirt, all neatly stuffed in a blue string bag. In that moment, I heard the lock unclick and the screech of the screen door. “Kate?” A voice called. My mom. Crap! I thought, desperately fumbling to wedge the bag into the hole. Just as the hatch began to open, I slammed the desk against the wall and flung myself awkwardly onto the bed. Today was not the day to run away. I was beginning to wonder if there ever would be that day. I sighed, watching the droplets drip down the dull glass. Not today. I thought. Not today.

Blinking hard, I opened my eyes. It had gotten darker while I was having the flashback, and the sky was filling with bruise-colored clouds so much like the November day so long ago. The same blue string bag was clenched in my hands. The bag was the same. Everything was the same, down to the tiny rip in the bag and the small silver flashlight. The only difference was me. I had easily, confidently slid away the desk, feeling strong. The pale, weak arms of the past were now finely toned and sunkissed to a brilliant olive/gold. Wasting no time, I slung the small pack over my shoulder and slid the desk into place.

The rest was a blur. I don’t remember going back downstairs or opening the door. All I remember is that one moment I was in my old room and the next I was outside, unhooking Rusty. I didn’t look back. Rain began to drizzle, little drops peppering my shirt. Rusty was silent, bounding at my side as I took off at a sprint, blowing past the trail. Where I was going, there was no trail necessary.

Hours and hours passed, the sun inching lower and lower on the horizon. From my house, the mountains were just a blue smudge in the sky. Now, finally, I was right below them, looking up at the rocky peaks that jutted from the Earth. It was new, far from the lake I had loved and the cave that I had called home.

Would I have rather returned there? Absolutely. What I wouldn’t give to see the bed of pine needles tucked into that alcove, or the little wooden bowl I drank from everyday… but life interferes. That would be the first place they searched for me.

Slowing to a walk, Rusty yipped, running around me in circles. I laughed, patting his head and feeling the soft fuzz of his copper fur against my fingertips. Pulling out his favorite red rubber toy (which was already marred from days of constant chewing), I chucked it as far as I could, watching it disappear in the thick foliage.

A minute or so passed as I waited. I was starting to get worried, for Rusty was the fastest dog I had ever seen, and pretty obedient too. But he was a coon hound, and they were hunting dogs. If he saw a raccoon, he would take off in an instant, leaving nothing but a trail of dust and scattered strands of red fur.

“Rusty?!” I screamed. Silence. The woods itself had gone utterly still, the sweet bird song ceased and the air still. My feet pounded the grass, seeming impossibly loud against the quiet of the forest. No. You can’t lose Rusty too. You’ve given up so much for this, but you can’t give up him. A tear threatened to trickle out, but I blinked it away, cursing myself. How could I be so tough on some things, but crumble at the smallest moments? Just when I began to shout his name, I came to a clearing. And in the middle? The most beautiful lake I’d ever seen, crystal clear with a sandy shore. Rusty barked when he saw me, running back and forth along the sand until paw prints littered the beach. It was a lake, backed up almost directly against the mountains. And, embedded in the sheer rocky face was a cave opening.

My jaw dropped. This was it. Rusty had found our new home. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, I saw it. My heart stopped. I’d failed to notice before, but a little, tiny rivulet of a stream trickled into the lake. It must have been connected to my old lake, because, lying abandoned on the shore, was the bowl. Rusty seemed to notice it, and he picked it up by the rough-hewn rim, setting it in my hands. Hugging it tight to my chest, I cried for the first time since my capture. Tears of joy. Tears of memories. Everything in the world seemed to center around this right here.

My name is Kate Paxton. First, I’d been a girl who longed for the woods, a girl with a heartless mother and a dead father. Then, a runaway, completely free and loving life. After that? Just a girl who’d been captured, forced back into society even when she had changed so much, even when she knew that she could never live that way. Now? I was a runaway again. Funny how life comes full circle like that, isn’t it?

Maybe I’ll get captured. Maybe I won’t. The only thing that mattered was that I was in the woods, surrounded by the majestic mountains and the lake with a loyal, adorable dog I loved with all my heart. My name is Kate Paxton, and I am finally home.

Writer's Wednesday!

Writer’s Wednesday… Escape!

Image from Etsy

*This is a continuation of Kate Paxton’s story, starting from the first ever Writer’s Wednesday.

Some days were fine. So fine that I almost felt like a normal student as I sat at my desk, twirling a lock of sun-bleached blond hair around my finger. Other days the late-summer mountains looked like heaven outside the window. Today was one of those days.

RIIING! The bell shrieked, ringing in the start of the second week of school. But my  thoughts couldn’t be further from first hour English. Soaring blue peaks lingered outside the window, tantalizingly close as they jutted out above the thick canopy of yellowing leaves.

The trees were beginning to lose some of their summer luster, emerald greens fading to an ugly yellow-brown color that clung to the leaves like rot. It was strange to think that such an ugly color would transition into the crimson and gold tones of autumn.

How could such a gross yellow-brown simply be the sign of beautiful things to come? I thought, staring wistfully out the window, watching the mighty willow sway in the wandering breeze. That sounds like something a philosopher would wonder, and construct from that some kind of glorious life lesson.

I snorted at the thought, turning bright red as my classmates shot me confused and almost disgusted glances. The flush on my sun kissed cheeks quickly faded. Ever since I ran away, people’s opinions didn’t matter so much anymore. Things I would have been humiliated at before, things I would have obsessed over and tormented myself for now easily slipped my mind, a little silver fish leaping from the stream only to swiftly disappear beneath the rushing waters.

“KATE! Are you paying any attention?” Jolting out of my thoughts, I snapped up my head that I hadn’t even consciously made the decision to lay down in the first place. Needless to say, I was shocked. Normally my teachers were very gentle and soft with me, since they assumed I was traumatized or mentally unstable. They were probably right.

“Honestly?” Raising my gaze to make eye contact with the teacher, I stared her down, instinctively sizing her up. The teacher, Ms. Alba, was hawk-like in appearance, with sharp cheekbones and an angular nose that jutted from her face (and was usually upturned in a haughty sneer). She was thin and bony, with no fat to protect her and no muscle either. Perched on her chair, staring at me with those narrowed brown eyes, she reminded me of an eagle that came near the lake in the summer, scornfully surveying the land from a gnarled branch. Though she was taller than me, I was quite certain I could win in a fight.

Nothing intimidated me anymore, especially not a scrawny English teacher. People were of no concern. Nature held both true beauty and true power that humans couldn’t even begin to imagine. I would know.

“You know what? No. I wasn’t paying attention,” I blurted at last. The room fell quiet immediately, the noise and chatter of the classroom dropping off into a stunned silence.

“I-I- you…” Ms. Alba stuttered, mouth agape in astonished anger. For a moment, she no longer seemed like an eagle, with wind-blown brown hair like feathers and a harsh stare. For a moment she looked like an elephant that had been frightened by a mouse, who thought herself to be powerful and unrivaled only to be threatened by a puny little rodent.

I gave her a smug, rebellious smile, flipping my hair behind my shoulder with a flourish and resting my chin on my hand; Ms. Alba set her jaw furiously, seeming to regain her composure. Oohh crap.

“Well, maybe you should listen then. I will send you to detention!” she threatened, shaking a finger at me. No! You can’t do this! Not unless you’re going to escape again! My heart stopped for a moment. I laughed out loud, and classmates stared at me with bug-eyed expressions that said, “How can you be so stupid?”

But the thoughts of escape trickled into my brain viciously, pouring in with intensity that grew along with my anger and ingraining themselves deep in my mind. It was so simple. I could just escape. Right here. Right now. My mind screamed again, logic immediately combatting the idea with rational reasons not to do it.

“You know, I might like detention. Nice solitary time. Maybe ‘reflect on my behavior.’ Apologize to everyone for… what, following my dream? Being myself? Running away from stupid society because I love nature? Wow. I am such a sinner.” Sarcasm dripped from my voice, so heavy that it weighed my words. Raw fury blazed in her eyes as I held her gaze, dubiously tilting my head as irritation and restlessness warred in my chest.

Lub-dub. You need to escape. Lub-dub. Stay, suppress the feeling. It’ll never work anyway. Lub-dub! The woods are your home! Lub-dub! There’s a better way to do this! Go back to the therapist. You can work this out! Despite the pain and indecision that was bubbling hot in my blood, I still held the teacher’s gaze fiercely.

“You need to stop. This isn’t the stupid woods anymore, where you can do whatever you want and frolick or whatever. Because you were caught. That fantasy is over, so now you need to respect me. Go to the office. Now,” she said tautly, pointing angrily at the door. Rage rocketed through my heart, boiling my blood and fueling the thoughts. I didn’t move. I was paralyzed, glued to my desk, unwilling to move towards the door. The trees outside swayed in the breeze, gentle and welcoming, the bold blue mountains in sharp contrast to the warm earthy tones.

“Ms. Paxton! Go! Now. You need to obey! This is not the wild. You will never go back.” The stern voice echoed over and over in my ears. Unconsciously, I got up, pushing back my seat with a loud screech. My heart pounded wildly in my chest; the teacher beamed with pride, watching me stand up.

She expected me to go to the office, thought that I had given up and accepted my fate: to be bound to society, to be molded into a perfect, pristine person that bows under the pressures of the normal.

But I wasn’t heading towards the door. Ms. Alba’s grinning face fell with each step as I strode towards the window. Thud-thud. Thud-thud. Thud-thud. The same sound the killer had made stalking through the dusk, the same sound I made meandering through the caves, the same sound I made as I had ambled down the shining sand of the lake. Footsteps. Overlooked, but such an important part of our life. That thud-thud that you pay no attention to is always there, at the best and worst parts of life and every second in between.

“Where are you going? Kate Paxton, I demand that you go to the office! Where are you going? Someone grab her!” Her words bounced off me, like a bullet bouncing harmlessly off of bulletproof glass. My whole world was outside that window, and I was just inching towards it. People fumbled for my arms feebly, trying to grab me. It was a futile effort, and I hardly noticed their weak attempts as I approached the window.

Running a hand down the cool glass, I thought, this is it. All that stands between me and a life of freedom is this thin pane of glass. Easily shattered. This measly window and some weak students. I gazed wistfully out the window, watching the wind ruffle the trees and the yellow leaves falling to the ground in flurries. Rocky blue mountains soared beyond, and I yearned to reach them, to run my hand over the stone and feel the raw power.

I couldn’t take it anymore. My heart pounded for the woods, each beat a cry out to the mountains. A gust of wind blew my hair as I yanked up the window frame. Swinging a leg over the side, I stared at the ground below. If I missed the branch I was aiming for, I would splatter all over that ground, shattered on the grass as my disbelieving classmates watched in utter horror. It was a risk I had to take. Without further hesitation, I swang over my other leg and threw myself out the open window.

Writer's Wednesday!

Writer’s Wednesday! Back to reality

Image from Westside Today

I awoke in a sweat to blinding fluorescents shining down on me, expecting to be greeted by the brilliant array of the vibrant colors of the mountain forest. The serene viridian blue of the lake, golden sunlight filtering through the leaves, warm and soft and sweet, gleaming dew on yellowing grass.

Blinking, I registered the scene before me. A crimson cross. Pale sheets. Tortured blue eyes… no. It can’t be… But it was. Sitting in a plush leather chair next to my hospital bed was my mom. The one and only, cold, emotionless Mae Paxton.

Her clear voice rang out in the room, clipped and robotic, with each syllable precisely enunciated. A doctor examined her clipboard intently in the corner, thoughtfully tapping a pencil to her lips. Chestnut brown hair cascaded over her broad shoulders, falling over her wide eyes. As she spoke to my mother, she impatiently pushed rogue strands away from her lips.

I quickly closed my eyes, forcing my racing heart to fall into a steady thrumming rhythm and my gasps of breath to slow. Letting my lips drop into a soft “o,” I let my face go slack, imaging what I might look like as I was asleep. My ears were poised, listening intently for the voices.

“She’s surprisingly well nourished, Mrs. Paxton. Most runaway patients return scrawny and malnourished… but she’s actually healthier than before she left.” The doctor said in her high, silvery voice. Forcing back a smug smile at this, I dared a peek at the room and saw the doctor standing above me scrutinizingly, tendrils of her silky hair hanging so close to my face I could almost feel the wispy strands tickling my cheek.

“Honestly, Mrs. Paxton? She looks radiant. Positively glowing! Rosy cheeks, light tan, muscled? Based on the original pictures you gave me, it was safe to say she was depressed or an anorexic, before the… ahem.” She cleared her throat awkwardly, backing away from my bedside so that I could no longer see her sharp cheekbones and angular features. I didn’t need to see her face to know.

It was an awkward topic, certainly. I had runaway by choice. Obviously, the woman must have thought Mae was ashamed, though I would have bet a fortune that she hadn’t felt ashamed. No. She hadn’t felt anything at all.

“From her relaxed posture, you can plainly see the healthy glow that simply wasn’t there before the-” she hesitated again before continuing.

“Incident. The pictures show a thin, anguished girl. Now? Well, she is the epitome of a healthy teenage girl.” I knew exactly what she was talking about. It was the reflection that had tormented me for years, before I had run.

Severely gaunt and pale, seeming both sad and wistful at the same time. Deep chocolate eyes with a melancholy glimmer, an ever-present spark of pain cleverly concealed by a curtain of lashes. Cropped blonde hair that just barely grazed my shoulders. A defiant set to my jaw that made all my teachers instantly dub me as a “rebel.”

But I knew what I was then, and what I was now. I was a crimson feather before I left, hanging onto the thread by the bird that was society. Clinging to normalcy, yet always yearning, craving the daring life of the forest, the sweet freedom of a bright blue sky and shimmering lake water.

Then, I had run away, the brash crimson feather leaping from the wing of everything it had ever known, spiraling in a gleeful dance through the sky. Free to be its own. Alive. Spontaneous. Glorious liberty. Above all? Happiness.

Now, I had finally crashed to the ground, breaking against the glimmering emerald grass. My ride was over, and yet I knew I could never return to the bird from which I had came. There was nothing left. I was nothing. Just a streaked red feather shattered against the grass, letting the blades conceal the downy fluff and vibrant color. I was not just a runaway girl returned home. I was the feather lying in a field, my grand dance on the wind over.


Two weeks later…

Sitting down in the plush velvet chair, I gave my new counselor a once-over. I was equally nervous and irritated. This was my first time going to a therapist after my escape, and naturally, I had no clue what to say.

How could you explain a feeling? The warm, golden glow of happiness or the surge of adrenaline when I climb a tree, spear a fish? The pure serenity of lake water lapping against the shining shore, the fiery glow of a sunset over the mountains? The awe of standing at the edge of the soaring purple peaks that protrude from the earth like arrowheads, that feeling of something bigger than you? Bigger than life itself?

Shifting nervously, I held her gaze. Those scrutinizing jade eyes analyzed me carefully, like I was a bubbling vial in a science experiment. Averting my gaze, I looked down at my slim fingers, wringing them awkwardly.

Peering up through my lashes, I saw that she was still staring at me with those piercing eyes that cut through the tension like an arrow puncturing a tree. Is she a robot? Will she ever ask a-

“Hello. My name is Emilia Pavledes, and I am your therapist,” she blurted abruptly, her stern voice echoing in the almost-empty room. A tall, lanky potted plant stood in the corner next to a flower pot spilling over with wilting petunias. Still surprised at the sudden, jerky introduction, I grunted in response before muttering,

“I’m Kate. But you already know that, don’t you?” I asked petulantly. Anger and irritation blossomed in my chest, knowing that she had a lifetime of files outlining every detail of my life. Not one of them knew anything about me, the real me.

She didn’t react to this, simply tinkered with her hair, running her fingers through the locks of thick brown hair that hung in loose ringlets around her face. Fury rocketed through my heart at her stupid nonchalance, and I tensed, every nerve in my body alight with raw anger. At her. At the situation. At life.

“Well, you know nothing about me. Or nature. You must have stacks on stacks of files detailing every little thing I’ve ever done, analyzing why I ran away from every possible perspective. But guess what your stupid, fancy papers can’t tell you?” I regarded her furiously, waiting for a response. Wanting desperately to hear what dumb, insane explanation they had for such a simple thing.

A dark feeling twisted my gut, taking the pain and churning it into a black, awful hatred that I knew only the woods could heal. I wanted this woman to be wrong. I wanted her to respond so badly, just so that I could correct her and retort, confirm her incompetence and quit these meaningless sessions.

She simply stared at me cooly, raising a thin eyebrow. I glared at her and our eyes locked for a few agonizing seconds. She sized up me. I sized up her. Her muscles were toned beneath a thin silk dress, but she was supermodel thin, waist almost nonexistent, lost beneath the silver fabric.

I could take her. I could escape, right here, right now… I thought dubiously, glancing over at the window that was just behind me, a few feet away. Trees swayed beyond the thin glass pane, taunting me with their tantalizing closeness. But today was not the day to attempt escape (not that I wouldn’t make the jump, I had done crazier things before). The tensions were too high.

Apparently realizing I wasn’t going to budge, she sighed. I perched on the edge of my seat, widening my eyes with mock-anticipation.

“I think there are four reasons. One, your father’s death. It torments you, darkens your soul to think of all the memories you had with him that were so happy and bright only to be wiped away by a menace you never knew he struggled with. Drugs,” Dr. Emilia stated matter-of-factly, a satisfied smirk playing on her thin lips.

My smug smile fell, and my mouth set into a grim line. Had she really inferred all of that from those dumb government files? Seeing the effect this had on me, her grin widened, revealing slightly-yellowed incisors and a set of perfectly straight teeth lined up in neat rows.

“Do you want me to continue?” I opened my mouth to say a snarky response, but before I could utter a word, she rushed ahead, still using that firm, matter-of-fact tone.

“Two, your mother’s coldness. You see all the people at school, see their parents volunteer at school events. Happy, loving, sweet. Then you see your own mother. Cold, blank. So numbed by grief of a death that you had moved on from long ago. Your father. You understand the pain, but can’t tolerate her coping method.” Her grin didn’t change, but I could see the gleam of satisfaction in her emerald eyes as she analyzed me, my startled expression.

This time, she didn’t need to ask. It was written all across my face.

“Three. Being ostracized. You never did fit in, did you? Did you?” She asked insistently, not harshly, in a soft tone like someone coaxing an animal out of a corner. I shook my head, muttering a half-hearted, “no”, almost too stunned to speak.

“You understand pain and suffering that no one your age can fathom, have no tolerance for the petty high-school drama and relationships. That can’t possibly feel good,” She twirled a strand of hair around her finger, seeming to contemplate this. I sneered at her. How lucky are you, I thought venomously, I bet you were just a pretty little princess in high school.

“Four, you just love the woods. It is the only place that you don’t have to be judged or separated from the group. A place of peace, serenity. A place where, perhaps, you can forget your worries? Evade the pain that plagues you every time you see your mother. You physically cringe every time she enters a room with you. You fold over at her icy touch.”

Averting my eyes, I stared over at the windows, watching the breeze ruffle the leaves. Seeing the weak sunlight cast shadows across the lawn, extending its golden fingers to paint the leaves in brilliant color, like a golden brush dragged across a dark canvas.

Trying to remember, I realized that the therapist was eerily correct. Now that I thought about it, I remembered Mae’s hand squeezing mine before I entered the room and how I had cringed, not from the perpetual coldness of her hands, no. Because I knew the support she was trying so hard to convey wasn’t real.

“That’s why you ran away.” The snarky comments didn’t come to me anymore. I couldn’t look at her. Silence fell over the room like a dark cloth, and I stared out the window with unseeing eyes, blankly fixating on a distant tree.

My cheeks flushed with shame as I remembered my raw anger, how eager I’d been to correct her, how I believed wholeheartedly that this counseling session was meaningless and stupid.

I had believed that she knew nothing about me. But it seemed that Emilia Pavledes knew more about myself than I did.

Writer's Wednesday!

Writer’s Wednesday! 🌲Captured!

Picture from Dissolve

*Note- this is a continuation of the Kate Paxton story.

Just when I least expected it, they came. Hard and heavy. There was nothing I could do to stall them. Not a single thing. They had found me. Finally, finally they had found me.

The birds sung a sweet, soft melody from an austere pine that towered above, leaning over the lake and shedding emerald needles that floated on the water like miniature rafts. Golden sunshine filtered through the leaves, warm and pure like a soft embrace. I allowed myself a smile, stopping for a moment to simply listen.

The sound of lapping waves washed over me, a steady thrumming rhythm as the water crept up the sand and receded, crept up and receded.

A sleek brown hawk soaring through the unclouded blue sky, screeching an insistent caw! Caw! That echoed through the air and reverberated in the lofty pines.

Some people love the woods for its silence. I thought with a knowing grin. I love it for its noise. Just as loud, but in a peaceful way. The moment passed just as quickly as it arrived, and I continued the morning ritual I knew so well that there was no longer any thought needed.

I yanked out the laces of my sneakers with a quick flourish, flinging them off onto the sandy shore. A cloud of golden sand exploded into the sky with a puff.

I smiled, taking a step towards the lapping waters of the lake. The sand was warm against my sore feet, sending a sweet heat all through my body. My lips curled into a happy grin as I dug my toes deep into the sand, relishing in the soft yet grainy sand caressing my bruised skin.

Reluctantly, I lifted them out and watched as the sand spilled between my toes, rejoining the millions of tiny grains that gleamed gold in the summer sun. I reached over to a nearby stump, grabbing my makeshift wooden bowl and dipping it into the water. The bowl was made of a thick stick, hastily carved out and patched up so that it held the cool blue water of the lake perfectly.

I had done this every morning since I had run away from school. School… I let out a short laugh. School seemed like a distant dream, a world away. Though it had only been a few months since I’d left, it seemed as though it had been a lifetime. Bittersweet memories flooded my mind, and I fell into the whirlpool, letting myself relive the moment that had single-handedly changed my life forever.

“Oh, so nature girl can actually talk, can she now?” Maria Maize jeered. Everyone looked over to watch my brutal reprimand. Maria was the most popular girl in the high school, with her perfectly styled black hair that cascading down her back, shiny and pristine and meticulously curled. Her gang of girls crowded me in an instant.

“Kate, is it? Kate Paxton, the poor girl that nobody likes,” a girl said, looming over me with laughter in her harsh brown eyes.

“I heard she’s got daddy issues. He was a druggie, right? Drug overdose?” A pang of agony hit my stomach like a lightning bolt. I remembered flashes of his eyes, him smiling down at me after my dance recital. A hospital. White sheets. Funeral.

Tears ran down my pale cheeks, coalescing and streaming in rivulets until they dripped down onto my shirt. As if sensing my pain, the girls smirked, obviously pleased.

“Drug overdose. Poor Kate, no friends and no father.”

“Maybe you would actually be popular if you didn’t spend all your time in the woods.” At this, they all snickered.

Waves of hurt crashed over me, and I couldn’t breathe. I was drowning in it, gasping for air and relief, reaching the surface only to be forced back under by a tidal wave of jeers.

“And what about your robot mom?” They waited for a response, for more tears. I didn’t give it to them. Something inside me just simply snapped. Like a cord snipped with scissors, releasing with a twang. I didn’t need to think. My feet did all the work. I sprinted off out of the classroom. The teacher finally looked up, yelling at me to come back. Slamming the door shut, I heard the teacher fling it open behind me.

Running harder than I ever had in my life, I leapt down the stairs and bolted out the back doors that led into a small courtyard. The grass passed in a blur, I heard dim shouts of my classmates behind me through the raging wind in my ears. I never did look back.

I let the memory wash away as I sipped the cool blue waters. It was truly bittersweet. The bitterness of harsh words, the sweet joy of freedom… BAM!!! I was slammed to the ground. The small wooden bowl flew out of my grasp, rolling away into the lake.

A heavy body was on top of me, holding me in a death grip. I let out a muffled scream, biting into my attacker’s arm with all my force, clamping my teeth down on the bare skin. I felt the skin rip away under my canines, and the man recoiled back with a guttural yell. My eyes widened, nearly popping out of my head. The man? The man was a Search and Rescue Team member. Behind him? Five more, their eyes trained on me, bolting in my direction.

No. No. NO. I was too careful. How did they- how…? Billions of possibilities ran through my mind. I doubted that Tara or her group had mentioned it… we had met at the old scene of our campfire about a week after the incident, and I was proud to call them my only semblance of a friendship. They promised to hike out again soon to visit, and some part of me knew they wouldn’t turn me in.

The man sprang to his feet, trying to grab me. I screamed, bolting out around his back and leaping onto his back. Strangled grunts were ripped from his throat as I looped a muscled arm around his neck, squeezing as tight as I could. With one final groan, his body went slack and I jumped off and let him fall to the ground. His chest rose and fell, and I was almost completely sure that he was just knocked out.

A woman lunged for me, her attack even quicker and more feral. She seemed shocked that I could take down an adult man, and obviously they hadn’t expected a fight. This time, there was no holding back.

Fists flew through the air, hers and mine. She made contact, and my breath left in a whoosh!

Wheezing, I recovered and slammed my elbow into her face. Staggering back, I swiftly took advantage of her surprise and flung my fists into her head over and over, until she was gasping for breath and clearly unable to fight.

A hand yanked me from behind, pulling me back by the collar of my shirt. Strong arms secured my limbs and lifted me up off the ground. My toes dangled in the air, all three remaining people clamping down my limbs and began lugging me forward.

Straining, I arched my back and howled with fury. The trees danced and swayed above me, infuriatingly calm and peaceful.

“No! No! NO! You can’t- I can’t-“ I gave up on the sentence, shrieking until my throat was raw. Looking behind me, I caught a glimpse of the little wooden bowl floating away. And something inside of me broke. That little wooden bowl that I had made myself was now gone. Forever.

That one little thing shattered my soul. Sobs wracked my body, and I begged and begged. For mercy. For the first time in my life, I actually prayed. If not for the past to reverse, than to hold that wooden bowl in my arms, to feel the rough wooden edges against my fingers just once more.

The people trekked on, calmly carrying me to a white van that lay in wait in the woods. My whole body yearned for the woods as they shoved me into the back of the van, strapping me in and securing my hands and feet with duct tape.

Gleaming fluorescent lights shone down, illuminating the bed of the van. Writhing. Screaming. Howling at the top of my lungs. My cries were silenced by the thick walls. No. Not school. My mom. Life without the woods…. The thought was unbearable. I was finally captured. Running away had once seemed like a faraway dream, and now returning home was equally as unfathomable.

After a while, the van lurched forward. I assumed that they’d retrieved the people I’d incapacitated.

We rumbled off, and all that I saw was white. Shining white walls. Bright white lights. My eyes could barely process this, after the months of vibrant colors and earthy tones of the forest.

Everything was gone. My sweet life of freedom was gone. I was on my way to Sapphire Peaks now. It was like waking up from a pleasant dream, but not back to reality. No. I was waking up to a nightmare.

Writer's Wednesday!

Writer’s Wednesday! Selene’s return

 Aoooh…a wolf sang into the soft summer air. I sat at the makeshift fire, watching the golden flames dance and leap, cutting through the dark void of the night. I let out a long, sweet sigh. The moon was full and brimming with silvery light; light that took over the night, illuminating every branch and making the leaves glimmer emerald in the dusk.

 It was… unnaturally full. I had been out here for months upon months and never ever had I seen such a perfect night. It was like something out of a fairytale, with the stars glimmering like crystals in the sky, and the onyx canvas of the night streaked with color.

A glowing light danced through the clouds, a shooting star jetting through the night. It was an odd shape for a star, looking like a human figure outlined in starlight.  As it shone through the clouds, I thought that it almost looked like it was leaping from cloud to cloud.

As I watched the brilliant spectacle, I wondered if somewhere out there, my mom was watching the same sky, thinking about me. Through the enchantment, I felt a sharp stab of bitterness deep down in my gut. Not likely. Maybe for another other mother, but not Mae. Not Mae.

Brutal memories flashed across my mind, slicing into the peaceful night. Peeking out from behind my mother, her blocking my view and screaming in terror. A horrible, gut-wrenching scream echoing through the house. The god-awful stench drifting up and filling my nose. The stench of death. Mae rushing over to my father’s limp, unmoving figure. Slumped against the couch with a needle protruding from his arm. Shrieking into the phone, tears leaking from her eyes and coalescing as they dripped down her pale cheeks.

A haze of sirens and ambulances, screams and hospitals. My mother’s kind blue eyes shattering like glass when she heard the news from the doctors. Husband. Dead. Overdose. A blank film glazing over her eyes, cold and emotionless. Numb.

Squeezing my eyes shut, I shook my head. No. You can’t do this again, Kate, can’t go down that rabbit hole again. With a gasping breath, the memories fell away, down into the dark black depths of my soul, where it swirled and writhed like a beast yanking me down and groping blindly for a handhold. A memory. A person. Anything-

Boom! I was yanked from the reverie as the sky exploded with light. The moon glowed like a beacon, shining so bright it could be mistaken for the sun.  Tiny specks of stars bursted like supernovas, and the whole world fell away. The soft crackle of the flames was instantaneously quenched, the chatter of far away crickets fading away until all that was left was the sky.

Seconds passed. A minute. And with one final searing blast of light, the sky swirled and the stars twirled and danced, rearranging the night sky. As quickly as it had come, it went away, the dusky darkness returned, speckled with glowing constellations and streaked with colors. A mini aurora-borealis shone pink, green, and purple is the night.

Warmth spread through my body, soft and sweet, like honey dripping over the body. I smiled up at the moon. I could barely believe my ears when a musical voice drifted through the night, one that I was sure everyone in the world could hear.

“Welcome home, Selene, goddess of the moon and night. The night sky will never be the same.”


“No. No. NO!” A frail blonde woman dashed up the stairs, throwing open the bedroom door with a giant slam! She, too, from all the way in California, had heard the voice. That awful, silvery voice, sugary sweet yet powerful at the same time. A flash of light so bright it burst open the night sky.

No, no, no. Artemis… Melissa Casse’s thoughts soured at the name. She had dreaded this moment for years, the dark what if? situation that lingered in the back of your mind, the one that you tried to push away but kept dragging you back every time.

Stalking into the bedroom, she threw back the silken sheets with a dramatic flourish, pale hands trembling slightly. The lump in the bed that she had prayed was Mira… Melissa let out a weak whimper, thin lips quivering. A pillow. A pathetic pillow.

The frail blonde woman let out a low, guttural growl that tore her throat. To any normal person, this would seem like a kidnapping. But Melissa knew. Selene had finally been taken away from her.

Dashing down the hallway, images flashed across her mind.

The first time she’d seen the young goddess soar from the heavens to Earth, a young high-school age girl with a round, pale face and wavy black hair. A brilliant white pegasus stood at her side, chomping away at the dew-speckled grass. What the…? Is that a- a- horse? With wings?!? Explanations churned in her mind, but she had always been rather simple minded. Anything that wasn’t written in a textbook might as well have been fictional.

And when the young girl turned, Melissa saw her face and instantly froze.

In that moment, nothing else mattered. Selene. Her breath caught in her throat. She’d studied Greek myth all her life, and Melissa knew immediately that she was in the presence of one of the most beautiful, powerful entities in the world.

Everything about her shimmered in the moonlight, from the shine of her hair to the sparkling blue of her eyes. The decision was not a conscious one. I need her. Selene is mine. Something about possessing a divine entity, having complete control over such a beautiful person… in that moment, Melissa craved it more than anything.

You know when you see something so perfect, so heavenly, you just yearn for it? The frail blonde woman out in the field felt it, her heart leaping with an utter need for the girl, to call her a loving name, to braid her flowing locks and see the sparkle in her midnight blue eyes.

Call it what you wish, the simple farmer woman suddenly became a fugitive among the heavens, forever hiding out and protecting her precious “daughter”…

Her vision was a blur as she bolted down the stairs, her satin slippers slamming the carpet. Adrenaline and panic sang in her veins, the door loomed ahead. Melissa twirled the lock, flinging open the door and kicking off her shoes.

The emerald grass tickled her feet, droplets of dew dripping from the stems and splashing her bare toes, sending shivers up her spine. She ran and ran until she reached the field where Selene had stood, so many years ago, shimmering in the bright moonlight.

Pain wracked her chest, slamming her tiny body so hard she fell to her knees, the cotton fabric of the nightgown soaking through to her skin. Melissa’s stomach lurched with desire so intense it could burn down the field until all that was left was a heap of charred grass.

The stars blazed above, shining a brilliant gold. Every detail reminded her of Selene, her sweet moonbeam. Onyx black like her shining hair, stars shimmering like the passionate twinkle in her eyes, the faint, barely there silver aura that swirled around her like moonlight.

The frail, simple woman with a simple wish lay on the ground, tears dripping like liquid diamonds down her pale face. She would never be the same. Alas, once you love an angel like Selene, there is no recovery. A wound made by a divine goddess was one that never healed.

High above in the heavens, Selene was sleeping peacefully. And down on Earth, her captor was heartbroken. Melissa’s precious daughter would never return.

Writer's Wednesday!

Writer’s Wednesday! The Search

A continuation of last week’s story.

“Mrs. Paxton, how would you say that you’ve done with your daughter’s disappearance? Do you think that they can find her?” The wide-eyed reporter asked, with an almost childlike anticipation hanging off her every word.

And exactly the opposite of her, Mrs. Mae Paxton regarded the reporter coldly, robotically taking in her short stature and brown eyes. They looked startlingly like Kate’s eyes, as they had been when she was born… before they darkened. A small twinge in her stomach at this thought. Other than that? No pain or suffering whatsoever at the memory of her missing daughter’s eyes.

The emotions and thoughts that swirled in her mind were not those of grief, of mourning and pain.  Her emotions were not motherly, not loving. They were cold. Robotic. Technically, they were feelings. Yet, what went on in Mae Paxton’s heart seemed not at all like emotions. They felt like commands. Her mind circled these thoughts, swiftly and mechanically analyzing what she should do.

I should cry. I must convey grief, though I may not feel it. Kate is gone. Her heartstrings plucked ever so softly at this, a tinny, off-tune chord plinked in the blackness. The emotion was so slight, so small, that any normal person would never have noticed.

Mae did notice. She shoved it away, deep down in the inky depths. Some minuscule part of her knew that she shouldn’t suppress it. That emotions were normal, and that what went on in her mind and heart was completely, utterly wrong.

“There are no words to describe the sorrows I feel. My child is gone, into the woods. Even the helicopters can’t find her!” The mother cried out, willing a false tear to run down her face. With a sympathetic pout, the reporter backed away. She, like most people, thought that the poor mother was grieving her runaway child. Mrs. Paxton forced another wet tear to drop slowly from her cold blue eyes.

The display of emotions felt wrong. The sadness wasn’t real to her. Nothing was real to Mae, and it might never be again. Some part of her mourned the loss of her only child. Her mind showed her visions of Kate, when she was a little girl.

Prancing in the woods under a canopy of falling leaves, blond hair swinging around her shoulders. Soft brown eyes filled with glee. Mae had smiled at this, dancing around with her and twirling as leaves tumbled to the ground like confetti in the air. Happiness exploding in her heart, an expanding warmth in her chest.

It was the last emotion she would ever truly feel, and even this cold, hard heart in her chest could recall the emotion like a faded memory. The sweet, warm bliss was yanked from her grasp the very next day, leaving her with a bitter aftertaste of a feeling that was once so sugary and sweet. The very next day, her husband, Kate’s father, died of a drug overdose.

Mae Paxton watched the reporter walk away. This time, a real tear leaked from her eye. She summoned all her will and strained to feel the sadness that would mean she was still human, still had feelings.

The tears flowed steadily, but she couldn’t feel the grief she wanted so badly to feel. All she felt was a numb echo in her chest. Bowing a solemn head, Kate’s mother accepted this. That she couldn’t feel sadness anymore. There was only the dark, gaping hole her husband had left, hollowing her chest. Mae Paxton would never feel again.


Pain burst through my chest like a cannon shot. It was gone instantly, as soon as it had come it had already faded away. I looked around warily, up at the sky and down at the scintillating lake. There was no explanation for it.

For a moment I wondered if maybe, just maybe, it was a connection to my mom. Somewhere out there, maybe she had felt something. Shaking my head furiously, I shoved away the ridiculous notion. It’s not possible. Either way, Mom isn’t really one for feelings anyway. I thought bitterly, remembering her hollow eyes as she stared off into the distance, how no matter how hard I tried to love her, I couldn’t.

It was like trying to love a ghost. She was but a shell of her former self. A blank, emotionless husk. How could you love someone when every aspect of them was gone? Wiped away like a rag sweeping across a whiteboard? That was how Mom was, and had been for a long time. Ever since Dad died.

My mood was no longer soured by this. I wouldn’t let the pains of the past numb me anymore. They couldn’t, now that I was surrounded by the woods that I had always longed for. The loving arms of the forest that had comforted me when my own mother wouldn’t now held me firmly in their embrace.

Gazing up at the sky, I saw the helicopter, prominent in the soft periwinkle sky. Smirking, I stared up at it, almost tauntingly. I stood in the open, next to the lake that I had sipped from just moments before. Yet, there was no chance that they could see me. I had covered myself head-to-toe in thick, cakey mud and yellowed leaves.

How ironic. I can see them and they can’t see me, and yet they are the ones looking.

It had become a ritual. Every day I walked down to the lake. Sipped from the cool, crisp water and watched the helicopter drone overhead. I measured the days in the number of helicopters I saw. There was one every day. At the same time. Every single day like clockwork.

The chopper made a wide, sweeping circle. I could see men in black coats lean out the sides, their eyes scanning each tree, each rock. A blaring, nasally voice shouted into a megaphone,

“Kate Paxton! If you are alive, show yourself! Kate Paxton! If you are in the immediate area, the U.S government demand that you reveal your location!”

I almost laughed at the emptiness of the threat. Does he really think that I would just show up, when I had made the decision to run away in the first place? I thought, snorting at the ridiculous idea. The men were so close that I could see the whites of their eyes and analyze the planes of their faces. Some were narrow and angled, others were pudgy and fat. None of them were genuinely concerned.

My lips curled sympathetically. Of course they don’t have real concern. I’m just a brat who ran away from school one day. They don’t know me, I thought. Certainly I would feel the same way in their shoes. A small, stupid part of me wanted to jump out and reveal myself, just because I felt bad for them. But the logical part of me drowned it out swiftly, pushing it under the waves until it fizzled out, the thought evaporating completely.

It’s not as if I have anything to go back to. I would return to an emotionless, cold mother. A dead father. Judgemental peers that ostracize me constantly. A counselor who insists (rather unhelpfully) that everything will be okay. As if those words will fix everything.

As soon as the helicopter had faded away, I stood up slowly. Trekking back through the mess of brambles and branches, eventually the gaping mouth of the cave came into view. I stumbled into the sunlit cavern. Following its twists and turns deep into the dark depths until I reached a small opening in the wall, about three feet wide and seven feet long.

I collapsed onto the plushy bed of pine needles that I had fashioned myself on the second night. The long walk and heavy thoughts had exhausted me. I laid down, resting my cheek gently against the prickly needles. Sleep took over, and I drifted off, letting the darkness fall over me like a dark cloak.

Writer's Wednesday!

Writer’s Wednesday!

Image courtesy of: http://wide-wallpapers.net/lovely-arch-made-of-fall-colored-trees-wide-wallpaper/

“Come back… Kate, come back!” A frantic woman called after me, over and over. “Come back!” More voices joined in with cries of their own.

“You are in big trouble!”

“You can’t just run away!”

“Kate Paxton! Get back here this instant. You can’t just live in the woods, now can you?”

The begs and screams meant nothing to me. Fire exploded through my soul, fueled by their futile attempts and rising with each step like gasoline poured over a raging blaze. I didn’t look back. I didn’t need to see the shock, the pain of the faces of the people. It was in their voice as they shrieked insistently for me, “Come back! Kate! Come back!”

There was a solemn tone to the voices even as they begged, an underlying layer of desperation because they knew I wouldn’t turn. I knew it, and they did too. People shouted and screamed. Roared angrily of consequences when I got back. And yet, no one tried to follow. Not a single one. Tears burned in my eyes as I sprinted ahead, propelled by the springy moss. This is finally happening! I thought, not with glee, but with a deeper feeling. A leaping joy that the nagging passion that I had always held close to my heart would be satisfied at last.

The forest I had always known invited me in with its warm, calming arms outstretched in silent greeting. Welcoming me home. Leaves twirled down from the branches, a maelstrom of brilliant autumn leaves tumbling to the earth like falling stars. Normally I would stop to admire the beauty; but even I knew that I couldn’t. Not now. There will be a lifetime for that, I thought, Now is the time to run.

As I surged through the undergrowth the urgent cries faded away. I let them be washed away. They never wanted me before. I was a misfit before. A girl who was weird because she loved the woods, I thought, salty tears tracing tracks down my cheeks. The final shriek pierced the cool evening air like a knife, stopping me dead in my tracks for a single, heartbreaking moment.

“Kate! Come back to us. Kate, we need you!”

The words echoed in the dark, and my eyes snapped open. Groping blindly in the dark, I expected to feel the same old wooden nightstand sliding smoothly under my fingertips next to my bed. But it wasn’t there. It was cold, hard stone.  

I jolted up, sitting ramrod straight in an unfamiliar room. Not my room, not my plushy bed with downy blankets like an angel’s wing. A cave. Before the shock could surge in my veins, the memory arose, a bubble rising to the water’s surface.Yesterday flashed across my mind’s eye, running through the forest till the moon shone bright in the midnight sky and collapsing in a dark, stony place.

Climbing to my feet, I walked toward the sliver of sunlight around the corner, rounding it to see the mouth of the cave, a gaping hole in the jagged gray rock. I stared out into the small, rugged clearing, smiling as the yellowing grass sparkled with speckles of dew, tiny jewels dripping down the stems.

“Evening Forest” by Bo (my brother)

And beyond the clearing? The autumn forest in all its glory. The grass squished under my sneakers; water flooded into my shoes, but I didn’t care. I was finally, finally in the loving embrace of the forest and surrounded by the majesty of the Blue Ridge Mountains which towered above the cave.

An odd buzz filled my ears. I froze. A helicopter! No! My mind was spinning. I had hoped they wouldn’t come, at least not so soon. They’ve begun the search. Diving into the cave, I scrambled down into the darkness. The search chopper’s hum was deafening; I could almost feel the whipping wind from the blade as it passed directly over the cave where I sat crumpled up in a ball on the floor.

Minutes later, the drone faded and I edged toward the mouth of the cave. Deeming it safe, I stepped carefully out into the meadow. They were heading back towards Sapphire Peaks, the town I had always known. I pumped my fist in victory. I had thwarted the town that had despised me, ostracized me for being the “weird kid.” Now that I’d finally run, now they wanted to find me. Now they cared, when they never had before.

That morning, I took a long, slow walk into the forest that I had always dreamed about, that had always called out to me, tantalizingly close and yet so far away. I’m here now, I thought, warmth expanding in my chest.

I took a walk. A simple walk, and yet it was all that I’d ever wanted. Freedom from the town that had pinned me down all my life. I couldn’t help but smile as I looked up at the soft periwinkle sky, watching the helicopter fade into the distance.