Subtext: Of course! Would you expect anything less?
Violence/Language/Creepiness Factor: There is some violence, and be WARNED: there is mention of, and alluding to the harming of small children that doesn't end so hot. It may be a little disturbing.
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Kim Pritekel & Alexa Hoffman
Kim Pritekel & Alexa Hoffman
You've asked me to write in this application for grad school about the one person who changed my life. Well, I imagine you've gotten plenty of good answers over the years to that question. Some people may have written about their mom or dad, a sibling, perhaps a neighbor, professor, or maybe just a friendly, neighborhood police officer.
Not in my story.
I write about Abel Cohen. Though her namesake was murdered in legend and lore, in this story, she was sent as an angel to earth to show me what real freedom is all about. This is my story; her story; and most importantly, our story.
The small blonde child walked on, looking around with green eyes, large with growing apprehension and fear. As she walked through the woods, one tree began to look like the next in a maze of an unending forest.
Getting really worried now, the little blonde brought up a hand, chewing on her fingers as tension began to fill her small body, long golden hair becoming damp against her skull as she began to sweat, her tiny hand clutched into a fist to try and keep herself under control. She didn't want to call for help because her mommy would be angry at her for wandering off so far.
She stopped, suddenly feeling eyes on her. In her childish mind, she imagined all sorts of monsters hiding in the shadows of the trees. Monsters who wanted to eat her up and never let her play with her baby brother again, or see her mommy or daddy.
Whimpering in fear, she stopped where she was, looking around in all directions, small, white teeth chewing painfully on her fingers.
"Hello?" she asked, her small, high voice causing a bird to take flight from a nearby branch. She looked up, following its progress above the tree tops, wishing she could fly like that.
The little blonde whipped around, eyes the size of saucers, immediately breathing out a sigh of relief when she saw the child standing before her. The child had short, dark hair, and bright blue eyes. Dark blonde brows drew.
"Who are you?" she asked, glad it was a child, but suspicious all the same. Her mommy had told her not to trust anyone who was a stranger.
"I'm Zac," the other girl said, a small grin on her face, her bright blue eyes seeming to glow in the shadows of the canopy of trees.
"You have pretty eyes, Zac." Smiling green eyes met surprised blue.
"Thanks. What's your name?"
"Abel. Nice to meet you, Zac."
"Nice to meet you, Abel. I think you're lost."
"Yep. Can you help me?" Abel asked, hoping beyond hope that Zac knew where to go.
"Sure! Are you from that house with the green dock?" At Abel's nod, Zac smiled.
"Come on." The little brunette led the way through the trees, glancing often at her smaller companion. She had never seen a child roaming through the woods, and wondered if it would be okay to talk to Abel. She wasn't sure what her father would say, or if he'd get mad again. Deciding she didn't want to chance it, she'd keep the little blonde her own little secret.
14 years later...
"Who let the dogs out! Who, who, who, who!" Abel Cohen grinned as she sang, blonde locks bouncing back and forth as she bobbed to the beat. She drove her small two-door Jetta through the winding roads that would lead to Maine's Wachiva Forest.
Finals over by two days, she had loaded up her car and driven from the family home in Greenwich, Connecticut, to the family cabin. She promised to air the place out and get it cleaned up and ready for a fun summer until her younger siblings finished school and her family could join her.
As she tapped the wheel with dancing fingers, she looked at her surroundings, watching as the trees passed, the extensive wooded area coming back to life after a harsh winter that had lasted far into spring, leaving plants and trees shocked and frozen when they should have been blooming and growing new life. Abel could tell that even though it was late May, she'd be taking a nice, hot bubble bath tonight. She smiled as she thought of her time alone at the cabin.
As much as she dearly loved her parents and four younger brothers and sisters, she would wallow in her isolation. Able to do whatever whenever, and not have to worry about dorm roommates or parents bugging her.
Abel sighed, changing the radio station as a string of commercials came on, then finally gave up. Opening her sun visor, she grabbed a CD at random, slid it into the car's player, and turned up the volume.
A car was coming up the road, the unused road that led to the two cabins set a mile apart. Keen hearing listened, trying to place the make. Sure it wasn't the Wilkins' truck, a lithe body moved quickly through the trees, hiding behind massive trunks, and making an already thin body thinner behind the not-so-thick ones.
There, just coming up the road. A dark blue sedan. Making its winding way up the road, slowing around the numerous turns. A careful driver, not aggressive or impulsive. Must be a woman.
Not a sound was heard as the figure got closer to the road, watching to see which way the sedan would turn: left to the Wilkins' or right to the Cohen's. When the car turned right, a sharp intake of breath could be heard, unsettling some nearby birds, then the muffled steps as a shadow swept across the forest floor, a large, calloused hand resting on a rough tree trunk.
Blue eyes closed as the car pulled up into the drive, and a warm, familiar feeling stole over the crouched figure, forming a small smile. The figure watched as the door to the sedan opened, and a blonde head popped out, long hair blowing in the breeze that seemed to be a constant companion to the forest. Blue eyes opened further as that feeling, that know, filled her body.
"She's back," was barely heard, a whisper upon the whispering wind. "Spinney."
Abel was still humming the song she'd been listening to as she rounded the corner to her parent's cabin. She looked up at it now, a soft smile lining her lips. She had so many incredible memories at this place, and it saddened her to know that her time there was coming to an end. She would be a junior in college next year, and knew that as more and more demands were made on her time, she would have less of it for her family.
Her parents had bought the original small, three-room cabin when the blonde had been four years old. Over the years, they had added onto it as their family grew, creating the wood and glass beauty that stood before her now. Five bedrooms for five kids and two parents, and just a cozy environment for a fun-filled summer or special holiday season.
Abel looked around, seeing the sun-splashed landscape. The lush forest around the cabin looked as it always did, trees as far as the eyes could see with the lake and dock out not twenty yards from the house.
Suddenly the smile slid off her face and she began to look around, eyes scanning the dense forest off to her left. She felt like she was being watched, and an odd, unsettling feeling settled over her. Brows drawn, she turned in a small circle, searching out something that she wasn't aware, just . . . something.
"Hello?" she called out, her voice echoing out over the lake and bouncing off the surrounding foothills. The squawk of far-off birds was her only reply.
Deciding to shrug it off, she turned back to her car, opened the trunk, and began to lift out her bags of clothing that would get her through three months, and the food she'd brought to last her for the next week. Her folks would provide the rest of the food for the summer once they came.
Humming loudly and badly, knowing there wasn't a soul around to hear, she made her way up the dirt walk that led to the wrap-around porch. Digging out her key and holding open the screen door with her butt as she maneuvered around, she juggled the things she held to unlock the heavy door and push it open.
Abel wrinkled her nose as the stale air of the place being closed up for six months met her nose.
"Yuck," she muttered as she dropped her bags and headed over to the alarm system, disabling it before a silent alarm sent dozens of cop cars swarming around the cabin.
A squirrel scampered by as the dark figure moved yet closer, hiding behind a small thicket of trees that was not even fifteen feet from the cabin.
Inside, the blonde could be seen unpacking a brown paper bag on the kitchen counter. She watched as a package of meat was taken out, a plastic bottle of something, though it read Coke, and a jar that read Prego.
The figure moved to the other window so she could see better. She studied the face of the angel that she had dreamed of for years . . .
The gangly teenager grabbed the cold, metal handle of the boxcar, and heaved herself up into its cavernous depths, looking around to make sure she was alone. Satisfied, she dropped the heavy knapsack she carried and slid down the metal wall, landing squarely on her butt, knees bent, wrists dangling over her knees.
She brushed long, dark hair out of her eyes, angry yet again at herself for losing her last comb when she had been running from the cops.
"Bastards," she muttered, trying to run long fingers through the tangled strands, bracing herself as the train groaned to life and began to move. Zac watched as the snow-swept scenery began to whoosh by faster and faster, finally having to move further back in the car as snow began to stick to her hair and clothing.
Leaning her back against the cold metal side of the boxcar, she stretched out, her head back, and closed her eyes with a sigh. A slow smile curved her lips up as she brought up her favorite daydream subject.
Spinney is running through the trees, her long, beautiful hair, just like spun gold, flying out behind her. Her green eyes squeezed shut as she stops, raising her arms to the sky and spinning just like she did at the age of five. This time, though, Zac imagined what the girl would look like at fourteen. She wondered how tall Spinney had gotten. She had been so tiny as a rowdy five year old.
Spinney stopped spinning and shined those eyes on Zac, smiling as she walked over to the brunette and reached out her hand. Zac took it, entwining their fingers and smiling in return. She felt so safe with the blonde, like nothing, the cold weather, life, or the Boogie Man, could ever hurt Zac again.
She reveled in that feeling as she sat in the cold boxcar. She could somehow feel the presence of her old friend, even though she hadn't seen her in so long, and longer since she talked or played with her. Even though she could feel her, knowing that she was out there somewhere, she still missed her. Terribly.
"I had such a crappy day today, Spinney," Zac said into the empty boxcar, her voice quiet with fatigue. "Almost got thrown into the can again. Damn, sucks." She looked out into the night, the star-filled sky mostly hidden by heavy, pregnant clouds, threatening to drop more snow on them. "More snow, Spinney," she whispered, her words coming out in puffs of air as she huddled her long body in upon itself, wrapping long, gangly arms around her shins. "Cold."
Zac wondered if it was snowing wherever Spinney was that night. Was she warm and safe? She felt that the blonde was, and had the distinct feeling that she'd know if something was wrong. Just felt it. Like she felt the cold snow blowing against her skin. As blue eyes shut, she wondered if Spinney thought about her, too. She smiled at the thought.
Abel sat on the recliner her mom had bought her father last year, plate of baby carrots with a blob of Ranch dressing on the side, and put her feet up on the attached ottoman.
Humming her delight for relaxation, she grabbed a carrot, dragging it through the white goo until it was half covered, and then smiled at the satisfying crunch the root made between her teeth. She loved carrots. Her mom used to tell her she'd turn orange if she continued to eat as many as she did.
Grabbing the remote from the small table next to the chair, she flipped on the TV, and happily waded through the hundreds of channels that the satellite dish on the roof provided. Her dad was a sucker for every single sports channel that was offered, and who was she to disagree?
Settling on ESPN, she continued to eat her carrots, her feet tapping together as she nearly bounced from her excitement. Summer break, a whole week completely alone, and another 4.0 GPA to add to her files. She and Kyle had broken up last semester, but that wasn't exactly a storm cloud in her sunny day. Just a detail.
When a whole slew of commercials came on, Abel growled and grabbed the remote, flipping through again. She truly loved channel surfing. With her dad as master and sovereign ruler of the remote control, she never got to choose. Not today.
"Ha ha!" she grinned, stopping on an infomercial for ladies' nose hair clippers. Almost mesmerized, she watched as the host demonstrated the shiny silver tool. Head slightly cocked to the side, the blonde watched in fascination as the tool was inserted into a rather hairy woman's nose, and quickly yanked out again. "Ew! Okay, yeah. Time to change."
". . . third missing child was found today near Deer Creek Lake, just south of Route 1. The child's identity has not been released yet, but has been confirmed as female. As with the other cases, certain items belonging to the child were missing. More from meteorologist Marty Craig after this break."
Abel wrinkled her nose. "Oh, creepy." She changed the channel again.
The figure moved around the large cabin, hearing talking within. She listened, trying to see if it was Spinney. She hadn't seen anyone else go into the cabin, but there was a man's voice, too.
She moved around the stand of trees to look into another window, and bent down, holding her weight up with a hand on the rough bark of a tree, and the hard ground beneath her.
Not a sound was made when she moved. Even a humming bird that was feasting on a birdfeeder didn't move as it sucked down the sugary, colored water.
The form stood again, one blue eye peeking out from behind her hiding place. Inside, she saw Spinney sitting in a chair, her feet up, and an empty plate on her lap. She was smiling, then her head was thrown back as she laughed outright at something she was looking at. Blue eyes tried to focus on what it was that humored the blonde so much, and spied a black box with a cord running from it to out of sight. She realized it was probably a TV. She had seen them a few times in store windows when she was traveling.
Her gaze moved back up to Spinney's, looking into those bright green eyes, and wishing, hoping, and wanting to see them up close again. Wanting them to see her.
"Soon, Spinney," she whispered. "Soon."
"Zac?" the blonde child asked as they walked through the forest, hand in hand. It had been two weeks since the Cohen family had arrived at their cabin, the parents so proud of their first investment outside of their home in Greenwich and cars.
"Yeah, Spinney?" the six year old asked, looking around, blue eyes already keen, as she watched their environment carefully, wanting to make sure they weren't seen.
"Will you meet my mommy today?" Hopeful green eyes looked up at her companion. She asked this nearly every day, and usually got the same answer. She just hoped that maybe just once the answer would be yes.
Zac looked down at her best friend of two whole weeks, and seeing the hope radiating there, felt her heart drop. She knew her hide would be scalped if she did, but oh how she wanted to make the blonde happy. She loved to see the small girl smile, and acted like a complete maniac half the time just to ensure that response.
"Can we, huh?" Spinney insisted.
"No, Spinney. I can't," Zac said, her voice soft and filled with sorrow. Just as she knew she would, she saw the slender shoulders droop and a head drop. "I'm sorry, Spinney. Please don't be mad, 'kay? I don't wanna get into trouble." Zac pleaded for understanding.
"Why? Will your mommy get mad?" Spinney asked.
"Um, yeah. Yeah, that's right," Zac lied. But since Spinney seemed to already understand that possibility, she'd go with it.
"Oh, okay. Can we spin today?!" Green eyes lit up again at the idea, and, as per the last two weeks, Zac couldn't deny the girl anything.
"Come on!" she called out, running.
The blue-eyed girl sat in her lean-to consisting of a tarp she found and a large piece of canvas that she'd had with her during her travels. The pieces of material were tied just outside a rock overhang that served as part of the shelter. She hoped it would keep her protected from the summer rains, anyway.
She looked around at her meager belongings. A small stack of books, either 'borrowed' or left over from her childhood. A small fire ring was just outside the shelter; she wasn't too keen on seeing just how fireproof this stuff was. A rolled up bedroll was in the corner, dirty and grungy from years of use and very few washings. It was hard and flat, but at least it kept her off the ground. For the most part.
Looking outside the small opening to her home, she saw the charred ruins of what had once been the cabin where she had grown up. After her father had died, she had packed up everything she owned and made for the rails. When she returned to Wachiva Forest three months ago, she had found it burned to the ground. She had an idea who had done it, but left it be. She knew he'd be back around soon enough, anyway.
"Bastard," she muttered as she removed one of her three sweatshirts, tucking it into a ball to lean back on so she could read.
As she opened the book on Wildlife Preservation by Judith Duncan, fourth edition, she looked over at the black rubble again. Someday she wanted to rebuild the cabin. As soon as she was able to get the supplies, she would. May have to go back onto the rails for that. See, it's called a Touch'n'Go. You see something from the tracks, like a lumber yard or even a private house, and you jump from the train while it's moving real slow. Run over to the place, grab what you saw, and then run like the devil to get back on and out of there.
Yep. A Touch'n'Go would definitely be necessary.
Settling back onto the sweatshirt, she opened the large hardback and began to read.
Abel stood, stretching her screaming back. Sitting for the long six hour drive from her parent's house, not to mention the drive there from college in Boston, and then sitting on her rump to watch TV. Yeah, not smart.
She rinsed her dish under the faucet, then put it into the dishwasher. It was late, and she was dead tired. Walking over to the front door of the cabin, she made sure the lock was engaged, and set the alarm. Then stopped. The hair on the back of her head prickled to life.
The blonde drew the curtains over the glass in the door aside, and looked out into the near pitch black night. Her father had put up a light post near the drive, but it only illuminated about 25 yards around it, leaving everything else to the moonlight. Stands of trees surrounded the house on two sides, and at night they looked like giant soldiers standing guard over the cabin.
She walked over to the window over the sink in the kitchen, looking into the small but dense stand of trees nearby; still nothing.
Abel could almost imagine a pair of eyes on her as she looked into the inky blackness. Though she could see nothing, she somehow knew that someone or something was out there. She wasn't one to believe in fairy tales or monsters, but this was ridiculous, and she couldn't shake the feeling. She couldn't identify it as fear, really. But she was afraid.
With a shiver, she let the lacy curtains fall back into place, and headed upstairs to the second floor where her parent's bedroom was. She didn't want to go on up to the attic for her own bed; tonight she needed the security of their familiar smell.
As she climbed onto the large bed, kicking her slippers off to smack against the far wall, the blonde pulled back the comforter and sheets, and sank into their warmth and comfort.
"God. I feel like a damn five year old," she muttered, then shut off the light.
The figure moved through the dark once more, making sure all was well. She saw the lights on the second floor dim, then die out, blackness filling the windows now. She sighed, wishing she could wish Spinney a good night.
The darkness hid the figure well. The moon was low, but not especially bright, which was good.
"Yes, yes," he panted, re-doubling his efforts to keep tiny hands within the grasp of his large, sweaty ones. "This way, my sweet. This way." He hated the awful sound of the leaves and dirt being disturbed as he dragged his burden. That bum leg of his wasn't making it any easier, either. But, a job worth doing was a job worth doing well. That's what his father had told him.
The prone girl cradled her head in her open palms as she looked up at the rock ceiling of her shelter. Her belly was full of fresh rabbit and a few wild berries. She was glad it was summer time, 'cause all the good fruit would start to ripen up.
She smiled to herself as she thought of her day. She had been lucky in the hunt, as well as lucky in seeing her friend again. Spinney had long since gone to bed, but she was still very much awake and alive in the girl's mind. She closed her eyes, conjuring up the blonde's face again behind dark lids.
That soft-looking mouth that she knew would say sweet things to her, just as it had done as a child. Spinney would smile and be so happy to see her again, and she couldn't wait.
It had been so long, so very long. She had waited for 14 years to say hello again. Maybe she could do that tomorrow? Maybe not. She'd have to see what Spinney was up to. She wanted to allow the blonde some time alone first.
Instead, she would ease her pounding heart with memories . . .
"Look at me, Zac! I'm spinning!" the small, blonde child yelled, her voice sucked up by the incredibly dense foliage that surrounded them; a tall, deep thicket with a solid canopy of tree tops, leaves and branches reaching out to embrace overhead, save for one lone hole that allowed sunlight to filter in, a spotlight for the spinning child.
"I see you!" Zac exclaimed, running around in the shadows, growling like the bear she had seen last week. A grizzly, her father had called it. She brought up small hands, arching them into menacing claws, and baring nearly unnaturally white teeth as she ran by Spinney, swiping a 'paw' at her, making the small child giggle.
"Do it again!" Spinney cried, cringing even as she smiled.
"Raaarrr!" Zac growled, swiping again, making the girl spin in a circle to keep up with her frantic gallop. "I'm a bear! Raaarrrr!"
The figure smiled, almost laughing again as she remembered the look on Spinney's young face. Oh, she was so much fun.
Within moments, however, the smile slid right off . . .
"Abel! Abel, where are you?" a woman's voice called out somewhere in the forest. Spinney had stopped in her tracks and tried to look out past the wall of trees all around her.
"Uh, oh." She said. "I have to go, Zac. I'll see you tomorrow, 'kay?"
"'Kay," Zac had said, her head beginning to hang. Oh how she'd miss her friend. The blonde hurried over to her, giving her a soft kiss on her cheek with a wide grin.
"Bye!" She gave the brunette a small wave, which was returned, and the blonde disappeared through the trees, leaving Zac alone. Always alone. She sat on a large rock, burying her face in her hands.
Abel stirred, then flinched as bright light hit her closed lids. With a soft groan of protest, she rolled over and opened her eyes. Sunlight stretched through the room, long, greedy fingers touching everything in its path.
"Morning already?" she grumbled, not wanting to be up yet, but knowing that since she'd awakened, chances of falling back asleep were slim to none. Stretching her short, but powerful body with a squeak, she swung her legs off the high mattress, and planted bare feet solidly on the floor.
Finally standing, she strained her ears, then heard it again.
"Shit!" Running through the door, and then flinging her body around the balustrade to the stairs, she just barely made the phone before the answering machine picked up. "Hello?" she said, breathless.
"Honey? Are you okay?"
Abel rolled her eyes. "Yes, mom. I just had to run to get the damn phone. When are you guys going to get the service hooked up to the upstairs rooms? I nearly lost a toe on the couch to grab it."
A soft chuckle floated through the line. "I know, honey. I'll talk to your dad about it again, okay? So how is everything? Cabin okay?"
"Yeah, it's great." The blonde plopped down on the toe-stubbing couch in question, folding her legs under her body. "It looks great, nothing's amiss."
"Good, good. It looks like we're going to have to come up on Saturday instead of Friday," Sherry Cohen explained, disappointment evident in her soft-spoken voice.
"Oh," Abel said, halfway excited. Another day alone. Woohoo! "Why?"
"Well, turns out I have a meeting with the principal Friday afternoon about the new Spanish class I'm starting next year. Of course, it couldn't wait until later in the summer like everything else does." She clicked her tongue. "Man drives me nuts."
"Mom, hate to break it to you, but you're already nuts." The blonde giggled.
"Well, you come from that same tree, sweet pea." Sherry smiled. She adored her oldest daughter, and could not wait to see her on the weekend. "Well, if everything's okay, I guess I'll go."
"Okay. Oh, wait," Abel said, deciding to ask about the weird sensation she'd been having. "Mom, did anyone new move up here? Are the Wilkinses still there?"
"Ah, no, not as far as I know. Why?"
"Well, nothing. Well, okay. Since I got here yesterday, I've had the strangest feeling that I'm being watched. It's kind of creepy. I mean, it may very well just be a deer or something. Maybe I've disturbed his winter stash of food, or something. But still . . ."
"Are you okay, honey?" Sherry asked in concern. "Do you want me to call Jim for you?"
"Oh, no. If anything goes wrong or anything, I can always call the Wilkinses myself. I just wondered. I have no doubt I'm being a total idiot, just scaring myself. But, still. Thought I'd ask." Abel twisted the phone cord around her fingers, staring up at the support beams in the ceiling.
"Okay. Well, if you need anything, Abel, you tell me. Okay? Do not hesitate to call. Anything funny. Got me?" Her mother's words were an order, but Abel knew she was just worried.
"Yes, ma'am," she promised. "I'll see you guys Saturday, then. I love you."
"I love you, too, sweetie."
When the blonde hung up the phone, she looked around, trying to decide what to do today. She could go read by the dock, or go for a walk through the woods. Oh, that sounded great!
Making her decision, she hurried back up the stairs and found a pair of jeans and a light-weight henley. Lacing her hiking boots, she was ready.
Using the toe of her large boot, the figure tried to bury the evidence of her morning release, not wanting any uninvited guests to come sniffing around. She stopped, mid kick when she heard the snapping of a twig probably fifty yards to the north. Her head snapped in that direction, and she quickly ducked behind a tree, watching.
Just over the ridge, a lone figure became visible, a long stick swinging gently at the figure's side. Blue eyes narrowed, and instinctively she knew it was Spinney.
She smiled, white teeth reflecting off the early morning sun. She ducked to another tree, matching the blonde's pace, soundlessly following her through the forest. She wanted to make sure the girl was okay, and didn't fall or find anything that could hurt her.
The figure's heart was pounding as she watched, loving to watch Spinney do anything. The blonde could be standing stock still and she'd be a happy camper. The blonde was whistling, though what the song was, was a mystery.
Spinney walked toward the small, natural spring that the figure often bathed in. She felt herself becoming antsy, afraid that the blonde would stumble upon her home and find evidence of her existence. She couldn't be found - the Boogie Man would find her, then.
With stealth borne of years of hiding and moving along like a ghost, she followed Spinney to the cliffs that overlooked a small, basically abandoned, old town.
"Wow," the blonde breathed, which startled the figure. She hadn't heard another's voice in nearly two years.
Abel looked down at the old town, having heard about it from her father before. She really wanted to go exploring, but feared she'd lose her way back home. She hadn't wandered through these woods in a few years, and didn't trust her instincts anymore.
Smiling up at the warm sun that kissed her face, she stopped, her body becoming very still, the smile frozen.
There it was again. That feeling. She felt chilled, the sun turning to ice as her blood ran cold. Fear clutched at her chest like a vice, leaving her short of breath.
Abel turned, scanning her surroundings, seeing nothing.
"Hello?" she called, her voice echoing down in the silent, deserted valley below. She heard movement in the trees, then movement caught the corner of her eyes, and her head snapped in the direction to see a red fox scamper out of his hiding place.
"Goddamn fox." She placed a hand to her pounding chest and closed her eyes, taking several deep breaths. Maybe that's what I felt. Nothing more. She opened her eyes, looking around one last time. The feeling was gone. She was alone.
Sensing Spinney's discomfort, the figure shrunk back into the trees, deciding to lay this one out. The blonde would be okay watched from afar. Nothing would happen to her. Ever.
Bright blue eyes watched the clouds moving overhead, knowing that storms would soon be coming. She could smell them in the air. Heading down to the far end of the lake where she wouldn't be seen, she kicked off her worn boots, the shoe strings too thin to hold tight now, but they were something. She peeled off the three layers of socks she had on. This served two purposes: one, it kept her feet warm and pretty dry, and two, it helped make the oversized men's boots fit better.
Stripping down to smooth, white skin, she made her way into the water, mindful of rocks at the bottom of the lake floor. Though the bottom of her feet were like leather, it still wasn't nice to pick lake crud out of the cracks of her skin.
She closed her eyes, moaning in delight as the cool water washed over her. Since her dip hadn't been planned, she didn't have her bar of soap, made from lard, so she'd have to make due. For now, she'd just enjoy the feel. It was a bit cold yet to be swimming around naked, but it was certainly refreshing.
Still feeling his body thrum, he closed his eyes, sighing in contentment as he sat on the forest floor, blade of his Bowie hunting knife glinting off the dying sunlight. His crotch was still slightly damp from when he'd lost control too early. Pissed, he'd done his job without the release he sought.
Oh, well. The job was done, and he stuck his hand in the pocket of his worn denim jacket, smiling at the feel of the soft material, though something slightly slimy met his probing fingers. Wet and slimy, still slightly warm.
This made him sigh again, a smile curving over his crooked features. Delight for later.
Opening dark eyes, he looked down and saw the small, white thumb connected to a tiny hand that was not quite hidden in the shrubbery, and realized he needed to do a better job. Wiping the knife on the leaves nearby, he stuck it in his boot, and went to work.
The lone figure roamed through the forest, hair still slightly damp, top layer of sweatshirt slung over her shoulder. She looked up, enjoying the feel of the almost warm night breeze brush against her face. She sniffed the air, loving the smell of the natural honeysuckle that grew sporadically through the forest.
"Nice," she breathed, humming quietly to herself, then picked up the tune in words. "El coqui, el coqui a mi me encanta," she hummed a few lines, then continued. "Por las noches al ir a acostarme . . ."
She smiled at the memory of being taught that lullaby.
The blonde giggled, showing the gap between where her front tooth had been and her incisor.
"It's el noches, not nachos!"
"Oh." Zac flushed, feeling stupid. The little green-eyed imp laughed heartily, her voice like music in the air, but then sobered, seeing that her taller friend wasn't so amused. "What does it mean again?" the brunette asked, trying to find some way to get out of blushing.
"Okay. It means, 'The little frog, the little frog, enchants me; The singing of the little frog is so pretty; When I'm going to lay down at night; It induces me to sleep, singing to me.' Pretty, huh?" Zac nodded. "My mommy used to sing it to me."
"Es tan lindo el cantar del coqui; Por las noches al ir a acostarme; Me adormece cantandome asi; Coqui, coqui, coqui, qui, qui, qui;" Abel smiled at the comforting words her mother used to sing to her, and had taught her as a very small child. She hummed the little tune as she, once again, stared up at the ceiling in her parent's room. She needed the extra added comfort of the old lullaby after the day's events.
She felt nearly scared out of her mind! All day long, save for a brief reprieve after the fox had darted past her and into the dense forest, she had felt eyes on her. Even going to school in a big city like Boston, she had never felt so violated.
She was truly scared now. She had considered calling her mom, and talking to her until she fell asleep, but then rationalized that she was being childish. They'd be there soon enough, and she would just stay closer to the cabin. Maybe she'd get her dad's gun out tomorrow.
The blonde sighed. She hated guns. But, if it would make her feel safer, then so be it.
Humming the lullaby once more, she finally drifted off to sleep.
"I've missed you, Zac," the blonde said, green eyes smiling up at her friend as they walked through the forest, holding hands. Just like the good ol' days.
"I've missed you, too, Spinney." She could feel the warmth of their connected palms, arms lightly swinging back and forth. The sun was bright and warm, almost burning through Zac's sweatshirt, making her shoulders hot.
"I wanted to come back and visit, but you weren't here." Spinney looks sad as she said this. "Where did you go?"
"Far, far away. I needed to leave," Zac explained.
"Oh." She studied her friend's profile, so much older now, so much more beautiful. They had caught up in the forest, Spinney roaming around, and then she had spotted Zac, who, tired of hiding, had stepped out from behind a tree. She knew that it was only Spinney up here, so wasn't afraid.
"Do your parents still think I'm not real?" the brunette finally asked. The blonde smiled and nodded.
"But I know you're real . . ."
Blue eyes fluttered open, non-seeing for a moment, the cavernous surroundings of her shelter slowly coming into focus. Then reality did.
She wanted to cry. A dream; it had been another goddamn dream.
She sat up, rubbing her face with calloused hands, trying to scrub away all the leftover sleepiness and sadness.
So many times she'd dreamt of meeting up with Spinney again, and now that she was so close, so very close, she had no courage. The blonde had been at the cabin for four days, and had not yet been contacted.
"Shit," she sighed, wondering what to do. For some odd reason, she felt afraid. She felt intimidated and unsure. She knew that Spinney had a good life with good parents who loved and cared for her. After all this time, and the realization that comes with growing up, would Spinney still find her so interesting? Would she still be interested in being her friend?
Or would the blonde think she was weird and scary? Living all alone in the woods. Living off the land like some animal. A specter in the trees.
Shaking these thoughts from her mind, she pulled herself up, ignoring the screaming of her back from too many years spent sleeping on the ground. She was twenty years old, and felt fifty half the time.
She tugged on a sweatshirt to ward off the early morning chill, and headed off to find some place to relieve herself. She'd drunk too much water last night before bed, and felt like she'd burst.
Abel awoke, deciding that today was the last day she'd be afraid. She was up and showered, dressed and ready to enjoy a day reading by the lake. She had packed herself a nice brunch, all fitted neatly in a basket her mom had buried with the holiday decorations, of all places.
Basket and book in hand, she felt the slight weight that made the basket just slightly unbalanced, and was glad of it. Not scared today, no way, no how.
Whistling as she made her way down to the colorful dock, she let her eyes roam around, looking for anything remotely suspicious, then grabbed the fold up chair that rested near the side of the cabin. Hoisting it under her arm, she continued on her way.
It was a good day. The sun was out, the air warm, and her fingers itched to dig into the book she'd brought with her.
"Yes, this is certainly the life." The blonde grinned. She had the basket set on the dock near her feet, and opened the folding chair, looking up to see which direction the sun was shining, and positioned the chair that way. She wanted to make sure she had the absolute best light.
Plopping down in the plastic chair, she reached into the basket and grabbed the tube of sun block, SPF 45.
She squirted the fragrant, white cream onto her palm, and rubbed her hands around, searching the lake as she began to apply it liberally to her arms and shoulders, bared for the first time that summer by her tank top.
She hummed contentedly as the cream disappeared into her skin. She closed her eyes as she began to smear some on her face.
The figure made her way down the line of trees that would lead to the lake. She saw the white speck down on the dock that she knew was Spinney. The breeze blew around her legs, wrapping winter-dried leaves around her ankles, only to flutter away as she made her way through them.
She hid behind a tree when Spinney turned to rub her hand over her shoulder. Blue eyes watched this, wondering what the blonde was doing. She moved closer, and saw that Spinney was smoothing something white on her skin, and wondered if it was lotion. She had a tube of it once. A long time ago.
The figure found her way closer to the dock, resting her palm against the trunk, fingers kneading at the bark it found there, feeling as the rough mulch dug into her palm and finger pads. She didn't care. She was in sight of Spinney again. Oh, how she wanted to see her again.
Abel tossed the sun block back into the basket, seeing her weapon of choice when she did. With a confident smile, she grabbed her book, opened it up to the first page, and settled in to read, cursing quietly as she smudged the lens of her sunglasses with the greasy suntan lotion.
As her eyes scanned the page, suddenly she felt that strange . . . feeling, again. She looked up at the lake, trying to listen to the day, but heard nothing. Turning her eyes back to the page, she scanned until she found her place.
The figure gripped the tree even tighter, fighting the urge to just jump out from behind it, and say, 'Spinney! How are ya?' Instead, she stayed put, her heart pounding in her ears, indecision making her blood rush faster.
This would be the perfect chance for her to say hello to her old friend again. For her to put her dreams and day dreams to rest, and exchange them for new, fresh memories.
Blue eyes squeezed shut, a pink tongue sliding out to rake across suddenly very dry lips. She took several deep breaths and opened her eyes again.
Abel followed the page as she turned it, starting at the first line of the new page, and making quick progress down through the opening sequences of the story. She lifted her leg to cross over the other when she froze.
Floating on the soft breeze.
Abel leapt out of her chair, heart flying up to her throat. She heard a distant splash as her paperback fell into the water.
There before her, standing at the beginning of the dock, not ten feet away, stood her ghost.
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