Home at Last

She crouched under the gallows, careful not to make a sound. Tiny drops of sweat rolled down her blood-stained face. She felt her eyes swell, her cheeks burned, her arms and legs felt limp. Could she move them? But if she did, she might make a sound. And she needed to be still or they’d find her.

The noises started again. Heavy footsteps fell on the cold cobblestone, stopped a few yards from where she hid. Shadows on the wall moved and then, a gruff voice she’d heard many times before, called her name. Her hand clasped her mouth, she dared not breathe. She craned her neck to get a better view. Are they gone, she wondered. Is it safe to come out? Their hushed voices sounded farther now. The footsteps, almost gone. Then, silence.

Slowly, she crawled out of her hiding place. The street was dark except for a street lamp that flickered, sending gruesome shadows on the wall behind her, matching her every move. A weak cry of pain left her sore mouth as a sharp pain stabbed through her body. With one hand clutched to her side, she noticed the dark purple circles that bruised her wrist. Her whole body was in pain and she winced with every step she made. She drew a deep, shuddering breath as she remembered what they had done to her. She vowed she’d make them pay. But first, she needed to find a place to stay.

A jacket hung from a window somewhere and she put it on, covering the blue overalls she wore. Two sizes bigger than her frail body, it fell on her shoulders like a mat; hard and dirty. It didn’t matter. Getting out was the priority.

She continued to walk, head bowed, eyes peeled for the men haunting her. A diner stood on the other side of the road. Her stomach growled. Greasy burgers and fries seemed like a feast compared to the watery soup and stale bread that they fed her in that hellhole.

Then, she heard them. Angry, fuming voices; louder, frightening this time. Stop, please stop, she pleaded. A strong, prickly pain shot through her whole body. She stifled a cry. Please, you’re hurting me.

Two pairs of arms slid under her frail body, lifted her until she felt the rough surface of a blanket covering her. She tried to fight to hold them back but her arms wouldn’t move. She was sinking. Her eyes felt like lead. Trapped. Darkness fell. An eerie silence filled the air.

“Poor thing,” the nurse whispered to another as they wheeled a young woman to the morgue, “She didn’t stand a chance.”

“Where did they find her?” the doctor asked.

“In a back street not far from here,” the nurse replied.

“They said she was hallucinating, kept on saying she was going home,” a second nurse added.

The doctor studied the young woman’s face. He wondered what pain those lines under her eyes felt, how much suffering she must have endured.

Touching her lifeless hand, he pulled the white sheet over her face, and whispered, “Now, you’re home.”


February 8, 2018

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