Standing in the doorway of her new home, June drew in a deep, cleansing breath. My, how different the air smelled here! After years of city-dwelling, to finally realize her dream of living in wide-open spaces away from the noise and the crowds was almost too much to believe. Yet, here she was, her goal achieved; her great adventure beginning.
For several minutes, June stood and stared at the beauty surrounding her, experiencing overwhelming joy and gratitude. The local teens she had hired to help her learn about country living would be at the house soon. June had much to learn–milking a cow, taking care of her chickens, growing her garden, and chopping wood were just a few of the skills she anticipated learning. She had no idea how many adventures lay ahead for her, but she was ready for them all! Turning from the doorway back into her home, she headed for the kitchen to begin her first day in her new life.
What a week! June plopped into her kitchen chair and stared down at her hands. After a week of learning about farm life, her hands were rough and red and calloused. And every muscle in her body ached. Farming was much more challenging and time-consuming than June ever dreamed it would be. At the same time, she felt accomplished. With the help of Greg and Kay, the high school youths who were helping her, June had learned to milk a cow, muck a stable, curry a horse, and gather eggs from her chickens. Together, they had repaired the chicken coop and fencing, and they had repaired the horses’ fence in the meadow. All in one week!
Rubbing her face with those tired and dirty hands, June gave a sigh, gathered herself, and rose to begin supper. Afterwards, she would get a nice, warm bath and go to bed. Sleep was what her body was craving, so that she could rise again in the morning and continue learning how to live her new life. As hard as it was, June knew that this was where she would be for the rest of her life. Her soul was content.
He would never forget the look on her face. Such deep hurt. And now she was gone. He’d lost her forever, and for what? A moment of stolen pleasure with someone who didn’t mean a thing to him—never had meant a thing to him.
Would she recover? Would she ever be able to trust anyone again? What had he been thinking? Well, there was the problem right there—he hadn’t been thinking. Not about her, or his future without her, or the fact that she would be so terribly crushed.
He’d only been thinking about himself. He groaned out loud and lowered his head into his hands.
If only he could go back … how long? When had be begun considering such behavior? Last week? Last month? Maybe the thought had always been there, tucked into the basest part of himself. It didn’t matter now. It couldn’t ever be taken back. He threw himself on the bed and lay staring at the ceiling as despair crept in. For what seemed the thousandth time, he spoke the words, “What have I done?”
…He was startled awake by the ringing of the phone. Jerking upward, he glanced at his watch. Two thirty in the morning. Dread squeezed at this heart. Good news never arrived at 2:30 in the morning.
A Bad Way to Start the Day
She turned and waved as she unlocked the door to her office. Her husband waved and watched her enter the door.
The blast of the shotgun threw her backwards out the door and onto the pavement in front of their car. Her husband leapt from the vehicle and ran to her, screaming in shock. As he leaned over her body, she gazed up at him in confusion. Then, she was gone.
The gunman exited the building and stood over the two. As the husband turned his gaze from his wife to her killer, the stranger spoke. “Be sure to act grief stricken. Remember, the husband is always the first suspect.”
Then he calmly walked away.
They were watching him through the glass. He could feel them standing out there, observing. He took a deep breath, tried to remind himself to act … what, natural? What is natural when your wife has just been murdered? He moaned and lowered his head into his hands. This was just so unreal.
She heard the low-throated growl and saw the glow of the creature’s eyes. It was lurking just inside the tree line, not 50 feet away from their tent. Even with the flaps zipped tight, she understood she wasn’t safe.
Why, oh why, had she agreed to this camping trip? She hated camping! And where was her husband? He’d left to search for firewood, but now it seemed that too much time had passed since he’d gone. Maybe that was him outside the tent, teasing her, trying to frighten her. Well, that was working pretty well. And if it was him, she’d make sure he regretted that silly decision.
But what if it wasn’t her husband?
Through the tent walls—those flimsy little tent walls—she saw the eyes growing larger. It was on the move, heading for the tent! Her breathing became shallow and frantic, and she felt herself beginning to hyperventilate. Must slow down the breathing. Focus… focus on slow, deep breaths. Her eyes moved around the tent, searching for something she could use for protection. Hubby had the gun with him, so that was out. The knife! She saw it lying on the tent floor beside his sleeping bag.
Cautiously she moved, trying not to disturb the tent walls. She grabbed the knife, unsheathed it, and clutched it in both hands close to her chest. She might be torn apart and eaten by whatever was on the other side of the tent, but she would go down fighting. For a fleeting moment, she wondered if her husband would be proud of her for having fought so bravely.
Steadily, the glowing eyes moved forward, getting closer every second. She raised her arms over her head, poised to attack the moment the creature was within striking distance. Then, a quick movement and the tent door was ripped open.
Screaming from fear, anger and surging adrenaline, she lunged forward, raising her knife is self defense against . . .
(c) 2021 All material belongs to Claudette Wood