Freedom (YeahWrite Super Challenge #14 Round One Entry – Fiction)

I entered the YeahWrite Super Challenge #14 (Fiction) last month. In round one, I was charged with crafting a story in 48 hours using no more than 1,000 words, incorporating a specific location (lost) and a specific object (a single sock.)

This is my 999-word entry. Unfortunately, I didn’t score highly enough to move on to the final round. I still wrote something though, so I’m calling that a “win.” 🙂

Synopsis: Luisa’s dream of starting a new life in the U.S. with Steve has become a nightmare. When she makes a grisly discovery, she knows she must make her escape.

(Content Warning: This story contains descriptions of inter-personal violence and domestic assault.) 

a clear sky at night

Photo by Roberto Nickson on Pexels.com

Freedom

The woods are still; a layer of snow blankets the ground. Luisa can see her labored exhalations as she navigates through the trees. She doesn’t know where she is going, only that she is finally free.

Her legs, muscles wasted from months of inactivity, burn as she makes her way up another hill.

Please let there be a road, or a town, or even just a house…

Her heart drops as she reaches the crest and sees nothing but more trees, their white branches glittering in the moonlight. She looks back the way she came to make sure he isn’t following her before allowing herself to rest. She leans on a tree and hunches over to catch her breath.

You need to come up with a plan, or you’re going to die out here.

Her inner voice is strong, forceful. A smaller voice responds:

Better out here than back there, like Marisa.

Marisa… Were there others too? Luisa doesn’t know for sure, but she believes it is possible.

There wasn’t time to look for a map before she left. Truth be told, Luisa wasn’t thinking of anything other than getting away when the chance arose.

She’d had such high hopes when she’d met Steve in Mexico a year earlier. He’d seemed like the perfect suitor at a time when her life had been falling apart. Steve had arranged for Luisa to come to the U.S., paying a man to bring her across the border under the cover of night. She’d walked miles then too, before spending long hours in the back of a truck heading north toward what she’d believed would be a promising new life.

She’d naively imagined Steve as her knight in shining armor. It hadn’t taken long for his true colors to become evident.

During her first week at the cabin, Luisa found a photo of a beautiful young woman and had asked Steve about it. He’d become steely-eyed as he described how his ex-girlfriend, Marisa, had moved away shortly before he’d met Luisa.

“Marisa just wasn’t the right girl for me. She didn’t listen. But, if she hadn’t left, I wouldn’t have been free to meet you.” This was said with a smile that didn’t meet his eyes. He’d thrown the photo into the fire. “Now that’s enough about Marisa.” There’d been a finality to his tone that had given Luisa goosebumps. He hadn’t hit her that night, not yet, but it wasn’t long before the abuse began.

Luisa’s mind returns to her present predicament. She wiggles her toes, alarmed by the tingling she feels. Looking at her feet reminds her of the grisly discovery she made yesterday when Steve sent her to the shed for firewood. That discovery ultimately provided the impetus for tonight’s escape.

It had been cold yesterday too, so she’d hurried to the shed intent on returning to the cabin’s warmth as quickly as possible. Her arms full of firewood, she’d just turned to leave when something caught her eye. The flash of pink on the floor behind a stack of boxes was definitely out of place in this utilitarian toolshed.

Never could she have imagined what she’d find: A woman’s frozen body, naked save for one pink sock. There was an indentation in the woman’s forehead and blood matted her hair, but Luisa still recognized her: Marisa.

It had taken every ounce of strength Luisa possessed to pretend nothing was amiss upon returning to the cabin. She knew deep down that she couldn’t let Steve find out she’d stumbled onto his secret. She spent a long, sleepless night replaying the scene.

Despite her discovery, her mind was filled with reasons why leaving just didn’t make sense, why she should stay:

Where would you go?

You’re “undocumented.”

It’s winter; you’d freeze to death out there.

Steve provides for you, at least.

That other voice though became more forceful, repeating just one line:

If you stay, he’ll kill you too.

By sunrise, she was ready. Then, tonight, she got the chance to leave. After they finished dinner (was that just hours ago?), Steve grumbled that he was out of beer. This, somehow, was Luisa’s fault. He yelled as the blows rained down.

“Goddammit, woman! If it wasn’t for you, I’d be free. You’re no better than Marisa.”

When it was over, Luisa curled up on the sofa and feigned sleep, making her breaths long and steady. Steve grabbed his keys, then the cabin door closed. She waited until she could no longer hear the thrum of his pickup truck before getting up and donning an old coat from the closet. Almost as an afterthought, she put a kitchen knife into the coat’s pocket. Just in case.

Now, lost and cold, Luisa’s resolve waivers. Part of her wants to return to the relative safety of the cabin. She wonders if she can make it back before Steve does.

Is that a road ahead on the left?

Luisa isn’t sure, but thinks it is. She moves in that direction. The snow is deeper here as she heads downhill. She walks for what seems like an eternity before coming to the road. She wants to stop here, to rest and cry with relief, but she knows she must keep moving or she will die.

Ahead, headlights approach. She feels momentary fear, realizing belatedly that those headlights could belong to Steve’s truck. There is no time to run back into the tree cover now, however.

The truck stops. The lights are blinding. A silhouette steps from the cab. Then, a voice:

“Need some help? Did your car break down?”

It is Steve’s voice. Luisa thinks he doesn’t recognize her. After all, he isn’t expecting to see her here. She clutches the handle of the knife in her pocket as she approaches the truck.

One way or another, this ends tonight.

There is a struggle. Then, the knife finds purchase in flesh, and a body slumps to the ground. The victor drives away, free at last.

 

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