• Vol. 10
  • Chapter 12
Image by

Unless You Say

Sleep was my only respite, and exercise my only reprieve.

Why you chose this time to leave, I won't ever know, unless you say.

I slept and then could not, and tried and tried again. And as the tears came, I rose in silence before the weeping came, noise I didn't have the strength to keep from the others. I slipped away, in quiet, and desolation, grabbing a small torch to keep me safer than I wanted to be.

Breathe I said. Breathe I said. Breathe, even the demon inside me said, understanding I needed to live to host the pain it curated within me. What could be purer than mountain air, I asked, a thought perhaps of clarity or confusion or utter silliness within a stewpot of recklessness.

I could not see past the torch's reach, but I knew the direction of the gate you built, stronger and more beautiful than the rickety fence of your grandparents' day. My feet brushed the grass alongside the path; I needed to make my own.

I moved slowly and quickly and with and without aim, breathing deeply, when I could between the tears and the heaving and the babble and the doubt. In the night's breeze, I could smell the leaves, a fleeting distraction from the invasive species of my thoughts.

The ground that held me up was moist in the damp. I slipped, descending, grasping for a branch, any form that would not hurt me more than I was hurting myself. I finally let out a howl, and began to sob. In the distance, I thought the others would not know that it was not a feral animal, or that the animal was me. Exhausted in ways only I could count, I curled up with


Unless You Say

my nightgown as bedsheet, cover and clothing and wished myself to sleep.

It wasn't the sun that woke me, but the grind of your motor. The force of desperation drew me back down towards the house. As I approached the gate, I didn't see you, but your trusted sack and I thought that maybe, just maybe you had come back to weigh things up, to restore balance and to never, ever, ever leave me again.