The woods behind my house go on forever or at least that’s what five-year old me thought. Four years later I learned the woods stretch three miles. Not nearly enough to get lost in, but more than enough to silence my cries. Maple trees turned into white and red oak until you’d drown in a sea of pine trees of every name. Five year old me thought nothing of the tree variety in my backyard. It was the only place where I felt safe, where I could find peace and it still is. Years from now I’ll look back and notice almost every pivotal moment in my life happens in those woods. But that day when five-year old me ventured into the woods I discovered how fragile life is.
I could feel the crisp breeze between my fingers, could smell the heavy dose of chocolate floating in the air and taste the bitter fear in my throat.
“Are you alright my dear?” I remember an old woman asking.
I nodded, wishing the old woman would leave and smiled politely while praying that my sister would find me. Hesitating only a second, she did just that, carrying two orange pumpkins full of candy and leaving me with my eye patch. Not a second later the silence crept along my skin expanding the tight ball of fear between my lungs. I remember the fear. I remember breathing in and out until my sister found my hand. I remember she slid her gloved hand into mine, twining her long fingers with my short ones. I remember I grasped that hand so tightly I never wanted to let go again.
On the cold night of October 31st, I wore an eye patch. I don’t remember how old I was this specific Halloween, but I remember the sensation of wearing an eye patch, only seeing out of one eye. Holding my sister’s hand, we made our way across the neighborhood in search of candy. As a child you have no sense of fear, at least not until it’s right in your face.
I had no fear until the warmth of my sister’s hand disappeared and I was left alone standing between a group of older children. I know now that I shouldn’t have been as afraid as I was. I had gotten separated from my mom, dad and sister before. But if you’ve ever worn an eye patch it dulls one sense and you become aware of the others. I could hear the laughter of children down the street, the skipping of feet and haughty laughs of plastic demons. False demons never seemed more frightening.
A layer of dust coats my fingers as I glide them across the oak dresser. Bright colored stickers decorating the top catch my eye as I grasp the rusted handles. Opening the top drawer, I see myself looking at me, my sisters scrawny arm placed protectively around me. Our parents stand behind us, shielding their eyes from the sun’s glare. I know this day. It was the day we moved into the house, the start of my childhood. I snatch the photo, not wanting it to disappear and fold my legs beneath me on the floor. Sitting, I gaze at my sisters crooked smile, my fathers tall frame, my mothers comforting eyes and the empty house cowering in the back.
Below is just a blurb of a possibility.
I sat at a table in the crowded coffee shop, wiping the condensation from the iced latte in front of me, when the clock chimed. My head snapped up and a curse flew from my mouth, earning me a glare from the mother of two seated nearby. The clock chimed again, reminding me of the time.
Grabbing my latte and messenger bag, I mouthed a quick sorry and left the coffee shop. I was going to be late.
“Shit, shit, shit, shit,” I chanted under my breath as I ran or tried to in three-inch heels on slippery tile.
The clock chimed again, letting me know it’s noon while I dodged a group of tourists asking directions to the White House. Even on a Tuesday, I knew to expect crowds at Union Station. The D.C. paper pushers that braved the heat, were waiting in winding lines for their food. Glad to have missed standing in those lines, I wasn’t glad about entering the suffocating May heat to find no driver and no sign. No sign calling for Mrs. Allen was waving through the air. No sign and no driver. Great. This was my last chance. I needed this job. I needed protection the Agency could only provide, from myself and from others. But who was I kidding? I knew I’d ruin this. I always ruin things.