SARA MOWERY

★ ★ ★ ★

FLASH FICTION

Image by Carissa Weiser

‘Walk With Me”

Daniel found me in the kitchen wiping down the long stainless-steel countertop.  It was the sudden quiet created by his presence that caught my attention, not the sound of his footsteps on ceramic tiles. I looked over my shoulder to see Sophia and Christina pushing through the swinging door from the kitchen into the dining hall.  The door swept back and forth across the tile, mimicking the slow and steady movement of Sophia’s broom just moments ago. I turned to face Daniel and gripped the edge of the countertop.  “Walk with me,” was all he said.

I wiped my palms across the apron before discarding it and following Daniel into the dusky evening.  The school’s headmaster was big all around, tall and wide. His graying hair was just the wrong length to be attractive.  He coughed from his most recent cigarette and spat onto the gravel.  I hesitated just long enough to catch his attention.  In an instant he covered the distance between us and the back of his hand swept me to the ground.  Grabbing my upper arm, he pulled me up and pushed me forward.

Daniel had never shown kindness.  Yet, whenever he took his place in the living room he was swarmed by girls: girls sitting on the arms of his club chair, girls on the floor at his feet.  Those sitting closest to him were never the focus of his immediate attention.  No, from across the room he would find his target and attack viciously with biting words.  He would laugh at his stunned victim while his harem remained silent at his side.  Anyone else in the room dared not move lest they catch his attention.  He reveled in the moment.  He made no attempt to hide his enjoyment: his eyes sparkled, and his lips twisted into a sneer.

This evening, though, he was silent as he pushed into the small, abandoned stable.  The wood plank door closed heavily behind us and he reached for the light’s pull chain.  The effect was dismal and much of the space remained hidden in shadow.  “Don’t move,” was all he said.

Here, as in the living room, he made no attempt to hide his enjoyment: his eyes sparkled, and his lips twisted into a sneer. His cruelty shone through with a physical brutality that exacted submission.  When it was over, with the soft glow of dawn barely lighting our path, I stumbled at his side as he pulled me to the campus’s main gate and pushed me into the street.  “Don’t come back,” was all he said. 

I woke to the sound of familiar voices on the other side of the wall.  It hurt to breathe.  It hurt to move.  It hurt to shiver.  The autumn afternoon sun did not penetrate my hiding space amongst the bushes.  I was shivering and thirsty and unmovable.  I closed my eyes again and slept.  

I woke to darkness.  The night was brilliantly quiet.  Still, my body fought me.  I smelled vomit and urine and wet earth.  Don’t come back.  I closed my eyes again and slept.

I woke to the sound of the neighboring farm’s chickens.  I made my way to the farm, to the well, to the water pump, to the bucket of night chilled water.  I devoured it.  And then dawn devoured me.

I woke to the warmth of the afternoon sun soothing my gnarled flesh.  My body ached.  I closed my eyes.  Wide awake.  Don’t come back.  Dusk carried me to town.  I pushed through the heavy wooden doors and slid into a pew.  “Non parlo Italiano,” was all I could whisper to the young nun who sat down next to me.  She took my hand in hers.

I slid into the tub and let the cool water wash over me.  My body ached.  My flesh was bruised. I closed my eyes.  Don’t come back.  I splashed up, coughing and gasping for air.  Water poured over the edges of the enameled basin.  I flinched at the gentle hand on my shoulder. 

I slept for days, safe beneath the sheets.  She tended my wounds. She held cool water to my lips.  She tempted me with sweet oranges and hot broth.  I slipped out under cover of night.    

I woke in my own bed to the sound of Daniel’s hushed voice in my ear. “Walk with me.”

Again, he was silent as he pushed into the small, abandoned stable.  The wood plank door closed heavily behind us and he reached for the light’s pull chain.  The effect was dismal and much of the space remained hidden in shadow.  There wasn’t a square inch I wasn’t familiar with.  “Don’t move,” was all he said as he stripped away my clothing and ran his finger along my bruised flesh.

Here, just as before, he made no attempt to hide his enjoyment: his eyes sparkled, and his lips twisted into a sneer. His cruelty shone through with a physical brutality that exacted submission.  When it was over, with the soft glow of dawn barely lighting our path, I stumbled at his side as he pulled me to the campus’s main gate and pushed me into the street.  “Don’t come back,” was all he said. 

I woke to the buzz of playing children.  It hurt to breathe.  It hurt to move.  It hurt to shiver.  The autumn afternoon sun did not penetrate my hiding space amongst the bushes.  I devoured the bottle of Acqua Panna and wrapped the scratchy wool blanket around my shoulders.  Sleep devoured me.

I woke to the rustle of autumn leaves.  And a fresh bottle of water.  And warm rice porridge.  My body ached.  My flesh was bruised. I pulled the blanket closer and drifted into sleep.  I let five suns set.

I woke in my own bed to the sound of Daniel’s hushed voice in my ear. “Walk with me.”

Again, he was silent as I pushed into the small, abandoned stable.  The wood plank door closed heavily behind us and I reached for the light’s pull chain.  The effect was dismal and much of the space remained hidden in shadow.  I stripped away my clothing and he ran his finger along my bruised flesh. There wasn’t a square inch he wasn’t familiar with.

Here, just as before, he made no attempt to hide his enjoyment: his eyes sparkled, and his lips twisted into a sneer. His cruelty shone through with a physical brutality that exacted submission.  When it was over, with the soft glow of dawn barely lighting our path, I walked at his side as he led me back to my dorm.  I slid between the cool cotton sheets of my waiting bed.  He tucked the duvet around my shoulders and sleep devoured me.

Sara is the consummate student: never hesitant to ask why and always keen to explore. She returned to college as an adult learner and has since steadily continued her education as a writer. Most recently she received a MPhil from Wesleyan University (Connecticut) where her thesis explored the intersection of gender and power. “Walk With Me” is a chapter from that thesis. This fall, Sara is entering Southern Connecticut State University’s MFA in Creative Writing program. When not writing, Sara is a paralegal in a mid-sized law firm in New Haven, Connecticut.

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