First off, sorry it’s so late coming out today! We had a little bit of a snafu with the blog that has since been worked out. We had another no entry week and I’m just beginning to think you guys are waiting for the dollar amount to reach astronomical amounts. Either that or your submissions are getting eaten by the Google Fairy. Drop me some comments this week and let me know if you’ve submitted something in past weeks or even some changes you’d like to see to this giveaway that would make you more likely to participate. We’re up to a $15 Amazon gift card this week, so the 5 minutes it would take you to write us a pretty story is definitely worth it. 100-1,500 words. Let’s get down to business! Here’s our story this week!
The sound of my pounding heart hammered hard against my eardrums as the racing organ thumped out a spastic beat against my rib cage. The thought of my own heart breaking free from my chest to leave me empty and alone fought with the panic that was growing inside of me, leaving me temporarily frozen in place. Completely unable to control my muscles and force them to bend to my will, I held firmly to the only thing I seemed to be able to control. Aji’s face swam into my mind’s eye and I took a deep breath as I felt the tension ease from my body instantly.
Just keep calm and follow the plan, one step at a time.
I chanted this over and over in my head until my mother’s sharp voice shocked me back to reality and sent me scurrying for the ingredients to prepare breakfast. As I deftly made my way around the kitchen and prepared the same meal I had been cooking every morning since I was seven years old, my body took over and I was happy to let it. My mornings had become so routine that it was a matter of muscle memory.
Like a well trained servant, I laid the plates on the table in front of each one of my family members and removed myself to a corner until given further instructions. Normally, this was the part of my day where I fought an internal battle with my stomach as it tried to consume the surrounding organs. Not today though. Today, the thought of food was shoved out of my head by the anticipation of things to come.
The sharp snap of my father’s fingers had me moving to clear the scraps from the table. I piled the leftovers onto a small plate as usual and shuffled it into a rubbish bag. I muttered an excuse about putting out the rubbish and exited the room without acknowledgement.
I took careful note of the location of my rubbish bag and grappled with lame excuses for leaving the house for a longer period of time as I made my way pack into the house.
“We have no milk for father’s tea.” My father always drank an entire pot of tea after breakfast, so I knew that this would be a sure fire way to be sent away to the market.
As predicted, I received a customary tongue lashing before my mother dropped exact change into my open palm and ordered me to hurry or risk the wrath of my father when I returned.
I retrieved the rubbish bag and stuffed it in my baggy hoodie as I fought to control the excruciatingly slow steps that would assure my unnoticed departure. The pace had me winded by the time I reached the end of the street and broke into a sprint.
I had been awaiting this day for months and the realization that it had finally arrived, that the plan had gone so well, that I was almost free crashed through me like a tidal wave. The overwhelming sense of freedom brought a smile to my face that spread from ear to ear as my feet pounded in time with my soaring heart against the sidewalk.
Aji was waiting for me and I willed the several blocks remaining between us to close faster. Just like they had the day we met. The announcement of my betrothal was extremely sudden and completely unwelcome. I was distraught over being sold to the highest bidder and my father had beaten me when I expressed my discontent with the situation.
After finally regaining consciousness, my mother had immediately sent me to the river to clean myself up. As I scooped the dirty water in my hands and used it to gingerly wash the blood off of my arms and face, a voice came from behind me. His voice.
Even though he was a stranger, I couldn’t seem to stop the words that came pouring out of my mouth. As I broke down, he took over the job of cleaning me up and tenderly dabbed at the remaining spots of blood. He never let his anger manifest in a physical way, but I could see the fire in his eyes when I told him how my own father had done that to me.
It was that fire that made me agree to his plan.
My legs begged for mercy as I pushed them to eat up that last hundred yards between me and the life that Aji was about to give me.
I rounded the final bend and stopped dead in my tracks. An all too familiar voice was bellowing, unseen, from the center of a small crowd. My heart sank.
The crunch of boot against bone forced me into action. I dove into the swarm of people, pushing and shoving my way toward the thumps and muffled cries in the center.
I caught sight of him through a part in the crowd and every part of my being flung itself toward him.
I fell to the ground on top of him, ungraciously catching a large boot in my stomach in the process. The familiar whoosh of air leaving my lungs accompanied the sharp pain like a finely paired wine and I waited for the next blow to land.
“I’m so sorry… I’m so sorry… So sorry…” Aji kept muttering over and over again in my ear.
I clung to him with everything I had as strong hands started to pry us apart.
I heard a pop from somewhere inside his shoulder and winced as if it had been my own.
Huge fingers dug into my flesh and pulled in every direction, bruising me even further.
I felt nothing.
The only sensation that mattered to me was the sound of his voice.
“I’m so sorry…”
As always, happy writing!