Jewel Beth Davis
and Heitzi Epstein

­

Heitzi Epstein
Inspiration piece

The Mountain Trail
By Jewel Beth Davis
Response

They trudged along in the snow and bitter wind toward the mountains where they thought their grandfather’s cabin to be. They’d been there only once several years ago. It all looked so far away and they had no idea how far the mountains were in actual distance and time. Their phones had run out of battery several hours previously and they had no place to charge them. Besides, their grandfather didn’t have a cell phone. They certainly couldn’t remember his landline number. No one memorized phone numbers these days. There were no more phone books available as far as they knew, so they couldn’t look it up. A sister and a brother running away from home. Trying to find their grandfather. Sue knew they would have thought this through better if they’d had more time, but they were reacting in the midst of crisis and they had to go somewhere. Sue looked at her younger brother, Roman. The tip of his nose was red. He’d pulled his hood up and tied the strings so only a sliver of his face was visible. He’d also wrapped his blue plaid scarf around his head. A very small nine-year old. Still he was plucky and faced this journey without complaint. Sue thought back to earlier in the day and wondered if Roman was thinking about it too.

Sue had walked into Roman’s room to check on him after school while her mother was still at work and saw her stepfather, Steve, on the bed with Roman, touching his private parts. The sight was so shocking that she felt like she’d been slammed by an earthquake. She knew that her life and her brother’s life had turned in an instant. She wondered if she’d imagined it, it seemed so impossible, but no, it had happened. She was sure it had really happened.

She was only twelve, but she roared at Steve, ordering him to get his filthy hands off her brother. She grabbed Roman off the bed and wrapped her arms around him as though she could shield him from what had already happened. Steve jumped off the bed as if it was white hot and took off down the hallway.

“Shut up. Shut the hell up,” he screamed in her face, as he flew by. “You’re too young to understand.” And he took off out the back door. Sue knew she was old enough to understand that what he was doing was bad for Roman and terrible for her mother. She called her mother at the hospital where she worked as a nurse and sobbed out her story to her mother.

She’d expected comfort from her mother. She’d expected outrage and promises of protection from her. Instead, her mother said, “What have you done?” Her mother’s voice didn’t sound like her. It sounded like a stone speaking.

When she didn’t answer, her mother demanded, “Where’s Steve?” She didn’t ask about Roman, whether he was all right. Just, “Where’s Steve?”

At that moment, Sue knew she couldn’t stay at home. She knew she and Roman had to leave. They were no longer safe in their home. She didn’t know of any neighbors that would help without calling her mother. Her aunts and uncles were halfway across the country. Her father was dead, many years gone. She couldn’t call her mother’s parents, she knew. She felt her head spinning and her thoughts somersaulted in her skull. She had to think but she had no time to think. She assumed her mom would come running home to look for Steve. They had to get out and soon.

She threw a few pairs of their underwear and socks into her backpack with their toothbrushes, soap, their phones, chargers, T-shirts, sweaters, blue jeans, A Wrinkle in Time, their favorite book, and the $15 she’d saved. She threw their sneakers into the pack and grabbed bananas, oranges, and granola bars that Roman liked as snacks. Again, she wished she had more time.

“What are you doing?” Roman asked as she flew through the house, trying to think and pack at the same time.

“Put on your snow boots and thick socks,” she told him. “Put on your flannel-lined jeans, your turtle-neck, and a sweater. Grab your scarf and mittens.”

“Where are we going?” Roman’s voice sounded high and panicked.

“We’re going as far away from here as possible. We’re going somewhere safe. Where some skeevy pervert can’t get his hands on you.”

“But what about Mommy?”

“Mommy doesn’t care about us. She only cares about Steve.” Sue wasn’t sure if that was true, but she no longer trusted her mother.

Roman’s face was solemn. “Did I do anything wrong? Is that why we’re leaving?”

 

“No. No way. You did nothing wrong. Steve did. And Mommy isn’t going to help. I don’t want that to ever happen to you again. Now get your things on. We have to leave now.”

“But where are we going?” Roman’s face reflected fear. His mouth quivered.

She hadn’t known until that moment. They were going to find their grandfather, their Dad’s father. She was sure she could trust him. “Grandpa Boots. Dad’s father.” Roman nodded and seemed satisfied.

They’d been walking for several hours. Once they saw a cop car and Sue had grabbed Roman and hidden behind an evergreen tree at the edge of the road. Now, they’d come out of the valley and into a clearing. The moon was bright and the mountains looked like faded pink and purple mushrooms and ice cream cones.  A long dark road extended into the distance and a mammoth pine tree dwarfed the road hiding the rest of it as it snaked its way up the mountains. Maybe it was her imagination but the longer they continued to walk, the farther away the pine tree and the mountains seemed.

She drew in a deep, icy breath. “Roman, did that ever happen to you before?”

 

Her brother turned his head away from her. “Just once. A month ago. You and Mommy weren’t home. I didn’t know how to stop it.” His voice sounded like he might cry.

“Did you tell Mommy?”

He shook his head. “I thought she’d be mad at me.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

Her brother gulped and hiccoughed. “I was ashamed.”

No matter what else happened, she knew she’d made the right decision to get him out of that place.

“Are you tired? Do you need to rest?”

Without responding, he wrapped his hand around hers, and they continued to walk together towards the mountains.

 

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One Comment

  1. robert haydon jones
    Posted March 14, 2018 at 3:18 pm | #

    Bravo. The awful truth is out now and forever defanged.

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