After five days of hopelessly attempting to regain order after moving house, Bianca let out a sigh of relief because the last box was finally emptied.
“Yes, I know the house does not quite have marble countertops and shiny tiles, but the stay is temporary, Caylin,” she assured her tween, although her heart also longed back.
Caylin simply nodded her head in response, bleakly staring at the floor as she hugged her mother.
Surrounded by an ominous forest, their new home was a three-story wooden structure with splintered walls, fractured windows and cracked paint. It tore their hearts but brought much needed financial relief.
“I have to leave for additional work shifts but will return before dark. Remember to do your homework,” said Bianca as she opened the front door.
“When is Daddy coming home?” Caylin asked desperately. Bianca stared at the wall for a moment, then snapped back to reality.
“Daddy has important… meetings, I believe. He will come home tonight.”
The house rattled as Bianca shut the door and departed, leaving Caylin alone on the cold splintered floor of the gloomy house. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she dreamed of the days when mum and dad never left her alone.
Later, in search of hope, she started exploring the forest outside. The wind softly blew through her long blonde hair and fresh, damp moss smells passed up her nose. A lust for life and hope for escape planted a seed inside her that day.
The craving grew and within days Bianca found herself surrounded by giants with thick scales whose roots hugged the earth, glossy yellow-green fairies and tiny dwarves that caused havoc as they destructed the mushroom houses. There, in the forest, she found freedom – a place with indefinite possibilities where she could dwell with the sweet sound of birds singing as she floated on the winds of imagination.
But he was also there. The man behind the tall trees. Staring at her. Noting her every step as she ran over the moss-covered forest floor. His eyes gleamed as he perceived her lithe, tiny body and her dimples when she laughed along with her imaginary fairies.
“The food was good,” said Caylin. “Thank you, Mother.”
With a smile Bianca took the dishes to the sink, leaving her husband Caleb’s food on the table. The front door burst open. Caleb stumbled through the door along with whiskey fumes. Seeing his wife, he quickly straightened up and greeted her.
“Hi, Caleb. The food is on the table. We have finished. Enjoy,” she said icily as he stumbled to the kitchen.
Lying in bed, Caylin’s eyes drooped. But she fought the exhaustion and waited to be read to sleep in her father’s caring arms. She listened for him in vain. Defeated she dosed off, troubled by the words of warriors as her parent’s battle echoed downstairs.
“I know losing your job due to Covid-19 has been difficult. But you are not the only parent affected by this.”
“I am trying, Bianca…”
Her mother’s voice pitched. “Stop lying… all you do is drink… And I have to struggle alone with boxes, broken taps and loose cupboard hinges.”
And soon their anger moved closer to Caylin’s room, bursting her eardrums. She tossed and turned, desperately tugging the pillow over her head. Eventually the winds whistling through her bedroom window silenced the storm inside, invoking a desperate desire to escape. Unaware of the dangers at night, Caylin silently slid out the front door.
As she escaped, branches snapped and leaves crunched beneath her bare feet. The dark sky provided little guidance and without getting far, she soon plummeted into the forest floor. She screamed as pain sliced through her left ankle. Stunned into a ball of pain, she lay crying. Leaves rustled nearby, and she looked around frantically. The darkness was too solid…
“Hello, little girl,” the words froze her spine. Hot, deep breaths flowed down her icy back. Slowly she turned around, unable to escape. But the old, dirty man quickly reassured her.
“Oh no, don’t fear. I won’t hurt you.” His thin body moved closer to hers. “It’s peaceful out here, don’t you think?” He smiled broadly.
Painfully, she tried to get away, but the man grabbed her wrist.
“Don’t worry little girl. I am just like you. I am also friends with the fairies and dwarves.”
“You can also see them?” she stammered, somehow calmer.
“Yes. There is a secret room inside the forest where they all live. Would you like to come see them?”To be continued…