Anya figured she had about forty minutes to pack her things into a borrowed backpack and leave, before Darren came home. There would be heavy game-day traffic, so maybe yet more time. He might stop by the bar near his work, and then she’d have several more hours to make decisions. But she had deferred plenty enough, and she needed to find a place to make camp before nightfall.
The backpack was on indefinite loan from her sister, along with a one-person tent. That was all the help Nadia could offer her this time. But it was a good tent, light and tempered to withstand three seasons, and only missing a few stakes. “You can always make do with rocks,” Nadia had said, which was true; Anya had been doing so for the past five years.
Into the backpack went all of her clean underwear and socks she could find without holes (six and seven pairs, respectively), two long-sleeved thermal shirts, a baggy sequined sweater, three pairs of leggings, yoga pants. A wool blanket. A plastic bag with bottles of hotel shampoo and conditioner, and two bars of intensely floral soap. Mascara and half a packet of makeup remover wipes. Fifteen granola bars and six packets of goldfish crackers, crammed into pockets and clothes. Two scarves – one gray, for wearability and cover, and one red for brightness and cheer.
Should she take more? She grabbed a silky violet pashmina, bought from a street stall they’d visited in New York last summer. She knew it wasn’t real, that it was a cheap knock-off, but she loved the intricate pattern and luxurious texture. She couldn’t leave it behind, even if the backpack was already stuffed to bursting. She wrapped it like a shawl around her head and shoulders, imitating her grandmother in the only photo Anya had ever seen of her: a babushka in a sepia forest, pale eyes alert and staring directly at the camera.
She wasn’t sure where that photo was. It might have been in the assortment of mementos from the old house, mixed in with Christmas cards and ticket stubs, crammed in the drawer of the big oak desk in the corner of the bedroom. She almost opened the drawer to look, but stopped herself before she got trapped, sorting through memories.
Amid the clutter on the desk stood a ceramic salt shaker, in the shape of a figure skater. It was blonde and rosy-cheeked and earmuffed. Once upon a time, Darren had given it to her; he’d lifted it from the diner where he bussed tables. “It looks just like you,” he’d said. Its colors had faded with time, and it had acquired a few scratches and a chip on its elbow. She shook it. A few grains of ancient salt spilled out, stinging a cut on her palm. She licked the salt and shoved the skater into one of the side pockets of the backpack.
Anya looked out the window, the sun shone low through leafless branches. On both of her upper arms were two yellowing bruises; she had no choice but to bring these. She took a Sharpie from the desk, uncapped it and outlined the edges of her left bruise, correcting the splotchy bumps into a smooth oval. Carefully, quickly, she traced repetitive curls and whorls, working skin and bruise into a pattern like wood.
From the other room, she heard a noise like a garage door opening. Alarmed, she looked up at the clock. The minute hand vacillated back and forth, between 3:15 and 3:16. Over the other bruise, she drew a hasty “X” and let the Sharpie fall to the ground. She grabbed the first coat she could find, a dingy white windbreaker with a broken zipper, the backpack and the tent. She walked through the kitchen towards the back door, and stopped.
On the kitchen table was a manila envelope, containing a long letter she’d typed and retyped again over the past few nights. In the letter she had synthesized five years’ worth of wrongs, frustrations and disappointments. After she had finally finished and printed all nineteen pages, the paper itself had felt hot with anger. Now, she ran her fingers along the surface of the envelope. She’d written “DARREN” on the front in dark jagged capitals. After some hesitation, she rolled up the envelope and tucked it between the handles of the tent bag, and left.
Once outside, she let out the breath she didn’t know she’d been holding. It plumed and evaporated in the chilly air. The bright low sun dazzled her eyes as she walked, slow and steady, towards the woods.
This piece is part of a New Year’s Resolution challenge: choose a song I loved that came out in 2014, listen to it on repeat and compose a story. The story may have a connection to the text of the lyrics, or have nothing at all to do with it. In the interest of getting these out before 2016 comes around, I am lightly editing these pieces, if at all. Comments and suggestions welcome, though.
Be the first to like.