For some reason, I knew how they would react. Mia, fear evident in her eyes; Max, with a small sigh, looks older than he really is; Niska, with the same guarded expression; and Leo, who takes in the information with a mask and a nod in understanding.
Everything after that is a whirlwind. Leo types on his laptop securing a way out of the country while Mia and Max pack up their clothes. I bound up the stairs and start to pack as well.
The wind howls ferociously outside and I slow to a stop. I look around at my room, and I am alone with the wind. I turn around slowly, trying to remember every little detail. From the jagged edge in the door frame when I hauled the head board in for the very first time to the single old window that I have looked out of for years. Leo barely spent any time in here, but he remembers everything. I swallow down the thick swell of emotions and force myself to keep packing.
I need to get all my money out of the bank. I can’t go back into town. I pack the only picture I have. Mom, Dad, Odi, and I on vacation. We are all happy, mid laugh around a fire on the beach. I tuck it in my pocket and zip up the bulging duffle bag.
“What will happen to the ladies?” Max asks as soon as I’m downstairs.
I drop my duffle bag by the front door and grab the hand gun. I check the magazine, it’s full. I tuck it in the waist band of my jeans and walk to the side door.
“Can’t survive without us, and we can’t take them with us. I’m sorry.” I keep my voice emotionless for him, as well as for me.
I shut the door behind me and my hair is pulled by the strong wind. I grit my teeth and walk towards the coop, which is red and clucking sleepily. Four shots ring out in my ears. I raised the dead chickens before me when they were a day old chicks. I can’t help but weep pathetically over them. I wipe my nose on the sleeve of my jacket and go back inside.
“I’m going to get the traps. After I store them, we leave.” I announce.
They all nod and Leo follows me out. We walk past the silent, dark, bloody coop. I stomp my feet to keep warm and to scare any animals roaming in the snow. I haul the traps in my arms despite Leo’s protests.
“I need to do this on my own, Leo.” I sneer at him as we near the cabin.
“It’s stupid! You are going to hurt yourself.” He moves towards the traps in my arms.
I jerk away, “Let me! This cabin, all of this, I built myself. It’s only proper I put it down by myself.”
I don’t add that this was my parents goal for me. To build a place tucked away somewhere and live out my days in relative safety. I feel like I’m failing them now. All of the people who have helped me along this path.
As I close the door to the cellar and push the padlock in place, I hear Leo mumble.
“Speak up, Jesus Christ.” I snap at him.
“You don’t have to do this on your own. I’m here, we are all here for you, Elsie. Why won’t you let us help?” He stresses.
I turn on my heel to face him. On this incline, we are at eye level.
“I never asked for you to show up at my doorstep, to be apart of my life. I’ve never had help and I don’t need yours now. Why do you keep trying?” I yell so he can hear me over the wind that bites at our faces.
“Because I fucking love you!” He shouts back.
I glare at him before turning around and going back to the cabin. My cabin. I scoop up my duffle and make sure the extra gas can is waiting in the trunk. It is. I shove my duffle in the corner so the others have room to put their bags in the back as well.
Mia threw out any food that would spoil and grabbed the persona chargers. Max carries out two duffles and I shove them in the back.
As everyone loads up in the jeep, I stand in the middle of my cabin. My hand lingers on the door knob. I take the only set of keys with me, knowing I will never see this place again.
Mia sits in the front while everyone else is crammed in the back. She quietly gives me directions to the nearest airport while we wind up the gravel path that takes us to the paved road. Mia also has the papers to get on the plane and I let her fish out my passport from the glove box.
As I pull onto the paved road, another car is parked on the other side. We all tense as the car door opens, but I relax when I recognize the silhouette. I get out of the car and meet Lily in the middle of the small country road. She saved me earlier tonight. In the harsh lights of both our vehicles, I see a bruise on her cheek.
“You’re leaving?” She asks.
She pulls something out of her pocket. I gasp and tears well up in my eyes. It’s a picture of my parents and me as a young child. We are sitting in the diner, including Lily.
“You look so much like your mother, so strong. Don’t you ever forget that.” She tells me, tears falling from her own eyes.
She pulls me into a hug and I wrap my arms around her as well. I push the keys to the cabin in her hand and she presses a brief kiss to my forehead. Our eyes speak a million things before I turn away and continue on our journey.
By the time we ditch the jeep in a nearby parking lot and check in to the airport, the sky is turning grey with dawn. I stifle a yawn and rub my eyes. Mia hands me my ticket and everyone else’s as we wait for our tiny plane to arrive. Niska keeps watch as we sit.
Leo and Mia are whispering furiously and keep glancing at me. Max hands me a doughnut and a small cup of coffee. I thank him. As I eat and drink, my eyes don’t focus on anything in particular as I think of the recent events in the past twenty four hours.
Niska arrived at the cabin, she was there when George died, I was shot at, forced to leave my home, Leo told me he loves me, Lily knew my parents, and now we are all sitting at an airport waiting to escape the country. All I want is sleep. I lean against Max and close my eyes with my arms crossed.
It feels like minutes when I open my eyes.
“The plane is here.” Mia tells me.
I follow them and Mia turns to me.
“What’s wrong?” I ask her as I watch the others move forward.
“You aren’t coming with us. It’s too dangerous and we have to separate here, to throw them off your trail.” Mia breaks to me.
“Where am I to go?” I ask her as I put up a neutral mask.
“We’ve made arrangements for you to live in Ireland, in a remote cabin. It’s one of the many safe houses. It will have a phone, a set of clothes, wifi, and a laptop. We will be in touch with you, I promise.” She says, both her hands on my shoulders.
She points to the other gate, “We can’t thank you enough for taking us in, I didn’t want to leave you, but it is for the best.”
Mia hugs me briefly and walks away.
“Leo!” I call to him.
He catches my eye and mouthes ‘I’ll see you soon’ before turning around and walking away. My heart is racing in my throat as I force myself to move to the other gate and take my seat on the other plane. I don’t cry, I won’t here. Lily’s words echo in my mind and I hold on to them desperately. I wince when my ears pop from the sudden pressure change. I want to go back to sleep since it is a long flight, but I don’t.
I let the emotions swirl and churn inside me the entire flight. I stare out the window and watch the clouds. I wish I was watching the pine trees out of my bed room window. I wish I wasn’t a target. I wish I never met them.
I get off the plane and tell the taxi driver the location. He gets me to the end of the paved road. It’s foggy here, and there are mountains, but they aren’t my mountains. I walk for some time on a dirt path surrounded by wilderness. This isn’t my wilderness.
I grip the strap of my single duffle tighter as I reach my new house. In the fading light I see the long copper roof and white brick cottage. There is a single light over the dark wooden door as I fetch the key under the welcome rug. I turn the knob and nearly trip over the step up. I grope blindly for the light switch and finally see this new place.
The narrow hallway connects to two different sections of the cottage on each end of the hallway. On the east end is the kitchen, one of the two bathrooms and living room all on one floor with a small library. On the west end of the hallway is a small foyer with a spiral staircase leading to the only bedroom and the other bathroom.
Finally I am alone. My heart shatters at the betrayal and the loss. I scream and cry until my voice is gone. My sobs hoarse and rough in my throat, but I welcome that pain. I was alone before they were in my life, but I thought I had everything. Now I am alone and I have nothing. I stumble downstairs and lock the front door. I go around the new house and turn off the lights before I collapse on the bed and drown in the unfamiliar darkness.