PROLOGUE - Linden
Deep in the woods there is an old cabin. It looks like it has been abandoned for years. It is a haven. My haven.
It is surrounded by wild. It's my home. Wild enough to hold me.
I went there where no one can find me, when I needed away. Away from my family. Away from the people who claim to care. Away from the life that I had. Away from the pain. Out there alone in my wild I am not so lonely. I am safe in my wild. I am warm. I am me.
I hide in the closet in my bedroom huddled small in the corner on the floor. Shaking trying to muffle my cries. If he finds me that's it. I just have to wait until he moves on. I can't do this anymore. Mom shouldn't be putting up with this. Parents should protect their children. Instead, she ignores me and caters to his every whim.
She used to be a good mom before dad died. We used to go camping. She used to make dinner and read me bedtime stories. But now she drinks. Now she ignores me. Now she watches as I get hit over and over again.
It was hard in the beginning after dad died. That was to be expected after all he was everything. He was a park ranger and died on the job in a storm. Mom started drinking, and then she met Brian, and she seemed happy again. Not back to normal, but she didn't seem so alone. I never liked Brian but if he made mom happy I was happy for her. But when he started to hit me in front of her, and she left, so she didn't have to see me or hear me cry. I knew that was the end of my family.
It has been like this for three years. Its only been getting worse. I knew when I walked through the door after school today was going to be bad. I should have just turned around and headed to my forest. But I didn't because I thought it would be different because it's my birthday. That'd teach me. It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter that I'm 16. It doesn't matter that I'm scared. It doesn't matter that I'm hungry. I don't matter to them. But I matter to me and I need to leave.
I stay hiding for hours until the noises of rage and alcohol turn into snoring. I pack my school bag like I would when we used to go camping with dad. Clothes, rope, a blanket, a knife and I steal the first aid kit from the bathroom. Without a look back at what should have been home I head into the forest. I know I won't be reported missing, I know I won't be looked for and that suits me just fine.
I walk and walk and walk until I come to a steep incline. Seeing a hunting blind up a tree I make camp there but I know that I will be leaving tomorrow. I'm not where I want to be yet. I'm not safe yet.
After a cold night of jumping awake at every sound. The sun streamed through the cracks in the boards of the blind. I climb down and start climbing up the hill. I remember everything my dad taught me out here. It was my favorite time together. Hunting, trapping, gathering food. Being his little wild thing.
Between him and my grandma, his mom, I knew the local plants and animals and survival skills. My dad took me to live out here for a month the summer before he died. I learned so much.
Fear and determination driving me i spent the next two days walking and climbing until I stumble upon a little cabin by a river. It has a moss roof and log sides. A window and a door. There is a little outhouse to the side. It looks empty and hurt like me. I know that sounds weird. But I am still healing from my last beating, I'm cold and hungry and scared. It looks like home.