My name is Allison Lynn Bryson, but today it’s Beth. Beth is the opposite of Allison. Beth didn’t run away from home with her older brother to live in a small shack hidden in the woods. Beth’s life is filled with happiness, joy, luck, and everything her heart desires. Beth is never lonely or scared. Beth is everything Allison wishes to be.
“There she is. The girl with long, golden hair, sitting all alone in the snow.” I stared past the frosted window glass of the old, wooden shack while inventing a story from the top of my head as I often did. “An oversized red cloak is draped around her narrow shoulders and it looks like she’s been crying.”
“Why is she crying?” Ethan’s voice traveled from a couple feet behind me. His hazelnut-colored eyes narrowed, zeroing in on mine and my facial expression. He was probably trying to read me and come up with his own answer to the question.
“She’s lonely and scared.” I gave the obvious response. I turned back to the window. My vision traveled through the leafless patches of quaking aspens far in the distance that nearly blocked my view of the striking snow patches atop the frozen lake. “But there’s someone out there.” I faked a gasp to make the story more enthralling, and it worked.
With bright eyes full of intrigue, Ethan stood, taking a stance he often did when persuaded to protect his little sister. “Who is it?” This time I didn’t need protection and he knew it. He would often allow his imagination to get carried away by my stories. He took a step toward to window.
“Stay there.” My hand went up like a traffic cop. “You don’t want to ruin it, do you?”
He sat, balancing on the edge of the twin sized bed that nearly took up most of the cabin space. “Well, who’s there?” Impatience seemed to influence his fidgeting as he tapped the heel of his foot rapidly against the warped and weathered wooden floor.
“It looks like. . .” I paused, making like I needed a better view, but was stalling to come up with an interesting character, and to cause Ethan to squirm a bit more in anticipation. Successfully snuffing a grin, I continued, “A knight in his shining armor.”
“A knight?” His interest perked, evident by the tiny crease at the corner of his lips.
“Yes. He’s moving closer to the girl . . . He’s bowing . . . He put out his hand.”
“Did she take it?” He bounced a bit on the mattress unlike the nineteen-year-old he was and more like a little boy half his age with a mention of Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.
“She took it.” I confirmed with a nod. “She grabbed his hand and he flipped it over to kiss the back of it. Now they’re walking away together. Hand-in-hand.”
“You still see them?”
“No. They’re gone.”
Ethan’s fidgeting stopped and his gaze dropped to his feet. “Every day we meet someone new.” The tone of his voice became heavy with melancholy.
“And every day they’re gone,” I finished, mirroring his sadness and boredom.
Sometimes Ethan is Shane, a world-renowned artist from France. But often he’s more comfortable being Ethan Avery Bryson. The one thing that keeps his mind occupied, besides my stories, is wondering who his real parents are and if he has any biological siblings.
I stared out the window toward the lively trees that helped conceal our shack from passers-by. For years after running away from our father and the city, we rarely had to worry about curious people roaming the forest and stumbling upon our home, but we were thankful the trees were on our side.
The closest we’ve come to company was a herd of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep that lived around Mount Evans. Mountain goats frequently roamed the area as well, but rarely humans.
Colorado is my life. Where I was born. Ethan was also born in Colorado, but he couldn’t remember anything significant about his life. One thing he’s clear on is that he’s been passed around from family to family so much he has trouble remembering each member’s name. He was never with a family long enough to remember until the age of nine when he came to live with me and my adoptive father, the Bryson’s.
Things were getting worse living with Mr. Bryson, as he so badly wanted us to call him. He drank himself miserable and, in return, made us miserable as well. We had to get away.
We ran and ran until we came upon an old, abandoned shack made of weathered wood. Everything inside looked old and used. The few books were torn and tattered, so was the large rug that covered the floors and the curtains that dressed the single window. There were pots and pans, and boy’s clothing and shoes that me and Ethan put to good use. The sink didn’t deliver water but the rusted basin could hold a gallon and drain the water outside the cabin. The toilet was nothing more than a bottomless hole covered by a wooden flap. So with the ability to tend to our necessities, the shack was suitable enough to live in.
Being miles away from any other resident had a way of making us feel safe and secure. We had lived in this spot for so long, we’ve never worried about the original owners returning to take back what was theirs.
However, an uneasy stirring in my gut told me now was the time to start worrying.