by Michelle J. Norton
Listen closely to the whispers.
She runs through the woods as her mother’s warning echoes through her mind. Trees bolt past her on the worn stone path, cloak enshrouding her. The dark woods close about her. Soon the stones end and the path becomes dirt. Her journey would take twenty minutes, thirty if she walked. She runs.
The trees block out the sky creating an eerie twilight that shimmers through the trunks. Motes of dust and floating seed hit her cheeks. She looks ahead, never side to side. Ahead is safety. She clutches her cloak about her and holds her basket tightly to her breast. Her feet hit the compacted dirt swiftly. The wind picks up.
He steps out from the woods, his black tunic and trousers blotting out the light. His long mane of silvery hair lifts in the wind. She stops, staring. His storm gray eyes meet her leaf green ones. She takes a step back, then forward, rocking with indecision. As he walks towards her, her breath quickens.
The whispers come in a flurry on the wind. The trees rise up around her with a deafening sound of quiet. She looks into his eyes. Remembering the gaze while dancing. Thinking of his stare while dressing. Looking into the then and now.
Closer now, he touches her face. One finger trailing down the ridge of her brow, the bone of her cheek, the soft dimple under her chin.
Run. You’re almost there.
He flicks back her hood, releasing her deep red hair. The wind changes direction lifting her hair in an eddy of long soft auburn curls. Her basket drops with a clatter at her feet. The bread, cheese, and wine spills, rolling on the forest floor. She puts a hand on his shoulder and her head tilts up to his face. He smiles, his hand tracing her neckline. His hand splays on the buttons of her red cloak. She smiles back.
One button. Two. The cloak falls in a pool of crimson.
You have a chance.
Closer. His finger falling along her spine. His hand crossing one buttock. He pulls her into his embrace. Her hand moves to the back of his neck. He pulls up, she down, their lips meeting lightly, then harshly.
No, run. Why don’t you run?
Apart. His hands trace the curve of her waist to her breasts. His thumb on the tip, pushing, circling. Her hands trail down his waist. She finds the hooks, snapping as his shirt falls.
Unlatched. He shrugs the clothing off. His hands return for her as he moves down to her green bodice and pulls the first lace.
“Wait,” she says. He stops, looking into her eyes, questioning. The whispers come swiftly hearing their chance.
Go home. Forget your errand.
The urge to run wells up inside, her causing her to shake. She takes a step back and he drops her lace. His head cocks to one side.
“No,” he says. “I’ve waited too long.”
In one stride he has her, one hand pulling at the laces and the other holding her close, his mouth crushing hers. She reaches up intending to pull at his hair, to force him to let her go.
“I love you.” She melts against those words. Her hand lands at the back of his neck again, her bodice undone, she pulls at his belt, his shirt, and his trousers. He pushes her down, his knees landing on the ground as she bends. His lips walking down her neck, on her breasts. His hands under her skirt, lifting.
Forgo the whispers. His warmth upon her. His lips upon her. Him upon her. She arches up to him.
Her nails at his back. His head buried in her breasts, her neck. She rises and consumes.
Awaken to the sound of sobbing; she realizes the sound comes from her. A light rain falls in the woods with an insistent pattering. She lay on her cloak with her breast exposed, her skirt hiked to her hips. She breathes in slowly, silencing the sobs.
Blood glistens on her hand. She licks her fingers. Rising, she fixes her skirt and ties her bodice. Her red hair hangs in damp strands. She gathers up the cloak from the mud, the basket filled with forest flowers, a note, and a ring. The wind from the wood came low and gentle. The cheese, still snug in its wrapping, she scoops it up along with the wine. The bread, ruined, she lets lay for any forest creatures. Aside she kicks crumpled remains red washed in the rain.
She walks, one foot in front of the other, wiping away the tears, the crumbs. Five minutes and she would be warm and safe in her grandmother’s home.
She listens for the whispers.
Michelle J Norton is a developer in Lakewood Colorado. Besides writing she enjoys time with her pugs, reading, and painting.