The skies are slate grey today; the emerald green of the trees stark against their carbon hues. There’s a strange brightness in the air. The kind of brightness that only happens after a fierce storm. It’s ethereally beautiful; echoing the loneliness of the world.
Legs tucked under me, a cup of steaming coffee warming my hands, I sit and contemplate. I listen to the steady drip of rain water as it runs off the roof of the red wood cabin. The gentle drops musical as they hit the surface of the lake. The air is still, cool. I take a deep breath, it is sweet, cleansed; as if made anew.
For the first time in weeks, I feel a kind of peace. It is just me out here, alone, in a place where time has lost all meaning. The apocalypse could have come to the outside world and I would remain oblivious. The thought of everything I’ve left behind being lost forever doesn’t scare me as it should, in fact, I think I would feel relieved.
From inside the cabin, the phone begins to trill; I frown at the digital beeps as they break into the perfect stillness of my surroundings. It won’t stop, I realise; I have to answer it.
“David? I told you not to call me,” I say, the moment I pick up the receiver.
“Abbie?” that is not David’s voice. “Is that you?”
I am frozen to the spot, my voice caught in my throat, the words unable to form as the familiar voice speaks my name.
“Abbie?” he speaks again. “If this is really you, please, say something.”
I drop the phone, it clatters loudly into the cradle, cutting off the caller. My heart beats wildly in my chest, I can feel the adrenaline rising in my body, my breath coming fast.
Retrieving the handset, I check the caller ID. The call came from a land line; the number wasn’t withheld. The nearest land line is roughly a half hour drive away. I have to move. Fast.
Twenty minutes later, my belongings chucked into a case, toiletries swept into a bag, my half-drunk coffee going cold on the kitchen counter, I was in my car, driving as fast as I dared on the winding road that led down and away from the cabin towards the main exit road. I desperately hoped that no other car would pass me on the way. As I crested a slight rise I caught a glimpse of the busy road ahead, relief swept through me. Lots of traffic meant less chance of being discovered in my non-descript little red car.
I sped onto the exit lane, beeping furiously at the other cars to move over and let me join the carriageway. A flurry of beeps, honks and hand gestures greeted me as I cut through the traffic, heading to the outside lane, trying to put as much distance between myself and the cabin as I could. That place could no longer offer me any sanctuary.
I needed to speak to David. I toggled through the controls on my steering wheel until my mobile contacts appeared on the dashboard screen. David’s number was at the top of my contact list, I dialled his number and hoped he was able to take the call.
“Abbie? Are you ok?” David answers straight away.
“He found me David, he found me,” I choke out. “I’ve left the cabin.”
“How did he find you?” David says. “What happened?”
“He called me at the cabin,” I say. “About half an hour ago.”
David is silent for a moment. “Where are you now?” he says finally.
“Heading back,” I say. “I’m coming to you.”
“That’s a ten-hour drive!” David exclaims.
“If I keep going I should get to you around midnight,” I say.
“You’re crazy,” David says. “You can’t drive all that way without a break, it’s too dangerous.”
“It’s too dangerous for me to stay,” I argue. “David, he had the number of the cabin! How the hell did he know where to find me?” I was getting hysterical, my knuckles white on the steering wheel.
“Ok,” David says. “Just make sure that when you stop for petrol, you take a few minutes to stretch your legs, get a bite to eat. I want you here in one piece.”
“Will you wait up for me?” I say.
“Of course,” he says. “Jeannie’s at her sister’s and Tina’s gone to a sleepover so I’m on my own tonight anyway.”
“Thank you,” I say. “I’ll see you soon.”
“Drive carefully,” he says.
“I will. Bye.”
We end the call; I try to relax into the drive, moving to the inside lane and slowing down a little. My brother is right; there is no point in driving like a maniac, risking not only my life but everyone else on the road.
The more distance I put between myself and the cabin helps somewhat. I can no longer see the exit in my rear view mirror and have already travelled a few miles. The day is clearing and hints of azure skies break through the fluffy clouds. There is barely a hint of the morning’s storm save for the sunlight glinting off patches of wet on the road.
Ten hours, several petrol stops, three take away coffees and a large brie and cranberry baguette later, I find myself pulling up outside my brother’s house.
My body aches all over, limbs and back protesting as I extricate myself from the seatbelt and step out of the car. The lights are on in the house, David comes rushing down the front steps, throwing his arms around me.
“You’re absolutely crazy!” he scolds.
“Well, if you think so then it must be true” I say wryly.
“You know that’s not what I meant,” he says. “Come on, let’s get inside. You can put the car in the garage tonight.”
We stay up for around an hour, chatting over a bottle of Rioja. David analysing the event that has caused me to run. Eventually, my eyes grow heavy and I retire to the spare room where I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow.
To be continued…
© Grace McGowan 2016