CW: Mention of a gun
Christine’s backyard has ducks and a brown muddy pond where the grass refuses to grow. She is two years older than me and I’m in awe of her long orange hair. She knows things that kindergarteners don’t know. She shows me where her brother and father pee behind the garage and where her father hides his shotgun.
Giddy with independence, I don’t tell my parents I am leaving Christine’s house or where to find me. Wearing her sister’s purse and sunhat, we are searching for new lands. We are on an adventure like in Winnie the Pooh’s expotition to the North Pole.
Skipping down the hill we arrive at a big house with brown flaking paint and wide front porch. No one is living here. After chasing each other around the yard, we settle atop the wood swings hanging from thick ropes. The air smells of fresh cut wood and autumn leaves.
The creaking of the swings fills my ears, muffling the sound of footsteps.
Smack. Father’s hand slaps my bottom. The pain is sharp and swift. Surprise brings tears to my eyes. Shamed, I refuse to cry.
Christine will think me babyish. I turn away.
“Look at me,” he hollers. “ Mother and I have been looking everywhere. Do you know how worried we were? Do you have any idea?”
Stunned, I retreat into the piece of time just minutes earlier—pumping my legs with the wind swooshing past my face. Excited to make a new friend. An explorer expanding my territory. I have no words with which to answer. My first taste of freedom and I have no regrets.
Nadja Maril is a former magazine editor and journalist living in Annapolis, Maryland. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from the Stonecoast at USM and her publishing credits include: Change Seven, Lunch Ticket, Lumiere Review, Miniskirt Magazine and Defunkt Magazine. She blogs weekly at Nadjamaril.com. Follow her on Twitter at @SNMaril.