Finding the Way. (flash fiction)

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lost

Her calves ached from walking, perhaps this was far enough. Pleasant forest smells surrounded her. She sat silent for a moment, eyes closed, taking in sound and smell denied in her mad rush. Pain and turmoil quieted to the chorus of bird song, her burning face cooled by a gentle breeze. She’d wanted solitude and found it. Somewhere far behind a small red convertible was waiting at the side of the road. She’d trudged miles since then, blind unseeing miles.

Opening her eyes she took in the sunlight beaming through the trees, the shadows playing a pantomime of shades among the fallen leaves. She sighed wishing she never had to go back. Somewhere out there was her luxury apartment, spotlessly tidy, with all mod cons. somewhere … empty. She’d squandered her first thirty years in search of that apartment and matching red car. Now she cared for neither. The only person she’d ever really cared for was dead. She’d never taken time to form attachments in her sordid bid for success, but he’d always been there for her since her youngest memories, Uncle Tom.

Her own parents were rarely available, returning home exhausted by their constant struggle to put food on the table. It had been May, Tom’s wife who picked her up from school. Tom was a carpenter, he loved wood. She’d watch him in his workshop lovingly plaining and sanding. She stroked the rough wood of the log on which she sat as if in remembrance. He’d never been too busy to chat, to encourage, to love. Now he was gone like the drifting leaves at her feet.

He’d tried to talk with her of late but she’d been too busy to stop, to listen. Then suddenly he was gone. No texts, no messages, gone! Out here alone she could cry, among the trees, the wood…

*

The sun sloped low in the sky, she’d better head back, but there was no path! In her pain raked quest she’d taken no bearings. Quenching panic she reasoned. The sun would be her compass. She needed to head west to find the highway.                                                                          *

Shadows grew as darkness invaded her domain, without the sun she’d be lost. Like my life she thought dully Tom was my compass. She hated the idea of spending the night out here. Noises that had calmed and comforted alarmed. She glimpsed a shadow among the trees. What would someone be doing out here at night? Fear gripped, but it was too late, the shadow swung in her direction. Panic stricken she began to run.

“Stop lady!” a voice called out, “It’s just me, Pete. I’m the woodsman. Are you lost?” Heavy feet pounded towards her as she turned. The uniform was unmistakable.

“I’m sorry. I thought you were…”

“Some pervert! Yes, I know.” He pulled a torch from his belt shining it on his badge.

“So what are you doing out here on your own?”

“My uncle died. I miss him so much … I wanted to be alone … I…”

“Well you sure did that! You’re miles from the nearest road. Do you want me to help you get home?”

“Yes, I have a car on the highway, a red convertible.”

“I saw it, was wondering what it was doing there. Come on then I take you back, I have a jeep parked not too far away.”

“How did you come to become a woodsman?” she asked as they piled into the old jeep.

He laughed. “Used to work on Wall Street actually, but it got too much for me. I was turning into a nervous wreck!”

“I know what you mean exactly.” He paused turning the ignition.

“You came here to ease the pain?”

“Yes I … He was a carpenter, he loved wood.”

“So do I.”

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