by Kevlin Henney
As far as she had ever been. The gate. Breathless, running, eyes wide. Lungs burning, breath like smoke, snow chilling the bruises on her fair skin. Stumbling, fleeing through the trees, the cold touching her only to drive her on.
As far as she had ever been. From the house. Since they had first caught her, taken her, brought her. Against her will. Before her will and the world that lay far beyond the gate had become no more than marks in memory; memories of a stepmother, a father, a sister and a school of friends, memories scrawled over by captivity and things that had become normal and everyday that should never be so. A stepmother whose kindness mirrored her beauty, whose love for her stepdaughters dwarfed the meagre love of a father for his own. A father whose anger and indifference she could now forgive, but had driven her in her innocence to confide in her neighbour. A neighbour whose confidence was false, whose touch was unforgiveable, whose intent had driven her into the woods.
She had fled day and night. Fled until she had been found among the fallen apples, in a bed of autumn leaves.
She had fled day and night. Fled and lost her way, to be found but taken.
So many times. Tried so many times to escape. One of the seven had always seen her, caught her, taken her back, hurt her. She would hide behind her eyelids.
So many times. But last night had given new cause, new opportunity. They had drunk and they had hurt her. Excess had the seven men sleeping into the afternoon, scattered around the broken house like the crooked beer cans they left on the floorboards by her bed. Excess and carelessness had left her hands untied.
Never seen the gate. Never been this far from the house. Never got far enough.
Never seen the gate, never known it was there. She paused before it, looking back through the trees and falling flakes at the smoke and flames rising from the pyre of the house. She turned away, running a new path through the snow.
Photography by Rebecca Brown.
©' The Treacle Well 2013