The Girl

by Lauren Hummel, Learner, Writing Workshops

It was morning, and the girl trekked down the deserted path. The sun came up on the eastern ridge, light piercing through the heavy foliage. The air was heavy and tepid. The stagnant stream that she had plunged herself into earlier had now turned into a raging current. The churn of the water was deafening, drowning out birdsong and her heavy footsteps.

She stopped by the edge of the river to cup water into her hands and drink deeply, ignoring the unrelenting pain of hunger in her belly and the dull ache in her bones. She splashed the crisp water onto her face and neck, and dried herself with the shawl. Her shoes began to peel and her mourning dress was sodden with mud. She ran her thin fingers through her knotted hair and collected it into a simple plait. She touched the side of her face, the blue and red mark still evident, and still sore. Her right hand unconsciously fingered the gold ring on her left, the only valuable thing she had.

Images of her husband suddenly overwhelmed her and her eyes closed. The distinctive shock of red hair. His white teeth in a sneer. His sharp, blue eyes staring at her from across the kitchen table, mistrustful and accusatory. His fist on her face and his knee in her stomach. She fought back the memories, and wiped the tear that had fallen down her unmarked cheek.

The sound of dogs barking suddenly broke through the sound of the river. Her heart jumped and adrenaline coursed through her weakened body. Her mouth went dry and her head spun. Had they finally caught her scent? They certainly would smell her now, as her body was drenched in sweat.

She threw herself in the ditch beside the road and made herself small. She tried to slow down her breathing, but it was no use. Her hands were held together in prayer. She forced her mind clear of the inevitable violence the redheaded men would bring to her. The dogs kept yapping and were getting closer and she could hear footfalls on the loose stones. The footfalls were heavy, but she could only make out one pair of feet, not two. She peered up from the bulrushes. It was a farmer with two sheepdogs, who were yapping playfully at a stick he held in his hand.

The girl breathed a reprieve. Her shoulders loosened and her hands released from their grip. There were no dogs, no men hunting her. She evaded them for now, but this peace would not last. The men were relentless. They would hunt her until she was under a mound of dirt next to her dead husband.

Lauren wrote this as a continuation of the first chapter from The Outlander by Gil Adamson – a young woman is being chased by men and dogs. This piece was written for Susan Glickman’s novel-writing course: ‘Novel Writing – Level I’ (CWWR 420).

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