Chapter 1

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The wind pricked at my cheeks with icy fingers. I rounded the corner of the building and looked up, carefully checking the corners and edges for an Auto Eye. There weren’t any. It seemed so strange, being in a place where you weren’t watched every second of every day. Still, I was apprehensive. There were surely guards somewhere, or a random person passing a window might notice the girl wandering alone in the side yards and call for an investigation.

I strained my eyes and searched the treeline ahead of me. Where is he? I took a few more steps and stopped at the fruit tree, dead and grey, outside my bedroom window. The glass was slightly mirrored, but not enough that I couldn't see inside. A person standing right against the glass would be easy to make out. He did see me.

I peered again at the clearing followed by trees and rocks ahead. Where did he go?

I had two choices.  I could make a run for it, hoping to be faster than anyone who might be watching, but that seemed stupid given the fact that there was a blanket of snow on the ground that had been completely untouched by anything larger than a rodent or bird. My footprints would stand out like a big red arrow - She went this way!

My second choice was to keep up the lie I had started with the main door attendant.

“I need to clear my head. I want to go for a walk outside.” Remembering my words brought another shiver down my spine. After being in prison for who knows how long, I felt certain they wouldn’t let me just walk out of the compound, but they had.

“Alright. Don’t go too far. Lots of beasties out there this time of year, and it’s cold as all get out.” The woman had been very friendly and all smiles; another thing I wasn’t used to. “There are thermal parkas there in that closet if you want one. I’d say yes, deary.”

“Thank you.” A pang of guilt tugged at my gut at having lied to her. I wasn’t just going for a walk, I was running for my life, for his life, for our life together.

I wrapped my arms around myself in the puffy coat and rubbed while I looked closer for any sign of Thomas. Still nothing. I scanned the ground at the edge of the trees. Nothing. Not even a foot print.

My heart started to sink. Had they done something to my brain? To that part that knows reality from day dreams? I felt my chest start to tighten and my breath came faster.

It was now or never. Walk forward or turn back. Run or stay.

I shoved my hands into my pockets and stepped into the fresh snow in front of me. Anything was better than what I was leaving behind.

My first steps were slow. I continued to gaze up and around, looking at the windows and rooftop for any sign that I was being watched - still nothing. I made a silent promise to myself as I felt my eyes welling up with tears. I will not cry. I will not panic. I will walk away, into the woods and I will find a way to disappear. There are people in the mountains and I will find them and I will make a life for myself. I will do this, or I will die trying.

My steps quickened. My throat tightened. It was hard to breatheand the crisp winter air made it painful as well. I gulped and gasped and tried to get a hold of myself. I felt my heart pound as I got nearer the tree line. Hope still filled my chest. But there was nothing. No footprints, no sound, no sign of Thomas anywhere.

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