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Chapter 5

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I don't want to wake up. I want to go back to the black hole that kept me safe. I reach for it but it no longer wants to hold me.

I open my eyes.

I am in a forest, and the sky is growing dark. The forest is laden with snow everywhere. The trees are dead and bare and stand there silently, mocking me, tempting me to come near with their long, claw-like branches. I ease into a sitting position and the pain slams me in the face, pushing me onto my back again. I cradle my broken wrist to my chest with my other arm and bite back a yell. I examine my right arm. The blood has dried and is caked along its length and a pool of red is in the snow, where my arm was resting. I am going to need stitches. But how the hell am I supposed to get some? I can't go to our tiny hospital. They already think something isn't right with me and my father. Going there will only make them more suspicious and I don't want any trouble because then once he hears about it, he'll probably kill me for real. A soft crunching noise brings me back to the present. I listen hard. Then I hear it. Footsteps. I can't do anything so I have no choice but to lay here.

I turn my head and see her. A little girl, not even ten years old. Blonde curls and bright blue eyes, trudging through the snow all bundled up and oblivious that I lay a mere 30 feet away. She is in her own world, it seems, carrying a paper bag full of something and humming to herself. I lay still, hoping for her to see me, but at the same time, not wanting to frighten her with my grisly appearance.

A breeze blows by and I start to shiver; it is so cold out here. I watch her slowly get closer to me and cringe, when she finally notices me. She gasps and drops her bag and muffins spill out, their smell carrying across to me and making my stomach growl. It dawns on me that I have no idea how long I have been passed out.

"Oh my goodness," she says, her face tinged pink from the cold. "W-what happened to you?"

I try to speak, "Can you please put some snow on my wrist?" my voice comes out all hoarse and scratchy.

She nods quickly and abandons the now ruined muffins, grabbing a handful of snow and dumping it on my wrist. I sigh. The snow helps ease the throbbing pain.

"Thank you."

"Who hurt you?" she asks.

I cannot tell this child my problems. But I can't think of an excuse, my head hurts too much. This angelic child is innocent and I simply cannot drag her into my world.

I shake my head, "No," is all I say.

She understands. This subject is closed.

She grabs my hand and somehow gets me to my feet slowly, and helps bear my weight.

"Come on, I'm taking you to my house, momma can fix you up there and you'll be warm. It's not too far away."

I have no idea why this child is helping me. Why would she? I must look like death run over. And I'm practically an adult compared to her. Yet something about her tells me that she is more mature than most children her age, she is one of those people who are truly meant to help others. For that I am grateful.

We make our way, her helping me stumble through the snow while chattering away about random things. I have no idea how we make it to her house but we do after what seems like several long, painful hours and a few breaks.

A log cabin stands in the middle of the woods, smoke coming out of the chimney. It is small and looks homey. Snow covers the roof and the porch light is on, warm glowing light comes from the windows. She helps me up the front steps and my knees nearly give way.

I am so tired.

She gets me inside and I am instantly greeted with warm air and the smell of pine. Inside there is a living room with a fireplace lit, and a deer head hangs above the mantel. The kitchen is in plain sight of the living room and is very small, just enough room for a fridge, a stove, and a sink. A small woman is at the stove, stirring a pot of something that looks like soup. When we enter, she turns, smiling, then seeing me, drops her ladle.

"Addie, come away from her right now." Her voice is stern and the little girl obeys, frowning, moving to her mother's side.

"But momma, she's hurt and she needs your help!"

"Go to your room now and stay in there."

Addie goes to her room, stomping her feet on the way.

"I'm sorry ma'am I'll go," I say.

I turn to go back out the door.

"Oh for heaven's sake will you shut the door? You're making the house all cold."

I obey and turn, confused.

"Come on over to the fireplace and let me look at you."

Her face softens as I glance up at her.

"You're going to help me?"

"Yes, dear, of course, you look pretty harmless. But you can never be too sure when it comes to strangers. Addie will stay in her room until you leave."

I nod and move to the fireplace and sit down in front of it, loving the warmth it gives off.

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