The girl lifted her head to look at the mountain towering before her, the light drizzle caressing her face as she inhaled the crisp cool air. Soon, she would be free. Free and flying like a bird, and there was no turning back. Nobody could stop her now.
Everyday, the girl would return to a silent home, dark and forlorn, long since stripped from knowing the joy of housing a content family.
On top of the typical clutter, there would be empty beer bottles strewn across the floor, some shattered, leaving shards of glass lying around. There were pieces of paper, bills, overdue for months, rotting away in pools of cheap alcohol.
In the shadows was a figure in a tattered armchair. His head lolled to one side, a thin trickle of froth running down from the side of his mouth. He reeked from the dozens of days he had avoided a bath, and the stubble was starting to show above his upper lip.
The girl barely spared a glance in her father’s direction. She would make her way to her room, expertly avoiding the mess on the floor, accustomed to years of experience.
This was her home.
The girl took the first step, her feet catching a grip on the rocks slick with rain, which was getting heavier by the moment. She reached a hand up, her fingers closing around stone. However, the rain made it slippery and her fingers slid slowly off, threatening to make her fall back onto the ground below.
She was determined to accomplish what she had set out to do though, and she was not going to give up anytime soon.
In school, the girl could barely focus. There was the occasional sharp pain of those little balls of paper as they bounced off her, and the other scraps that anyone could reach to toss conveniently in her direction. Whispers and sneers. Scathing remarks escaping cruel lips. Nobody understood. Nobody knew how much it hurt.
At lunch, she sat alone, a conspicuous area of empty seats around her. Mostly, she didn’t socialise. Afraid of being let down once again if she ever opened up. She knew that the same thing would happen again the next day, and the next, and the next. Like clockwork, like a broken video player, it would never stop. Ever.
The end was so close, she could almost brush it with her fingers. Her arms ached and her feet were sore, as if even her very body was against her.
A step at the time, the girl hauled herself up. Then there it was. The end. With a final heave, the girl collapsed at the top of the mountain, closing her eyes for a brief moment and letting the rain wash the blood and grit off her palms…
Her parents were arguing. Again.
She was curled up on her bed, her knees to her chest and a pillow over her head. There was no escape from the sound though. Just like there was no escape from her life.
The girl wondered if they would ever get sick of fighting. How long before her mother would storm out if the house and leave her drunk father behind, returning weeks later to a misshapen home, just like before. She wondered if they would continue to forget her.
How long until the fragile thread that kept them together would snap.
The girl clambered up to her feet, looking towards the horizon where the sun was beginning to set. The rain had stopped and the evening sun cast long shadows across the forest, rolling out before her like an everlasting blanket. She was so little, so insignificant. Surely no one would miss her.
For a moment, her foot hovered over the edge of the mountain. Then suddenly from the corner of her eye, she saw a figure moving in the distance. Hesitating, she drew back, turning her head. Those locks of aburn hair were unmistakable. Could it be?
Her mother was standing in front of the open door, and she and her father seemed to be having a heated argument. After a moment, her mother threw up her hands in exasperation and stormed into the house, bringing the girl’s red bag back out with her.
That bag contained all the few things the girl owned. She knew that because she had packed it herself once, when her mother had promised to take her away from her father. She waited for days. Weeks, which became months. Eventually, the girl gave up all hope that her mother would arrive. Just in case though, she never unpacked that bag.
Perhaps… Just perhaps her mother had come for her. Maybe she hadn’t forgotten her daughter. Maybe there was still hope. Maybe, there were other ways to be free…