Welcome to November. Not that it’s been very welcoming out West. Can you say snow, snow and more snow. We went from 12 degrees, sunny skies and running in a tank and shorts to below zero and seven inches of snow overnight. The only plus is that it’s pretty, and likely won’t last. Rain, rain and more rain is forecast this week, so hopefully the white stuff will melt away. I’m starting to see why people want to live in Hawaii. I’d move there in a heartbeat.
Anyway, here is this month’s visual aid. No reoccurring story for me this month, just a new, short piece. Okay, it didn’t turn out to be short, but damn it, I tried.
You can never go home.
One of the oldest cliches in the books, and one Tabatha Knight knew all too well to be true. Yet, here she was, standing at the edge of her parent’s property, looking at the darkened shadows blanketing the rundown shack she’d once called home. Though, home was a loose translation. It’d been a prison—one that hid its bars and dingy walls behind cheerful wood paneling and splashes of colourful pillows. No one would have guessed that the welcoming fire flickering in the hearth had been used to burn away her individuality—her gift. That the scars of her parents’ lessons were covered by her black jeans and overly large hooded jacket. And despite all she’d done to leave her past amidst the leafless trees and scrubby brush by the pond that occupied the back corner of the yard, the marks were still there—the only vestige left from those days.
She’d changed her last name, bleached her hair blonde, and disappeared. Vanished into the faceless crowds in the city she’d always been told was the harbinger of evil. She’d made a new life for herself there—one that didn’t involve cringing in the darkness, hiding from the very people who were supposed to protect her. One where she could be free.
She laughed, the sound hollow and raw. Freedom was just another form of prison. The only difference was that it was one of her making. Her fears. Her weaknesses. At least in her world, she didn’t have to pay for mistakes she hadn’t made. For beliefs wrought from paranoia and fear. Where the only person who her hurt was herself.
Tabatha gave herself a mental shake. God, she sounded like a pathetic, whiny child. So, she’d had a rough upbringing. So, she was afraid to let anyone see her body in more that just muted light. She’d escaped, which in the end meant—she’d won.
And now…now she’d returned to reclaim the one regret she’d left behind.
Tabitha marched up the gravel driveway, the crunch of the rocks beneath her feet echoing in the cold air. A tiny, white cloud followed her every step, hovering around her face like a halo as her breath misted with every exhale. On an evening this cold, they’d have the fire roaring. Yellow and orange flames would dance along the wood, gleaming on the poker her father kept braced against the hearth. Before the night was over, the tip would glow with the same bright colours, extinguished only after another lesson had come to a close.
Not tonight. Not ever, again.
She bounded up the porch, took a deep breath, then walked inside. No knocking. No asking permission to enter. She hadn’t come her as their daughter. She’d returned a warrior. What had once seemed like a curse destined to destroy her had become her greatest alley. Her salvation. And tonight, she’d save her brother.
The door rocked against the wall, leaving a small indent in the wall as it bounced partway back. Just another scar, she supposed. Another mark in a house that had seen more sickening violence than a hundred homes put together. But it was all about to stop.
Her father spotted her, first. He was in his usual chair in the living room—the one she’d considered a throne. Each night he’d sit in that same spot and rein down his judgment. And she’d always been found lacking. But tonight, he’d be the one being judged.
He stood as she stopped in the entrance, his hands fisted at his side, a belt already clasped in one. He smacked the leather against his leg as his lips curled into a grin.
He took a step toward her, rhythmically hitting his thigh. “I always knew you’d come back. That you wouldn’t last long without that evil being beaten out of you. If you’re lucky, I might just agree to treat you one more time.”
She didn’t talk. Didn’t have to. There weren’t any words to describe what she was feeling. To justify what he’d done. Instead, she channelled her power into the strip of leather in his hand. It stopped mid-strike, wavering in the air before forcing up his arm. His eyes widened, and he tried to lunge at her, only to get jerked back when his hand refused to move.
He growled at her. “You fucking bitch. I’ll teach you where your place is.” He turned toward the fireplace, reaching for the poker.
One word. That’s all she could get out before she focused on the belt, wrapping it around his throat. Her father’s eyes bulged wide, and he clawed at the strap, going onto his tiptoes when she forced him back against the wall. Wheezing gasps filled the room, mixed in with the sound of his boots kicking against the worn wooden floors.
Frantic footsteps clattered in from the kitchen, her mother’s high-pitched scream cutting through the other noises. “Repent evil witch. As God is my witness I cast you out!” She held out a cross, brandishing it at Tabitha as if the sight of it would make her fall to the floor.
Tabitha stood her ground, her father’s desperate gasps fading into the background. “Where is he?”
Her mother sneered at her. “Get out!”
“Not without Troy.” She took a single step forward. “Tell me where he is, or I’ll burn this hellhole to the ground.”
Her mother’s gaze shifted to her husband, rounding her eyes until barely a hint of brown remained. She faltered, crying out when the man’s face turned red and his eyes rolled back in his head. “Stop this.”
“Where. Is. Troy?”
Her gaze skittered to the basement door.
Tabitha waved her hand, pinning her mother against the wall as Tabitha headed for the small door. The hinges creaked as she yanked it open, quickly descending the stairs. Flickering candle light illuminated the damp space, dancing shadows across the wall. She didn’t need more light to find her way. She’d been locked up in the belly of her parents’ home for days at a time.
A soft groan drew her to the far corner. Her brother hung from the wrists on the hard brick, the bruising on his skin like bursts of purple flowers. Pain shot through her heart, her anger snapping the cuffs and lifting him toward her.
Troy groaned, again, blinking several times before giving her a small smile. “Tab?”
She smoothed his sweat-dampened hair out of his face, cursing the tears that fell onto his skin. “I’m here. Let’s go home.”
He frowned, barely able to stumble beside her as she braced most of his weight, slowly climbing back up the rickety stairs. She didn’t look at her parents as she helped Troy out the front door. Gasping pleas followed her, but she kept walking until the effort of maintaining her hold made her stumble. She stopped, took a deep breath, then let her power sink beneath her skin. Troy glanced over his shoulder, but she urged him forward.
“Forget them. It’s over.”
He nodded, once again moving forward. “Are they dead?”
“Not quite. Do you want me to finish it?”
He stared at her, then shook his head. “I’d rather they spend the rest of their lives knowing we won.”
That’s it for me. Sorry it wasn’t as short as I’d hoped. And please go check out the other ladies…