I remember it like a bad dream, but unlike dreams, this one stuck to me like glue, making me remember every terrible detail. Three. I just turned three years old. My mom took me to the woods. I was holding her hand tight. I remember the way her hands shook, how it felt on my own and how tight I held her.
Deep in the woods where the mist was thick and the cold made me shiver, she made me sit down. The sound of her voice still brings me to tears even to this day… whenever I was too weak to push away the memories. It was soft. Quiet. Sad... She told me to wait, that she would be right back and I was to wait for her and not move an inch. Being the obedient child that I was, I sat between the roots of a tree, a little nervous to be left alone, but smiled as she walked away.
I remember the look on her face, guilty and not smiling back. I didn’t think much of it and so I waited and waited and waited… and then I waited some more.
The sun was still out when she left and then it wasn’t anymore.
It was so dark. I couldn’t even see my hands and the cold… it was getting unbearable.
But I did what I was told and stayed where I was, hugging myself. The owls were hooting and in the distance, I heard wolf howls.
“Mom?” I whispered, my lips trembling. “Mommy? Is that you?”
There was no answer.
So I stayed.
And I waited some more.
Until I felt sleepy, but I didn’t want to close my eyes just in case my mom came back and she couldn’t see me in the dark. Looking back, it was foolish of me. Werewolves can easily see in the dark. She would find me if she wanted to.
But she didn’t.
And soon the darkness faded into a new day and still I stayed… waiting.
I did not know what to feel at first. Frightened? Hungry? Thirsty? Exhaustion? The feeling of despair that she was never coming?
Or the hopefulness that something just happened while on her way back and she will come for me?
Any time now.
I like to think that she just forgot about me.
But she did not come.
Not after a day. Not after two or three.
I stayed between those tree roots, unable to believe that my mom wasn’t coming for me. It rained. It shined. Everything happened in those three days or was it four now? All I know is that I was still there, alone, left to rot.
Until a wolf found me, a man, an adult, but not really an adult. Like a boy who has just reached his manhood.
He approached slowly, confused and surprised to find a pitiful little thing like me. I watch him do a double take, wondering if I’m real or simply a figment of his imagination.
“What’s your name?” He asked, his voice devoid of emotion but his eyes shined bright with concern.
I opened my mouth to tell him but no sound came, only a low croaking sound.
The man understands this and nods. “How long have you been here? Use your fingers.”
I shake my head. I have genuinely forgotten how long it’s been.
“How old are you?” He asked, inspecting me closely. By the look on his face, he knows I’ve been here a while.
Using my fingers, I put three up. The small action made my hand ache. I’ve been clutching the roots of the trees so long they already froze that way.
A thoughtful expression went through his face. “Are you waiting for someone?”
I nodded my head. “My… m-mom.”
He frowned, his lips curling “This land has long been abandoned, little one. She will not be coming back.”
Tears did not spill. There was no more water left in my system, but abandonment finally settled in my bones. I feel myself shake.
The man extends his hand out. “Come with me. I’ll take care of you.”
Distraught with nowhere else to go, I took his hand with my shaking one and, just like he said, he took care of me by naming me his daughter and all is in the past.
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