A stronger gust hit the tree taking Janey by surprise and causing her to lose her footing. She squealed when her foot slipped from the branch and at the last second she pulled herself into a bear hug death grip to the trunk of the tree. Her fall had not completely halted by the time she was cheek to bark with the tree, and she paid the price for it with an unpleasant scrape across the side of her face. When she regained enough of her confidence that she wasn’t going to fall she relaxed her grip on the tree and pulled her face away from the tree. It stung mightily. Tenderly touching her temple, the tips of her small fingers came away with blood and tiny bits of bark clinging to them. At the sight of the blood and the realization that she had hurt herself, tears pooled up in her eyes and overflowed in a single quick gush. She tried to dry her eyes with the back of her arm and then began the process of climbing back down out of the tree; never as easy as getting into the tree, it seemed. She was very aware of the stinging side of her face as she worked to free herself from the tree and paid careful attention not to let anything else touch it.
Back inside, she made straight for the bathroom. In the mirror it didn’t look nearly as bad as it felt. After she had washed it clean with soap and water, wincing the whole way, it was little more that a small pink abrasion above her cheekbone. She decided to not even tell Mommy about it, unless she specifically asked.
As she passed the closed door of Mommy and Lee’s room on her way back outside, she heard Lee. He was talking in the same way that he would sometime talk to Janey when it was just the two of them. The way she hated. She shuddered and ran back through the house and out the back door, her boo-boo all but forgotten.
She found a fallen branch that was slightly taller than she was and started using it alternatively like a broadsword and walking stick as she made her way to the road. She was going for a walk and was pretty sure her absence wouldn’t be noticed since Mommy and Lee would usually stay in their room for a few hours when the door was all the way closed like she had just seen it. She strolled along the road, figuring she would drop in on Laura and Mark. Maybe even get some sympathy cookies or something like that if she milked her new injury just right. The building wind was making a mess of her hair, but she barely noticed; too caught up in whatever adventure only her eyes could see as she meandered along. She failed to even notice the darkening thunderheads that she was walking towards.
Laura pulled her head out from under the water. The headache was still very much there, but the cold shock of the water had helped bring her alertness back to her. She had also managed to get some of the blood out of her ear, eye and nostrils, so that was an improvement as well. She pulled back her soaked hair with both hands, gingerly avoiding the large knot on the back of her head. Cold water flowed under the collar of her shirt and straight down her back. The water felt good. It gave her an idea.
Standing in the down pouring rain with her eyes closed and her face turned skywards, Laura had temporarily forgotten that the person who had dragged Mark away could, and probably would, be coming back soon. She let the rain soak her and she listened to its sound and focused on the rhythm it made as it hit her face, neck and shoulders. The thunder was still there but what she seemed to hear the most was the rain as it hit her and everything around her.
She finally opened her eyes and wiped the extra water from her face. She turned to go inside, already planning her route through the house, dreading the prospect of having to face all that blood again. She would check to see if the phone in the bedroom was still working, then she would grab the keys off of the writer’s desk and drive the Rover straight to the sheriff’s station. But when she turned back towards the house, she wasn’t prepared to have someone standing quietly on the back porch watching her. The shock of it was too much for her in her current state. As the world turned into a dark tunnel and upended itself, the last thing she saw before she blacked out was the person running towards her as she lay limply in her own back yard.
For the second time today, Laura slowly opened her eyes and found herself again lying on the ground and, again, not alone. She stared up into very worried little hazel eyes, framed by stringy wet tendrils of hair that hung towards Laura’s face.
“Laura! Are you okay? You just… fell down,” Janey pleaded, trying to make sense of what she has just watched, “It looked like you were praying or something when I got here so I just waited quietly on your porch for you to finish. …and then you just turned around and fell over.”
Laura reached up and gently touched Janey’s face, not believing until she touched her wet hair that she was real and not some hallucination brought on by the far too traumatic events that had so far made up her day. “Janey, sweetie, what are you doing here?”
The thunder rolled again, but where it left off a different kind of rumble continued along with the crisper crunch of gravel. Laura sat up FAST grabbing Janey and appearing to stare straight through the house. Janey saw Laura’s mask of absolute terror and immediately became frightened as well, even though she had no idea why they were both suddenly so scared. Laura’s eye’s welled up with tears that mixed unnoticed with the rain that continued to hit her face. He was back.