He Found Me(4)

By: Whitney Barbetti

Six set up a PO Box for us to communicate through, and when he learned what little I would share of the abuse, he helped me hatch the plan for my freedom. On nights I knew the Monster was working late, Six would pick me up from school and we’d plot my steps carefully.

Where the Monster was family in marriage only, Six was family in my heart. He was twice my age, but unlike the Monster in every way. I’d grown up with Six a constant presence in my mother’s home for Sunday dinners. He was the only person I trusted in the entire world. He was what I guess a big brother would be, if I had one.

I saw the sports car zip into the gas station and then around the building. The headlights of the silver car flashed at me three times before switching to the parking lights on its approach. Ten feet from where I stood, the car stopped its hum and the driver’s door opened. As soon as I saw his tall frame silhouetted against the moonlight, I ran to him and he opened his arms, catching me.

Finally, finally, I allowed myself to cry. Relief, exhaustion, and elation. The flood of emotions were stronger than anything I’d felt.

Until he found me, seven years later.

June 18, 2010

I drummed my fingers on the metal desk. A fleck of red polish popped off my nail and slid across the shiny desk top. “Crap,” I muttered to myself. I leaned down to inspect my now imperfect fingernail. I wasn’t one to care usually, but I had just finished removing the glitter remnants my nails had stubbornly held for over a month before applying the blood red color. My favorite color.

A shadow fell over me, a dark figure reflected on the desk top. I shivered involuntarily. It’d been almost seven years, and I still hated shadows. As if reading my mind, the shadow moved to stand to the side of my desk.

“Annie, if you need something to do, just ask.”

The smile formed on my lips before I turned to look up at my friend and, at the moment, my boss. “Rosa, I’ve just been too busy twiddling my thumbs to do actual work. And besides, you know I hate that nickname. It’s just as many syllables as Andra. An. Dra,” I enunciated.

Rosa laughed. Her laugh was rich and poignant, sparking the air between us. “I know better than to think you spend your day twiddling thumbs in here. Do you have the report you were working on for me? An. Nie?” Teasing me with a wink, she walked around to face my monitors.

I pulled up the report on one of my two monitors and swiftly stood to allow Rosa to sit at my desk. “Have at it!” I motioned with my hand.

“You could at least pretend to be flustered when I ask you for something important.” Rosa said without looking at me, sliding her plum colored reading glasses onto her nose.

Still smiling, I rubbed Rosa’s shoulder. “I’ll try harder next time.”

“Take a break,” she replied, while studying the monitor. I knew what that meant. Rosa liked to look things over without me lurking nearby. She knew those reports better than I did, anyway.

I strolled to the front porch from the door to my office and stepped out. I quietly closed the screen door and was instantly slammed with a solid wall of heat. My lips curved. Summer was hitting us sooner than usual, which was just fine with me. I walked to the stairs that led down into the yard and felt the sun kiss my shoulders and what was exposed of my chest. In the distance, I saw Rosa’s husband brushing down his favorite mare. The white vinyl fence that separated us was in need of a good cleaning, so I walked around the side of the house to the garage.

Rosa and Clint had recently hired a teenager named Farley to mow the lawn and it was obvious that he was still getting the hang of the riding lawn mower, with all the grass and mud kicked up all over the bottom half of the fence. I made a mental note to show him how to mow more efficiently.

I slid my mud-caked, burgundy polka-dot rubber boots on over my skinny jeans, grabbed a bucket, brush, some old towels, soap, and a giant sponge and lugged it all out to the fence.

Clint lifted his head and saw my determined walk out to where he was. “Are you fixing to play in the mud?” he called out to me.

“Nope, but preparing for it!” I replied, plopping the bucket down. “Are you going to be out here with Buttermilk much longer?” I asked, gesturing towards his honey-colored horse with the brush in my hand.

“Just finishing up. Grab the power washer, will you? I’ll power wash the fence for you first to make it easier,” he said, leading Buttermilk back to the barn.

“I’ll do it, Clint. Gives me something to do.” I walked back to the garage and grabbed the power washer and the extension cord. Then I grabbed the hose from the side of the house and brought it all back to the fence. After hooking it all up, I started spraying the fence down. Water splashed back onto my legs and trickled down to the inside of my boots. But I could quickly see that Clint was right, the power washer was taking off most of the gunk from the lawn mowers, tractors, dust, and mud. It might seem like a futile task to clean the fence, but with all our upcoming events at the ranch, I knew we had to spruce the place up a bit.

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