Trying To Breathe

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His touch was like wild gorse,

Summer sun and unforgiving thorns.

He couldn’t help destroying her,

When she tried to get close.

So she watched the bees with jealousy,

While they tasted the intimacy she desired.

 Sadness filling her lungs,

As she tried to remember how to breathe,

Not drown.

Into The Woods

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Once upon a time…a long time ago there was a girl. I know there’s always a girl. But this one was sat in the window watching two magpies. They in turn were eyeing up the leftovers she’d trailed across the dirt. She’d turned crumbs into paths, into roads. Eventually the braver one fluttered to the floor, soon joined by the other to quickly demolish the escape plan she had been daydreaming of.

The crumbs were left by her brother. His last meal under this roof. She’d watched him through this window as well. He’d paused at the gate, looking back at the house, then up at her. She’d raised her hand, fingers splayed as she pressed them against the glass. He raised his hand to match hers. Then he was through the gate and swallowed up by the forest that surrounded the cottage.

Raised voices scared the birds, scattering them and bringing her back to her bedroom.

The voices downstairs didn’t so much as tango with their words now days, as cage fight. Man and woman in the oldest fight of time. The girl descended into the shouting, pausing at the kitchen doorway. The man was sat at the table, beetroot faced, spittle forming in the corners of his mouth. The woman was bent over a chair, her bony fingers gripping the top, white skin looking ready to crack. If she could have lifted the heavy wooden chair, she probably would have swung it at his head. The air crackled with the hideous words they shouted to each other. So intent on being right. So intent on destroying each other. Picking on their weak spots, conveniently forgetting anything that wasn’t to their favour. Slugging it out to score imaginary points.

“I wish you would just shrivel up and die from cancer!!”

“Oh you’d like that wouldn’t you! Then you could run off with your fancy woman!”

And so it went on. The girl had heard it all before. When it first started, she had cried. Begged them not to fight. To make peace, torn to pieces by watching all the hurt and abuse going on. Her love for them meant she felt every word and blow. But eventually she realised that they couldn’t turn back now. Their words were buried deep into each other, wounding them permanently and weirdly tying them closer to each other. They enjoyed as much as hated the fights and the girl wasn’t even sure any more if they could now live without the hurt and pain. That’s why her brother had left. He couldn’t handle it any more. There was nothing left of these two. All their energy and attention was poured into this fight and their love for anything else had long since withered away. Her brother was right. How could you be around someone who couldn’t see you and only cared about someone they hated.

The girl tried to avoid eye contact as she headed for the door, grabbing a half loaf of bread from the sideboard.

“Oh I wouldn’t eat that, it’s stale. Of course your useless mother forgot to buy more this morning. Even though I reminded her twenty times. Does she care?! NO! She’ll let us all STARVE!!”

“I TOLD YOU I’D GO LATER!”

The girl opened her mouth, then closed it again as she left. The heavy door helped block some of the screaming as she hurried up the path. Like her brother she paused at the gate, but she didn’t look back, instead she stared into the dark between the trees. They’d never been allowed that deep into the forest so today she really would be heading into the dark. Picking a path she thought her brother had taken, she set off, her head still buzzing with their words. Only in the silence did she realise just how deeply imbedded they had lodged into her too. Tiny knives sticking into her thoughts, bleeding into everything.

The further into the forest she pushed, the more her chest hurt with every breath, tears finally spilling. When she could go no further, she sat down on the forest floor, amongst the leaves to eat some of the bread. The leaves made a giant jigsaw puzzle sprawled out across the floor and she was messing up the pieces. She tried to fit them back to together before lying down to look up at the sky instead. Above her, tips of trees bled into tiny patches of blue.  Dark and light. She closed her eyes and listened to the world breathe. When she opened them again the sky was blushing pink. The world had softened as she had slept and exhausted day was slowly falling asleep helped by wind’s lullaby. In the wings, night was slowly waking, ready to take over the next shift. She stretched and looked to see which way to head next.  The path was faded, but she thought she could see the odd pebble between the wood anemones. Her brother liked to skim stones along the ground as he walked, so with no stars over her head, she decided to follow the stars at her feet. She knew she wasn’t lost because she didn’t really know where she was going.

And so the girl wandered on, with a lighter heart, the tiny stars gave way to occasional dots of blue, clusters of bluebells almost purple in the sunset’s light, until she bumped into the drifting path of woodsmoke. She adjusted her direction and followed this new invisible string.

Finally, as weary day finally gave up and fell asleep, she reached a cottage. A solid chunk of stone walls, weathered  and listing slightly to the side with age and weight. A silhouette passed the window, and although sightly distorted through its thickness, it was still one she recognised well. Her brother came back into view, pulling another shadow to him before he bent down to kiss it. Something unseen scurried by her feet. This was no time to turn back. She knocked, feeling skin and bone against hard wood. The sound echoed round the trees before trailing off into silence. Everything was waiting to see what would happen.

A bolt was drawn back and a dark haired woman stood in the light glaring at her. The stare should have melted her into the ground or made her turn and run, but knowing her brother was inside made her stand tall. From out of the shadows and from behind the woman he stepped. Surprised and then smiling.

“Gretel!”

She breathed out and smiled. “Hansel.”