Wednesday Briefs (Darkest Before Dawn #8)

It’s that time again! Wednesday briefs is a group of authors who write a piece of free flash fiction (between 500-1,000) words based off of either a visual or text prompt. I’ve linked the other authors, so if you could please go check out their stories and show them some support. The prompt I’ve used this week is: He was gone for a month before it really sank in…

This week I am continuing with Darkest Before Dawn. Rose is a twenty-two year old woman who has taken custody of her younger brother Ben. The duo are fleeing cross-country, with something terrible and shadowy on their heels. They’ve come to rest in a farmhouse that’s been in their family for years–seemingly abandoned. Rose will do anything to protect her secret, and the secret that her little brother is unknowingly harboring.

A few hours later, Rose collapsed into bed, covered in dust and soot, fingernails grimy even after washing them several times. The bedrooms took her a couple hours of cleaning. By the time they had sat down to a cold dinner, Ben was yawning more than eating. She had put him to bed, his snores carrying down the hallway. Rose turned onto her back, the old bed-springs groaned protesting. She stared up at the ceiling, pale green light from her ward washing into the room from the open window. Sleep was an elusive beast, staying just out of her grasp.

A few hours later, Rose collapsed into bed, covered in dust and soot, fingernails grimy even after washing them several times. The bedrooms took her a couple hours of cleaning. By the time they had sat down to a cold dinner, Ben was yawning more than eating. She had put him to bed, his snores carrying down the hallway. Rose turned onto her back, the old bedsprings groaned protesting. She stared up at the ceiling, pale green light from her ward washing into the room from the open window. Sleep was an elusive beast, staying just out of her grasp.

Unbidden her thoughts turned to what they had left behind. The small town that had so quickly become home to her after being bounced from military base to base with her father’s work. The small high school, the pub that was three blocks from her parent’s house that on any given day she could walk into and run into people that she graduated with–and spend hours over beers talking about high school shenanigans.

It was at that pub that she had met Marco. She had started working there after school her junior year, bussing tables and cleaning. The day waitress had called out sick, and Rose had been handed an apron, a notepad and thrown to the wolves. Though, the day shift at the pub wasn’t too much to handle, the busiest time being mid-day when the soldiers from the base came in for lunch.

He had been seated by the window that looked out on the main street. He ordered a burger, loaded with toppings, extra fries and a milkshake. He asked her to sit with him, since the pub was empty and he hated eating alone. They talked about the school, teachers and Rose found herself enamored with the number of freckles on his face. He smiled easily and made her laugh, and he stayed drinking crappy shakes until her shift was over. They had crossed paths at school, and had a few classes together mainly electives.

They hadn’t started dating officially until after she graduated, but in a small town where everyone knew each other’s business, she had been off the dating market after he started picking her up after her shifts. Marco knew her dreams to escape to the big city, he knew everything; including the ability she hid from everyone. He had accepted her, protected her.

He had been there when Ben’s ability had manifested. The kid didn’t remember it, but both of them had stared in horror as the then nine year old caused the broken bicycle to liquefy. The bike had been twisted beyond repair after Ben crashed, taking out the mailbox. In a temper he kicked it, the crumpled heap of metal skittering into the road. It glowed, heat radiating of it in shimmering waves. Ben had gone inside, the door slamming shut, Rose watching as the metal collapsed on itself, bending further, melting down until nothing remained but the wisps of steam that rose off of the pavement.

She remembered how tightly Marco had gripped her arm, the force that he had pulled her inside, upstairs to her bedroom. The hushed conversation hissed out between clenched jaws and barely audible over panicked heartbeats. He left that evening, unable to look at either her or Ben. Marco had been gone for nearly a month before it really sunk  in that he wasn’t coming back.

Rose tensed, startled out of her thoughts when the pale green light streaming into her room flickered. Something had crossed the threshold of her ward. The ward excluded animals, meaning that whatever was on her property was human. She held her breath as she rolled off the bed. She crawled on her hands and knees to the window, stomach in her throat. Ben was still snoring down the hall, the sound almost too loud to be coming from such a small boy. Her heart pounded hard in her chest as she sat with her back to the wall, her temple even with the windowsill. She counted to ten mentally, before shifting her weight slightly and peering over the edge of the windowsill.

In the pale moonlight she could the figure of a man with his back to the house. He sat on the top rung of the wooden fence, looking out toward the road. The dim light glinted off of the metallic barrel of the shotgun he held. It wasn’t Darren, this man was shorter, broader, with light hair cropped close to his head. He didn’t move, didn’t look toward the house, just sat, watching. Rose knelt there leaning against the windowsill, her own gun a few feet away, easily accessible, watching him. Minutes slipped by, she lost track of time. Her knees were numb, arms tingling, her head heavy with sleep. The man hadn’t moved an inch, still sitting stone still, a silent sentry. She jerked upright when he finally did move, his hand coming up, motioning an ‘all clear’ signal. The movement sent her back down to the floor, pressed flat against it. She closed her eyes, steadying herself, and drifted off to sleep.

To be continued.

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