As I hastened deeper into the dense forest, what was left of daylight morphed into dark shadows. On one hand, this scared the hell out of me; on the other, it could be used to my advantage to disappear within the foliage. I willed myself not to look back, instead focusing on the uneven track ahead. I knew it would be Gary who would come. And if he caught me, I wouldn’t make it back with him. This place would be my final destination; buried in a grave that might never be found or scavenged by forest creatures that would scatter my bones amongst the debris of the forest floor. This was an even scarier thought and adrenaline spurred me forward pushing my body beyond extremes. Never much of a runner, the speed I was moving surprised even me. The possibility of death can do that.
Pounding feet sounded behind me and I broke my resolve of not looking back. I glanced over my shoulder, almost tripping, but saw no one. My ears picked up the sound of obscenities. Yes, it’s Gary and he’s gaining ground. My lungs gasped for air. Get off the trail, now. My eyes searched for a place to hide. The pathway rose up a small incline. I flew over the top and down the other side, where the path veered off to the right. To the left, an old game trail barely visible meandered through the trees.
I slowed and glanced around me. The near darkness provided deep shadows in the trees. A tangle of fallen trees and branches on my left looked like a good spot to hide in. Branches scratched my face and caught in my hair as I pulled myself over the decaying trunks. I tumbled face first into a hollow under a log, filling my mouth with dirt and leaves. The smell of musty, rotting debris churned my stomach. The taste of bile rose into my throat.
Gary charged over the top of the incline and came to a dead stop. Damn. I hoped he would miss the game trail and keep going.
“Alright, bitch. Come back now and I’ll let you live. If I have to chase you, you’re dead! Got it?”
Let me live? Sure you will. Oh God ... I feel like a trapped animal. Terrified he would hear my raspy breathing; I tried to control my gasps. There was nothing I could do about the pounding of my heart.
Gary studied the game trail, then the path. “Where are you. That’s it. I’m done and you’re dead.” He took a hesitant step towards the game trail, then turned and disappeared down the path to the right.
The thought of staying put crossed my mind. No, when he returns he might search for me, guessing that I’m hiding. I waited a few moments until he was out of earshot and scrambled out of my hiding place, tripping and falling, until I finally reached the old animal trail Gary ignored. Girl, you made enough noise to wake up the dead. I bolted down this new track until it merged some time later with a new pathway. Total fear provided the strength I needed to keep going.
Before long, everything turned into dark, distorted shadows. I stumbled forward in the blackness, tripped over a rock and fell. Okay, I guess this is where I’m spending the night. I felt my way into the trees. Hopefully Gary had given up and returned to the truck. Tomorrow, they might look for me or hopefully they would leave.
I positioned myself between two fallen trunks and adjusted my gloves and hood, pulling my turtleneck up over my nose to cover my exposed skin. It would be a long, cold night. I chewed on my fist to keep from crying out every time a twig snapped or a night noise sounded. My anxiety increased as my imagination added the four-legged variety to the two-legged ones that already frightened me. With my head resting on my knees, eyes closed, my thoughts wandered over the past few days and all that transpired to lead me into this unexpected and overwhelming circumstance. Was it only yesterday?
Twenty-seven Hours Earlier
Five months pregnant. How could I have missed the signs? The doctor told me that under normal circumstances I’d have known. My thoughts turned to Colin. I played the scene over in my mind. A definite mindblower. I imagined his anger and could hear him say, “Georgia, how could you let this happen?” Hmm ... self-inflicted, like he didn’t play a part in it.
“To hell with him,” I muttered, hurrying along the busy street. Ten years of supporting him through law school, waiting for him to feel secure enough to start a family, and, then, five months ago the bastard left me for Julie Newman, his pregnant assistant. I bet she planned it, the husband-stealing bitch. He said it was the right thing to do—to leave me for his lover, I mean. I wondered if things might be different if he’d known about my pregnancy first.
Well, she could have him. I didn’t want a man to stay with me out of obligation because I carried his baby. A marriage needs more than that. I laughed out loud at the thought of the look on Julie’s face when she learns about my imminent childbirth. People on the street stared as I snorted with glee. Let her put up with his selfish ways and wash his dirty socks and underwear. She took him away from me, but now, he’d have to support two babies. Nothing could change that. The more people stared, the more I laughed self-consciously, practically crossing my legs to keep from peeing.
This baby could be my greatest revenge. I cringed. Was I really that bitter? Who am I? The revelation of my pregnancy still confused me, since I had only found out about it yesterday. However, the baby growing inside of me deserved more than being considered an act of revenge. Tomorrow I was flying home to Vancouver. What a shocker this baby will be for my family and friends. I smiled. As confusing and overwhelming this new revelation was to me, my mother would be happy—her first grandchild.
The past month had been spent in Whitehorse, visiting my childhood friend. Her husband was away on business, leaving us to reconnect and reminisce. We travelled the Yukon Territory with ease. The roads were quiet. Most of the tourist places were closed for the season. But we’d shopped, dined, and hiked all over this vast area. Marion was the perfect host. Her outgoing personality had pulled me out of my shell. My knowledge of the Yukon had been limited a month ago. Travels with Marion, and nights of reading about the history of the area increased my knowledge base. Adding that to the down-to-earth warmth of the northern people, I felt at home here and began to understand the ways of the land.
I entered the restaurant where Marion sat waiting for me. She waved from the back of the restaurant and I gestured towards the washroom, heading straight there. Relief! After washing my hands, I held them under the hot water, feeling the heat surge up my arms and through my chilled body. I turned to a full- length mirror and the reflection staring back at me was very serious. My large dark eyes revealed the insecurity I felt about this new direction in my life. I removed my jacket and examined the petite, slim image before me. My hands ran down the sides of my abdomen. A slight bump was the only indication of the new life developing within. My breasts were definitely larger. I stared into my face again and noted for the first time, the glow of a healthy, rosy complexion. My long brunette hair fell past my shoulders in a bounce of curls and waves, framing my cheeks. I ran my fingers through my hair to fluff it up around my face.
A woman appeared behind me waiting to use the sink. I gave her a smile, grabbed my jacket and left the room.
“There you are,” Marion chirped. “I ordered the lunch special for both of us. Hope that’s okay? We loved it the last time we were here.”
I settled in a chair opposite her. “That’s fine. We’re running a bit late because of me.”
“How did it go?”
“No problem, they confirmed my flight home to Vancouver tomorrow. I didn’t expect the long line- up.”
Marion studied my face intensely. “So ... how do feel about going home with the news of your pregnancy.”
I let out a long sigh. “It’s a little daunting. You know I wanted to have a baby for the longest time, but not alone. Life can really be unfair. My husband impregnated me a mere five weeks after his lover became pregnant. And the whole time he planned to leave me.”
“Sounds more like a horny bastard than a husband,” Marion said.
As crude as it sounded, it was the right comment I needed at that moment. We burst out in laughter. The waitress delivered our lunch. “Enjoy,” she said, with a smirk. We laughed again, knowing she’d overheard Marion’s remark. We spent the next twenty minutes Colin bashing.
“Mom will be ecstatic—her first grandchild. It’s so hard to fathom I reached five months without suspecting my pregnancy.”
“Not really. The doctor covered that. You lost weight grieving over ‘numb-nuts’ and you’re carrying the baby to the back, so you hardly even show at this point. Besides, the baby hasn’t moved yet.”
“That’s all true. I’d attributed the nausea and lack of monthly cycles to emotional stress. There was some spotting in the initial months. I guess I just wasn’t paying attention to my body.
“Understandably,” Marion said.
“My suspicions were certainly there since I’ve been in Whitehorse, but I tried to ignore them. Once the tenderness and swelling of my breasts increased, deep down I knew it was time to deal face it. The doctor said the baby should move anytime now.”
The waitress cleared away our dishes. “Dessert, ladies?”
Marion spoke for both of us. “No thanks. Just coffee, please. We have a mother-to-be here.” She nodded at me with a giggle. “We need to watch what we feed her.”
“Congratulations, how far along are you?” the waitress asked me.
Her eyebrows shot up. “Really? You don’t look that far along.”
Marion threw up her hands. “See? You don’t even look pregnant.”
“I can’t believe a whole month has passed. I hoped the unfamiliarity and anonymity here would help me make some sense of my life and maybe help me find my passion.”
Marion looked perplexed. “Your passion?”
“Ya ... something to bring the joy and the laughter back.” I rubbed my stomach to ease the tension. “Perhaps, it’s this baby. One thing I did find out is there’s life after Colin.”
“Hallelujah! You’ve done a lot of healing this month and I’m so glad I could be a part of it.” Marion reached across the table and squeezed my hand.
“I don’t have the answers yet about who I am, or the what, where, and when of it all, but I know who I don’t want to be.”
The waitress came back with the coffee pot. I waited for her to leave before replying.
“A woman who doesn’t think for herself, who wears what she’s told to wear, and gets coached what not to say at business dinners ... can you believe I let Colin run my life that way?”
Marion put her coffee down. “Yes. You know even as a child, you were always the complacent one who never made waves.”
“Wasn’t I though? I lost myself to Colin because I went along with everything he said. One day, I overheard him joking with a colleague. He told him that the secret to a good marriage was control. He said that everything in my head, everything that I thought, he’d put there. “
“What an arrogant prick.”
“Hearing that really hurt me. It was the beginning of my awareness about who I’d become.”
My best friend stared at me and then squinted. “You need to become empowered.”
“Empowered—what a great sounding word that is,” I mused.
We sat in silence, sipping our coffee, lost in our own thoughts. I tried to recall the last time I experienced a sense of power.
“Do you remember the summer we were five and I broke my arm?” I asked.
“Are you kidding? How could I ever forget? I was the kid right behind you, chasing you back to home base. I heard the bone crack when you hit that cement sidewalk. I carried the guilt of it for years.”
My eyebrows shot up. “But it wasn’t your fault I decided to take a shortcut and jump over that low wire fence.”
“Tell that to a five-year-old who could always beat you home,” Marion said. “I was about to pass you when you took that jump. I believed I pushed you too hard.”