Monday, February 9, 2015

Home Again: A Short Story

The wind howled. I pressed through the stinging white vortex swirling around me. The light was just ahead. I couldn't tell the distance in that storm, but it couldn't be far if I was seeing it.

Ten minutes later, I was pounding on the door with my fist, hoping the people inside would hear me above the wail of the blizzard.

A man came to the door. His eyes widened when he saw me.

"How... What are you doing out here?" He scooped me up in his arms like the child I was and kicked the door shut with the heel of his foot. He set me down in front of the fire and wrapped a blanket around my shoulders.

Before long, I was plenty warm, with a bowl of hot stew in my hands.

Wolves howled in the distance as Keith lay huddled close to the fire. Tomorrow he would journey back, which was both a good thing and bad. This search had been a disaster.

Daniel's girl was still missing. Coming back without her was worse than not coming back at all. What could he tell her mother? Saira had lost enough in Daniel's accident. Keith had made a rash promise in the moment and now he had to deal with one broken. One that involved leaving a nine-year-old girl to die in the forest, cold and alone. The thought's only accomplishment was to help his failure sear through him.

He woke before dawn. How long had he been sleeping? Not long, judging by how tired he felt. But then, he hadn't expected to sleep at all with Brielle on his mind. He must have fallen asleep praying.

Keith broke camp, checked that his fire was completely extinguished, and trudged in the direction of Saira's village. He hadn't gone far when noticed something in the snow. A disturbance irregular to forest creatures. It hadn't snowed for a few days; perhaps this was the reason. Thank you, Lord, he thought as he knelt to see what the tracks had to show him. They were the size of Brielle's, and headed northwest. Keith stood and followed the path they directed him to walk.

Not more than a mile or two from the place Keith had slept was a cabin. He should have recognized the place long before he came so close. He'd never come in the deep winter, and the snow must have disguised the area.

He pushed through the wind to reach the door and pounded hard on the wooden barrier to be heard above the sound of the wild north. Before long, the door was opened and he stumbled inside.

The man who'd let him in slammed the door firmly shut. "Keith! What are you doing out here this time of year?"

"The girl." Keith hadn't realized how cold and tired he was until he'd been engulfed by the warmth of John's cabin. "Is she here?"

"You mean Brielle? Yes, she's fine." He gestured down the hall to the bedroom. "She's still asleep."

John helped his friend out of his winter coat and hung it on the hooks near the doorway, then stoked the fire while Keith shed the rest of his gear.

"Can I get you anything?" John stood and brushed the soot off his hands. "Hungry? I just made a pot of stew last night."

"Yes, please." Keith replied. He hadn't realized how hungry he was, either.

The two men sat and talked as Keith ate. It was mid-January, and they hadn't seen each other since two summers ago. Their conversation soon turned to the girl who was the center of this visit.

"She showed up on my doorstep yesterday," John said when Keith had finished with his story. "How she survived in that cold for almost three days on her own, and without injury or illness, only God knows."

They were silent for a minute before John spoke again. "You plan on going back today?"

"Yup. Weather seems as mild as it'll get for some time." He thought of Saira, the look in her eyes and the fear in her voice when she'd told him her daughter was missing. "Her mother's worried sick about her."

"In that case, you should probably get going soon. There's another blizzard on it's way. Sooner you leave, the better."

Footsteps sounded softly in the hallway. Brielle came out in bare feet, wrapped in the blankets that John had given her the night before. She came and stood next to John, regarding Keith in a curious way.

"Do I know you?" she asked him. "I think I've met you before."

Keith smiled at her. "I was good friends with your daddy. Last I saw you, you must have been at least five, or younger."

"I remember," she said in a voice that was strong and sweet all at once. "You're the one who read to me." She shuffled across the floorboards and curled up in his lap. "Can you tell me a story now? Please?"

They left shortly thereafter. John gave them some extra food and supplies, along with goodbyes and admonishment that they travel carefully.

The snow was deep and the wind was fierce. Keith was glad for the extra supplies John had insisted they take with them. Brielle fared well for such a small girl, especially one who'd been alone in the wild in the dead of winter only the day before. She was strong, that girl. Like her mother.

Keith and Brielle arrived in the village by sundown the next day. It didn't take long for them to make their way through the marketplace to the small dwelling that was Brielle's home.

Saira appeared through the doorway while they were still a ways down the street. Brielle broke into a run. Mother and daughter embraced, after so long being apart. Keith kept walking towards them, stopping a short distance from where they stood. Saira looked to him and mouthed the words thank you, joyous tears running down her cheeks.

It was good to be home.

I ran to my mother, whose open arms enveloped me in the warmest hug I'd ever felt. I could feel her tears on my cheek as we held tight to each other, glad to be together and home again.

written by Jessy on 02.08.15 at 03:57


  1. Awww! I loved this! So sweet. ^_^ You have a gift. I love your writing style, so beautiful! Keep at it, you've got some serious skills.

    Also, Brielle is one of my favorite names. It's just so pretty!

    1. Thank you so much!

      Ah, yes, I agree. The friend who told me to wrote this chose that name.


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