Forgotten; Jade – Karen Kelley

Jade flinched as thunder rumbled so loud it almost felt as if the house shook. A moment later, the faint sound of rain pelted the tin roof. The small window in the basement wasn’t completely boarded, so they could see jagged streaks of lightning racing across the sky. “This is your chance. Run!” Jade frantically whispered. “Don’t look back.” She pushed Lindy toward the door, the rusty chain around Jade’s ankle rattled. “Go!” “I’m not going without you, so shut the hell up,” the girl said, shoving the dark hair from her face. “Now, be still so I don’t hit your foot.” Fear trembled through her. Randal could come downstairs any moment now and catch them trying to escape. He would be furious. But God, she couldn’t stop the thread of hope from weaving through her. Maybe this time…maybe… With the next rumble of thunder, Lindy brought the hammer down hard on the chisel she held against the lock. It took three more times, three more rumbles of thunder, before the lock broke and Jade was free.

She drew in a deep, ragged breath as she jumped to her feet. Lindy’s expression showed her fierce determination. “Now we go. Together, as we always said we would.” Jade nodded, bottom lip trembling. They crept up the stairs from the basement, Lindy still holding the hammer. Jade held her breath as Lindy pushed the door open, cringing when it squeaked. “Clear,” Lindy whispered. Her heart pounded so hard she could almost feel it banging against her chest, but a surge of defiance flowed through her as well. They would make it this time. One step at a time. Reach the back door, then ease it open, careful to be quiet. Randal and his wife would be upstairs sleeping. They went through the living room, still afraid to take a deep breath. Then they were in the kitchen.

Lindy snatched the loaf of bread off the table, then grinned at her. Jade smiled back. They were doing this, really escaping. Jade was taller, seventeen now. Lindy was fifteen, but kind of short, so she reached up and slid the lock across, then eased the door open. The rain was coming down harder now. That was a good thing. It would cover their tracks better. Neither one of them expected the motion light that came on. For a moment, they froze. Heavy footsteps pounded down the stairs. “The girls are escaping,” Margie screeched in her high-pitched voice that could shatter glass. “Get your asses back in here!” Randal yelled. “By God, I’ll make you wish you never tried to run.” “Come on.

” Jade grabbed Lindy’s hand and they took off, bare feet pounding the wet earth, splashing muddy water on their legs. She didn’t care. Not as long as they made it far away from this house. Lindy tripped, yelling out as she fell. Jade stopped and helped her up. “We have to hurry.” “I’m okay,” she said. “Go!” They’d just reached the edge of the light when the first shot rang out. Lindy stumbled and fell to the ground on her knees. Jade turned back. Lindy’s eyes were round from shock. They looked at each other. As if in slow motion, Lindy fell forward, eyes still wide open, but unseeing now. “No!” Jade cried. Oh God, please no.

She dropped to her knees, felt the warmth of blood that spread across Lindy’s back. Lindy wasn’t moving. Jade knew she was gone. Another shot rang out, grazing Jade’s head. Pain exploded inside her. Warm liquid trickled down the side of her face. She fell forward next to Lindy, dazed. “I got them both,” Randal yelled out. “Dammit, they shouldn’t have tried to run. I told them I’d kill them if they ever tried to run again.” “Son of a bitch, they were good workers. Why the hell did you have to kill them?” “Would you rather they got away? They’d never stop talking, and if it gets back to what we’ve all been doing, it’ll be the end of the money coming in. As it is, Jeremiah is going to be some kind of pissed.” “Well, you’ll have to bury them in the garden with the others. Who’s going to clean the house now? I’m damn sure not going to clean it,” Margie complained.

“We’ll get you some more kids, Mother. Don’t you worry none.” “Well, go drag the bodies up.” “It’s pouring down out there. I’ll do it in the morning.” “You’ll do it now,” her voice was firmer, brooking no argument. “At least let me get some pants on,” he grumbled. The door closed. “We have to go,” Jade whispered. The other girl didn’t say anything. Jade nudged her shoulder. Her body was still. She rested her hand on her back. No movement. What was her name? She couldn’t remember.

Her vision blurred. She blinked several times, but it didn’t clear. Run! Something screamed inside her. Don’t stop running! She stumbled to her feet, then reached down and grabbed the loaf of bread. With each flash of lightning, she ran forward, dodging trees and underbrush in the pasture. She kept running. Her side hurt, and it was difficult to take a deep breath, but she didn’t dare stop. The man yelled, but his voice was distant. She couldn’t stop. She climbed hills, scraping the palms of her hands as she made her way up, then sliding and tumbling down the other side. Soon, she didn’t feel anything, but she kept moving. When the sun began to inch above the horizon, she looked around, always moving forward. She opened the bread and ate a couple of slices. She found a cave and crawled inside, curling into a tight ball. “My name is Jade,” she whispered.

“My name is Jade.” She didn’t know how much time passed. Day turned to night, then day again. She curled into a tight ball and slept. The sun went down again. She woke up and ate some more bread. Light crept to the edge of the cave, but didn’t enter. It began to rain. She looked around before stepping out. She found a rock that was hollowed out and drank the rainwater in it, then caught more. She ate more bread. Her head hurt, but it had stopped bleeding. She washed her face with the rain dripping off the edge of the cave. Chills wracked her body. “My name is Jade,” she whispered.

Night swept over the land again, but with the light of day came the sun, bringing warmth with it. The cold finally left her body. She stripped off her dark blue shift and hung it over a rock to dry. She knew when the sun went down again, she would need to leave. Something inside her told her to keep going. She wasn’t sure why. Her name was Jade, but she didn’t remember anything else. It didn’t seem to matter right now. She only had to leave tonight, when it was dark. As the sun dipped lower in the sky, she pulled on her dark blue shift, slipping it over her head. The warmth from the rough material was nice. She didn’t mind so much that it scratched her skin. She combed her fingers through her hair. It fell just past her shoulders, and she knew it would be blonde. Funny how she knew some things, but not others.

She reached up and touched her head, careful to be gentle. A scab was forming. She pulled her hair over the spot. It was time. She left the cave, feeling a moment of fear race down her spine. She was safe in the cave, but she knew she wouldn’t be able to survive if she stayed, and survival was important. She frowned. Someone told her once that they had to survive. She wasn’t sure who, and the more she tried to remember, the more her head began to hurt, so she stopped trying. She wasn’t sure how far she needed to walk. All she knew was the voice inside her that kept telling her to keep moving. She came to a barbwire fence, carefully lifted the top strand, and then crossed into another pasture. She saw a house with lights glowing in the windows, but something told her to keep walking. She needed to get far, far away. Her legs burned, but she didn’t stop.

She was concentrating so hard on putting one foot in front of the other that a moment passed before she realized she was getting close to a major road. The traffic was almost deafening. She stopped as fear gripped her again. What was she supposed to do? “Help me,” she whispered. “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what I’m running from or where I should go.” She raised her face to the dark sky. Stars twinkled down upon her. She drew in a deep breath, then slowly exhaled. Something told her that she needed to go to the road. Forward, always forward. She stumbled once, but caught herself. She could do this. She scrambled up a low embankment, then for a moment, just stood there. As cars and trucks zoomed past, the wind whipped around her.

An eighteen-wheeler barreled down on her. She took a step back, staring at the headlights. The truck began to slow, then pulled to the side of the road and came to a lumbering stop. A moment later, the passenger door opened. Something inside her fluttered to life, as if she was coming awake after a long, dark sleep. She ran forward, then grabbed the handle on the side and climbed up to the cab. The woman behind the steering wheel looked okay. Brown hair cut short, plaid shirt, and jeans, but she was clean, and her perfume was nice. Like flowers. Her gaze swept over Jade. “You look a little worse for wear,” she said in a gravelly voice. “Thank you for stopping.” Something about the woman reached out to Jade, almost as though she was saying everything would be okay now. “You in trouble with the law?” She shook her head. At least, she didn’t think so.

“You running away from home?” She shook her head, not knowing how to answer, so she figured the safest thing to do was tell her no. “Well, get in.” Jade climbed the rest of the way inside and closed the door. The woman glanced out at the side mirror, then shifted into gear. The big rig rumbled forward like an old man trying to join the rest of the group. “Where you headed?” the trucker asked after they were in traffic again. “I don’t know. Anywhere.” “I’m going to Arizona.” “Arizona sounds good.” “I can use the company.” Jade looked out the window. It was dark so she couldn’t see the passing scenery, but she knew as long as she was putting distance from where she had been, she would be safe. Nothing else mattered. There were plenty of blank spaces in her mind, but someday she would find all the pieces to the puzzle.

“You can call me Alice,” she said. “My name is Jade.”


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Updated: 14 May 2021 — 21:32

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