“Are we there yet?” Delia’s sleepy little voice woke Violet up despite the fatigue after driving all night. At dawn, John, her husband, took over the wheel while she dozed off at the edge of her dreams on the passenger seat next to him. The surrounding forest swallowed the midday light and shielded them from the feverish uprising in the cities and the explosions that kept them awake at night, cooped up in a corner of their room, dodging broken glass every morning.
“Not yet, sweetie. Just a little while left.”
“How long is a little while?” she asked, and Violet realized that while 10 hours was not that long to her, they must feel like an eternity for Delia, buckled up in her chair, dark curls stuck to her forehead glistening with sweat. “I’m hungry, too.”
“John, will you stop for a minute? Let’s get the food out.”
He shook his head. “We shouldn’t stop in the middle of nowhere; let’s wait until we’re in the next town.”
“The next town is three hours away.”
John sighed, slowed down the car and pulled over on a narrow service road a few meters ahead. “Fine. I’ll just get the food and be right back.” Unbuckling his seatbelt, he bolted out of the car, determined to get the food as quickly as possible.
Outside, the fog blurred the road behind them, clearing their path to a new life with a safe bed, quiet nights, deeper dreams and lighter hearts. She didn’t want to think about the life they left behind—the apartment they moved into as a young couple fresh out of university, the jobs that paid the rent, the friends that didn’t escape, their daughter’s empty bed still in her room.
The trees closed in around them, and she could almost feel the chilly leaves touching her with sharp emerald edges. Violet heard a loud thud outside, and she looked up to check on John in the rear-view mirror, but the open boot of the car blocked her view.
“Will you read to me later, mommy?” Delia said, after a few minutes.
Violet turned around in her seat. “Yes, sweetie. Which story?”
“The one about the princess in the castle.”
“You have lots of books about princesses.”
“The princess, mommy! The princess that runs away from the castle and meets the frog.”
“Ah, that one. It’s in the back. I’ll go tell daddy to get the book for us, okay? I’ll be right back.” He was
When she opened the door, the chilly fog greeted her with a fist. It was not winter yet, but its shadow already loomed over them, shortening their days. If they held up for longer, they wouldn’t make it to town before dark. She walked to the back of the car and found the bag with food and Delia’s book, but John was gone. A shiver ran through her spine as she looked around for signs or traces of him. Should she call for him and call attention to herself? Should she go look for him in the woods? The wind whispered something she didn’t understand, but it sounded awfully similar to ‘Delia.’
Shaking, Violet rushed back to the car and sat on the driver’s seat, checking on the rear-view mirror one last time, hoping for a miracle. With the sun’s last breath, she turned the motor on and drove ahead.
“Where’s daddy?” Delia asked, putting her doll down.
“We’ll meet him at the border, sweetie.”
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