Read The Wounded (The Woodlands Series) Online
Authors: Lauren Nicolle Taylor
LAUREN NICOLLE TAYLOR
Clean Teen Publishing
This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogues are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2014
by: Lauren Nicolle Taylor
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information address:
Clean Teen Publishing
PO Box 561326
The Colony, TX 75056
For my children, Lennox, Rosalie and Emaline.
This is your story
I’m collapsing into a dream. Folding in on myself over and over until I’m nothing but a pinch of paper.
I know I’m not where I’
m supposed to be.
holding me are the wrong arms—wiry and warm. But it is unwelcome warmth.
The slosh of mud lapping around boots was my first reminder. I screwed my eyes tightly shut, trying to keep it out as it rapped loudly on my aching head. My boots swung limply back and forth past the trees. My trees. I let the smell of wet fronds and bent pine needles swirl around me, grateful I was at least back in the forest. I imagined myself cradled in a bough: Leaves swept across my face, branches held their slender limbs across the tree’s mouth-like hollows and whispered, ‘shh’.
hh! She’s waking up.”
ceased, ejecting me from my dream. Smooth fingers grazed my face. The wrong fingers. I opened my eyes warily. It was unfamiliar, yet not, like half of me wanted to nestle into his chest and the other half knew not to.
As I let the light in,
the exposure cleaning up and drawing the fuzzy shadows into sharper images, the first thing I saw was my own eyes staring back at me. I closed mine slowly, hoping the view would change like a slide clicking over. But when I reopened them, I still saw my eyes in a man’s face. A worn face, which once you rubbed back the lines and pulled up the skin, was a face that looked just as I remembered. A ghost. I shouted out and sprung from his arms, landing in the mud and splattering everyone’s concerned faces.
,” was all my feeble head could come up with as I stumbled woozily for several seconds, pointing my shaky finger accusingly at the tall, dark man in front of me. As I connected the random pathways that brought me here, threads of sense drifted in front of my eyes, but I couldn’t quite pull them together. The daughter in me was stubbornly fighting against the truth.
I ran my hands through my hair and grasped at the strands, pulling them together into a thick rope in my fist.
I shivered, the air wet and sludgy around me. My aching head took in the darkness creeping away as morning peeled back, slow and heavy like the night didn’t want to give in.
me gently, hands held out in front of him like he expected me to climb back into them. I shook my head, feeling nauseous and upended. When he made a sudden move towards me, I startled like a deer. He pulled back, looking hurt. He would never harm me, but I was afraid of what he might say. I leaned airily, putting my hand out to steady myself, but connected with nothing. Rash was quickly at my side, and I held onto his arm to stabilize myself physically and mentally.
Rash. I had Rash.
My heart pumped faster, and my blood warmed as I felt the real fleshiness of him.
I looked down at my feet, twisting my ankles and burying
them in the mud. “How long?” I asked the ground, little bubbles popping around my sinking boots. I felt childish, like I was eight years old again.
“You’ve been out for a few hours…”
Careen said, her face creased with relief.
,” I said, my index finger up in her misunderstanding face. My mouth quivered with held back sobs. I raised my eyes to meet this stranger and half-yelled, half blubbered, “How long?”
drooped in the corners, his mouth building up to what was going to come out. “Since before you were born,” he said, his smooth voice grating, like someone was raking sandpaper across my ears. So, always. He had been a Spider, always.
I nodded, resignedly. Some part of me, some tiny shard that had been sitting in my chest for
years, slowly loosened and came out of my mouth with a huge sigh. “Yeah, I thought so,” I said, as my shoulders pulled in around me. If I could curl into a ball, maybe I could shut this out. Roll away.
tentatively approached me, stalking me like I was a wounded bird with a small plea in his eyes, “I tried… I’m sorry…” Then it sounded like…
Something, something, something
. I couldn’t listen.
one hand up to stop him, the other cradling my aching head. “I just… I can’t…” I shook my head slowly like it was caught in a thick web and walked away from him, leaning heavily on Rash. Careen stood there, blinking her big, blue eyes, the light starting to curl around her feet.
A morning like any othe
r, except this morning I would like to have clamped down and shoved back in the ground.
My father was alive. He stood in front me, unwavering like a solid ghost. I should have been happy to see him. But after everything I had been through, all I could think was,
you deserted me
what do you want from me?
he world slanted. I walked almost sideways, and Rash leaned me rather roughly against a tree before I tipped to completely horizontal.