Out of the Woods (A short fiction story)
“Liv, you whore, where are you? Are you fucking someone in your room?” Liv’s father slurred, stumbling along the hallway towards her bedroom.
She sat up in her bed, covers drawn close to her face, heart beating, listening whether or not he was going to pass her room and leave her alone. She held her breath.
Her bedroom door flew open and he teetered in the doorway. Liv jumped out of her bed.
“Well? Where the fuck is he?” Liv’s father demanded. “I know you got him in here somewhere, you whore.”
Liv was sixteen at that time and still a virgin.
She crept along the wall and as her father’s blood shot eyes groggily scanned the room, she managed to slip by him into the hallway.
“Come back here!” He yelled as he wavered and turned around. “Come back here you slut, or I’ll whip you one!” Liv’s father lurched after her.
Liv ran down the hallway to the stairs leading down to the living room. At the top of the stairway, she turned around only to see her father pushing off the walls as he staggered approaching her.
When he reached her, they stood face to face, Liv only a few inches shorter than him.He grabbed her arm, twisting her around to go back to her room.
Liv’s body went rigid. She felt her anger bubble to the surface and all sounds suddenly seemed muted. Her vision completely filled with her father’s face. The hatred she carried around with her for the past six years took control of her mind and body.
She looked her father in the eyes and spit in his face. He jerked his head back and at the same time let go off her arm. The sudden motion destabilized him and as he realized he was about to fall down the stairs, he extended his hand toward Liv for help.
Liv stared at his hand. She lifted her eyes to his face and made a decision in that split second. She extended her arm in front of her, but instead of grabbing him, she put her hand on his chest. Their eyes locked and just before Liv pushed with all her strength, her father’s eyes sobered up with the realization of the inevitable.
10 years later
“Well, what do you suggest we do now?” Joe sneered at his girlfriend Liv.
They were way off the trail, walking around in circles it seemed. Both in their late 20s, they were fit and dressed in hiking pants and layered long sleeved shirts. It was her idea to come to the Roosevelt State Park. Liv sighed and studied the map on Joe’s dying cellphone.
“Why did I even agree to this stupid hike? We are probably in the middle of some hunting trip.” Said Joe referring to the loud pops they have been hearing for the last hour.
“Man, I wish I never –“ Joe’s words were cut off by a strange short buzz in the air. His eyes widened and he fell on the ground.
Not comprehending, his eyes focused on his leg before his brain caught on. A dark wet spot started spreading on his right pant leg, about halfway up the thigh. It grew alarmingly fast.
“What…what…what is that?” Liv stammered. “Is that blood?!”
“I think so.” Joe’s eyes looked at her in alarm and reflected the newly registered pain. He clutched his leg but the blood kept flooding his pants, trickling between his fingers. “I think someone shot me.” Joe said incredulous.
“We have to take them off!” Liv ordered looking at Joe’s pants. She tried to remember the little bit of first aid training she got many years ago.
She unbuckled Joe’s belt and gently tugged his pants off down to his ankles. There was a small hole in the upper part of Joe’s thigh. It looked innocent enough but the amount of blood coming out was alarming.
“Joe, this is not good.” Liv said pointing to the steady gush of blood. He nodded, paleness entering his face.
“Liv, I am sorry, I…” Joe started.
“Please don’t, not now, it’s OK.” Liv interrupted him. “I am going to tie it off, I have to, OK?”
“OK.” Joe breathed out heavily.
Liv slid the belt out of Joe’s pants and tied it above the wound. She tightened it one hole at a time until the blood flow stopped.
“Joe, I am going to try to find help. Don’t move. You lost a lot of blood. But I think it’s stopped for now. I will come back with help, OK?” Live spoke to Joe’s closed eyes.
He nodded in agreement. “The phone is dead.” He whispered.
“I know. I am going to run and call from my car in the parking lot – my phone is there.” Liv said, patting Joe on his hand. There was no nod in return.
Liv checked his breathing and heartbeat. They were both still there, but Joe had lost consciousness.
Liv got up and looked around. She heard another distant shot. She started making her way through the dense forest. She stumbled on the uneven ground, stepping carefully on big rocks and moving tree branches away from her face. She stopped for a second to look around, leaning on a tall pine. She took off her long sleeved shirt and wiped her forehead. A long thin scar marked her right arm, from elbow almost to the wrist. She remembered that well. Joe did it.
Two years into their relationship, she thought he was the best thing that ever happened to her and she was completely entangled in his artful webs. Then one night, she came home to him triumphantly holding her journal in his hand. Her journal that she had hidden in a box under their bed, among other stored things.
Judging by the look on his face, he read the whole journal where Liv described in detail the events from the night at home years ago. When they first met, Liv told Joe that her father fell down the stairs and the coroner ruled it an accident with Liv being the main witness. Her father’s blood alcohol level supported the whole story and as he did not have many friends, the whole incident faded in everyone’s mind. But now Joe knew.
Soon after that, Joe’s charm soured into a condescending and controlling attitude that made Liv’s life miserable. A year later, three years into them dating, she suggested they break up. Joe blew up and then threatened her that if she left him, he would go to the police about her big secret. They fought for hours and finally Joe ended up pushing her. Liv fell, grazing her arm on the stove, creating that long scar she was now looking at.
As Liv stood by the tree, taking in deep breaths, all this flashed through her mind. Life twists in so many ways she thought. Ever since that night two years ago, she managed to find a comfortable zone in their relationship. She hung on to the few nice times and tried hard to forget the numerous bad episodes. She pushed off the tree and continued her trek through the woods.
Liv stepped out of the soft forest floor onto the gravelly road. She saw her Jetta in the distance with only three other cars in the vast parking lot. She walked over and unlocked the car door. As she slipped into the seat, she caught a reflection of her eyes in the rearview mirror. The hollow look did not disturb her. She reached over for her cell phone and dialed 911.
“911, what is your emergency?”
“My boyfriend…”, Liv screamed, “He is laying there…they shot him!”
“OK, hold on, Ma’m. Where are you?’ The dispatcher calmly asked.
“We are…uhmm, I am in the parking lot by the Roosevelt State Park. He is there in the woods, they shot him in the leg!” Liv stuttered in a panicky voice.
“Did you see who shot him, Ma’m?” The dispatcher inquired further.
“No…I mean…I think there were hunters there. Please hurry, he is really hurt!”
“I’ve got ambulance and police on its way already, Ma’m. Now what’s your name?”
Liv hung up. She looked at herself in the rearview mirror again. Empty stare looked back at her.
She hoped that sounded hysterical enough. Her heart beat calmly.
She looked around the empty car. She used to come to Roosevelt Park every week when she was younger, to hide away from her parents’ arguments. She knew it like the back of her hand.
The younger version of herself would have taken a mere 20 minutes to get to the car, maybe 10 if running. This Liv took three deliberate hours. This Liv knew when the hunting season began. This Liv also loosened up the tourniquet after Joe passed out so that a steady stream of blood kept coming out.
He’s dead by now, she thought blankly. She took a deep breath and looked at her hands. She slowly took off the promise ring Joe had given her almost three years ago. She sat motionless, looking through the front window as the sirens drew closer and closer.