As she curled up in the tree, the branches wrapped around her like large arms, sheltering her from the night. It’s where she came to relax, to hide, to feel safe. This is where he would meet her, where he taught her what love is, where he made love to her the very first time. She closed her eyes and let the memory wash over her.
Their first kiss, his lips were so gentle and tentative. With such tenderness he laid her back into the curve of the branches; as if they were made to cradle their bodies together. He lay with her, hands caressing her flesh as he bared it to the night air. The bark of the tree was soft, like lying back against cotton sheets on a sturdy bed. The smell of fall filled the air around them, the tree still full of leaves that had just begun to change with the season. She never knew another like him, so tender, so full of warmth and emotion.
The memory left her with warmth inside of her that turned icy as she remembered all that had happened since that night. Her father had found them as they came out of the woods just before dawn, hand in hand. The cold fury breathed through him like the winds before the storm. He brought his rifle up and sighted down it, leveled straight at her lover’s heart. She stepped with a boldness that belied her torn heart between the man who reared her and her true love.
“Lacey Meredith Connor, you betrayed me, you are a disgrace.” She flinched as her father spat the venomous words at her. Kevin placed a hand on her shoulder as if to give her strength. With a flash her father lowered the rifle and backhanded Lacey across the face so hard she flew off her feet. Stunned, he had never struck her before, the pain seared through her cheek and mouth. Just as Kevin went to bend to her aid, her father shoved the muzzle of the gun under his chin. “I think you’ve had enough manhandling my daughter boy.”
The memory continued in slow motion. She sat up and wiped the blood from her mouth. As her father spat more venom and insults at them, he brought Kevin to kneel facing her, hands laced behind his head. He brought a piece of barbed wire that was hooked to his belt. As she watched helpless to stop it, her father wrapped the wire around Kevin’s throat. As if realizing what was about to happen, Kevin looked at her and said, “Lacey, I love you” and the rest was cut off as her father pulled the wire tight against his neck and dragged it across, shredding open his throat.
The blood pumped out of his throat, staining her hands and clothes red as she caught her lover as he fell forward. Cradling his dead body, she looked at her father with tears in her eyes. There was nothing left of the man that had raised her with tenderness, years of laughter and lessons. The man before her was mad as he picked his rifle back up and walked towards her. She turned and ran as fast as her legs would carry her. The first shot missed her by mere inches and she ran harder back towards the woods hoping to lose him before she shared the same fate as her beloved. The last thing she heard was her father screaming, “Whore, you’ve killed us all!” Another shot and there was silence behind her.