I should have known not to be tagging along with those boys. But the next day I’m with them again. They’re crazy about going to that cabin to try to catch people ‘doing it.’
“Rawling, you chicken, or are you gonna knock on the door when we get there?” I don’t know what got into me but I say, yes. And so we head up a trail away from the lake. I’ve never been up any trail so steep, I’m in the middle and the big guys are slipping back down toward me. We’re all getting as red as a barn with the mud.
“Rawling, are you going run away after you knock?” Some scrawny kid stuck behind me is asking. He’s obviously somebody’s little brother, the brother of a bigger kid who got a threat from his mother that he had to take this little kid.
“Yeah, I’m gonna knock, and no I’m not gonna run away,” I say. I’m getting more jumpy each step I’m taking through the vines. By now the sun’s somewhere above us but we can’t even see it, walking through this tunnel of green.
And then we stop having to climb up. Everybody’s breathing, gasping. And that includes me. I gulp, trying to get some air standing in the middle of a field. But the air I’m getting is heavy.
And then the boys all look at me. And I look at them, except I pretend to be tying my shoe. “So, where’s the cabin?” I say.
“Ah, the cabin, it’s too far to go today. I thought you’d been there,” the tallest boy says. He’s standing over me now, blocking whatever sun is beyond him. “We thought you could show us a little something yourself.”
And every bit of me knew I’d been right back there at the lake, that I shouldn’t been messing with these boys. Inside of me something just exploded and I turned and ran. I slipped, grabbing at the plants, the vines like ropes, anything just to stop me from tumbling right down the hill. I didn’t see where I was going, exactly, just the red trail, and my shoes getting redder with each step.
The sound of the boys, whooping and screaming, was barreling down on me. I kept running and slipping and then I start to see a little bit of an opening that meant we were getting near the lake. But I know going to the lake is like going to a dead end. They can get me.
I step into the deepest green tangle I’d ever seen. The places in the woods where the moss clings the trees and those leaves are taller than me. I shove myself into a hole at the start of a tree wider than all of me. And I close my eyes and I wait. I wait. I wait. And then they blast by me, those stupid, stupid, stupid boys. But I’m not too sure. So I stay in a ball, hold my muddy knees and cry. I stay in that ball until it’s dark and all I hear is an owl.