Someone bangs on my door.
A deep, paralyzing fear invades me, numbing my hands and feet,
making my heart race, blurring the images in my mind into bloody
streaks. We stare at one another – my husband and three daughters.
We know what it means.
We have been betrayed.
Lucas takes a deep breath and stands away from the table. He’s a
big man, with long thin legs and the round belly of middle age. The
girls huddle around me, their eyes wide with terror. The meat is ash in
my stomach, swelling until it feels like stones splitting me from within.
Lucas squares his shoulders.
“Don’t say anything,” he commands in a whisper.
“Don’t answer it,” I hiss. My arms feel like raw meat, cold and
Lucas smiles sadly, his beard shimmering in the dim light. “I
have to. We have nowhere to go.”
“They’ll kill us,”
the words rip through my throat like the knife.
that sliced the meat in our bowls.
Slowly, Lucas shakes his head; his dark, green-flecked eyes fill
“You’re my husband,” I beg. “You have to listen.”
There’s a tiny pause; time jolts to a halt. I hold my breath. Zara,
my youngest and most insightful – the one that seems in touch with
old spirits - senses that something ominous is approaching. Nine years
of life still hasn’t taught her how to contain fear. She cries, soft wails
renting the air. I pull her close, rubbing her back, whispering soothing
words I don’t feel, and pressing her head into my breast to stifle the
“Nooooo,” I plead, matching the cries of my child.
Lucas gently touches my shoulder, runs his thick, stubby fingers
up my neck, and kisses my daughter’s head. “There’s no choice,” he
whispers, more to himself than any of us. He backs away from the
table, his legs heavy, moving as if in a swamp. Suddenly he pauses and
in a moment that lasts a lifetime, Lucas memorizes the sight of us
It will be the last time.
New York City, present
Shira smiled. Bryant Park was like a window in time, moving in
its own jagged frames. It was the perfect place to write, to follow
Emma and Mason’s bizarre romance, and when needed, look into
faces to provide description and dialogue. What did the intruder look
like? How did Emma’s fear play on her face? Mason’s arrogance?
She scanned the faces in the park. There was a dark-skinned
man with a fashionably ragged red t-shirt printed with Nweke’s Art,
selling beaded bracelets and earrings on a pegboard, near the steps on
42nd Street. An old couple sat on the Upper Library Terrace, beneath
a green and white umbrella stamped with Bryant Park, and next to a
concrete pot of purple flowers. They held hands and watched the
world before them, their silver hair shimmering in the summer sun,
sharing the terrace with concrete garlands, urns, and ram’s heads.
For a moment their eyes met.
The old couple smiled and Shira quickly turned away, embarrassed.
Maybe she could find a Mason Portsmith look-alike at the park –
a man dressed in expensive clothes with a lithe body and hazel eyes
that broadcasted insight, caring, and power? Shira smiled.
In my dreams.
Literally. In her thirty-two years, she had always known that the
people and plots conjured in her writer’s mind were far more
fascinating than reality.
That’s what kept her running.