Sarah’s startled heart made her jump at the crack of thunder. The wind picked up, insistent in its urgency to blow on to the next field. It sucked the curtains up against the bedroom window, as though it was saying that this was her appointed time. She looked at her husband’s back and wondered if she had the necessary courage to leave him. Her plans were all laid out, yet she could not move. Fear and pain shackled her to her bed. Another crack of thunder and the bonds snapped. Hawkins snorted and returned to his drunken slumber. It was time for Sarah to leave.
With bare feet, Sarah padded quietly out of the house, the wind nearly ripping the door out of her trembling fingers. The rain began with a dramatic outpouring, but ran harmlessly down her naked form. Down to the lakeshore, she ran toward an old wooden boat, which she tipped upright and pushed into the water. Underneath the boat had been stashed a large bundle with food and clothing. With trembling fingers, she tried to dress, but found it too difficult to put dry clothing on her wet body. Now her entire body was shaking with fear. She would have to go back into the house and slip on her night shift.
“Oh God! I’m going to get caught! I just know I’m going to get caught.” She steeled herself against the possibility. “Well there will be another time if I do, and if he asks me what I was doing out in the rain I’ll just say I forgot some clothes on the clothesline.”
While slipping on her night shift, she surveyed the room by the lightning flashes. There was nothing she wanted here, then she looked at her husband’s pants and her anger arose. She deftly slid her hand in the pocket and pulled out $50.00 and her mother’s locket he had taken from her, and then she slipped silently away again.
Back down at the lakeshore, she pushed off in the pelting rain. The oars creaked in their locks threatening to betray her escape. Sarah straightened the boat out and headed across to the mouth of the river. It wasn’t that far and she planned to hug the curve of the lake. It was a simple plan in the daylight. In the dark with the wind, the waves and the rain, it was frightening.
Even hugging the lakeshore, the wind and waves threatened to push her into shallow water or at worse capsize the entire craft. As she tried to steer toward the mouth of the river, she fought to keep the prow of the boat pointed toward the mouth of the river. She wasn’t going to make it; the storm was too violent. Another crack of thunder, this one nearer. Sarah gave out a started yelp and her resolve almost crumbled under her fear. The she reminded herself of the beatings and her unborn baby.
Grimly, she squared herself in the boat and plunged the oars deep and long, pulling with all her might. She repeated the process again and again, each time letting her anger fuel her will and strength. Plunge and pull, plunge and pull, and on and on, until she was panting. The storm howled around her, lashing her with stinging rain, but Sarah went on, until the weeds crowded around her, letting her know she was nearing the mouth of the river. Now her oars tangled in the thick weeds, forcing her to take shallower dips in the water. Even this began to fail as the weeds grew thicker. Then suddenly, one oar pulled out of its lock, making her fall backward into the boat. She righted herself and began poling instead of rowing; fighting now against the current of the river. As necessary, Sarah switched back and forth from rowing to poling, until she was a good distance up the river.
“Where is it?” she whispered through chattering teeth. She wiped her wet hair from her eyes and looked down at the ankle deep water in the boat. Frantically, she searched the riverbank to find the place she had chosen to pull the boat in. She would have to pull in soon before the boat became too heavy with water to row.
Another crash of lightening and Sarah caught a glimpse of the familiar spot. She twisted the oars to nose in as close to the edge as she could. She jumped out and her foot went down into the muck. It was hard to keep her footing and she took a few tumbles before she got the boat to the safety of the shore.
Sarah tucked the small boat behind the upturned roots of a fallen willow. It would not be noticeable from the river and in this wild country; she hoped it would rot before anyone ever found it. She paused for a moment looking back to the little farmhouse across the lake. Fear, shock and sadness swept over her as a sob broke from her breast.
The storm was easing up, as the young woman straightened her shoulders and lifted her chin. She let her hazel eyes face the invisible house that she and her husband had lived in, and with firmness and through clenched teeth she said, “You will never see this child, Hawkins!” That said, she picked up her bundle of food and clothing and walked into the darkness of the woods.
She didn’t bother changing into her clothing, what was the point anyway, but she did put socks and her father’s sturdy boots on. She was exhausted and was tempted to just sit down, but she knew she had to go so far enough away that Roger Hawkins would never find her.
A small trail followed the curve of the river. “A deer path,” she whispered the words and followed it until it cut north into the woods. She continued following the river until it connected to another small lake. She waded across the river, heading south toward a road that was to be her freedom. Sarah was heading south to Princeton, then to Minneapolis and east to New York. New York was her final destination.
It was quiet now, with the exception of the distant rumble of thunder and the rain dripping off the leaves. As exhausted as Sarah was, she knew she would not be able to sleep, so she figured she would keep going until light.