I ran. Branches cut my arms and face. I tipped over a root and sprawled onto the dirt and leaves, my skirts tangled around me in a bunch. The inside of my thighs were sticky and warm with blood. Although I checked over my shoulder every few moments, no one came for me. Eventually, the lights from the Inn faded away and I was wrapped up in darkness and fear. A fox called in the distance, startling me so badly I cried aloud.
There had been men before, and I had received money from them. I met them behind Dew Drop Inn, sometimes. Silently lifting my dress and bracing myself against the cool, smooth stone of the building. I did those things, but I didn't deserve what had happened that night. I was hurt inside. They had abused me. The worst part was that everyone saw. My father's accountant was there, and the magistrate.
I passed under the tavern window on my way to borrow eggs from Mrs. McCloed. "I know it's late," my mother said, coughing pink spittle into the handkerchief that was always stuffed into her sleeve. "But I won't be able to finish your father's supper without them."
My father was ill, too. Neither one of them could work. I pretended to get money by hemming dresses and embroidering at the seamstress' shop.
A booming male voice called to me as I passed the Inn. I placed the egg basket carefully on the stoop, pulled my cape tighter around my shoulders, raised my hood to cover my long, golden hair, and walked inside.
"Over here, girl," he said, waving to me. I recognized him as a fur trader from across the river. He spent a few nights here every few months, doing trade in the pelts of the fox and coyotes that lived in the surrounding forest. I'd even accompanied him to his room in the attic of the Inn, before. He was enormous in stature, but he'd been mild in bed, being careful not to rip the lace at my throat.
Scrambling on my hands and knees to the foot of a giant old oak, I wretched a few times into the grass and a fresh stream of blood erupted from the heart of me, soaking the back of my skirts. I don't remember anything else of that night.
Opening my eyes, it was morning, and there was someone standing over me. I opened my mouth to scream, but no sound came forth. I weakly lifted myself onto my elbows and made to beg this person not to hurt me, but he turned and the light shined in his face. I saw instantly that he was not someone I needed to fear.
We fell in love quickly. I needed him to love me. He lived in a little house set apart from the home of his parents. They owned a beautiful piece of land with a brook. He was seventeen years old and tall with broad shoulders. He had eyes like coal. I could see myself in them.
His mother was wary of me and his father was away, hunting. The boy carried me to their doorstep, covered in mud and dried smears of blood. As he moved to set me down at his mother's feet, I panicked at the thought of being away from him. I needed his warmth and the solidity of his body. I clutched madly at his neck, whimpering through swollen lips. He stood up tall again, holding me tight against his chest, and I pressed my face to his throat.
"Where did she come from?" his mother asked.
"She's hurt," he told her. "She needs water and something to eat."
"Where?" she demanded.
He carried me past her and set me gently on a delicate purple upholstered chair in front of the hearth. I couldn't smile or move my mouth to thank him. My face was swollen and painful. "I love you," I whispered in my heart. "I love you. I love you." He knelt next to me and spooned porridge into my mouth.
"Who does she belong to?" his mother asked. Her voice was tinged with fear. I was covered in a lot of blood. They had broken something inside of me.
"She can't stay in the house, Barett," she told the boy.
"She'll stay with me," he said.
"Your father won't allow this," she said.
"I'll talk to him when he comes home," he answered, dabbing at my cracked lips with a napkin. "She needs help."
I need you, I thought.
Everyone was dying all around me. He was the only thing I could see. He saved me and fed me and turned the blankets of his be down for me, sleeping on the stone floor. Every day I could move a little more. I spoke to him, told him my name was Katrina.
"I'll call you Golden Locks," he said, running his rough fingertips through my hair.
"You'll think I'm mad," I said. I'd only known him for a week. "I shouldn't say the thing I've been dying to say."
"I love you," he said.
He had washed the blood from my thighs and the pink parts of me, so torn and misused. He had clothed me in his night things.
"Stay with me," he said.
I would. I had nowhere else to be.
Then, his father returned. I knew him. I knew his hands, their strength on my wrists. He recognized me, too. Throwing down an armload of dangling fox pelts, he stared through me so that the meat of my lungs and heart hurt. He knew me, he said. I had come to him in the town.
"Let her stay, woman," he said to his wife, "and you'll be sharing your bed with more than me."
This week's Trifextra Challenge was to rewrite the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I had to rush through it. I had an awesome idea, but then didn't have enough time. Oh well. I hope you liked it.