I knew that Willow walking in the woods on her own was potentially the worst situation possible but I had never felt so angry with her – and we’ve been through many hard situations together. I decided it was best I leave her to wander for a few minutes and let myself cool down. Anger is such a consuming force, pushing us to do things to spite others even when we don’t want to hurt them. I wasn’t going to let anger create a void of hurt feelings and distrust between us, sometimes even the strongest relationships can’t recover from that.
Our argument had woken Dawn and I immediately felt guilty that she had been a witness to it. It’s not why we brought her along and I certainly didn’t want her to be unhappy too. She sat up wide eyed, hair all mussed up – blinking quizzically at me.
“Tara, is everything alright?” She yawned.
I promised myself that no matter what happened I would never lie to Dawn. So I chose to say nothing but give her an acknowledging glance with a small shake of the head and then stared back out towards the woods that Willow had vanished into.
“It’s okay Tara, I heard you guys yelling at each other…I recognise fighting when I hear it. Been in the middle of fights between the parentals.”
I clenched my jaw tightly and successfully pushed my tears back down inside, after all – we all knew how well the situation had turned out for her parents.
“We had a disagreement about a few things Dawnie, but we’ll work through it.” I sighed. I mean, no matter what – we’d always managed that.
Sit down and work through it, I told myself though I wasn’t sure it could work this time. Willow was so far out of my touch, no matter what I said to her she couldn’t believe that she was strong enough to control the powers inside her and simply, the more she thought that way…stronger the chance she would be right. I mean you resign yourself to something being the way it is and you give up the chance and opportunity to fight to change it.
Dawn stirred me from my thoughts. “Shouldn’t someone go after her? I mean it’s pretty dark and scary…could be any kind of nasty things hiding in the woods!”
I nodded. “I’ll just give her a few minutes to herself and then I’ll go find her.”
She must have seen the pained face I was desperately trying to hide from her, she spoke again. “You guys aren’t going to break up are you?...please tell me that’s not going to happen..?”
I felt in that moment I wasn’t sure that it wouldn’t. If I couldn’t reason with Willow I had no chance of reaching her and offering my support.
I turned to Dawn.
“I know you guys just think I’m a kid and I don’t understand much but I get it.”
“Get what?” I tilted my head to her, not understanding where she was coming from.
She shrugged. “I don’t know what it is but something else happened to Willow when she was taken away, didn’t it? What was it Tara?”
She’d grown up in front of us and we’d all been too blind to even notice. I smiled gently then realised what Dawn was asking.
I unzipped my sleeping bag and opened it out, patting on the newly exposed side and Dawn shifted out of her own sleeping bag and sat down next to me.
“She’s dealing with something that happened when she was taken away but it’s really not my place to tell you Dawnie, it’s something personal to Willow and she should be the one to let you know.”
She nodded at me, understanding that the situation was a little more serious than she had originally thought or that anyone had told her.
I looked back to the woods.
“Are you going to bring her back now?” Dawn whispered.
There was something there, but it certainly wasn’t Willow. I could feel a change, an force that didn’t belong out here in all this pure natural energy. I scanned the woods again my brows furrowing.
“Dawn listen very carefully, I want you to stay here. There’s something out there and it’s making me feel pretty uncomfortable.” I said as began to move.
I reached for the bag next to the sleeping bag, pulling out various powders.
“I’m going to need to find Willow but I want you to stay here.” I said as I began to pour the powders around Dawn in a protective circle.
“When I’ve finished this circle, stay inside – don’t break the circle, no matter what…You understand? No matter what…”
She nodded at me then her eyes glazed and her jaw dropped. I could tell by her expression looking past me that it was too late and I pulled her closer to me. I felt the force of something across my back; Dawn went flying from my grip and into a tree trunk – hard. I lifted my face from the dirt. She moved, but only slightly. I tried to stand up only just managing to find my feet before I got knocked down again by something whipping me hard across my back. I lifted my head, feeling the prickly static going through my body and the cold sweat as shock began to set in.
I saw Dawn get up and scream as branches with a mind of their own snaked their way to her, wrapping themselves around her ankles – pulling her over and then continuing to wrap themselves around her. They pulled her up, suspending her in the air, the new branches whipping at her face, little cuts dripping blood down her face.
“DAWN!” I cried as I tried to stand for the third time, checking behind me and avoiding the branches swinging wildly to knock me over again. I raised an arm to shield my eyes as I held my hand out to cast. I didn’t see the log whipped up by the growing wind and it hit me in the stomach, taking my breath away.
I felt myself being pulled up from the floor and the air being squeezed inch my inch from my lungs. Little black and white spots were dancing in front of my eyes. I wasn’t sure if it was a vision but I thought I could make out Willow’s form as the darkness set in.
‘I’m sorry’ was the last thing I remember saying to the figure as the darkness filled my eyes.