*Will watches with diminishing enthusiasm as the last of his tiny pumpkin seeds skims rapidly across the lake; its smooth, flat shape stirring up barely perceivable ripples in the water's surface every time it dips to kiss its reflection, only for them to dissipate without a trace mere moments later. Wiry arms stretch their way towards the sky, their ascent heralded by a series of stifled yawns. Careless to the journey's end, he slumps to the sturdy wooden planks beneath his feet and unzips his hiking jacket. Sprawling out on the wooden jetty, languishing beneath the baking heat of the midday sun, he reaches back and adjusts his pack. Once it had borne all of his worldly possessions, protecting them through all the arduous days and nights, now it was destined to bear his lazy countenance.*
"Signs of better times.. or just another brief reprieve from the storm?"
"Give it a rest.. You're not a writer anymore," he sighs audibly as his subconscious silently chastises him for his own grandiloquent excess.
*Intrusively alluring in its tranquil serenity, he forcibly tears his gaze away from the diverting, natural vista that surrounds him. Reluctantly he makes acknowledgement of the radio gripped in his hand, its tacky, black plastic case slowly scorching his calloused palm, punishing him for his indecisiveness. Grinding his teeth, he brushes his thumb over the nail bitten cover, it's rough surface agitated by many an uneasy conversation. Rescinding his commitment, he divorces himself from the nagging black box with an exasperated huff. Content to wallow in his guilt, he closes his heavy lids and slips a hand behind his head, praying for a sleep that he knew would never come.*
*There he would have remained, plagued by turmoil, if it weren't for the wonderfully irritable shrieks of childish laughter drifting over the reeds. Opening an eye, he peers through the obscuring foliage to watch a young girl balancing precariously on the rusting hulk of a partially submerged sedan. Noticing his attention, she pauses to smile and wave at him, fore continuing to partake in an unfathomable game, the rules of which were known only to her. Spectating from the side-line, he spots an unsightly blemish upon her cheek, the tell-tale sign of a heavy hand. Furrowing his brow, he turns again to consider the discarded radio. Plucking it from the ground, he teases the transmit button hesitantly.*
"Pain comes and goes.. and bruises will fade.. But never break a promise to a child.. That's a wound you can't heal."
*Cursing his own bleeding heart, he squeezes down hard on the PTT and musters his courage.*
"Jeremy? It's Will.. Listen, I don't know if you can hear me.. so just shut up and listen.. The girl is alive and well.. I'm not sorry for taking her away.. the city wasn't safe anymore.. However, I fear in my haste to escape I may have exposed her to an entirely different manner of danger.. one that I'm not sure I can protect her from.."
*He glances over his shoulder, ever wary of the attentive guard which stalks the perimeter of the camp, shotgun cradled in his arms as though it were an innocent, new-born babe.*
"I'd tell you where.. but there are some things I need to explain to you first.. wolves live here.. and I can't guarantee your well-being.. We'll meet in Chernogorsk tonight.. at the bar.. You'll be able to see her again soon, I promise.. but for now you need to trust me."
*Releasing the PTT, he casts aside the viperous device, running a hand shakily through his untidy mess of brown hair. Visibly perturbed, he turns to regard Lo in her state of blissful ignorance, never having felt quite so unsure of his actions.*