I manage to harrumph between breaths, my feet still trudging over rocky terrain. The sun burns my neck and my moist shirt clings to my ribs and back.
“We’re almost there?” Hank groggily asks. He is probably rubbing his eyes, the way he sometimes does. But I don’t turn to look. I’m ahead of them, still giving Mama the silent treatment.
“It’ll take your breath away, Char,” she says, trying to soften me up. Nothing has ever taken my breath away. I’ve read stories, in those old books at the house, where women’s breath gets taken away all the time, mostly by men. It’s never made any sense.
The brush gets thick then, and as I shove it aside and make a way for Rose, it scratches my forearms. I push through and my hair gets caught, but I ignore it. Rose grasps the back of my shirt in her fists, whimpering. Probably over the bugs. They are small and non-threatening, and free of virus, but they are everywhere.
Then I see it. A clearing ahead.
Is that … yellow?
I shove through faster, telling Rose to keep up, and once in the clear, I freeze. A meadow, hidden away. Just for us.
Mama’s Sea of Yellow.
Something strange happens inside my chest. Almost like a thud, and my breath seems to catch deep in my throat. I understand now, about Mama’s claim that it would take my breath away. The feeling elates me, in a way that’s completely foreign.
I close my eyes, and before I can help it, I’m smiling. At the breeze against my face, at the feeling inside me, at the image inside my closed lids. I open them again, just to make sure it wasn’t my imagination.
I feel Mama behind me now. She’s sniffling again, and Hank is cheering. There’s a cabin at the other end of the clearing, probably the very one Grandpa built, but that’s not what catches my eye. It’s the openness, the freedom, the new start.
The Sea of Yellow.
My eyes follow the dancing wings of a butterfly. It seems drawn to Rose, for it lands right at her feet. She giggles, extending her finger to it, and I shake my head, my mouth still turned in a smile. One minute the insects are her adversary and the next, her kindred spirit.
The flowers are everywhere, coming to my knees. As I remove my boots, Hank jumps from Mama’s arms, and my eyes burn. When I run my swollen, sweaty feet over the grass, I sigh. Refreshing, green blades between my toes promise reprieve.
I fall to the ground and let them envelop me, and so do Mama, Rose, and Hank. Together, we laugh.
We have nothing, except the cabin and each other now.
And Mama’s Sea of Yellow.
This is the fifth installment of the story. Click here for the first four installments.
Jennie is a published author of paranormal fiction, a lover of fairy tales, and an avid supporter of the Oxford comma.