Sherri Lupton Hollister

When Phil met Rae

This is a scene not used in my Leeward Files series but it gives a bit of backstory. Warning, it is a bit dark.

She was going to kill him. He’d known it for a while now. She was losing interest in him. She’d taken him to a couple of parties. He was small for his age. She said, he could still pass for younger. The men who took him were not interested in keeping a boy. Most of them had families, children of their own. Their friends and neighbors would be horrified if they knew what they were doing with little boys.

                He wiped the tears smearing snot across his face. He’d overheard her talking, she was planning to dispose of him and soon. He couldn’t wait any longer, he had to escape now. He listened as Aunt Mary packed the cooler in the boat. She would be gone for a few hours. If he was lucky, he’d be long gone before she noticed his absence. He worked the bolt loose, opening the manacle just a finger’s width. Collapsing his hand, he slid it carefully from the heavy metal. He set it carefully on the floor to keep it from clanging and alerting his aunt. He hadn’t heard the boat start up. His heart beat quickened. Heavy tread on the floor overhead told him she’d not left. She wasn’t going fishing. She was getting rid of him today.

                His chance of survival was slim but he had no choice, he had to go now or he was dead. He pried open the door to the wood box praying no snakes or rodents were lurking on the other side. With all of his strength, he shoved the small stack of wood from the box and climbed out.

                “Philip? What are you doing? Get back here before someone sees you!”

                He ran faster. Stumbling over limbs and sliding across pine straw in his bare feet. He was only allowed shoes when they went to a party. His feet burned from sand spurs and briars. The pain and fear making it hard to think. He could hear Mary wheezing as she lumbered after him. He glanced over his shoulder, she was getting close. When he turned back around a girl was in his path. He tumbled over her tangling them both in an awkward puzzle of arms and legs.

                “Hey, what’s your hurry? Are you playing hide-and-seek?” The girl asked.

                She was taller than he, dark hair and eyes and skin the color tea after the ice melts. He couldn’t speak. He wanted to stay but knew he had to go. Leaping to his feet he started to run.

                “Where do you think you’re going?”

                He stopped. His heart pounding. The stupid girl had gotten in his way. She’d kept him from escaping. Terrified, he looked around for a place to run.

                “Ho Mary, how’s it been?” An old man walked from the house waving his arm. “I haven’t seen you around in a while. Who’s this fine young man.

                Mary glared at the man and shrugged her round shoulders. “He’s my nephew. He came to spend some time with me.”

                The girl asked. “Aren’t you in school? We just started back. When does your school start back?”

                She put her hand in his. Phil stammered. “I’m not in school.”

                Mary frowned. “I haven’t gotten him enrolled yet. Everything happened so fast. His mama died, and my sister, his grandmother was supposed to take him in but then, she got bad off.” She shrugged. “So here he is.”

                The old man nodded. “I got some clothes here Billy has out grown.”

                His aunt spat and grabbed his arm and pulled him away from the girl. “I’ll be taking him shopping.”

                “What’s your name? Mine’s Rae Lynne.” She walked beside them oblivious to Mary’s scowls.

                “Philip,” he stammered from lips gone dry with fear.

                “How old are you? Will we be in the same grade?” She skipped along, her voice rising and falling as she bounced beside them. “I’m eleven. I’m going into sixth grade.”

                “He’s got learning problems, he may have to go to special school,” Mary growled.

                “Oh, they have special classes at my school. Billy had to be in a special reading program because he’s dyslexic. Are you dyslexic too?”

“You talk too much girl, go home.You can see Philip at school,” she barked but Rae didn’t flinch. She smiled and waved, turning around to go back the way she’d come. “By Philip, I’ll see you in school.”

The memory of that day was as clear to Phil as yesterday. He’d hated Rae for interfering with his getting away, but he’d come to realize she’d probably saved his life. He should be grateful but the nightmare his life had been, made him wish he’d never run.

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