Bella’s Journey

The following piece was my third entry to the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction competition. The prompt for this piece was Romance (again), an unpaved road, and a meatball. I was very excited when writing this story, as this was the first round that I got into purely by merit! See this post for more!

The rising sun wakes me from a restless sleep. Sunbeams dance across the tops of bushes and trees and fall on my face. I groan, dreading another lonely empty day. I roll over and hover between sleep and wake, feeling the morning sun dispel the nighttime chill.

I wake with the day. I slept at a tree beside an unpaved road. Only now do I notice a small far-off building. I yawn and stand, stretching the stiffness out of my body. I look up through the branches of the tree above me and notice a plane soar through the sky. I watch it and when it gets too close to the sun I look away.  

I’ve been homeless for three years now. I miss knowing where I am each day. I miss having a routine. I miss…

I miss Ethan.

I saunter down the road, looking around to see if anyone is nearby. Once I’m sure there’s not, I squat and pee beside a bush. I rise and start down the road, wondering what the day will bring. I prefer the quiet of the countryside to the noise of the city. Food’s harder to come by, but I’m happier. Ethan always wanted to live in the countryside.

I met Ethan in the shelter. It wasn’t a particularly nice place to live, but I had food and a place to sleep. All of the volunteers were amazing people, giving their time and energy to keep us all safe, happy and alive. Ethan was a volunteer.

We residents were different. We were young, old, naively hopeful,and bitterly cynical and everything in between. Most of the residents were gracious and thankful to the volunteers, but some of us were just too hurt by the world. They refused to trust anyone or anything. They were the ones that caused trouble. They shouted and argued. I even saw one of the residents bite a volunteer.

A bird flies out of the bush ahead of me. It spooks me so I shout at it for a second, but stop when I see it fly off. I’d become more skittish since I left the city. I had to leave though. I had to find Ethan. I had searched the city for so long, and knowing he wanted to move to the countryside decided to search there. I keep walking, not really sure how I’m going to find him.

The instant I met Ethan I knew there was something special about him. His smile made me feel safe, and each time I saw it I couldn’t help but smile back. His eyes, a deep brown just like mine, were full of kindness and love. At mealtimes, he might slip me a little extra, or wink as he handed over something especially for me. I was always grateful, but once I couldn’t help myself and kissed his cheek in thanks. He smiled at me, his hand covering his cheek, and then I knew.

Eventually, we were living together. At first, I stayed cautious. It wasn’t my first time moving in with someone. Ray, the last guy I lived with, used to beat me. I ended up in the shelter because of him. I wasn’t going to let anyone hit me again, so I kept Ethan at a distance. Not sitting near him, not eating with him… just keeping him at arm’s length. But I still loved him, and he loved me.

Before long he was watching television and I would sleep on the couch beside him, my head on his lap, his fingers stroking through my hair.

“Bella, I’m so happy you are part of my life,” he said one night. I smiled at him and kissed his hand, looking into his eyes. He laughed, and before I could make a sound he just said “I love you too,” and I snuggled back into his arms.

Life was perfect.

One summer’s evening Ethan and I were out walking. I saw a man ahead of us that just set me on edge. Ray. He recognised me and started shouting at Ethan. He tried to calm Ray down. I pulled at Ethan, shouting at him, shouting at Ray. Then, out of nowhere, a fight erupted. I panicked and ran. That was the last time I saw Ethan.

It’s been so long since we were separated that I sometimes worry about forgetting Ethan’s face. I know I’m being silly, I know that I’ll never truly forget him… And yet, that worry is still there. I keep walking, wondering how I could ever find him. I amble along the dirt road.

I reach the house I saw earlier. An intoxicating smell wafts through an open window. My stomach growls. I inch towards the window and stand as tall as I can to peer inside. Someone is cooking meatballs and pasta. It smells phenomenal. I whimper in hunger and the cook sees me. He is tall with deep brown eyes.

“Oh my god…Bella?”

I freeze. How does he know my name? Have I seen him before? I don’t make a sound.

We keep eye contact as he slowly reaches for the meatballs, and puts one on a dish. He edges forward and places the dish on the window sill. I don’t reach for it straight away, but once I feel safe enough I scoff it down. I barely taste it I eat so fast.

He walks out of the front door. There are tears in his deep brown eyes.

“Bella, don’t you know me?!”

I step towards him and sniff his hand.

I get another smell.

Hidden underneath all the cooking.

One I know.

Ethan drops to his knees and scoops me up into his arms. He is crying and I lick his face, beard and all. My tail wags so much it almost hurts. I whimper, he cries, I bark, he laughs. I found him!

“You found me, good girl you found me!”

He holds me, and I am home.

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