Ridge Runner

Ridge Runner

Trees, stumps and boulders that he knew well enough to find in the dark appeared as apparitions then faded behind as he stormed up the slim hollow away from the cabin down on the flat river bend. Boiling clouds of wet morning fog clutched at his feet and pulled at his arms as he worked to climb above them.

Halfway to the ridge he slipped around an outcropping and paused to breathe near the copse of stunted torch pine that seemed to grow right out of the rocks. Later in the day, with the sun high overhead, this was a favorite sunning spot for copperheads but now only golden tendrils of sunlight had begun to tear at the gauzy curtain around him. Through an opening shard of green, the cabin looked like a small car from here. From up top it would be a matchbox.

Flight was more an instinct than a planned strategy. No doubt when she said “GO!” she meant out of the room but by the time he yanked his jeans up and cinched his belt, “OUT!” was all he was thinking.

He heard his name, clear as a crow’s call across the valley. Once. Then again. His heart, settling back into its rhythm, pumped the blood that coursed through the welts that he knew crossed his backside. He felt the burn that had been dulled by the run up the mountain. The searing pain that had forced him to bite the pillow.

But worse than that, he felt the wet spot in the front of his pants, that small drip that came when he was hard in spite of-or because of-his humiliation and pain. How could that be right? The first time she’d laid hands on him he felt it.  Did she know that? Could she tell? Is that why she stopped taking him over her lap and made him lie across the bed?

He wasn’t hard just then, thinking about it. But he wasn’t altogether soft either. With none but the trees to see, he rubbed his hand along the back of his jeans feeling a slight charge from massaging a spot at the top of his leg. Just as he was about to loosen his belt to slip his hand inside, he heard his name again. Sharper this time. Jabbing. Then, “It’ll be twice as bad if you don’t get back here right now!”

His heart beginning to race again, he turned his back downhill and continued to climb.

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