I did not return home. I would have had to face my parents then. I just ran. I ran until my legs burned and began to slow, then I forced them forward again. Eventually I stumbled upon a rut, and buried myself in it. I curled up on the cold ground and wept without noise, afraid I would be found. I listened for pursuit. Though, why I was afraid of being shadowed I do not know. It was not as though anyone loved me anymore. I was a curse to my town; they probably were relieved I was gone.
I think I must have slept then, for it was abruptly dark. I had no way of knowing how late it was but I decided to creep back to town as quietly as I could. I must have taken an hour to reach the perimeter road, but all my efforts for flight would have been wasted if I had been sighted. Thus, I elected caution and a slow pace over haste and the potential of discovery. As such, I kept to the shadows, knowing them well from playing games as a child.
There were no candles in our home. Either mother and father were sleeping or they were gone. I’d have no way of knowing until I was in the house. I reached my window without incident. I leapt up and pulled my torso through its opening. It was a painful entry with the pane digging into my abdomen until I could shift and pull my legs through. I made an awful racket and prayed that it went unnoticed.
As I stood and my chambers filled my vision, I became dizzy with loss. It was one thing to consider leaving home; it was another to be faced with everything you are leaving. Here was the evidence of a lifetime well spent. My room, the center of my life, held memories of every adventure and every story I could ever tell. There was my bed where I retired every night to, letting my daily hopes and failures drift away into the soft, feathery embrace. Here was my bookshelf, which bore every book I have ever loved. All this, a lifetime of familiarity, I was casting aside.
I suppose I could have stayed. I could have continued life in Kennbridge and bore the shame of public humiliation. Perhaps I could even bear to see Ladd and Addie socially again. But then I remembered Tunic. I remembered how I betrayed him and I just could not stay in Kennbridge anymore. Tunic would never forgive me and I did not want to have to face him again. I had to leave.
I opened my door ever so slowly and crept forward. I moved into the kitchen. Mother had left the laundry in the sitting room. It gave me an idea. I snitched a pair of my father’s trousers and a shirt. Moving into the kitchen, I held my dress out like a basket. I emptied the larder of all the non-perishable food I could find and found a skin for water. I was about to return to my room when I considered that perhaps I’d better grab one more thing. My father’s hunting knife was on a shelf in the sitting room along with his bow. I was useless with the latter, but I might require a blade.
It was not unheard of for a woman to wear trousers; the few female travellers who visited our store were occasionally wearing them. But everyone knew it was ugly for a woman to wear anything but a skirt. Father’s were a loose fit on me, but my woman’s hips filled their waist. The shirt, however, was much too large. I’d have to find something else.
My eyes came to rest on my nightgown. Unlike a dress, nightgowns are barely trimmed to accentuate the female figure. A child’s nightgown was basically a straight shot.
Of course, nightgowns are meant to reach the ankles but I’d saved the gown I’d worn when I was a child and used it on hot summer nights. The bodice that had been large as a child was a snug fit now, but its hem only came to about the knees. I’d shorn off the sleeves a few summers ago, as they had rested at an awkward length before my modification.
I tugged the well-worn nightgown over my head and grabbed a belt, securing it over my hips.
I was simultaneously amused and horrified at my reflection. Were I sighted, someone might think I was emulating Tunic. I attempted to tuck the excess length into the trousers, but the nightgown was too long. It sat in an awkward bulk, bunching over my legs. I pulled it out again, deciding the tunic look was fine.
I tried a step. Walking in trousers was a foreign experience. They were constraining in so many ways; I had no idea how men wore them all the time. I looked down to my hips and realised my mistake. The trousers were fine; it was the nightgown that pulled to tightly on my thighs.
I didn’t have time now, but I grabbed thread and needle for a modification later. I’d slit the sides of my makeshift tunic up until the hips. That should grant me a wider range of movement.
Satisfied that my garb was passable, I fitted my purse to the belt. I was, by no means, wealthy, but I had saved most of the earnings (aside from the expense of a few Siebenday beverages). Then, I stashed the food in a pack.
I had no idea where to go, but I had decided the best plan was to follow the river until I started to understand travelling better. I hoped that sense of direction was something acquired instead of something instinctive.
I clutched Father’s knife to my breast as I fled my home. I reached Glass River and my pace slowed. I knew there was a road nearby, heading to Myrtle. But it didn’t stay true to the river. I’d rather walk along the bank, keeping my only source of direction in sight. I wondered how far I had to go before I was free of my reputation here. Would I have to pass Keegan Heights?
Then it occurred to me, if no one else would, perhaps I should figure out how to stop the monster. It was not like my love for Kennbridge had diminished. That I had become repugnant to them did not prevent me from caring for Kennbridge. Perhaps killing the monster would be my redemption.