On Tenterhooks

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image.pngSnowflakes sprinkled around her. There was a fuzziness to her sight as though all the whiteness had brightened and blurred together. Nothing seemed real except for the cold which left her cheeks and nose numb.

Father was climbing uphill.  His gait was heavy as though one step could shake the snow off trees. With his black coat and pants, he stuck out like a burnt branch. But no one, not even mother, could get him to adapt to the seasons. Wiggling and squirming in his hand was a hare. Its thick, fat body was half the size of father.

Her heart began to pulsate. She knew what she’d have to do, but could she do it? She had stretched animal skin across wood planks and clip them onto tenterhooks, but she never skinned one, let alone killed one.

Her stomach tied itself into knots. Suddenly the cold vanished, and her palms began to sweat. Without a word, father shoved the hare in front of her belly. She grabbed its long thick ears. It was heavy, and for a second she thought she’d drop him. Reaching for her knife, she unclipped the sheath. The knife seemed heavier and the handle wider. She awkwardly maneuvered the blade beneath the hare’s throat. Its black eyes blinked rapidly as though it knew what was to come. Then with one swift motion, she sliced through fur and skin. Blood splattered across the snow as the rabbit kicked and jerked till there was no life left in him. When she turned to her father, he was gone.

She woke beneath the branches of a tree. Its branches stretched out in all directions as leaves fell to the floor. She propped herself up and felt a moistness between her legs. Droplets of blood had seeped through her jeans. Quickly, she stood and held her crotch with her hands and ran towards the river. She squeezed every muscle in her thighs till she saw the river and jumped.

She gnawed on the end of a twig till its fibers were stringy like a toothbrush, then she scrubbed her jeans till the stain came out. Then it dawned on her.

“The rabbits!”

She darted naked through the woods back to the spot where she had fallen asleep. Leaning against the tree trunk was her long stick with three dead rabbits tied to it. She perched the rod on her shoulder, but before she left, she saw the hillside; The same slope in her dreams. The hill where she killed her first rabbit. Her body tingled, she glanced at her nakedness. Her breasts were the same size, small and barely there. Her legs were still long, but now a trickle of blood streamed down her thigh. She didn’t feel any different. She didn’t feel more mature, more lady-like, or even more irritable. All she felt was sadness mixed with anxiousness. Father was gone and now mother. She was alone in the wilderness with no place to call home.

via Daily Prompt: Tenterhooks