Home > Exodus(4)

Author: Kate Stewart

One of his friends speaks up behind him, his arm covered in the same bandaging. “RB, we need to hit it, got shit to do.”

Two new ravens.

And I envy them because where they’re going, I’m not allowed to follow.

I step up to the man addressing RB and hold out my hand. “Hi, I’m Cecelia.”

He glances at my hand, amused before he takes it. “Terrance.”

“Nice to meet you. Congrats.”

He smirks, but there’s no mistaking the pride in his eyes. “Thanks. You’re Dom’s girl?”

“Yes. Well, I was. I’m not sure anymore.”

I look over to RB, my eyes imploring his, knowing wherever he is headed, he’s going to lay eyes on the two men I’m desperate to see.

“I’m in no position to ask a favor, b-but when you…see them, when you see…Dominic,” I shake my head, knowing the message will never be delivered as I intend it. I haven’t spoken to him since I discovered the truth about the death of his parents and my father’s role in covering it up. “Never mind.”

RB tilts his head, brows drawn, his light brown eyes scanning me. “You sure?”


“All right then, see you around?” he prompts, his question filled with insinuation before we share a small, conspiratorial smile.

“Hope so. One day,” I say, hoping with all my heart that one day comes. That I can once again roam amongst the brotherhood freely, a privilege I’d taken for granted.

They walk away as I swallow the lump of remorse in my throat. And once again, the point hits home. As much as I think I know, I know nothing. Chest aching, mind reeling, I sidestep a stroller only to have cider spilled on me. A man two toddlers deep with no mother in sight apologizes while I brush the droplets off my arm.

“No worries,” I assure, stepping off the curb onto Main Street. Herds of townspeople glide along the endless rows of vendor tents. Most all of them are wearing smiles, blissfully unaware that there is a war going on. That beyond some of their trees and state parks, there is a group of men fighting on their behalf so that the local economy can thrive, so the poachers don’t get the best of them.

The longer I dwell on the last few months, the more my eyes open to what’s been done and what’s being done about it. A part of me wishes I could close them, erase what I now know, but doing that will erase my ghosts, and I’m still very much in love with them, now more than ever.

Even while my resentment grows for their absence and silence.

For everything they do, there is a reason. I can hate them for my unanswered questions, for making me doubt them, or I can trust what they revealed to me, what they begged me to believe, their admissions, and in them, before they vanished.

On sun-filled days I long for Sean, for his smile, his arms, his cock, and the laughter we shared. His warm, salty, nicotine-tinged kisses. The flick of his tongue on my skin. The slow winks he gave me acknowledging he knew what I was thinking. On stormy days, I long for my cloud to cover me, for the kisses that left me wanton, the hard thrashing of a tongue so wicked and smooth, for a half-smile that lights me up inside. For runny eggs and black coffee.

These men took me under their wing, taught by example, stirred my sexuality awake, and made themselves unforgettable. How am I supposed to move on from this?

For the life of me now, I can’t go back to sleep.

Tears slip from my eyes as I start to unravel on the bustling streets while I force myself to try and adapt to the reality I’ve been tossed back into. Sniffling like an idiot, I navigate through the growing crowd in front of the town hall, where a band plays on an elevated stage blocking the entrance. A dozen or so couples, who look like they’ve been practicing all year, showcase their footwork, moving in sync as they dance in the street. I study the couple closest to me as they dance in tandem and smile at the other as if they’re sharing a secret. And as I observe their wordless connection, all I feel is envy because I had that with both of them.

I had that.

And my secrets I’m forever obligated to keep. I’ll never be able to share them. But I’ll keep them because no one could truly understand their gravity or grasp their truth fully. The story itself would sound like some unrealistic, twisty, sexually provocative fairy-tale with a bad ending or worse, no ending at all.

When I got here, I wanted to suspend my strict morals and loosen my chastity, to thrive amongst some chaos.

I got my wish.

I should be grateful.

But I’m not, so I mourn.

And I can’t do it here.

One foot in front of the other, I push through the crowd to get away, away from all of the smiles, and the laughing and the content people who have no idea of the battle I’m fighting not to scream at them to wake the fuck up.

Which would make me just another quack. The irony not lost on me. But if they only knew how much these men are risking daily, maybe they’d listen. Perhaps they’d band with them, join their cause.

Or maybe they’re the intelligent ones, aware of the tyranny but have purposely chosen to ignore it. It wasn’t long ago I was blissfully unaware.

The battle of good and evil isn’t news. In fact, it’s broadcast in plain sight every day. But at this point, even the news is unreliable, often projected in a way that requires deciphering fact from agenda-related fiction. But we choose to acknowledge what we want, and these people seem to have chosen wisely. Maybe my answer isn’t to get away, but become one of them, to blend in and play ignorant to all that’s wrong in this fucked-up world so I can breathe a little easier, so one day, I can mindlessly smile again. But as time passes, it’s becoming more and more apparent that that’s wishful thinking, because I can’t go back.

The men in my life pried my eyes open, made me aware of the war they’ve declared. And I know now if I were faced with the choice, I would scream my decision-all in. Forever in.

On the edge of the crowd near an alley between buildings, my attention gets diverted to the band whose lead singer greets us, some ear-piercing feedback coming out of the mic before he apologizes. “And now that we have your attention,” he chuckles as the sound clears before he cues the drummer, “let’s start this off right.” As the music starts to play and the ring of guitar and bass kicks in, I blot my face and nose into the arm of my thin sweater.

I’m an emotional mess in the fucking street at the apple festival.

I can’t do this. Not yet.

The lead starts to belt out some upbeat lyrics and I absorb them out of habit as he sings of being lost, falling on hard times, and encourages us to keep on smiling. I can’t help my ironic laugh as another warm tear slides down my face, and I wipe it away with my sleeve.

Yeah, I’m out.

One day.

Turning in the direction I parked, I’m captured by a hand on my hip. I dart my gaze behind me just as the scent of cedar and nicotine surrounds me. A shocked exhale bursts out of me, and I use it to my advantage and take a huge inhale, melting into his chest just as warm breath hits my ear. “Good one.”

His hand slides down to grip the wrist dangling at my side, and in the next second, I’m turned and standing chest to chest with Sean.

“Hey, Pup.”

Fresh tears fill my eyes as I gape at him, his sparkling eyes dimming when he reads my expression.

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