The gravel gives to her gait, spiking huffs of gray into the twilight. Bronzed legs buckle under the weight of the duffel bag on her shoulder. Every step marries the tough black canvas to the bruise under her skirt. Bloodied teeth clench behind broken lips in response. The air is cool. Birds sing in the leafless tree on the side of the road, but the world is caught in the groggy hush of dawn breaking and remains still. She bows her head and a mat of paling blond curls falls against the sweat-lined barrier of her brow, over the salty curves of her cheeks. Exhales reveal the taste of iron on her tongue, and her swallows lock the lump firmly inside her throat. Clammy hands of broken nails grip the strap of her bag as she works to keep her balance, wobbling down the driveway. Her head is still spinning. In the din of her delirium, her hazel eyes succumb to the distant pangs of ravaged times — a memory veiled in blurry visions, weakening with every step she takes away from the house. Away from him.

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