Never Let You Go (a modern fairytale)

By: Katy Regnery

ESCAPE




Holden



“Get up, Holden!” she hissed at him, one dirty hand waving wildly in his face. His eyes were level with her bare feet, which were filthy and scratched, bright red blood oozing through a layer of dust and mud splatter.

Holden could hear them coming, getting closer and closer with every labored breath he took, but his legs burned and his feet were torn to pieces.

Griselda reached down, grabbing a handful of his hair and jerking his head up. “I mean it. Now!”

He pushed himself up out of the muddy puddle that had tripped him, and reached for her hand.

“Run!” she demanded, setting off at a clip, pulling him down the rugged dirt road, the tail of one amber braid whipping into his forehead as they made their way closer to the safety of the high corn. “I know you hurt, Holden. I hurt too, but don’t stop!”

Tears rolled down his cheeks as his shorter legs worked twice as hard to keep up with her.

“G-G-Gris,” he sobbed, staring at the dirty, ripped, yellow and white gingham dress that covered her back. “M-m-my ankle’s twisted.”

“Don’t think about it. Keep running,” she said, without looking back, her grip on his hand unmerciful. “We’re almost there.”

From behind them, Holden heard the Man’s voice. “Dang cornfields! Don’t let them make it through the rows, or we’ll lose them, Cutter!”

The words were loud and slurred, and the baying of the meanest hound on earth answered his master’s command.

“You hear that?” Gris gasped between pants. “Faster, Holden!”

Amazingly, she sped up, dragging him along behind her, running as fast as her thirteen year old legs could carry her. Holden’s feet barely set down long enough between steps to register the sharp prickles of the spurge weed as they sped barefoot across the field.

“Through the cornfields and across the river. Through the cornfields and across the river.”

He heard her whispering it under her breath like a mantra, and though Holden couldn’t feel his legs anymore, he wouldn’t let her down. Somehow his feet kept moving, despite the pain.

Fight through it, he thought. Fight, damn it!

With a yank and a whoosh, she steered them into the nearest row of corn, the hot green stalks batting them in the face as the dead brown leaves below sliced into their bare legs and feet like blades.

Holden whimpered from the sharp cuts but kept the sound as quiet as possible, lest she hear him. His fingers were numb from Gris’s iron grip on them, and his wrist ached from the way she jerked his hand as she pulled him along. He looked down at his feet and saw a blur of brown below. He had no idea if they’d make it, but he knew one thing for sure: he wouldn’t have had a chance without her.

“Th-th-thank God you’re so d-d-dang stubborn.”

“Almost there,” she said, risking a quick look behind her, and even managing a small, encouraging smile at her friend.

Holden wanted to offer one to her in return, but his lip had been split last night and it hurt too much to smile.

“You get ’em, Cutter!”

The Man’s voice was getting closer, and they were only halfway through the cornfield. Cutter barked his pleasure, and the sound vibrated through Holden’s thin body like a beating.

“Not today, Cutter,” growled Gris, darting to her right and crossing two rows before heading left toward the river again.

“Th-th-think we’ll make it, Gris?”

“Keep running,” she panted. “We’re almost there.”

He finally heard the rush of water, and when he looked up, just beyond Gris, he saw it—

the banks of the Shenandoah.

“Remember, Holden. Don’t look back, no matter what. Our feet are smaller than his. Stone to stone. I jump, you jump. We get halfway across, he won’t follow.”

We get halfway across, we still might die, thought Holden, looking at the way the water rushed white over the rocks in the middle, painfully aware that he didn’t know how to swim.

“I hear you thinking, Holden Croft,” she said, her words choppy and short since she was so out of breath, “but it hasn’t rained in nine days. That’s why today. That’s why now.”

They finally rushed through the end of the row, their feet alighting on the softer grass that ran along the banks of the river. Not having eaten since yesterday morning, Holden was light-headed and dizzy, and he didn’t know how he’d keep his balance if they couldn’t stop to rest for a second. As they reached the water’s edge, Gris, who must have been as dizzy as he, dropped his hand and leaned over, placing her hands on her bony knees to catch her breath.

Cutter’s baleful howl drew closer, and Holden looked up to see the stalks shaking about twenty yards back, the Man’s rifle tip poking up over the golden tassels. When Holden turned his head, Gris’s sky-blue eyes captured his.

“This is it. You ready?”

Holden looked at wide stretch of river. Gris was right that the water didn’t look as deep as the other time they’d seen it, almost three years ago, but it didn’t look safe either. Rocks jutted up from the bottom, sharp and ragged, and water whooshed white over some of the stones in the middle.

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