It was a winter’s night; the wind was howling and rain was falling to the ground in great torrents. The trees were bent almost double and their branches were whipping around, as though battling some unseen force.
I remember very clearly, the feeling of the rain’s harsh pricks as it stung my face and the wind in my hair, as it pulled it this way and that. The sheer force of the weather took my breath away: it was impossible to speak. I had to sign to my companions that we needed to stop, take shelter somewhere, anywhere.
When we had finally got a fire going, in a small sheltered alcove we found, we all sat down and began peeling off our soaked clothing. We replaced our wet, icy jackets with new, warm blankets. Once this was done, and we were all settled, I found a map and began studying it by the flickering light of the fire. We needed to go as fast as we could to reach our destination, but the weather was making it nearly impossible to stay on course: already, we had deviated away from the path. If we weren’t careful, we were going to get hopelessly lost.
“Alyse, put that away. You’re only going to worry yourself.” My boyfriend, Evan, was walking quietly towards me. I looked up and smiled.
“I know, but I must learn our route off by heart. What if the map gets lost? I need to do this Evan.” Despite his concern, I wasn’t going to let him dissuade me from doing this. I needed to protect my family-at all costs. When we reached the haven-then I could sleep. Until then, I would do everything it took to get there safely.
He bent down and tilted my head up so I could do nothing but look into his piercing blue eyes.
“Alyse, come on baby, come to bed. We can look at the map in the morning. You need to sleep.” He caressed the dark circles under my eyes with his thumb. Now that he mentioned it, I realised I was exhausted. I hadn’t slept properly since we had begun this journey the day before. It seemed like years since I was living with my parents, in a small cosy cottage, going for long walks with my boyfriend, hand-in-hand, laughing and smiling. When was the last time I had laughed?