My eyes stuck together with gunk as I struggled to wake up, however, the pain in my shoulder that shoots through the rest of my body jolts me awake. I let out a loud cry in pain and instinctively reach for my wound. As my warm hand hit against the laceration, it only made the pain worse. I winced again and pulled my hand away. My arm throbbed with pain, but at the same time, it seemed to be restricted to a small area around my shoulder. As I looked over, I noticed that there was a bandage wrapped around me, and blood was seeping through the white gauze. Father had no medical knowledge, nor would he have the guts to rip the arrow out of my shoulder. He barely had the guts to set me down gently on the couch. His words then echoed in my head: “You have to be more careful”. I frowned deeply as I thought of how he shot me. He shot me. The phrase seemed almost too unbelievable, and he was blaming me for being fat and wearing a coat. As I put my hands down on the blanket, I felt the rugged fabric. I glanced down and saw the blanket I had made yesterday.
Upon closer inspection, the entire house seemed as though yesterday never happened, and it seemed much brighter. Loki was resting on the rug, sleeping soundly, and there was a bucket resting on the table. My heart beat softly in my ears as thoughts raced in my head. Did father bring this in? Was he mad? Was this a sign of something? I slowly sat up as the blanket slid down my stomach and rested in my lap. The pain seemed to almost numb at the thought of the house looking almost cheerful. Especially with father not passed out in the chair across from the couch. In fact, there wasn’t even a slobber stain where his head had rested. I shook the thoughts away, asking why I cared, or even why I cared to begin with. All he does is beat me, then pull me back in, saying that he’ll change. It’s like a demented game to him, trying to see how long I would have kept loving him and convincing myself that he is a good man and that it’s just the alcohol.
I pressed my feet on the wooden floor, and the second the cold ran up my legs, I pulled them back up and under the blanket. I shivered lightly and only then noticed that the fireplace was dead. I was upset, since not only was it cold, but the cold outside always made it hard to relight it. I sighed and looked over at Loki, who was awoken by my movement. He came over, his claws scraping on the floor, and he sniffed at my knee. “Come here, boy.” I said, holding out my arms under the blanket. Halfway through the first word, he was already jumping onto the couch and pinning me under his weight. I smiled lightly and cooed to him, “Good boy~…” I pet him, and his back leg twitched lightly. I asked him where father was, and he only tilted his head in response. I continued to pet him on his belly and thought that he must’ve left for work. I had woken much later than I normally do; it must’ve been past noon. I wanted to get up and make food, but for once, I didn’t seem as though I were starving to death.
It seemed as though I were sitting for hours until I got used to the cold and finally worked up the nerve to get up. Loki hopped off me and allowed me to both clean, and once I actually got hungry, make soup with the water. All I needed to do was start the fire. I grabbed the flint we had beside the fireplace and got to work. I continued cracking the rocks together, and they would occasionally hit my knuckles, once even tearing the skin. A final orange flicker rested on the logs and started to light the wood aflame. The fire soon grew louder and proceeded to heat up the vegetables and water in the pot. I sat down in front of the fire with the ladle resting on the cobblestone of the fireplace and grabbed one of the books.
Flicking through the pages, I thought about what it was that I was going to do once I finished eating. I already went shopping yesterday, and I already had cleaned the house. I was done with chores, so I could do whatever. The concept of freedom was also confusing to me in my case. I have no friends nor family, I’ve already read everything in the house, I already used up everything I have for blankets and other things. I had the freedom to do whatever, and yet I am still restricted by what I cannot do. The water started to boil, so I stood up and began to stir it. It smelled delicious, and I hoped that it would taste as I believed. Sure enough, once it was done, it was amazing. However, as I kept staring out the window, I realized that father must’ve gotten off work by now. I wanted to go down and hopefully prevent him from going to the pub like he always did, but then again, I wasn’t about to go through the townsfolk only for him to push me out of the way of the door. I sighed and looked over at Loki, who was pacing by the door. I know I needed to let him out, but I didn’t want him to go running out into the forest again. My eyes then met a rope, and I had an idea.
Loki did not enjoy the leash that father rarely used. He was always let out freely to go wherever, and then he would come back moments later, ready to come inside and cuddle by the fire. He scratched and bit at the rope, but I made sure it wouldn’t break. I walked with him through the town with my head down on my way to the pub he always went to. We eventually made it unscathed by the people’s words, and I plopped down beside the door, waiting for him to come by. I waited. And waited. And waited. People would come by and give us barely a glance; some men even asked “How much for the dog?” only for me to shout that Loki wasn’t for sale. Night started to fall, and I had began to peek in through the window to see if he was already inside. Men held froth-filled mugs and shouted either vulgarities or encouragement to one another, and even a fist-fight broke out at one point, and the two men were kicked out. I was nearly hit when they swung at each other again outside. I had to scoot out of their path as they sloppily shoved each other and threw punches. But no sign of him. All of the other pubs were supposedly not good enough for him, so he only went to this one, regardless of how out-of-the-way it is in comparison to his route home.
Loki rested his head on my knees as I began to drift off, my head bobbing up and down and my eyelids weighing down on me. However, the sounds of high pitched, shrill voices made my stomach churn. I stood up and pulled my hood over my face in hopes that I wouldn’t be noticed. But sadly, I heard one of the voices say, “Oh, look at that. A lost little rat.” I frowned and gritted my teeth, trying not to say anything back. Seeing as to how I was found, I looked up at them. The first thing I noticed was their bodies and how provocatively they were dressed, despite it being freezing cold out. “Not as lost as you are…” I responded. “Brothel is that way.” I then pointed down the road, and they frowned. “At least people give us attention. Unlike witches like you.” I frowned and bit back the fact that I didn’t want attention from others. I just want to be left alone.
They then proceeded to mumble something in Finnish that I didn’t want to internally translate. I finally snapped back for the women to leave me alone. “You really think we’re going to let someone like you win?” As the main woman whose name I never bothered to learn began pulling off her fur coat, I frowned. “I’m not going to fight you.” I told her up front. I wasn’t going to ensure my own death just to fight her. “Actually, you better be careful, Sofia…” One of her henchman said to the main woman. “She may cast a spell on you. Or a hex or curse!” Sarcasm seeping from every pore in my body, I remarked, “Yes, I will transform you into a boar. Oh, wait. Looks like someone else got to you before I did.” The woman named Sofia then smacked me across the face, and as I recoiled, Loki jumped up and bit her hand. She let out a loud cry in pain while her friends watched in horror. I pulled Loki away and instantly bolted away. I knew they were going to get the attention of others and blame it on me. Then, they’ll surely hang me. The boots I wore sank in the snow and flicked it up in the air in my panic. I could hear screaming as Sofia cried out for help. As I glanced back, I noticed the women throwing things around; the fur coat in the snow, clothes torn, and a couple of turned over crates and boxes. Women in sleeping gowns, men in caps and children holding their stuffed animals poked their heads out of their windows and doors. The girls pretended to rock Sofia, while she acted to be in a traumatized state. She pointed and screamed as I continued to run, “SHE’S THE DEVIL! SHE’S THE DEVIL!” I continued sprinting as I felt eyes on me. Jeers began to grow as I realized that I couldn’t run all the way home like this. My only safe haven between my home and the town was the bazaar.
I ran down the alley with Loki in my arms, nearly slipping on the ice, and I proceeded into the darkened alley. It grew denser with stands that sold old fruit, clothes and books deemed “not safe”. I dove into the snow behind some barrels and hugged Loki tightly against me. I buried my face into his fur as specks of skin and flesh dripped out of his mouth. It did not feel satisfying for her to get her comeuppance. I dug my nails into his thick fur as my heart pounded in my ears. I could hear rustling from the insides of the buildings surrounding the bazaar. When I heard the familiar tone of a rusted door opening, a soft voice asked: “Anna…?”
It didn’t take much to convince me to come inside. Her home was so much nicer than mine, no matter how much I clean up. “Did your father kick you out again?” Vera asked me, sipping her tea. I shook my head as I gripped the blanket tightly against me. “N-No…” I stuttered out as I watched Loki curl up by the fireplace. “I-In fact, I-I haven’t seen him a-all day… That’s why I w-was out all day.” She raised her blonde brows as she said that I needed to find a husband to move in with. “E-easy for you to say…” I said, sipping my tea. “You’re a fair-haired, pale-skinned and blue-eyed woman. Men just fawn over you.” She let out a soft laugh. “You may not look like me, but you’re unique.” She then looked up at me and said, “I know you’ll find someone who doesn’t think of you as–” I looked up at her, and she stopped herself. “as…how other people see you…” She then cleared her throat and asked me if I knew where my father was. “No idea.” I told her. “There was… another i-incident last night, and when I woke up, he was gone.” She then smiled and said, “Maybe he was eaten by a bear.” I felt bad for smiling at the idea.
She sipped her tea again as Loki sniffed at her legs. She scratched his head, and as he tapped his foot against the wood flooring, she said, “You can sleep here tonight, if you need to.” “What about Aleksi?” “He’s on a week-long hunting trip with Mikael.” “Isn’t he only six?” “Yes, but he says that he needs experience if he’s going to be a hunter too.” I shrugged, since I didn’t have kids, nor was I even close to having any at any point soon, therefore I didn’t have the same mindset as someone who did have kids had. “Well, if it’s not too much trouble, I would like to stay here for the night. I’ll even help you make breakfast.” “That would be nice, thank you.”
The night passed relatively quickly, mostly consisting of me sleeping peacefully. I helped with her breakfast, ate, and headed out, not wanting to overstay my welcome. Since I was already here, I decided to pick up some things at the bazaar before heading home. I visited with the other “witches” as I picked up some fabric to use to make another blanket. It’s approaching the end of the season, so I won’t use the blankets too often, however within the last few days, its almost always at the coldest point.
The trip up the side of the mountain was trivial, but wasn’t too much trouble. Loki stayed by my side unwillingly, the rope keeping him from running into the wilderness. As I approached the door, I could feel my boots growing heavier, making it harder to get to the door. By the time I made it to the entrance, I felt as though I were being weighed down by cinderblocks. I brought my hand up to the doorknob, twisted it, and braced myself. I pushed the door inward, and Loki ran in, shaking the snow off of him. He ran to the fireplace, but was not kicked out of the way. I hesitantly stepped inside and closed the door behind me. I cautiously walked over to the flight of stairs to the right of the door and sat on the bottom step. “Where is he?”