We'll Never Tell(2)

By: Jannine Gallant



“You waited until we were here, in one of my favorite places, to tell me? You couldn’t have said something before we left home?” The man’s words cracked like a gunshot in the still air.

“I tried, but you wouldn’t listen. You were so excited about this camping trip…” She hunched one shoulder. “Maybe waiting was a mistake.”

“You think?” He kicked a rock, sending it ricocheting off the big stones circling the fire. “Are you going to tell me why you’re dumping me?”

Darby tugged on the back of Sam’s sweatshirt. “Let’s go,” she whispered.

Sam shook her head and pressed her finger to her lips. The drama unfolding at the campfire was better than the soap operas Mrs. Dennison watched while she was folding laundry.

The woman dashed a hand across her eyes, leaving a smear of mascara on her pale cheek. “Our relationship just isn’t working.”

He took a step toward her. “Is there someone else? Is that it?” His voice took on a menacing edge as it rose.

Sam shrunk back against her friends, and Juliette let out a tiny whimper.

“No! I swear I wouldn’t cheat on you.”

“Is it that long haired pussy boy from your study group? He’s always around. I thought he was gay, or I would have—”

The woman choked on a sob. “There isn’t anyone. You have to believe me.”

The man moved forward, his steps slow and purposeful. When he grabbed her arm, she let out a cry.

Blood roared in Sam’s ears. She stepped out from behind the tree.

“Let go of me,” the woman screamed.

“Bitch,” he shouted, giving her a shove.

She fell backward and tripped, arms flailing. Her head hit one of the rocks circling the fire with a sickening thud.

Sam’s stomach rolled.

“Oh God, oh no.” The man knelt at the woman’s side and touched her face. Slowly he stood and backed away. “Shit, shit, shit!”

Juliette was crying, gasping sobs muffled by her hands. Sam stared into her friend’s petrified eyes and opened her mouth. Nothing came out. She tried again, her voice a horse rasp. “Run.”

They fled. Tree limbs slapped their faces, and dead branches crunched beneath their feet. Sam’s side ached with her labored breathing. Behind them footsteps pounded, drawing closer. Darby screamed, and Sam spun, her running shoes sliding in the pine needles. She went down hard on one knee.

The man held Darby, his arm wrapped around her waist while she kicked and struggled. The knit hat was pulled low over his forehead, and the collar of his jacket was zipped high above his chin. In the dim moonlight, only his eyes were visible, narrowed dark orbs in the pale blur of his face.

“Let go of her,” Sam yelled. Her legs trembled as she pushed up from the ground and clung to Juliette’s hand.

His whole body shook with tremors as he clutched Darby tighter, eyes darting wildly about. “After we get something straight.” He gave Darby a hard shake, and she stilled. “You girls are going to go home, and you aren’t going to say a word about what you saw tonight.”

His voice, low and threatening, sent an icy shiver sliding down Sam’s spine. “We won’t say a thing.”

“No, we won’t,” Juliette whispered. “We promise.”

“Do you know what’s going to happen if you do?”

Darby’s eyes widened in terror, and tears trailed down her cheeks. “What?”

He grasped her chin in his big hand. “If you tell, little girl, I won’t hurt you. I’ll hurt your friends, instead. That goes for each one of you. You don’t want that to happen, do you?”

Sam shook her head so hard it snapped. “We’ll never tell.”

He let go of Darby, and she stumbled forward into Sam’s arms. “You better not. Ravenswood’s a small town. It’ll be a piece of cake to find out who you are.” He stepped deeper into the shadows. “Don’t do anything stupid. Got it?” Turning, he ran into the night.

“Got it,” Sam whispered.

****

Kneeling on the ground, Sam dug through her backpack. Everything was in it— sleeping bag, food, water, an extra jacket, flashlight, bug spray—everything but her journal. She bit her lip. She’d written personal stuff in there, stuff about how bad she felt when her parents left on one of their endless trips without her and Wyatt. She’d written pages and pages about Darby and Juliette, how they cared more about her than…

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