“Do you trust me?” Sylvester’s voice reverberates through her mind. She wakes, curled on the ground, in the crook of the tree’s roots. Chirps and whistles, crackles and odd smells she can’t identify fill her ears and nose. She opens her eyes. The light is dim, trees and bushes reach tall into the sky. Is it dusk or dawn? She sits up and clamps her palms against her temples, dizzy. She’s sore and covered in dust and leaves. She leans against the tree trunk and waits for her eyes to focus. She grasps a handful of leaves and they disintegrate, dusting the forest floor.
“Do you?” She thinks the voice is near, almost. His voice sounds real. She climbs to her feet; one hand holds onto the knobby tree. She doesn’t remember any forest near her house, her town. An urbanite to the core, she prefers the stone forest of the city. How’d she get here? She picks leaves out of her short cap of brunette hair and brushes dirt from her slacks. Pink sneakers? She doesn’t like pink. No watch, no ring, no cell phone, no briefcase. She scuffs through the leaves around the tree trunk. Nothing.
“Do you trust me?” His voice again. “I wouldn’t have married you if I didn’t” Her voice croaks and startles the birds into silence. “Now however, I’m not so sure.” She circles the tree once more, huffs out a breath and begins to walk. She racks her brain as she meanders through the maze of greens, browns, and yellows.
“I’ll find you no matter what.” It’s night and her husband is by her side. A pinch, a yank. His hand outstretched. Anger and fear on his face, yet his eyes lie. She finds a trail and follows a sound. Water gurgles and her throat hurts. The trees thin and light brightens the path. She’s hot and thirsty. More gurgles and splashes tease her. She stumbles weary out into the sun and a clearing. A small waterfall drops into a pond, water streams down the hillside. She drops to her knees and drinks, splashes her face. She lays by the pond for a while, then follows it downstream. She navigates trees and bushes, roots and branches.
“I love you. Remember that?” Her last glimpse of his face through the car window. Laughter. Voices echo through the trees. She hides behind a bush, wary. Two men, thick and tall, trudge past with backpacks, talking about football. They aren’t sweating. She waits until they are out of sight, then runs down the trail. She stays inside the tree line, observes a parking lot, cars, a small building. She watches and waits. A familiar blue van pulls in, driven by an unfamiliar blond woman. Three men, including Sylvester, climb out and pull on backpacks. Her husband kisses the woman goodbye and laughs, then walks into the forest. The blonde waits a few minutes, then jumps out of the vehicle and disappears into the building.
“Don't you trust me?” She races across the lot and climbs into the van, plucks the extra key out of the glove compartment. She still doesn’t know where she is. Two cell phones sit in the console. Sylvester’s and probably the blonde’s. She drives until she sees a sign and a rest stop. Two hundred miles to Asheville, North Carolina. She's far, far, far from her stone forest city. She thumbs on her husband’s cell phone, reads through the texts and email messages.
“Honey, you know you can trust me.” His voice runs through her mind. A forgotten conversation spins through and she throws the phone out the window. She heads north and away.