30 Days- 4. Day One: Yosemite Valley

The smell of bacon, waffles and fresh coffee floated through the air. It drifted under my blankets and danced around under my nose. Rolling over with a moan, I reached out beside me. My hands grasped around on the empty bed.

Exhaling slowly, I rolled over and poked my head out from under the blankets. My eyes watched the digital numbers on my clock as they slowly changed. I turned it off when the numbers read 4:00am long before the  alarm was scheduled to sound. Throwing my feet to the floor, I got up and slowly walked down the hall. My fingers ran through the mess of my curly pixie cut as I trudged over to the kitchen.

Ruby looked over her shoulder at me with a glowing smile. She was wearing a pair of my jeans and a plaid button down, her red hair pulled back in a messy bun on top of her head, shoes already on. “Amazing, you’re up.” Walking over, she put a plate on the table and smiled at me before bringing over a mug of coffee.

Turning, I looked at the two backpacks by the front door of my apartment. “What’s all that?”

“We’ll talk while we eat to save time.” Sitting across from me, she poured syrup all over her waffles and bacon before sipping her coffee. Reaching into her back pocket, she pulled something out and put it on the table between us.

Picking up the envelope, I pulled out the tickets inside. “Fresno, California.” I looked at the tickets for a few moments. “Why are we going to Fresno?”

“We’re not. We’re just passing through. We are going to Yosemite Valley.”

“Yosemite Valley.” I remembered the scenic place from the screen saver I had for five months.

“We leave for the airport in less than an hour.” Shoveling a couple of pieces of bacon into her mouth, she looked at me. Her face was light, like yesterday hadn’t happened. “I am assuming you don’t mind missing work, since you were planning on being dead today.”

Pursing my lips, I shook my head. “Nope.”

“Amazing. So eat up, you can squeeze in a shower before we head out.”

We ate in silence, although every time I looked over at her, she had a comforting smile on her face. Getting up, I put my plate in the dishwasher and walked past her out of the kitchen. “Ruby, why are we going to Yosemite Valley?”

“Sometimes when you are surrounded by darkness, the only thing to do is search out some light.”

—–

Standing with my toes in the water, I looked up at the beautiful mountains that seemed to surround us. It was like a dream, or a painting the way the water reflected the trees and mountains. I breathed in the fresh air; letting it fill me up completely as I closed my eyes and let my head fall slowly back.

Ruby took my hand in her own, linking her fingers through mine as she stood beside me.

We didn’t say anything; we just stood there in silence.

I was no fool; I knew what Ruby was trying to do. She was trying to give me a reason to live. I was not defiant; I was not so set on ending my life that I wouldn’t let any happiness in. I would take all the happiness I could get.

I would follow Ruby around the world if that were what she wanted. As much as she wanted me to live, I still wanted a little bit of her to rub off on me. I wanted to find the light she kept going on about.

I lived my life drowning in a darkness that overwhelmed me, it sunk deep down into my skin, and filling me with a pain I couldn’t describe but felt with every breath I took. All these years, I wanted someone to reach down, to pull me out of the darkness and into the world. Maybe this was when it would happen.

As much as I needed to die, I also wanted to find a reason to live.

That was why I gave her 30 days. That was why I was here, in Yosemite Valley.


“You know, there are two types of people. There are the kind of people who are surrounded by darkness, walking through tar their whole life. And there are those who are flooded with light, rainbows paving their way. Sometimes both can seem overwhelming. What you need is to find your opposite, balance yourself out to make it all seem bearable.”

Looking out at the beautiful world around me, I felt the darkness ebb slightly away. Suddenly I felt light surround the darkness around me, trying to fight its way in. It was slight, but it was there. Strong and forceful.


There were years of darkness to get through, I wasn’t confident it would work. The company made it worth the journey of trying to figure it all out.

Smiling at her, I nodded. “So, Yosemite Valley.”

“Yosemite Valley. Can’t you feel the light here?”

Nodding, I tightened my grip on her hand. “Yes. I actually can.”

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A Lioness

Sucking in a breath, she noted the way the air felt cooler across her left ribs where Aleksandr’s blade had sunk in. The copper taste of blood filled her mouth as she looked at him through her one good eye. She barely noticed the swollen throb of the other as she looked at him.

Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one.

Sighing in relief, she braced herself. Blood trickled down the middle finger of her right hand. She could feel the heat of the crimson river as it flowed from the gaping gash on her upper arm.

Knowing she had to bide her time, she had allowed herself to be sloppy. Aleksandr craved the triumph, and if she put up too much of a fight early on she was afraid he would step back, allow the other orphans to step in and they would disperse, others going to search the rest of the grounds.

Running her tongue along her upper gums, she resisted the urge to wince as blood seeped into her tongue.

Aleksandr thought he was a cheetah, fast and efficient. His moved were quick and calculated, He had hunted her for a long time and his mouth was salivating now that she was within reach.

She was a lioness. Her muscular build made her more capable of taking him down, her paws were massive, the size of his head and her heart was determined.

It was time she show Aleksandr just how capable she was.

In the back of her mind, she could hear the car starting, feel Hunter shifting in the driver’s seat and hesitating. No matter what she had told him, he would wait for her. He would wait until she was dead and in the ground and they came for him.

All the more reason she had to get to that car and fast.

Closing the space, she quickly swung her foot up and through the air. It connected hard with Aleksandr’s jaw, sending him back as he lost his footing and his consciousness for a moment. She used the moment to grab the knife from his sheath. Throwing it through the air, she heard it sink into Twee’s shoulder. He stumbled, dropping to his knees in shock.

Running out of the room, she hopped up on a desk and scurried through the window.

If she were competing here, Aleksandr would tell her retreating was a loss. She had never cared much for his opinion, or for winning. She had merely tried to survive, anything else was trivial.

Biting the inside of her cheek, she tried not to call out in pain when she fell to the floor she her chest hit the ground. Her ribs vibrated with pain, her body shaking as it threatened to give up on her. Pushing herself up, she forced her legs to steady as she zipped quickly through the trees.

She kept her pace even, trying to keep her visibility to a minimum as she weaved through the trees and around buildings.

They didn’t know where the car was, there was still a chance to get there and leave unnoticed.

A shot sounded. It seemed so loud it was deafening and then it quieted everything around it. Her breath fogged before her as she sucked in air, the animals panicking to get away before they stilled, hiding.

Quickly moving to hide behind a tree, she waited.

A bunch of orphans ran out to stand beside the main building, a twenty or so yards from the tree she hid behind.

Aleksandr came out of the building, shoving a few of them aside as he looked around. “A gun?” His voice was heavy with disbelief. “Which one of you pathetic excuses for a human being dare bring a gun into Refuge?”

Everyone stepped back, their eyes intent on the one who had been so foolish as to think Aleksandr would ever accept such a cowardly weapon be used here of all places.

Clearing her throat, a pale girl with dirty blonde hair stepped forward, the gun still in her hand. “Sir,” She practically whimpered, realizing her punishment would be harsh. “You said to stop her by any means.”

His hand whipped across her face. “Have I taught you nothing?”

“I just thought-”

“No, I don’t think you thought at all.” Pulling a knife from his belt, it was already sunk in the flesh between her eyes before she could gasp in shock. Her knees buckled, her mouth gaping open before she crumpled to the floor. “Are there any others with such ridiculous thoughts?”

Silence fell across the group.

“Wonderful. Bring her to me. Now!”

Waiting until they dispersed to look, she made her way to the car.

Pulling open the door, she was in the passenger’s seat before Hunter could react. “Jesus,” He looked at her. “Are you alright? I didn’t think you were coming.”

“Go!” She demanded.

She didn’t have to tell him twice. Turning the key, he quickly pulled away, following her directions as she barked them at her.

“No lights,” She told him as he tried to make his way through the early dawn. “Left here, quickly. They will have noticed us by now.”

Lifting her hands from her abdomen, she looked down at the thick redness that slicked her hand. Letting out a breath, she kept her eyes ahead and hoped they made it to the small airport before she completely bled out.