I ran as fast as I could without looking back as I tried to get to the highway two blocks away.
Each of my steps, I took with all the strength I could get from my thin body, which had lost the muscles it once had. The drops of water that splashed high with my treads accompanied me on my journey, revealing the effort my legs made to keep from slipping.
The breath as it left my mouth returned to me by the movement I made as I moved forward, warming my lips and cheeks. It was heavy and loud, for I was agitated. Not tired because of how much I had run, but because of all that I had experienced in so few hours and what I would live from now on.
I was nervous, my heart pounding.
So short was the distance to travel that from where I stood, I could see the lights of the cars on the highway, but my destination felt so far away. It was as if I were heading for the infinite horizon marked on the edge that joins the land with the sky.
Worries overwhelmed me. Regrets held my calves. Memories clouded my eyes.
Lost in my thoughts, I forgot where I was and what I was doing. Not caring about the road beneath my feet, time ceased to exist for me.
How did it come to this? Why must I run away, leaving behind my family, friends, and possessions?
This is not fair. I didn’t want to get them involved so nothing would happen to them. I tried hard. I did it so much that I even quit training to get a full-time job so I could pay them the money they demanded from me.
I lied. I lied to my mom, to my friends, to my brother, and to myself. I denied my reality by declaring that everything was fine, that this was just a minor mishap that would eventually resolve.
I wished I could trust them even if I didn’t quite do it.
When he brought his father to me, I feared for my future. However, I was somewhat relieved by his words after he told me that the debt would not be impossible for me to pay off and that I only needed to reimburse the cost of the hospital where his son had been hospitalized.
How much was the amount he asked me at the beginning? I don’t remember because as time went by, he, without losing his smile, told me that his son was still relapsing from the pain of his injuries and that, despite not wanting to do so, the debt had to increase.
He always appeared to be mature, trustworthy, and friendly, but from his mouth came words like hissing snakes that slowly bound my life.
I worked hard for months, a year, and then two, but the debt was never paid back. In addition, due to the poor condition my body was in because of the long sleepless nights, my mother became suspicious, for I had become pale, thin, full of dark circles under my eyes, always exhausted and without spirit.
Every day she, from outside the bathroom door, would ask me about my day-to-day life and give me advice while I was getting ready in front of the mirror to go to work.
She knew me very well, that’s why she asked me to tell her about what was happening to me, that together we would solve it, that I should not worry if it was for a woman since she would accept her, no matter if a child was involved, that with the money she had saved, she would support the three of us.
As I heard her, the reflection before me opened and closed its mouth, trying to scream for her help. I was tired, very exhausted physically and mentally because it hurt me to see that all the money I had earned with so much effort was disappearing in a heartbeat. It seemed that what I was doing was worthless.
Still, the worst thing was that my work did not allow me to fulfill the promise I made to myself when I was younger, which was to help my mother as soon as I started working.
I wanted to talk to her. However, before I did, I bit down hard on my lips until they bled to hold me back. After all, I loved her so much that it was impossible for me to put any more burden on her frail, elderly shoulders.
Foolish and pathetic, that’s all I was. A coward who, even if it was with regret and guilt, should have told her the truth so that together the three of us would move out immediately since, despite trying to protect her from it, danger lurked in the shadows.
A hidden sickle threatened to fall on our necks at any moment. One I didn’t notice until the rope that held it was cut.
Today, it started like any other day. While I was in front of the mirror, getting ready to leave, countless drops of water began to fall on the roof of the house.
It was unexpected, for even though the TV in the living room was on the morning news channel, its anchors did not mention anything until thunderous thunderbolts were heard from the cloudy skies.
Without warning, a thunderstorm arrived, and along with it, the sound of a horn blared in front of our house.
Because I had to take care of bringing my dog inside, who was resting in the rain in the backyard, I didn’t have time to check on the visitors who arrived at that inopportune moment. So, my mom took care of it while my brother was bathing.
After keeping the dog inside my room so it wouldn’t bite the visitors, I went to the living room to see what had happened, but before I got there, I heard words and laughter that made me tremble to my core.
It was not because of what they had said but because of the tone, the voice of those who spoke. I knew them. Of course, I did, for I heard them even in my nightmares, and therefore I never wanted my mother or brother to know them.
Those were the voices of two men, an adult and a young man, father and son.
I feared. In the name of the heavens, I could swear that in that instant, I was afraid as I had never been before. Not even when I had a gun pointed at my head did I fear as much as I did then. Thus, after stopping to tremble, I found it hard to take the next step toward the source of the voices, but hearing her laugh, I could not stay still.
Forcing a smile on my face, I moved forward.
The next few minutes that went by felt so surreal, like an illusion, we all chatted cordially, but under the tablecloth laid on the table, my hands were dripping with beads of sweat.
The man, in his fifties, introduced himself as my boss from work, as someone who always took care of me and cared about me, and also introduced his son as my best friend.
I don’t know if my mom believed him or just accepted what he was saying because her womanly instincts were warning her to do so. Be that as it may, the two of them talked with laughter for a long time until, from one moment to the next, he told her that he needed to take me for a little task.
That was when the warmth she offered him was broken since upon hearing that I would have to leave she flatly refused, giving a thousand excuses such as saying that I would get sick, that I had not yet had breakfast, or that the storm could get worse.
However, her words fell on deaf ears, for from then on, he began to ignore her, addressing only me as an individual and awaiting my response.
As for me, of course, I agreed to go with him. In fact, I was happy to do so since I wanted to get them away from my family the most. So, together with her son, the three of us headed for the exit until my mother, who had left the place when she saw that she could not reason with the man, came back to approach us menacingly with one of the kitchen knives in her hands.
Her motherly love far outweighed her kindness, and with hysterical screams, she threatened them to stay away from me.
Although with gestures and a voice full of concern, I told her to calm down, she paid no attention to me. Fortunately, despite the tense situation, the man still kept smiling, exuding maturity. However, his son lacked his father’s gifts, so without saying a word, he pulled out the gun he was hiding and pointed it at my mother.
Seeing him, I didn’t hesitate. I didn’t even think before I moved towards him planning to snatch the gun from him or at least divert his hand to another side. But before I did, someone beat me to it.
Lightning struck him from the sky, perhaps attracted by the iron between his hands.
Because of how close I was to him, my eyes were blinded, my ears were deafened after hearing a woman’s high-pitched scream, and although I was not hit directly, part of the current reached me, stunning me on the spot.
Lying on the ground, I was left not knowing who I was and where I was. But as time passed, my senses and memories returned. Then, as I stood up, I witnessed a hellish scenario.
The man had moved his son back into the house so that he could then lay him down on the living room table. At the same time, with one of his hands, he pointed his gun at my mother and brother who, after coming out of the bathroom, was greeted with a shot to the shoulder.
The smile that he always maintained had disappeared completely, and all that remained on his face was an expression of fury.