The wilderness had never felt less like freedom. It had been their escape in the ages before; whenever the concrete world started to crumble, when the bruises had felt more like home than punishment. When there’d been nothing left except a stale acceptance that this is what life was now, this is what they were meant for.
When that look had started to creep into one of their eyes, the other one had unfailingly jumped up, grabbed an arm, and wrenched him away to this speck of tree-lined sanctuary. The pool of dirty water that they’d named a pond; the shrubs that had risen up like forested walls to protect them. And, for a little while, they had breathed the free air and thought maybe they stood a chance of escaping it all.
But today he came out alone. His pressed white shirt felt too starched under the black blazer. The tie constricting his throat, making it impossible to breathe.
And there was nothing in this that felt like freedom. The water was rainwater. The shrubs were shrubs. The magic was gone.