The pre-dawn mist slowly descended onto the weak field, settling on the damp ground and enveloping the young plants in its dense embrace. The sun’s disc barely peeked over the horizon, then the first pink rays illuminated the sky, coloring the mist as it dispersed in various directions. Under the sunlight, mixed an orange beam stripped the white cloud, tinting it from below. Soon, the rays turned purple, then warm orange, and so the dawn began, dispersing the sluggish darkness and cold.
The girl sat on the balcony, observing nature awakened before her eyes. However, deep inside, her own soul was not as bright and colorful. She said in a tall old chair, gazing at the field while her thoughts wandered into the past, where it was impossible to remain indifferent. She had ended a long-term relationship, and now she didn’t know whether she regretted it or not. Love had long faded away, leaving only habit, a sense of ownership from his side, and nothing more. Yet deep in her heart, there still lingered a sense of injustice about her decision.
“Dash, Adelina, why are you sitting here so early?” her grandfather asked, stepping onto the balcony and taking a seat in another chair. He pulled out a thick cigarette, lit it, and leaned back, exhaling the thick, pungent smoke.
Adelina imagined her grandfather’s lungs being enveloped and misted just like that field that had already freed itself from its burden. She didn’t know how to answer her grandfather. She didn’t know how to tell him that he would soon be alone again because living in a remote village was not for her. There was nothing here, and there was no one to turn to in case of need.
“Dash, nightmares, Grandpa,” she confessed, recalling her recent dreams. “You know, my therapist says that when a person gets extremely tired, their mind doesn’t function as it used to. The body, so to speak, slows down, gets tired, and expresses its fatigue through nightmares. I don’t know how to say it correctly,” she hesitated, “but I dreamed that I was tied to a huge oak tree in the forest, and a wolf was circling around me.
It snarled, stuck out its tongue, and bared its teeth. I didn’t seem to be afraid, but my nerves were trembling, and darkness was closing in around me in the forest, and I couldn’t escape. And just when I was in complete horror, a bear appeared in the forest. The wolf was scared and ran away. The bear released me from the shackles and guided me to the edge of the forest where I emerged into the light again. I kept looking back, searching for the bear, but it was gone. That’s such a strange dream, Grandpa.”
“Ain’t nothing strange here, Adelina. That wolf over there, that’s your ex-husband. He keeps circling around you, not letting you live your life. Look, you moved to this remote village, and yet you’re still afraid he might show up any day now. And the bear, that’s your future man, the one who will save you. And the darkness, well, that’s just your own assumptions and fantasies. You do like to exaggerate, don’t you?” her grandfather summed up with a smile.
“Alright, let’s go. We need to have breakfast and tend to the animals,” her grandfather repeated and went downstairs. He cooked porridge and made a couple of sandwiches. They had breakfast on the porch at a small table. Grandpa drank hot water while the girl had coffee. She lamented the lack of a decent store around here, having to go to the neighboring semi-urban settlement for coffee. She had neither the right nor the means to drive, but she loved her coffee. Grandpa glanced at her sideways.
They both stood up and went to tend to the animals, whether it was leading cows to graze on a tether or releasing lambs and geese into the vast green enclosure. The work wasn’t too demanding. Grandpa gave his granddaughter an encouraging pat on the shoulder and headed towards the house. He was tired already; age was definitely catching up with him.
Adelina leaned against the crooked wooden fence and watched as the lively geese spread their wings and flapped them, startling the young goslings. She smiled. On one hand, life in the village was wonderful, but the disconnect from civilization scared her.
“Dash, hey there, who do we have here looking so beautiful?” a familiar voice sounded. “You’re standing there as if you don’t need to greet esteemed guests, or did your grandpa not teach you good manners?” The man stood there, snarling like that same wolf at the oak tree to which she was tied. The girl felt her heart tighten in her chest. She stepped back, scanning the surroundings for any object that could serve as a weapon. She grabbed a sickle hanging on the fence and held it tightly in her hand.
“The man who had arrived raised his hands in a conciliatory gesture and burst into laughter. “Dash, oh Adelina, is that how you greet your husband? You’ve become so stubborn, and I actually like it more. Come on, come back home, and I’ll forgive you for everything. If you return on your own, you’ll have everything you desire, and I’ll forgive the divorce and your lawsuits,” Gustavo said, smiling broadly. But his smile increasingly resembled a snarl.
She looked at her ex-husband and realized more strongly the pit she had fallen into when she started dating him. He had tormented her emotionally to the point where she had literally believed that she was worthless to anyone but him.
“Dash, get out of here before I scream! The men in this village are tough. They’ll pitchfork you in no time. There’s no police here, no one around,” she snapped, preparing to attack. She wouldn’t allow him to approach, wouldn’t allow him to lay a dirty hand on her.
Gustavo kept smiling. He was short, scrawny, and disheveled, just like a lone wolf in a pack that everyone despises and takes it out on those weaker than him. Even now, Gustavo smiled, resembling more and more a mangy hyena making its final attempts to snatch its prey.
“I won’t say it twice, leave, otherwise I’ll scream!” she said firmly.
“Dash, go ahead, scream as much as you want. It won’t do you any good. This old village, what’s here? Three and a half cripples. Believe me, Adelina, it would have been better if you hadn’t offended me back then. It would have been better if you hadn’t fought with me or threatened me with a sickle.
You know I’m a vengeful person. If not with my own hands, I’ll get to you through others. With the snap of my fingers, I can make you crawl back to me on your knees, begging to come back,” the man said, continuing to smirk disgustingly. He took slow steps toward her, and she backed away with each of his steps. She was ready to run if necessary, but could she escape him?
She had been involved with him, and she would suffer from his snarls, his threats, for the rest of her life. Maybe it would have indeed been better to endure everything in the marriage than to live in fear until the end of her days. She looked again at his snarling face, which was just a scarred mask. His light brown eyes appeared yellow in that light. He resembled a beast devoid of human emotions and normal relationships.
She took another step back, treading on the damp ground that hadn’t dried after a series of heavy rains. Adelina lied to herself. She wouldn’t be able to run on such terrain. Sooner or later, her foot would sink into a pit, and she would fall, becoming an easy prey for his fangs. She awkwardly swung the sickle, barely missing him. She would have been glad to sever his head, to no longer witness his contemptuous smirk, his yellow teeth with sharpened natural fangs. But the feeling of helplessness and hopelessness grew stronger within her.
“Dash, hey, step away from the girl!” a voice came from behind her. She was afraid to turn around. If she turned now to face the man coming from behind, Gustavo could attack from the front, and who knows how it would end. She prepared to attack, gripping the sickle tightly in her hand. It was double-edged, and she could rely on its menacing sharpness and the gleam of the metal on the blade.
But then, someone’s large hand rested on her shoulder. It pushed her slightly behind their own back and stood in front. Adelina indeed saw an impressive back, huge shoulders. The whole figure resembled that of a bear, huge, safe for its own kind, and deadly for its enemies. The man continued, “Dash, you want to test me, kid? Get out of here before I tear you to shreds!” His voice sounded commanding, loud, low. It was more like a growl than speech, and that voice gave her a sense of safety.
She was afraid to peek around from behind him, but she could hear her former man retreating, rustling through the tall grass. When the danger had passed, the man turned to the girl and smiled broadly. They introduced themselves, and he remained standing there with her. Adelina looked at the lambs, thinking about her new acquaintance. She was afraid to admit to herself how impressed she was by his protection. She gazed into his dark eyes and felt like she saw her own reflection in them.
The man asked, “So, who was that? My ex-husband? As strange as it may sound, I was trapped in an abusive relationship, unable to escape. He destroyed me mentally and physically, and I didn’t know how to find a way out of that nightmare. We even had bars along the windows of our apartment, but somehow we went to the store, and I made a run for it. Yes, it was so sudden that he was taken aback. I ran to catch a bus and ended up here. It was from here that I got divorced through the court, as he wouldn’t grant me a divorce. But as you can see, even the divorce didn’t help me. He found me, and now I have no chance of staying here as a free and happy person,” Adelina confessed with a sad smile that now seemed particularly sorrowful.
She realized that Gustavo would come back, seek revenge, and try to force her to return if necessary. She felt like crying out of despair, but she knew that tears wouldn’t help her. She continued, “Dash, I like the village, but there’s absolutely nothing here. I can’t even buy coffee. My grandfather lives here. He’s already quite old. If Gustavo hadn’t taken away my apartment, I would have taken my grandpa to the city. He would have liked it there. He’s tired of this farm life. He can barely handle the animals in the mornings.”
He walked her to the gate. She said goodbye to him and entered the courtyard. The girl went to the kitchen to prepare lunch. She quietly turned on the television and started cooking, slicing vegetables and chopping meat. She wasn’t bored; on the contrary, only here, in the quiet of the countryside, did she truly appreciate the pleasure of cooking. It was as if she was transported back to her childhood when she and her mother would cook early in the morning in the village kitchen. No one rushed her, no one told her what to do and how to do it. She simply cooked with enjoyment.
But her mood worsened with each passing minute. She immersed herself in her own thoughts, feeling upset, thinking that even now, he would ruin her life here. Basilio wouldn’t always be by her side. Yes, he didn’t live here either. Adelina knew everyone in this dying little village, and among her acquaintances, there were no young people at all, only elderly ones. Most likely, Basilio came to visit someone from his family, and she just happened to be there.
Adelina caught herself thinking that she no longer trusted anyone. She silently shredded cabbage and thought that very soon, she would have to find a new place to hide. But where was the guarantee that he wouldn’t find her there? If she were honest with herself, Adelina could admit that she had often started thinking about suicide. He would never leave her alone; he would never stop hunting and stalking his prey.
She closed her eyes, sat down, and rested her head on her hands. Adelina began to cry softly, almost inaudibly. She didn’t want to disturb her grandfather, who was sleeping upstairs, unaware of the passions unfolding outside his yard.
“Dash, oh, you’re such a clever girl. The borscht is excellent,” the man said, smiling broadly. He approached the pot and took a deep breath, relishing the enchanting aroma. He smiled even wider, enjoying the scent of freshly cooked borscht and meat.
They sat down at the table and started eating. Adelina took out homemade garlic bread from the oven and placed it in front of her grandfather. The aroma of homemade garlic bread quickly filled the kitchen. The girl smiled, seeing how happy and content her grandfather was. She would give anything to take him out of this godforsaken place. But now, she had to think about completely different things. She needed to find another place to escape to, leave quickly, suddenly, leaving only a letter for her grandfather. But now, she was afraid that this monster would take it out on her grandfather.
The thought made Adelina shudder. She ate occasionally, answering her grandfather’s questions, her mind consumed by thoughts. Adelina understood that she needed to go to bed early. Only sleep would help her regain her strength.
She spent the evening with her grandfather, talking a little about her past but immediately trying to forget it. It was time to go to sleep. She stood on the long iron bridge; it surfaced, creaking with every step. The bridge was completely abandoned. She used to love this place, but ever since Gustavo appeared in the village, she stopped venturing far from home. She realized that even at a distance, he had taken control of her life and didn’t allow her to breathe normally.
The girl sat on the edge of the bridge, swinging her legs above the turbulent river. The cold water seemed invigorating, frothy, and ticklish. She smiled, feeling the phone tickle her skin. Basilio sat next to her, leaning over the railing. They had been strolling, talking, and spending time together for two weeks. Only when she was near him could Adelina feel safe.
“Dash, Adelina, I have to leave. I can’t stay here forever,” he said, looking at her. He glanced back at the raging river, and his face became stern.
“I don’t want to leave you at the mercy of that monster. I haven’t seen him since then, but for some reason, I’m sure he’s still here. Will you come with me to the city?” he repeated his proposal.
“Dash, I can’t, Basilio. I’m sorry. My grandfather will be left here alone. He’s very old. I can’t abandon him,” she replied. Her voice carried a mixture of sadness and determination.
“So do me a favor. Let’s not talk about it anymore. I would love to go with you, but not now. Understand me correctly. I’ve gone through such a nightmare that I’m afraid to trust another person. I don’t want to hurt you. I really enjoy spending time with you, but I can’t just run away and go God knows where. I’m not ready,” she said with a heavy heart.
He hugged her, and she felt relieved. “Okay, let’s do it this way. I’ll go take care of my business, and then I’ll come back for you, and we’ll talk about it again. Just don’t disappear, please. I know there’s no communication here. I won’t be able to call, but I’m asking you to wait a week or two,” he said.
She nodded, smiled, and pressed herself against him. Basilio looked at her with such love that it made her feel awkward. The girl relaxed a little and allowed herself to feel this love, care, and tenderness. She was afraid of the moment when he would leave the confines of the secluded village and leave her alone with her ex-husband. But Basilio was right. He hadn’t been seen for a long time. Maybe Gustavo had given up, maybe he had found another victim, or maybe he was just lying low, waiting for the opportune moment to strike from behind.
She swallowed, barely thinking about her ex-husband. Her stomach tightened, and a lump formed in her throat. They stepped off the bridge and walked along a narrow path, heading towards the village. She could feel her delicate hand sinking into his broad hand. She wished she could say yes to him, to leave through these forests, across this cursed river, and find herself somewhere beyond the horizon, where there was no more fear and torment. But it wasn’t that simple.
She kissed him, and he went to gather his things. In a couple of hours, he wouldn’t be there anymore, and she would once again be reunited with her fear, living with only one wish—for Basilio to return.
A few hours later, she sat at the large kitchen table, recounting the conversation she had with her grandfather a few hours ago.
“Why didn’t you go, silly girl?” her grandfather asked sincerely, not understanding why his young granddaughter didn’t want to follow the one she liked so much. He understood that she stayed because of him, and this understanding made him even more upset.
Suddenly, he said, “Dash, when he arrives, if you feel in your heart that you want to go, then go. Just go. You can always come back. As for me, well, my dear, I have lived a very long and happy life, and I’m not afraid to die in this house. Even if I’m alone, I am a person of faith, and I am never alone. God is always with me. And if it is my fate to fall asleep here and not wake up, then so be it,” he smiled at her and patted her hand.
She listened to him and thanked him. Maybe she should have gone and tried her luck there, beyond the horizon. Maybe everything would have worked out well for her despite the fears she had endured so intensely.
Time passed. Basilio had long since left, and she still awaited his return. The girl was literally daydreaming about the moment when he would finally arrive in the village. But with each passing day, hope became more elusive. Two weeks had passed since Basilio had left.
The girl stood in front of the house her grandfather had built with his own hands, looking at it. Dozens of different memories flashed through her mind, but none of them brought her as much joy as their last morning together. Her grandfather was alive, cheerful, content with life. He was simply happy to be able to go mushroom picking with his granddaughter, to enjoy the tranquility of the forest and the singing of birds.
Adelina understood that now might not be the best moment, but she wanted to repeat her offer. “Come with me,” Basilio said again, approaching from behind and embracing her. He kissed her on the neck and held her close.
She closed her eyes, holding back her tears. On one hand, she wanted to start a new life with Basilio, but on the other hand, she didn’t want to leave this house that would quickly turn to dust without an owner.
“I will do everything to make you happy, Adelina. I have a big house, a property, everything in the city. You won’t have to work. You can take care of the house and yourself, have a garden if you want. I’ll build you a whole greenhouse,” he said, not knowing what else to say to make her agree.
Adelina nodded but didn’t say a word. She packed her things, walked out of the house one last time, holding a few photos of her grandparents who were once so happy together. “I’m sorry, grandfather, for everything,” the girl said, “Forgive me and farewell.”
She wiped away her tears and walked towards the car. The girl got into the black car and closed the door. Her suitcase was in the trunk. She sat there and looked out the window as her grandfather’s house slowly faded away, disappearing behind other abandoned houses.
Adelina looked at Basilio and said, “Thank you for taking me.”
“No, thank you for agreeing to come with me. You won’t believe it, but you appeared in my dream. I fell asleep in such anxiety, and you appeared in my dream, and I knew you were in trouble. I just felt that something bad was happening. I dropped everything and came, even though I was supposed to arrive a week later. I rushed into the forest, just like in my dream, and found you. I still regret leaving you. I should have taken both of you and taken you away,” Basilio said with sadness in his voice.
She understood that he was right, that both of them would be alive and well if they had done so. But the past couldn’t be undone, and everything happened the way it did. She placed her hand on his as a sign of gratitude. She was thankful to him.
Basilio continued, “And as for those scumbags, don’t worry. We caught them all and handed them over to the police. They documented everything truthfully, and now they’ll be locked up for a long time. And your ex-husband, he’ll get a life sentence. They found plenty of evidence against him. You can finally breathe, Adelina. It’s over.”
But Adelina could only breathe a sigh of relief in the courtroom when her ex-husband was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. She stood there, standing side by side with Basilio, and looked into Gustavo’s eyes. He was no longer bold and cunning. There were no more animalistic eyes and snarls. He lacked that agility and the sense of owning the whole world. He was a cornered, defeated man who was even afraid to raise his gaze. He looked at his ex-wife, but then lowered his head and never lifted it again. She watched as he was taken out of the courtroom, and that was it. She would never see him again.
They got married three months after, starting their life together. Basilio was incredibly happy by her side, just as Adelina was with her chosen one. Each of them was emotionally scarred, but they healed each other with care and tenderness. They simply felt good together. Adelina learned to live again without fear and the dreadful uncertainty. She simply looked at life differently, especially now that her ex-husband was behind bars.
“When I first saw you, I was too shy to approach you. Can you imagine?” Basilio confessed bashfully. Such a confession sounded absurd coming from the mouth of a burly man, but he continued, “You’re so beautiful. I couldn’t take my eyes off you. I’m still ashamed of that day. You didn’t even notice me then. We only met the next day when we coincidentally ran into each other near the pen. My legs were shaking so much. I was worried you would reject me. I think I fell in love with you at first sight, just like that. I lost my mind when I saw you.”
She smiled, lying on her husband’s chest, thinking that for the first time in her life, she felt protected, loved, and happy. Throughout her conscious life, she had to defend herself and fight. But now, she could relax and simply enjoy her feelings.
Adelina and Basilio built a beautiful life together in the city. They created a loving home, surrounded by a flourishing garden and a greenhouse filled with vibrant plants. Adelina discovered a passion for gardening, finding solace and joy in nurturing life. Basilio supported her every step of the way, making sure she had everything she needed to thrive.
As the years passed, Adelina found healing in her husband’s arms. The scars of her past slowly faded, replaced by the warmth of love and the peace of a safe haven. Together, they faced life’s challenges, leaning on each other for strength and comfort.
They often visited Adelina’s grandfather’s grave, paying their respects and expressing gratitude for the time they had with him. Adelina would share stories about her beloved grandfather, keeping his memory alive in their hearts.
In their home, laughter echoed through the halls, and the aroma of delicious meals filled the air. They surrounded themselves with friends who shared their values and treated each other with kindness and respect. Adelina realized that she had finally found her true family, one built on love and mutual support.
Over time, Adelina’s fears diminished, replaced by a newfound sense of security. The nightmares that once haunted her nights were replaced by peaceful dreams and restful sleep. With Basilio by her side, she felt invincible.
Life was far from perfect, but Adelina had found her own version of happiness. She had escaped the clutches of an abusive relationship, fought for her freedom, and built a life worth living. Every day, she thanked the universe for guiding her to Basilio and for granting her the strength to overcome her darkest days.
Adelina’s journey taught her the resilience of the human spirit, the power of love, and the importance of believing in oneself. She had come a long way from the scared and tormented girl she once was. Now, she stood tall, empowered, and grateful for the life she had created.
And as Adelina and Basilio held each other tightly, their hearts filled with love, they knew that together, they could face any challenge that came their way. They had triumphed over darkness, and now, they would bask in the light of their love, forever grateful for the chance to start anew.