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The Bride, a short story from The Forest Around The Hill

She was a girl of eighteen with ash brown hair and flint eyes filled with the burgeoning hope of a young soul on the precipice of adulthood. Her life had been terribly average since her birth. She was raised an only child by loving parents, Henry and Gillian, who were both equally unremarkable.

Henry met his wife at a state university, and after three years of dating he proposed. With a degree in hand he went on to be data analyst for a successful soda beverage company. Gillian was two years younger than Henry and worked as an accountant for an obscure subsidiary tech firm. She also had a degree. Both made good money, enough to make them upper middle class. They lived in a two story house in a good school district and drove moderately expensive luxury cars. Not great, but good. More importantly secure and safe.

Their daughter, Roxanne- or Roxy as she was more accustomed to being called- had dreamt of being a veterinarian since she was nine and was set to attend a college to make her dream manifest after high school. Her parents never showed any objections to her choice. They nurtured her hopes and dreams by pushing her education and supporting extracurricular activities like soccer. Roxy and her family were model Americans, the ideal of success.

Roxy woke up to the succulent aroma of bacon and eggs while curled up in her cozy fat comforter. It was June, a month since she graduated high school. In the fall she'd start college. The future was on the horizon and life was perfect. Of course you and I both know that in a story like this, happiness like this is not meant to last.

She slid out of bed and stretched, her toes curling like talons into the carpet. After cracking her neck and shaking off the last motes of sleep she doffed her shirt and underwear and stepped into the shower. The hot water brought her completely into the world. She always thought of it as a sort of baptism, washing away the missteps of the day before and welcoming in the new. Refreshed and ready she dried off and went down the hallway to the kitchen.

Henry had already set his daughter a plate and was serving Gillian her breakfast, a bagel with cream cheese and some apple slices. She heedlessly thanked him and continued reading the news on her phone.

“Hey mom,” Roxy said, kissing her mother's head then taking a seat.

“Morning sweetpea.”

“Whatcha got going on today?” her father asked.

Roxy took a bite out of the bacon.

“I'm gonna meet up with Christina at the Blue Leaf.”

“How's she doing?” her mother asked, her eyes still locked onto the phone.

“We haven't seen each other since we graduated. She's been busy with work.

She has an off day today so we wanted to get some coffee and catch up.”

“What time are you coming home?” asked her father.

“'Round six. I wanted to go for a run later, before it gets dark.”

They carried on with simple talk until their plates were clean. One by one they left to go about their regular schedule until Roxy was alone. Her plate was a collage of bits of egg, crumbs of toast, and the greasy residue of bacon. She rinsed it then set it into the dishwasher as she had done since she was ten. It was a thoughtless routine. Her life was filled with these routines, a series of predictable actions rarely interrupted by the randomness of the world.

When she was done she took up her keys and went to the front door. The wood of the porch creaked and groaned with each step. The sky was populated with billowing pearlescent mountains and the air carried the acrid scent of the nearby highway. She could hear the distant hum of commuting cars echo through the thicket of oaks that webbed through her neighborhood. It was the familiar song of Roxy's everyday.

She got into her car oblivious to the hungry predacious eyes that watched from the shadows. Not a single pair, but many, all of them familiar and part of her life since she was a child. They had been there without her knowing like every other common routine, waiting for today.

Roxy spent the morning with her best friend, Christina, at the Blue Leaf Cafe, sipping lattes and swapping weeks worth of gossip. When that was done she went shopping for fall semester outfits to wear and appliances for her dorm. The hours passed by quickly. It was summer so the sun wouldn't set until much later around nine. She went home at six, as planned, donning her athletic attire, shorts and a tank, then went for a run.

Her mind scried her future as she ran. She imagined her dorm with all its decorations and appliances. What would her roommate be like? Would they get along? She hoped so. Thoughts pushed forward to after college to a career as a veterinarian. It was a thrilling but terrifying prospect, the future, a fantastic opiate of hope only the young can indulge in. She smiled with each vision conjured.

The neighborhood wasn't a normally bustling place, but there was also a sense of life. There was usually a few cars on the road, people coming home from the workday. It wasn't until Roxy turned back towards the house that she noticed the stillness around her. She pulled out her headphones and listened. Silence. The usual drone of the highway, the chittering of the cicadas, everything, life, had been muted. Yet rather than view it as some dire portent she relished in this moment of serenity. For the rest of the run she did so without music, listening only to the patter of her feet upon the asphalt.

At home Roxy climbed the steps of her porch, went inside, and collapsed into the comfortable embrace of her couch. She didn't care that she was sweaty. Soon, after watching some tv, she was whisked away by sleep. Her dreams were a fantastic kaleidoscope of good things and good memories, some true and others imagined. She dreamed of college life and her career. She dreamed of her husband, striking