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She could hear them coming, closer, closer. They were right behind her. She could hear the barks and growls of the dogs and the shouts and curses of the men. Hurry, hurry or die.
The scorching July sun beat mercilessly down causing sweat to run into her eyes blinding her. Almost there. Only a twelve foot fence stood between her and the road. Between subjugation and freedom. Between life and death. A 200,000 volt electrified fence. Could she do this? She had to do this.
She’d noticed the gap in the fence on one of her rare excursions into the woods surrounding the house. Or rather a fox had shown it to her. The animal had looked at her suspiciously before dashing off into the trees. Or so she had thought. But to her amazement it had appeared again on the other side of the fence. How had it gotten there without being fried to a crisp? The fox continued to stare at her in an odd way, no longer suspicious but almost encouraging, daring her even, to follow him.
She glanced over her shoulder at the two guards and saw that they were watching her. As nonchalantly as she could she walked towards the fence. The fox immediately took off across the field. She bent down as if to look at the flowers that grew around the perimeter of the fence. She picked one and smelled it but her eyes were on the wire meshing.
At first she couldn’t see how the fox had gotten out, but as her eyes travelled down the fence she saw the earth around it had been disturbed. Something had dug a hole; how they had done it without being electrocuted she didn’t know. It was a small hole, not big enough for a human to get through, not even a slim young girl. But if it were made larger?
Just then one of her guards called, ‘times up.’
She rose reluctantly and they followed her back to the house.
She thought of little else but the hole and the fox, how he had looked tauntingly at her. She prayed for another opportunity to study the hole more closely.
That opportunity did not come for another month. He took up all her time. He wanted her to entertain his business associates. Serve them drinks. Smile at their vulgar jokes. Be nice to them. Be subservient. Be seen but not heard.
Eventually he told her that as she’d been so good and obedient she could have a treat, a walk in the grounds. She fought to hide her elation, but then she had fought to hide her feelings all her life, so it was not too difficult. Of course she’d had to reward him in bed that night.
The next day she had strolled as though aimlessly, while all the time making for the gap in the fence. She once more stooped to pick the flowers and once more sniffed at them.
Her guards had become bored and leaned against a tree smoking and talking crudely about the female servants. She did not waste the opportunity and with her back to them, started to dig, very carefully so as not to touch the fence.
Her hands of course would be filthy but she’d think up some excuse or other; she had become an expert liar in the last twelve years.
She dug until the hole was twice as big, it was then that one of her guards yelled over, ‘hey, whatcha doin’ there?’
She stood up unhurriedly and began to wander as unconcernedly as she could towards them saying, ‘just picking some flowers for my room.’ She held up the flowers she had pulled out of the ground. The man who had yelled said disparagingly, ‘flowers? Fuck flowers. Look at your hands you stupid bitch!’
She looked down as though surprised. ‘Oh, I didn’t notice.’
The man walked threateningly towards her but stopped dead when she said innocently, ‘I thought Dashiel might like them, they smell nice, see.’ She thrust the flowers at him.
He recoiled as though she was pointing a knife at his heart. He looked at her with suspicion and dislike, ‘it’s time to go, get moving.’ And mumbling, ‘fucking flowers,’ followed her out of the woods and across the lawn. Silently she thanked God for making these men so stupid.
It was another two weeks before she had another chance to work on the hole, and another month after that before she could put her plan into effect. Six weeks of trying to hide her excitement and anticipation and fear.
But now that chance was here and when her two guards had stopped to light their cigarettes and were again distracted…this time by the pretty new maid who was washing windows at the front of the house…she seized her chance.
Luck had been with her thus far but now she hesitated. Fear replaced the excitement, despair replaced the hope. She looked at the fence and thought about her life here, if that’s what you could call this existence. She thought about him and the things he did, the things he would do if she were to be caught now.
Stay and be punished. Go and maybe die. Or take that first step to freedom. It was now or never.
Sweat oozing from every pore, heart racing, she took a deep breath, dropped to the ground and crawled on her stomach through the hole she and her friend the fox had made. She was halfway through when terror gripped her. Just one hair of her head had to touch the fence to fry her like a shrimp on a grill.
The yelling and barking was closer now. They were here. It was all the incentive she needed. She pushed aside the fear and doubt, gritted her teeth, grabbed handfuls of grass in her fists and pulled until she was on the other side of the fence.
But now they were close. She could hear dogs baying and men yelling.
Dogs and men all out for blood.
Breathing hard, heart pounding, she ran.