I’m less than a mile away from The Lodge before I consider how stupid I’m being. When I’d set off, my only thought was to get as far away from Sam as I could. The Lodge, five miles outside of town surrounded by trees and near the lake, has always been the place I run to, my safe space. After walking in to find Sam, bare-ass naked, between my roommate’s legs, my only thought was to run. So that’s what I did.
I slow my pace as The Lodge comes into view. My legs are killing me, my eyes are stinging from unshed tears and my heart is still racing. And, of course, that’s when I remember.
The Lodge doesn’t belong to me, anymore. Mom had sold it just a few months ago, after Dad died, and bought herself a condo in the “nicer” part of town. She said it was because we were all grown now, and she couldn’t bear to go to The Lodge without Dad. Too many memories that made her sad, she claimed.
I shrug the memories of the arguments we’d had over it to one side and finish the walk to the front door. I no longer have a key, but I’m sure no one has been here, and the spare will be right where dad left it.
I head over to the small rockery to the left of the decked porch and crouch down. I count four stones, then tip the fifth one up and there it is! Scooping the key up, I hurry back to the door, insert the key, and push the door open.
A wave of grief washes over me as I enter. Everything was just as it had been left the last time we’d been here with Dad. I stand still and breath in, letting my eyes close for a moment, then I hear it.
The shower is running.
I don’t even think about it. I’m running up the stairs and toward my parent’s bedroom before I know it, my heart in my throat. For one wild moment, I think my dad is here. That the last few months have been a terrible nightmare. I fly through the door, eyes seeking out the one person I’m desperate to see again … and my jaw drops open.
Coming out of the en-suite bathroom is a man. The tattoos are the first thing I notice. They cover both arms down to his hands and the right side of his torso – swirling lines and patterns, glorious shades of red, purple, gold and black. The artist in me wants a closer look and I take a step forward, a hand rising to touch them.
“Fuck!” The guttural snarl snaps me out of my daze and my eyes jerk upwards to meet blazing green ones. “How did you get in?” he demands.
It’s then I realise he’s naked. My hands clamp over my mouth and spin round, facing away from him.
“I’m sorry,” I croak. “I didn’t know anyone was here.”
I can hear him moving around behind me, and I resist the urge to glance over my shoulder. I just hope that he’s putting some clothes on.
“You can turn around now.”
I turn slowly and find him standing in the centre of the room, arms folded across his chest. He’s pulled on a pair of black jeans that hang low on his hips. My eyes dip down. His feet are still bare.
“My parents used to own this place,” I offer into the silence. “I didn’t think anyone would be here.”
He nods, but says nothing, seemingly content to let me talk.
“If I could just get a glass of water –”
“I didn’t hear a car,” he cuts in over me. “Did you walk here?”
I laugh, more a half-sob really. “More like ran.”
“Ran?” he repeats, one eyebrow arching up. “From the town?”
It’s my turn to nod as his eyes travel over me. I can see that he’s taking everything in – the blouse and slacks I wear for work, the flat shoes that are not for walking in the woods, the lack of bag or coat.
“I feel like there’s a story there,” he says, unfolding his arms and waving a hand toward the door. “Let’s have that drink and then I’ll drive you back to town.”
I start to agree, then stop. “Could you . . I mean … If you wouldn’t mind, putting a t-shirt on?”
Read Part Three