“I’ll send a postcard,” the Vanisher said. “After that, you have ten hours. If you don’t walk when I show up, your window is gone.”
My heart was racing as the thought of escape finally seemed within reach.
“Deal.” I immediately handed him the eighteen thousand dollars I had been hiding.
After five tense weeks of waiting, a postcard from Pike’s Peak showed up in our mailbox. “Your great-aunt Nina is traveling again,” Levi said with disdain as he flung the postcard towards me like a Frisbee.
T-minus ten hours
My mind was hard to calm. I wondered what kind of magic would be used to get me out of here. Boiling cauldrons with dwarf root, a box of frogs, and a lucky rabbit’s foot? No matter. I didn’t care. I unconsciously touched my cheek bone to feel that the swelling had gone down. The bruise wouldn’t be far behind. But it didn’t matter. I had a future.
When Levi finally passed out from painkillers and gin, I gathered the few things I could carry with me for my escape. In the kitchen junk drawer, between the silly straws and the Elmer’s glue, was a pocket knife. I jammed it into my front jean pocket and raced up the stairs. I threw a few clothes into a tattered laundry basket. Knowing time was running short, I hustled as fast as I dared without making too much noise. My hand was on the ornate glass doorknob to our house when I realized there was one last cathartic thing I’d forgotten to do.
I put the laundry basket on the travertine of the foyer and headed for his study. There was Levi’s beautiful antique hurdy-gurdy. I raised the beautiful inlaid wood instrument above my head and brought it down as hard as I could on the mahogany floor. It was instantaneously reduced to thousands of splinters. The noise should have alerted him. It didn’t.
I grabbed the basket and sprinted down the driveway.
The Vanisher was there, just as he’d promised.
“Your necklace,” he said when I entered the van.
“What?” I replied as I brought my hand up to my throat.
“You’re gonna have to give me your necklace.”
“Oh. Right, right.” I unclasped the honeybee necklace made of jet and gold that Levi expected me to wear at all times. I’d grown so used to it that I had forgotten it was there. The simple task of removing the delicate thing made it feel as if a pallet of bricks had been removed from my shoulders. I gave the Vanisher the trinket and looked back out the window one last time. A single silver birch leaf that hadn’t given in to winter’s grasp finally let go. Every tree from our yard was finally bare.
The metaphor was unsettling.