The world sighed as the morning sun peeked its head around the forest. The trees were stood so close that the ground was not visible. The animals awoke from their somber sleep to welcome the bright warm circle in the sky that they had grown accustomed to. As the rays of the sun splattered itself against the world once again, another creature, as similar as the others awoke. The light stretched itself far enough to put a blanket of light over a young girl who was propped up against the side of a, particularly tall oak tree. Her kinky brown hair was tied tautly into two plaits to frame her face. Her body was surprisingly relaxed and she almost blended into the scenery around her. She fluttered her eyelashes as she began to grasp her consciousness back from her viscous dreams. She reached out to perform some action in her dream but only grasped at the air in reality.
"N-No," she twitched.
Opening and closing her mouth languidly, she rubbed her eyes with the smooth backs of her hands. When she opened her eyes, she sighed and began to inspect the nature surrounding her. She's known this land all her life and she would never want to leave it. This felt right to her, laying with the animals and living without conversation, yet this was not her life. Her life was filled with satin ribbons, delicate pastries, big corridors, and luxury. She liked to come out here, to the Forest of Aphil, to forget. She wanted to forget the way her mother, last night, had barked and yelled at her because she lost her earring. She wanted to forget the things her brother had done to her. And she has.
She remembered the first time she ever went to the forest. It had always been a place her mother had warned her to never go to, and as she got older, she was playfully determined to disobey her. That identical rebellious feeling swelled in her gut again, giving her an odd sense of nostalgia. She remembered venturing into the depths of the forest into the thick trees and feeling the wind splay itself across her face as she shut her eyes and savored her first taste at freedom. She was always used to her mother coddling her and being her safety. But now since her father passed away, her mother seemed to have taken a liking to obsessing over her. It's understandable that she just wants the best for her, but Rae wasn't even allowed to go out of the house without a boatload of background checks on where she was going. She was homeschooled and her only true escape was the forest.
The only thing on her mind now was how peaceful the sound of the soft springtime wind was on her cheeks and how much she loved the way the raw dirt felt through her fingertips as she would make absentminded patterns in the ground. She took solace in knowing that this earth has been here so much longer before she has. She took note in complimenting it on how persistent and strong it is. Her face was at ease and she listened to her heartbeat count. With each beat, it reminded her that she was alive and that she wasn't alone because the earth was holding her hand, the wind was caressing her cheeks, and the sun was snuggling her body. The Forest of Aphil was more than just a forest to her.
She could recognize that voice in an instant.
"If you don't get yourself back in this house in exactly three minutes, young lady, do not think that I will come out there myself and drag you back by your pretty little braids!"
Rae winced and quickly, but reluctantly got up. She trailed her way back through the forest exactly the way she always had. Letting her hand fall behind her to let the rough and unique texture of the tall Pennsylvanian trees: Red Oak, White Oak, Magnolia Burch, Pignut Hickory. She muttered their names under her breath. Her mind relaxed into the memorized pattern and she let her imagination take over. Rae imagined she was a fairy who was living in the forest. She imagined she could fly away from the place where she was at and go anywhere.
She took and leaps and jumps over sticks and rocks and giggled at the way her braids flew behind her. In the distance, there was a protruding root of a tree that stuck out dangerously. Little Rae didn't notice this. Her black clasped shoes caught on the space between the root and the ground, causing her to fall flat on her face.
From her own tear-struck blurry vision, the only color she could see was a warning color red and the faint outline of her recently manicured hands. She didn't know when she had started to cry. Her heart was beating fast in her chest as she used her delicate arms to prop herself up. Without notice, something sharp and cold hit her with extreme force, almost deliberate, square behind her head. Her head collided with the dirt immediately, snuffing out her words; her screams were muted and only caused dirt to get sucked up violently into her petite lungs. A cold foreign hand grasped her leg, pinning her to the ground before she felt an abrupt torturous pain in her abdomen, around her heart. She heard the small rip of her dress and the sloshing noise of the sharp object piercing her smooth skin. She tried to focus herself on the forest to clear her mind; she was looking for any way to make the pain go away, but there wasn't: she was powerless. She pictured herself as the fairy again and imagined herself flying away from the situation and bring herself to safety. She slightly smiled at the thought.
It had been one minute until the hand had released her. Her eyes were taut and her mouth hung open with dirt as she started to lose herself. She was whimpering and shaking her head slightly as if to give her last resistance to life before her hands became still and her breath savagely got twisted and cut short, until it too, stopped.
She was splayed on her front, with one arm reaching out in front of her and the other contorted under herself. Her legs were caught under the root she was stuck under. Her dress had a split down the back with a large gash on it with blood streaming along a flowing path down the sides of her body. Her hair was stained and matted with the red substance of blood. Around her, the world kept on moving, the birds continued to sing and the forest animals continued to go about their day. The only difference was the forest whistling in anticipation and unnerving stillness. The only sound was the Red Oak trees rustlings amongst themselves, whispering mournfully with the secret: who had murdered Rae?