She was half the length of my little finger. A grown woman not much bigger than a bullet. My job was to keep her safe. A man’s mission, no doubt. So I ducked into this room whose ceiling was a planked, hardwood floor painted army-fatigue green. Everything had been turned on its head.

Behind one of the planks in the corner was a hidey-hole. I stuffed the woman into my mouth, scaled the wall, and crawled inside. I could hear them in other parts of the house, rustling. My heart thumped hard in my chest. I tried to quiet it, but one of them, a girl, found the sound of my beating heart beneath the floorboards of the ceiling and followed it.

I guess you could say my heart gave me away.

When the girl broke through to where I was hiding, we tumbled down. We fought.

The girl’s skin was dark. I grabbed a pillow and mashed it over her face. The stark white of the pillow against her skin was beautiful, like walking the backwoods of Pennsylvania in a blizzard and no one in sight for miles and miles.

She fought like hell.

I’d never smothered anyone before. Surprised me how long it took, how much effort, too. I sweated. Killing that girl was the hardest thing I’d ever had to do.

When I woke up, I reached for you, but you were gone.