THE BLEEDING TREE
The sun was bleeding. It’s lazy descent over the horizon leaving a wake of crimson to usher in the night. Catherine smiled, leaning her back against the pear tree.
“How did you find this place?” Thomas stopped beside her panting, the climb up the hill taking its toll on the thirty-six-year-old accountant.
Catherine patted the grass. “Sit.”
“Jesus Christ.” Thomas said, “Did we really have to park at the road? We’re the only people around for miles, we could have just drove.”
Catherine shook her head. “It’s an experience Thomas, the journey and all that.” She smiled and pointed to the sky, “Look.”
“Wow, you don’t see that every day. It’s beautiful.” He wrapped his arm around her, pulling her close. “I’m glad you finally talked me into taking some time off. I didn’t realize how stressed I’ve been. Being away from the city has taken a weight off my chest I didn’t know was there.”
“Well, you deserve a break, I know something has been bothering you...”
Thomas grunted, staring at the ground.
“You know you can talk about it.” Catherine met his gaze. “Whatever it is Thomas.”
“I… It’s… nothing. Just stress.”
“Come on,” he said glancing around “did you bring the food? You’ve been talking about this pear tree picnic for weeks and we’re finally here. I’m starving.”
Catherine sighed and stood up. “I didn’t bring the basket,” she shrugged, “silly me.”
“For Christ’s sake woman, I’m not hiking to the car, I’ll have a stroke by the time I get back.”
“We ate this morning at the rest stop, you shouldn’t be that hungry.”
“Now that you mention it,” Thomas rubbed his belly “that burrito isn’t sitting well.”
“So how did you know about this place anyway?” Thomas asked “I can’t imagine anyone would find this spot, even by accident.”
Catherine pointed. “See the farmhouse at the edge of that valley. It’s where I grew up.”
“What?! You didn’t tell me we were going to visit your home. You’ve barely even talked about your past.”
“My mom and dad died when I was a kid. My older sister practically raised me on that farm.”
“Does she still live there?”
“Yeah. She lives by herself, doesn’t get out much. You met her this morning.”
Thomas raised an eyebrow.
“The waitress that served us at the rest stop, you didn’t notice the similarity?” Catherine pointed at her face.
“I… Catherine, what’s going on?” Thomas coughed, grabbing his stomach. “Oh Jesus, I think we’re going to have to cut this romantic non-picnic short.”
“We came up here all the time.” Catherine said. “My sister and I would talk for hours about the life we'd have. She always wanted to see the world, have adventures, and get as far away from our small town as possible. But not me, I was content. All I wanted was to be a mother.” Catherine chuckled and shook her head. “I probably tried a little too hard to meet Mr. Right. In the end it was a broken condom that granted my wish. Romantic huh?”
“A mother what are you- “Thomas grunted in pain, doubling over. “Baby, I don’t know what to make of all this, but I think I need to go to a hospital, I feel-Argh!” He collapsed to the ground.
Catherine’s eyes were cold as she watched Thomas struggle. “My baby boy would have been three years old today. I wanted to bring you here on his birthday to the place he was born, right here under this tree.”
Sweat soaked Thomas’ face.
“The pear tree,” she rubbed her fingers along the trunk, “symbolizing abundance and longevity, feminism and fruitfulness, I know its sappy and weird, but it was amazing, painful, but amazing giving birth to my child here. On the grass, under the sky. The start to a life I’ve always wanted.
Thomas was gasping for breath, “Catherine... please, help, I…”
Catherine knelt, wiping Thomas’ forehead.
“When we went to Chicago it was my first time in a big city. I didn’t even want to go. My Sister booked a fancy hotel for a week, always wanted to visit you know. She said she would drive, all I needed to do was to relax and have a good time, and despite my worries, we did. We were on our way back home when a drunk driver ran a red light and crashed into her car.”
Thomas went still, his eyes going wide. “I…it…”
“Shhh…” Catherine pressed a finger to his lips. “They say time gets funny when you’re in a car accident. Some people go blank and don’t remember anything, some say it happens in a blur. For me, it was a living nightmare. I watched the Windows shatter, I can recall every glint of light that flashed from the shards. I remember the smell of the air bag, and the sound of screeching metal as the impact from your car caved in the back door and crushed my baby boy. Despite the sound, the screams, the pain, I watched as he took his last agonized breath and the blood, forced from his lungs, bubbled to his lips.”
Her hand was trembling, the tears falling unchecked from her cheeks.
“No, I didn’t forget anything. At least I thought I didn’t. After the hospital, the funeral, the family and their endless condolences I was ready to stop… everything. My son wasn’t the only one that died that day.”
“One afternoon I decided to leave, empty my account, and go back to Chicago, for, I don’t know why, maybe to visit the last place I was alive, that my son was alive, and end it. But the craziest thing happened. I was at a gas station on the outskirts of Chicago when a Blue four-door sedan pulled up next to me at the pump, and there it was, what I had forgotten. It turns out I did see the car that crashed into ours, and the face of the person behind the wheel.”
Thomas was gasping for air, clawing at the grass.
“I honestly thought my sister would call the cops when I told her what I had planned, but she was more than happy to poison you when I could finally get you here, to the place my son was born. So I could watch the life drain from your eyes.”
He struggled to move, to breathe. Catherine took a deep breath and leaned against the pear tree. The cool evening breeze sweeping the heat from her neck and inviting her to sit and stay, to remember. She stared at the bleeding sky, the inexorable darkness enveloping what little light remained and smiled sadly for the love she had lost.
Totally unexpected but fantastic revenge story