It's very dark today. Winter is starting to creep through the bush. Turning the ground into various shades of white and grey and thickening the air with fog. I keep running, keeping my footing as branches threaten to trip me. But I can't trip. One fall, one tumble, one mistake is all it will take for them to catch me. I can see the flash of the search lights to the east, signalling that my captors won't give up easily. Of course, I already know that.
The black murkiness of night time is quickly setting in, and I know that I'll soon have to stop. I set up a rough campsite, ready to go by the time the first kookaburra of the morning starts to sing. I pull out the soft blanket from my backpack, the only memento of her that I have left. Its colour has dulled, the fabric worn, but the embroidery is still there. The embroidery that Sara worked so hard on. As I lay down on the frigid ground, rocks digging into my body, all the memories come flooding back.
We may have had a simple life, but it was good enough for us. Others may have wanted more but as long as I had my baby girl I was content.
That baby girl was the only thing that kept me alive after Sara's death. On that dark day when my finger held the trigger I looked at Lily, and she reached for me. Her eyes shut, and she muttered a single word.
That one word was what brought me back from my depression. I had to take care of Lily, for Sara's sake. After that day we were never apart. I swore there would be no day care, so I took an office job where I could bring her to work. Lily was the brightest baby; she could bring a smile to my face without even trying.
That’s why the day I lost her was so devastating.
I had lain her down in her cot, just like any other night. Sung her to sleep, and wrapped her tiny body in the blanket made by the mother she would never know. That morning I woke at nine, instantly concerned about why her cries hadn't woken me. When I tiptoed into her darkened room, there was the sight that would haunt me for the rest of my day. A slash in the flyscreen, her cot empty and her teddy on the floor.
"Stop it, don’t think about it!" I command myself, although I know it won't work. The thoughts of Lily never stop, just like how thoughts of her mother would keep me awake throughout the night.
After Lily's abduction I was a zombie, going through my normal routines without even realising. I sold the house, needing to be away from the smiling ghosts that haunted me day and night. Even 500 kilometres away, in a town where no face was familiar, Lily and Sara's memories continued to follow me.
I sank back to the deep dark pit, where I lost every ounce of willpower, where every feeling of happiness in my body was leeched out of me. My finger was on that trigger again, until that brutal accusation was said.
"Damn it!" I swore, as the ominous buzzing of helicopters brought me out of my reverie. Repacking my few belongs I sprang up and headed for denser scrub, trying to camouflage myself from the predator in the sky. One searchlight illuminating my silhouette and I was a goner. Just the thought of the rest of my years being spent rotting in a prison made me weak in the knees. However thinking of the innocent being found guilty for crimes they didn’t commit always made my blood boiled, and today it gave me the energy to keep running.
I was in the drab, dreary police station, my surroundings matching my mood. My thoughts were still centred on the gun sitting in its safe at home. Lily was gone, so what was to stop me. But when the officers marched in, what they said to me gave me the fighting power to claw myself out of that pit.
"Sir, we are sorry to inform you that you are under arrest for the murder of Lily McLean."
I found it amazing how that on sentence could change my life forever. I couldn’t comprehend what they were suggesting. I had once respected those police officers, but as soon as they accused me of murdering my own daughter I hated them nearly as much as the vile person who had truly taken Lily.
"You can't be serious," I managed to stutter "I didn’t kill Lily, I loved her!"
They watched me babble on, trying to prove my innocence, with disbelieving and disgusted eyes. Once I realised they fully believed I was guilty, I made myself a promise. I wouldn’t surrender myself, I wouldn’t stop fighting. After all, if they put me away they'd never find Lily and that was an option I couldn’t bear.