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Last night was rough. I expected us to be better. Smarter. Stronger. Instead we chose hate over love, exclusion over inclusion, bullying over cooperation.

I am glad that my daughter is too young to understand elections or politics. I don’t know if I am equal to the task of explaining this to her. 

***

I was going to write more about the election, and what I think it means for the country, but there are a lot of other people doing that today. (Kameron Hurley, Chuck Wendig, Amanda Palmer, to name a few).

Instead I’m writing.  I’m writing the novel I started five years ago. I’m writing about my kick ass female protagonist, the one who decides to take two children she’s just met across the country, on foot, before her ex-husband, President-for-Life of the Union, finds and kills all three.

Here’s the first bit. I hope it helps.

***

She sits silently on the front porch, one dog at her feet and one pacing against the rail, waiting for the rain. On the horizon, dark clouds gather like a flock of ravens. The wind blows screaming through the empty fields beyond the house, forcing down the heads of the trees at the edge of the clearing. A jagged flash of lightening, too far away for the crack of thunder to be audible, illuminates the roiling mass of clouds.

The dog at her feet raises his head and gives a low, urgent bark. “Hush, Roger.” Bronwyn reaches down to rub the ugly head. “Hush now.” The dog by the railing, perhaps sensing something she cannot, flicks his ears back and pads over to stand by her chair.

The storm is closer now, the flickers of lightning appearing more often, the growl of thunder rolling against her skin. She rocks back and forth in the old chair, eyes glued to a break in the woods on the edge of the horizon. The rain begins to fall, hot, stinging drops that hiss onto the grass. Bronwyn looks one last time toward the gap in the tree line – invisible now, in the driving rain – and goes into the house.

It has been three days.

The railroad is late.

She’s not frightened, not yet. Hunter plays it safe, moving only at night, keeping off the roads and away from the towns. Even so, there’s a hard knot deep in the pit of her stomach that refuses to be swallowed down. The storms have been fierce this season, the sweeps frequent, and Hunter’s gotten lucky one too many times already. She thinks of his strong, dark hands, the way his mouth crooks upward unevenly when he grins.

The rain boils down furiously against the metal shingles of the roof. Bronwyn moves to stand by the window, where she can watch the sheets of rain stream onto the lawn. The grass is flattened by the assault, already turning brown. The storm must have started over coal country, she thinks, to have picked up this much sulfur. Here, on the outskirts of everything, the rain mostly falls clean. Mostly.
Thunder sounds, so close that the vibrations knock over Bronwyn’s pictures. She keeps them on the end table by the window, tucked out of the sight of curious visitors, although it’s rare anyone comes to the house.

The thunder sounds again, this time rattling the panes of glass in the windows. The storm is right on top of her. She doesn’t think of Hunter, doesn’t let herself hope that he has found shelter for himself and the passengers. Doesn’t try to imagine him fumbling open a poncho and continuing on, rain dripping down his broad shoulders and across his face.

She walks across the room to the window, dogs trailing behind her. The pictures have been knocked into a jumbled heap. Her parents’ wedding portrait is half underneath the obligatory college graduation snapshot, and both have landed atop the photo of a three year old Bronwyn grinning on a tricycle. The pictures are flat, of course, taken in a time when the world was a different place and Bronwyn was a different person. She has no snapshots from the last thirteen years, and certainly nothing she wants to pay to convert.

One by one she separates out the frames and lays the photographs face up on the table. The storm is starting to pass, but Bronwyn sees no reason to take the risk. Her entire life, all of it that’s worth remembering, is in these photographs.

She saves the one with the fancy silver frame until the end. It was a present from Carter’s mother, back when that sort of thing still impressed Bronwyn. A handsome man with brown, close-cropped hair gazes out from the frame, eyes looking straight at Bronwyn. The photo was taken outdoors, with the crisp blue autumn sky above the man and the graceful columns of his grandmother’s house in the background. Bronwyn herself hovers just out of the frame. The photographer had been there for him, not for Bronwyn.

If she were to take off the back of the frame, she would find another picture behind Carter. One of a young girl with coltish limbs and a smile that went on forever. If Liri had lived, she would be a young woman now, just finishing her senior year of college. It’s not a picture Bronwyn looks at very often. She pauses for a moment, rubbing the back of the frame in the same spot she always rubs it, where the velvet is all but worn through, then places it face down and apart from the others.

These pictures are all she has left of the time she thinks of as before. Before Carter got himself elected. Before Liri was born. Before the Iranians nuked DC and the country fell apart. Sometimes she thinks she’s stuck in a nightmare, that she’ll wake up and this will all unravel. She doesn’t need to pinch herself to know she’s not dreaming, though. No nightmare could ever be this bad.