A Vigil for Justice: Episode Eight

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A Vigil for Justice, is a serial thriller fiction novel. Updates of 1,000-1,500 words will be posted every Friday.

Recap: Sixteen-year-old Melanie Craig and her family live in the small Colorado mountain town of Blue River. Since the end of World War Three, the economy in the United States has dropped out making funding law enforcement impossible and increasing crime rates in all but the smallest towns. The government passes a Law allowing anyone over 16 to kill three other people during their life. Vigilante justice doesn’t seem like the right solution to Melanie, but she has no choice other than to learn how to protect herself and her family.

Melanie winced as Mitchel pulled her into his arms. Jake did not take it easy on her at the boxing gym yesterday. He had used gloves, but her ribs were still sore.

“Move,” Jake had said to her as he bounced around the mat jabbing and crossing at her. She had tried, but his hands moved lightning fast. His fist had caught her on the right cheek, the shock of it made her lose focus on what was happening, and she stood there in a haze and caught two uppercuts to the ribs.

“Now you know what it’s like to get hit,” he had said pulling off his gloves and reaching down to help her up. She had wanted to vomit, but he was right, now she knew.

Mitchel brushed her hair back around her ear. “Tough day at the gym?”

Melanie pressed her lips together and smiled. Mitchel had been complaining that ever since the Justice Law had passed, they had not spent time together just for no other reason than to be together. He pulled her hand up to his mouth and pressed his lips against her knuckles.

“You should be more careful.”

“It was my first real lesson and Jake didn’t take it easy.”

“Did you want him to?”

“Well no, but I thought he might at least not hit so hard.” She touched her right cheek.

Mitchel laughed. Melanie took a step back from him and frowned, creases forming between her eyebrows. He wrapped his arm around her shoulders, and guided her toward the trail along the river. The emerald green of the leaves reminded her it was the season of new life, her favorite time of year. The smell of the decaying leaves from last year filled her nostrils along with the fresh scent of the running water as it tumbled over the rocks. Ice and snow capped the mountains sparkling like crystals in the distance.

Mitchel wanted to forget about the Justice Law for one afternoon, but Melanie could hardly get it out of her head. Everything she and her friends were doing recently was in preparation for it coming into effect. They had less than three weeks to be ready for whatever it was going to bring.

“So Holly’s in Tae Kwon Do?” he asked.

Melanie nodded. “I tried to get her to come to the boxing gym with me, but she wouldn’t. It will take her forever to learn anything useful in a class like that.”

“It’s better than nothing.” He took her hand in his as they balanced on rocks to cross a marshy section of the trail. The run off was in full swing and icy rivulets leaked over the lip of the river in a few places. The leaves rustled in the wind that still held a touch of winter within its tresses.

Melanie shrugged. “Maybe.”

“Are you still planning on going to the University of Denver after graduation?” she asked, glancing up into his hazel eyes. Their green was more prominent today, as if the spring had felt the need to spread new life even there.

“What else can I plan to do? I refuse to believe that this law will be the end of all our dreams and plans.” He helped her up onto a fallen tree. She always walked along it when they hiked this trail. He walked along side of the log as she held her arms out to balance while traversing the narrow aspen trunk. It still held the elasticity of life.

“I still want to take you away from here, get my degree in Veterinary medicine, and build a life for us. Maybe even a family.”

He reached up with both hands under her arms. She slid down his body coming to rest against his chest. She stayed there feeling the rise and fall of his breathing and the hushed sound of his heart.

“I want that too.”

Mitchel dropped her off at home just as the sun’s final rays were fading into the deep blues of the night. She kissed him goodbye, and slide her backpack off the seat of his truck.

Her mom sat in a navy blue rocking recliner reading a book. The lamp beside her made her glow. She smiled and turned the page of her book, To Kill a Mockingbird. The house was filled with aroma of her mother’s chamomile tea.

“How was your hike?”

Melanie’s smile stretched across her face, her teeth exposed. “It was good.” She loved Mitchel and wanted to spend her whole life with him. Her mom always cautioned her to not move too fast and to wait to get married until she was finished with college. But what if she never finished college, what if they never had the chance to do anything they had planned?

The smile melted off Melanie’s face.

“What is it Mel?” Jennifer asked setting her book on the almond coffee table beside her tea mug.

Melanie shook her head, her eyes filling with tears. Jennifer stood and moved to her daughter. She wrapped her in her arms.

“I can’t lose him, mom. I just can’t. This law, this stupid law.” Tears slid down Melanie’s cheeks. They stood there together with her wrapped in the cocoon of her mother’s arms for long minutes before Melanie took a step back wiped her face and said good night.

When Melanie was alone in her room, she removed her compact 9 mm from her backpack. She and Holly picked it up after school. She pulled the metal box from beneath her bed and put the gun and a loaded magazine in the lockbox. Pushing it back under, she let out a held breath and stood. Twenty more days before she had to carry that with her wherever she went, and she wasn’t going to do it any earlier. She put the ammunition in the top of her closet and she got into bed.

Melanie awoke to a sliver of blinding yellow light darting across her face. Samantha’s small form blotted it out as she passed through the door.

Sam crouched down almost nose to nose with Melanie. “Mel?”

“Yeah Sammy?”

“Can I sleep with you?”

“Turn out the hall light and you can.”

Sam shuffled back to the doorway and then back to the side of the bed.

Melanie wiggled to the edge of the bed and opened the blanket for her sister to slip into its warmth. “Bad dream?”

“There was lots of blood, mom wasn’t waking up. You were crying.”

Melanie ran her fingertips along her sisters back trying to comfort her. “I won’t let that happen, Sammy. We are all going to be fine.”

“Promise?”

“I promise.”

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