I ran, hopped down the hall away from the men pursuing me. I couldn’t afford the time to look back.
“Please God help them stumble.”
I double timed it up the back stairs to my room on the fifth floor. I pulled the key that my husband always held onto out of my pocket and opened my door. I closed it quietly, locking both bolts. I slid the secret panel away knowing it would be tight but I could fit. I grabbed a large bottle of water and closed the panel behind me. I slowed my breathing and was grateful for the thick walls around me.
I didn’t know how many days I was curled up in that secret closet. Fortunately, I had packages of biscuits and almonds. I ate at night so I sounded like a mouse scratching about in the walls. Though I didn’t know if old hotel walls had mice. Twice I heard someone come in my room. It sounded like everything was overturned the first time. The second time sounded like everything was put back in its place. I hoped it was the housekeeper. The last time I heard a voice say:.
“It’s safe if you are hiding.” It’s Sveti.
I waited til she went out then climbed out and quickly stuck my head out the door. She was right outside.
“Oh I am so glad.” She hugged me.
The woman down the stairs told me you helped then men came for you.
“Have you seen…?”
“Only that day. Mean faces. Russian with money.” She made a face.
“What should I do?” I wanted to weep at my predicament but I was safer than most people in Ukraine in 2022.
“Not stay here. Go anywhere.”
“I think I know where. But my husband, I lost him.”
“But a careful note.” I said in a whisper.
My dear Svetlana brought me food for several days. I gave her as much money as I could spare for her kindness.
“Go when dark.” We go together.
“Yes, I’ll be ready.”
I spent the next several hours washing up and changing into clean but shabby clothes. Everything I needed to keep secret was put back in the closet. I took money and the cell phone. My note was cryptic.
“I am fine as of ____. The boy with the metal in his arm might use my help.”
I signed my name with my fancy initials. I then drew a heart on the mirror in lipstick. I hoped he would know I had been there.
Svetlana brought an old coat to put over my wool coat. She also gave me a worn- out hat. She knew I was going to Olga’s church but when we got close to her street she waved goodbye to me. She would watch for trouble as I continued to walk into the night.
“We have to find a way through the portal.” My husband was exasperated.
“Maybe today,” Vlad said with expectation.
“We will hope.”.
Vlad and my husband were at the clock at 1 minute before 9am.
They tried not to run but they were anxious. As they got to the carpet design, it changed.
Vlad and my husband made it.
My husband tried to remain calm but the hotel was a mess. There was much debris but minimal damage as far as he could tell.
He ran to room 502 and knocked on the door. No answer.
He got a key from the front desk and when he went back. I wasn’t there.
“How many days.” he mouthed to Vlad?
Vlad held up eight fingers.
He grabbed his head trying to think what could have happened to me. He kneeled on the floor.
Thanks for visiting Penned in Moondust by Moondustwriter. This month for the A to Z challenge I pulled out an archived story from 2007, dusted it off and reworked the year of entry 2022. This was originally written in Odessa, Ukraine. I hope you see the bravery and courage that I hope to convey in each episode.
Links to the story in order
This is a month of ready excellent blogs via the A to Z challenge!