My left hand tightly clutched my mother's shirt tail. Reaching slowly, shaking, I gently bent back the pine bristles from the branch of the enormous evergreen with my other hand. I peeked through the darkness and squinted to focus.
"I lost my shoe, Mom."
She glanced down hurriedly and acknowledged what would normally be a bigger issue. Her eyes quickly returned to the street. We stood in the deep, wet mud in the neighbor's yard across from our house, hiding- hoping that the familiar sound of my step-father's car wouldn't rumble up and expose our hideout with the headlights.
"What happened Mom?" I whispered.
"We're going to Grandma's. It's okay. Everything is..." She abruptly stopped as headlights poured around the corner. "Hold still."
Chuck screamed into our driveway, just about 60 yards from where we were huddling. His car door slammed and he strode into the house. I understood then that he expected that we would be inside, and that he was VERY angry. When he found that we weren't there, he was going to be enraged.
As quickly as he came, he disappeared into the night. Probably searching. He never found us and I never saw him again.
That pine tree must've saved us.