Fiction, History, Lidi, Original Story, romance, Story, Unwritten Hope

The Fourteen Laws of Bristershine Part 3

The Symbol of the Bright Star Shine

Bright and early came the day of my secret undercover mission. Thunder rumbled and lightning flashed, rain hammering the windows like angry villagers. I groaned, falling back against my covers.

“Miss Abigail!” Dorothy pulled my blankets off again. “The day grows old! Get your lazy behind out of bed this instant.”

“What, might I inquire, is the time this lovely morning?”

“Four thirty-two, Abigail. Be thankful I let you sleep in an extra two minutes. Now show your gratitude and help your old Dorothy with the breakfasts!”

“Actually, Dorothy, Mrs. Verlesk has given Abigail a bye today,” said Mindy bitterly. “She may go back to sleep until the Mistress tells her otherwise.

“Really?” I mumbled. “Splendid.”

Thunder cracked, scaring me so as to propel me out of bed. I landed on the floor with a thud. Everyone laughed at me.

So I ended up getting dressed anyway. Mindy didn’t give me one thing to do, so I helped Dorothy after all.

“Master Gregory is a peculiar one, don’t you think?” Dorothy kneaded the bread and I fried eggs.

“Sure. He’s not like most people of his status. He’s actually…nice. Not snobby at all.”

“I think he likes you, Abigail.”

I choked. “Dorothy, that is absurd! He is courting!”

Dorothy looked confused. “No, he isn’t, dear. I inquired. Yesterday, in fact.”

I stared at her. “He’s not courting anyone? But I’m a maid, Dorothy. He can’t like me.”

She frowned. “Dear me, child, have you not been listening to a word I’ve been saying? Master Gregory is not like them!”

“He insists that I call him Carson,” I said quietly.

Dorothy tapped my arm. “There you go, Abigail.”

“Well, so what? It can’t last for long, and anyway, I’m waiting for Paul to return.”

Dorothy smiled gently. “You just do whatever your heart tells you, Abigail, and trust that the Lord will lead you the rest of the way.”

We worked in silenced the rest of the morning, and then I was summoned by Mrs. Verlesk to the empty parlour.

“I’m about to take off, Abigail.” She put something in her purse and slung in onto her shoulder. “You know what you are to do, I trust? And if he leaves in the carriage, you must ride after him on one of the horses. Remember, Abigail, he must not know that you are tailing him. this is very, very important.” She gripped my chin in her hands, tipping my face up to hers. “He worries me, Abigail.”

For the first time, I noticed that her eyes were the exact same hazel colour as mine, with one large blue speck in the same place. She released me.

“But, Mistress, I have not been on a horse in my life!”

She turned around. “Oh, don’t be silly. I know you rode with Paul Johnson last summer, and you did quite alright, indeed.” She shot me a knowing look and then disappeared.

I sank into the cushioned chair by the fireplace. So she knew about that. I laughed. Good old Mrs. Verlesk.

“Oh, and Abigail—” the door opened again and she poked her head in. “Abigail! You are supposed to be finding my husband, not sitting around! Don’t think that this free day is actually free!” She folded her arms across her chest.

“No, of course not, Mrs. Verlesk! Right away, ma’am. Please forgive me, Mistress!” I jumped up and curtsied, holding my position until she spoke again.

“Very well, but don’t forget your purpose, Abigail. I am counting on you.” The statement was more of a threat than a reminder. “You may rise.”

My legs screamed in protest, and I almost fell.

It took no time at all to find Mr. Verlesk. He was in his study; I was just in time to see him shut the door.

I ran and got my mending basket, sitting in the spare dining hall with a full view of that door. I got through exactly one stitch before it opened again.

He walked out, saw me with my head bent over a purple dress, and didn’t say anything. I grabbed a dusting rag from under a shelf, and followed him to the door, stopping to dust random things along the way. I hid in the unused closet as he pulled on his hat and raincoat. The doorman held his umbrella for him as he stepped into the rain.

I growled under my breath. Please come back, I begged silently. I ran to the window, and watched in horror as he got into the waiting carriage.

“No!” I cried. But as the driver flicked the reins, it was evident that I was going to have to follow.

On horseback.

In the pounding rain.

I passed Lucy as I sprinted to the servant’s quarters. “Whoa, Abigail! Where’s the fire?”

“No fires in this weather, Lucy,” I called over my shoulder as I streaked by. “But I have to go!”

I yanked my jacket on and grabbed my umbrella. I had no time to lace up my boots. I would have to ride in my shoes. Gritting my teeth, I raced back out again, and didn’t stop running until I reached the stable.

“Remember me, Vesuvius?” I asked breathlessly as I opened the stall door. It was all coming back to me now, the passive instruction Paul had given me. We had been riding many times together after that first day. I put the bit in, not bothering with the saddle since we had always rode bareback. I led him to the mounting block and got on.

But I wasn’t wearing a riding skirt. My dress rode awkwardly up my thighs, exposing my legs to the horrid rain. I had no idea how to steer the beast, let alone do it with an umbrella, so I was forced to leave it behind. I could hardly see two feet in front of me.

Fretting, I picked up the reins. Paul said that squeezing with your legs was the way to go, but how hard? experimentally, I applied a little bit of pressure. Suddenly I remembered that Paul had always clicked at the horse, and that seemed to work for him.

“Come on, Vesuvius!” I clicked my tongue against my cheek. he snorted, shaking his head and spraying me with more rain. not that it made much of a difference. “I don’t have time for this!” I exclaimed. I kicked him in the side.

The next thing I knew, I was facedown in the mud.

I don’t know how long I laid there, soaking in the summer rain. I heard Vesuvius galloping away, and then it was just me and the storm.

“Abigail!” came a cry from very far away. I spit the dirt from my teeth and tried to stand, but I couldn’t feel my legs. I opened my mud caked eyes, and found I could see better, here on the ground. Mr. Verlesk’s carriage was nowhere in sight; I had failed.

Strong hands gripped me under my arms, pulling me upwards. All at once, the feeling in my legs came back—and I instantly wished it hadn’t.

“Whoa, steady there!” said my rescuer as I sagged back toward the ground. I was swept up into his arms, and his arm under my leg was like a knife-edged rock digging into my muscles.

But now I could clearly see his face. “Master Gregory?” I shouted over the storm.

“Carson!” he shouted back without his smile. Hunched over me, he walked quickly to the house.

“What happened, Abigail?” he asked when we stood in the doorway, dripping on the carpet.

I shook too hard to answer. Despite myself, I pressed my cheek against his warm shoulder. The pain in my legs travelled to my throat and threatened to explode into a scream. I wished he would put me down.

“Helen!” I heard him call.

“Oh, dear! What happened? Come, take her to her room! Agatha! Mary! Come help, there’s been an accident!”

I was laid gently on my warm feather bed, and Carson protested as he was shooed away. I was stripped of my soaked clothes, and then laid in a bath so hot it made me scream.

“There, there,” soothed Lucy, as four pairs of hands held me still. “It’s not really hot, you’re just cold as an icebox.”

“We must splint her legs!”

“Good Lord, look at how they’re flopping!”

I screamed again, in horror this time. stupidly, I continued to thrash in the water that was still not comfortable. I was shuddering violently, each convulsion stabbing straight to my legs.

“Somebody call the doctor!”

“There’s no need, Dorothy, she’ll be fine. We just need to calm her down. she’s making it worse!”

“Abigail, sweetie, you have to be still,” said Lucy frantically. Her words went through me without sticking anywhere; I continued to thrash and scream.

Suddenly, there was a sharp pain on the side of my head, and I knew no more.

I groaned, turning over in my bed. The motion brought stabbing pains to precisely every part of my body, and I sagged on the mattress.

“Abigail? Are you awake?”

I didn’t know who was talking to me, but I couldn’t answer. The only thing I could do was go back to sleep.

“Abigail, honey, wake up,” said the same soft voice.

“Why?” I mumbled. I didn’t hurt so much anymore, but sleep was still the better alternative. “Go away.”

“Someone’s here to see you, Abigail. He brought you something.”

He? I smiled, taking a wild guess at who it was. I had had the most pleasant dreams…

“Abby?”

I was mildly surprised. This wasn’t the voice of my blue-eyed prince. “Nell?” I whispered.

“Yes, it’s me. Are you okay? Mindy says she hit you really hard!”

I frowned. Why would Mindy hit me? I knew she didn’t like me, or anyone, really, but she had never so much as raised a hand to even stray dogs.

“Nell, you know why I did it,” said Mindy, and I was startled all over again. Her voice was the same one that had called me out of the darkness. “How are you feeling, Miss Charlotte?”

“Better,” I sighed, which didn’t say much. Saying to someone stranded in a canyon that they were doing well after climbing six feet was more sensible.

Fiction, History, Lidi, Original Story, romance, Story, Unwritten Hope

The Fourteen Laws of Bristershine Part 1

The Big To-do

All the china teacups were as white as pure Irish cream, the gold bands around the rims polished to a shine. They were perched on delicate white plates embossed with patterns of flowers and fruits, and guarding them on each side were silver sword-like knives. The crisp silk napkins had been folded perfectly, almost blending in with the white expanse of the snowy table cloth. Each chair had been positioned just so, with the utmost care. On the silver plate in the centre of the table rested a pound of butter that was all sharp angles. The perfume of tea roses floated in the air. It did not quite block the scent of scones Lily was baking in the kitchen. As we were not required to wear shoes in the summer when no guests were present, I let the silky grass caress my bare feet when I walked around the lawn. It was hard to think that anybody would find the table setting less than perfect. Satisfied, I spun on my heel and started toward the manner to get the hot water pots. The guests would be arriving soon.

“And where, Miss Charlotte, do you think you are going?” said a knife-on-plate voice. I stumbled to a halt, looking back. Mindy Little glared at me from behind my expertly set table, hands on her slender hips. I gulped.

“I’m just going to get the water!” I called to her, not coming any closer. I indicated the floating sundial on the sea fish pond. “Noon draws near.”

She threw up her hands. “That isn’t your job, Abigail. You were instructed to set the table. Lily will send the water with Joy!”

Mindy had dove grey eyes that could harden into steel at will, and corn silk hair that made her look angelic. But she was rarely kind to anyone, especially me, and it didn’t take much to ignite her rage. This trait left much to be desired of her since she was in charge of us all.

“Does the table not meet your expectations?” I asked.

“If I were a barbarian, why, yes it would,” she snapped. “But look at these teacups! What did you polish them with, an oil rag? And my, this table cloth appears as though you chucked it on without a care!”

She closed the distance between us to stand centimetres from my nose. We were the exact same height, and were often required to share clothes, which bated her to no end.

“Abigail,” she said slowly, as though I were daft. “This is Master and Missus Verlesk’s thirtieth anniversary tea. Everything must be perfect—”

But Mindy, for once, didn’t get to finish her tirade. Mrs. Verlesk came into view, with her bratty daughter Sasha whining at her side for one thing or another. I knew not how the girl could speak in such a manner to deaf ears, for it was perfectly obvious her mother had ceased listening the moment her daughter had opened her mouth.

“Abigail!” Mrs. Verlesk exclaimed now. “Did you set this table?”

“Yes, she did!” started Mindy accusatorially. “Isn’t it—”

“Marvellous!” Mrs. Verlesk, cut in, putting a hand to her heart. “Simply marvellous!”

Lips twitching, I stepped out from behind Mindy and curtsied as deeply as I could. Such curtsies were normally reserved for the Queen, but I tried to make a habit of living in the moment. “Thank you, Mrs. Verlesk.”

Mindy stood gaping in a dreadfully unladylike manner. She dropped like a rock when she realized Mrs. Verlesk was staring at her, awaiting an accompanying curtsy.

When the party of two went out of sight, I skipped off to get the water.

The Verlesk Manor sat on the top of a large hill, and the tea was to be held in the back garden. I happily ran up the hill, floating on Mrs. Verlesk’s praise. Ah, but what a lovely day it was. it was not too hot or cool, and the breeze was just enough to rustle the tearoses below. If I stood on the tips of my toes to see over the looming pines, I could see a bright carriage advancing from the foothills. But, being a servant, there was rarely any time to admire such things, so I pushed open the back door.

In the kitchen, the other servants had the oddest expressions on their faces. Twisted, like masks. I regarded them in a way that openly questioned their sanities before reaching for the kettle on the stove.

“We heard what happened outside,” said a small, shy voice that was on the verge of laughter. It was little Nell, who rarely ever spoke but was sweet as a thimble. “Miss Mindy looks like there’s a bee’s nest in her bonnet.”

The entire kitchen erupted with the suppressed laughter. The maids attempted to mimic Mindy’s shocked expressions, which brought on new waves of guffaws.

“Great job, Miss Charlotte,” said the chef’s assistant Jaebok, who couldn’t see the bright side of a candle. “I’m sure Ms. Mindy will be in good spirits now. Maybe I’ll be serving all your heads on a platter for the next tea.”

“No, Jaebok. It is not your head I will be requesting,” said Mindy, stepping from behind the door that we all thought was closed. She glared at me as she said this. I tensed, held in her fiery gaze like a matchstick. Everyone was frozen in various stages of what ever tasks I had interrupted. “But that is not why I have come,” she continued.

A silent groan permeated the kitchen. Mindy had her about-to-give-a-lecture voice on. I sat down on a little bench beside Nell while the water pot grew cold in my hands. This was going to be a long one.

Thanks to Mindy, Lily had to hastily re-boil the water, and though we were not late, we did miss the beginning of Mr. Verlesk’s speech. We servants were required to stay out of sight unless our presence is requested, but some of Mr. Verlesk’s speeches took hours and we were never needed then. Mrs. Verlesk encouraged us to watch from behind the garden hedge if we wanted. Poor Lily had to stay in the hot kitchen, and Mindy would never be troubled with our affairs. Nell, Jaebok, I and some other maids huddled behind the hedge, speaking to one another in hushed tones about the guests we could barely make out behind the branches.

“My, Master Luke is looking especially arrogant today,” Helen commented with a whispered laugh. “I wonder whose soul he had for breakfast this morning.”

“I reckon it was that of poor Carla,” Jane suggested, pointing out the sulking girl. “I wonder why she hangs on him so. Does she not know he will never look at her as more than his next fix?”

“I think not, but I beg of you, let us not speak of him,” said Jaebok. “Little pitchers have big ears, you know.”

Dorothy snorted. “What pitchers? These roses? My, you do fret nonsense.”

“Indeed,” said Gretchen, “but the boy does have a point. We, as the servants of this household, must watch what we say in the presence of…well, no one in particular, really.” She laughed heartily.

“Shhhh!”

We were still, eying the party on the green. Mr. Verlesk droned on, the guests merely pretending to be listening. “And now,” he was saying, “I would like to demonstrate to you our accumulated wealth by presenting to you the maids of this house!”

We leapt to our feet. “What is this?” exclaimed Lucy. “When has Master Verlesk ever requested our presence at one of his speeches?” We hiked our skirts and hustled out of the hedge.

Mindy gripped my arm. “Abigail, he doesn’t mean you. You may be a maid, but you are not on the staff. Go back behind that bush.” She shoved me.

I sat back limply in the grass, watching my friends and Mindy parade in front of the guests. My chest tightened with longing.

In the direction of the peach tree orchard, footsteps thudded on the thirsty earth, loudening at an alarming rate. With a gasp, I hurried in the other direction. I looked once over my shoulder to find a shadow drifting in the peach trees, which was a big mistake. When I turned around again, I was too late to stop myself from running smack into the tall stranger in my path.

“Master!” I exclaimed, wide eyed. “Forgive me! I was not watching where I was going—”

“Well, that’s quite alright,” he said. His soft, kind tone of voice made me look up at him in surprise. He was young, perhaps seventeen, with curling golden hair and soft blue eyes. He smiled gently at my look of shock. “It doesn’t seem to be your fault; may I ask who you are running from?”

“Um—I—I’m not sure, really. I was hiding, and someone was coming, and I didn’t want to get in trouble—” I stopped. I was speaking as though he would care. “But anyway, I really must be on my way. and again, I apologize, Mr…”

“Gregory. Carson Gregory.” He smiled again. “But you may call me Carson. I am only seventeen, in truth, and the title of ‘Mr.’ or ‘Master’ gives me the impression that I am absurdly aged.”

I nodded, curtsied, and started back toward the hedge. The mysterious figure was gone. “But wait!” said Mr. Gregory. “What is your name, maiden?”

I curtsied again. true, I was not in traditional maid’s attire, as Mrs. Verlesk insisted we be dressed as regular people. I thought about lying to him, but that had only caused problems for me in the past. “I am a maid, not a maiden, Mr. Gregory, and my name is Abigail Charlotte.”

He bowed gallantly. “It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

The way his eyes shone when he said this, I wondered if it really was a pleasure meeting a red-headed maid’s apprentice who had almost knocked him over. Maybe it was the friendliness in his eyes or his kind manner, but I found myself asking him what he was doing out here, anyway.

“My uncle’s speeches bore me to death,” he whispered. “I had to get away, and these gardens are certainly lovely. I suppose I must be getting back soon. It sounds as though he has finished.”

To my horror, I could make out the sound of faint applause beyond the trees. “Oh, no!” Without another word, I was off again.

I grabbed a teapot off the cart and stood with the other maids, ready to offer more when the teacups ran low. My heavy breathing attracted curious looks from the servants, but no one uttered a word. I scanned the cups.

My eyes came to rest on Master Gregory, who was seated beside an attractive young woman, talking animatedly. She laughed merrily and placed her hand over his. For a moment they just stared into each others eyes, and I felt an inexplicable sense of disappointed.

“Abigail!” hissed Mindy. “I think that man over there would like some more tea.” She said this with a jovial smile, but the malice lacing her words was unmistakable.

Walking as gracefully as I could, I poured tea for many more people, who seemed to have all run out at precisely the same time. All except Master Gregory’s, at least. He and his companion hadn’t touched theirs. I kept my eyes down when I passed him.

At the head of the table, the Verlesks were engaged in conversation with Sasha and Luke, which was odd. Luke was usually flirting with some hapless girl or piteous Carla, and Sasha usually just picked sullenly at her food. Naughty maid that I was, I drifted closer on the pretence of offering more tea. I had grown accustomed to being invisible.

“Tea?” I inquired of a gentleman sitting near them, all the while listening to the conversation.

“Please, do!” Sasha was exclaiming, clapping her hands in delight.

“Yes, I agree.” Luke nodded as though in thought, but I knew he was most likely just checking to make sure his gloves were still impeccably spotless. “You and father need a break. And I hear the ocean is particularly blue this time of year.”

“We’ll take care of everything,” Sasha put in. “Or you could call Grandma to come watch us.”

“But, Luke,” protested Mrs. Verlesk. “You are barely nineteen, and Sasha’s only twelve. How can we leave you alone for a whole month?”

“Now, Wanda,” laughed Mr. Verlesk. “What do you think we hired the nannies for? The children will be fine.”

“I’ll have some tea, Abigail.” Mrs. Verlesk motioned me over absently. Disappointed, I poured tea for all four of them and left.

“I think our master and mistress are planning on leaving somewhere,” I announced in the servants quarters that night. “Somewhere near the ocean.”

“Indeed,” said Lucy in surprise. “Have you not heard? Master got offered a job near Bristershine, but Mrs. Verlesk insists that the place is a madman’s town.”

“So Master is trying to convince her to take a trip there to prove what it is really like.” Helen giggled. “But I have been there, as a nanny once. It is simply marvellous! I would like to see the look on the Mistress’s face when she sees the beauty of it.”

“So what you’re saying,” I cut in. “Is that they are most likely going to move? But what will become of us?”

There was silence. “I suppose we will be left unemployed. I don’t think they intend to keep us if they can get some new servants in Bristershine. Mrs. Verlesk likes to keep the help local,” Lily said after a pause. She shrugged, but her shoulders sagged. “Oh, well.”

“Now, Lily,” said wise old Dorothy. “You cannot be sure of that. you are a wonderful cook. They always keep the good ones.”

“No, they don’t.” Lily seemed sad. “They have moved to at least five different towns, and they only employ ‘the good ones’ in the first place, and all of you came here when I did.”

I sat on the edge of my bed, with its nice feather blankets and pillows like wheat bags of cottony snow. Before working for the Verlesks, I had worked for a kindly old lady named Bernice Featherstone. When she died, they turned up almost right away to take some of her servants, but I was the only one who did not yet have a new master. Bernice’s recommendations had attracted employers like fleas. But I had only been here for a year, and already I was going to have to leave? I had only worked for two houses so far, and they had both been extremely pleasant, but I feared I would not be so lucky next time.

Sasha stormed into the room then, startling us all. We hastily stood up and curtsied.

“Abigail! Come help me undress for the night!” she ordered, pointing a bony finger at me. I jerked imperceptibly. I followed behind her at a cautious clip.

“Has Wendy taken ill?” I asked once I had closed the door to her vast room.

“No!” she whined, the sound grating on my ears. “I don’t like Wendy anymore.”

“Oh. I see.” Sasha often decided she didn’t like people for no apparent reason. I doubted Wendy took any offence.

I loosened Sasha’s stays and took the blue ribbons out of her hair. She didn’t say a word as I slipped her lace nightgown over her head.

“Is that satisfactory?” I asked her when I was done.

She nodded. “Yes, quite. You may take an hour for yourself outdoors, Abigail. It is a splendid night to be out, don’t you think?”

I smiled at her. “Yes, Miss Sasha. Thank you.” She nodded at me with a small smile. I curtsied, and made my smooth way out of her room. When I was in the silent hall, I clicked my heels together and sprinted out the back door.

I ran to the creek, cloaked spookily in darkness. The night birds chirped happily, and the water bubbled blackly like an uncertain joke. “Good evening, pretty creek,” I said with a bow. I kicked off my shoes and dipped my feet in the cool water.  My skin prickled.

I longed to jump in waist deep, but I didn’t want to get my dress all wet and drip in the house for Helen to clean up. Along with her random inspirations of dislike, Sasha enjoyed giving out random byes. I didn’t want to stir up any petty jealousies.

Despite the garden noises, it was oddly silent here. A feeling of peace drifted down on me like a warm blanket. I breathed in the smell of soil and blossoms and herbs, and warm summer air. When the sounds of humanity were taken away, you were left with nothing but this. It was just the way I liked it.

An hour wasn’t much, but it was something. I stretched out along the bank, staring at the stars. They were hard for me to see, but I thought I could make out the Pole Star over the treetops. Bliss, is what it was.

“Hello there.”

I sat bolt upright. “Mr. Gregory?” I stammered incredulously.

“Yes, it is I.” He stepped into sight. “How do you do, Miss Charlotte?”

“Um.” I struggled to my feet. “Quite well, thank you. May I assist you with anything? I mean something?”

He shook his head. I couldn’t see his face very well. “No, I was just wandering. Are you hiding again?”

I blushed. “No, Master Carson. I was given an hour of time to myself. I came to enjoy the peace.”

“I see. So, am I disturbing your peace?”

I kicked myself mentally. “No! I mean, of course not. But may I ask you something?”

“Certainly.” He took a seat on a felled tree that served perfectly as a bench. I thought of pointing out that his suit would be soiled.

“Why did you not leave like the other guests? It is quite late to be visiting.” He was so unlike other young men he regressed me through years of training.

“Mr. Verlesk is my uncle,” he told me. “I may stay for as long as I like.”

I blushed deeper. “Yes, of course. Forgive my boldness. I must be on my way.”

“Wait, Miss Charlotte!”

I paused. “Yes, Mr. gregory?”

“Must you really be leaving? I really could use some company.”

I scrunched my eyebrows. “As you wish, Master Gregory.”

“Carson. Won’t you have a seat, Miss Charlotte? How long have you been out here, may I ask?”

I awkwardly perched on a different tree bench with his lady friend in mind, the rough bark pinching my skin with wizened claws. “Just fifteen minutes, I think.” I didn’t volunteer more information than I felt I had to. I still wasn’t sure what he wanted with me.

“I see. So how long have you been working for my uncle and aunt?”

“Almost a year. It was about this time last summer that a friend of mine showed me this place.”

“it is quite lovely.” He gazed at the water. “Have you ever been canoeing?”

I blanched. Why would I want to do that? “No, I haven’t. Have you?”

“Yes, many times. It is quite enchanting, especially in the spring. Where I come from, there are blossoms all year long on most of the trees, and the waters are always pristine and clear.”

“That sounds pleasant,” I said sceptically.

He laughed, and it ricocheted back to us from a thousand different places. “You don’t believe me. I must take you some time.”

Was he forgetting that I was a maid? “Sure?”

He laughed again, further deepening my sense of utter confusion.

“Do you hear that?” I said suddenly, standing up. “I think it is Master Luke! I’m sorry, I really must be going! Thank you for the visit!”

And I took off, in the opposite direction of the manor.

It was a while before I realized I was going the wrong way. I took a roundabout way, making sure to stay clear of the creek. I gave it such a wide berth that it took me the rest of my hour to get back.

The memory was still clear in my mind, of my first day on the job. Paul had found me after my first falling out with Mindy, crying in the broom cupboard.

“Hello, you’re the new maid, right?” he said when he saw me there.

I quickly wiped my tears. “Yes. Do forgive me. how do you do?”

He kneeled in front of me. “I’m fine, Abigail. I’m assuming you met Mindiache?”

Her name, of course, made me giggle. “No wonder she’s such a miserable—”

He held up a hand, green eyes twinkling. “Now, now, Miss Charlotte.”

I grinned. He helped me out of that broom cupboard, and as it was our break for afternoon tea, we walked arm-in-arm to the stable together, never ceasing our meaningless chitchat.

“Want to go for a little ride?” he asked me when we stood outside the stall of Mr. Verlesk’s horse Vesuvius.

“I’ve never been on a horse before,” I said nervously.

“Are you scared?”

“Yes.”

“Well, then you can ride double with me. Come on, I want to show you something. It will help you deal with Mindiache.”

So, we rode double on Vesuvius, all the way to the creek. In the day time, it was fascinating how the pollen and dandelion fluff floated on the sun rays, the creak slipping over rocks and under tree-bridges. Bright flowers grew along the banks, and ivies embraced the enormous tree trunks.

He reached into the water and pulled out a perfectly round blue and green stone. “Put this in your pocket,” he told me, “and whenever you feel like you could kill Mindy, touch it and think of this place. Pray for her soul, and I promise you will feel better.”

Just him saying those words made me suddenly and magically impervious to her vicious austerity. The stone sat in the drawer of my locked false-bottom jewellery box he had bought me.

Paul’s family moved that winter for a better-paying job down East, and I never saw him again.

I crawled into bed, and lulled myself to sleep by counting the sweet kisses Paul and I had shared during our time together, each one distinct and burned into my memory. And though the memories made me smile, I felt like a superheated flake pastry gone bad.

Fiction, Lidi, Original Story, Story, Unwritten Hope

The King


         The story was that he was a dangerous, ruthless renegade. Nobody thought he would ever come back, after “disappearing” five years ago, to take a final bow before the curtain closed on his act. He was like the midnight train that had jumped the track. He moved like a ghost, and he always had his earphones hanging down around his neck. He was a legend at Northwest Academy. Daniel the King, Renegade Quade. Everyone had different names for him. Though most had forgotten him, no one had forgotten those days on the riverbank playing Camelot. In a way Daniel was just an ordinary kid, with a strange way of making you do what he wanted. And he didn’t even know he had that power over people. He was just someone people listened to. Like Hitler. And that’s what scared the teachers. In reality, Daniel was a sweet, creative boy, and he got a kick out of the fact that everyone thought he was a hood. Especially since it proved how gullible people really are, and it made the plan so much easier.  
         The parking lot was empty except for one midnight blue model T. It was raining. The grass was dusted with silver, brightening the green of the abundant poplars. Almost everyone was standing at the floor-to-ceiling window in the cafeteria, watching him. From the Ford trunk, he took his old beat-up guitar case, slung his black bag over his shoulder. He wore jeans and a blue NWA hoodie that was pulled up to hide his dark hair. The stillness of the cafeteria allowed us to hear the steps of his boots. He walked up the steps of the North Dorm House and disappeared. 
         The clock on the far wall ticked loudly, and the monitors hadn’t noticed our preoccupation yet. 
         “Daniel William Quade,” someone breathed. “The King is back.”
         We glanced at each other, than back at the boarding house. The door never opened again. Conversation restarted in low, uncertain murmurs. What was he doing here? He was supposed to be gone without a trace, having been forgotten from our minds since we were thirteen. The only person left now at the window, I pressed my hands to the glass and peered into the rain. Room sixty-seventy-nine, seven floors up. Daniel was there, watching me. 
         I was the only one who knew why he had “disappeared,” and I knew why he was here now. With a slow, deliberate motion, he put his finger to his lips with a little smile. 
         The King was back, indeed.
         “Ali!” exclaimed Felicity Colter like she had been looking for me everywhere. “Principal Thomson requests your presence in his office at once! Make haste, if you please!” Felicity was obsessed with talking like an eighteenth century Londoner. I dumped my breakfast tray on the cafeteria conveyor belt and wandered into the hall. If Mr. Thomson said he wanted to see me in his office, he really meant that he was being held up in the hallway by some business call and I would have better luck finding him in the Garner wing. I knew him. Sometimes it felt like I was his personal servant or something. I was chagrined to see that I still had fifteen minutes before my first class. 
         When I found him, I walked alongside him. He was striding down the wing flanked by Ms. Gregson and Mr. Hart, whom Daniel and I liked to call his government officials. He was shouting at some poor unfortunate soul over his bluetooth headset. Daniel and Mr. Thomson shared the same thick dark hair and wide brown eyes, though Thomson’s were always popped out of his face in rage and Daniel tried to keep his narrowed and fierce. 
         “Will you hold on a minute?” he screamed irritably, and it was only evident that he was talking to me when he halted his furious stride and fixed his eyes on mine. 
         “Ali. I need you to run the recompense initiative by Mr. Sandlan again, he just doesn’t seem to understand. Sometimes I think that man is a just a lazy little–well, never mind.” he grimaced and pressed his finger to his ear again. “Hello! Yes, about the student files…”
         I mashed my teeth together as I walked back toward the main building. Just because I was student body president…This was just part of the plan, just part of the plan. I worried that this was working a little too well. 
         The recompense initiative. Designed to reward the good behavior of students, it centered around grades, attendance, and general behavior. Every percent and days you go to school goes into your recompense account, and interest rises or falls depending on your attitude. If you landed in the principal’s (Mr Thomson’s) office, you got recompense taken away, and you could use more to get yourself out without a record. If you got a poor score on a test you could carry over your score from an assignment to make it look better, except that one test percent was worth eight assignment percents. I created the whole thing, and now it was up to me to put it into effect. 
         I went to class early and sat reading my full collection of Sherlock Holmes. It was almost the only time I got to myself. The guy amazed me, and his science of deduction was fascinating, if not mind-boggling. The classroom soon filled up, and I knew when Daniel walked in the second silence dropped over the room like a cloud. Like in the cafeteria, it seemed like the only sound was that of his black boots. I hardly looked up from my book to catch him sauntering in, staring broodingly at a couple of people and an extra-long stare at Professor Sandlan. Inside I was dissolving with laughter. This was not the boy who was afraid of moths and thought I Am Number Four was the best thing that had happened to humanity. Just the other day he was standing in the topmost branches of the old sycamore tree trying to signal Pittacus Lore or the Mogadorians or something.  Now he kicked his boots up onto the desk in front of him, flipped back his rain soaked hood, and nodded at the teacher. Letting him know that he, the life of the crowd, had arrived, and the party could begin.

         We usually met at the river, but the weather was still giving us grief so we decided to meet in the old home ec room at lunch. He was restless, pacing back and forth. The small enclosed room enticed him to lean against the wall as if he could hold it back. He wasn’t quite Daniel Quade yet; the King had quite a grip sometimes. I announced myself by dumping my bag on the desk. 
         “Glad to have you back.”
         “Yeah, well, i didn’t think my father would manage to make such a mess of everything.” He was talking about the recompense initiative. 
         “Um, yeah. Totally. Your father did that all by himself, that’s right.” I shut my mouth. I would never need a polygraph in life. I was a terrible liar in the first place. I don’t know why I didn’t just tell Daniel the truth, that it was me who had done it, not Mr Thomson, because that would mean I had deviated from the plan. I didn’t want to face him, and I didn’t know who I would face. Daniel or the King. I didn’t want to find out. 
         “So what’s our status on Operation: Plan B?” Daniel asked, perching on the stool next to me. I flinched away, thinking that he would somehow read my mind. It wouldn’t have mattered. In short, this was not good.

2013-01-19

Fiction, Lidi, Original Story, romance, Story, Unwritten Hope

Ghost Girl Chapter 2

Despair

Peyton

 The moment I saw Austin Braucop, I knew I wanted to live.

Call it intuition or insight, but when those hands reached down and pulled me up from the jaws of death I was about to dive into, I knew that there was no way I could possibly want to die.

From his long-lashed blue eyes to his straight nose to his long, muscled body, I wanted to live. Nothing mattered any more, not Gabriel’s cold words about my weight, nor Chantelle’s cold words about my anorexia, not even my new-found obsession with death. It all just…disappeared.

Was this what it was like to be in love?

I didn’t think so. Had I not been in love with Gabriel Batoche? But that had been a different love, more of a hero-worship than anything else. I was just seeing that. And to think I had almost died for him! But was it not fitting that Austin be the one to save me?

Yes, I do think I am in love with him.

Omigosh, I’m in love with him!

But anyway, before I knew all this, I had bigger problems. Like the fact that I was hanging from a dog’s mouth over the Yukatuk canyon. I was in a state of shock. I couldn’t scream. I couldn’t even move. All I could do was stare down, down, down, down. All I could see was darkness.

And then the teeth were replaced by hands under my armpits, pulling me upward, at the same time that something on the bottom of my night gown pulled downward. Toward the darkness. I peeked, to see what was wrong. There was a humungous branch pinned through my gown. I wondered where it had come from.

“My gown! It’s stuck on a branch. Here, I’ll kick it loose.” He shouted something back at me, but I didn’t catch it over the howl of the wind. I struck my heel into the semi-loose soil. A huge hunk of rock fell away, and the tree dangled from the hem of my gown. Pulling from above surrendered a little to the pulling from below. I thought then that I was going to fall. But then, with a painful rip, the branch and boulder fell.

We went flying. I landed on a hard, heavily muscled chest. It hurt. I guess I hurt him, too, because he pushed me off quickly. I rolled to a sitting position and faced him.

He had dark brown hair and blue eyes. His lashes were longer than any I had ever seen on a boy. His face was symmetrical and sun-browned. The muscles on his arms and shoulders stood out through his jacket in a mysterious, appealing way. A very nice body, in conclusion. But it made me wonder how I must have looked to him. I felt like blushing. How could I have thought a nightgown could have erased the damage and made me beautiful? My eyes pricked.

The man rose to his feet in one graceful motion. “What were you doing?” he shouted. I peeked up at him. His face was almost contorted. I looked down instead. And that is when I saw the gown.

Where the branch had pierced it there was nothing left but strips. All the silk lacing was gone. The entire thing was covered in dirt from the rock sheet. It looked awful. But what’s more, it meant that I looked awful, too. I was just the ugly girl that I was before, and probably always would be. The pricks in my eyes morphed themselves into tears.

I realized that Austin was still waiting for me to answer his question. But when I was just gathering my wits to try and answer, he said, “I’m taking you home. Where do you live?” I couldn’t meet his eye. Wordlessly, I pointed toward the woods. “Come on, then,” he said. I looked up, then. His hand was stretched out to me. The anger left his eyes, suddenly. It wasn’t until he knelt in front of me that I remembered I was still crying.

Could I not do anything right? What he must think of me. This bony, ugly, crazy girl who played on the cliffs and didn’t answer questions and cried for no reason. What a joke. I didn’t deserve to feel something as wonderful as love for him. I really didn’t.

But Austin didn’t look disgusted. He just looked…nice. Like he actually cared that I was crying. And he was so close, so suddenly. I wondered what it would feel like to touch his smooth golden skin. “Hey, come on,” he said. “You’re safe now.”

Safe. I do believe I was safe, with him, for the moment. I took his hand and let him pull me to my feet. His hand was warm and so, so gentle. Like he was afraid of breaking me. How sweet. But he let go too soon. I sighed quietly. We started walking.

The dog, Chaku, who had kept me from falling the first time, bounced beside us with his tail between his legs. It looked funny. I felt a wordless gratitude toward the dog, and the handsome stranger who was his owner. I wanted to ask him his name, where he lived, etc, but I didn’t. I didn’t know if he would appreciate the inquiry. I couldn’t even build up the courage to say thank you.

The dog whimpered. The man turned to him. He looked exasperated. “What is wrong with you?” he asked the dog. He just lay down and rolled over. Austin stared at him and then walked away. I had to hurry a bit to keep up with him.

“What’s wrong with him?” I asked. He shrugged.

Finally, I couldn’t take it any more. The silence was just so…ominous!

“What’s your name?” I asked. He glanced at me fleetingly.

“Austin,” he said. “Austin Braucop.”

Nice name. “I am Peyton,” I told him.

He smiled at me, then. My heart flipped. “Peyton. It’s nice to meet you, Peyton.”

“It’s nice to meet you too, Austin.”

Oh, the irony.

“Where do you live?” I asked, to keep the conversation flowing. I liked the sound of his voice, and anyway, why stop when you’re ahead?

To my dismay, a cloud passed over his face. “Nowhere,” he said. He didn’t look like he wanted to talk about it, whatever it was. I let it go.

“What’s his name?” I jerked a finger toward the dog, who had recovered from his episode.

Austin smiled affectionately. “Him? That’s Chaku.” He reached over and ruffled the dog’s ears. He panted up at him. So he’s a dog lover.

“Can I pet him?”

“Sure.” He stopped walking. I knelt in front of the dog and stroked his ears. He looked at me with liquid brown eyes.

“Thank you,” I whispered. Chaku touched my cheek with his nose.

Austin interrupts the moment. “Do you smell that?”

I looked at him. His back was to me, thumbs in the pockets of his jeans. “Smell what?”

“I think it’s…smoke.”

Alarmed, I stood up and sniffed the air. Sure enough, it was tinted with the smell of burning wood. Actually, it was more laden than tinted. I wondered how I had not noticed it before.

Chaku began to bark. Austin reached out and tugged on my elbow. “Come on,” he said. There was a hint of urgency in his tone. He set off, faster than before, and I had to run to keep up. I was about to tell him to please slow down when I saw the flames. It took me a minute to register it. At first all I could see was a big, dancing ball of fire in the distance, but there it was.

Right where my house should have been.

I stood there, shocked. I couldn’t believe it. I had to be seeing things. Except that I wasn’t. The evidence was as undeniable as the home it was engulfing. I started running. My heart was in my throat. Had they all gotten out? Could the fire still be stopped? Had someone called the fire department?

I ran on toward my house, screaming. Austin caught up to me with his long legs. He shouted something at me, but I didn’t hear. I just kept running.

I had to stop, eventually. The flames got too hot for me to come any closer. My lack of food and sleep caught up to me. I sank to the ground, sobbing. I couldn’t take my eyes off of my burning home, my home where my history began. The home I had been about to leave. Stupid, stupid girl.

Austin, the kind stranger who had stolen my heart, came over to me and picked me up off the ground. He propped me against his side and put his arm around me. Grateful, I leaned against him weakly, quietly relishing his solidity. Chaku was barking and howling. I was too tired to notice.

I could only hope that my family had gotten out alive. But my house. My room. My memories. 

Gone.