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 2

Here at Verlesk Manor, we all had our own secret recipe for pancakes. Every Sunday it was someone else’s turn, and the day after my double encounters with Carson, it was mine.

“Everybody, out!” ordered Nell, clapping his little hands. “Abby’s making pancakes!”

We smiled endearingly at him. he was the only one allowed to call me Abby, and he made good use of the privilege. One by one, everyone filed out, and he smiled at me before closing the door behind him. I knew he would keep even Mindy from entering, darling as he was.

I cracked two cartons of eggs into a humongous twelve-gallon mixing bowl, poured in three jars of milk. Next went in a bag and a half of flour, four cups of baking powder, and six cups of sugar. I only needed a cup of oil. I mixed everything together, which took near to twenty minutes, and took a taste. It was still a bit watery.

I reached into the jar on the counter for another scoop of flour. My cup hit something near the bottom, inhibiting me from getting out my flour until the thing was removed. i bit back a twinge of annoyance. People had to learn not to leave the measuring cups in the flour jars.

I reached down, my whole arm disappearing through the narrow mouth of the jar. My fingers closed around it.

It wasn’t a measuring cup.

In my hand was a perfectly round, red tablet with an embossment on it. I rinsed the flour off, and found that it was of a fat, winged naked child that took up most of the space. The disk itself was about five inches in diameter, and almost a centimetre thick. I stared at the object, my mind going blank. a zigzag line ran behind the child, and one end of it stuck out. It made it look like it had a tail.

What was it doing in the flour jar?

I flipped it over, cautious now. The backside was perfectly smooth. I took a knife and tapped it; it neither chipped nor scratched. Eyebrows scrunched, I studied it for a minute longer, before recalling that I was supposed to be making breakfast. Conspiratorially, I pocketed it and dumped in my extra cup of flour.

“Okay, Nell.” I opened the door to let everyone in. I caught sight of Mindy rounding a corner and disappearing. “Are you going to help me cook these things?”

My recipe made about three hundred pancakes, enough for everyone to have about twelve each. Though, nobody ever ate more than three, except Luke, who normally ate his quota. It wasn’t polite. The extras were smuggled to the homeless people who waited on Sundays outside the estate gates. I was glad that it was my turn to deliver them today.

We put the two-hundred-fifty extras in thirteen wicker baskets, and put the seventy-five that would actually be eaten on the rolling cart with the butter and syrup.

I piled the baskets onto another bigger cart that was excellent for manoeuvring on rough terrain. I stole out the front kitchen door, as breakfast was being served in the dining hall. The twenty paces to the edge of the woods flashed by in my headlong sprint to avoid being seen. Once in the cover of the trees, though, I slowed my pace and once again gazed thoughtfully at the strange ceramic disk I had found. I shuddered at the sense of doom I suddenly had. It reminded me of an epiphany of Armageddon.

I pocketed it again and pulled at the cart. A wheel of it caught a root in the otherwise smooth path. Before I could do anything, the whole thing tipped over, and the pancakes spilled all over the ground.

“No!” I cried, falling to my knees I had no time to blow off the dirt, so I just shoved them back into their baskets frantically.

Swarms of insects came out of hiding from underground. “Go away!” I cried. But it was too late. If I put more in now, that would just infect the others. I was forced to leave the rest behind.

Now I only had five and a half baskets, for a hungry crowd of normally a hundred.

Slowly, I shook my head. Good morning, Abigail.

Too soon, I found myself pushing open the secret gate that everyone knew about. Guilt gathered in all my pores, and I  prepared to face the crowds of potentially furious homeless people.

Since the Verlesk’s property extended almost to the edge of town, there were no trees beyond. Nothing but a strip of summer green grass separated the estate wall and the city of Euhalot at the foot of the hill. Lying in casual positions in the grass in their threadbare clothing were not a hundred people, but closer to a hundred-fifty. Someone gave a shout, and all at once the murmurs stilled; all eyes were turned on me.

I gulped.

As per usual, Jonathan came forward with a big smile on his face. “Abigail!” he said. “So nice of you to come today. And thank you,” he added, eying the baskets.

Jonathan’s face always caused me to cringe when I saw it, bony and gaunt as it was. the paleness of his skin lent his hands a horribly skeletal appearance, and his feet were dreadful to even catch sight of. they were always dirty, often scratched, and as bony as the rest of him. I forced a returning smile upon my face.

“Good morning, all.” I gave Jonathan a basket, and people lined up behind him to start handing them out. Before Jonathan left, I caught his arm. “Why are there so many people today?”

“Word got out about the pancakes,” he whispered.

I swallowed again. “Great. Umm, about that.”

His smile froze on his face. “Yes? What is it, Abigail.”

“Well, you see, something happened on the way here. the cart overturned, and I lost most of the pancakes, and I only have four baskets, you see, and it’s not enough, and I don’t know what to do—” I stopped, peering at his face. He was frowning now.

“Well.” He said tightly. He opened the lid of the basket to look at the dirt speckled pancakes. “I suppose we’ll just have to make do.”

I nodded guiltily, shuffling my feet on the grass. It didn’t take long to empty the baskets, and I left without another word.

“So how’d it go?”

Lily was the only one in the kitchen when I at last made it back. I could see she was mixing together ingredients for a cake, which was unusual. The Verlesk’s hated cake.

“Great,” I lied. “Did Mindy miss me?”

Lily nodded. “Yes, twice, to make the beds and help me with dishes. But it’s been taken care of.”

“Swell. What’s the cake for?”

Lily made a moue. “Luke is having company,” she confided. “Apparently this is the main course, and her poor heart will be dessert.”

“Now, Lily. You and I both know that Luke doesn’t eat hearts. He likes to leave them with his victims to cry over.”

“True. Too true.”

I licked a bit of batter off the side of the bowl, rewarding me with a frown from Lily. “So what are my tasks for today?” I asked her with an impish smile.

“You may begin by changing the linens in all the bedrooms,” Lily suggested. “There’s a fresh basket behind the door. and when you’re done that, there’s weeds that need pulling in the vegetable garden, oh, and don’t forget…”

When I passed the master bedroom with the laundry hamper on my hip, Mrs. Verlesk called out for me to come to her.

She smiled at me, and commenced staring at her hands in thought.

“Yes, Mistress?” I prompted. “Do you require assistance with something?”

She looked up at me, finally. “Well, Abigail, I… you know I’ve always trusted you most out of all my servants, right?”

I blinked. “Um…no, ma’am I didn’t.”

She smiled sadly. “Well, Abigail, I do, and I have noticed how incredibly intelligent you are.”

“You…have?”

“Yes, Abigail. And as my most trustworthy servant, I would like some counsel.”

“Concerning what, madam?”

She picked at her dress. “Abigail, I have a feeling Mr. Verlesk is not being faithful to me. and, as my most trustworthy servant, and, might I add, the most tactful, I would like you to keep an eye on him when I go out tomorrow. If you see any suspicious behaviour, make a note of it and tell me.” she nodded to herself. “Do you understand, Abigail? I must know; it has been weighing heavily on my mind for the longest time now. And…well, that’s all you need to know, I suppose. You may go, now. Oh, and since you have agreed to aid me, tomorrow you may have the entire free day to keep my husband in your sight. I will let Mindiache know as well.”

I giggled in the hallway. Mindy’s name sounded just the way it was spelled: Mindy-ache. Because she’s a butt-ache. Her parents must have hated her. I was still laughing when I pushed open the door to the fifth bedroom and walked in on Carson, stretched out on the bed, reading.

“Oh, hello, Miss Charlotte.” He wore trousers and a button-up shirt that made his eyes look like the sky. I right near dropped my hamper.

“Master Gregory!”

“Carson,” he corrected, rising from the bed. “So what brings you here, Miss Charlotte?”

I looked at the floor. “Changing the linens,” I mumbled.

He moved closer. “What was that?”

I flinched, and this time I did drop my hamper. He was standing right in front of me.

“I’m changing the bed linens,” I said. “But I will come back later for these ones.”

I bent to pick up the linens that had been spilled, at the same time that he did. Our hands brushed as they reached for the same bedspread. I pulled away, refusing to have one of those moments akin  to romance novels, where the heroine and the hero reach for the same flower/book/dangerous weapon, their eyes meet, and they fall in love. I was a sucker for that sort of thing, and the quickened pace of my heart was not a good sign.

And then, of course, there was Paul.

I glanced at Carson once, though, and found him gazing at me thoughtfully. It was all I could do not to run.

“Good day, Master Gregory.”

“Carson.”

I dipped a curtsy with the speed of light, which nearly tipped my basket again. my hand fluttered uselessly as he righted it, and then I was gone.

“Stupid, stupid, stupid,” I muttered to myself.

The rest of the day passed without incident. I did the laundry, the weeding, scrubbed pots. By suppertime, I was able to convince myself that this morning had been a terrible dream. Except for the fact that after supper, he never seemed to disappear.

“Hello, Miss Charlotte,” he said when I closed the door to the cellar on a fresh bag of potatoes.

“Master Gregory.”

“Carson,” he said charmingly.

“Fancy meeting you here,” he said in the empty dining room around ten of the clock when I came in to sweep the floor.

“Master Gregory,” I replied politely.

“Carson.”

He watched me the entire time I worked, unnerving me to no end.

“May I help you, Miss Charlotte?” he asked me when I went to the vegetable garden to get some carrots for Lily’s stew.

“That’s quite alright, thank you, Master Gregory.”

Carson. Does my name repel you, Miss Charlotte?”

I blushed. “Of course not! I quite like it, sir, it is just not the way I was trained.” I raised my chin. “But, sir, I am only sixteen. Why do you call me ‘Miss?’ when you call me Abigail, I will gladly call you Carson. If it pleases you,” I added.

But he smiled, of course. “Is that a deal, Abigail?” he whispered, rocking back on his heals.

“A deal? I suppose.”

“Abigail.”

“…”

He grinned even wider. “Abigail.” he repeated.

I gritted my teeth and took a deep breath, fighting against my years of scrupulous apprenticeship. “Carson,” I got out, making a terrible face.

He laughed softly and tipped his hat to me before walking away.

The woman he had been sitting with at the tea on Friday met him at the gate, and they strolled arm-in-arm toward the house.

I had never been more confused in my life.

My, but I must have been sulking madly, for even butt-ache Mindy asked me if I was alright. I was coming back with the carrot bucket when she passed me. the joyous cries of the late-night cricket players were almost lost on the blowing wind. She said, and I quote: “Miss Charlotte, what is the matter with you? Buck up, right now. Are you alright? Yes? Then hurry up and make some butter! And when you are done with that…”

“What? Did you say something, Master Luke?” I interrupted. I stretched up on my toes, looking over her head.

“Master Luke?” she squeaked, whirling around. “Where?”

“Nowhere,” I said quietly as I stole into the night. “Nowhere at all.”

Problem one: solved; butt-pain cured. But, what to do with Master Gregory?

And by that, of course, I meant Carson.

Fiction, Lidi, Original Story, Story, Unwritten Hope

L is for Loser

Alone

Staring down from the top of the cliff, the people were almost indistinguishable from the still brown water of the Shangalih. The river looked about twenty feet across from up here, normal until you realized that you couldn’t see bank-to-bank when you were on the ground. That’s how high up we were.

The height fascinated and repulsed me, making my heart beat three times faster than normal.

“If you’re going to do it, you had better do it now, Thayne,” I said, ignoring the voice that told me this was a really, really bad idea. The tiny girl shivered beside me. “Mr. Yering will be back soon.”

Thayne looked down with an expression of terror. Hanging around the tents, the rest of the class watched with rapt attention, anticipation making them edgy. Her vulnerability struck me with anger. I wanted her to jump.

“Come on, Thayne, are you afraid?” I said, stepping toward her. “You a scared little baby-boo? Not so tough as you thought you were, are you?”

She didn’t say anything, her eyes filling with tears as she stared at me. Her silence made me even angrier. Without meaning to, I gave her a shove. She stumbled, landing inches away from the edge. Everyone behind me gasped, then laughed. Thayne was seventeen, a year older than the rest of us because she had been held up a grade, but her size made her easy to push around. Or maybe it was because she was just so insignificant, always fading into the background, sitting somewhere with her nose in a book. Alone. Always alone. and she never, ever talked.

So it was a surprise, a shock even, when she started babbling to me about how it might feel to fly. I had been looking down on the river when suddenly she came up like we were friends or something and started going on. Her voice was too quiet for anyone but me to hear the words, though everyone knew she was talking. And that’s when I got my idea. “Did you hear that, everyone?” I called, spinning around so that my long brown hair drifted over my shoulder. “Thayne says she’s going to jump off!”

There was laughter. “You wish, Luna,” someone said.

“No, it’s true,” I said loudly. “Right, Thayne? She’s finally going to do something worth her…time.” I was going to say ‘miserable life’ but that seemed kind of mean. I fixed her with a stare. Mouth agape, she nodded weakly. She knew the consequences for disagreeing with me. I smiled my best smile.

“So what are you waiting for?” I said now, standing over her cowering frame. “Get up!”

Her face went blank. Wordlessly (of course) she got up, dusted herself off, and balanced with her toes hanging over the edge.

“Jump!” I said. “Jump, jump.”

“Jump! Jump! Jump!” chanted my classmates.

Something moved far off in the trees behind me, something red. I snapped my head around and there I saw her: Mysterious Molly. She wore black, a long, floating crimson scarf around her neck. She watched me with wide, almond-shaped eyes. I was surprised she had even come on this year-end camping trip, considering the fact that she never got out. Nobody liked Mysterious Molly, and nobody disliked her either. Like Thayne, she was very silent, except Thayne was pathetic and Molly was just…mysterious. When she did speak, it was only one word, and that word was always a premonition for whoever she was speaking to.

Molly didn’t say anything to me, and with her steady gaze it was like she had spoken anyway. Why. Why did I hate Thayne so much? Did I actually want her to die?

“Jump, jump, jump!”

Still locked in Molly’s gaze, I barely noticed Thayne look over her shoulder, taking everything in with clinical disinterest, her eyes dilated and glassy-looking. And suddenly, it was like I was her. I had no friends, I was all alone. Here I was about to jump off a fifty-two-foot cliff and people were actually cheering me on. I was poor, my parents had tried multiple times to disown me, nobody loved me; what was the point? And I was alone…we were both so alone.

Thayne bent her knees.

“Jump, jump…”

“WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?”

Silence.

Thayne wobbled, startled like the rest of us, and fell. Not off the cliff, but backward and right into me, both of us toppling to the ground. Disgusted, I shoved her off. Klutz.

I turned just in time to see Mysterious Molly floating across the campsite to Mr. Yering, who was standing arms crossed, eyes wide and uncertain. She snapped her fingers in his face, then pointed directly at me.

“Luna,” she breathed, her voice like death. It was like her eyes were speaking to his soul, because after a mere second, his expression hardened into one of undeniable outrage.

“Luna!” he said, like he was hypnotized and simply repeating her. I twirled my hair around my fingers, adjusting my pink top with my other hand. I wondered where Shana was. She had said she needed a makeup break and had snuck off into the woods so she wouldn’t get caught, and still hadn’t returned. She would’ve gotten Thayne to jump before the Mysterious Molly got to me and Mr. Yering, and then I wouldn’t be in this mess.

“Yeah?” I said.

He stared at me for a minute, probably thinking that he could be like Molly, but he wasn’t, and after a while he turned and started directing everyone to start breaking up camp. Breathing a sigh of relief, I turned to give Thayne one last glare before pretending to help out, but she was gone. Inexplicably panicked, I rushed to the side of the cliff and looked over. The Shangalih was still, the wind churning the water and making it swirl.

On the school bus ride back to Henderson High, I finally found Shana. Or at least her backside waving in the air as she made out with Tony Kendal, her friend with many, many benefits. Brittany and Selena Welts were trying to get my attention so they could go on with stories of their recent visit to Greece, but my supposed boyfriend Nathan was looking at me with a look that said he was jealous of Tony and Shana right now. He sat on the other side of the bus and two seats up, and kept looking back at me with a lusty and hurt expression that I had made him sit up there. I regarded him with disinterest, not really needing a smooching session right then. Later, definitely, but I had other things on my mind. Where was Thayne Atalda?

I looked, and the Mysterious Molly was still sitting right in front of Brittany and I, silently gazing out the window. Just looking at her still, speculating form sent a chill through me. I ignored it, finally mustering up the courage to lean over the seat and tap her bony shoulder.

“Where is Thayne?” I asked, barely able to speak the words.

Her long, white-blond ponytail shone darkly in the sun. The second she took before answering felt like ten. “Beaten,” she said.

All my fear and respect disintegrated. I glared at her. “Look, Molly, I know you’re supposed to be all mysterious and everything, and everything you say comes true, but I am really not in the mood for more of your one-word riddles that never—”

“Thayne is in a dark place,” Molly interrupted, looking me full in the eye. “She is trying to escape, but she won’t. Not until someone sets her free. And you are that person.”

I shook my head, trying really hard not to laugh out loud. What did she think this was, a Disney movie? “Molly, I’m not kidding. All I asked was a simple question, and apparently you missed it, so here it is again: Where is Thayne?”

Again, she just looked at me. The funny thing about Molly was, no one knew what colour her eyes were. Though she was always staring at people with that speculating gaze, you forgot the colour as soon as you saw it. and you didn’t even notice that you had forgotten until she was gone. “There are many misconceptions about me,” she went on. “They view me as they wish to perceive me, and they perceive me as they wish me to appear. But you, Luna, you see me as you don’t want to see me. You see me for who I am.” And with that, she turned away.

I shivered again, violently. Okay, that was way too much weirdness for one day. I sat back, where Brittany and selena were just talking amongst themselves, having given up on me.

“Hey, Luna!” called Leno from a seat back. “What are you doing talking to Malignant Molly?”

She turned and looked at him, not offended, just thoughtful, her colourless eyes holding him helplessly captive. Everyone made the “Ooooohh!” sound that said he had just got told, and she looked back to the window. He made a face of mock fright and laughed, but you could tell that he really was scared. I hid my smile.

“Hey, Nathan,” I said, butt-scooting until I was in his seat. “You looked like you wanted to tell me something?”

He smiled and reached for me. “Yeah. It had nothing to do with talking, though.”

By the time the bus rolled into the lot at Henderson High, I was ready to crawl back to my seat on my hands and knees just to get away from Nathan. For the first time, his soft kissing and gentle caresses didn’t make me giddy and ready for more. In fact, it was the exact and extreme opposite.

“What is wrong with you?” he asked at one point, holding me at arms length and peering at me intently.

I shook out my hair, trying to act indignant. “What’s the matter with you?” I retorted, sliding my hand up his stomach. Though the move repulsed me.

Slightly unsteady on my feet now, I inserted the keys into my silver Miata. My head pounded. Someone brushed passed me, almost knocking me into my car. Pressing a hand to my forehead, I turned, almost running into Thayne again. this time I really did fall over.

“Thayne?”I whispered, heart in my throat.

Her blue eyes were the colour of silk, but they were ringed with lines. Lines that hadn’t been there six hours ago on the cliff. She sort of smiled at me, except it wasn’t a smile, it was more like she was writing me off, and then she left.

Okay, that was way weird.

But oh, my head. I slumped into my car, slinging my camping bag onto the seat beside me. at least it was finally summer. But all I wanted to do was sleep

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

Ghost Girl Chapter 1

The night gown

Peyton

Way off in the distance, a dog howled.

I let my toes inch further and further over the edge of the cliff. The wind came up from the cavernous crag and pushed my long, white cotton gown out behind me. I had chosen the gown especially for this occasion. It is the only piece of clothing I own that makes me feel truly beautiful. It hangs past my feet and goes almost all the way out when I twirl. The bottom is trimmed with silk. It hugs me in all the right places and ripples and flows when I move.

All in all, a truly beautiful dress.

I almost managed a half-smile. Maybe when they found my body, they would think the same thing. Beautiful dress, beautiful girl. The last impression they would ever have of me. A nice way to be remembered. A nice way to go. I stared down into the crag that was barely illuminated by the moonlight.

But what if I never was found? Who would think to look for me in the bottom of the Yukatuk canyon? I frowned. That would not do. Not at all. Suddenly the wind that had felt so liberating was very, very cold. Before I could stop them, more what-ifs crowded into my head, all jockeying for my attention. What if I was eaten by wild animals? What if my entire body shattered due to my lack of food? What if…

What if no one thought to look for me at all?

I was beginning to see the hopelessness of the entire thing. This wasn’t going to work. No one would come looking for me. Of this I was certain. My entire effort would be wasted. My final dying act would go unnoticed.

I began to teeter-totter on the edge. I was stupid, stupid, stupid. How could I have even thought that this was going to work? I would have to think of a new plan. I teetered faster. A note. That’s what I needed. And no more cliffs. In fact, I was already getting a new idea.

I was just about to step back and go home when a voice sounded behind me. Startled, I whipped around. My feet slipped and I teetered wildly out of control. A hand closed around my thin wrist, but it found no purchase. I barely had time to scream before I teetered right over the edge.

Austin

Never in a million years or my wildest dreams would I have ever imagined that I would end up here. The moonlight was barely visible through the thick canopy of leaves. The ground was soft under my bare feet. Chaku lay under a big spruce next to my shoes. The wind whistled in the leaves above. I was completely and utterly alone.

No, I never thought I would end up alone in the woods, but I also never would have imagined being kicked out of my own house, either.

I picked off a twig from some tree I couldn’t name and snapped it between my fingers. I chuckled grimly to myself. Nothing ever works out the way you think it will, does it?

Chaku sprang up from the ground, barking madly. My half-hearted efforts to shush him fell flat. That dog. He barks if he sees his own shadow. But then he began to howl.

My grandfather had given me Chaku for my twelfth birthday. “This here is one smart dog,” he had said when Chaku had started barking at a grain in the floorboards. My mother had given him a Look. “He barks all the time, it’s true, but he howls when there are ghosts around. It’s pretty amazing.”

I had scoffed. “There are no such things as ghosts.” My mother had agreed. Grampa just smiled.

I had never heard Chaku howl before now.

Maybe it was because of how the moonlight played in mysterious ways between the trees. Or maybe it was being alone in the woods in the first place. But for whatever reason, my entire body had gone stiff with fear.

Don’t be ridiculous, I tried to tell myself. There are no such things as ghosts. Chaku is just a crazy old Labrador. Trying to swallow my fear, I turned to where Chaku’s nose pointed.

I swear my hair stood straight on its ends.

There, bright in the moonlight at the edge of the woods, was a white, moving, billowing, thing.

It took me a while to calm down enough to tell myself that I was being paranoid, and so was Chaku. There was no such thing as ghosts, after all. It was probably just a sheet caught in the wind. Something for us to sleep on tonight. I set off to get it.

The shadows and moon patches seemed to jump out at me wherever I turned. The white thing looked stranger and stranger the closer I got. And when I was close enough finally make out a shape, I was freaked out all over again. It was not a sheet at all. It was a woman in a cotton nightgown.

She walked so silently and smoothly she appeared to be gliding. Her long, waist-length black hair streamed out behind her. I didn’t think she was a ghost, but what was she doing out here in the middle of the night? I thought about calling out to her, to tell her that it wasn’t safe out here, but for some reason I kept silent. There was something about her. I didn’t want my presence to be known to her yet. I trailed her silently. Chaku had stopped barking, and he was a black shadow beside me.

She stopped when we got out of the woods and was standing on the rock sheet over the Yukatuk Canyon. All my instincts told me that something was amiss. What was the woman doing here? I got my answer soon enough. She stepped onto the ledge and bent her knees, leaning forward.

“NO!” I shouted. I raced to her. I shouted again. Chaku was strangely silent.

Finally I reached the woman, who was roughly in the same position as before. It hadn’t taken me a second to get to her side. I reached out and grabbed her wrist.

Shock rippled through my body. I dropped my hand and took an involuntary step back. My heart was in my throat and beating out a frantic refrain. My fears didn’t seem so silly now.

I had touched nothing but bone. The woman screamed once as she tumbled over the edge. Something black raced to the edge where she had fallen. Chaku. No such thing as ghosts, I chanted to myself.

I threw myself to the edge of the cliff. The woman was hanging by the back of her cotton nightgown from Chaku’s teeth. She was slipping fast.

“Hold on!” I shouted as my hands shot out to grab her under her arms. Chaku released his hold on her. She weighed next to nothing. She was not a skeleton after all, but her skin was thinner than tissue paper and she had almost no meat at all on her arms. I fought the bile that rose in my throat.

I heaved. She barely budged.

“My gown!” she shouted. “It’s stuck on a branch. Here, I’ll kick it loose.”

“No, don’t—” I started but it was too late. She struck out with her bare foot. With a small groan, the rock that the twig was firmly attached to gave way, hanging off her night gown.

She was suddenly a hundred pounds heavier.

Chaku was barking again. Swearing, I called on all of my strength and pulled. I gained mere inches until, with a rip, the boulder fell from the gown. We went flying, hitting the ground with a thump, she on top of me. I could feel every one of the bones in her spine, hips, and elbows. I pushed her off and sat up. Now that I could get a good look at her, I could see she was not a ghost, or a skeleton, or anything of the sort. She had the look of the half-starved. Her big, light brown eyes protruded from her skull. She had been beautiful once, that was obvious. But now she had wasted away to almost nothing. She wasn’t homeless, I could tell by the gold necklace she wore around her neck and by the fineness of her nightgown.

In a rush, the past fifteen seconds caught up to me. I realized the woman was looking at me, too. I rose to my feet.

“What were you doing?” I fairly yelled at her. I was stressed. Chaku came to stand by my side. I swear he glared at the girl, too.

She looked down, and colour pooled in her cheeks. Her thin, razor-sharp cheeks. I never could figure out why girls would starve themselves as a means of losing weight. Didn’t they realize how deadly it could be? And then there was the matter of suicide. What had she been thinking? Was her life really that awful?

The woman didn’t say anything. Finally I threw up my hands, giving up. “I am taking you home,” I told her. “Where do you live?” she pointed. “Come on, then.” I held out my hand to her. She looked up at me then, and her eyes were filled with tears.

My harsh emotions evaporated. I knelt in front of her awkwardly, embarrassed by her tears. “Hey,” I said. “Come on. You’re safe now.” She nodded and took my outstretched hand. I was so afraid I would squeeze too hard and break it. I dropped it as soon as I could.

Chaku trotted beside us, his tail between his legs. Every so often he would give a little whimper. Finally, I stopped and turned to him.

“What is the matter with you?” I asked. He lay down and rolled over onto his back. And then he was perfectly still.

I stared at him for a few seconds. Then I walked away.

The girl looked up at me. The top of her head barely reached my shoulder. “What’s wrong with him?” she asked. I shrugged. We walked on in silence.

Of course, I had questions for her. But for some reason I kept quiet, just like I hadn’t wanted to let her know I was following her until it was too late. There was just something about her…like if I said the wrong thing she would turn to dust. She was so fragile. I was still shaken badly by the cliff escapade.

It was she who finally broke the silence. “What is your name?” she asked.

“Austin. Austin Braucop.”

“I am Peyton.” She was still looking at me with big brown doe’s eyes. I smiled at her.

“Peyton. It’s nice to meet you, Peyton.”

“It’s nice to meet you, too, Austin.”

Chaku howled very softly.

Everyday Christian, Fiction, Lidi, Original Story, Story

Why Polar Bears are White

Long ago there was a coat maker named Emai who lived in the South Pole. Emai always enjoyed doing this, from the time he started making coats for the penguins where he lived. The penguins were pleased with the black and white coats, and as soon as their little grey children were old enough, they took them to Emai to have them fitted for new coats.

Emai’s father thought that making coats was not a noble profession, and wanted Emai to join in the family seal hunting business that helped support the village. Emai, however, refused, and made all the seals coats of their own to help them hide from anyone who tried to hunt them. When the birds saw the coats, the birds asked the seals where they had gotten them. The seals replied that Emai the coat maker had fashioned them. The birds were jealous and went to Emai, and asked for coats as well, coats that were better than the seals’. Emai made them coats that were light and good to fly in, that would keep them dry when they hunted for fish.

The fish had seen the coats that the seals wore, and now the birds were wearing them too! They asked where they were coming form, but the seals and birds refused to tell them, so the King of the Fish announced to all the animals and the people that he would give a grand reward to whoever could make coats for him and his people. Everyone except for Emai thought the fish was ridiculous; what reward could a fish give that would be of any value? Emai was the only one who stepped forward, and he made the fish coats that would make them sleeker and allow them to swim faster to escape the seals and the birds. To thank Emai, the fish king told all of his people to travel the waters of the earth and spread the word of Emai’s coat making talent; in this way, Emai would have more customers, and he would be able to prove to his father that coat making was a good job.

Animals came from all over the world to have coats made by Emai. When they went home with their brand-new coats, their friends asked them where they had come from, and they told them. Emai made coats to attract mates, to provide camouflage from hunters and the enemies of the animals, to keep them warm in the winter or dry in the water. Emai had never been happier to be doing what he loved.

Then there came the last family, a family of bears from the North. “We are the last to arrive because we come from so far away,” the said. “Please, Emai, the cold winter is coming; make us coats to keep us warm.”

Emai readily agreed, and asked the family to wait a moment while he gathered the proper materials to make them warm coats that would last through the entire winter. But as Emai was rummaging through his supplies, he realized that he had completely run out of dye from all the business he had had. It had been his intention to get some more, but in the flurry of all his customers, he had forgotten, and the dye disappeared quickly. He went back to the bear family and sadly told them that they would have to wait a few months time so he could make the journey for more dye for their coats.

“Oh, but we cannot wait that long; it will be the dead of winter by then,” they said. “That’s alright, Emai. We do not need bright colours; we only want to be warm.”

So Emai made their coats uncoloured, but they wore the warmest coats he had ever made. And that is why polar bears are white.

Fiction, Lidi, Original Story, Philosophy, Story, The Ambassador, Unwritten Hope

All the Men’s Vices

In the basement, it was hard to imagine that the outside world existed. Happiness stood off to the side, nervously fingering the ball gown she had purchased that morning. It was dark green and strapless, reaching to the floor. Chad always insisted she wear long dresses because they made her look so elegant. Chad leaned against the iron railing facing the ceiling-high, red velvet curtain. He pulled the cord that drew the barrier away, and regarded the creatures inside. He knew that they would try to convince him to set them free, like always. Although Happiness tried to tell him to stay out of the basement, to leave the cage alone, he couldn’t let it go. The cage was his greatest achievement. With everything that kept him from enjoying his existence locked away, he was free to search for the perfect life.

“Hello, Insecurity,” he said to the black gopher, who was, as always, busy trying to dig a hole in the concrete.

“How dare you keep me here, you spineless gnome!” Insecurity replied by way of greeting. “You think that you’ve got it good now, but you aren’t really as happy as you thought you would be, are you?” With a cold glare, Insecurity continued his digging, trying to create a place where he could hide.

“Hello, Invincibility,” said Chad to the purple Chihuahua with red eyes, who was growling at the lion in outrage.

“How dare you keep me here, you high-and-mighty gnat!” snarled the little dog. “Are you afraid of me? Is that it? Come on, let me out of here, you know that you can take me, with your hands tied behind your back!” Invincibility charged at the lion, getting a good bite on a hind leg that drew a little blood.

“Hello, Egotism,” Chad murmured to the yellow-and-black striped ostrich stomping her eggs into a pile of crunchy mush.

“How dare you keep me in here, you self-centered horse’s rump!” Egotism snarled, giving another good kick at her pile of eggs. “We’re the same, you and I. No one can even begin to fathom the depths of the universe, like we can. Without us, the world cannot function. Doom, doom!”

“Hello, Ignorance,” said Chad to the blue lion.

“I don’t mind being in here, actually,” Ignorance replied. He was almost dozing, his foot twitching every now and then whenever Invincibility got in a good nip. “I don’t know what these guys are complaining about. Where can we go, besides here?”

Chad nodded in understanding. “Hello, Escapism.”

“Don’t listen to the lazy old tom cat!” chattered the giant green orangutan. “How dare you keep me in here, you good-for-nothing psycho-transient! There’s a whole world out there, and in your heart, and in your head. I could take you there, and you could forget about all your problems, if you weren’t so stuck-up.”

“Hello, Innocence,” Chad almost shouted at the half-deaf, nearly blind young wolf who was staring intently into space.

“There’s nothing worse than being trapped,” the pink wolf muttered, not hearing Chad. “How dare that mean old meanie keep me locked up in here. Everything in life is so beautiful and wonderful and harmless, but he keeps me in here just to be a jerk.” Innocence had lost an ear getting too close to a “wonderful” industrial fan, and lost most of her sight after a “beautiful and harmless” poisonous fish had squirted venom into his eyes.

Chad checked to see whether Happiness was ready yet. Absentmindedly, he passed a hand over her back, adjusting her shawl to hide her scaly patch of skin. She was changing, and though he tried to ignore it, he couldn’t help but think that maybe he had made a mistake.

Shaking the thought, he greeted his final captive: “It’s good to see you, Virtue.” It was hard to tell whether the orange beaver was old or young. Her teeth were well over-grown from not having any trees to chew on, but her eyes were sharp and patient.

“We’re not the real problem, you know,” reasoned Virtue as Happiness gathered the lasagna out of the fridge, ready made for the party that night. Chad was finally getting promoted to second-in-command at work. “You know that Deception over there is why you still aren’t happy.”

“Her name is Happiness,” Chad snapped for the tenth time that week. Instantly exasperated, he yanked on the cord, letting the curtain fall over the menagerie once again.

“Are you ready to go, honey?” asked Happiness, gazing up at him through long, honest eyelashes. Chad smiled tightly and kissed her lips. “I will be right up. I just want to make sure I have everything.” She smiled made her way up the stairs. Clomp, clomp. As she lifted her dress, her hooves became visible again. She tipped her head to duck through the basement door, and her pointed ears scraped the doorframe.

Chad’s lower lip burned where she had accidentally scraped him with her fangs.

Clenching his jaw, he retrieved his jacket and pretended not to notice.

Lisa Brock

English 30-1

Mrs. Gough

Friday, December 05, 2014