Sunday, January 2, 2011

Chapter 1: Stirrings(updated)

Chapter 1: Stirrings
“Ethel, where are you? You didn’t finish your chores, Ethel…” Ethel could hear her mother’s voice, but she was daydreaming again under her favorite tree, at the edge of her village. She stared longingly into forest as the sun started to set. Watching the last of the sun’s rays flicker and sway on the red and yellow leaves. As she got older, it seemed, she stared more and more at the forest; sometimes she felt almost as if it were staring back at her. The Forest spanned a great distance, she wondered if it even had an end. As far as she knew her village was the only one to live so close to it. She continued to stand on the hill under her favorite tree and her imagination began to wander as she stared at its dark vastness. Pretending the sun’s rays were liquid pools of gold that needed to be placed on each remaining leaf or pine needle before the sun faded. As she reached deeper into the forest with her eyes where evergreen trees grew and the hills began, a slight darkness seemed to be lingering within. If she could just step into the deeper part of the forest she felt as if a secret would be revealed to her. With sudden curiosity, she walked down the hill and to the edge of the forest. She took a step forward and hovered in mid step not really knowing why. Her mother would not see but something kept her from completing her step she knew she probably should go home and finish her chores before it got dark and eat dinner. She took one last longing look at the mysterious, now dimly lit forest then turned and started walking toward her house. She wondered as she walked why she liked staring at the forest. Was it because it was forbidden to go into, or did she just really need an excuse not to work? She mindlessly opened the gate to her yard and began walking over the same worn-out path that she had walked over for the last ten years. Not much about the path or the gate had changed since the first day they moved in ten years ago. A few improvements here and there as things wore out. Walking to the side of the house she, joined her twin brother, who was stacking the wood.

Conall rolled his eyes. “Where have you been, Ethel? I’ve been working all afternoon trying to help Mother with the chores. Were you daydreaming again? You know Mother hates it when you go so close to the forest.” Conall walked closer to Ethel and scowled at her. “I don’t want you to get in trouble again”, he said with a smirk. Then breaking into a cheesy grin he pushed her. “Come on Ethel help me finish. I can never stay mad at you very long. You are my only sibling after all.”

Ethel lightly pushed back and smoothing out her winter skirt sat down on one of larger pieces of wood. “I’m sorry, Conall. I couldn’t help it. The forest looked beautiful with the fall colors dancing on its leaves. I started playing a game I made up and then lost track of time.”

Conall rolled his eyes again. “You’re such a daydreamer Sis.” He noticed her sitting on the wood and just shook his head. No matter what chores they had, Ethel always seemed to figure out a way to not do her part. He looked at her dark head of curly black hair and noticed her trying to avoid his piercing blue eyes. “Hey, you are not getting out of all this days’ work, stand up and let’s finish stacking this wood. I’m starving, and I think Mother made stew tonight.” He paused as he reached for a piece of wood and made sure Ethel was doing the same. “How about this? Tomorrow, instead of sneaking off by yourself, help me with the chores first, then we can go to the tree together. Hmmm…I feel like I have said that before.” Conall poked his sister in the side.

“Hey stop that.” Ethel made a face at Conall. Sometimes she wished she were as muscular and strong as her brother so she could get him back. Until that day she would just have to satisfy her urge to bug Conall by making faces. “If Mother finds out where I was today, she’ll make us do everything she can think of so we won’t have enough time to go to my favorite tree.”

“We’ll figure something out. Besides I did most everything today; tomorrow should be just a few easy chores.” Conall tossed the last couple of pieces of wood on the pile. Ethel could not help but be impressed by how easily Conall threw the wood. As if they weighed nothing.

Their mother, Ida, appeared in the doorway. As soon as the few remaining rays of sunlight slipped behind the forest. She looked down at the side yard and could see her twins working away. Well one of them. Conall had done a great job at fixing the worn out wooden stairs today. There were many things left to do though to prepare for winter. Their big beautiful log house sat on the outskirts of town closest to the forest. Ida could remember ten years ago when she had first seen the house. Everyone had told her not to move in because of the closeness of the forest and to by something in town. She couldn’t afford the price of living in the small town and had to by this house. At first she remembers not minding the location but then the forest started to change and as everything does the house began to age. It was hard for three people to manage so much land and such a large house. Ida smiled she wouldn’t change a thing though this house and land was perfect for her family. . “Hurry, you two. It’s dark out, and supper is ready.” Conall and Ethel rushed up the newly finished wooden stairs. Soon the three of them were sitting together at the well-used dinner table. After, Ida said the evening prayer to bless the food, they began to eat. The silence of the room lingered as they all enjoyed the warmth of the fresh stew in their bellies.

Finally Ida set down her spoon and spoke. “Ethel, where were you today? After I saw you go out this morning with Conall. I didn’t see you again for the rest of the day. Conall didn’t even know where you went to.”

Ethel took a slow bite of her stew, weighing her mother’s question and unsure how to answer. No, matter what she said,her mother already knew the answer and she was already in trouble. “Well Mother, I was by the for-”

“Ethel,” interrupted her mother, “You know that I don’t like you to be close to the forest, especially when you don’t tell me that you are there. That forest is unpredictable, and you could get hurt or even disappear!”

Ethel sighed. Her mother had to be exaggerating. She couldn’t get hurt and surely couldn’t disappear by just looking at the forest.

“I’m sorry,Mother. I just think the forest is beautiful, especially right at the end of fall. It seems so sad and mysterious. I like to make up stories about the forest when I stare at it, stories about kings and queens and forest animals.”

Conall just kept eating his stew, wondering what their mother would say. He knew she didn’t like either of them to go close to the forest. He was glad he hadn’t gone with Ethel today, since he was always the first to be scolded. He knew why his mother scolded him first. Even though they were twins, Conall tended to be the more responsible one. Acting like the oldest sibling, just came naturally to him.

Ida sighend. “Oh,Ethel…what am I going to do with you and your brother? Two daydreamers in my house and so much work to do everyday. I understand having more responsibilities as you get older is hard, but I really need your help here, taking care of the animals and harvesting our food and getting ready for the winter. I don’t want you by that tree or close to the forest from now on, both of you! You can see the forest from here,and that is close enough. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Mother we understand,” they said obediently. Both secretly thinking of ways they could sneak to the forest without getting caught. They finished their stew, now lukewarm, and then helped wash, the dishes and started getting ready for bed. Then their mother came into each of their rooms to say goodnight. As Ida bent over to kiss her, Ethel noticed her troubled expression.

“Mother, is everything all right?”

“Yes, my dear, it is. You and Conall are growing up so fast. I was thinking of all the times I’ve kissed the two of you goodnight. She set down of the edge of the bed. “Do you remember when you were younger and I used to tell you stories of the forest?”

“Yes, Mother, I do! They were always exciting, about wild animals, lost people, kings, and evil creatures.”

“Well, the forest has changed since the time of those stories, Ethel. It’s become strange. And I don’t trust it. I want the two of you to be safe.”
Ethel studied her mother’s troubled face. “Mother, is that really why you look so troubled?”

“Yes!”

Ethel fell silent as her mother tucked her in and then left the room. Despite Ida’s words, Ethel could sense that something else was bothering her.

Down the hall, Ida smiled as she gently pushed open the door to Conall’s room. Though the room was darkened, she could see her son lying on his back and staring at the ceiling, moonlight illuminating his blond hair. Ida’s breath caught slightly in her throat as she noticed the silver pendant around his neck. That nagging troubled feeling she had been feeling started to become stronger as she stared at the necklace. The way the moonlight sparkled on the silver edges of the pendant was mesmerizing and mysterious. She quickly tried to push aside her fear as seeing the necklace. “I thought you would be asleep already, with all the hard work you did today,” Ida said as she drew the curtain closed with a shiver, hiding the moon from her son’s face.

Conall rolled to his side and looked at his Mother, “I was waiting to say good night.”

“Well, that was very sweet of you. I didn’t know you still wore your necklace. I thought you had lost it after all these years. I almost forgot that you and your sister had those.” Ida hoped he couldn’t hear the slight tremor of fear in her voice.
“Mother it is not a necklace, it’s a pendant.” Conall whispered as he looked down and at the pendant.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, probably not very manly to be calling the pendant a necklace.”

“Well no, but I forgive you.” Conall said with a smile.

“Do you and your sister still wear those? Do you wear them all the time?”

“I wear mine all the time,” he said, “Never take it off. I make sure to keep it under my shirt. I’m not sure what Ethel does with hers.” He shrugged in the darkness. “Mother, where did you get them, again?”

“I’ve told you; they were a gift from a very good friend of mine.” Ida hoped her son couldn’t see her eyes or sense that she was lying.

Conall seemed satisfied with her answer, though. She breathed a gentle sigh of relief as she kissed him on the forehead and left the room. She walked down the hall to her own bedroom and sat on the edge of the bed, not bothering to light her bed side candle. She sat in the dark, staring out the window, until she felt a shiver creep over her, one that she had not felt for seventeen years. Quickly she got up and, lit the candle, then glanced out the window again. From the hillside her house rested upon she could see the cold, sleepy village. She wished the village were just a little closer tonight. She shut the curtain, then gently closed and latched the bedroom door. Carrying the candle back to the nightstand, she reached underneath, feeling carefully. Finally, her fingers found the latch, and the hidden door opened with a click. Pausing, she glanced over her shoulder at the locked door. Assured that she was alone, she turned back to the nightstand and carefully withdrew a small, plain, dusty wooden box. Sitting on the floor she opened the small delicate lid. She remembered the day those seventeen years ago when she hid the wooden box. Someday, she had told herself, I will tell the twins about it. But the time had never seemed right. Now she sat on the floor with the contents of the box in her hands wondering what she should do. She thought about waking them up immediately and telling them the truth…but it was late. Maybe tomorrow, she thought. She took one last look at the contents and then returned the box to its hiding place. The familiar shiver again ran up her spine as she blew out her candle and climbed into bed. Ida drifted into a restless sleep as thoughts of what to do raced through her mind. Had she made the right decision?

1 comment:

  1. WOW, Leslie!! Sounds great! We love it and want to read more as you release it. Thanks for sharing the first chapter with us. Go Author Girl ~ Jason & Rebekah

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