Category Archives: Stories

Miracle Santa (Part 2)

This is a contunation of a little Christmas story I wrote. Read part 1 here.

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Miracle Santa (Part 2)

Within four seconds, everything in the coffee shop was gone.

Shapes and colors appeared around us. And soon I was standing in the middle of a mall.

“How did this happen?” I turned to the man with the scarf beside me. “Did you bring us here?”

“I said I could change your mind.”

I didn’t have time for this weird stuff. I had to get my coffee and get to the hospital.  “But…” I started.

The man held a finger to his lips. “You’ll miss it.” He pointed to a line of children waiting to get on Santa’s lap.

Great. All I needed to see was more spoiled kids.

A little boy climbed unto Santa’s knee as his grandma stood by and watched. I waited for him to start his long list, but instead he pulled a picture from his pocket.”

“Who’s this?” Santa asked in his cheerful voice.

“She’s my sister,” said the boy. “Her name is Sarah and she wanted to come with me to see you so bad.”  He looked at his lap, “But she can’t. She’s really sick and can’t leave the hospital.”

I was touched that a little boy would think to mention his sister, but I didn’t see how this was supposed to change my mind.

Santa gave his condolences and then asked the boy what he wanted for Christmas.  When the boy was done telling Santa, his grandma came and helped him off of Santa’s lap. The boy ran to the elf who was giving prizes to everyone who visited Santa, but the grandma stayed.

“I know it’s too much to ask,” she said to the mall Santa, “but my granddaughter, the girl in the picture, has leukemia and isn’t expected to make it even through the holidays.” Her eyes began to glisten. “I was hoping that you would visit Sarah. She only asked for one thing for Christmas. To see Santa.”

Even through the fake beard and curly white hair, I could see that Santa was swallowing back emotion. He told the woman to leave the information with the elf, and he would visit the little girl.

Suddenly, the bright greens and red of the decorated mall began to fall away just as the coffee shop had and the bright colors was replaced by white walls. I was standing in a hospital room.

The boy and his grandmother were there along with a man and woman who must be her parents. They were gathered around a hospital bed that held a pale young girl. Her light hair was thin, and there were patches of her scalp that were bald.

I looked at the man in the scarf.

“Won’t they be upset to see some strangers in their room?”

“Don’t worry. They can’t see us.”

The door opened and in walked the Santa Clause from the mall.

“Santa!” Sarah’s eyes lit up. She stretched her frail arms out and Santa came close for a hug.

“I knew you’d come!” Her blue eyes stared at him admiringly.

Sarah chattered away to Santa oblivious to the tears in the adult’s eyes.  My own eyes had tears in them. The mall Santa wasn’t getting paid for this. No one was applauding him.  He did it because he wanted to make a little girl happy. He did it because it was Christmas.

Before he left, Santa leaned to the little girl. “Now, Sarah, you have a job to do.” He told her seriously, “You have concentrate on getting well. I expect to see you this time next year.”  Then he asked, “Do you believe in angels?” Sarah nodded. Santa took Sarah’s small, frail hand in his. “It may be easier to get well with some help, so I’m going to ask that angels watch over you.”

Sarah smiled. “They will Santa. I’m sure they will if you ask.”

The white room swirled away and I was back at the mall in front of Santa.

“What happened to the little girl?” I asked the old man in the scarf.

“Does that matter? What matters is that someone took the time to reach out to another person who was hurting.  That man had his own kids to buy presents for, his own family to spend time with, but he chose to take the time to do something nice for someone else.”

I looked at the man in the Santa costume and thought that maybe Christmas did bring out the good after all. As I was watching, a girl with short blond hair walked up to him.

“Hi, Santa remember me?” she asked. “You visited me in the hospital last year.”

My mouth opened. It was Sarah. She looked so different. Her hair was healthy and her cheeks pink.

Santa’s reaction was much like my own. He looked at her for a moment, then he pulled her into a hug and his eyes filled with tears.

“Christmas is what you make it,” said the man in the scarf watching Sarah and Santa.  “You can choose to only see the ads, the companies trying to sell their products, and spoiled children. Or you can see the good that Christmas brings. And what’s more important is that you decide what kind of Christmas you experience. You can join the commercialism, or even ignore Christmas completely. Or you can do something that will change another’s life.”

With those words, the malls rearranged itself and I was back in the coffee shop.  I shook my head, feeling disoriented.

The seat across from me was empty.  I scanned the room for the man in the scarf, but he wasn’t there.

My name was called and I hurried to get my coffee. I would have to be fast if I was going to make it to the toy store and still be on time for my shift. I couldn’t be Santa, but I maybe a few small gifts would make staying in the hospital for Christmas a little more bearable for the kids in the children’s wing.

I stepped outside, excited to carry out my plan, and whispered to the cold air, “Looks like you win the bet.”

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*This story is all I’m posting for the month of December. Our regular posting schedule will continue in January. Hope you all have a wonderful holiday! 🙂

This is based off of a true story you can read here:

http://academictips.org/blogs/christmas-miracle-real-story/

 

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Miracle Santa

In the spirit of the season, I thought I would share a little Chirstmas story I wrote. I hope you enjoy it! Merry Christmas! 🙂

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Less than an hour ago, I thought Christmas was commercialized nonsense.  It was just an excuse for parents to go into debt and kids to act like brats. Christmas wasn’t about peace and joy, but Xboxes and iPhones.  Everyone was focused on out-getting or out-giving everyone else.

I distanced myself from the holiday was much as possible. The only reason I was inside the coffee shop on a Christmas Eve was because my driver side window didn’t roll down. I was forced into the little shop crowded with last minute shoppers getting a caffeine buzz to finish their frenzied search for merchandise.

I wouldn’t have stopped at all but I’d volunteered to work the night shift at the hospital and I needed the caffeine. The debts nursing school left me with needed to be paid, even if that meant working Christmas eve.

Miraculously, there was there was an empty table and I slid into the seat before anyone else could. As I waited for the barista to call my name, I watched the chaotic scene in front of me.

A young mother tried to keep her screaming baby quiet while her five-year-old made his three-year-old sister cry by telling her that Santa was bringing him a ton of presents, but she was only getting coal.

Two little boys argued over who was getting the most presents this year. A man talked loudly on his phone: something about looking everywhere, but none of the stores had it.  Whoever was on the other end (probably his wife) didn’t believe him. I could hear her shrill voice coming out of the speaker.

Didn’t people have enough stress in their lives without Christmas? It wouldn’t bother me if the Holiday was canceled, well, I would miss the extra pay that came from working on Christmas Eve.

A middle-aged man with a scarf wrapped around his neck pulled out the chair across from mine. “Mind if I sit down? There aren’t any more seats left.”

I kind of did mind, but he wasn’t arguing on his cell phone or carrying an armload of kids, so I nodded my head.

“You look like you could use some Christmas cheer,” he said.

I frowned. Just because I let him sit here didn’t mean I wanted an evaluation.

“I could use a little less Christmas cheer,” I told him.

“You don’t like Christmas?”

“I don’t like what it does to people.”

He raised an eyebrow.  “What does it do?”

“It brings out their worst. Suddenly the only thing on everyone’s mind is getting, getting, getting. Parents have to get more toys for their kids, because if they get less than last year, they’ll throw a fit. Kids want more toys even though half the toys they already own are unused. Everyone is rushing around trying to get everything on their list before stores run out. Heaven forbid you step outside your door on Black Friday.”

The old man nodded, making the white stubble on his chin brush his scarf. “Christmas may bring out some people’s bad side, but it can also bring out their good side.”

“I don’t think trampling people because big screen TVs are on sale is the nice side of people.”

He chuckled. “That wasn’t exactly what I was thinking about.” He leaned in. “I bet I know something that will change your mind about Christmas.”

“I’m pretty sure nothing will change my mind,” I said.

“I’ll right, it’s a bet.” He held out his hand for me to shake.

“You’re on.” He could talk all night and still not be able to pull the wool over my eyes. Christmas was a sham to get people to spend more money. There certainly wasn’t anything good about it.

As I clasped his hand, the small coffee shop began to swirl away. First the crying baby and mother scolding her son for making his sister cry. Then the boy and tearful small girl. The table between me and the old man vanished.

“What’s going on?” I asked, voice high with panic.

“You may want to stand up,” he said, getting out of his seat.

“Why?”

Just then his chair disappeared, and I jumped out of my seat to avoid falling on the floor when mine did the same.

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Part two is coming next week!

*This story is all I’m posting for the month of December. Our regular posting schedule will continue in January.

P.S. I Think You’re Cute

Six Years Old

Max saved the best Valentine’s for last. He’d already given out the rest of the little bags of candy to his classmates, but the one still in his hand was better than those. It had a mini Hershey chocolate among the gummy bears.

He walked to Jacey, who was bent over digging in her purple backpack and tapped her shoulder. Her dark pigtails swished as she turned. The red ribbons she had tied in each one reminded Max of cherry Twizzlers.

“Here,” Max said, holding out the bag of candy.

She took it and swooped back into her backpack. “I have yours.” She came up holding a square card with a picture of Snoopy surrounded by hearts attached to a tiny bag of heart-shaped candies. The gross kind that taste like chalk.

“Thanks,” Max said. Not because he was really glad to get the candies, but because it was the thing to say when someone gave you something.

Jacey frowned. “It doesn’t have a card with it,” she said peering into the clear plastic bag. The bag, much to Max’s embarrassment, had red and pink hearts all over it. He’d wanted plain bags, but his mother insisted on the one the ones with hearts to make up for his un-valentine’s-day-like candy of gummy bears.

“But it has chocolate,” Max said. Which was more than she could say for her gift.

“Yeah, but it’s more fun when there’s a card too,” she said, swishing one of her pigtails over her shoulder. “Then I can keep them on my dresser and look at them.”

Max couldn’t see why anyone would want to keep a bunch of cards with pictures of cartoon characters that said “Be mine” on them. “You can put the candy on your dresser,” he tried.

She shook her head, making her pigtails swirl around her shoulders. “Candy isn’t pretty. You eat candy. The cards are cute.”

Max shrugged, not sure how he could argue with a girl about what was pretty or not. Next Valentine’s Day, he would get her a bag of candy and a card.

 

Ten Years Old

There was a large Hershey bar sitting on his desk when he got to class. Max wasn’t surprised. It was Valentine’s day, so that was normal. But the note on the back wasn’t normal. Unfortunately, Max didn’t get to read it first.

“You got a whole chocolate bar?” asked Danny in the desk next to him as he snatched the bar from his hands. “Hey there’s a love note on the back of it.”

“It’s not a love note,” Max said, though he had no idea what it said.

“Yeah it is.” Danny held it away so Max couldn’t reach it. “It says, ‘Happy Valentine’s Day. P.S. I think you are cute.’” He read it loudly so the kids nearby could hear.

“Who would think you’re cute, Danny?” asked one of the boys behind Max.

“Eww, it’s not mine,” Danny said. “It’s his.” Danny gave the chocolate back to Max. He flipped it over, hoping that Danny was making it up, but there was a square valentine with a picture of Snoopy. Scrawled over the Snoopy were the exact words Danny read.

Max turned red.

“Max has a girlfriend. Max has a girlfriend,” the boys chanted.

“I do not.” Max tossed the chocolate to Danny’s desk. “I don’t even want it.”

“I’ll take it,” said one of the boys.

“No way. It’s on my desk.” Danny cupped his hands around it like a turtle shell.

Max pulled out his notebook, glad that they were all arguing over the chocolate and not teasing him anymore. He glanced up to make sure no one else was looking at him and saw Jacey looking at him from her desk across the room. She quickly looked away, without giving him her usual smile.

Max was sorry about more than the chocolate he didn’t get to taste.

 

Sixteen Years Old

Max helped himself to a third glass of punch from the heart-shaped bowl. He didn’t feel as awkward with something in his hands. Plastic cup filled, he went back to his spot against the wall and watched the rest of his high school swirl past in graceful moves and huge smiles. Among them was his date. Or at least the girl he’d asked and had said yes. He wasn’t sure if she was still his date or not, since after the first dance, she’d gone off to talk to some other guy. She hadn’t been back.

Max spotted his red-haired ex-date laughing as she dance with a tall boy. Was that the fifth or six different boy he’d seen her dance with?

He took another swig of the punch. It was too sweet. He headed toward a trashcan, deciding he would wait in the hall for the party to be over. At least he could count on his phone to keep him company.

Halfway to the trashcan, he bumped into someone and dripped some punch on their arm. Max apologized, thinking that this night couldn’t get any worse.

“It’s alright,” said a laughing voice. Max looked up and right into Jacey’s deep brown eyes.

“Oh, hi,” Max said lamely. They’d use to be close friends when they were little, but he wasn’t sure if she remembered.

“Care to get me a napkin.” She held up her punch-speckled arm.

Max hurried to the punch table and grabbed a handful of napkins. He spun around and almost knocked into her again when he found her standing right behind him. He apologized again, but she only laughed and took the napkins.

“Are you here by yourself?” she asked.

“No,” Max was quick to say. He didn’t want to look lame. “She’s over there.” He pointed to the red-haired girl that looked like there was nothing more fun than being apart from Max. He immediately wished he would said he was here by himself.

“You too?” she raise an eyebrow.

“What do you mean?”

She shrugged. “My date is a bit more enthusiastic about the whole dancing thing than I am. So he found someone equally enthralled with trying to impress the other with their amazing collection of movements.” She did a jerky movement that looked like a demon-possessed robot and Max laughed.

“I’m glad I’m not the only one at this thing that doesn’t like to dance,” Max said. “It’s too bad Valentine’s couldn’t stay like it when we were little. All we had to do was hand out cards and eat candy.”

“I’d take chocolate over loud music and vanishing dates any day.” She grinned. “You always gave out the best Valentines.”

“I did?” Max was surprised she even remembered his Valentine’s gifts. He was strangely pleased that she thought they were the best.

“They always had different kinds of candy in them. Like gummy bears and sour candies.”

Max grinned. “I’ll have to tell my mom that. She thought sour candy was all wrong for Valentine.”

Jacey grabbed his arm suddenly. “You know what we should do?” The curls in her hair bobbed as she did a little bounce. “We should go to the store and find some candy and Valentine’s cards—you know, the kind we gave out as kids.”

“For our dates?” Max asked, imagining the look he would get from the girl he came with if he tried to give her a kid Valentine card and gummies.

“Not them.” Jacey laughed. “For each other. Just for fun.”

Max tossed his punch in the trash. “I could use some candy.”

As Max wound through the crowd with Jacey by his side, he knew just what he’d get her. Sour gummies with a Snoopy card. And across the Snoopy he’d write: Happy Valentine’s Day. P.S. I think you cute.

snoopy-valentines-day-images-3

The Bottle

I hated the ashes, almost as much as I hated the crimson scars that bubbled over every inch of my flesh. They were the ashes of everything my family once owned and seeing them reminded me there was nothing that could return them to the big farm house they once were. Maybe not even the bottle of sparkling red liquid that I buried in them.

I dug into the pile of ashes in the spot where I thought I’d left it. The back of my hands were wet with  tears I’d brushed away, which only made the black ash stick to them faster.  I couldn’t find the bottle, so I moved a little to the left and started shifting through the ash there.  Only days ago, I’d hid the bottle here, but it was tiny and I was in an excited rush when I dug the hole.

I was deep in the forest that day, letting the creek water run over my bare feet. It didn’t hesitate to touch me, not caring that a nine-year-old girl had wrinkles on her feet and legs.  The water trickling over the rocks and the birds twittering in the branches were the only sounds I needed.  I could go on forever without the sounds of people.  They whispered as I walked by.  They laughed at the way the skin grafts left me looking like a shriveled raisin.  Besides, why should I listen to the sounds others made when they couldn’t listen to mine?  The smoke damaged my throat.  Talking was something I only did in my dreams.

A voice joined the song of the forest. A human voice.  I jumped and spun to find an old woman standing on the bank.  She put something in my hand, closed my fingers around it, and told me to pour it on anything that needed to be made new. I opened my hand and resting on my palm was a tiny bottle of red liquid. I looked up.  She was gone.

When my sister came to get me for dinner, I slipped the bottle from my pocket. She grabbed at it saying it could contain a curse or spell.  I couldn’t tell her that it was a good spell, so I ran for the one place I knew she would never think to find me. The place of my nightmares.  I hadn’t been to the mound of ashes that was once our home since the fire.

It was my fault. I was playing with my ball in the house, even though I wasn’t allowed.  The ball floated slowly as it went toward the lantern but once it hit, everything thing exploded into supper speed. The flames that melted the sturdy log walls along with my skin danced in my dreams night after night.  I couldn’t look at my red splotchy burns without smoke flooding my nostrils and smothering my breath.

That would change with a few drops from the bottle. I would lead my parents to its ashy hiding place, then I would fix what I’d done while they watched, beaming smiles at me like the hadn’t done since the fire.

I went back to our one room shack, thinking that I’d never have to see it again, and wrote everything that had happened on my slate. Once I dusted the chalk of my fingers, I gave it to my parents. I waited for the light to come back to their dull eyes. I watched for their smiles, but their mouths sagged downward.

Da asked if I gave the woman money for the phony spell. Ma told me that it was time I stop living in my imagination.  Making up stories wouldn’t heal my scars.

Ma was right. I would always be wrapped in scar tissue. I would always be trapped inside with no one but myself to listen to me. It was impossible that a bit of red liquid could fix what I’d done.

I planned to leave the bottle there, but the flames in my dreams were replaced by cool drops of red liquid that eased my burning skin and made me smile.

After a group of children gathered around me chanting “scar face,” I ran to the remains of our home. I dropped down beside the chimney standing alone in the rubble and wiped the tears away so I could look for the bottle.

My fingers brushed something hard. I found it. The liquid was the color of a rose in full bloom. Something that color couldn’t be an evil spell, but even if it was, what could it do to ashes? I popped the cork from the mouth and tipped it.  One shimmering drop hit the ashes.  Nothing happened.

I frowned and let a little more of the liquid out of the bottle. Nothing.  I put the bottle over my arm.  The drops that fell didn’t feel any different than water from the creek I played in. I put drops all over me until the bottle was empty, but it didn’t do anything.  I lifted my hand to fling the bottle against the blackened chimney.

The chimney wasn’t black. It’s bricks were as clean as the day they were laid.  The air began to vibrate.  Walls with shiny windows appeared along the perimeter of the house.  I jumped back as a wall rose in front of me. More walls came forming a room.  Ma’s rocking chair appeared and beside it, a basket filled with yarn. A stack of books rested on the mantle place beside the clock.  Everything was just as it was before the fire.

I couldn’t move for a solid minute. I looked at the emptied bottle.  My skin!  The skin on my arm was smooth.  I ran my hand over it, surprised that it felt as smooth as it looked.  I moved my fingers to my face.  The wrinkly scars were gone.  There wasn’t a mark on my body.

No one would call me names now. No one would whisper my story as I passed by.  I clasped the bottle and my vocal cords vibrated.

“It’s a new life.”

Pirate’s Lace

Out of all the people bustling among the ships docked along Morchender’s waterfront, only one held Ramiel’s attention.

Captain Jambika stood at the bow of her ship, hair billowing out in a wild mass of black curls. Lace dripped from her cuffs and tumbled from her throat like foam cresting a wave.

So, the rumors were true. Jambika did like to sport her lace as well as transport it. Ramiel thought it must have been a tale, like those that always surrounded pirates. The last pirate she’d been under, Dead Eye, was said to have no eyes in his scull and use some mystical power to aim his pistol and strike his sword. In truth, he did have an empty eye socket—not even a fake eye in it or a patch over it—but it was his other eye that did the aiming, not some mystical power.

Ramiel stood at the bottom of the ship’s ramp and yelled up to one of the crew. “Permission to come aboard.”

He squinted at her. “If ye want to look at the lace, ye can wait ’til we bring it ashore.”

“Do I look like I’m interested in lace?” Ramiel didn’t try to keep the offence out of her voice. Jambika may parade around in the ship’s cargo, but Ramiel had more dignity than to go around looking as pompous and useless as a queen. She liked her clothing simple and useful. A cloak to keep rain off as well as cover her sword. Shirt long enough to cover the pistol at her side. And boots tall enough to conceal a dagger.

“What are ye interested in then?” asked the crew member.

“A job.”

He eyed Ramiel, probably trying to decide if she knew that she was asking to be part of a pirate crew, not a merchant ship.

“Let her aboard,” said a woman’s voice behind him. It was Jambika. Her voice wasn’t as soft as Rameil expected someone with that much lace to have, but it wasn’t as rough as Dead Eye’s. It wasn’t as rough as hers.

Ramiel strode up the ramp and onto the ship. She stopped before Jambika and stood straight and proud.

“I’m looking for honest work on the open sea. The longer we’re away from the shore, the better.” The words were code. They let Jambika know that Ramiel knew she was more than a merchant, and Ramiel most certainly did not care that the work wouldn’t be honest.

Jambika eyed her like she were a bit of expired fish. “You’re a bit shabby for honest work.”

Ramiel’s jaw tightened. “Honest work doesn’t require fancy dress.” She gave a pointed look at Jambika’s lace.

“Jealous?” One side of Jambika’s mouth curved upward.

Ramiel tightened her lips to keep from spitting. Jealous? Of this overdressed sod? She probably couldn’t use the sword hanging at her side.

“If you haven’t noticed,” Jambika said. “This ship requires a little more class than the normal,” she raised her brow, “honest workers.”

Ramiel felt she might explode. Was this frilly thing refusing to give her a chance because of her clothes? What kind of pirate cared how you were dressed?

“I don’t need a bunch of lace dripping off of me to look intimidating. I let my skills do the talking.” Ramiel put her hand over the sword beneath her cloak.

Jambika cocked her head. “Are you saying that I need to strike an imposing figure to make up for my lack of skill?”

“It’s not what I’m saying. It’s what all that lace is saying.”

“Perhaps I should let my sword do some ‘saying’ as well as my lace.” Jambika pulled a long, slender sword from the sheath at her side and Ramiel wasted no time in pulling out her own, less dazzling weapon.

“You first,” Ramiel said. Only a cowered would take advantage of one less skilled.

Jambika nodded her head at Ramiel. “Please, your move first.”

Ramiel only stood with her sword ready.

“I would not want the fight to be over too quickly,” Jambika said.

Heat spread through Ramiel. If Jambika wanted to be made a fool, so be it. Ramiel sprang forward, not bothering to be gentle with her first blow as she might have for someone less pompous.

Jambika didn’t stumble back in surprise as she imagined, but blocked her easily and stood waiting for Ramiel’s next strike.

Ramiel’s sword came at her again, and again Jambika blocked her. Ramiel swung over and over, but each time Jambika blocked her.

“Having trouble finding me under all my imposing lace?” Jambika asked, mouth quirked.

Ramiel’s only answer was a series of jabs and strikes that Jambika brushed aside smoothly.

Finally, Jambika made a jab back at Ramiel.

Ramiel had no problem blocking the blow and wondered if Jambika was only talented at defense. That would explain why she wanted her to make the first move. Perhaps her only skill was to keep attackers from wounding her while her crew did all the killing.

Ramiel switched tactics and stayed in a defensive position, waiting for Jambika to strike against her.

It was a mistake. Instead of finding a weak spot that would allow Ramiel to take advantage, she found herself so busy defending against the onslaught of blows raining down on her that she couldn’t make single offensive move.

She was being beaten by a lace-bedecked ninny!

Just as Ramiel thought it couldn’t get any worse, something hard press against the back of her calf. Her balance teetered and she fell backward over the object, smacking her head on the deck.

The world dimmed for a moment except the sparks of light that flitted over her vision.

A hand appeared among the little lights, a ring of lace surrounding it. Ramiel was not so dazed that she would stoop to taking Jambika’s hand. She ignored it and pushed herself up.

Jambika laughed and it annoyed Ramiel that she didn’t take offence at her offer of help being ignored. But then, it would be hard to take offence at someone you’d so soundly humiliated. Ramiel hardened her jaw and slid her sword into its sheath. She was about to leave the ship and the annoying grins of the watching crew, when Jambika said, “Not bad. I suppose I could use another honest worker aboard.”

Ramiel stood for a second. Was Jambika offering her a place on her ship?

“If you can stand to work under someone who strikes an imposing figure to compensate for their lack of skill,” Jambika continued.

The crew snickered.

Ramiel might have turned her down, just to save some of her injured pride, but if she had to spend another week on land in this smelly city, she’d join a merchant crew just to breathe in the sea again.

“I think I can put up with it,” Ramiel said.

“Good.” Jambika flicked her hand toward the crate at Ramiel’s feet, making the lace at her wrist swish. “Your first task is to take the cargo to shore.”

Ramiel scowled at the crate. It was the thing that had tripped her and left her sprawling like a ninny for the crew to see. There was a single word etched into the wooden lid, letting its content be known. Lace.

The Pact

7 years old

She looks like me. That was the first thing Tyler thought when he saw girl who was moving into the house next door. He wondered if she moved here straight from China or if her family had been in the U.S. for generations like his.

She was sitting on the porch steps, chin in her hands. She didn’t look very happy. For some reason, he wanted her to look up at him.

Tyler grabbed the scooter leaning against his house down his driveway then stopped at the street. He wasn’t allowed cross the line where the light cement of the driveway ended and the black pavement of the road began. But she was watching him now, and he didn’t want her to think he was a baby, so he crossed the line and let the wheels roll over the road.

He stopped when he reached the next driveway. Her driveway.

“Can I ride in your driveway?” he asked. She nodded and he scooted his way right up to her porch. He stopped in front of her.

“Did you just get here from China?” Then he remembered how every new kid at school would always ask him that and how it annoyed him, so he added, “Or has your family been here for generations? Mine has been here for four. I’ve never even been to China.”

She blinked at him. She probably wasn’t used to having people actually realize that just because she was Chinese didn’t mean she came from China.

He was sure she was impressed until she said, “I’m not Chinese.”

Now it was Tyler’s turn to blink. But she looked…Oh. “Japanese?”

She shook her head. “I’m from the Philippines.” She said words strangely. She had an accent.

To keep from feeling silly, he changed the subject. “I’m seven. How old are you?”

She brightened. “I’m seven too. That means I’ll be in your class at school right?”

“Yeah. I can show you the ropes.” He’d heard that phrase in a movie. It sounded cool.

“You will show me around?” She seemed confused. She probably didn’t know what “show you the ropes meant.”

“I’ll show you around and tell you everything you need to know,” Tyler explained, feeling important.

“Oh, good. I’ve never been to an American school before.”

Tyler remembered his fist day of school and how nervous he’d been. “We’ll make a pact,” he said, because he’d seen a boy and a girl make a pact in a movie once and always wanted to do it. “I’ll be your partner for everything that happens at school.”

“Ok,” the girl said.

“Shake on it?” Tyler asked, holding his hand out. That’s what the boy and girl did in the movie. The girl put her hand in his. He grinned, and she grinned back.

Tyler rode home on his scooter feeling very satisfied with himself.

Then he relized he didn’t know the girl’s name.

 

12 years old

“Marie!” Tyler called as he rushed down the hall, dodging the other kids to catch up with her. She turned around and smiled. She wore her hair differently and she wore different clothes, but that smile hadn’t changed since she was seven. Tyler was glad. It would be like changing the flavor of chocolate chip cookies. They didn’t need to be changed.

“I’m going to be in the talent show,” he said. “Want to be my partner?”

Marie’s face fell. “Amber just asked me.”

“Well, I’m sure she’ll understand. We’re always partners.” Ever since the day of their pact, they’d been partners for everything. The science projects in the third grade that got baking soda and vinegar all over Marie’s new shoes because Tyler wanted their volcano to have the biggest explosion. The fifth grade book report that was almost a disaster because Marie wanted to read Charlotte’s Web and Tyler wanted to read Bridge to Terabithia. Luckily, The  Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe saved the day. It had animals and magic.

“I already told her I’d do it with her,” Marie said. She no longer had the accent she had when she was seven.

“But we’re always partners,” Tyler said lamely.

“We can be partners with other people sometimes.” Marie looked apologetic.

Tyler paused, hoping she’d change her mind, but she didn’t say anything. He shrugged. “I guess I’ll find someone else.”

She smiled at him. That smile that didn’t change. Somehow it hurt to look at it.

 

17 years old

It hurt to watch Marie talking with the guy by her side. Laughing, smiling that killer smile of hers. He’d probably asked her out to the junior prom already. It shouldn’t bother Tyler. He was already taking someone.

Still, somehow he’d imagined taking Marie, even though they’d slowly drifted apart over the years. His family moved to a different neighborhood when he was in eighth grade, then came junior high and different class schedules. They still talked, but Tyler wasn’t sure it was enough to ask her to be his date.

He’d daydreamed about asking her. He’d even thought about reminding her of the pact they made when they were kids, but he wasn’t even sure if she remembered. He would end up looking stupid. So this morning, a day before the junior prom, he asked a girl in his math class that didn’t have anyone to go with. It was safe. His friends said she’d had a crush on him all year long. It wasn’t Marie, but at least he wouldn’t make a fool of himself by asking and getting turned down.

Tyler turned away from Marie and the annoying guy by her side and opened his locker. He pulled a notebook out and a folded piece of notebook paper fluttered to the floor.

Thinking it was some stray notes, he started to put it back in the notebook. Then he saw his name written on the front.

He’d seen that handwriting nearly everyday in Elementary and Middle School. He’d watched it change from block letters to the rounded ones that spelled out his name.

Marie’s handwriting.

He slowly unfolded it, feeling like he was unwrapping a Christmas present he’d waited all year to open.

 

Hey Tyler! 

I know it’s a bit late, but I was sort of hoping you’d get around to it first. Then I thought, “Why does it have to be the guy that does the asking?” I tried to think of a fancy way to do this, but then decided to keep it simple. You always did like to keep things simple (unless it’s a paper mache volcano). 

You can probably guess what I’m about to ask you, so I’ll just go ahead and say it. 

Will you go to the prom with me?

You can’t say no because you made a promise that you’d be my partner for anything school related. 😉 

Anxiously waiting your response,

Marie

 

Tyler grinned. She remembered the pact they’d made. He could have used it to ask her.

Then his smile dropped. Could have. He’d already asked someone else. It was too late.

Maybe he could get out of it. Maybe he could explain it to the girl he’d asked.

Explain what? That they’d made a pact when they where in second grade to always be partners in everything. That they hadn’t been partners for anything since they were twelve, but now all of a sudden it was important for him to go with Marie even though it meant rudely dumping the girl he’d asked?

He couldn’t do that, even if this was what he wanted. He would have to tell her that he was going with someone else.

Tyler’s stomach knotted at the thought. Never in all his daydreams did he have to turn Marie down.

He sighed and folded the note. Why hadn’t he just ask her? Why couldn’t she have asked him just a few hours earlier?

Maybe she’d waited so late because she was hoping someone else would ask her. Maybe she was only asking him because she didn’t want to go alone. What was that last line? You can’t say no because you made a promise that you’d be my partner for anything school related. What if she was only asking him because she knew he’d say yes? He was nothing but a back-up plan.

Well, he wouldn’t be a back-up plan. Hadn’t she been the one to say that they should have other partners?

Tyler shoved the note back in the locker and pretend he never saw it.

 

18 years old

Tyler hurried through the empty school halls. He’d left his jacket in one of the classrooms and hadn’t realized it until he’d stepped into the frided air. He was getting a ride home with one of his friends because his car hadn’t started that morning. First his car wouldn’t start, then the girl he asked to prom already had a date, then he forgot his jacket. What else could go wrong?

Tyler opened the classroom door. He froze.

Marie was sitting in one of the desks.

They hadn’t talked since last year when she’d slipped that note in his locker. Tyler felt so guilty about the whole thing, that he avoided her. It wasn’t hard to do. Tyler suspected she was avoiding him too. He wished he’d at least written a note back, explaining why he couldn’t take her. But the more time that went by, the more awkward it seemed to approach her.

As if the distance between them weren’t uncomfortable enough, Tyler could tell she’d been crying.

She quickly wiped her face and gave a weak smile. It made Tyler’s heart twist. It wasn’t her smile. It was like chocolate chip cookies without the chocolate chips.

“I forgot my jacket,” Tyler said, feeling the need to explain why he was invading her privacy.

“That one?” She pointed to the jacket hanging over the back of the desk right in front of her. Of course it would be right next to her. It couldn’t be right by the door so he could grab it and leave.

He made his way over there, keeping his eyes focused on the jacket as if it would dissapear if he lost sight of it for even a second. He felt he should say something, but didn’t know what. It was her business. Whatever he said would probably make it worse anyway.

Marie stood and scooped her backpack up from the floor, getting ready to leave. By then he was already in her row and just a couple of steps away from his jacket. She picked it up and held it out to him.

His fingers brushed the tips of hers as he took it. His stomach fluttered.

He realized that he was standing there, blocking her way, but instead of moving he said, “Are you alright?”

Marie shrugged. “I’m fine. Just a rough day.”

She wasn’t fine. She looked like she did after the goldfish he’d won at a fair for her died and her mom flushed it down the toilet. “It wasn’t such a great day for me either,” Tyler said.

“Can’t be that bad,” she said. “Unless you got dumped too.”

Dumped? She’d been with that guy since Christmas. All that time together and he broke up with her a week before prom? The jerk. She deserved better than that. “My car would start this morning.”

She laughed. The sound made Tyler grin.

“I think I’d rather take a stubborn car than a brake up right now,” she said. The smile faded and she sighed. “I guess I just don’t have luck with these things.”

“Yes you do. I mean you should. I mean he’s the unlucky one. Who wouldn’t want to go to prom with you?”

“Quite a few people actually,” she said, sharply. Then she looked down as if she hadn’t meant to say that.

Tyler couldn’t help but think she was talking about him. It’s not as if that note could have gotten lost in a little locker. He would have seen it eventually. She probably wondered why he never brought it up, even after the prom was over, to explain. It didn’t help that he’d avoided her. Of course she was mad at him.

“I should go,” Marie said, hinting that he should move. But he didn’t. He couldn’t let this opportunity go. What were the chances  that he would run into her right after that jerk broke up with her, and before someone else asked her? Tyler silently thanked the girl who’d turned him down earlier.

“I have to tell you something,” he blurted. “I saw the note you left in my locker–”

“I know you did,” she said. “I was walking by you as you reached your locker. I looked back as you opened it up.”

Tyler swallowed. He remembered her walking by, but he didn’t know she’d seen him.  “I’m sorry.  I’d already asked someone else and didn’t know how to tell you.”

She shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. Junior Prom is over.” She smiled. Another smile that wasn’t hers.

“It does matter. I should have told you. I shouldn’t have let all this time go by without explaining.”

She shrugged again. “People get crushes on people who don’t like them back all the time. It’s just one of those things. We don’t have to make things awkward.”

He grinned on the inside. She had a crush on him. Then the feeling faded. She had a crush on him last year before he’d ruined his chance with her. What did she think of him now?

She took a step forward, as if to make Tyler get out of her way.

He didn’t move. She was standing so close. “Yes,” he said.

“What?” She looked up at him, startled.

“I’m answering your note.” Tyler’s heart beat. She’d probably slap him. “I’ll take you to prom. If you’ll go with me.”

She raised her eyebrows. “Are you trying to be funny?”

“We made a pact. We’d always be partners for anything that happened at school. So, it may have taken me awhile, but I’m making good on that pact.”

“You don’t have to ask me to prom because of a promise we made when we were kids.”

“That’s not why I’m asking you.”

“You don’t have to ask me out because you didn’t answer my silly note.”

“That’s not why–”

“I hope you aren’t asking me because you feel sorry for me because my stupid boyfriend dumped me right before prom.”

Tyler smiled. It had been a while since he’d talked with her. It was nice to hear her voice again. Even if she was a bit mad.

“What?” Marie asked.

“I’m asking you because I like you.”

Marie smiled. She smiled her smile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tyler smiled at god and said i will repent from not respecting maries dision and god said marie has a crash on the other pirson and tyler was jelous to be continud

Golden Apple

The festive sparkles that dotted the low stooping branches had to be the most succulent fruit in the forest, but the elders forbid anyone from eating even a bite. I thought it was because the apples would make a person sick, but they looked harmless as their skin winked in the sunlight.  I told myself that I should leave. There was no reason to stand there gaping at fruit I couldn’t eat, but they were so beautiful and looking at them wasn’t forbidden.

“I see you are admiring my fruit.” I jumped at the voice, thinking one of the elders caught me so close to the apples. I whirled around to see a man leaning lazily against a tree behind me.  His dark hair was slicked back and smoothly fell to the nape of his neck. I’d never seen eyes like his before; they were as golden as the apples.

“Did you say ‘your tree?’” I asked. How could he own a tree?

“I did,” said the stranger stepping away from the tree.  He strode toward me in slow, carless steps and chuckled when he saw my puzzled expression. “Did you think a tree with such fine apples just made itself?”

I shrugged. “No one makes the other trees.”

“Ah, but those are the ordinary kind of trees: the kind that produces only blue or orange or yellow fruit.”  His stood beside me and swung an arm over my shoulder. “But a tree that produces golden fruit—only I know the secret to making those.” He tapped his temple.

“What does gold taste like?” I asked him.

“Why don’t you find out?” He spread the arm that wasn’t around my shoulder out in front of him, palm up, gesturing to the tree.

“I didn’t mean I wanted to,” I quickly stammered, slipping out from under his arm.  “I couldn’t…”

The golden eyed man chuckled, “Don’t worry about me. I don’t mind if you take an apple from my tree.”

“Maybe you don’t but…” I started to explain, but the man continued as if he didn’t hear me.

“I planted it here so that its fruit may be generously shared with all those who live in the forest.” The man flung his hand out to the rows of trees as if a crowd were there.

“That’s very thoughtful of you, but I wasn’t asking to eat the fruit myself,” I explained. “I just wanted to know what it tastes like, that’s all.”

The man’s eyebrow arched over his golden eye. “Why not tasted it for yourself then, if you’re so curious?”

“They might be free for the taking, but I’m not free to take them,” I said, trying to keep the disappointment out of my voice.

The man frowned. “What do you mean?”

“The elders—they told me not to.” I shrugged, feeling a little foolish that I didn’t have a better reason. I seemed wrong to refuse his generosity.

The man’s shoulders drooped and he shook his head. “Again?” he muttered to himself.

“What’s happened again?”  I asked.

“The work, the rumors, the waste.”

He let out a frustrated sigh and sat down under the tree with the golden fruit.  “I only want to spread my gift for others to enjoy, but ignorant fools always find a way to ruin it.”

“This has happened before?” I asked.

“In every forest I go to.”

“You’ve been to more than one forest?” I said, shocked.  The elders said the other forests were dangerous.

“Of course,” he said as if my question were silly.  “One with a gift such as I have shouldn’t stay in one place, hording all the golden apples to myself. I travel so that all may taste of my wonder.” He frowned.  “But no one can taste if no one believes it is safe.

“It’s happened again and again.  My golden apples go un-tasted because someone spreads the rumor that they are poisonous or some foolish thing like that.”

“How do they know if they’re poisonous?” I asked, “Doesn’t anyone ever try them?”

The man leaned his head back and laughed. “Clever boy.  That is precisely what I’ve always wondered.”  His strange golden eyes looked at me expectantly.  “Why doesn’t anyone try them?”

“I guess they’re afraid,” I said.

“But what is there to be afraid of? This?” He reached up and pulled a shimmering apple from a low branch beside him. He tossed it in his hands, watching it go from one hand to the another.

“Are they afraid of a shiny piece of fruit?” he asked, his eyes still focused on the moving apple. “Or, I wonder if they are afraid of what it might do to them.” The apple stopped.  “Because it will you know. Do something to them.” His glimmering eyes left the apple and found mine. I swallowed. Was he saying they were poisonous?

His eyes left mine and the apple began to move between his hands again. I waited for him to explain, but he silently watched the glittering fruit as it bounced from one hand to the other.

“What would it do?” I blurted.

“This,” he held the shining apple between his thumb and finger, “holds a special power that no other fruit in this forest can give. Why is it, that every tree I grow in every forest is forbidden?”

His golden eyes held mine, and I waited for the answer. “Because they don’t want to share the power! They want to keep it for themselves.”

Was it true? The elders never did say what would happen if someone ate the golden fruit.  Maybe it was because they didn’t want anyone to know what it did.

The man leaned his back against the tree and stretched his legs out in front of him, crossing them at his ankles. “One bite out of one of my golden apples can show you things that no one else can see.” He tossed the fruit in the air and caught it.

“Like what?”  I knelt down beside him.

“The world, boy.” He spread his hand before him and slid it through the air. “The world…” He stared ahead for a moment as if looking at something I couldn’t see. Then in a sudden movement that made me jump, he turned his head to me and held the apple out. “The world could be yours. Only a single bite and you will see beyond this forest and into lands you’ve never visited.”

The apple sat glimmering in the palm of his hand, offering the chance to see beyond this forest. I reached out and picked it up. It was warm and smooth. I could see my reflection on its golden skin.

“Eat it, boy. Take a bite and see the world.” His golden eyes gleamed.

My teeth sank into gold.

It was sweet. And tart. It tasted like an ordinary apple, only its flavors were a little stronger. It was a little disappointing. I thought a golden apple would taste more exotic.  I wondered if I would see the world now. I looked out at the forest, but it looked the same.

“Where are the other forests?”  He didn’t answer me. Instead, he laughed. It started as a low chuckle, then grew louder.

It was a trick. The apples didn’t do anything. I looked down at the apple in my hand, ready to toss it. I stopped.

Inside the apple wasn’t gold, but black. I moved to throw it again, but my hand seemed stuck.  I couldn’t move it. The man was still laughing, as the blackness inside the apple began to change. Colors swirled into the dark of the apple until an image immerged.

Slowly, image after image began to appear of other people from other forests. They weren’t filled with smiling people and bright green grass and leaves peppered with a rainbow of fruit like my forest.

Branches stood bare against a bleak, pale sky that was neither dark nor light.  The bark was moldy and black in patches.  The few bits of fruit that hung on the sickly looking branches were shriveled and dry.

What was worse than the barren forests, were the people in them. As much as I wanted to turn away, I couldn’t.  The apple had me under its spell. I saw people being beat, women screaming, men killing. There were people starving, children crying, and men maiming each other. I saw death and blood.

Finally the images stopped. The apple fell from my hand and rolled away in a mix of gold and black. I buried my eyes in the palms of my hands. I wanted to rub away the images, but they stayed in my head.

I had a feeling that they would never be forgotten.

The man was right. For a moment, the world was mine. And the elders were right. The apples were poisonous.

 

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Tea

Charlek’s wife was having tea with the King and didn’t have the decency to tell him about it. He knew why though. “Having tea with the King” was code for something much less innocent.  The King had a reputation of being a womanizer longer than the train draping from his shoulders.

Tea indeed! He would like to have his own private “tea” with the King. “Tea” being code for “duel.”

He paced up and down the length of the richly colored rug, his quick motion wrinkling the fine cloth of his shirt and trousers.

What was a fellow to do? It was the King after all. Which made everything ridiculously unfair. One couldn’t challenge him to a gentleman’s duel. The only thing to do was sit back and let the King take your wife like she was a common bar maid.

There was nothing more degrading than not being able to defend your household. It was downright unmanly.

Perhaps he chose his wife because Charlek was so popular among the other lords. It was his way of reminding Charlek who really had the power.  He probably threatened her.

“Power-hungry maniac,” Charlek muttered.

Charlek stopped pacing and looked at the portrait of Serina and himself on the mantel.

Serina was lovely. Perhaps it was her beauty that caught the King’s attention and not Charlek’s growing popularity.

“Dishonorable cur.”

Still, Serina did agree to meet him, and if she weren’t threatened…. Did she actually want to go?

Neither one of them had a choice in the marriage, but he thought they got along amiably. They weren’t a passionate couple perhaps, but they’d never argued in the two years of their marriage.  He let her spend what she wanted on gowns and jewelry. What else did she want?

“Baffling things, women,” he huffed.

They were a good-looking couple in the portrait. Surly, it wasn’t his looks she found lacking. Though he had put on a few pounds since the wedding. There was a little paunch around his middle that wasn’t there before.

But the King had twice the girth Charlek had. What did he have that Charlek didn’t?

Unless…

He looked at the portrait: Serina sitting, Charlek standing behind the chair. She was sitting as to not draw attention to the height difference.

That demandable half inch. Charlek’s one flaw; he was a bit short compared to some.

But he wasn’t that short. It was nothing worth running off to “have tea” over.

The door opened, and in stepped Serina.

Charlek drew himself up, almost standing on his toes. “How was your ‘tea?’”

“My what?” She sounded too innocent.

“Your ‘tea with the King?’” Charlek squinted at her watching her reaction.

“Who told you that?” Defiantly defensive.

“Never mind how I found out. Did you want to go?”

“Want to go?” She looked confused. Or was that an act? Women were such confounding creatures.

“I know what it stands for, your little code.”

She paled. “You do?”

“Yes. So, did you go willingly?”

She gave that confused look again. “Willingly? I did go on my own, so yes. I guess it was.”

On her own? What did that mean? Did she mean she approached him?

“Were you thinking at all? How do you think it will make me look if anyone found out?!”

“There are actually quite a few other woman doing it. Notable women. It’s becoming quite acceptable.”

“Acceptable? Acceptable! When is taking another man’s wife acceptable?”

His wife blinked. “What are you talking about?”

“’Tea with the King’ madam. I’m talking about tea.” He threw his hands up.

“I don’t think ‘tea with the King” means what you think it does.”

“Don’t insult me, madam. I know exactly what—“ He stopped himself. Serina was wearing that look. The same look she had when he was ranting about the duke not showing up at the party he held.  When he was done, she told him that the duke was ill with a fever. There was something she knew that he didn’t.

He tugged at his rumpled coat. “Why don’t you put it into less obscure words then. I may understand what they imply, but you know that explaining these ridiculous terms people come up with is not my forte.”

“Of course, husband.” She gave a smile that bordered a child’s mischievous smirk. “It’s a discreet term for having tea with someone quite below your social station. As a good deed. It’s becoming quite fashionable.”

Having tea with someone below you? What nonsense. Why waste your time with someone who couldn’t do you any favors? But then, the baron did say that his wife had this strange new notion that spending time with those beneath her made her appear more caring to the lower classes, and would increase her and her husband’s popularity.

“Was that what you understood the expression to mean?” his wife asked.

“Of course. I just wanted to hear you explain it. It’s such a strange new fad.” And a strange thing to call it. It must have been a woman who came up with the name, determined to give her husband a heart attack.

“Does it bother you that I do it?”

“It doesn’t matter to me what you women do.” He waved a hand.

“I’m pleased to hear that. I was under the impression that you were greatly disturbed at my outing.” She gave that infuriating smirk and glided out of the room.

Charlek sank into the cushioned chair and took a deep breath. Ridiculous women and their silly names for things. He’d almost looked like a fool.

A maid came in balancing a tray in her hands. “Would you like me to serve your tea in here today, sir?”

He closed his eyes and leaned back against the chair. “I’ll have to decline. It seems those in fashion only drink tea with the King.”

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Gift

I didn’t want to be at grandpa’s house surrounded by aunts, uncles, and cousins who all wanted to know if I’d dreamed my gift dream yet. I didn’t need to be reminded that I was the only twelve-year-old girl in my class that didn’t have their gift.

I tried to escape grandpa’s over-crowded sitting room, but as I headed to the back porch my Aunt Helen cut in front of me.

“Lora, you’ve gotten taller since the last time I saw you. Looking like such a little lady now.” She moved her hands when she talked and I thought she was going to drop the pie she was holding. “I bet you’re having fun learning about your gift aren’t you?”

She didn’t even ask if I knew what my gift was. I guess it was so uncommon to not have your gift by this age that no one thought it possible.

“I don’t–” My aunt didn’t let me finish my humiliating confession.

“I bet you are an artist like your mother.” She nodded her head and the tower of hair she had piled on her head jiggled. “You have her curly hair and dimpled smile—you’re the image of her when she was your age—you must have her gift.”

I didn’t say anything. Maybe she would keep talking and I wouldn’t have to admit that I hadn’t had my dream yet. That hope didn’t last long. My annoying eleven-year-old cousin butted it.

“She doesn’t have a gift,” Edward said stuffing one side of a roll in his mouth. His round cheeks made him look like a squirrel with too many acorns stuffed in its mouth.

“Of course she does,” my aunt insisted.

“No she doesn’t. Ask her.”

They both looked at me, and I wished that I still believed that covering my face made the rest of me disappear like I did when I was two.

“It should come soon,” I told her, even though I had no idea when I would have my dream.

Aunt Helen took in a breath and pulled her head back, making her hair wobble. “You haven’t had your dream yet?”

Did she have to say it so loud?

“You are twelve aren’t you? Or did I get you mixed up with Leah. She’s twelve and you’re eleven?”

Before I could answer, know-it-all Edward did for me. “She is twelve, but she still doesn’t have a gift.” He stuffed the other end of the roll in his mouth. It wasn’t time to eat yet. He must have snuck it out of the kitchen when no one was looking.

“So I was right,” Aunt Helen said. “ Leah is eleven.”

“Leah is fourteen, Aunt Helen.” Edward rolled his eyes.

“Oh dear, you are all getting so big. Growing up so fast.”

“Except for Lora,” Edward said.

I could’ve taken the pie from Aunt Helen and shoved it in his face.

“Don’t tease poor Lora. She can’t help that her gift hasn’t come in the normal time.”

If Aunt Helen was trying to make me feel better, it wasn’t working. I was relieved when Uncle John called for everyone’s attention.

Edward zipped off to get to the front of the group so he could see what was going on.

“Oh my. I better get this pie to the kitchen or I’m going to miss all the excitement,” Aunt Helen said as she plowed through the crowed sitting room.

I was finally left alone. I almost dashed out to the back porch, but decided to stay to hear whatever the big announcement was.

Uncle John stood near the mantel with his arm around his daughter.

“Clara has some exciting news to share with you.” He looked down at her. “Why don’t you tell them?”

Clara smiled shyly at everyone. “Last night, I got my gift.”

The room erupted in “congratulations Clara” and “No way, that’s so great,” and other statements of surprise and happiness, but all I could do was stare. Clara was only ten. How could she have had her dream already?

She beamed at the praise. My stomach twisted.

“What was it like?” asked one of the younger girls.

“Don’t leave us wondering,” Aunt Helen piped in, back from the kitchen. “Tell us your dream.”

Clara glanced at her father and he nodded at her. “I was standing in a field of grass, behind me, flowers sprang up and filled the path I’d walked. Then the whole field started growing flowers, and vegetables, and fruit. And a cherry tree grew right over my head.” She shrugged. “When I woke up, I knew that my gift was growing things.”

“A practical and beautiful gift,” Aunt said nodding her head in approval. Her hair was going to wobble right off her head.

Of course Clara would get such a perfect gift. Everything she did was perfect. Even her strait blonde hair, that unlike mine, stayed neat after it was brushed instead of tangling in a mass of curls the moment the brush was set down.

“How did you get your gift already?” Edward asked. “Even Lora doesn’t have her gift yet, and she’s way older.”

The adults laughed at Edward like what he said was cute and looked at me. My face burned. I wished I’d put that pie in Edward’s face.

“Everyone get’s their gift at different times,” Grandpa said, standing beside the fireplace.

Maybe some of us never get our gifts. I would be thirteen soon. Who ever heard of a thirteen year old without a gift?

Everyone was back to congratulating Clara, and I started for the back porch like I should have before all this “good news” was shared. I squeezed though my aunts and uncles and just made it to the kitchen door when Grandpa said, “Before we eat, I have a game for the children.”

I stopped. A game would be more fun than sulking on the porch. At least I wouldn’t have to think about my lack of a gift.

“I have hidden twelve gifts, one for each grandchild, in parts of the house.” Some of the younger kids squealed and jumped. “Once you find a present, it is yours. You can’t keep looking once you’ve found one.”

“Can we open it and decide if we want it?” Edward asked.

“Once you find a present, it is yours,” he repeated, giving Edward a look before continuing. “There aren’t any in the yard, but they could be in any part of the house. You’ll know you found one because they are each tied with a red ribbon.”

Grandpa had all the little kids go first. They scrambled off giggling and squealing. Next he had the nine and ten year olds go. By now, some of the kids from the first group were coming back, holding up their prizes proudly: a handful of candy, or chocolates, or a spinning top.

“They’re going to get all the good stuff,” Edward whined beside me. I couldn’t help but agree with him. We were the only two left. Grandpa let Edward go. I thought he would let me go right after, but he didn’t. Maybe he forgot I was playing. I looked up at Grandpa. “Can I go now?”

“Just a little longer.”

I shifted my weight from foot to foot as I watched more kids come in with their presents. If I didn’t start looking soon, all of them would be gone except one. Probably the smallest one that no one wanted.

I looked back at Grandpa.

“Alright, your turn.” He winked at me.

I took off, not bothering to search the sitting room. I was sure that all the presents in there were gone by now. I looked through the kitchen: opened cabinets and drawers, looked under the table and chairs. There wasn’t a single present.

I ran to the bedrooms, but even after looking under the beds and in the closets, there was nothing. Maybe there was a gift still hiding in the sitting room.

I went back to the sitting room, which was emptying out as people went to the kitchen to began eating.

I slipped around one of my aunts who was complaining that Grandpa should have waited until after we’d eaten to give the children candy, and slid past some of my cousins comparing gifts.

I looked under the rocking chair, around the fireplace, and behind curtains, but there wasn’t a single thing with a red ribbon around it.

“You aren’t very lucky with gifts are you,” Edward said, seeing I was still without a present. I made a face at him, but he didn’t see. He was showing someone the large chocolate bar he’d found.

I looked through the whole house again, but still couldn’t find a present. By now, everyone was in the kitchen, dining and laughing, but I didn’t feel like eating.

I slumped into a rocking chair in the sitting room and listened to the chatter in the next room. Not only was I the only twelve-year-old that didn’t have a gift, but I was the only one of my cousins that was too stupid to find their present.

Edward was right. I wasn’t lucky with gifts.

I glanced around the room, trying to think of a place I hadn’t looked. I’d searched the whole house. Maybe there wasn’t another present anywhere. Maybe Grandpa counted wrong and forgot to get me a present.

I guess I better get used to being without a gift, since it didn’t look like I’d be having my gift dream any time soon.

I put my feet up into the chair and hugged my knees. My throat was hot and tight and I thought I might cry, but someone came beside the chair.

“You’ve given up already?” It was Grandpa.

“Are you sure you hid enough gifts?”

He nodded.

I rested my chin on my knees. “I’ve looked everywhere and there isn’t one.”

“Are you sure you looked everywhere?”

“I’ve looked in every room in the entire house.” I let out a frustrated sign. “And you said they weren’t in the yard…” I realized there was a part of the house I didn’t look. “Wait a minute,” I said, jumping out of the chair. I ran though the kitchen, dodging between people standing up to get seconds.

I flung the back door open and stepped out on the back porch. I didn’t even have to look for it. Sitting in the rocking chair, was a huge basket with a red ribbon tied to the handle. It was filled with candies, chocolates, and little toys.

I grinned and took the basket into the kitchen so everyone could see that I didn’t have such bad luck with gifts.

“Not fair,” Edward said, dropping a spoonful of pudding halfway to his mouth. “She got a bigger present than anyone.”

Grandpa, leaned on the doorway between the sitting room and the kitchen. “But she had to look the hardest for hers. Sometimes, the best gifts come after the longest wait.”

I smiled, wider than Clara did at her announcement. It didn’t matter that my gift dream took longer to come than anyone else’s. When it did come, it would be the greatest gift dream there was. Because the best gifts come after the longest wait.

 

 

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Our Journey Comes to an End

I can’t believe it’s over! I’m feeling kind of nostalgic already.

Yesterday, I posted the last chapter of The Hashna Stone. It’s been a long and memorable journey and I wanted to thank you all for being a part of it. It wouldn’t have been the same without you! 🙂

I had so much fun writing this story, but like all stories, they can be a pain at times. There were a few people who help lessen that “pain” part of writing a story and I’d like to give them a huge thank you.

First off, I’d like to thank Joy Pixley for being a fantastic NaNoWriMo buddy, which is when I wrote the draft for The Hashna Stone. Her encouraging emails kept me writing and it was nice to have someone to be accountable to. Thanks for being my NaNo partner Joy!

Next, I’d like to thank clcouch123. He has been the biggest supporter of the Hashna Stone. Seriously, he commented on every chapter (and no I didn’t bribe him :P). And I don’t mean he typed something nondescript like, “This is good.” He had something insightful and encouraging to say about every chapter. That is dedication! 🙂 So, thanks clcouch123 for giving me something to look forward to after posting each chapter.

Last, but most certainly not least, is Nandini. She was nice enough to point out a few mistakes in the first two or three chapters I posted, and even nicer to offer to proofread the chapters before I posted them. Nandini took the time to read over every single chapter of this ongoing adventure (even reading on here vacation and through exam week…she’s a trooper!). She made sure that all the funky grammar mistakes that made it past my foggy writer’s brain, didn’t make it into the final draft of the chapter. So, you can thank Nandini for a much better experience of The Hashna Stone than I could have given you on my own. Thank you Nandini for patching up my story! 🙂

Now that I’m done saying my part, you guys get a chance to speak. I’d love to know what you thought of the story. What was your favorite part? Who was your favorite character? Comment and tell me your thoughts!

Missed some chapters? No problem! They’re all at the Hashna Stone Page .

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Chapter 34 All as it Should Be

I couldn’t believe this was all in our honor. The banquet hall was packed with people.

I glanced to my left where King Radon sat at the head of the table, looking much more kingly now that his reddish-blond hair was trimmed and clean. Who would have thought that I’d be sitting at the king’s side, eating with him at a banquet held to celebrate me? I wished my father were here to see this.

The banquet wasn’t only celebrating me of course. Ethan and Faiza sat next to me and Tallis was across from me, followed by Rachael, then Samel who, besides looking a little pale, was back to his usually self. I stole a quick look at his hand lying on the table next to his plate to see if it had miraculously started moving after a week of being motionless, even though I knew the doctors said the feeling wouldn’t come back. I may have carried the Hashna Stone safely to the castle and taken a foolishly-brave swing at Ryker, but Samel was the one who’d sacrificed the most.

King Radon stood and the room quieted even before he spoke.

“We are here to celebrate those who have bravely fought for the King of Minaria when he could not fight for himself. They have uncovered truth, traveled far, fought hard, and given much to ensure that the rightful king sat on Minaria’s throne.”

The king paused as the people applauded, then continued, “Faiza. Ethan. For your service to Minaria, what would you ask as a reward?”

Faiza and Ethan looked at each other, caught off guard at the question. Faiza spoke. “I want the law about nabbing orphans to be changed.”

King Radon’s lips curved upward in a smile. “Everything that was done while I was away from the throne will be revoked. Since this hardly counts as a gift, is there anything else?”

Ethan spoke this time. “We would like to have some houses built, if it’s not too much to ask.”

King Radon raised an eyebrow.

Faiza explained. “They’re for some kids. They don’t have any.”

Of course that was all Faiza and Ethan would ask for. Faiza may have complained a bit when we were selected to bring the Hashna Stone to the castle, but it was only because she didn’t want to leave the Foxes. Even now when she had the chance to be compensated for time she’d been away from them, all she wanted to do was make sure they were taken care of.

I rubbed my fingers on the cloth napkin in front of me, wondering what I should ask for. I didn’t have a group of kids I was looking after. Would asking something for myself be selfish?

The king gave his consent, then addressed Tallis. “To you, I give a choice of any position in my court. Name it and it is yours.”

Tallis bowed his head humbly. “All I would ask, Highness, is to be reinstated to my position as ambassador to Hashna.”

“I would gladly give Hashna their ambassador back.” King Radon smiled. “He’s been too long away already.” Then he looked at Rachael. “Is that your request also?”

My stomach fell. Hashna was much further away than Faiza’s and Ethan’s Foxes. If she went back to Hashna, who knows how long it would be before I would see her again.

“Actually,” Rachael said, “I’d like to stay here and help train the orphans Bayvlad brought in.”

I glanced at Tallis, wondering what he thought of Rachael’s idea. He didn’t look surprised at all, and I guessed they’d talked about it before now.

“I would be honored to have your help,” King Radon said. “And in a few years, I may have you put in Bayvlad’s position.”

Rachael dipped her head. “Thank you, your highness.” When she lifted her head, she grinned at me, like I’d been the one responsible for the offer. I was surprised by how much warmth spread through me.

Then I knew what I would ask the king for. It would be something that was both for me and others.

“Samel,” King Radon said. The dwarf was munching on a piece of cake topped with strawberries and grapes. His mouth was so full, his cheeks puffed out like a chipmunk’s. Anyone else would find it embarrassing to have the attention of the room focused on them at that moment, but Samel simply kept chewing and gave the king a salute with his left hand.

“What is it you would ask for a reward?” King Radon asked with a slight smile.

Samel swallowed loudly. “I’ve already got it. The alliance is back in place between Hashna and Minaria, and Tallis is coming back. I couldn’t ask for more than that.” Then he tapped his chin. “Though you could order Rachael to come back with us.” He winked at Rachael.

King Radon’s half smile turned into a full one. “I’m afraid you’ll have to be content with just Tallis. But I can offer you more than the alliance as a reward.” He motioned to a butler beside a door who opened it and let in three servants carrying miniatures sets of clothing: tiny shirts, jackets, trousers, and shoes.

“I heard you were having trouble finding clothing in your size,” the king said. Samel hopped out of his chair and went to examine the clothes, running his hands over the cloth, trying on a jacket. Some of the nobles at the table laughed. Others looked embarrassed or annoyed at his lack of propriety. But King Radon didn’t seem to mind.

When Samel was finished reveling, he stopped by King Radon’s chair and raised his right arm, hand hanging limp at the top. He caught himself and let it fall to his side with a shrug. He grinned like a mischievous child caught nabbing a cookie. “Some habits take a while to get rid of.”

He began to lift his good hand, but King Radon took hold of Samel’s limp one and shook it.

“Minaria is in your debit for what you did,” King Radon said, keeping Samel’s hand in his. “If you ever need anything, know that you have a friend in Minaria’s king.”

As Samel came back to his seat he was smiling, but his eyes looked moist. Maybe it was just the candle light.

Next, King Radon’s attention was directed at me. “Dalan, without you the Hashna Stone would still be lost, and Minaria’s throne still being held by a pretend king. All of Minaria is grateful for your bravery. And I am grateful for your loyalty.”

I ducked my head, feeling a bit awkward, but hoping it would look like the respectful bow that Rachael and her father gave earlier.

“What would you ask?”

“I would like to train in the army,” I said, firmly. “I want to serve Minaria like my father did.”

My dream to become a soldier like my father had faded when they began nabbing orphans, but now that they would no longer be doing that, I could join the army like I’d always wanted. It was an honorable request. I wasn’t asking for items or a title, but to protect Minaria and serve its king.

Besides, training as a soldier would mean staying at the castle with Rachael.

King Radon nodded. “I couldn’t have asked for a better soldier than your father. I know you will make him proud.” He motioned to the butler at the door, who again opened it. There was only one servant that came through this time, holding something out in front of him. “If you are to be in the army, you will need a sword.”

As the servant approached, I saw the pommel of the sword in his arms.

It was the face of a wolf.

I reached out and touched it, tracing the eyes and nose as I did so many times when I was a child. Then I took it, holding on to it like it was my father come back from the dead.

I looked up to give my thanks to King Radon, but my throat was too tight. I realized my eyes were moist and I blinked. I hoped everyone watching would think it was just the candlelight.

———

Once the gifts were given, everyone headed to the ballroom, but I’d never been much of a dancer, so I slipped outside to one of the gardens.

I stood looking over the neatly trimmed plants and fingered the wolf on my father’s sword at my side. It didn’t comfort me as much as I thought it would.

After wanting so badly to get rid of the Hashna Stone, I was surprised at how empty I felt now that it was gone. It wasn’t that I missed its familiar weight around my neck or the power that it gave. It was the togetherness that the stone brought. Our little group came together because of it, and now that it was in its rightful place, there was nothing to keep us together anymore. Since my father died, I hadn’t felt close to anyone until I met them. Now, we would go our separate ways.

Rachael stepped out and stood beside me.

At least she wasn’t leaving. That thought chased away my sudden gloom. Then I realized I was staring at her and smiling like an idiot, so I quickly thought of something to say.

“You don’t want to dance?” I asked.

“I don’t know how.” She shrugged.

“A girl? Not know how to dance?” I gave her an exaggerated, disbelieving look.

She rolled her eyes. “I was taller than all the men in the nation by the time I was eight. Who was I supposed to dance with?”

“There’s plenty of tall men around now.”

“Are you asking me to dance?”

“Well no…”  My cheeks heated.  “I can’t exactly dance either.”

“Oh, so you were trying to get me to leave.”

“No. I don’t want… I didn’t mean…”

She laughed.  “I’m just kidding.”

It was my turn to roll my eyes.

“So, do you?” Her eyebrows rose over her blue eyes.

“Do I what?”

“Want to dance.”

“How do we dance if neither of us know how?”

She shrugged. “Just go with it.” She took my hand and my heart sped up.

Just as we were getting into position, the door opened behind us and we both jumped like rabbits. Faiza, Ethan, and Samel spilled out into the night.

“You two aren’t dancers either huh?” asked Faiza.

We looked at each other, then burst out laughed, thinking that we were about to dance.

“Someone’s had too much of the wine.” Faiza shook her head.

“I wouldn’t mind dancing,” Samel said, “if all the girls weren’t such giants.”

“You’ll be back with your midget friends soon,” Faiza said, but there was a smile on her lips.

“And will I be glad to not have to worry about being stepped on,” Samel said. “You Minarians need to look down more often.”

“I’ll just be glad to get away from you,” Faiza said. “You’re worse than all the kids at our camp combined.” Then the smile slipped from her face and she looked out into the darkness. “I hope the boogers are still there and didn’t starve to death while we were gone.”

“With you whipping them into shape?” I said. “They’ll be fine. What I can’t see is you as head mistress of an orphanage.”

She whirled on me like I’d suggested that would be a fat old maid with seven cats. “Why would I be head of an orphanage?”

“They’re building you a house, aren’t they? For orphans.  And you and Ethan are the leaders.”

She lifted her chin. “It won’t be an orphanage. It will be run just like it was in the woods. They’re free to come and go as they want.”

“We’ll just be in rooms with beds now,” said Ethan.

“Just like the woods huh?” I asked, thinking about the pledge, and how much trouble I’d be in if the stone I’d found had been anything less than the Hashna Stone. “I’m glad I’m getting out now then.”

Ethan grinned and Faiza gave me a look. “I can’t help that you’re a scoundrel that breaks your pledge.” A flicker of a smile played on her mouth.

There was a small lull in the conversation where everyone seemed to realize that this was our last night together.

“What does your father think of you staying?” I asked Rachael, thinking of how long she’d been separated from him already.

She sighed. “He wants me to come with him, but we talked about it. I’ll still get to see him. He comes to the castle once a year for an annual meeting, and I can visit him. He understands that there is nothing for me in Hashna.”

“Thank you very much!” huffed Samel.

Rachael ruffed his hair. “Besides you of course.”

Samel smoothed his hair back into place with his left hand, his right hand dangling by his side. “I won’t miss you doing that.” He grinned.

“I will,” she said. “I’ll miss all of you.”

Ethan looked at the ground and Faiza cleared her throat, clearly uncomfortable.

“I guess I’ll miss you all too,” Samel said. “But not nearly as much as I miss this.”  He held up his hand.  Well, he held up his arm.  His hand wasn’t there.

We all startled at the sight of his handless arm. Then he laughed and his hand appeared, hanging limply on top of his arm.  He’d made just part of him disappear.  I didn’t know he could do that.

“It won’t be the same without all of you to scare.”

“That’s something I won’t miss,” Faiza said dryly.

I would. I was going to miss Samel’s pranks and his cheeky grin. I was going to miss Ethan’s easygoing way and Faiza’s sarcasm.

They were my family. And now we were splitting up.

But maybe that was how it was with families.

I thought of my father and fingered the wolf on his sword. Maybe he wasn’t here right now, but that didn’t mean he ever stopped being my father. Space between people didn’t mean they stopped being who they were. It didn’t mean they stopped being connected to you.

We might each go our separate ways, but we’d always remember each other.  We may not always get along, but we’d be there for each other. And like Rachael and her father, family may separate for a while, but they never stay apart forever.

 


Next (A thank you to all involved)

Missed some chapters? No problem! They’re all at the Hashna Stone Page .

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Chapter 33: Samel

When I woke, I didn’t open my eyes. They were too heavy to be moved, like the rest of my body. I was drifting back to sleep when I realized the familiar weight of the Hashna Stone wasn’t on my chest. I moved my hand to the spot, and was surprised by how stiffly it moved. Then I remembered the fight with Bayvlad, my blackened, bent sword, Radon’s confrontation with his brother, and Samel’s brave attempt to take the Hashna Stone. The image of his small body lying motionless on the floor and his curly dark hair surrounding his bloodless face filled my mind, and I bolted out of bed.

I was disoriented to find myself in a room that wasn’t one of Tallis’s, but the regal blue and silver decorum let me know I was still in the castle. I rummaged through the stately dresser drawers for my clothes, but couldn’t find them. I shoved the last drawer shut and let out a huff of air. I couldn’t go searching through the castle for news about Samel in my nightshirt.

I shrugged. Then again, maybe I would. I started toward the door when it opened and a maid walked in. I froze in my nightshirt, feeling foolish.

“You shouldn’t be up,” the woman said trying to hustle me back into bed, but I didn’t move.

“Where is Samel? And Rachael and her father? And—“

“They’re all fine.” She frowned at me, clearly dissatisfied that I wouldn’t move back to the bed.

“Even Samel?  He’s…”

“Resting. Like you should be.”

“I want to see him. All of them. Where are my clothes?”

She snorted. “Those things you were wearing?  The ones with holes through them and blood on them?  We burned them.”

“I had another pair in Tallis’s place.”

“We haven’t had the time to move your things,” she said, looking at me as if I should know this. “It’s been a bit hectic around here after what happened.”

“What has happened?” I knew Radon had the Hashna Stone back but I didn’t know what happened after that. Had the court accepted him?  Did the soldiers believe that he was Radon? Or did they think he was some look-a-like Bayvlad hired to help steal the crown? Surely once his face was washed, his beard trimmed, and his hair untangled they would be able to see that the resemblance was too much to anyone but Radon.

The maid looked at me like I’d gone mad.  “What happened?  Aren’t you the one who caused what happened? And you’re asking what happened.”  She shook her head and let out a huff of air.

“I mean, Radon is king again, isn’t he?”

The door came open again and Rachael, Faiza, and Ethan spilled in.

“I told you three to come back later.” They maid scowled at them. “Let him rest.”

“He looks rested to me.” Faiza looked me over with a smile playing at her lips and I was keenly aware that I was still in my nightshirt.

“Did everyone decide to stop knocking?” I said.

“Is that anyway to great your friends after all we’ve been through together?” Ethan asked with a smile.

“Sorry,” Rachael said.  “We were worried about you.”  Her apology wasn’t very helpful because her whole face looked like it was trying to hold in a giant giggle.

“If you were so worried, you wouldn’t be busting down his door without any thought to his health.”  The maid put her hands on her hips, but no one paid her any attention.

“What’s happening?” I asked, hoping to get more answers from them than I had from the maid. “How long have I been out?”

“Only since yesterday,” Rachael said. “You’ve slept through the night.”

“Which is more than we could say,” Faiza said.  “You’re lucky you knocked out like that.”

I didn’t feel lucky. My body was achy, like I had the flu.

“There was a lot of confusion,” Ethan said.  “Tallis and Radon— King Radon I mean—called a meeting with all the nobles to straighten everything out.”

“My father explained how Ryker asked the dwarves to make him a new stone,” Rachael said, gesturing animatedly, “and how he became angry when they wanted to use magic to see the stone.  He told them how they saw King Radon in a prison cell, using the stone, and how you found the Hashna Stone and brought it here.”

“We had to stay up half the night with them,” Faiza said, “to tell our side.  Basically we were robbed of our sleep just so we could tell those stuffy nobles that Tallis was telling the truth.”  She rolled her eyes.

“But Radon is king once more,” said Rachael.

“What happened to Ryker?” I asked.  Last I’d seen him, he was held between two soldiers.

“The council found him guilty of treason and sentenced him to death,” Ethan said.

“Doesn’t the king get to decide?” I asked.

“He can overrule anything they decide,” said Rachael, “but I think he was glad to have them make the decision for him. I get the feeling he didn’t actually want to be the one responsible for killing his brother.”

I thought back to the fight yesterday. Radon could have run Ryker though, but instead he told the soldiers to take him.  Perhaps even after all that Ryker had done, it was still difficult for Radon to kill family.

The door opened again and an aged gentleman came in.  He was carrying a small bag and I assumed he was the doctor. He frowned when he saw all the people in my room.

“I thought I told you to keep people out of his room,” he said to the maid.

She gave a huff. “How am I supposed to keep them out?  The castle walls couldn’t keep them out and the dungeon doors couldn’t keep them in. How is a maid supposed to keep them from doing anything?”

“Alright,” said the doctor. “Everyone out.”

“See you later, invalid,” Faiza said as she left.  Ethan gave a wave.

“Wait,” I said to Rachael just before she followed them.  “Samel?”

She gave a small smile. “He’s fine. He’s been sleeping, but the doctor says he’ll recover.  He’s tougher than he looks.”

I wanted to say something else.  Something about how relieved I was that he was alive.  How sorry I was that I hadn’t been able to kill Ryker with my twisted sword.  But no words came and I just nodded.

“I’ll come get you as soon as he’s well enough to receive visitors.”  And she left before the maid could shoo her out.

———

I woke up the next day to pounding on my door.

“Just a second,” I called as I hurried to dress.  My clothes were brought to me yesterday. Which was a good thing, because I was summoned by the nobles to tell them how I’d found the Hashna Stone and everything that had happened afterward.  It was the only thing that I’d been allowed out of my room for.  After my friends’ short visit yesterday morning, I’d spent most of the day bored out of my mind.

Once I was dressed, I opened the door. Rachael was on the other side, her blue eyes shining.  I was suddenly aware that I hadn’t combed my hair and ran my fingers through it.

“The doctor is allowing visitors.”

At first I thought she was talking about visitors for me, then I realized she was talking about Samel.

He was in the room next to mine so it didn’t take long for us to get there. Rachael opened the door. “Go ahead. I’ve already had my visit.”

I stepped in and Rachael shut the door behind me. The bed in the center looked even bigger with someone as small as Samel laying in it.  He looked like a doll tucked under the covers of a child’s bed. He was sitting up, surrounded by so many pillows he looked as if he would drown in them.

“You gave us the biggest scare of our lives,” I said, then thought that probably wasn’t the best thing to say to someone who’d almost died.

“That’s what I’m best at.” He gave that cheeky grin of his and almost looked normal except for his sallow cheeks.

I smiled back. “You did that just to scare us, didn’t you?”

“Of course.”

I shook my head, the smile falling from my face.  “I thought you were gone.”

“So did I.” It was the first time I’d seen him look so serious. “It was quite a chance. The Hashna Stone couldn’t be taken by a human hand.  But what about a dwarf?”

“Then you knew it wouldn’t kill you?”

“Had no idea.” He shook his head, making his curls swirl. “The wording of magic is a tricky thing.  If the dwarves that made it said ‘human hands’ and left it at that, then it wouldn’t kill me. I didn’t know if they included ‘dwarf hands’ or not.”  He shrugged. “I saw you charge in with that crooked blade in your hand, and thought ‘if he’s crazy enough to do that, I’m crazy enough to take that stone.’”

I was suddenly glad that I’d decided to rush in, even if my plan didn’t work.

“But it still zapped you,” I said.

Samel shrugged.  “Who knows how those spells were worded. I guess my hands were enough like human hands that it wouldn’t let me take it freely. But not enough like a human that it killed me.” Samel lifted his right hand.  Well, he lifted his arm. His hand flopped forward in a crumple of limp fingers.  “It got its revenge though. It didn’t let the hand I grabbed it with come away unscathed like the rest of me. I still can’t feel a thing.”

I swallowed. What could I say? Was it polite to ask if he would ever be able to use it again?

“Is it permanent?” I blurted. Too late to think about what was polite.

He let his hand fall limply to the quilt. “The doctors aren’t sure. They’ve never dealt with injuries from magical dwarf stones.” He wiggled his eyebrows.

“Maybe the feeling will come back later.”

“That’s what the doctors said. I think they’re just saying that to make me feel better.  They think that just because I’m the size of one of your children that I am one.” He let out an indignant huff.  He glanced his stiff fingers, then looked away. “It’s just a hand, not my life.”  He tried to keep his voice cheerful, but it cracked at the end of his sentences.

Nothing I could say would make up for the loss of his hand. But I knew what would at least lighten the moment. “One thing’s for sure,” I said, grinning. “I was pretty smart for letting you come with us.”

He grinned back. “You sure were.”

Next

—————–

 

Missed some chapters? No problem! They’re all at the Hashna Stone Page .

Twitter_bird_iconThis little blue bird will take you to my Twitter page where it will continuously feed you random lines about writing, blogging, and the Hashna Stone.