- ISBN (eBook): 978-1-62007-774-0
- ISBN (Paperback): 978-1-62007-775-7
- ISBN (Hardcover): 978-1-62007-776-4
- ISBN (Smashwords): 978-1-62007-777-1
- Language: English
- Imprint: Curiosity Quills Press
- Publication Date: October 12, 2015
Here is a little sample of this wonderful book. I can’t wait for you to try it!
Hardy bristles raked over Emma’s toes as she worked her grandmother’s handmade broom, taller than she was, back and forth. She kept her gaze down, avoiding looking into the dark pines of Widowswood so close to her home. The murk among the trees felt alive―as if it stared at her―even though such things were the stuff of Nan’s nonsense tales. Yet, as much as she couldn’t believe them, she still refused to look up. Uneven boards shifted with her weight as she inched across the porch of her family’s modest house, accompanied by a steady rhythm of scratching.
The wind whispered as it teased through the trees, but no breeze reached the village. She leaned on the broom while wiping sandy grit off the sole of her foot against her shin. An eerie roar, deep, pained, and not quite human, rang out in the distance, startling birds from the treetops.
Emma jumped and clutched the broom handle to her chest, not breathing as she squinted into the woods. Darkness lurked in the gaps of the forest; nothing moved. The stillness broke a moment later; that time, the noise seemed less monstrous, merely an unseen huntsman’s shout echoing among the boughs. She relaxed, and resumed sweeping. Father would be home soon. His patrol would end when the sun set over the village.
When she was three quarters of the way done, a sudden breeze carried spinning whorls of dirt from the road up onto the porch where she had swept, ruining her work. Emma grumbled, trudging to the right to start again from the beginning. Father had chosen to build their house close to the village edge, where the street was little more than a wide footpath worn through the grass. Emma scowled at the drifts of grit and rushed through the re-dirtied porch with a series of haphazard swipes.
Why do I sweep this at all? It’ll just get dirty again.
Satisfied with her slapdash effort, she stepped with care through the already-swept patches and worked the round-bristled broom back and forth at the point she left off. Her knees peeked out from under grey flax; she would soon need a new dress, having gotten too big to wear this one much longer. Emma had already worn it well past the point of Father’s approval. Mother seemed at ease with it, even if it did leave her looking like an urchin. The threadbare garment had a torn seam, frayed threads, several holes, and kept sagging down off her left shoulder. Emma adored it because Nan had made it for her. She would much rather wear it than something from the town tailor, made for no one specific. This dress was hers, and it made her feel safe.
She stalled, leaning on the broom again with a somber stare at the distant buildings. The watch paid well. Father could afford to buy clothes―nice clothes―and seemed embarrassed at how she traipsed about. Emma wanted to wear this dress until it didn’t fit anymore. Nan was getting old, her fingers were not as nimble as they used to be, and she feared her grandmother would not be able to make another one.
A lump formed in Emma’s throat. The wind picked up again, slipping through the forest and tousling her hair. Nan wouldn’t be with them for much longer. Two of grandmother’s friends had passed recently. It had been two years since Father’s old dog, Wooly, had refused to wake up. She was eight then, and still cried a little whenever she thought about the mutt. That dog had been old for as long as she could remember, and from the way Father spoke of him, he’d lived too long. Emma stared at her toes, wondering how much worse it would feel to lose Nan. She knew it was coming, but that didn’t make the idea hurt any less. She wanted to spend more time with her grandmother, but most of her day went toward taking care of her little brother while Mother went into town and Father kept everyone safe.
It made her feel important, helping ease the burden on Mother and allowing her daily visits to the villagers to resume. Everyone loved Mother, and there would always be people coming to visit while she was stuck at home to watch Emma’s baby brother.
A snapping twig made her glance into the murk of Widowswood with a twinge of unease.
Nothing is watching me. Stop being childish.
Emma turned the broom, spinning it on a long clump of bristles. It felt like forever ago since she’d been Tam’s age, and her only worry had been how she would play. She set her jaw in determination and resumed sweeping. It’s okay. Mother needs my help. Mother appeared as Emma made it to the far end of the porch, walking out from where the distant buildings grew too thick to see past. She waved, and Emma stood as tall as she could to return it. Mother chatted with a few wandering people on her way up the long, curved trail leading from the town proper to their home. Feeling guilty, Emma hurried back to the poorly swept areas.
Mother walked up onto the porch, pausing for a warm hug. “How is the house?”
“Good, Mama. Tam’s inside, Nan’s having a nap.”
“No faeries steal anything?” Mother winked.
“Mother.” Emma frowned. “I’m too old to believe in faeries. Bad luck and carelessness isn’t the work of faeries.”
“So smart, Emma.” Mother gave her a light pat on the cheek. “Come help me with dinner when you’re done here?”
Emma wiped the grit from her feet again and spent a few minutes chasing sand off the porch with the broom.
“Apple for a bit?” chirped a voice.
The sickly sweet scent of fermenting fruit lofted on the wind. Emma pulled her hair out of her eyes and glanced down the three steps to the road. A grimy redheaded girl a year or two younger than her shied away from Emma’s stare, digging her toes into the road and forcing a smile. Her once-white dress was ripped and stained, in worse shape than Emma’s, and she held out a wide, flat basket with a number of sorry-looking apples, most of which seemed to have been plucked from the ground. Small cuts and scrapes marked her legs, evidence of a trip through the underbrush. Faint dark discoloration painted the child’s cheek, below her right eye. Even at ten, the sight of the other girl filled her with a motherly urge.