Saturday, 28 April 2012

This Shattered World, Book 1: Glass, part 13

Voices penetrated the dreams that flitted through my sleep. Dreams of things that had happened, of things that were and of a future no one knew. I opened my eyes and found Truscott crouched low to the floor. His hackles were raised and he shook with anticipation. I leaned out over him and saw three men in blue lounging in the front room. I had deliberately chosen a small room behind what was left of the front desk.

The door of the room hung heavy on its hinges. I peeked out again and watched the men closer. I recognized the leader, it was the man with ice blue eyes who had shot me. And with him were Smelly and Ken.

“God, are you playing with me?” I asked softly.

I slunk back into my corner determined to wait them out. I wasn’t going to make the same mistake again. Darkness would be my friend from now on. Snippets of their conversation floated towards me.

“Do you think he’ll come through?”

“Why not?”

“Is she really... it or... a...?”

“Oh, she’s worth... and... more.”

Maniacal laughter filled the air and I cringed. Whoever they were looking for was not going to get away. I wondered who they were hoping to find and who was going to come through with whatever. The men moved closer to my hiding spot and to my horror I began to understand their conversation.

“That Dante Brooke seemed most determined to get her back at all cost, Boss.”

“I know, Ken. That’s why we are going to find her.”

“Well, what does she look like?”

“Like any girl from the slums. Skinny, brown hair, blue eyes.”

I froze. Dante was looking for me and these men were out to get me. Did Dante know what he had gotten me into? There was no guarantee they would leave me unspoiled before handing me back to Dante. Not that that mattered. I couldn’t fight against three of them. It would take all my wits just to get out of this building.

“Then how are we to know which is the right girl?”

The boss sighed and responded as if he were talking to young children. “Because she has a large brown dog with her and a white streak in her hair.”

“When do you think we will find her?” That man seemed entirely too eager to get his hands on me.

“After dark. She won’t trust this place in the daylight. And no one is going to touch her. He wants her back unspoiled.”

There were groans from the other two men but they were soon quieted when the boss threatened to keep all the money to himself. They spread out to wait for the darkness to descend.

I had heard enough. It was a risk but a risk I was willing to take. I was going to get out of here, now. I had the element of surprise. They would be tired by now and slow. At least, I hoped so. Their voices grew quieter and I crawled to the front of the closet. I couldn’t see anyone so I made my way to the desk. There was a small hole in the back of it and I pressed an eye to the wood. The boss man with ice blue eyes had taken the only chair left in the room. Ken was nowhere to be seen, which worried me. Smelly lounged in the doorway across the room, cutting his nails with a jackknife. It was the only weapon I could see between the three of them but I knew one had a gun. I wasn’t about to be shot again. I settled in to wait.

An hour later I studied the three men again. Smelly was snoring and I could see the blue of Ken’s shirt upstairs on the balcony. Ice Blue Eyes had nodded off to sleep and a line of drool stretched from his mouth to his crisp blue shirt.

I grinned. This would be easy. Creeping along the backside of the front desk I reached the end closest to the front door. I measured the space. Four large steps and I would be free. I slipped out my bow and strung it. Taking one of my new arrows out, I tested the arrow head. It was good and sharp. There was a blacksmith living on the Brooke’s property and he had made me three dozen good arrow heads. This wasn’t the ideal situation to test out the new heads but it was as good as any. Taking one of my knives out, I clenched it in my teeth. It never hurt to have one in easy reach. I loosened the rest and stood up. Nothing else in the room stirred.

With Truscott shadowing my every step I began my trek across the room. It was possibly the longest distance I ever had to walk. Every move I made was measured, tested, deliberated.

I was one step from the door when something behind me stirred. I spun around to see Smelly rising to his feet. I raised my bow and aimed for his chest. This was no time to just shoot to wound. I would have to eliminate them permanently if I wanted to get away.

He grinned at me and reached out to touch Ice Blue Eyes. I shook my head and pulled back harder. Smelly didn’t take the warning and I loosed with accuracy I didn’t know I possessed. Smelly looked down at the arrow in his chest and in shock at me. I nodded and turned to leave. There was a thump as his body hit the ground and I knew I’d better move fast. The boss man would be awake now.

There was a strange ache in my stomach like I had just eaten something spoiled. But I had no time to pay attention to it. A shout behind me propelled my legs into action and I took off down a side street. Truscott loped beside me, his steadfastness giving me hope. But up ahead standing in the intersection was Ken. How he got from the building to the streets I would never know and neither would anyone else. I took the knife from between my teeth and tossed it at him. The blade bit into the side of his neck and blood gushed forth.

I shivered as he died in front of me but I snagged my knife back as I passed him. He reached out with one hand, pleading. But I was beyond caring. If I had to kill to get my freedom back so be it, I would.

I turned down another street. There was an angry shout behind me and I knew that it was Ice Blue Eyes. He was the one I was most scared of. The other two had been easy to defeat, they hadn’t a whole brain between them. But the man who they called Boss was made of tougher stuff. He was smart. I darted up the stairs and into an abandoned factory.

In the shadows of the afternoon sun the large machinery looked menacing. I shivered as the floor creaked above me. I hurried across the work floor and out the back door. Truscott growled and launched himself at a person in blue. For a moment I thought it was Boss but this person was shorter and fatter. He screamed as Truscott’s weight slammed him onto the sidewalk. He stopped moving and Truscott was on to the next person. I tossed a knife at the nearest person and began running. How had they figured out where I was?

Truscott began to growl in earnest. At the end of the street stood a tall man with three angry looking German Shepherds on leashes. They had tracked us. I bit my lip and looked behind me. More men. The man let the dogs go. I hated to kill innocent animals but if I didn’t do something to stop them... I didn’t want to think of the consequences. I shot short towards the dogs. They all stopped and whined. I sent another shot in their direction. Their handler was yelling at them to move on but they were smarter than that. Turning tail they raced past him and took off somewhere else. The men behind me were closing in fast. Truscott gallantly knocked men over and dodged around others. I loosed another arrow. To my right where the fronts of more factories. I could fight better with things to hide behind.  

Whistling I bounded up the steps of another building. Truscott nipped at another man’s leg and raced after me. I pounded through the building, propelled by the shouts that were beginning to penetrate the walls. They were angry, but so was I. I would not go down without a fight.

I burst out into the sunshine again and skidded to a halt. A large black car pulled up at the beginning of the alley. I was trapped. The men were closing in faster and faster. I began to run towards the car. Perhaps I would be able to jump over the car.

But then the back door opened and Dante stepped out. I stopped. What was he doing here?

“Crystal, come home.” Three simple words but to me they were shackles, tying me to the world I had no interest in.

I shook my head. “No, it’s not my home. It’s yours. My home is in the east slums. Unless you plan to drive me there don’t expect me to get into that car.”

Dante walked towards me just as a man flew out of the door behind me and wrapped his arms around me. Truscott lost it and launched himself at the man. Dante shouted something but his words were lost in the chaos that ensued. I struggled in my captor’s arms but another man had joined him. They were stronger than me. Someone grabbed Truscott and wrestled him to the ground. Dante’s chauffer hurried over and reached for the struggling dog. Truscott relaxed and wagged his tail. Elise’s brother spoke gently to my dog and then led him to the car.

I sagged in the men’s arms and they relaxed. I knew then that I wasn’t going anywhere but back to my gilded cage to be Dante’s prize. I would be the tool he used to change the world. Dante moved so he stood in front of me. He took my chin in his fingers and forced me to look into his eyes. They were filled with sorrow and disappointment.

“I thought we understood each other, Crystal.” He nodded to a man and something pricked my arm.

The world blurred and then turned black.            

Saturday, 21 April 2012

This Shattered World, Book 1: Glass part 12

It was late before the house was quiet. I knew the servants went to bed late but this was ridiculous. It was twelve thirty in the morning and the last one had finally walked up the back stairs to their room. Truscott watched me from the window seat as I threw a blanket into my backpack. I opened the wardrobe and then slammed it in disgust. There were no clothes that I could take with me.

“Come on, Truscott, we’re going.” I tossed my backpack over my shoulder. “We need to go home.”

The dog stood up and wagged his tail. He knew what I wanted. So with a deep breath, I squared my shoulders and marched out the door. The thick carpet muffled the noise of my combat boots.

The house was eerily quiet as I walked down the main staircase. No matter what time of day it was I always met someone somewhere doing something. The eyes of the hall portraits followed me but I paid them no mind. They couldn’t tell me what to do. I was going home, back to where I belonged. I couldn’t change the world and neither could Dante. And making me his girl was not going to change anything either.

“Stuff you and your dream, Dante. I’m going home,” I said just before I slipped out the front door.

Truscott gave a little woof and bounded towards the front gate. I followed at a rather slower pace. Part of me wanted to stay in this house, in this place where they pampered me. Here I didn’t have to hunt for my every meal or look over my shoulder every time I moved.

But that was part of the problem. I was getting soft. It was time I went back to being the tough girl that spent her days on the street.

Truscott barked from the other side of the fence. I took one last look at the house and then began to climb the fence. I dropped my backpack down from the top and then slithered down the gate. Truscott wagged his tail as I landed lightly beside him.

Picking up my bag I began to walk down the street. I felt lighter, more free with each step I took. I was going home.

In the darkness nothing looked familiar and I took it slow. But my heart was pulling me in one direction. At least I thought it was. It was like I could hear a call from somewhere far away. The words were indiscernible, but I knew what they were.

‘Come home, Crystal. We are waiting for you. Come back to the people you love.’

“I’m coming. Don’t give up,” I whispered. “I haven’t forgotten you.”

Truscott looked up at me and then trotted off down a side street. I followed him, trusting him to bring me back to familiar grounds. I hadn’t been off of the Brooke’s property for over a month and the last half of my trip was hazy in my mind. I couldn’t remember where I had turned or street names. I had been following some music, a song that no one had been playing. Now I was going on instinct alone.

The sun was beginning to rise when I finally decided to stop for the day. I laughed when I saw the building I had stopped in front of. It was the same one that had started my troubles. Either I had been going in circles or I had run for a very long time after I had been shot.

“Come on, Truscott. We’ll stay here for tonight.” I took a step into the building and stopped, listening. I didn’t want a repeat of last time. But the only noise I heard was the cooing of pigeons and the scurry of some animal as it ran to hide from me.

Truscott sniffed the air and walked farther into the front room. I followed behind, an arrow on my bow. I would be ready for anything this time.

It only took me a few minutes to scout out the place. There was no one in the building. I kicked some leaves and animal scat out of a corner and settled down to sleep. I pulled out the water and a loaf of bread I had scoffed from the kitchen. Tearing off a chunk I bit into it. That was one thing I was going to miss. Martha’s bread and her biscuits and her meat and... well I would miss her cooking.

I snuggled down next to Truscott. “We’ll be okay, boy. We’re going home.”

I could already feel Macy’s arms around me, hear Robyn’s chatter and smell Quincy’s cooking. The only thing that would be missing was Grandpa’s hearty laugh. Deep inside me, I knew he was gone. They wouldn’t have to tell me.  

Saturday, 14 April 2012

This Shattered World, Book 1: Glass part 11

 I curled up on the couch in front of the roaring fire. Truscott lay on the bearskin rug, snoring lightly. The book in my hand was growing heavy and I let it drop to my chest. Through half lidded eyes I watched the flames dance up the chimney. It was warm in the house, warmer than I was used to. The cook, Martha, had made a huge supper and it lay heavy in my stomach.

I closed my eyes and sighed. I snuggled down lower into the pillows and let the book slip to the floor. Truscott rolled over with a grunt. Turning onto my side I opened my eyes and reached out to scratch Truscott’s head. He cracked opened one eye and wagged his tail.

“Oh, Truscott, we have got to get out of here. This place is making us soft.”

“You could never go soft, Crystal.”

Dante came around the couch and knelt on the floor in front of me. I pushed myself back against the couch, but he reached out a hand to stop me.


I stopped and watched him. What did he want? Dante reached out and stroked my cheek. I froze, his fingers warm on my skin.

“Dante,” I whispered.

He pressed a finger to my lips. “Ssh. Don’t say anything.”

I sat half way up and shoved my hair out of my face. Dante got up and sat beside me.

“You’re beautiful, Crystal.”

I shivered at his words. The way he said my name made it sound like a precious metal. His fingers stroked my cheeks again and I closed my eyes, leaning into his touch. I wanted this, someone to love. I missed everyone at home. Here no one seemed to truly love me, maybe Dante would.

He leaned in towards me and I felt his lips touch mine. I pulled back in surprise and he moved even closer.

“Crystal, it’s okay.” He took my chin in his fingers and pulled my face towards his. “Just let it happen.”

I bit my bottom lip and nodded. Dante leaned in and kissed me. A strange tingle went up my back. I wanted it to feel wrong, not good. I couldn’t let it be a good thing. It would never work. I wasn’t Cinderella or Juliet. I was a poor girl from the East slums, with no prospect. Okay, so Cinderella had no prospect either. But it just wouldn’t work between us, we were too different.

I pushed him back and swung my legs the floor. “Dante, this is never going to work. You can’t let yourself think it will.”

“Crystal,” Dante said, turning me to face him. “This could work. It could be the start of something good.”

“What do you mean?” Truscott had come to lean against my legs and I stroked his head.

“If we get together, we could show the world that we are one and the same.” Dante stroked my hand. “Please, let’s try.”

“Dante, I can’t just go with you to prove that we come from the same stock. That’s not what I want.” I pulled my hand from his and wrapped my arms around myself. “I can’t let this happen.”

“Why not?” Dante stood up and paced before me. “Why not?”

“Because if you knew everything about me you would hate me. Just leave it alone, Dante. Please.”

“No, I won’t. This will be perfect,” Dante said coming to me and taking my hands. “Let’s just try it.”

He leaned in and kissed me again. I tried to pull back but I found my hands twining into his shirt, pulling him closer to me. Truscott bumped my leg and I shoved him out of the way.

Someone coughed from the doorway and I shoved Dante so hard he fell back onto the couch. Dominique leaned against the doorframe, one leg crossed over the other, arms crossed over his chest. He straightened as I walked towards him.

“Don’t say anything.You talk some sense into him.”

Dominique saluted and patted my shoulder as I went by.

“So what did you do?” I heard him ask Dante.

“I kissed her.”

Dominique laughed. I ran up the stairs. It was really, really time to leave. I would go tonight.