Chapter One

Chapter One

A Chapter by Kawiria J.C.
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Here's the first chapter, final draft, of Over the Rainbow. After reading it, please be brutally honest about your thoughts on it. Spare me no mercy!

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I was in trouble again. I took in a deep breath and tried to keep a straight face, but I couldn’t stop fidgeting in my chair�"adjusting and readjusting the filthy handkerchief tied around my head, as if that would make any difference. I sat up the right way and tucked my dress in the right way and even folded my arms on my lap the right way. But it all fell apart when I heard her heavy footsteps approaching the door. I sent one last prayer to the ceiling as the door swung open, and Miss Hindur stomped in, glaring at me with tight lips and a plump red face.

“Do you know why you’re here, young lady?” she boomed, starting to pace the room.

“Y..Yes’m.”

I watched her long, lacy dress flutter at the hem with every turn, and her neat black bun bounce as if it was jumping on her fat head. The room wasn’t very big, with only a bed, chair and mahogany table inside, so Miss Hindur gave up pacing and instead stood to face me directly.

“I-I was wandering outside�"and not doing my chores.” I told her.

“That’s not all! You did even more than that!”

I knew exactly what it was, but I’d been hoping that she wouldn’t know about it.

“Do you want me to say it for you, you brat? How many times have I told you you can’t go anywhere near the schoolhouse?”

“I know but�"”

“Ah, yes. Let’s hear your excuse this time.” She said.

I swallowed. “Well…it’s just that the schoolhouse closes for the summer tomorrow, and, uh, I heard that they talk about the Great Wall on the last week of….”

I decided I’d said enough as Miss Hindur’s expression became too frightening.

“Oh, what will we do with you? You’ve been given plenty of warning, and yet you continue to disobey me. I have had it with your storybook nonsense and useless curiosity! I will beat the sense into you if I must!”

My eyes widened at the thought of being beaten. Miss Hindur hadn’t boxed my ears since I was little, so I must have done something truly terrible this time. I was just preparing to beg her for forgiveness, maybe even using guilt to pull on the few stiff heartstrings she had. A pair of big, pleading hazel eyes was usually enough to convince the cook. But to my surprise, Miss Hindur only pointed at the open bedroom door.

“You’ll be doing Marianne’s work all day today and tomorrow�"and no supper for you!”

“Yes’m.”

I stood up, hanging my head, and walked out the door into the hallway. I eventually found Marianne, the orphanage housemaid, and told her that I’d be taking care of all her duties for the next little while. She gave me a pitying look, like she always did, but found a quill and scribbled down a list of chores for the rest of the afternoon. I felt a dozen pairs of eyes watching me as I took the list towards the great double oak doors in the front, holding it up to the sun coming in from one of the two windows at either side of them. Marianne’s handwriting wasn’t easy to decipher, but eventually I was able to read the first chore on the list. My leather boots scraping against the weak wooden floorboards, I made my way across to the dining room and under the doorway that led into the tiny kitchen. Francis had his back to me, already preparing the ingredients he’d use to cook everyone an afternoon meal. I noticed with interest that it wasn’t going to be the usual flower gruel.

“What’s the special occasion?” I asked.

He whirled around. Seeing it was just me, he relaxed and turned away again.

“You could not even say hello?”

I forced a quick smile. “Hello, Francis.”

“Good-morning,” he replied.

“Good afternoon, actually.”

Apparently satisfied, he turned to face me, fingering his wiry black mustache.

“I’m sorry for whatever she said to you, Red.”

Red. It felt nice to be called something again.

“It’s…okay. I just have to do this stuff.” I showed him Marianne’s list.

He shook his head. “Ah. A lot of work. You’re starting with delivery, I see. Alright, here’s the money for the bakery.”

The cook stuck his hand into a wooden box on a shelf, pulling out three bronze coins. He dropped them into my hands with a weary smile on his face. Francis was fairly young�"just reaching middle age�"but he seemed old to me right then. Maybe it was the wisps of grey in his hair.

“Quarter of a shilling should be enough,” he said. “Now, is there anything else?”

I thought for a moment. “I was asking you what the special occasion was. Why are we buying bread?”

“Oh, yes. I am making a special supper today.”

“You mean, this isn’t for dinner?”

“No. Dinner at noon will be your favorite dish�"flower gruel,” he teased.

“Great.”

Francis leaned forward with a glint in his eyes. He was tall and slender, so he had to bend over quite a bit to look me in the face. Or maybe I was just short.

“Reverend John Rante is coming for supper, my dear.” He whispered.

“The-the Reverend? What for?”

He shrugged, straightening up. “How could I know? I am only the cook.”

It was Miss Hindur. Miss Hindur had asked him over, or he had asked her if he could come. There was a pause as I wondered what the Reverend’s visit could mean. It would definitely be bad news, as the leader of the church rarely had a single good thing to say�"even at service.

It’s probably about me. He’s finally found out.

“One more thing before you leave, Red. A good thing, for you to look forward to.” Francis said.

I slipped the three bronze coins he’d given me into a tiny pocket sewed to my play dress. “What?”

“I have something to give you later, before I serve dinner. Helping me cook is on the list, so when it’s time for you to do that, come into the kitchen and I’ll give it to you.” There was that joyful twinkle in his eyes again.

I smiled and turned to leave. “Okay.”

The sun was high in the sky as I stepped outside the orphanage’s front doors. The grass around the building turned into dirt and pebbles from the roads�"small ones to my right and left, and one straight ahead towards the town square. I went down the road straight ahead, on the shaded, tree-lined right side. A refreshing summer breeze swept down it, making my dress tickle the back of my knees. Humming as I walked, I glanced at the giant thicket beyond the line of trees. Rising even behind that was the Great Wall, made of stone and higher than any bird could fly over. Or at least, it looked that tall to me. The Great Wall went all around the town of Relige like….what was it called….a rectangle. And all that separated us from the edge of our world was this thicket I couldn’t look away from. It was because of the thicket that I hated walking along the tree-lined side of any road, but that uneasiness seemed a bit better than another sunburn. Tanned skin drew too much attention in a girl, although I wouldn’t like to be pale and weak-looking, either.

Unlike the right side of the road, which got wilder and wilder the further you went, most of the Resident civilization was to my left, and across the road. Small clay houses and wooden shacks had been built around the town square, where a marble statue of a cross rose a little over twenty feet high, in the very centre of the town as well as the town square. The statue towered over everything, glaring down at the Residents, Leaders and Illegals of Relige, and reminding them who was really in charge. Because behind the statue, and beyond the town square, were the grander, larger houses made of marble and stone, where I had never been in all the thirteen years of my life. And among them there was the grandest, largest one of them all, shimmering silently in the distance�"the Reverend’s home.

I sighed and tried not to think about whatever would happen at supper. Instead, I thought about Francis. I appreciated him trying to give me a reason to come back, although I had an idea of what he was going to give me. Perhaps I was in a better mood for it.

After a while I passed Relige’s church building, a great, tall stone structure with a dozen or so steps leading up to the great double doors, and a towering stone arch at the top of the building, where the ancient-looking bell hung. The church was on my right, almost inside the thicket, but with a wide clearing made around it where the Residents left their horses and wagons. Why they chose to build the church so close to the Great Wall I’ll never understand. But just like it wasn’t there at all, the thicket and line of trees continued normally after I’d passed the building and its clearing.

It was only then that I heard it.

I stopped.

Slowly, my head turned to the right, and I listened.

There it was again. A rustling in the bushes of the thicket. And it wasn’t the breeze moving branches around. Something was moving in there.

I tried to get my feet to step away, but I didn’t want to make any sound.

It was an animal. It was probably an animal. Yes, of course, that’s what�"

“Hello?”

It was a whisper from inside the thicket, so faint that I could hardly hear it over the sound of birds chirping in the trees. 

We both listened.

Then there was more rustling, except louder. It came closer and closer, and all I could get myself to do was step back. I raised my hand slowly to my head, so if I had to turn and run my handkerchief wouldn’t slip off.

And out from the thicket popped a face. Then a body after it. The boy took a little leap to clear a tree root in his way and ended up standing in the tall grass just ten feet away from me. He looked fairly relaxed, as if what he’d done was perfectly normal�"that is, until he looked up and saw me.

Shocked as I was, I could have told myself that this was a child wandering where they weren’t supposed to, as a dare from his friends. But the boy standing in front of me was about my age. He would know better than to go into the thicket. He was tanned, like me, with a mess of curly black hair much like the bush behind him. He had a strange-looking satchel hanging from his shoulder, and guessing from his filthy, ripped trousers, he lived around this part of town. But I had never seen the boy before.

“You’re not….” I swallowed and tried again. “You’re not supposed to be in there. You-you could get your hands chopped off.”

The boy’s expression went from surprised to amused. “Really? It’s just a bush.” He said.

“You know it’s not just a bush. You know better.”

The boy stepped out of the tall grass, grinning. “But you won’t tell on me, will you?”

I considered it.

“C’mon now! Haven’t you ever broken a rule around here?”

I shrugged, letting the hand fall from my head to clench the fabric of my dress. The boy noticed.

“Look, I’m not here to hurt anybody, alright? Yeesh. Calm down. Just promise you won’t tell anyone, ‘kay? Please? Keep me a secret.”

I need to leave before someone sees us.

Keeping a stern look on my face, I turned to continue walking down the road.

“Wait!” he ran towards me, then stopped abruptly a few feet away, holding his hands up. “I’m just asking….you got trees?”

“…What?”

“I said, have you got trees here?”

I looked up at the line of trees separating us. “Yes, of course we have trees here.”

“Great. Then take me to a nice, quiet glade of trees--somewhere out of the way.”

“What? Why? Why shouldn’t I just report you?”

The boy was close enough now that I could see he had sparkling grey eyes. A grin had appeared on his dirty face again, this time a lot less friendly.

“Because, if you tell my secret…” he lowered his voice. “I’ll tell…yours.”

I only let the fear show on my face for a split second. There was no way some stranger could know anything about me. Unless….?

“What are you talking about?” I said, struggling to sound indifferent. “I don’t have any secrets. I’m normal.”

“Ah ha! You wouldn’t say you were normal if you really were. If you were normal, you’d say you were special.”

“No…”

“Just give up already. There’s no use in makin’ a big deal of things.”

I knew I’d never stop thinking about it if I didn’t help him. This was basically blackmail. “Okay. But we have to hurry.”

I had to turn around and walk back down the road where I’d come from, because the only big glade I knew was by the orphanage, to its west and behind the creek.

“Why, you on an errand?”

“Um, yeah.”

The boy was a lazy walker, if that’s even the right way to say it. He went along on my left, closer to the trees, and seemed to have a notion to stroll under their shade as if reaching his destination would mean the end of his life. He kicked every pebble with his worn-out shoes and twirled his satchel by its long  leather straps. I let him fall behind me a bit, but it wasn’t long before I could feel him staring at me.

“So…you a servant or something?”

“No.” I replied, flatly.

“You poor, then?”

I kept walking.

“Ouch. Not one for words, huh, Shorty?”

That almost got me to stop. Instead I slowed down so I could look him in the face.  “What.

His stupid grin just wouldn’t disappear. It was as if he was glad he’d found a way to catch my attention�"which was likely the case.

“Oh, my bad. I just thought that’d be a suitable nickname for you.” He said.

“I’m not that short.” I mumbled.

“What’d you say?”

“I said I’m not that short!”

“Oh, I think you are. Short enough.”

What is ‘short enough’ supposed to mean?

We had long passed the church building and its clearing. A little more ways, and the orphanage would be in sight.

“Hey, what’s that?”

“What?” I followed his pointing finger to the right and across the road.

“That tall statue. It’s creeping me out.”

 “What? How do you not know about it? Or are you just pretending?”

The boy shrugged. “Let’s pretend it’s a test. For your lessons or something.”

“I’ve never been to lessons before.”

“Just pretend.”

Another cool breeze rushed down the road, and the birds above us chirped in response. I reached up to adjust my handkerchief a bit, making sure it still went past my ears. My neck was damp with sweat, but that would have to remain covered.

“Fine. ‘The great marble statue of a cross that stands proudly in our town square is a symbol of peace for the people of Relige, built as a tribute to our Holy Reverend John Rante, who maintains the Great Wall of our world with the powers only he possesses.’”

The boy seemed shocked. Maybe because he had no idea I knew so much. He mumbled to himself, repeating words I couldn’t hear under his breath, before speaking up.

“That…sounded recited.”

“It was.”

“But you said you’d never been to lessons before. How’d you memorize that?”

I felt my face heat up, and it wasn’t from the increasing glare of the sun. “I, uh, snuck up to the schoolhouse window one day….and heard them reciting it.”

As soon as the words came out I wanted to kick myself. You’re telling him too much, you brat!

And just as I feared, the boy was getting more and more skeptical. “You said you weren’t a servant.”

“I’m…not. I mean�"I am….er…”

I looked up from the ground and straight ahead of us. Just in time, it turned out.

“Then why�""

“L-look! See? We’re almost there!”

This was where I had to get clever. There was no way I was going to let anyone, not even Francis, see me return without the bread and with a boy, of all things. So without thinking, I grabbed the boy’s hand�"the one twirling his satchel�"and dragged him across the road. He let me pull him behind a wooden shack, and didn’t say a word until we stopped.

“What is it? Did you see someone?” he asked.

I shook my head. “I just don’t want anyone to see me.”

When the boy responded with a confused look I knew I would have to tell him more.

“That orphanage there? We’re supposed to go behind it a bit. But I actually live in that orphanage�"that’s how I got an errand�"and…..they’re not supposed to see me.”

“Orphanage, huh?” he leaned against the shack, crossing his arms. “So Shorty’s an orphan girl.”

“If you’re going to start making fun of me I can always choose to continue with my day.”

“No, no, please.” He waved a dismissive hand at me. “Carry on.”

To our left was the start to a maze of beaten trails, weaving between other small buildings to lead just about everywhere. If I remembered correctly, one of them went around the town square halfway, then came out on a road to the west of the orphanage. From there, we’d be able to sneak into the glade.

“This way. Keep up.”

And he did, although I was rushing along, hoping to shake him off at each turn. I could tell we were coming near the town square when I followed the dusty trail straight forward and heard the mumbling and chattering of people. All the little clay houses were more crowded now, and getting harder to slip past, and the giant marble statue loomed even nearer above us�"something my companion didn’t seem to like much.

“How do you know these trails so well? Seems to me you could get lost real easy.” I heard him say behind me.

Why do you ask all these obvious questions?

“I thought you should know them, if you live in this part of town.”

We paused at a fork in the trails, and the boy was finally close enough to look me in the face.

“No, I don’t. Don’t live here.” He replied, his expression completely serious.

I eyed his clothes again, then the satchel that had seemed strange to me. “Which part of Relige are you from?”

The boy grinned. “I don’t think tellin’ ya was part of the deal.”

Sighing, I turned away and went down the trail leading further to the left. We had to duck under lines of drying clothes and even past a few people, but soon everything cleared and we were back on a main road. I stopped to straighten my handkerchief, then crossed the road, the boy close behind me. Here there was no line of trees, only chaos. The grass wasn’t bad at first, but got taller as you came closer to the thicket. Every other inch of ground was covered by birches, clusters of them that the children liked to call mini forests. There was just enough bush and grass that if someone lay down in the glade, a passer-by wouldn’t see them. I had no idea why the boy wanted to come here, but whatever he’d been planning to do, this was not the right place for it.

“It’s perfect!”

“What?” I turned to him in surprise.

“Thanks a bunch, Shorty. Looks like you kept your word.”

I watched him hang his satchel from its strap on a tree branch. “Just need to relax, that’s all, so this’ll be good.”

The boy sat down in a rare clearing between trees a little ways away. He waved me in, but I preferred not to as I’d always hated how the weeds scratched against my legs.

“I told you not to call me that.”

“What? Shorty? Fine. If you don’t want a nickname, give me your real name and I’ll call you that. Oh--” He stood back up. “�"by the way. I’m Alexander.”

“Alexander.”

He must have noticed the frown forming on my face. “C’mon! Don’t you got a name?”

The irony of that question really wasn’t making things better for me.

“Just….call me whatever you want.”

The boy seemed disappointed for a split second. “Alright. Shorty it is, then.”

Behind all the trees I could see the orphanage, further down the road. The kitchen window faced us, but from this distance I couldn’t see Francis working inside.  I pointed toward it.

“There’s a creek in that direction, but closer to the orphanage. Be careful no one sees you if you go that way, alright?”

“And why not?”

“Because it doesn’t matter who you are, she’ll almost always come out and ask you questions.” I said.

Alexander raised an eyebrow. “’She’?”

I caught his eye. “Not a young ‘she’, I’ll tell you that.”

He laughed. “Glad you’re watchin’ out for me, Shorty.”

I rolled my eyes, turning my back to him. “If that’s it, I’ll just leave.”

Now I had two nicknames. I wasn’t sure how to feel about that.

“Hey, but really, thanks a lot.”

I heard Alexander walking up behind me through the grass. After some hesitation I decided to let him come. He took my hand from behind, making me jump.

“No, wait. Here’s….three bronze coins. It’s the only way I can thank you.” He placed them in my hand, then let go and stepped away.

I was so shocked, staring down at what he’d placed in my hand, that I forgot to look up and say something. I was grinning like an idiot.

Another quarter shilling, just for me!

But when I reached into my pocket to drop them in, I couldn’t feel anything else inside. I checked again, this time with the other hand. I only felt one, two, three bronze coins. Nothing else.

As it all began to sink in I finally whirled around to confront Alexander.

But he was gone, not even leaving his satchel behind.



© 2018 Kawiria J.C.


Author's Note

Kawiria J.C.
First of all I'd like to thank you for reading all this. Now, this chapter is VERY important. Does it make you want to go on? Do you like the main character? How can I make things more interesting?

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Added on February 27, 2018
Last Updated on February 27, 2018
Tags: novel, adventure, medieval, historical fiction, middle ages, chapter


Author

Kawiria J.C.
Kawiria J.C.

Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada



About
Hi! My name's KJ, and I'm a teenage writer and blogger. My first novel will be published this year (2018) and I'll be sharing a few chapters of it for any casual reviews I can get before I send it to.. more..

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