so, it's been a very long time since i last posted anything. i realize this, and i apologize. i'd meant to update Stepbrothers at some point this summer. still working on that. beyond this, i have completed two short stories that i plan to include in a compilation book to be done...sometime in September, as soon as i finish rewriting a few older works. the compilation will be my second, but the first that is purely my own works. when i know more about it, i will post the information to my various websites...tumblr, y!gallery, and livejournal. for the most part. feel free to follow any of the three, but be warned that i rarely update or check my livejournal.
this story is a short one, about twenty-five pages, so i'm guessing it'll be somewhere around five to seven chapters in length. it is already completed, yes, so updates will be regular. about once a week, given my schedule between work and school. i had originally planned to include this into the book, but decided after completion that i would rather post it online. so, here it is.
disclaimer: this has the feel of a historical fic, but its location and time is largely unknown. if it bothers you, make up the details to satisfy your own mind.
friday, 27 august, 2010. 10:40 pm.
The uneven cobblestones beneath my bare feet were greasy, and it was only the lack of shoes enabling me to curl toes into grooves between the stones that allowed me to keep my balance as I made my way through the dark alleyway beside the tavern. Halfway down the alley, a cat shot from behind a crate and startled me, my body soundlessly jolting and my heart thundering in my chest before I continued with a silent curse.
Once out in the street, I turned to the tavern, the front door heavy against my thin strength until I managed to scuffle sideways and slip into the cheerfully rowdy building. The familiar crowd consisted of mostly men but a scattering of women faces were there as well, and I got knowing leers from more than a few regulars as I padded through the room.
"After yer ol' man, are ye now, Pip? E's over hasslin' Belle, boy."
Ms. Ruthie, bar maid and tavern keep, roughly pointed me to where a drunk was trying to sweet talk one of the local whores into giving her wares for free.
I shuffled over to their table, and Belle flashed me a relieved sort of smile before peeling herself away from my pa and melting into the crowd, leaving him confused with nothing to look at but me. I didn't bother waiting for him to argue or protest what seeing me meant, moving instead around the table and taking hand to his shirt sleeve, tugging in such a way that he unconsciously obeyed, weaving on his feet and putting an over-large hand on my shoulder. I bowed beneath his weight, but bore it as I helped him towards the door, ignoring the catcalls I got from some of the regulars about me or my pa, their laughter following us out into the street.
Pa woke up more the closer we came to home, his gait evening up some, but he still needed my support as we entered the near-shack we've lived in for as long as I could remember.
"Damn useless pup," he growled once inside, pushing away from me only to stumble against our rickety table and fall to the floor.
I wordlessly bent to gather him up again but his hand whipped out and knocked my feet from under me, my fall heavy and lighting pain up through my side and head where I cracked it on the rough wood flooring. Blooming ink spots danced around my vision a moment before I shook it off and peeled up from the floor, staggering some in dizziness but getting him up again and towards the single bed tucked into a corner.
I let him fall and lay in a drunken lump before I stumbled over to the wash bin set upon our black wood stove.
The water was a mite brackish, because I'd taken it from a water barrel near the fish market, but I dipped in a corner of a worn, gray rag, applying it to the growing hot lump on my head. The rag came away slightly pink, and I dabbed at the spot until it stopped bleeding.
Pa's snores sounded hoarse and wet in our home, and it was to that familiar sound that I crawled beneath our table and curled into a greasy pile of blankets that had been my bed for just as long as we've lived here.
I fell asleep with a tautness in my belly that was as much my lifelong companion as Pa's drinking.
The cries of hawkers in the fish market woke me early, and I crawled from my blankets and scrounged up some hard crusts of stale bread from our meager stores--my fingers gouged out a section growing mold and tossed it out the burlap-covered window before taking a few bites and leaving the rest out for Pa for when he'll wake sometime in the late afternoon.
There was some tea I'd managed to lift sometime back, and I made myself a weak cup with cleaner water than that in the wash bin, my cup a dented piece of tin I'd found in someone's rubbish a few years ago. I sipped the bitter drink while sitting out near the street, crouched down against wall and cobblestones.
Men and women were busy in the market, buying and selling, and the overpowering smell of fish was so ingrained it was difficult to imagine anything else.
My tea finished, I ducked back inside and stowed away my cup, checking on Pa before stepping back outside and behind our home to relieve myself against the wall.
Afterwards, I ambled down the street and melted into the market to see what I could scrounge up for supper or breakfast tomorrow.
The tavern was rowdier than normal when I slipped inside that night, but my Pa was easily discernable amongst the other drunks--he was the one lying slumped over a table with what appeared to be a tankard of wine soaking into his beard and shirt.
I walked over and could smell how saturated he was for the night, and my brow creased. He doesn't normally have enough coins for such fine drink, and I briefly worried that he'd have the Guard out for him if he'd lifted someone's purse again.
My hand on his shoulder, I attempted shaking him awake, putting right the cup and shifting him away from his wine puddle. Pa was dead to the world, and not even me leaning close to his ear and hissing for him to wake up did he so much as flutter an eyelid.
Defeated, I sat at the table to wait for him to sober up some, and after glancing around to see if anyone was paying attention, I poured a bit of the wine from the flagon sitting on the table into the tankard Pa'd been using. The alcohol was warm and sweet, and I let it slide past my lips and down my throat in long draws, a fiery bloom forming in my gut and throughout my thin body.
Soon enough, my head swam in a pleasant fog, and I let the sounds of men and women talking wash over me until I suddenly blinked and Ms. Ruthie was in my face, bawling me out for the wine and my Pa being passed out like he was. Somehow I found it in myself to drag both of us out the tavern and into the street, making it home in one piece.
I got Pa into the bed and myself beneath the table, but anything beyond that was a swimming mass of nothing.
My head woke me the next morning, dull and throbbing, and I crawled from my bedding and outside, relieving myself behind our home before throwing up what felt like water and smelled vile. After I was certain there was nothing more to come up, I went back inside and crawled beneath the table, wrapped in my thin blankets and wishing my head would just pound right off my shoulders and save me the trouble.
But eventually, I fell back asleep.
Coughing woke me, Pa's wet crackling cough pulling me from sleep. My head wasn't as sharply pained as before, and I shifted a bit and listened to Pa get up to fumble his way outside to do pretty much as I'd done earlier, minus the puking.
When he was back inside, I crawled from beneath the table and over to the wash bin, using the gray rag in brackish water to scrub some of the dirt from my hands and face.
"Wha're you doin'?"
I startled, glancing back to see Pa swaying in the middle of the room and squinting at me, eyes bleary as they tried to focus.
"Ho, Pa," I greeted softly.
"I said, what're you doin'?"
His sway was more pronounced, and I swallowed before offering, "Warshing?"
"Git outta here, damn pup, git!"
He staggered over and I darted out of his reach, which only allowed him to shepherd me out the front door and into the street, where he scowled at me from the door before turning back inside. I waited a few minutes before timidly creeping back inside, only to have his face twist into rare fury. Bodily frozen in place, I could only stand there as he lumbered over and delivered a heavy-handed blow to the side of my face, knocking me down and then kicking me into a ball.
"Sol' you, pup, you're not mine! Sol' you…las' night."
He went vague and shuffled back towards the bed, a low belch sounding from him as I unkinked from my protective stance and slowly pushed myself to my feet, ignoring the tremble in my legs and spine.
"To who, Pa, who'd ya sell me to?"
My hands wrung themselves together as I gathered nerves from someplace--this wasn't the first time he'd tried to sell me to somebody. I just hoped it wasn't that family who collected orphans from the home whenever the one they had runned off.
His heavy drinking mug flew across the room towards my head and I ducked, the mug hitting the wall behind me and clunking off onto the floor.
"I tol' you, pup, git outta here!"
I ducked something else, but wheedled, "Who, Pa, who ya sell me to?"
A broken stave from what used to be a chair flew through the air and hit me in the side, causing me to double over and gasp, but I got what I was looking for when Pa growled something about the goatherd staying in town. The rest of the chair flew my direction and I ducked out the door and ran down the street, heading back for the tavern.
Ms. Ruthie's grown son kept bar during the day, and he was friendly enough when I asked if the goatherd was staying in one of the rooms. If he weren't here, he wouldn't have met with Pa.
"'Tis, Pip. He's in tha' room furthest down the hall."
I nodded, and slid into the hallway, heading down for the one at the very end.
It was quiet, and I gathered up my nerves before rapping my knuckles against the wood. I didn't have long to wait before the door opened and a man I'd seen only once or twice looked out at me. He'd been the local goatherd for as long as I knew, even though he was relatively young--only his mid to late twenties, really--but he wasn't friendly a'tall.
Everyone knew that.
He didn't say anything, just looked me sharp in the face before nodding me inside and leaving the door open as he turned away and returned to sitting on the bed. I entered and shut the door, hands wringing as I stood just inside.
"Spected you to be bigger. Told me you were fourteen, he did."
"I is fourteen," I protested, and his sharp gaze flicked over me once more before they returned to his task of mending some wood instrument.
"You're too small to be fourteen, too small for work."
My hands stopped wringing and clenched into fists before I remembered myself again. I offered a shrug in lieu of voicing my anger, but he didn't appear to notice either which way.
"You'll be of some use though, I suppose, I'll see to that. We leave on the noontide. I 'spect you had your farewells before arriving here."
My face and ribs ached from Pa's 'farewell', and I offered another shrug before backing to the wall and lowering into a crouch. From there, I watched him restring his instrument until he put everything away into a sack that slung across his back, freeing his hands for a long staff he picked up before heading for the door.
I silently followed, and that's how I found myself with the goatherd.
A/N: until next time.