Nira awoke with a start, shooting straight up in her bed. It was all she could do not to scream and startle her family. She had already done enough of that last night.
Her dream had seemed so real to her-both of them. She let herself lie back down and relax. There was no sense in in getting worked up over silly dreams, even if she wasn't completely sure if that was what they had been or not.
Listening carefully, Nira could hear people downstairs, and the delicious scent of breakfast floated up to her room. Looking at the clock on the wall across form her bed, she saw it was almost seven thirty. Nira shot up again, this time completely jumping out of bed. Everybody was already downstairs and, no doubt, almost finished with breakfast. She couldn't believe that she had slept so late. Usually she woke up to the sound of her mother or siblings waking up, or else they would stick their head in her door and wake her up themselves. So what was different about this morning? Nira didn't spend too much time thinking about the why or how and, instead, immediately shoved her feet into her slippers and grabbed the robe at the end of her bed, not even slowing down to think about it. Ignoring the mistake, that she realized only after she had put it on in her rush to get downstairs, Nira almost fell down the last couple of steps before she skidded to a complete stop in the kitchen doorway. She had been correct; the rest of her family was already there, sitting around the table, finishing the rest of their breakfast. Her mother and sister were completely finished and had moved on to clearing the table. Nira composed herself the best she could before walking to the table and taking her seat there.
"Good morning, sleepy." Annabelle-Nira's older sister-commented as she took her seat. Other than that, the rest of her family bid her good morning, none of them mentioning her tardiness.
"Good morning," Nira said replied to them all as her mother brought her a plate already full with two eggs, bacon, toast, and pan fried potatoes. "Why didn't any of you wake me up at the usual time?" She decided to ask after giving her mother a grateful smile for her breakfast.
"Well, after last night we thought you should get as much rest as possible,, so we didn't want to wake you." Her mother replied.
"No, Samantha, you didn't want to wake her. I realize she needs rest, but there are still chores to be done." Her father took no time to correct her. It was strange, most of the time when he had something to say to Nira, he would address her mother, but look her way at the same time. It used to confuse Nira, but she has gotten used to it mostly.
"Dear, are you going to get rid of that robe? It's looks so ratty being torn and all." Nira's mother moved the conversation to a new subject as she returned to the table to serve Simon and Jack-Nira's two younger twin (fraternal) brothers-their second servings. Her brothers always had a second helping, and sometimes a third, at each meal. They were hard working and growing young men that needed that kind of nutrition, but Nira could hardly stand to look at them and keep her own appetite when they scarfed down their food like dogs.
"I don't know," Nira decided. "I might use it for part of a dress or something. I'm sure I will find something to use it for." She said, spearing a piece of potato with her fork and pulling it off in her mouth.
"I'm sure," Her father mumbled from behind the morning paper. It went without saying that Nira's father disapproved of the clothes she made for herself, as he did most of the things she did or the way she acted. He wanted her to be his little girl and, more importantly, the proper young lady she was meant to be, but Nira was not one for conformity.
"Don't pay any attention to him, or the rest of them for that matter. They're just jealous that they don't have any of your kind of talents." Her grandmother leaned over from the seat next to her and whispered to her, not letting anyone else hear her.
Nira did just that, and she kept her thoughts to herself, as she continued to eat her breakfast. She only ate one of the eggs, one piece of toast, two strips of bacon, and two more bites of her potatoes before she was done and excusing herself from the table.
"Nira, you barely touched your food." Her commented, actually talking to her, glancing at her plate, then back to her as she got up from the table to leave.
'I'm just not that hungry this morning." Nira replied, which struck almost everyone as odd because she was usually the one to finish everything on her plate and sometimes come back for more. She was a hearty eater, only because between her daily chores and extra activities, she was more athletic than certainly all the girls and most of the boys in town.
"Right, well will you be getting ready for your chores then?" Her father wanted to make sure. After her late start, apparently he couldn't be sure of just what she might do today.
"Yes, that is what I was planning on." Nira answered, a bit puzzled by her father's question.
"I'll be heading off to work soon with your brothers soon, and your mother is going into town, to the market." He explained to her.
"And I'm going to Richard's for lunch and to discuss the wedding with him and his parents." Annabelle chimed in. "Sorry."
"Right," Nira mumbled to herself turning and leaving the kitchen, going back upstairs to her room to get dressed for work. She was used to doing the chores by herself, but it didn't hurt to have a little help from time to time. After Nira shut her bedroom door, she took out her dress-one that she had custom made for working out in the pastier-and knee high working boots. After slipping on the dress, she tied an apron around her waist before pulling on her boots. The dress, in length, only reached her knees, which was not thought to be "appropriate" attire for a proper young lady, but then again, Nira never found that much about her very proper. Finally, she twisted her long, auburn hair up, into a bun on order to keep it out of her face and off the back of her neck. Only a few, stubborn strands fell out from the up-do and lazily flopped down over her eyes, but she didn't bother with them. If they wanted to stay out of the bun, they were going to stay out no matter what she did. Besides, they weren't worth enough trouble to bother with. After she was completely dressed and ready, Nira went back downstairs, getting there just as her father and two brothers were about to walk out the door. Seeing Nira as she stepped off the bottom step and went into the kitchen again, her father stopped in his tracks, a stern look in his eye.
"Samantha, do something about how your daughter is dressed, won't you." He called out to Nira's mother who was still cleaning up the kitchen from breakfast, obviously frustrated by the length and fashion of his daughter's dress, which was nothing uncommon. Nira's mother turned just in time to see Nira walk out, to the back porch, catching sight of her outfit.
"She is your daughter just as much as she is mine. Besides, I have talked to her plenty. If you're so concerned why don't you have a sit down with her, though I hardly think it will do anything. Has a mind of her own that one." She mumbled the last little bit to herself, not as bothered by Nira's dress as her father was-not even close.
"She is also present and would appreciate it if you two would stop bickering about her like she's not." Nira shouted to the both of them before she stepped back into the kitchen so that both of them could hear her properly. "Mother does have a point, however. I do have a mind of my own, one that provides me with common sense. Enough to realize that it makes absolutely no sense to work out in the hot sun all day in some long, heavy gown that will only serve to make me overheat and possibly faint. Then who will do the chores? Now this is the dress that I have always worn, and will continue to wear, and I don't want to hear another word about it." She demanded, pausing for a moment to see if either of them would respond. When they didn't, she turned and headed back for the back door to start her chores.
"Nira, dear, I was meaning to tell you earlier, but Doc will be by around two thirty to check up on you." Her mother called after her, making her stop in her tracks and turn back.
"That's not necessary, I'm fine. I promise." Nira gave it her best shot to assure them, only forcing a pleasing smile when she saw that her mother and father both looking back at her, skeptical.
"After last night I want to make sure that that much is absolutely true." Her mother finally replied with a firm tone that hindered any argument Nira could think up to counter with.
"Exactly," Was all her father had to add before giving Samantha a lite kiss, then turning and walking out the front door with Nira's brothers. Nira let out a defeated sigh, but did not push further. She simply flashed her mother a disgruntled smile before turning for the last time onto the back porch.
Nira grabbed the four, tin water pails-each three gallons-and took two in each hand as she left out the back door. It was only a minute walk to the pastier up the road from her house. About halfway between the house and the pastier was the well. Nira pumped the water from the well effortlessly, filling all four pails, but only taking two at a time the rest of the way up, to the pastier. After making both trips with the water pails, Nira first went to the pig's pen, filling their trough with the water from the pails.
The Animal's pens were set up in four separate blocks. The largest was against the back side of the other three pens, and it was for the horses. The other three pens were the pigs, next to that were the cows, and the last one on the very end was for the goats and chickens.
After providing the day's water for the pigs, Nira hung the empty pails on the gate post and moved farther into the pig's pen, who gathered around her as she moved to the other side of the pen to the feeding barrels against the far gate. The first barrel was filled with the regular feed for the pigs, while the second was filled with old potatoes and other scraps. Nira took the portioning bucket from atop the first barrel and filled it twice to pour into the pig's feeding trough. After replacing the lid on the first barrel, Nira used the same bucket to scoop out the potatoes and scraps and spread the bucket full on ground on the opposite side of the pen, across from the feeding trough. Once Nira replaced the lid on the second barrel and the bucket on top of that, she moved to the next pen-the cows-and repeated the same feeding regiment for them. The third pen was the goats and chicken's first filling the goat's trough with two scoops of their feed, then filled the two chicken feeders with a separate feed.
As Nira replaced the lid on the feed barrel and set the bucket on top of it, something under her feet caught her eye. It was small, but the red color is what caught her eye. It didn't take her brain more than a second to analyze the droplets and recognize them as blood. Blood that was still relatively fresh. The drops led out of the pen and eventually disappeared at the tree line on the east side of her family's property. Looking back over her shoulder, she took to counting the animals in their pens. There were two goats-mother and baby-and a pig gone from their flocks. She didn't know how she didn't notice the irregularity, but she counted all the animals again and still got the same result. She went back through the pens to look in their shelters and anywhere else they could be hiding, but they were simply gone with only a vague blood trail to show for it. The thought of what she should tell her father and mother-if anything-was suddenly replaced with an abrupt memory from the night before.
What had she told that man? Was he even real, was the real question. Real or not, however, she remembered a brief moment in their conversation. She had offered that they had plenty of livestock to satisfy him. A goat or pig, perhaps. If that had really happened, then that meant that the man was not only real, but he had taken her up on her offer-maybe a little too literally. On the other hand it could have been wild animals that came from the forest and attack the animals and drag them back to the forest with them. Although she wanted to believe the ladder, something kept nagging at her, pointing out the pure obvious facts. If it had been wild animals, even just one, there would have been more evidence of it; dead, ripped apart carcasses, more of the animals would have been killed, and there would have been a ton more blood, splattered in all directions. So that had to mean that the first possibility was the one that was true. It was strange though because even though an unsettling feeling began to churn in her stomach, an equal sensation of excitement, but she couldn't decide between the two. The fact that this man could be real and was really in her house last night, they really fought as she somehow, miraculously, survived, which also made her realize that he was not a human. That was the one thing she absolutely knew for sure in that moment.
Nira shook her head of all this craziness, she had to, and finally moved on to the horses. She had to go back through the cow's and pig's pens, then go around to the gate on the other side that was the horse's stable and pen. It was significantly larger than the other pens considering the number of horses they owned, the fact that they were larger than the other animals, and they needed the room to move and run. She first went to the stable where they kept the horses overnight. As soon as she slid open the door, all of the dozen horses that resided in the stable began to stir, some whinnied with excitement. One by one, Nira released the horses from their individual stalls, steering them toward the entrance of the stable. Altogether, her family and she had twelve horses. Two were hers, both for riding and pulling equipment or a carriage. Her father had the most-four-three for labor, and the other for riding and recreational type use. Her mother, sister, each brother, grandmother, and Rebecca had one a piece. Nira took care of the basic needs for all the horses, feeding, watering, and occasionally grooming. Cleaning out the stalls and any further care was the individual owner's responsibility.
"Good morning Drake," Nira greeted the first of her two Andalusian steeds as she opened his stall door. She rubbed his head and he nuzzled further against her hand. Nira laughed and planted a kiss near his nose before pointing him toward the open door on the other end of the stable and gave him a little nudge to get him going. "Brokk," She had to call. He was always the lazier of her two horses, and stubborn if anyone else tried to deal with him. He was still laying down in his stall, and probably would have continued if she wouldn't have been the one to call his name. At the sound of his name, Brokk practically jumped up on all fours and hurried to the stall door. "There's my boy." Nira cooed, greeting him with the same love she showed Drake before opening the door and letting him out. Brokk was the last horse to leave, and Nira followed him out. Her first order of business was to fill all three feeding troughs to their brim. Afterwards, she went back through the main gate and around to the other side of the pen where the hay was kept. One at a time, Nira hauled two bails back around to the main gate and dropped them right inside of it. After dropping the last bail, she went back to the stable to retrieve the pitchfork right inside the door. Returning to the two bails, Nira first cut the ropes that bound them with the knife in her apron, and dumped the useless rope back over the gate of the pen, then took about two thirds of each bail and filled both of the horse's hay feeders. The remainder of the hay she divided up between the goats and cows.
After returning the pitchfork to the stable, Nira grabbed the four water pails off the gate post of the other pen and headed back down to the well. Once again, she filled them and took them one at a time, repeating the process until the cow's, goat's and chicken's, and horses water troughs were full for the day. When she had completed this, she placed the pails back on the gate post before heading back to the horse's stable again. She grabbed different, larger tin buckets that were used for milking the cows, which only had to be done every couple of days, and not all the cows were dairy ones.
Taking the buckets and the wooden yolk from just inside the door of the stable, Nira made her way back to the cow's pen. One at a time, Nira led the six toward into the lean-to shelter and milked them, filling twelve of the fourteen buckets. After each bucket was filled, Nira placed them on the outside of the pen to keep the animals from knocking them over and wasting the milk.
Just as she set the last bucket of milk down on the ground and shut the gate behind her, about to hook two of the buckets of milk to the yolk, a sudden burst of thunder sounded in the distance. It only made her jump a little, but it spooked a few of the cows who trampled their water trough. Nira let out an aggravated sigh before leaving the milk buckets behind as she took the four water pails and the yolk back down to the well. On her way, she realized something strange. Whether it was the thunder that suddenly made her more aware, or something else, suddenly she could smell the rain. Looking up towards the sky, she could just barely see dark clouds in the distance, at least two towns over. It wouldn't be here until at least that night, or even the next morning. That is what struck as strange. Although she enjoyed the fresh smell of first rain, she could never actually smell the scent until it was already upon them. Now, however, it seemed as though it might be with the magnitude of the scent that she could definitely smell in that moment.
She was forced back to reality as he r foot caught on a not in the rode, almost causing her to trip. Fortunatley, she regained her balance and continued on to the well.
Nira took a seat on the stump beside the well, and set the pails and yolk down just beside her. She removed her apron and ran it under the water before placing the first pail under the spout and began to fill it. Nira wiped the soaked apron across her forehead, neck, and shoulders, whipping away the sweat and grime that she felt caking her skin. After the first pail was filled, Nira pulled it aside, and ran her apron under the cool, clear water again, then moved the next pail under the spout. Keeping one hand on the pump, she used her other to cover her face with the apron. Once the second pail was full, Nira moved to remove the apron from her face and pull the full pail aside to replace it with another empty one, but as she removed the apron from her face, she could have sworn she saw something, a figure, blurry, standing in the middle of the road, past the animal's pens. Nira squinted her eyes, and tilted her head to the side, trying to get a better look at what she was seeing. She squeezed her eyes shut and wiped her face again with her apron and then opened her eyes again, slowly. When she did the figure-a man-was no more than a few feet from her, still standing in the middle of the dirt road. The man. It wasthe man. The one from last night. The cellar. Their fight. He looked the same as he did the last time she saw him. Same clothes, same confidence about him, same handsome grin on his face. Her breath began to come quicker once again as she continued to stare at him, unable to tear her eyes away. Even as intriguing as he was, especially, somehow, now that she saw him in clear daylight, there was a certain amount of fear crept up her spine at his sudden appearance. A fear that finally brought her to her senses, causing her to jump. The sudden motion caused her to tumble, backwards, of the stump, her heels flying up, over her head as she went. Her head caught the edge of the stump when fell over, making everything fuzzy and disorienting. Before she could even try to stand and fix herself, the world went dark around her for an uncertain amount of time.
(Hoping to get Chapter 3 done and uploaded within the next couple days...Let me know what you think so far. Also if you have any better ideas for a story title let me know. I'm a little unsure about the title I have now.)