This is the 7th chapter of Emma’s Story. All previous chapters can be found on the Stories page, here.
As usual, this is the first draft and changes can and will be made even after this page goes live. The entire first draft will be published here on the site and you’ll be able to read it for free – one chapter a week.
Once the full story is written it will be polished and edited and then released as an ebook (either for free or very cheap).
For this week I’ve picked a lounge set as the chapter’s musical accompaniment. It’s a lazy, laid back soundtrack, which should fit well with at least parts of the chapter – but certainly not all of it. I hope you enjoy it, both the read and the music.
Emma’s Story – Chapter 7
In the village between the hills, morning comes all too soon. Up the stairs at the inn, behind a blue door, a young woman wakes to a knocking that will never end, and she finds herself feeling a little bit delicate.
But the world does not wait and the world does not care. A young woman has offered her help and her friend has accepted it. Such a trust is not to be betrayed.
From silent empty burrows, old ones are gathering for their morning meal, a sense of community, and to maintain routine. They gather, like so many times before, and the table is not yet ready.
Frowning, grumbling, and whispering among themselves, they watch and glare and wonder. A strange new face beside the daughter of their village. A new pair of feet to walk their floors.
Speaking in grunts and groans, moving with care and caution, two young women set the day in motion. Large and unfamiliar, a kitchen is still a kitchen, and a young woman has cooked before. She knows what to do, and the memories of cooks long gone guide her hands to the tools she needs.
A fire is stoked.
A table is set.
A meal is prepared.
And eventually, under the waiting eyes of the old and hungry, breakfast is served.
The fare is simple, and it is late, but it warms and fills a grumbling belly. Old eyes have seen better days, but they too have had their mornings after and their nights before – only, as they will surely recall, much worse.
– – –
A village has cared for a young woman’s horses, and her body still suffers from the night before, but she sees to them again. Mucking out. Rubbing down. Filling up on water and on oats. Familiar chores, already completed, get done for the sake of doing.
A mind is left to wander.
Questions are encountered, and answers come to greet them. A few find their mates, but most of them do not. It does not much matter, for some questions are best unanswered, and some answers are best not asked for.
And yet some, will not.
Two horses, brown and black, do not care. They get their food and they get their care, and they will rest this day in comfort. Tomorrow, a young woman hopes, they will have to work hard. Through snow and hills they will pull a sled full of voices to fill out the choir of her home. This she hopes. This she wants.
A young woman trusts her horses and knows they will do well. If she fills the sled, they will bring it home. A young woman does not doubt her friends.
– – –
A morning turns to day and a village inn kitchen spits out chores by the moment. Food needs preparing, dishes need cleaning, and pot after pot of hot strong tea needs brewing.
Friendly faces come and go. Helping hands and hungry mouths. Doors of a kitchen never rest for long. Through it all two young women keep the wheels turning, and little by little, their silence fills with words.
Seeds of friendship, just recently planted, thrive and grow. Thoughts are shared, questions are asked, and advice is given. Smiles bounce back and forth, and an extra pair of hands makes a day’s chores lighter. Come what may, a kitchen is a kitchen, and good memories are born.
– – –
At long last, as a day comes to an end and evening comes creeping from the east, a young woman speaks. She stands alone, facing a sea of unfamiliar faces, and tells of the plight of her home.
Her words are of no import. Ears of the burrows have already heard. For even in a large village between hills, knowledge dances on winds of breath, and a village knows. Yet here she stands, and here she speaks, for while her words are known, she must be seen to say them. She must show the trust of asking.
So a young woman is seen, with feet rooted in the ash and dust by the fireplace. Loud and clear her voice reaches out and delivers her plea for help. Back straight and head held high, she answers the questions of the crowd, without falter and without fail.
A young woman speaks. A young woman knows. A young woman has the answers.
And at the end of the day, as stars come out to sing, a young woman does her village proud. If only her mother could see.
– – –
The villagers are all gone home. The fire burns low and the candles not at all. Most chores are done, and it’s long past the point where you would start new ones. What’s left to do, can be done another day.
Two women enjoy a moment of quiet in front of the fireplace, side by side in the darkness. They look into the flames, seeing futures and pasts that may never be and that may never have been.
From high above, hidden in the rafters, a gray shadow watches. A whisper in the dark. A stalker in the night. From here to there. From shadow to shade. From beam to shelf, to tables and seats, and soon enough, a small cat curls up in a warm lap under soft hands.
A head leans on a shoulder. Hair brushes a cheek. A warmth of friendship in the long winter night. Comfort and silence seep into brick and log. A house as old as dirt, steeped in generations of memories, smiles and approves.
This night, a young woman goes to bed with a clear head, in a room above ground, in a village not her own. This night, she is without fear. Her thoughts are clear, but many, and they all want to be thought. On the other side of a thin wall, she hears her friend snore.
In the end, she wakes up, and it is morning.
That’s all for now. You can read Chapter 8 here.