This is the ninth chapter of Emma’s Story. You can find previous chapters on the Stories page if you haven’t read them yet.
As usual, this is the first draft and changes to the writing can and will be made before the final version of the story is published. However, this version is good enough that I’m not ashamed to share it. The entire first draft of the story will be published here on the blog in this way.
Once the first draft is completed, the story will be edited and polished further before it’s final release. This version will remain available here on the site though.
This weeks musical accompaniment is of the dark, progressive breaks variety. It’s not too hard, and it’s got some nice little melodies twisting back and forth between the beats. I hope you enjoy it – and I hope you enjoy the story too of course.
Emma’s Story – Chapter 9
“Hey, Emma! Are you there?” Burje’s voice came from over by the main door of the barn – over at the other end of the building. “I heard you were back.”
Emma stopped rubbing at Ussilago’s flank and strained her ears. She stood as still as she could – not making a sound. Hidden away in the far box, in the horses’ half of the barn, there was no way Burje would see her from where he stood.
He’d not see her. Someone else though. Someone else he’d see right away. A mischievous grin spread across her face.
“Good evening,” said Trula. “You must be Torkel. Emma is back there.”
Not knowing whether to groan or giggle, Emma shook her head. Way to go Trula. Good start.
“Ehm…” Burje cleared his throat and then not another word could be heard for the longest time. “Hello there… Err…” He coughed, and cleared his throat again.
His face must be so red right now.
Smiling all the way down into her belly Emma hurried to the rescue. Skipping out of the box she slowed down to a walk and tried to smooth out her face. She should try to look serious – at least a little, to begin with.
She found them at each end of the main room of the barn – where they kept the cart and the plows now during winter. Trula stood by the low wall separating the stables from the room, looking at Burje, one hand playing with the tip of her braid.
Burje himself stood in the doorway that lead out into the yard. Eyes wide and face red he tried desperately not to stare at Trula.
As soon as Emma appeared, they both snapped to attention and turned towards her.
“Hi!” Emma put on her best innocent face and raised a hand to wave. “Burje, this is Trula. She came with me from Kuulis Wood.” She only grinned a little bit.
She grabbed Trula by the arm and dragged her along over to where Burje stood.
“Trula, this is my good friend Burje. Torkel’s brother.”
“Oh… I see.” Trula’s eyebrows went up and she donned a big dazzling smile, all bright white teeth and sparkling eyes. “Hello Burje. I’m so happy to meet you.” Hands to her sides she dropped him a little curtsey. “Emma here had nothing but praise for you.”
Emma groaned inwardly. Poor Burje. She probably should have warned Trula he wasn’t the most sociable person. Too late now. Her new friend would drag the lad to the well and back before he even had a chance to figure out what was going on. This could be fun.
Burje squirmed. He glanced from Trula to Emma and back again. “Oh, err… Did she now?” His face grew even redder, and he cast down his eyes, staring at the floor in front of him and tugging at the hem of his coat.
A moment later he stiffened and looked up, his mouth hanging half open. “She did?” Squaring his shoulders, he clapped his hands together, and tried to smile. “I mean… I’m nothing special…” His voice trailed off and he hung his head and stared down at floor again.
“Oh, well. Right.” Emma sighed. “Burje, where’s Torkel?”
Burje lifted his shoulders, and with a long sigh he let them fall again. “Yes, about that…” He paused to clear his throat. “He’s not come back yet. I meant to ask if you’d seen him on the way.”
Emma froze. Her chest filled with ice and she gasped for breath. “What? He’s not back yet?”
“No…” Burje squirmed. “Some people from Hemsbo arrived yesterday afternoon, but he wasn’t with them. They said he left again right after he’d told them about the bear.”
She stared at him. Please let it be a joke. He must be joking. He was not joking. The look on his face said he really wasn’t joking.
“Left where?” Emma took a deep breath. This was not happening. Eyes closed she slowly let the air out again. The fool. Why, Torkel? Why?
He’d never lied to her before.
Burje cleared his throat. “They said he’d mentioned something about an errand, and then he’d returned the same way he came.” He squirmed, glanced at Emma, and flinched. “Uhm… No one’s seen him since then.”
Emma glared at him – her jaw set and her fists clenched so tight the nails dug into her palms. She took another deep breath and as she let it out again a low rumble escaped her chest.
Trula stared at her with wide eyes and mouth half open. Burje swallowed and took a step back.
Torkel had not come back. Her chest heaved, and her heart beat so hard she could hear her blood rushing through her veins. He’d lied to her. The fool had lied to her.
“Argh!” Emma threw her hands in the air, and stalked past Burje out into the night. She stopped and stared down into the snow on the ground. “He thought he could be clever and sneak around the village on some deer’s trail. He’s definitely gone to talk to the winters.”
“Yes,” said Burje from behind her. “Otherwise someone would have seen him on the way back here.”
“The fool!” She spun around again, fists raised as if to punch something. “When I get my hands on him…”
Burje swallowed. “He could have just tried to take a shortcut home and gotten lost.”
“Shortcut my dirty toes!” Emma’s arm lashed out and she glared down her finger as she pointed at him. “He’s gone to fetch the winters and you know it.”
Uhm, well, yes…” Hunching his shoulders and hanging his head, Burje shuffled his feet. “That’s what everyone says… But at least now you know.”
“Yes.” Of course everyone would say that. Of course everyone would know. Of course. “Thanks.” She forced herself to calm down, took a deep breath, and held her arms straight by her sides. Relax.
Head held high she walked past Burje and Trula and into the barn again, towards the horses in their boxes. She’d have to see to the horses. Now.
“Ahem…” Behind her, Burje Coughed. “Do you need any help with the horses?”
“No,” she snapped and spun around. “Go! Leave me alone.”
Burje swallowed and lowered his gaze. “I’ll see you later?”
“Yes. I’ll be up later.” She’d have to. She had to be seen. The fool woman who couldn’t keep her useless future husband in check. They had to see she was still in control of herself at least. They had to know she’d have it in for him when he got back.
“I just…” Her shoulders slumped and she hung her head.
The barn fell silent. No one said a word. No one breathed. Even the creaking of the old building ceased for a moment.
“I’m sorry.” Emma swallowed and looked up. “Burje, why don’t you show Trula the inn? She’s hungry.”
“It’s okay,” said Trula. “I can–”
“You’re hungry.” Emma cut her short with a chopping motion of her hand. “We’re almost done anyway. I’ll take care of it.”
Trula crossed her arms over her chest and glared at Emma. “Fine.”
Emma glared back. “Thanks.”
Without another word, and with her chin up, Trula spun on her heel and walked out into the night. A moment later, Burje followed, leaving Emma alone in the barn.
“Fine,” she said and glared at the door.
Head held high she walked back to Ussilago’s box and picked up the brush she’d used – and then just stood there.
“Fine…” she whispered.
He’d not come back.
He’d lied to her.
“FINE!” she screamed, and slammed her fist into the wall.
When it came away, there was blood on her knuckles.
That’s all for this week. I hope you liked it.
You can read chapter 10 here.