It makes me feel vulnerable. And that pulls me so far out of my comfort zone.
Reading through these, I see into who I was when I was younger and I feel like I'm baring a piece of my soul to you.
And, that's huge for me.
See, these excerpts, to me, show my idealistic side, the dreamer in me. The girl I allowed people to convince me was bad. I kept these stories close to my heart, hidden from the world, because I was scared of what people would think of me.
In my stories, people are basically good. Everyone is capable of change. The good guy always wins. And, he always gets the girl.
In my stories, no matter how bad it is, it always ends well. With hope. Because there is always hope.
But, people have convinced me that's wrong. That the world is a dark and miserable place. That people can't change. That everyone is always playing an angle and only in it for what they can get out of you in the end. That more often than not, life doesn't end well. It can- and often will- end in tears and misery.
Inside of me, there is a war going on, between my cynical side and my idealistic side. These stories, I'm ashamed of them because they show the side of me I have been convinced is wrong. The show the side of me I have been convinced should lose the war. They show an unrealistic slant on life. They're like Disney movies. And, nobody likes how unrealistic Disney movies are.
But, as I read through all these, I'm reminded of how happy I was when I was this girl. I'm reminded of why I wanted to be her. And, I'm realizing that it doesn't matter what other people think of me.
I don't have to spend the rest of my life with these people- I have to spend the rest of my life with me.
And, I'll stop being philosophical on you now. Because this is another long post and I don't want you to be ready to be done before I even begin.
This week's excerpt is from Gudryn's story. She's someone I never really shared with anyone. But, also someone who is very dear to my heart. Her story has gone in a million different directions over the years, but at its core, it's always stayed the same. Gudryn is still the same girl I created so many years ago. The supporting cast (save Lady Penelope who I created on the spot when I wrote the scene with her) are still actively part of the story. The goal, for her, will always be the same one. And, her world, while it grows as I develop it, is always the one I created so long ago.
So, someday, when I tell you I'm working on Gudryn's story, don't say you read the beginning, because it will be completely different. But, you can say you know the characters because they're the same. Always will be.
And, again, I'm sorry it's so long, but I wanted you to meet Elias and Linus, because I love them.
So, without further ago, Gudryn's Story:
“Hush, little one,” the mother says as she tucks her daughter into bed. “Da will be home soon and all will be well.”
“But the wind,” the little girl cries.
“It is nothing,” the mother assures. “It will not hurt us and it will bring Da home to us sooner.”
“I miss Da,” the girl says as she snuggles deep under her covers.
The woman kisses the girl’s brow. “So do I,” she whispers. The girl closes her eyes and her breathing becomes a slow, steady In. Out. In. Out.
The little hut shakes as the wind blows harder. She had lied to the girl. Wind could be a lot of damage to the homes on their small island. All Portabians knew that and in time her daughter would learn it to.
The woman prays it isn’t tonight that she learns it.
She sits next to the fire, trying to catch a little of its warmth. She closes her eyes and imagines that her husband is sitting next to her. Imagines he’s here safe and not far away at sea. She prays he makes it home this time, just as she prays every time he goes away.
Another thing all Portabian women know is that every time their man goes to sea it could be the last time she sees him. She prays, for the sake of the little girl sleeping soundly on the other side of the room, that this time her husband comes home. Little girls need their Das.
The hut door rattles and she gets up to go make sure it’s fastened tight. As her hand touches the handle, the door flies open and an ugly, burly man stands in the doorway.
He gives her a toothy, leering grin as he steps into the hut. The woman screams as he reaches for her, though she knows no one will hear her. The wind keeps the sound from carrying and the man knows it.
He’s scraggly and dirty, with a scar running down his left cheek, and his clothes are ragged and worn. But, he has a good- though rather scuffed- pair of boots on and he’s obviously well-fed.
The woman screams again as she lunges away from him, making a dive for the knife that lies on the hut’s small table.
The man is quicker and, in an instant he is holding the knife himself. He says something to her as he waves the weapon threateningly at her, but his words are foreign and she doesn’t understand.
But, it suddenly makes sense what he is doing there. The unkempt appearance, the small signs that this man has money, the foreign tongue; they all point to one thing.
This man is a slave trader.
She wonders how many others there are. Wonders how many other homes are being invaded like this. The men must have known the women were alone. That meant they had been watching for some time. She shudders to think of it.
With no men to defend them except the older and weaker ones who stay behind, there is little use fighting. But she can’t go willingly. Her mind goes into panic and she quickly looks around the room for another weapon she can defend herself with.
The man moves towards her again. She jumps away. She picks up a chair and throws it at him. He dodges it, muttering angrily in his strange tongue. She picks up her pot and heaves that too. Then her water bucket. Next her stool. Nothing hits its mark.
She sees out of the corner of her eye that her little girl is awake now and sitting silently in the bed, watching. Her good little girl, wise enough not to make a sound.
The man is upon her then. He waves the knife at her, threatening her. Even though she cannot understand his words, she knows what he will do if she does not cooperate. And, maybe if she does as he says he will take her away and leave her girl.
She relaxes, submitting herself to his will. Everything in her screams to fight but she has to think of her little girl. He drags her to the door.
“Mama!” the little girl cries then.
The man’s eyes light up. He moves toward her, dragging the woman behind him.
“No!” she screams. “No! Leave her be!” She goes at him with her fingers- or, more specifically, her nails. He screams in pain and lets her go. She pounces on him, clawing at his face as she screams to her daughter to run.
The little girl does as she is told. She jumps from her bed, her eyes filled with fear and races to the door.
The man’s reflexes go to work and in one swift, natural move the knife he’d been holding sinks into the woman’s stomach. She screams yet again as she flies off of him. She clutches her bleeding abdomen and looks toward the door.
Another man has come and he grabs the little girl. He drags her away as she cries out for her mother to save her. The woman watches, helpless. The fiery pain in her middle is nothing compared to the pain in her heart.
As she lays there on the hut’s dirt floor, alone, clutching her middle and knowing she’s dying, one thought pounds in her head.
My little girl. They’ve got my little girl.
“But what do you intend to do with her?” Janice, Senator Holman’s housekeeper, demands. “She’s- well, she’s Portabian.” She shudders at the word. “Why would you even want her in the house?”
The senator sighs heavily. “Janice, she’s a child. A child who needs love. Besides, she has a brilliant mind that I very much want to put to work. I thought she might make a good secretary of sorts. Someone to help keep things in order, run errands for me. That sort of thing.”
The woman shakes her head. “You’ll regret the day you let that girl set foot in this house. You’ll see I’m right.”
“I don’t remember asking your opinion,” Senator Holman mutters.
“Besides,” the woman continues, ignoring the comment, “she’s a slave and you’re opposed to slavery. What will people say to that?”
“Well, now, that’s for them to worry about, isn’t it?” the senator say.
“And for you to deal with,” Janice replies. “Wagging tongues bring nothing but ill.”
The senator nods his agreement. “Which is all the more reason for us to keep ours still.”
The woman huffs and says, “Well, I’m just telling you what I think. She’ll bring more harm than good.”
The girl they are speaking of stands quietly behind the senator, her green eyes on the floor, her hands clasped behind her back. Her thick auburn hair is falling out of the two fat braids plaited on either side of her head. She makes nary a sound. In fact, it would be very easy for her to completely blend in with the wall if she wants to.
The man and the woman continue to argue for another fifteen minutes or so. The girl remains still and silent. She fights back a yawn and refrains from shuffling her feet. Though she is tired, hungry, and rather scared by the whole situation, she remains stoic and emotionless.
The senator turns to her after a while. “Janice, please get Gudryn some bread and cheese and then get her settled somewhere for the night.”
“Yes, sir,” the housekeeper says, bobbing a curtsy. “Come along, girl.”
Gudryn raises her head slightly and moves slowly towards the woman.
“Come along,” Janice snaps. “I haven’t got all night.”
The girl quickens her pace, keeping her eyes downcast and not saying a word.
The woman sighs. “You’ll regret this, Senator. I know you will.”
“Perhaps,” Senator Holman says. “And, if so, that’s something I’ll have to deal with.”
“Who are you?” twelve-year-old Alexander Holman demands as he passes his father’s study the next morning and finds Gudryn waiting outside the door.
The girl shrinks against the wall, her green eyes filling with fright, and doesn’t say anything.
“Don’t you talk?”
She shake her head.
“Can you talk?”
He grins. “Well, most girls don’t stop talking so, I guess that’s okay. Where’d you come from?”
She just continues to look down at the floor, silent.
“Did Father bring you home?”
She nods again.
“Are you going to be staying here?”
He sighs. “I don’t think I like this silent thing after all. Why won’t you talk to me?”
“’Cause I might get in trouble,” she says, her voice no more than a whisper.
“Get in trouble with who?” he demands.
“With ma’am and sir,” she says.
“Well,” Alexander says slowly, “how am I to get any answers from you?”
“Where’d you come from?”
She pulls in her lips and shakes her head.
Alexander sighs. His younger sister, Giselle, comes down the hall then. She stops next to her brother and stares at Gudryn. “Alex, who’s that?”
“I don’t know,” he says. “I tried asking but she’s afraid if she talked she’ll get in trouble with Father or Janice, as far as I can tell.”
“But where does she come from?” Giselle presses.
Alexander shakes his head. “She won’t talk.”
Senator Holman comes down the hall just then. “Ah, good, I see you have met Gudryn,” he says.
“Sort of,” his son replies. “Only, she won’t talk.”
The senator looks at her. “Is this true?”
She keeps her eyes down and nods her head. “Yes, sir,” she whispers.
“And why’s that?”
She swallows hard. “The sir you bought me from didn’t like me to talk. He said I wasn’t born to talk, just to work. He hit me if I talked or if I didn’t anything he didn’t say I was allowed to do.”
The senator sighs. “Well, Gudryn, in this house, no one is going to hit you. You’re to be a member of this household.”
Giselle’s face lights up. “Does that mean she can be my friend?”
“Yes, dearest, would you like that?”
She nods and catches Gudryn’s hand in hers. “Come, there’s plenty of time before we break fast. I want to show you everything.”
Gudryn remains firm in her place, eyeing the senator warily.
“Well,” he says, “go along.”
She nods and the girls start down the hall.
“Oh,” Giselle says, stopping suddenly, “are you coming, Alex?”
The boy shakes his head. As they disappear around the corner, he turns to his father. “Where did she come from?”
The man takes a deep breath. “Well, son, she was a slave I bought from Senator Jacobs.”
“But you’re always saying slavery is wrong.”
“It is,” he replies. “But I couldn’t look into those sad eyes and not do something.”
Alexander smiles. “She does have nice eyes, doesn’t she?”
“Gudryn, will you take this to Senator Jacobs for me?” Senator Holman holds out a folded missive, sealed with wax, pressed in his crest.
She nods as she rises from her desk and takes the letter. “Yes, sir.”
As she goes, the man marvels at how much she has changed since coming to live with him three years before. It still takes a lot of effort to get more than a sentence out of her but she smiles much more and the fear in her eyes is now replaced with confidence.
He looks up and realizes she is standing in the doorway. He wonders how long she’s been standing there.
She smiles when he looks and he smiles back. “Did you need something?”
She nods. “Alexander?”
“He went to the market with Giselle,” he tells her. “Is there something I can do?”
She shakes her head and leaves again. He goes back to his work, wondering what she wanted with his son. He tells himself it’s probably nothing important. She and his children have become good friends in the last three years.
Janice comes into the room. “Will you be here for lunch, Senator?”
The man nods. “I have some business this evening, however, and I won’t be around for supper.”
It’s the woman’s turn to nod. “All right, I’ll serve the children alone then.” She looks around the study. “Where’s Gudryn?”
“She’s running an errand for me,” the man replies. “She should be back any minute.”
The woman hmphs. “You never know with her. Send her out for one little thing and she comes back an hour later. I don’t care what she says about the market being busy. I don’t trust her.”
The senator rolls his eyes. “She’s lived here three years and never given us reason to distrust her before.”
“There was that one time,” Janice insists.
The man sighs. “And it turned out to be completely innocent. Janice, can’t you just accept that she’s part of the household?”
“She’s a slave,” the woman states.
Senator Holman isn’t sure what that has to do with anything. “Just until she’s sixteen. And, she’s as good as free now.”
The woman hmphs again. “She’ll use her freedom ill. Mark my words.”
“Look on the bright side,” the man says. “If she does, you can say, ‘I told you so.’”
The woman rolls her eyes, hmphs a final time, and leaves. The senator watches her go with a smile. She’s been the Holman housekeeper since he was a kid and it seems her tongue grows sharper every year.
He goes back to work. He is just finishing up when a plate appears in front of him. He looks up to see Gudryn standing in front of the desk, a smile on her face. He didn’t even hear her come in.
“Did you deliver the letter?” he asks as he inspects the items on his plate. Cheese, bread, and some ham. The bread is fresh and the ham and cheese are warmed. It all smells heavenly.
She nods and takes a seat at her desk. As she sets to doing the copy work he had given her, he wonders if she is the only female slave her age who can read and write.
She certainly has come a long way in three years.
“Why, Lady Penelope, to what do we owe the honor of your visit?” Lady Giselle asks in surprise, rising from her seat on the garden bench and moving to embrace her cousin.
“I was in the neighborhood and thought I should stop in and see if you were well,” Lady Penelope Wittier says as she returns the embrace. “Are you home alone today or is your brother in?”
Giselle bites back a smile, the real reason for her cousin’s visit becoming clear. “No, Lady Penelope, my brother is not here. However, I’m hardly alone. As you can see, Gudryn is here with me.”
Lady Penelope sniffs. “I wasn’t aware that slaves were considered company.”
Gudryn rises from her seat and curtsies to the woman. “Good day, milady.”
As the woman glares at her, she slips from the room, shooting Giselle an encouraging smile. She makes her way down the hall and as she turns the corner, she almost runs into Alexander, who is coming from the kitchen.
He grins when he sees her. “Oh, Gudryn, you’ve got to see this!” There’s a sparkle in the young man’s eyes and Gudryn knows it must have something to do with one of his experiments. “Say, did I hear someone with Giselle when I came in?”
She nods. “Lady Penelope.”
He groans. “Oh, no, not her, not today. I suppose I should go in and say hello.”
She shrugs. “You were going to show me?”
His faces lights again. “Oh, yeah, you’ve got to see this.” He grabs her hand and pulls her through the kitchen- they get a very disapproving look from Janice- and into the back storeroom.
Gudryn stares at the giant box in the middle of the storeroom floor. She turns to look at him, raising an eyebrow.
He sighs. “Look inside.”
She does as he says. Peeking inside, she sees an empty box. She turns back to him, her risen eyebrow back in place.
He moves to stand beside her, peeking in the box himself. “Oh, no! It’s gone!”
Her other eyebrow rises. “What?”
“My Xenothian Nonvenea snake!”
Her eyes widen and her eyebrows raise even more- this time in surprise. “Where?”
“Lycus Jove gave it to me. I bought it off him for a danker. He was a humdinger of a snake too, what with his yellow strips and his-”
A scream interrupts them. Janice’s scream.
They run to the kitchen and find Janice up on a chair, screaming for her dear life. Giselle- with Lady Penelope following- appears in the other doorway. Senator Holman is close behind.
Alexander’s Xenothian Nonvenea is making its way across the room to the Holman housekeeper. As it slithers closer, Gudryn makes a dive for the kitchen table- or, more specifically, the knife on the table. Alexander makes a dive for her. He grabs her and pulls her away just before she can manage to do the snake any harm with her knife.
“Don’t kill him!” Alexander exclaims. “I paid a whole danker for him.”
“I don’t care,” Gudryn says, pushing him off of her and moving back towards the snake.
He pushes her aside and makes a grab for the snake. The thing slithers under the table and Alexander dives after it. Giselle screams as it approaches her.
“Don’t worry,” her brother says. “It’s not poisonous. If it bites you, it won’t do any harm.”
“I’d rather not take any chances,” Giselle says. “Shall we return to the garden, Lady Penelope?”
Lady Penelope, her face pale, turns to her cousin. “I-I’m afraid I must be going. Good day.” She kisses Giselle’s cheek and leaves.
Alexander finally manages to capture his Xenothian Nonvenea. With a grin, he holds it up. “Isn’t it a humdinger?”
Senator Holman glares at him. “Alexander, you are sixteen years old. I expect a larger display of maturity from you. Get that thing out of this house this instant.”
“I said, this instant.”
The boy lowers his eyes and moves to the back storeroom. “I wonder if Lycus will buy him back,” he mutters to himself.
Gudryn follows him. “Perhaps Dr. Melek.”
“What would he want with a snake?” Alexander scoffs.
She shrugs. “Research.”
“You think I should ask him?”
Alexander grins. “You know, even if you did try to kill my Xenothian Nonvenea, you’re being very nice about him.”
“I thought he would kill Janice,” she says in her defense.
He nods. “I can see why. Xenothian Nonveneas look a lot like Xenothian Veneas except they don’t have red spots. They’re really easy to mistake for each other.”
“Besides,” she says, “when there’s snake it’s wise to kill first and learn the kind later.”
He rolls his eyes. “You don’t really think I’d bring a poisonous snake into the house and leave him in a box he could get out of, do you?”
He sighs. “Well, maybe I did bring that spider home, but I swear I didn’t know he was poisonous, or that he could squeeze through holes that little. I’m smarter now.”
She rolls her eyes. “Yes, a whole month smarter.”
“It’s been two months,” he insists.
She raises an eyebrow.
He laughs. “All right, maybe it was a month and a half. And, no, it doesn’t really matter. I get your point. I’d better run before Dr. Melek closes his shop. See you later.”
She grins as he races out the back door, his snake’s box tucked under his arm. In many ways, Alexander Holman is still a kid at heart.
Alexander’s eyes sparkle when he comes in the door.
Gudryn smiles at him. “Went well?”
“I got to set a broken leg. And, Dr. Melek said I was a natural.”
Alexander has been working with the doctor ever since the day he tried to sell him the Xenothian Nonvenea. The Melisian physician hadn’t had much interest in the scaly beast but the boy who owned it he found very promising. So, he took him on as an apprentice of sorts.
“You going to tell the senator?”
“No,” Alexander says. “He wants me to be a senator like him. He thinks this whole thing with Dr. Melek is just a phase. I’m surprised he even lets me work with him.”
Gudryn is surprised too. Most people don’t like Melisians because of their strange customs and deeply held religious beliefs. Like Portabians, Melisians are different and Serrians don’t like that.
“You should tell him,” she urges.
He shakes his head. “Father wants me to be a senator and I’ll respect that.”
“At the expense of your happiness?”
“I can be happy as a senator,” Alexander insists.
Gudryn rolls her eyes and shakes her head. “I got a letter to deliver.” She slips passed him and leaves.
Alexander goes upstairs to his father’s study. The man looks up as his son enters the room.
“Oh, Alexander, you’re back. Good,” he says. “Have you seen Gudryn?”
The boy nods. “She just left. She’s delivering the letter for you.”
The man quirks an eyebrow. “For me? What letter? I didn’t send her to deliver a letter.”
Alexander shrugs. “I must have heard her wrong.”
His father nods. “You must have. Maybe she’s running an errand for Janice.”
She slips through the crowded market square unnoticed. Her movements are natural and easy and she easily blends in with her surroundings.
She ducks smoothly into an abandoned alley behind Spiro the scribe’s office. A boy, about nine or ten, pops out of the back door and grins at her. His chocolate-brown hair is disheveled and his blue eyes sparkle with mischief.
“’Lo, Gud,” he says. “Did you bring me a biscuit?”
She shakes her head.
“Couldn’t pinch one without being caught.”
He frowns. “Oh.”
The boy shakes his head. “No, he went down to the docks. Linus’ here, but he’s being moody.”
The young man in discussion steps out of the office into the alley. He’s seventeen, with pale blond hair, and a distinctly moody expression on his white, freckled face. His coloring darkens to a blush when he sees Gudryn.
“Oh, hello, Gudryn.”
She smiles. “Did Spiro leave a letter for me to deliver?”
Linus shakes his head.
“You in a hurry, Gud?” Elias asks.
She nods. “I have to get back.”
“When are you going to run away and come live with us?”
“When I turn sixteen. Senator Holman says I can have my freedom then.”
The boy furrows his brow. “Why then?”
“Because that’s when she becomes an adult,” Linus says. “And, so, that’s when the senator plans to give her her freedom.” He snorts. “As if freedom is something you can give away.”
“If it’s not something you can give away, then what is it?”
“It’s a right all people should be born with,” Linus says. “And anyone who says different is wrong.”
“I was born with it,” Gudryn says quietly.
“Exactly, and then someone took that right away from you and they shouldn’t have done that.”
Elias sighs. “I still say you should run away. Then you’d be standing up for the cause.”
“Since when are you so concerned about standing up for the cause?” Linus asks.
“Since it means Gudryn can come be my sister even sooner.”
Linus rolls his eyes.
“When do you turn sixteen?”
She shrugs. “Seven weeks.”
“If it’s seven weeks why’d you shrug?”
“’Cause that’s when the senator bought her,” Linus explains. “She doesn’t know when her real birthday is.”
“Does anyone?” the boy queries.
“I should go.” Gudryn turns.
Elias grabs her around the middle and hugs her from behind. “Bye. Come back soon?”
Gudryn wiggles her way free, turns back, and folds him in a hug. “You know I will.”
“Cross your heart?”
“Cross my heart.”
“Hope to die?”
“What?” He pulls away from the hug to look up at her.
“I don’t hope to die. I’d rather live, thank you.”
He smiles and hugs her again. “Bye.”
“Bye.” She moves down the alley. She turns back. “Bye, Linus.”
The young man blushes again. “Goodbye, Gudryn.”
“How come you turn pink whenever Gudryn talks to you?” Elias asks.
The young man doesn’t reply.
And there you have it! I hope you enjoyed it. As I said, this story- and, by story, I mean the characters- is very dear to my heart. I can say for a fact that I will be writing about Gudryn and the gang someday. So, I hope you liked it, because you'll be getting more sometime.
And, Monday will bring the start of a new series. I hope you'll stop back for that.
Until then, stay awesome, faithful readers. Don't ever let anyone kill a side of you that you hold dear.
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
~Hamlet Act 1, Scene 3