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COT Epic Grant-Sud Future

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#1 Offline Grant-Sud

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Posted Sep 07 2012 - 02:49 PM

1. While I’m Away

‘I wanted to talk with you. And I wasn’t sure how…’

When Sarah awoke in the middle of the night, her eyes just … opened. There wasn’t a real reason. She didn’t have a nightmare and she couldn’t remember dreaming. She hadn’t heard anything but she knew immediately she hadn’t gotten enough sleep. Her back and long blond hair felt wet with perspiration. Sarah blinked, once, twice and then felt she couldn’t go back to bed yet.And though she didn’t know it, her subconscious wouldn’t let her fall back asleep until she saw it once again; until she knew for sure, once again.So slowly, without making any noise on her dirt ridden mattress which had a slightly cleaner towel over it, the girl of thirteen rose. Her cold feet with socks lightly touched the wooden floor which made a soft creaking sound as she pressed her weight down. She shivered and coughed lightly, cold now out from her covers. Her white shirt offered little warmth and she had no pants on, only undergarments. Her father always said that sleeping with her dirty clothes on was unhealthy, so she didn’t.Her arms felt suddenly weak as she pushed herself upward from her bed, but she didn’t hesitate in doing so.She had to see it again.

‘I know you’re a big girl now, and not the child I once had. You know that ... that means that sometimes, even at thirteen- that even at thirteen … you have to deal with a-adult things. You understand, right? You have to act- …no you have to be older.’

It was the dead of night, and she wasn’t sure what time it was. She could never tell on some nights, as the moon was usually half hidden by clouds and its light didn’t seem to exist. That never happened with the sun. It was too bright, so even when the smog of gray clouds in the sky blocked it, you could always see it breaking through.But after Sarah moved out of her room, leaving behind only the dirty mattress and single wooden chair, she walked out into the kitchen where the broken window was built above the sink. And she could see bright and clear light shining through it.The dust glowed like fireflies in the light, and she walk under it.Her eyes widened in surprise. The moon was out, almost in full view and crystal clear. She could easily tell it was past midnight. About three or four a clock, she figure the time was.The glass was cracked and pieces were littered across the disconnected sink, which they hadn’t bothered with since they had occupied the house a week before. The wooden cabinets that ran along the window's wall were all empty. The small doors remained firm and fixed on the hinges however, useful if needed. Everything was covered in a thick layer of dust and there was grime along the ceiling edges, where constant mildew had built up from the rain.Moving from the kitchen into the living quarters, she found the small room of one couch, holding her dad. He was asleep, snoring slightly with his hat on and unshaven face. He had one blanket over him, was on his back and was using both the couch’s armrest and a small pillow to prop his head up with. On the floor below him, wrapped up in two blankets was his son and Sarah’s little brother. He snored lightly, like his father did. He was strangely sweating too, despite the cold.There were a total of four blankets in their possession, for the four of them that lived there. So when she thought about why her little brother had two of those four and her father had one as did she… it didn’t add up. Her older brother, Mark, needed one as well.

‘Yeah, I understand dad… what is it? What do you need to tell me?’

She moved back, through the kitchen and into her room. Outside was silent, not even the sound of cricket bugs or frogs. Dad always told her that was a bad sign. If insects weren’t around, that meant they couldn’t live here and that also meant humans couldn’t live there for long either.‘Always follow the animals. They know the land better than us.’ The quote rang off in her head and she smiled. They wouldn’t be staying here for too much longer. And that was fine with her. This wasn’t the homiest place. It was large and somewhat comfortable with the left behind furniture, but there was a sense of eeriness to it that she couldn’t place. It was the sound of no wildlife and little people in town, living amongst the rundown homes. The moon which was bright tonight- when had she last seen the moon so bright? It was comforting … but haunting at the same time.She avoided the slightly wetter areas on the tile floor, where the leaks had created puddles. If she got her socks wet it took a good day for them to dry off, and that was a day she would remain freezing. Also, who knew what kind of dirt and grime was in that water? It wasn’t clear and that made it unsafe to touch in her opinion.Entering her room, she thought only for her older brother and gathered up her blankets. She wouldn’t let him get sick tonight just because he wanted to have a bed and swapped places with Isaac at his usual spot on the floor. Isaac usually had that bed Mark was sleeping in, and they probably made a deal.She moved silently past them both as she made it into the living quarters once more, blanket bundled up in her arms and half asleep. Sarah had it fixed on her mind to rest with her older brother tonight. It would be much warmer and anyway … she couldn’t sleep. Something was on the back of her mind that she couldn’t pin point.Mark’s door was closed, so she turned the knob and peeked inside to take a look at his bed. She blinked and released the knob, letting the door slowly swing open.He wasn’t there.

‘There was an accident.’

The bed was empty. Pillows, blankets and even his jacket that he kept on the edge of the bed at night, was missing.He hadn’t gone out, he knew that was dangerous… where did he go? Sarah thought about it for a minute, trying to recall something that she couldn’t; it was something important.

‘An accident?’

Could he be grabbing some water from outside? No. The living room door was closed. Out back using the bathroom maybe, or perhaps he heard a noise and was checking it out… Was he in her room, making sure she was okay? Was he checking on his little brother? Or was Mark talking with their dad about something private, about what the future plans were and other important stuff that she and Isaac weren't allowed to know about?No. She had just been near all the rooms of the house and he hadn’t been in any of them. So Isaac was using his blanket and that wasn’t fair. He would be mad when he came home.

‘It happens sometimes, and you know that it does. And um, it’s, that we can’t…’

“Where did you go…” she asked silently, staring at the bed for a long minute. She continued to watch it, determined to stay there until he got back. It would only take a few seconds, she knew. He’d come through that door any moment now.All she had to do was wait.“Where did you go…” she whispered again, sitting on his bed. And suddenly her hands reached up to her forehead and she grasped her hair, pulling it. She took in a deep breath, feeling weak again. She exhaled in a trembling and weak sort of way, impulsively cutting off the air as it left her lungs.

‘Sarah. I, I don’t know… he isn’t… um… when he left to grab … he’s gone, Sarah. They found his … we’ll bury him … don’t tell …’

“…” and she waited for another hour.

***

Her sobs went unnoticed by the rest of the house, but it was the first time she had cried over her brother, so she was grateful she had some privacy. She thought she was anyway.Her father had cried when he gave her the news in private yesterday, telling her to not say anything until they returned home. And she didn’t, not a single word.Isaac had found out later, but he was too young she supposed, being only ten. He hadn't fully grasped it … maybe like she hadn't.The tears fell onto her pale arms as she constantly swiped them away. Crying aloud, sobbing, sniffing and then back again.She still held the covers in her arms and after the hour of waiting in his room, was back in her own.Her brother was dead.Even in all the chaos of the world and the depleted food since the war, it had never felt as though something like that could happen. She saw people often who were going to or had died; on the side of the roads while they traveled them, there were starving and begging and the dead. She was never ignorant to the fact that it could happen to her family one day. But she could never imagine losing just one. It was her family: all of them make it through or none of them.And now what? She asked herself. Who’s going to watch over us? God, who will help dad find food? Who’ll let us stay up late when dad tells us to go to bed, or take us to the other kids and gather them together to play ball for fun? Who will be there? It’s always been me and Isaac … Mark … what about the three of us…“God … oh God…” she whispered over and over, the volume of her voice increasing, more of reality setting in. She rocked on her bed and felt like getting sick, her head was dizzy and fresh tears found their way to her eyes again.She felt like suddenly puking, and held it in, her body wanting to let everything go.His dark short hair and lanky body, with that smile of confidence you can find in any seventeen year old. He was the oldest, the oldest out of the three them. And now … there were just two.Now she was the oldest. The new responsible one. The adult, her dad had said. She was Mark.Sitting upright, she pulled her hair back over her shoulders. She thought about what that meant as she slowly fell into her bed.It meant she had to be strong. She had a responsibility now that was handed to her, and her brother had trained her for this, hadn’t he? He taught her to follow her father’s decisions, even if she didn’t always agree. He taught her to know when to lose and back off, but to try again and sometimes from a different direction. He taught her to always keep on moving, no matter what. To have confidence in what she wanted to do, even when she wasn’t the strongest or smartest, that she could get better.I can’t be that… she thought, worries plaguing her mind like a large black fog. I don’t even know where to begin… What do I do?She thought she’d ask her dad… but it wasn’t the same. She’d rather ask her big brother.“What do I do, Mark?”‘Just take it one step at a time, and know what you’re moving toward.’“One step at a time,” she whispered to herself those words he said in some distant memory. Slowly closing her eyes, thinking about what he last looked like, the last time she saw him yesterday.Tomorrow… she’d ask her dad what their plans were, where they were heading next and gather word if the settlement twenty miles northwest from here, was true. She’d run to the near river, and collect as much water as possible for the journey. She’d make sure her brother and dad were well dressed, nice and warm for the trip in case it got too cold. And she’d make sure Isaac wore his brother’s jacket, because some day it would fit him well and it was worth too many precious moments to leave behind.And she didn’t want to stay here anymore, she wanted to move. She never wanted to return here, in this small nothing of a village.She didn’t think any of that would ease her pain, but if it could make her forget, just for a little while, that would be something.Sarah wasn’t sure though of what would come later, of what would happen after…______Grant-Sud Presents:

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Edited by Quote (Mr. Traveler), Oct 03 2012 - 11:35 PM.

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#2 Offline Grant-Sud

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Posted Sep 14 2012 - 11:59 PM

2. Rainy Days

Part 1: The Safeguard

The bright sun shined down on his dirty blond hair. All around him, as he took his steps through the town, plants of various shades of brown and dark green littered his sight. Only one in ten or so had a light green tint to it.His boots were fitted pretty well, very well kept actually, and he couldn’t believe he had found a pair his size. The merchant down the street had provided it for him, not at any cost. For free.When dad and Sarah learn about this, they are going to flip! Isaac thought excitedly. Who said he couldn’t find anything of value at the market? In his possession he also had three birds in his bag which was strapped around his back. His hands were in his pants pockets and he wore a light short sleeved shirt. It was fresh game and he had to give up some clothing that no longer fit him in order to pay for it.The deal was a great one. The merchant had been extremely generous. It allowed them to eat for another day, which was becoming difficult as pickings had been bad lately, at least for the last couple weeks. The plant life was abundant, but the sun had been scorching this summer and so all the wildlife had disappeared. Fruits and vegetables shriveled up and rotted too fast. The old merchant himself had commented on how he was moving on soon; as it seemed, was everyone else. His own family would continue west, northwest where maybe it’d be cooler.Not many people live in this town. Only a few places to visit and a lot of unoccupied houses, Isaac reflected. And that thought worried him. Wasn’t there supposed to be more people as they headed west, not fewer?He didn’t pay attention as the street suddenly grew darker, clouds covering the sky.Despite the heat, the weather had started to change slightly over the past two days. There had been constant rainfall, on and off. It was very refreshing for his family, in his opinion, the more rain the better.He moved to his left from the cracked sidewalk down an alleyway. A few more turns and he’d reach the small apartment among many, where his family was staying. It wasn’t much, but it was cozy and cool. The older couple living there, who were in fact permanently living there, had offered them a place to stay for the last few weeks. There were also a few kids with them, young and older orphans who treated the couple like their grandparents and lived with them despite being short on food.Isaac enjoyed the children’s company, he didn’t find too many on the road that he got to spend a lot of time with, and he’d be sad when his family left them.A sharp clang caught his attention, and he stopped in mid-step.Slowly, Isaac glanced over his shoulder, finding nothing out of the ordinary. A few of the doors for the old brick buildings on both sides of the street were open though. There may have been someone in the apartments who had just hit something. He waited a long moment, his eyes scanning, silently watching.When he started to walk forward again, an older boy blocked his path.Isaac blinked at the sight, a calm expression on his face. But a thousand concerns ran through his head.“Hey,” he said simply, cool.“How are ya?” the boy responded. He had black hair, crazy and uncombed. There was a look to him, an ease, yet unease glint in his eye that screamed danger. Isaac didn’t need to see the other boy who had approached from behind him.“I don’t want any trouble guys…”“There won’t be. We just want the bag and the boots,” the boy smiled. “As simple as that.”Isaac took a quick glance behind him, to see a black skinned boy with equally messed up hair. He was smiling himself. They both were a lot older, probably in their late teens. Strong looking arms and dirt smeared faces. He was no match for these two. Maybe he had a shot of running past them, as the alley was quite large. But then again, while they looked strong and hungry, they could probably sprint with the right motivation.Slowly, he dropped the birds on the ground. He crouched down and started to unlace his new shoes. He was so close to home, he couldn’t believe he had gotten caught by a couple punks at the last minute.The threat of assault and theft became less common as they headed west, but that didn’t mean it was nonexistent. There were still a lot of hungry and desperate people in the world.The next moment he felt strong arms lift him up from under his own. Isaac struggled and started to yell at the top of his lungs, as the first kid ran forward and punched him in the gut. It silenced him. Moaning, his sight blurred and he felt dizzy. He tried to stay awake, but part of him wanted to drift off as he noticed his boots being taken off.Are they going to kill me? He thought half in wonder. If he was going to die, he asked what would become of his father and sister. How would they take the death of another son and brother? Would they survive for much longer?“And you’re going to tell us where you live…” the boy was saying. “We’ll head there next. Got it?”“Not a … chance.” Isaac mumbled back, and grinned despite himself. He could take another beating, but he wouldn’t give up that information.He watched as the boy cracked his knuckles, tauntingly.“Hold him steady,” he told his companion, and Isaac felt the grip on him tighten up. The older boy with black hair moved to the left of the alley, and looked beside one of the stoops. He knelt down and picked up a pipe, rusted and very old, but sturdy. He easily beat it against his palm as he moved in closer.Isaac closed his eyes, waiting for it to be over, before he heard someone speak.“You can stop right there.”All eyes moved to the sound of the young woman.She stood, a light weight and brown jacket around her, unbuttoned with a yellow shirt under. Her blond hair was slightly messy, but straight and reached down to her shoulders. Her eyes were brown and lively, but tinted with a hint of dullness; she looked bored, as if she wished she could be doing something else right now instead of wasting her time here. She had a face that was considered pretty by most. The girl who looked twenty, but was only seventeen, shouldn’t have had such ease and authority in her voice over the situation. She sounded unconcerned by what was happening.Isaac couldn’t figure out why Sarah was so calm, until he lowered his eyes to her outstretched arm, finding to his surprise a small double barreled shotgun, only a foot and so long in length. An old model, years outdated, but otherwise he assumed it would still fire.“What do you want?” the boy with black hair asked, his eyes watching the weapon pointed at his chest. He was slightly nervous, and Isaac knew he didn’t have a gun to rival it.“The boy, left unharmed. And you can leave his stuff right there.”“You aren’t going to shoot,” he heard the other boy retorted from behind him. “I bet you’ve never killed someone before. Maybe you’ve never even fired a shot.”Both kids had a slight slang to their voices that was thicker than most in this town. They may have lived in this area all their lives, Isaac noted.“Actually,” the girl responded with a sudden lightness to her voice, finally having her attention caught, as she glanced to his direction. She didn’t move her arm a muscle. “My dad has taught me how to use a gun. It’s good for hunting fowl, like the birds in that bad. It’s delicious when cooked right.”She grinned and kept talking. “To be honest, I’m not the best shot.” She turned her attention to the boy she had her aim on, the one with the pipe in hand. Her eyebrows lowered as she became serious and her eyes sharp. “That’s why I use a shotgun, since it’s harder to miss with. And you have my brother right there. I will kill you, if you harm him. Or, I won’t shoot and you can just walk away.”Sarah raised her gun up to head level and pulled back on the hammer with her thumb, a soft click echoing around them.For a long moment no one spoke, and though the black boy loosened his grip on Isaac, he didn’t think to run, not daring to with lives in the balance.“Alright,” the black haired teen finally said. He dropped the pipe in his hand with a clang on the concrete ground.“Let him go,” she nodded toward the other. “And walk.”Isaac felt the hands under him completely release their grip, and they both backed up. Isaac swiftly moved over to Sarah and turned around. Slowly the two boys stepped back and walked out of the alley and down the street, disappearing.His sister stared after them for a long moment and long after they were out of her sight. With a sigh of relief, she turned to him and smiled with that open and endearing one he had known forever.“Thanks,” he told her and reaching out to hug her side as they turned to walk down the alley. “How did you know I was in trouble?”“I was nearby when I heard the scream. Then I ran inside the house and grabbed this,” she gestured to the gun she still carried in her hand at her side. Isaac directed his eyes to it as they walked. Silently, he wanted to ask whether she would kill someone for him, or had that been a bluff?“I didn’t know Joseph had one of those,” Isaac commented, talking about their old host back at the apartment.“He showed it to me one night, and I think dad’s been using it when we can’t find vegetation. Grandpa Joseph’s kept it around since it belonged to his father. He polishes it and keeps it in good use, not knowing when he’d use it. He told me he loved really old antiques, like his wife, he said.”Walking past the brick houses, a grey gloom covered their street as a thick fog swallowed them. There was silence around them, not even the occasional patter of footsteps from lost children could be heard. Sarah glanced upward to the dark clouds, as she continued to walk with Isaac at her side.“There’s going to be a bad storm,” she noted.“Yeah, there was one last night too,” he added though it wasn’t a needed addition. He paused, and distracted himself by pulling on the sleeves of his short sleeved shirt.“Would you have really made the shot?”He said it without looking at her, and immediately put his hands in his pockets and leaned into her side slightly while they walked. He fixed eyes on the pavement. Her jacket felt cool. She wrapped an arm around his shoulder, but didn’t respond for a minute. He glanced up at her, and she looked a little sad and maybe a little confused. Those were two things Sarah rarely was.“I don’t know…” she said at first. “I wouldn’t want …” Then, removing her arm from him, she reached over the top of the gun and pressed down on it. “Either way,” she said somewhat sheepishly with a big smile, as the gun was opened and revealed empty. “I forgot to grab the shells.”They both laughed as the rain started to pour.***“What happened?” Their dad asked, curious as to why his daughter had rushed off so suddenly.Isaac was about to speak, his mouth opening just when he was cut off.“Isaac was attacked,” Sarah spoke up and raised her hands immediately. “It’s okay though! He wasn’t harmed or anything. A group of people were walking nearby and the two boys ran off before they could hurt him, or take anything.”His father stared at them both, not surprised but at the same time he was. He was a shorter man in height, but his build was tough and the man could handle himself. He had lightly brown skin, but was redder in more areas from the constant sunlight he was exposed to. Their father was considered by all to be a good man. He kept his children in line often and did what he could to support them. His first name was David, and he often had stubble growing on his chin with an old baseball cap on that he often wore.He continued to watch them both easily, eyeing Sarah’s jacket being carried over her shoulder and covering one of her hands. But he strode over and hugged his son, which he still was taller than.“Are you alright?”“I’m fine dad. Really it was no big deal. I bumped into Sarah when I ran home.”“I had heard him scream,” she added. “But by the time I got there it was all over.”His father nodded to her and placed a hand on Isaac’s head. Sarah smiled.“Gave them a run for their money huh, boy?”With a grin, his son moved away and to where other kids were laughing unaware of what had happened.Sarah and David stayed in the room as Joseph entered quietly. The kitchen they stood in was furnished well, with matching wallpaper and old wooden floors that creaked when walked on. But like everything else in the house, it was old and untaken care of having been abandoned years before. Still, now with pots and pans that Joseph’s wife had insisted they keep, it was cozy with its fold up table and chairs. Warm too, that was important.Isaac entered the living room to join some of the children, but the reason as to why Sarah had lied to her father still plagued his mind. Why didn’t she tell him? Well it was because obviously he didn’t want her using guns. So why had she?Hesitating, he moved to the left at the door way, and pretended to observe the dresser which was packed with clothes. If the younger kids didn’t see him, they shouldn’t call him over yet. He listened outside the kitchen, trying to concentrate over the noise and, he realized, the rain outside.“…and he saw you remove it from the top shelf.”Silence…“I’m sorry Mr. Joseph. I didn’t mean anything by it… I just figured that it was necessary.”“It was his, and not to be used by children. You should have found me if you knew Isaac was in trouble, or anyone else. But not decide to take matters…”The rain poured as one of the children laughed when the ball of yarn they were playing with was thrown past one of the other children, and they missed it. Isaac turned to stare at them, wishing they’d quiet down for a moment. Taylor and Aaron, two older children with the ages that were somewhere between Sarah and Isaac themselves, were playing with the rest. Every so often they glanced over at Isaac and had realized he was doing something important. They shushed some of the kids, but didn’t stop their playing.“We don’t use guns to get what we want. I know you felt like it was the right thing to do, and you protected your brother, which is always our job. We always protect each other. But guns aren’t the answer. I’ve known too many people who misuse them –”“I wouldn’t have misused it,” Sarah said, a little too sharply.Come on Sarah, stop fighting about it.“Not now,” their father replied calmly, ignoring her tone. “But you bring guns into the picture when it comes to people, and they’ll bring theirs in too. You know that’s what happened with the world, and I refuse to let you follow that tradition.” There was a moment of silence before he spoke again, and there was more gentleness in his voice. “Sarah, I know you think you can take care of-”A sudden flash exploded across the windows of the house and the roar of thunder shook the floors and walls, one that silenced the children and surprised Isaac. That one had been too close. The storm was getting really bad.David, Sarah and Joseph entered the living room, his father quietly eyeing his son who stood so near the doorway.“Grandpa!” a young child said loudly, running toward him. A few of the children had started to cry, realizing now how much that thunder had shocked them.“It’s alright, it’s alright,” Joseph softly spoke with an older smile, wrinkles stretching. “Children, we’re going to block up these windows, alright? This storm is going to get bad, so we should prepare. I don’t want it to be like last night.”Taylor and Aaron moved up to the group and started to organize the kids as Joseph started to leave the room.“Mr. Joseph!” Sarah called.The old man turned for a minute with a smile, the kid on his arms.I’m sorry, she worded, her expression humble. Rain pelted against the windows, so they couldn’t hear him reply the thank you.***Isaac held the steel covering over the window as his father hammered in the nails. Outside, a constant downpour of rain covered over their bodies. They both had their shirts off, not wanting them to have to dry out later. It wasn’t cold, but the rain was making it difficult to hold everything steady as one board fell into place with the other.“How bad do you think this storm is going to get?” Isaac asked, raising his voice a little over the wind.“I’m not sure, but it doesn’t look good, does it? I don’t want these windows to break and let in any water. Yesterday’s storm was bad enough,” his father replied, hammering away at the side of the board. Finishing, he moved to Isaac’s other side. “Hold it steady.”“Dad? Are you mad at Sarah?”His father didn’t even glance his way while he said, “Of course not.”“She did a good job,” Isaac agreed.“Hold it steady, you’re lowering the piece a little.”“Sorry!” he said, readjusting his grip.His father added another nail for good measure. He looked up at the top floors, and knowing they weren’t going to be able to add shutters to the outside, had told the other members of the household to just seal it up from the inside. It would have to do for now.“I think she’s a very responsible girl,” David continued, picking up another piece. “But sometimes … she tries a little too hard. She wants to be able to carry a lot, and do it by herself.”Pounding away at another nail, it went through the metal smoothly and remained firm with no hassle, to his father’s surprise.“And, that’s not a bad thing, to want to be responsible. It’s just…” he added, but hesitated, trying to find the right words.“When she makes a mistake, or something bad happens that wasn’t necessarily her fault, she takes it very personally.” His father glanced toward his son, “And I’m thankful that you’re safe. But that gun, it was a mistake.”“She didn’t use it though. And I know she never will.”“She wouldn’t,” he agreed, firm in his tone. But his father wasn’t looking at him further and didn’t say anything else on that matter.It was only about five minutes later, that his father commented on the new hiking boots.“How did you afford those?” he asked with no suspicion in his voice. He knew his son hadn’t stolen them, because his son knew the punishment if he got caught, would be far worse from his father, than from the man he would give them back to.“The older guy, the one with the bad knee and always saying how the other shops are always going to rip people off, except for his?”“He’s probably not wrong.”“It was him. He gave me the boots for free. He said this was his last run in town, and he was leaving soon.”Raising an eyebrow with a questioning look, his father opened his mouth to say something, but hesitated. It took him a second longer to reply.“Well, next time you see him, be sure to thank him for us. That’s a generous gesture on his part. Take care of those shoes.”Later, the two reached inside and changed into fresh clothes. They felt warmer and started to use some of the last of the steel to block the doorway. The entire house was much darker do to the coverings, and they had some candles lit. They heard Sarah walking downstairs with Joseph’s wife, a woman in her early sixties. She already had whiter hair and fragileness to her body. She was as sharp as a tack in mind though, but a quiet woman. Her name was Mary.“We finished with upstairs, dad,” Sarah told them. She was still in her brown jacket and blue jeans, which looked a little wet. Some of the windows must have been left open. “The town’s people were saying that the winds were going to be bad again, just like last night. Joseph thinks we should move into the basement this time, just in case.”Isaac nodded and added, “People at the Market were talking about that too. A lot of them were packing up and for some it was permanent. If you leave anything outside, it’s a goner.”At that moment firm knocking came from the front door, to the surprise of the three standing in the room. It had been loud, loud enough to be heard over the howling winds and pounding rain. Someone, it seemed, had been left out in the storm.(Review)

Edited by Quote (Mr. Traveler), Nov 04 2012 - 01:16 PM.

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#3 Offline Grant-Sud

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Posted Oct 03 2012 - 11:04 PM

Rainy Days

Part 2: A Knocking on the Door

Sarah stood with Isaac and David as the two shared a glance with each other. She kept her attention to the door, not sure if what they had heard was just their imagination. The flickering candles splashed their shadows over the walls and in the dim lighting her father looked a lot older than he was. For a second she thought she knew what he’d look like in a few years. It was the opposite for Isaac because he looked like he was ten again.The foyer was a rundown room with the light blue paint on its walls having long since dimmed in color. The paint was pealing and the revealed wood was rotting. To the far left side of the foyer on the back wall, next to the stairs which was in the center, was the doorway leading into the kitchen. To the right of the stairs, was the living room and both were connected by a door in the back. In the center of these two doorways the staircase was something magnificent to behold, despite its age. The white banisters were elegant and hand carved by the makers of the apartment. The steps led forward and up to the right where rooms were located and most of the family slept. A large chandelier had been removed from the start of the stairwell, and at the top of the ceiling one could make out the gold hook it had rested on.Clearing her head, she asked, “Did you hear that?”“It was probably the wind,” her father replied, eyeing the door himself.“You don’t think someone’s out there, right?” Isaac questioned, looking at his sister and then to his father. He rubbed a hand over his short dirty blond hair in thought before adding, “And if there is?”“Nah…” Sarah decided. Taking a few steps forward, she moved toward the near window. Her eyes tried to catch a glimpse through the spaces of the wooden planks. She couldn’t make out anybody, but her view was limited as the rain kept up a constant downpour.“I don’t see anyone.”And then there was another knock. Three distinct knocks.Joseph turned from the other side of the room and glanced toward them. Mary also looked up their way.“Is there someone at the door?” she called out, in her old voice.The group of five took another quick glance at each other.“Hello!”David pressed his ear to the door.“Is anyone in there?!” the voice was muddled over the rain, but was distinctly female.Con artists and deceptions were common among people, and everyone was thinking this could be one of those moments. Sarah listed the two possible outcomes. One, the woman was calling for help so they’d open the door and she and her friends could storm in – maybe even the same guys who attacked Isaac. Two, there really was a woman who had gotten caught out in the rain. Cold, hungry and probably a little sick, the woman had no shelter.So between the three, the question was raised in silence.Do we let her in?“Are you going to open the door?” Mary asked aloud. David gently raised a hand to quiet her.Sarah winced and hesitated, before moving toward the door. She doubted the stranger had heard them. It was best that the woman wasn’t sure anyone was home. However … If it had been herself out there, asking for help, wouldn’t she want it?You know you can’t afford to think like that. I’m me, she’s her. Sarah fought with herself in her mind as she stared at her hand. She tightened it into a fist, knowing what it would mean if this woman was just out to betray them. The price they would pay for ignorance would be too high to even think about risking it.…But still.The girl stretched out her fingers and noticed her palm was dirty and smudged. It was the same hand she had just used to hold her brother’s shoulder an hour ago. She had reassured him that things were okay and that they would continue to be okay for a while longer.And that woman out there had no hand on her shoulder.Silently cursing, so that her dad wouldn’t hear, she pushed her head against the door.“Who’s out there!” she called, slight irritation in her voice. Sarah knew was going to regret this.“Hello? I’m out in the rain, can you let me in?”“Are you alone?”“Yes! It’s just me. I saw the lights from the house and the windows are blocked off, I was hoping I could reside for the night. I won’t ask for anything but one night’s sleep.”Turning to her dad, she silently mouthed what to do next. David moved forward and spoke in a stern voice.“Are you young?”“… Twenty-four. My name is Delilah! Please do let me in, the rain is coming down ha-” At that moment there was another flash of lightning, and thunder covered over her cry. David took in a breath.“We have a lot of men in this house and there isn’t much room. You’ll be boarding with me tonight, since I have children, we agree you’ll be safest there. Understand?” David gave a quick glance to Sarah, who nodded in acknowledgement.This was how they would get her. If she hesitated and walked away, knowing what they were implying, then any sensible woman would find a new place to stay, fearing what could happen. But if she agreed right on the spot, or too hastily, then she would reveal her true colors.“I-I um. Could there be any other places around here, where …”She didn’t speak for a long moment. Rain continued to pour and David decided that would have to be enough.“Just give us a minute. We’re taking down a barrier we placed up.” David called.“Are you sure?” Sarah asked in a low voice, as her father retrieved the hammer to start pulling out some nails. “She could still be lying.”“Well we have no way of knowing that,” he replied, keeping his eyes at the task at hand. “But there are a lot of places here that have more valuable things and supplies than us. Like the market, perhaps. I highly doubt anyone would steal from a place that has nothing, and getting revenge, in case it does have something to do with those boys, doesn’t fill hunger.”“Anything I can do dad?” Isaac asked.“And if she is lying, and she has friends that they aren’t interested in food?” Sarah interrupted.“Just grab some blankets for our guest, Issac. Joseph, we’ll need a spot for her to change clothes, does Mary have anything she can wear?” He turned to his daughter. “Sarah, please grab some of your stuff as well.”She didn’t move.Finally her father stopped removing the wooden planks and turned his attention toward her.“I have a feeling about this lady, and I don’t think she wants to do us harm. Not only that but you were the one who spoke up first, so why are you changing your mind now?” He paused for a second. “Sarah, trust yourself.”“Dad…”“I’m sure we have something,” Joseph called out, unaware of the significant conversation taking place.“Are the kids already in the basement?” David asked without taking his eyes off Sarah.“Yes.”“Good,” David answered with a slight smile.“I don’t like this,” the young woman decided, breaking off from their stare and moving toward the stairs.“I know,” she could hear her father say.Step by step she moved toward the second floor as the discussion continued on without her. Half of her mind drifted toward the shotgun she had almost used today. What if they needed something like that, if things went wrong? What if this Delilah, wasn’t trustworthy? She moved past Joseph and Mary’s bedroom and stopped. Would he have kept it in the same place?Sarah wasn’t this way. Suspiciousness had only begun to worm its way into mind over the past few years, but it was always just a thought or an idea. Lately, it was constantly on the mind. Something could go wrong, she could make a bad mistake, and her family could die because of that mistake and…With a jolt she stopped herself. She redirected her thoughts to something positive.‘We always protect each other. But guns aren’t the answer. I’ve known too many people who misuse them.’Her father’s words occupied the other half of her mind. But if it protected her family, if they needed certain things to save themselves, shouldn’t they be used?It didn’t matter, she was sure Joseph had hid it again.But… just to be sure.Looking down the empty hallway and hearing no one walking up the stairs, she confirmed she was by herself. She moved into Joseph and Mary’s room and toward their shelves next to their bed. Most of them were empty, and contained a few very old books and little ornaments that Mary enjoyed. On the highest shelf sat a lone Bible, and at the very top, hidden…She reached up, her height allowing her fingers to graze against the top. She couldn’t feel anything and frowned in disappointment, though she wasn’t completely sure why. It wasn’t until she pushed herself on her toes, that she could feel the barrel.Sarah stopped, and slowly lowered her arms.Joseph knew she knew where the gun was, but he kept it in that same spot anyway.I guess you trust me enough to know I won’t use it again without permission, don’t you papa? She thought, giving him the nickname he had acquired by all the kids who lived here. She felt like Joseph was a grandfather, kind of.Her heart swelled at that. But another thought hit her. He kept a gun around, just in case. But he never used it, knowing he would only if the situation arrived. Somehow, she felt a certain responsibility overcome her. Joseph was allowing her to know about the weapon and where it was.Suddenly feeling like she was the betrayer, guilt stung her. How could she start to reason that her family wasn’t trying to make the best decisions for her, as much as she was for them?Shaking her head to clear those doubts in her thinking, she had a smile on her face. They did trust her, because she was loyal.Quickly leaving the room, she went to hers in search of some clothes.***Delilah had shorter hair than Sarah did and in contrast was crisp black in color. She wore heavier clothing that disguised her body’s shape, but all in the room could tell she was healthy and attractive. The flames from the old heater lit the basement and kept it warm. With the door to the basement closed, the rain provided soft ambiance.When they had let her in, they acknowledged that the total residence was made up of children, and that she could sleep where she wanted. Delilah didn’t seem to take offence to the earlier deception.“And you have no one?” Issac asked again, surprised.“That’s right, I’ve been on my own,” she replied with a nice smile. Delilah was sitting on the floor near the heater, arms wrapped around herself to keep warm. She discarded some of her outer clothes so they could dry, placing her jacket near the flames.David had been watching her with interest in a wooden chair. He felt like he detected a lie there, but it was an explanation that was too unrealistic to pull off as a good lie. Everyone gathered together in this world, like wolves in a pack. Men and women once they came of age often either stayed with immediate families or created their own family. But it was very rare you found someone wandering by themselves. It was easier to feed yourself, but with no protection from thieves and murderers the outcome wasn’t worth it. A woman living by herself, with no one…He narrowed his eyes in thought.If she’s an orphan, separated from family, then she’s either very lucky to be alive for this long or very, very, good at surviving, especially when living this far east.In a situation with David’s own family of only himself, his son and daughter, they weren’t considered very powerful or protected either. But they got by with locating safe groups and abandoned homes. Realistically they had probably been fortunate themselves. It was becoming easier as the kids grew older though. And, as they grew older, he knew they could take care of themselves, if anything ever happened to him.“How long have you been in town?” Isaac asked, sitting near her to take in the heat. Sarah was inconsiderately lying down on the whole couch, taking up the entire thing. She had a smile on her face of relaxation. He would have said she was sleeping, if she hadn’t halfheartedly glanced over at Delilah now and again.The rest of the children were sleeping, some near and some further away depending on their preference of temperature. Joseph was resting in blankets on the floor, while Mary was in a large chair with blankets and pillows around her. She was older and weaker than Joseph and her health was constantly monitored by her husband.“About a week. I was staying at the Market Place, finding work there. When this rain set in and stores packed up, no one would let me stay with them…” her voice dropped down as she spoke, as though she was truly hurt that she had been rejected.“That’s a shame,” Isaac replied with sincerity in his voice. “But I’m glad you were able to find us. It’s pretty nice here and roomy, and you can stay for more than a few days. We’d like to have you here-” Isaac hesitated and stuttered a little. “Well I mean, only if you’d like to stay.”David didn’t glance at his son, but he found his words a little surprising. It would be hard to take back a promise like that, if Delilah agreed to it. Isaac knew she still wasn’t someone they could put their faith in, right? Watching his son’s eyes as they constantly stayed on hers, he realized something obvious that he should have picked up on. The boy liked the woman.“You said you worked at the Market Place and I was just there this morning.” Isaac continued on and gestured toward her. “You look familiar… I wonder if I saw you. In fact, I think I did…”“We didn’t have a lot of people today. The storm was coming in, and I don’t recognize you.” She gave a small smile, a genuine smile as far as David could tell. “Sorry.”“Oh that’s alright. I didn’t stay long. Got some new boots while I was there.” Isaac glanced over at the shoes in the corner. Delilah bent forward to get a better look at the shoes. She didn’t say anything about them, and nodded as though approving them.A soft snort from Sarah could be heard from the couch. The three of them turned to her, and found her with her eyes closed, asleep.Isaac shook his head and stood up, slowly walking over to the coach where she slept.“Where did you come from before heading into town?” David asked her. “I’m curious if there is anything you’ve heard about safe settlements to the west."“Is that where you’re heading?”“Yes. And if we make it far enough, I hear there are cities being repopulated and governments being formed.”Delilah bent her knees and raised them to her chin, resting it there. She then wrapped her arms around her legs. She had an unreadable expression on her face, but she seemed a little tired.“I’ve lived in the east all my life, and was able to make my way out here.” He was expecting her to speak in some kind of scarred voice, or in a tone that was weak, like a liar would, begging for sympathy. But she didn’t. Her speech was in a thoughtful way. “I highly doubt… that humans can form any kind of safe society. If you’re heading west, you know how bad it is back there. How they say the east is spreading to the west.”“It’s been that way for years now,” he replied earnestly. “And I don’t see it getting any better. But we believe things are improving elsewhere. We have to hope they are.”Delilah just watched him in silence for a few seconds, before shrugging. She looked disappointed.“It’s your choice then. But I’m staying here…”David frowned at that, and before he could inquire further he was surprised by Sarah’s sudden shout. Turning in alarm, he watched as his daughter reached upward and grabbed Isaac by the collar of his shirt. The boy was behind the couch leaning over her when she immediately flipped him, mocking sleep, and slammed him on the ground flat on his back. He half laughed as he grabbed her jacket and pulled her down.“Hey!” David exclaimed sharply, but quietly enough not to disturb the rest of the sleeping people. “You two knock it off!”Isaac and Sarah let go immediately, their wrestling being saved for another time.Glaring, he slowly turned away to talk with the woman again.“You’ve seen the clouds. You can start to see the moon again, and I mean really see it. Five years ago, no one thought we’d be able to again.”“There’s a lot of things we don’t know about,” Delilah said, shaking her head. “Like why there are more earthquakes and hurricanes. I’d rather not have those then a moon. And where the rest of the world is? Why isn’t there assistance from other countries and lands?”Sarah looked up to Delilah, while Isaac sat up on the floor, his back against the coach.“It’s been years since the war,” she continued. “Want to know why they haven’t made themselves known? The whole world’s in just as bad a shape as we are.”“Maybe it’s the earth healing itself,” Isaac responded as Sarah opened her mouth to speak, and she looked at her brother in surprise at his comment. “Maybe we all needed break, and we’re fully realizing how far we took things before. Maybe it’s best we don’t have any contact with others for a while. After all, I can’t even tell you who we went to war with and who pulled the trigger first.”David, Sarah and Delilah turned to the boy. His father smiled and Sarah watched him, wondering when he had grown to understand these conclusions all by himself? He was getting older.“My son has a point; we should be positive about things. They say that before the war, earthquakes and storms happened often. I don’t remember a lot of storms and dangerous weather conditions growing up myself.” David placed a curled fist to his chin in thought as he spoke. “It was food, that was the problem… and desperation. These things have started to fade with more food and less danger – more trusting people – and that’s a sign of improvement.”“I didn’t have parents growing up, so you kids are fortunate,” Delilah told them, with honesty in her voice as she turned to the two. “You’re well behaved, and you have a good father. He’s had it tough raising two kids on his own, I’m sure.”Sarah closed her eyes.“I have good kids. They seem to take care of themselves most of the time.”“Losing mom and Mark wasn’t easy, but I think we do okay,” Isaac spoke up, a prideful tone in his voice. The flames from the heater shown across his face, and you could see his eyes were full of ease. David gave a small smile at the mention of his lost family. No one spoke, so Delilah did it for them.“…Mark?”“My son. He was the oldest of my children. He passed away a few years ago,” David told her. His voice didn’t contain any sorrow in his voice, though he could hide emotions much easier than his kids could.“I’m very sorry. He must have been a great brother.”“The best,” Isaac replied somewhat somberly.A roar of thunder shook the house and the wood harshly creaked. Further, something hit the outside of the brick walls with a loud clamp. All of it could be heard coming from upstairs. Sarah ignored it and didn’t jump into the conversation about her brother. She simply kept her eyes closed and twisted around on the couch cushions to fall asleep for good.(Review)

Edited by Quote (Mr. Traveler), Nov 04 2012 - 01:17 PM.

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#4 Offline Grant-Sud

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Posted Nov 04 2012 - 01:19 PM

Rainy Days

Part 3: In the Kitchen with Dinah

The first thing he noticed was that his boots were missing.He pushed his arms against the cushions of the couch, shifting to get a closer look near the heater. Isaac took a deep breath, and exhaled. Bringing a hand to his face to rub his eyes, he glanced at the other end of the couch and found his sister missing.A slight dripping noise could be heard from above, and he followed the sound to a leak in the roof of the basement. It was only one drop of water every few seconds, which was being caught by a bucket that was overflowing.It must have rained all night…Slowing moving off from the couch, the boy stood up and stretched, the blood flowing naturally through his body once more. He moved over to the heater and searched around it, placing a hand on the furnace to keep himself steady.“Ow!” he exclaimed, moving his hand away from the hot steel.“Your shoes aren’t there.”Isaac turned to find his dad standing at the doorway. His father placed a finger to his lips and gestured to the two kids still sleeping on the floor. The rest of their family was already up and about. He waved a hand toward him.Isaac moved to the stairs and followed his father. Inside the kitchen, he found himself surprised.Pots, pans, silverware and other ornaments … gone.“What happened?” Isaac asked, though he already knew the answer. Delilah.“She’s gone. And she’s out looking for her.”“Who is?” Isaac questioned with confusion on his face.“Sarah. She’s left in search of Delilah.”***Her blond hair reached only to her shoulders and it just didn’t have the thickness she wanted. It was straight, and if Sarah was asked she would say she preferred curls, like she used to have when she was younger.Still, she had tied her hair up in a ponytail to make sure none of it got in her eyes. She wanted a clear view of the Market.It wasn’t the most beautiful spot she could picture at the moment. The storm had really taken some damage on the old plaza. The scene was gray and somber as people moved to and fro, buying what they could before the next storm hit. A swift wind rustled through the streets covering over the calls from the venders about what they had and “sales”. The wind wasn’t chilling, but instead very humid. The clouds were blocking a lot of the sunlight so it wasn’t terribly hot out.Narrowing her eyes though, keeping a look out, Sarah stood in one of the alleys that exited out into the plaza, standing discreet and seemingly uninterested. Her back was to the wall, and her body was covered by some shadows from the buildings that created the small outlet.She could see a lot of faces as she quietly examined the tents and mats on the ground… but not the particular woman she was seeking.“Do you really think she’ll try to sell everything so quickly? She probably knows we’re looking for her.”Sarah turned, not surprised to find her brother behind her. He wore a light shirt, and she noted it was the same one he wore last night.“I know. But just in case. She might try to get rid of the evidence as soon as she can. If she knows I’m here, that’s fine. At least she won’t dare sell anything.”“You could have told me you were leaving.”“To be honest, Isaac, I’m not sure what I’ll do if I see her.”Her brother laughed lightly, and moved to the other side of the alley, placing his left foot up against the wall, mirroring his sister.“You said you saw her here before, right? Selling?”“Yeah. I’m certain she was here… But I can’t remember where I saw her, or with what tent,” Isaac looked down and shook his head, before responding further to his sister. “I could have had it wrong, and she could just have been a customer. Maybe she even found me at the market, and followed me home when she saw I could afford the food.”“It’s a possibility,” Sarah answered. Her gaze continued to fall on the street though, determined.***“You all be careful. Please be safe…”“We will,” David replied. He reached down and hugged Mary very gently. The old woman leaned in and kissed his cheek.“I know we haven’t all known each other long, but you’re like family to us,” she continued.“And you all always will be,” Joseph finished. “If anything ever happens, if you all ever need to return, please do. We’ll be here.”Sarah and Isaac stood next to their dad and tried to stay happy. But this was a saddening departure. Sarah stepped forward and hugged both her elders, followed by Isaac. Nearby on the ground were four stuffed bags of food and supplies for their journey. Taylor was standing in the doorway of the kitchen, and she ran up and hugged David herself, followed by Aaron. The other smaller children were all standing around, some not old enough to fully understand what was going on.The kitchen, which had been cleaned out about a week back, was now somewhat stocked again. Thankfully most of what Delilah stole had been utensils and small but useful things. These were things they could always regain. The small unimportant things that held sentimental value for the family, were mostly left alone.“Are you sure you’ll all be okay?” David asked, concerned about the family members. They were such good people, but their ages were children and elderly. It would be easier for them if they stayed, but Mary and Joseph had told them to leave if they desired to move on and not to worry.“We’ll take good care of everyone,” Aaron, a sixteen year old boy promised and spoke up proudly. He didn’t often speak, but when he did it was with confidence. The young girl, Taylor, another orphan who had been adopted years ago, gave a reassuring nod.“Isaac…” Aaron started, moving forward to his friend.“Aaron,” Isaac nodded, embracing him firmly. “See you around, man. And soon.”“Yes.”“You stay safe okay?” Taylor told him as soon as Aaron moved away to talk with Sarah. The girl, only a year older then Isaac, reached out and hugged him as tight as she could. “Keep your sister out of trouble.”He laughed but started to choke up a little. “I heard you tell Sarah the same thing.”“It’s true for both of you,” she replied with a smile.All eyes were becoming misty, even after the family of three walked out the door. Even after they turned and waved and called out goodbyes and promises on the bright and partly cloudy day. Even after both families were long out of sight from each other, they kept thinking of when they’d see them again.***The small town wasn’t much, and even the tallest building was three stories high. Though there were a lot of alleys and plenty of apartments, the populace was still small. There were no large gangs and no independent corporations that demanded payment to enter and leave.Sarah glanced up, raising a hand to block out the sun. Half the sky was covered in clouds, murky and gray… but the occasional white cloud as well. And the sky was crystal blue. She thought back to the conversation a week ago about the world trying to heal itself, and wondered again if that were possibly happening.Then she thought of Delilah, and wanted to go back to that conversation so she could throw her out in the rain.Her dad walked ahead of her with two packs on his shoulders. It was a long walk ahead of them, and the sun was out blazing once more. But they had plenty of water and word that a near forest wasn’t too far off in this barren area. The landscape wasn’t normally this way in the spring and fall. Usually green grass was abundant and animals plenty. But because of the hot weather, most of the grass on the dirt trail before them was brown in color, and the gray clouds with occasional blue sky wasn’t enough to make it look as beautiful as it should be.Either way, Isaac reflect, the forest which was said to be miles ahead of them, before reaching the next known town, would have water sources.“It’s going to be a while before we stop, you all didn’t forget anything did you?” their father asked.“Don’t think so. But I will miss the others,” Isaac replied as he walked. The boy smiled, trying to be lively. He added, “And my shoes.”“You shouldn’t have told her that they were new,” Sarah spoke up, glancing down at his torn up ones that he wore.“Yeah well, we shouldn’t have told her a lot of things.”“It’s done,” David answered. “We made a mistake, one we’ll probably make again. It’s over either way.”Sarah stopped walking and turned her attention back to the town, now a short distance away.“We told her…”Her father and brother stopped and were about to ask what she had said when she completed her thought.“We told her when we were leaving, didn’t we?”Isaac thought about it for a moment, a cloud covering them in shadow from over head. “Yeah, we mentioned we’d be leaving in a week.”“Then she would have known, wouldn’t she?” Sarah turned to her father. “We need to go back. She’ll be there this time.”Her father stared at her for a long moment before shaking his head. “No. We’ll leave her be. We don’t need any of those things anyway.”“Dad, I went back to that plaza four times this week, looking for her. Just one more chance.”“I want to as well,” Isaac added, backing his sister up.His father laughed lightly. “You too huh? You think it’s worth going back there and confronting her?” He then gave a curious glance to his children, and placed his pack on the ground. He stretched his back a little, feigning oldness. “Let me ask you both, why do you want to go see her again?”Sarah gave the obvious answer. “I want our stuff back. What she did wasn’t right.”He nodded. “No it wasn’t. You can both leave if you want, and try to find her. But only on one condition.” He raised his index finger to them. “You won’t aggressively confront her, or demand anything back that she stole. You’ll simply ask, and if she says no, then I don’t want you causing any commotion. None. You understand?”His daughter hesitated, but she thought about it. Even if they were to demand things, which side would the people take if it got out of hand? Two children shouting at a poor woman didn’t paint the best picture.“Alright. That’s fine, I still want to talk with her.”“I’m coming,” Isaac reassured.“I’ll keep going on ahead then and set up camp. By myself.” He gave a small smile. “All alone.”Sarah and Isaac grinned in reply, before they broke away from their dad.“Hey, before you go,” their father called out.They turned toward him.“I don’t know what you both are expecting, but some people don’t need a reason for doing the things they do. They don’t care about what’s this and that, what’s right and wrong when they’re desperate. They just don’t understand you, or maybe you won’t understand them. Try listening to her when she speaks.”They watched him for a long moment, not sure of how to reply. But with a nod he let them go back. He was telling them to go back and see what he meant for themselves.***As usual the market was full. It was a bright day where a looming storm was nowhere to be seen on the horizon. People walked all around, moving to and fro. Children ran past them, happy to be out of their houses. The storm that passed last week didn’t seem to do permanent damage to the town, and a lot of the area was being repaired by the inhabitance that seemed in higher spirits.Sarah smiled as she moved with Isaac at her heel. It was almost a perfect time to go searching for the woman, if she was still here. The people covered them very well.Tents of various colors around them, they heard shouts and calls coming from every direction. Moving to one of the tents that sold vegetables, surprisingly fresh looking, the two of them bought themselves a tomato with their currency. They could eat these things like apples, and both enjoyed doing so.Sarah took a big bite out of hers, the red juices running down her mouth.“Ma’am, do you happen to know of a woman merchant around here, short black hair, younger and new to the trade? We have some business with her,” Isaac asked.“Three! It’ll cost you three, I’ve already told you!” The older woman had quite a bit of bark in her voice as she told off one of the near customers. When she turned back to the kids, she sounded as sweet as she was before. “I’m sorry children, no one comes to mind. There aren’t too many younger women here, except for Dinah. She’s working about ten shops down to your right. She’s very young, but she’s been selling for well over ten years now.” The old woman smiled.Sarah looked disheartened and raised a hand. “Ah, thanks. We appreciate your help.”“I’d help more if I could, and I know most of the owners here… You both are good kids. I hope you do go see Dinah though. She’s just lost her grandfather a little over a week ago. Poor thing,” she rambled on in sympathy. “Running the business herself now and trying to follow in his footsteps. Seeing some good kids would make her feel better, I think. He was such a nice man, always giving.”Isaac hesitated as Sarah started to walk away.“She lost her grandfather a week ago?”“That’s right, a few days ago. He was getting sick right before the storm. Nothing anyone could do I’m afraid.”“Thank you.”He ran up to his sister and grabbed her arm, just as a nearby wheelbarrow broke down in the distance the man cursing over his misfortune. A pile of things and rubbish poured out.“Hey, let’s go see that girl,” he prompted.“No. We need to head back. Dad’s probably waiting for us.”“That’s it? You’re just leaving?”“She’s not here Isaac. You heard what the old lady said. Delilah’s long gone.” she kept on walking as Isaac tried to keep up. “Why do you care to go see Dinah anyway?”“Because, that grandfather she was talking about, I think he’s the man that gave me those boots the other day…” Sarah kept walking. “Hey!” her brother exclaimed sharply, which was very unlike his usual calm voice.His sister turned around and stopped.“Why did you come out here anyway? Why do you want to talk with her? Do you really think she’d give us our stuff back?”Sarah shook her head and gave her little brother a look of disbelief.“I never cared about what she stole. She’d never give it back to us, and there was no way we were going to be able to take it back. We all knew that from the start.”His face betrayed him a little. He had thought that was the mission here.“I just wanted to talk with her. Wanted to let her know that, she could have had something good while she stayed with us. Instead she just ruined it.” After a few seconds, his sister smiled at him, coming around and throwing aside her reasoning on the matter. She placed a hand on his shoulder and started to lead him back into the plaza. “Come on. Let’s go talk to this girl.”He nodded, but kept his eyes toward the people ahead of them and not his sister.Why was it that every time he thought he understood what was on his family’s mind, he was mistaken by a large degree? Any time the plan was made obvious to the three of them, there was always something that his sister and father got, an unspoken agreement between the two that Isaac wasn’t a part of. Was it because of his age? Were they trying to protect him?No. That couldn’t be it. Because letting him on to the fact that they just were out to talk with Delilah didn’t shield him from anything.So that meant it was just Isaac himself. He wasn’t picking up the obvious signals, wasn’t seeing what they were seeing. Was he going to become that mature some day, and shouldn’t he already be? After all he been through everything his sister had over the years.Their steps went unheard among all the crowd of people as Isaac’s mind wandered through the street. He couldn’t settle his thoughts down as they reached the tent. But his first response to Dinah as they approached her from behind the counter was-“Hello, my name is Isaac. You’re grandfather left me some shoes…”His voice trailed off and his eyes widened in surprise as he took sight of the blond woman. The hand on his shoulder tightened, and he heard Sarah exhale.A slim body and golden hair that fit her well, her lips pursed together as she caught sight of the children. Her eyes narrowed and her beauty dimmed slightly. But despite the change in hair and the discard of old clothing, it was obvious the woman standing before them was Delilah.***It was kind of ridiculous.It wasn’t as though she stole anything of importance to Sarah’s family. It wasn’t as though she had taken so much that they couldn’t survive another day, and it wasn’t so deep a betrayal from a close friend. But still, the girl loathed her.They had let her get so close… what if something had gone terribly wrong? What if she had harmed them?“If you don’t leave, I’ll start to call the local enforcements,” she said calmly, but with narrow eyes as though she thought they were going to do something to her.Local enforcements did not uphold a law of the country, which had long been discarded by society. But in most towns there were a group of people that laid down the rules and laws of a village which in some manner did uphold the peace. There weren’t many enforcers and it varied in number for every town. The larger governments, the ones that started to spread influence were more powerful, but for here, most of the men were just honest people trying to make sure others had structure.“We’re not causing you any trouble,” Isaac spoke up. “We just wanted to talk with you for a second.”“Leave.”“You’re grandfather gave me those boots. Last week. I just wanted to thank him…”“He’s not-”“We know,” Sarah interrupted. “So we came by to tell Dinah thank you, on his behalf.”She stared them down, eyes narrow and still. She was waiting. Figuring out what they would do first. But Sarah and Isaac knew they couldn’t do anything to her, nor would they.“You’re welcome… thank you.”“He was a good man, and I’m sorry he passed away,” Isaac finished. “I guess you didn’t want to forget about him? So you wanted my shoes or…”Dinah shook her head and started looking out in the plaza, trying to see if anyone was on their way to her shop, anything that would give her an excuse to avoid them. Sarah noticed her nervousness, but not with this confrontation. It was probably just talking about her grandfather, that was the difficult part, she realized. She started with a sigh.“I didn’t have anywhere to go, alright?” she finally admitted. “We knew in advance that he was going to die. And on the week before, he just started giving people discounts, giving things away… He didn’t even care about where I was going, or what I was going to do next. How could I take care of the shop without those things? Why was he leaving me with so little?”Her face looked so broken, so unsure.“I’ve lived here my whole life, and he’s always been there for me… So, when I saw him give the boots to Isaac- I don’t know. I had to get them back. They weren’t yours. It was my choice to get rid of them since he wouldn’t be around much longer.”“So you took the rest of the things to support yourself?”“To make up for what he gave away, yes. He was older, and he was starting to lose his senses in the end.”“That doesn’t give you any excuse-” Isaac started.“And you know who I am? You know what I’m going through right now? Don’t justify me… I didn’t take that much! Your family will be okay with what they had. But how could I be sure about my future?”It was starting to make sense. With slow income and a lack of supplies to support herself, Delilah would have no future. She’d never been outside the city, living here her whole life with no other immediate family. Sarah couldn’t help but feel sympathy for her, the anger she had ebbing away. Where would she herself be without her own family, her father and brother?But why would her grandfather, her caretaker, want to remove everything he could from her? Sarah thought over what she knew, from the moment she had met this woman to now.Caught in the rain and pounding on the door calling for help.“I highly doubt… that humans can form any kind of safe society. If you’re heading west, you know how bad it is back there. How they say the east is spreading to the west… I’m staying here.”“She’s just lost her grandfather a little over a week ago. Poor thing, running the business herself now and trying to follow in his footsteps.”“What do you want? Just to come here and remind me of everything I’ve done? Leave!” Her mouth was closed tight as she finished, with shaking shoulders the woman moved her arm to the curtain that covered the opening of the tent. She half closed it with a sharp tug and began to walk away.“Wait! Dinah, please, come with us!”Dinah stopped in mid-step, surprised.Isaac turned to his sister, equally stunned by her turn around.Arm outstretched to stop the curtain, she held her other hand out. Her blond hair was splashed over her shoulders and she had a slight smile to her face. She looked like a woman who finally understood the puzzle in front of her.“Please, do come with us,” she started. “I remember how surprised we were when we learned that Isaac had been given such a great gift, and I thought, what a nice man. He was too nice a man to simply leave his granddaughter with nothing. And he didn’t.”“He left me alone…”“But you met us, you aren’t alone. And you can follow us now, and find a home with us.” Her small smile grew a little, and her fingers outstretched further. “He knew you’d be alone, and that’s why I think he was trying to break down what he had built up around you. He wasn’t trying to tie you down to this place, this town. He wanted you to move on, and not stay attached to things that weren’t important.”Isaac gave a small smirk, impressed with how his sister was reasoning all this out. That had been the answer. The old man had given up everything for his daughter. After all, what was more important to him than her? It wasn’t as though he had left her nothing. But he had removed everything she needed and enough money to get her started for wherever she wanted to go. It was why he was selling everything in the first place.All around the three, the world continued on in a flowing motion, people moving through the course of their daily lives. Anyone who had been interested in the small shop immediately became disinterested at the sight of the two children who were taking the owner’s time. People laughed and conversed, walked around them. These three stood still for just a moment. The moment of truth.Her eyes watered, and she half-heartedly laughed. “Where could I go?”Her voice was quiet.“I’ll show you,” Sarah answered.***As their steps hit the pavement, the two shadows of Sarah and Isaac waved and flowed across the landscape. The sun was setting and the air was becoming cooler. They had been walking for about four miles and had finally caught sight of the forest in the distance. Their father was at the edge, but far enough away from the trees. A small campfire was crackling before his hunched over body. He glanced upward as though he instinctively sensed his children, and gave a wave.Since they left town, things had been mostly silent between them. But their moods were soaring high.With a large wave from both, they made the rest of the journey in full sprint.***

One Week Later

Taylor didn’t have daily routine, in fact it was opposite. Every morning when she woke up, she wasn’t sure what the trial or issue or errand was going to be for the day. They had enough food for the next couple days, but maybe water was running low. Or their clothes were clean, but one of the children had ripped a whole in their shirt.The only absolute thing was Mary, right in the mornings.Taylor made her way upstairs, moving her shoulders and stretching her body slightly. She smiled as her bare feet touched against cooler wooden floor. As soon as she got back downstairs, she was putting on socks.Making her way to Mary’s door, she knocked lightly. She waited a moment. No reply.As usual.She gently turned the knob, pushing open the door to find her nana slightly snoring in bed. Taylor moved to the side of the bed, and whispered for her to wake up.It was only a minute later and the two were making their way down stairs. Mary couldn’t do it herself, and just needed a hand to stay steady. Taylor was her cane for the morning, and she didn’t mind being it once a day. Long before Joseph had argued that his wife should sleep downstairs, but his old wife wouldn’t have it.“The day I can’t get up those stairs on my own, is the day I die,” she had explained.“You already can’t get up those stairs,” he replied with slight amusement in his voice.“I can, I just like having company on the way up there.”Taylor wouldn’t ever forget those words, and it made her determined to always accompany Mary for as long as possible.Off the final step, their hands released from one another and Mary slowly shuffled over to the kitchen.“It smells wonderful in there,” she said, delightfully.“Oh, we’ve got a feast cooking.”They entered the kitchen to the sound of sizzling eggs and meat, a scent overflowing the house and strong in the kitchen. Joseph sat at the table, tinkering with an old fashioned oil lamp which had been leaking fluids. At the stove, Aaron was over the skillet intently watching the eggs.“Hey are you coming!?” he called out loudly. “The white of the egg are getting brown!”“Don’t shout, Aaron,” Joseph corrected.“Coming! Hold on I’ve got them!” A voice called from the basement.Dinah rushed into the room holding some onions and tomatoes, and placed them down at the counter next to the old oven. “You start chopping these up okay? Just like we did yes- Wait! What’s the skillet doing here?”“You said keep the burner off!” Aaron argued.“And remove it from the burner, otherwise it’ll stay hot!” she laughed lightly.“Oh!” he exclaimed in surprise. “Is it ruined?”“No, no! We’ll get it right, hold on.”There was a scramble as Taylor joined them, asking what she could do to help. A few of the younger children who could smell their morning breakfast by now, made their way into the kitchen and at the table. Things were getting a little messy, as Aaron didn’t chop the onions into small enough pieces and cut himself slightly. Taylor couldn’t locate any bandages, so Joseph had to get up and grab the plates, leaving his oil lamp alone. The ham they had been able to receive from Dinah’s supplies in the basement had a slight char to it. And by the time everything was done, the eggs were a little overcooked.But around the table at the start of their day, as they ate, it was voted upon and decided that the breakfast was obviously a good one.

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