Well, dear reader, November is nearly upon us again. This year I’ll be working on the sequel to last year’s project, which had been called Ruby’s story. I say had been because the final title will depend on editor approval. Yes. That’s right… As I mention over at Forever Mountain Publishing this week, the NANOWRIMO project I’m starting next month is the sequel to a book that’s going to the publisher this month!
So, in celebration of getting the book ready, to fulfil my promise of sharing my writing here in the blog, and as a shameless plug… Let’s meet a few of the characters from both the book I’m sending to the publisher and the one I’m writing starting next month. As usual, the writing presented is my work and protected by my copyright.
Wilfur and Momma
Ruby lay in bed with her eyes open. Momma and Wilfur were up talking again. I want to know. But if they catch me again…
She lay on her straw mattress under the quilt she’d made and looked up at the wooden beams and wooden roof above. The room was small, but at least she and Hattie had a room. In some ways, Wilfur’s place was better than Poppa’s. Sorry, Poppa. But it’s true. I know you were trying to make the house better. And you would have. If you were still alive. The room was warm and dry, and gave her more privacy than she’d had in the old house. It was an improvement. Almost.
“Momma.” Hattie muttered the word in her sleep.
Ruby felt her teeth grinding together. If she was mumbling about her own mother, that wouldn’t be so bad. But she’s not. She’s mumbling about mine.
Eight-year-old Hattie had her own straw mattress. Her father made sure all the kids had a mattress of their own. Having her own mattress is kind of good. I guess. Too bad Wilfur isn’t always that kind. He’d insisted that Hattie got the quilt she liked. Even though I made that one for myself. But I am the step daughter I guess.
Hattie snuggled deeper into Rubie’s quilt and mumbled, “Momma.”
Relax. It’s not her fault that her mother died any more than it’s my fault Poppa died. Ruby pressed her head back into her pillow and tried to sleep.
It’s no good. Ruby climbed out of bed. The wood floor squeaked just a little. At least it’s worn enough I don’t have to worry about splinters. But it would be nice to have a rug.
Faint starlight came in through the window, but not even enough to match Momma and Wilfur’s single candle flame out on the table in the main room.
Ruby pawed the floor with her toes and tried to see Hattie in the darkness. Please stay asleep, little girl. Was I that skinny when I was eight? Ruby felt her 12-year-old body starting to fill out. At least a little…
I wish I could tell what they’re saying. Momma and Wilfur kept their voices low. I guess I have to get to the doorway.
Ok feet, don’t hit any squeaks now. Slowly, carefully, she made her way to the door, then peeked out into the main room. Please don’t look this way…
Momma and Wilfur looked at each other across the table in the candle light. Momma’s long blond hair was braided as usual and hung down the back of her gray homespun dress. Wilfur stroked his short brown beard. He’s thinking. The wrinkles around his eyes always moved just a little when he was thinking.
What? A shadow moved in the corner of Ruby’s eye. Bo… Her ten-year-old step brother hung out his doorway just a little too far, and only inches from her own doorway. He craned his head out a little more, shaking his floppy brown hair in the process.
Bo, if you get us caught again… Got to do something before they look this way. Ruby rocked back and forth for just a moment before diving from one door way to the other, pushing Bo back out of their parents’ sight.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Bo whispered a little too loudly.
You’re just mad you’re not the oldest anymore. And that I got you. Hattie or little Dickon would never have been able to move him. I might not have if I didn’t surprise him. Even though he was only ten Bo worked hard on his father’s farm, and that made him strong.
“I was trying to listen to momma and Wilfur,” Ruby whispered, “Be quiet. You’d better not wake up Dickon.”
“You better not wake up Dickon,” Bo growled, “And don’t get us caught.”
“I wasn’t the one sticking my head all the way out.”
“Your mother kept dropping her voice,” Bo said, “I think they were talking about Beto again. And the new hetman that’s coming.” Bo backed up. He knew Ruby got touchy when someone mentioned Beto.
Beto ruined everything. Beto had been hetman, for a little while at least. The big family from the city had sent him to run things after the old hetman died. And then married Emara. He didn’t even ask Momma’s permission. And then he died. And Emara disappeared.
“They said a new one is coming,” Bo said, “They sound worried.”
Ruby nodded. They both crept to the doorway to listen.
“They have to send a new one,” Wilfur said, “and after what happened to Beto I wouldn’t be surprised if they sent soldiers with this one.”
The hetman before Beto died the same day we lost poppa.
“I can’t say I’m sorry about them sending troops,” Wilfur said.
“You know what happens when the Pollonas, or any of the families, send out troops,” Momma said.
“That’s why I’m glad we live out of town,” Wilfur said, “But the soldiers should help keep the Ravens out of the area.
Momma’s eyes flicked toward the kids’ rooms. Ruby and Bo ducked farther back into the darkness.
“The Ravens are up to something,” Wilfur said, “The last time Geron was in town he said there’s a new leader, Lord something or other, in the village up toward the mountain. You know, the one up on the valley bench.”
Momma turned back to Wilfur. “Shouldn’t a new leader calm things down?”
Wilfur shook his head. “Geron’s got his doubts. And others say there are shamans about. A traveling merchant said he saw the gray-haired one and the one with the feathered cloak. Together.”
“Two of them?” Momma turned to look at the kids’ doorways. She’s remembering again. Back when I was a baby. Momma forced herself to look at Wilfur, but kept her thoughts to herself. She’s never even told me what happened, really.
Bo pushed Ruby’s shoulder. “You better get back. Poppa will invent chores for both of us if we get caught listening again.”
Ruby ducked out of Bo’s doorway and into her own, just before Momma’s head swung back toward their rooms.
“The shamans are up to something,” Wilfur said, “Ask Geron, he’ll be in town for market day.”
A shiver ran down Ruby’s back. The way he looks at me, like he used to look at Emara. Like Beto looked at her before he took her away. And Wilfur will expect me to help sell at the market.
“He’s our best source of information,” Wilfur said.
Momma nodded and got up. “I think I better check on the children.”