Monday, February 16, 2015

Into Thornwood || Chapter Four

By Becca


Chapter Four

                  Cecile sat up on the sofa, an afghan falling off her lap. The wails from her dream only became louder. She stood, confused not waking in her bed but in the main room. 
                  “I’m sorry, dearie. I didn’t see you there.” A voice came from behind, loud so as to be heard over the crying. Cecile turned and saw Mrs. Harvey sitting in the rocking chair cradling her youngest child. “I hoped to not wake anyone if I took Benjamin out here. Still waiting for Dax?” 
               Cecile nodded; sleep clinging to her eyes. The walls were so thin in this building everyone had probably heard Benjamin’s wailing.  It didn’t matter though. Light reached through the dirty window and spilled onto the floor in small squares. Everyone would be awake shortly. She reached for the afghan, mindlessly folding it and draped it over the sofa. 
                   Wait, he wasn’t here? Cecile went to their door, opening it quietly. Dax’s mat on the floor had not been slept in.  Why hadn’t he come home last night?
She came back to Mrs. Harvey, imaging Dax lying in an ally way beaten and robbed.  
                  “Where is he? What could’ve happened to him?”

Mrs. Harvey adjusted the baby’s blanket, crooning and rocking steadily. 
                  “Don’t worry dearie. Maybe he worked late and stayed the night with the Abneys. It’s a long walk home in the dark you know, with the street lamp on 7th busted to smithereens.” 
In Cecile’s mind, Dax lay in the ally with a bloodied cut above his eye, gasping for breath, cracked ribs- Cecile squeezed her eyes shut.
No, he probably is with the Abneys.  She crept back into their room and perched on the edge of the bed while buttoning her shoes. Caprice rolled over, turning her face to the wall.
                  “Caprice? ” Cecile brushed the dark fringe away from her face, and saw blue eyes. “I’m going to the Abneys. Please help Mrs. Harvey with breakfast.” Knowing there wouldn’t be a reply, she wrapped a shawl tightly around her shoulders and stepped back into the main room.
                  “Why don’t you wait for Mr. Harvey?” Mrs. Harvey suggested. “After breakfast he could walk with you on his way to the docks.” 
 Dax’s eyes rolled back from the pain and he lay helplessly as street urchins went through his pockets. 
                  “No thank you, I’ll be alright. It’s lightening and I know the way. I’d rather go now and have my fears relieved. ”
Mrs. Harvey nodded and Benjamin wailed.  Another Harvey stumbled in sleepily and clung to the rocking chair.
Dear God, please protect Dax. I don’t know what happened to him; please let him be at the Abneys. 
                 The door closed behind her and she scurried down the narrow hall, took the steps two at a time and opened the front door. 
  
                   The city was already awake. Street sellers were at their places, shouting with fresh voices.  Men plodded down the street, heading to the day’s work. A carriage halted suddenly as the horse dropped to its knees. The driver came out and began whipping the poor beast. Cecile looked away and quickened her step.  Pleading faces looked up at her from the steps; dirty hungry faces.  
                  “I’m sorry, I have nothing with me today.”  It pained to see them, and most days she would bring bread when she went out. Their eyes turned hopefully to the next passerby, and Cecile continued on. She paused at each ally to peer into the darkness. No Dax. The Abney’s store wasn’t far now. 
                 A gang of youths, laughing and shoving, came crowding by, reaching out to tug on her shawl and hair. 
                  “Where you going beautiful?” The tallest smirked, pressing close. She stepped back and felt a brick wall.
                 God, please help! 
He placed his hands beside her, boxing her in, and leaned forwards. 
                  “How ‘bout you come along with me?”  His breath was rank. She wished Dax were here. 
                  “Doesn’t this beauty have a voice?” 
                   She met his eyes, trying to still her trembling. She straightened, tilted her face upwards, a bit to the side, and took a deep breath.
                 Father always said she had strong lungs, always said he was surprised that such a loud baby grew into such a quiet girl. But she still had those lungs.
                 She shrieked into the boy’s ear.
                 He reeled, cursing. His hands fell from her sides and she darted out of the pack, tripped over someone’s outstretched foot and tumbled to the ground. The tall one grabbled her arm and jerked her up, anger flashing in his eyes.
                  “That wasn’t very nice.” 
                  God help me! She looked to the street, people hurried by looking away from the scene. Then a door slammed, someone was coming. 
                  “Hey! What are you doing with her?”
                  Cecile thanked God to hear a familiar voice. Frank Abney ran from the shop, apron still around his waist, and came at her captor with balled fists. The boy let Cecile go and tried to run, but it was too late. Frank took two steps, caught his shirt collar and hoisted the boy off the ground. Cecile hid behind Frank, pulse throbbing in her ears. 
                  “You never touch that girl again.” Mr. Abney’s son shook the boy while he threatened him. “If you do, I won’t bother getting the police, I’ll deal with you myself. Understand?” 
                  The boy squeaked, face turning purple. 
                  “I don’t want to see you again. “ He flung the boy to the cobblestones and towered over him. “ Go, get out of here!” The boy stumbled as he stood, looking around for his friends, but they where long gone. Frank turned to Cecile, his chest heaving and his face red. Without a word he offered his arm and escorted her into the shop. 
                  “Are you alright, Miss Bellerose?” Frank’s voice now soft as a new mother’s. Cecile smiled for the first time that morning, thanking God again for his provision. 
                  “Yes, I’m quite well now, Mr. Abney. I cannot say how glad I am that you came to my rescue.” Frank led her to the back room and offered a chair by the potbellied stove, a different flush rising in his cheeks.
                  “Please, Mr. Abney is my father’s title. Call me Frank.” The lion that had rushed into the street now turned to a kind hearted house cat. “What were you doing out so early, Miss Bellerose?”
                 Her purpose came back to her that instant.  
                  “Oh Frank! It’s Dax, is he here? Did he stay with you last night?” 
                  Frank frowned. “No, he didn’t. He didn’t go home?”  Worry flooded his eyes. 
Cecile felt her throat closing, and saw Dax dying in the ally. She shook her head. Frank knelt by her, folding his frame to be eye level.
                  “Well, we will just have to find him then. Right?” He took her hand unabashedly and held her gaze. “Father will know his last route, and we can go from there.”
                   She had liked Frank the first moment they met. His easy smile and soft brown eyes were so friendly, and at that lonely time in their lives she treasured every friend they had. Now more then ever she was thankful for him. 

                    Frank snapped the reins, urging the lazy horse along. The forest loomed above them, nearly blocking out the late morning sun. The path twisted around a hulking oak tree and Cecile’s stomach dropped as they came upon an abandoned wagon. 
                  “Whoa!” Frank yanked the horse to a stop and jumped down. Cecile did not wait for an offered hand and rushed to the wagon. 
                   The sight fueled her worst imaginings. Groceries torn and scattered everywhere, any meat devoured and everything else destroyed. A sack of flour was shredded and wolf tracks bold as ink on paper marked the whitened ground. Frank stood quite at a loss, knowing fully how much this merchandise was worth.  
                  Dax was no longer in the ally, now he was dragged off into the forest and eaten by wolves.
                  “Well, I don’t see a body, human or horse.” Frank said bluntly, almost hearing her thoughts.
                  “See there?” He pointed to a set of hoofs prints. The leather harness lay by his feet, and he bent and picked it up, examining closely. “It’s been cut right through… Dax escaped.”  
                  Hardly aware of his words, Cecile caught sight of red. She ran ahead to a place in the path marked with hoofs and paws. A torn piece of fabric lay in the path stained with blood. Cecile sank to the dirt, holding the cloth, recognizing the cuff of Dax’s pant leg. 

                  “Dear God, please keep him safe.”

4 comments:

  1. Wow!!!!!! I am really liking it!!!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Aw, Frank is so nice! I'm glad he was there to rescue Cecile. I can't wait to find out what happens next!

    ReplyDelete

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