I sat up straight in bed, beads of sweat pouring down my face. My eyes darted around the room in fear and my heart beat started to slow knowing that it was just a nightmare and I was just in the cottage.
“Another bad dream?” Verna called out.
I mopped away the sweat; my neck was hot and sticky and I hated my thick hair that stuck to my skin in a hot mess more than ever.
“They are nightmares Verna. Not dreams.” I said still trying to regain my normal breathing.
“Same difference.” She mumbled under her breath.
I huffed and rolled out of bed, “A fox got into the chicken pin last night again. You’re going to have to make a new fence.”
I moaned. Like I don’t have enough chores to do today.
“I’m going to go riding today.” I said curtly.
“Funny how you tell me what you’re doin’.” Verna said with a snort, “Last time I checked I’m the boss in this home.”
“You’re not my mom. I am my own boss.”
“Then why don’t you move your lazy carcass out of my house then!” Verna said spitting out her words, “You wouldn’t last two seconds in the real world without me.”
I looked at her with spite, “I think I’d last longer on this world without you!”
“Just go feed the chickens you lousy girl and I guess there’s no stopping’ you from ridin’. You’re as stubborn as a mule.” She said with an icy tone.
I rolled my eyes and pulled an old, dirty calico dress out of my trunk. It was so stained with dirt I couldn’t even see the original pattern, but I only had two dresses and the other one was just as bad.
“Make sure ya do your chores before you go ridin’ girl!’ Verna said before I stepped out the door, “I know you won’t leave those chickens out in danger, and you’ll feed the horses. But takin’ care of the animals is all I can get ya to do. Why don’t ya scrub the floors for once instead of leaving me with my old back to do it?” Verna complained.
My eyes flickered back at her, “Hazel loved the animals. So I’ll love them too.” I said and then I quickly ran out the door my heart breaking in two.
After I fixed the chicken coop, fed the chickens, fed the horses, and the rest of my unpleasant chores it was already late and the sun was already beginning to lighten. I headed for the small pasture with our horses and headed straight for my best friend- Valor. He had been my horse from when I was a young girl and even though I disliked Verna I always held thanks in my heart for her letting me keep Valor. If she had sold him I wouldn’t still be living with her. “Hey there Valor!” I cooed into his ears stroking his long silky mane. He was a beautiful horse. He might not me a purebred but he was a one-of-a-kind to me. He was tall and majestic and he served the role as my best friend so I didn’t care if he was limp and ugly – I would still love him. He was the only friend I ever had…besides Hazel of course. At the thought of her name I tucked my face into Valor’s mane and tried to keep my tears at bay. It had been two years since she was taken captive but it still hurt every day. Pain like that could never go away; and knowing-knowing that she could still be out there and me still sitting here made it all the worse. But there was no way I’d be able to find her. And if I tried I’d probably be crushed finding out that she was in fact-dead. No; I wouldn’t put myself through that. I’d gone over it a million times in my head- Not knowing was better than knowing. Hope once lingered in my heart, but it is gone now. I would never see my sister again. I just had to believe that she was dead. Gone forever; and that there was no way I could get her back. Hope is my enemy. Why hope for something that will never happen? It’s better for me to just shrink in the shadows and forget. Forget all the things those pirates did to me-did to my family.
Two years earlierI looked up at the clouds gathering in the sky and frowned- rain again. It seemed that all it did was rain and it put a dull, dark damper on Devinport. “Hazel!” I called out, “I think we should head home. It’s going to rain…again. And it’s getting dark anyway.”
Hazel’s head popped up from a berry bush a few feet ahead of me, “oh come on Kendra! Just a few minutes longer! I just got to load this basket full!” She said lifting her half full basket of berries up, her little eyes sparkled and her smile spread out from ear to ear.
I smiled down at her. She had the most beautiful smile and it always crept into my heart and filled it up with warmth.
“I know; I know! But we must head home. Didn’t you hear about that boy who got struck by lightning? They said they just found him laying there; hair stuck up a foot high and his clothes charred right off him!” I said with a smirk, “We couldn’t let this beautiful braid just get ruined like that now can we?” I said fingering her silky hair.
She giggled, “Oh Kendra. You with your tall tales!”
“Well we really can’t stay Hazel. Momma wouldn’t want us out here in this storm.”
Hazel rolled her eyes, “It hasn’t even started raining yet-“She said but was interrupted by a sudden outburst of drizzling rain.
I laughed at her shocked expression, “Come on now! I’ll race you to the cottage! Last one there is a rotten cabbage!”
Hazel giggled, “It’s a rotten egg!” She corrected.
I snorted, “I was trying to rhyme! Respect my choice of words. Besides rotten cabbages smell worse!” And then I took off on a run to the cottage, Hazel close at my heels.
A sudden feeling of caution entered my heart when we neared the village. It was quiet but in the distance I could hear noises- angry voices. I could hear Hazel’s nearing footsteps and heavy breaths behind me. “Hold up!” I whispered to her putting out my hand to stop her.
“What’s wrong? It’s raining harder. I’m already soaked! We need to hurry up and get to the cottage.”
“Something’s wrong.” I whispered.
“What?” Hazel said this time fear creeping into her voice. I turned around and grabbed her by the shoulders, “I’m sure it’s nothing serious.” I said with a smile on my face, “I’m sure it’s nothing; but I need to make sure! Okay!?!”
Hazel’s eyes met mine, “Okay.” She said.
“All right. Now stay with me and do what I say…and be quiet.” I let go of her and started in the direction for our cottage which was also the direction the sound was coming from. Before I stepped three feet Hazel grabbed the back of my cloak, “Kendra.” She whispered.
“Yes?” I whispered back keeping my eyes ahead of me.
“Promise me…promise me you won’t leave me.”
I swirled around, “Of course not!” I said quietly, “I’d never leave you.”
“Always and forever.” I said with a smile. She smiled her beautiful smile back at me.
We began walking forward-towards the voices. We didn’t make it far when we heard a scream. And then the whole village came alive. People ran down the dirt streets in alarm- screaming. Sounds of fighting sounded in the distance. We couldn’t see much; the rain pounding down around us. But the noises-the screams were awful. Hazel cried out in alarm from behind me and grabbed my hand. Her eyes were as big as saucers filled with fear. My heart squeezed and I looked ahead at the shadows scurrying through the streets. I took a few steps forward and tried to listen to what the people were shouting. I listened and I heard. It was only one word they screamed but it sent shivers through every bone of my body. My legs went numb with fear. One word.
I took in a deep breath and tried to recover from the shock. I had to be strong. I didn’t have time to stand here in a daze. I quickly grabbed Hazel’s arm, “Hazel!” I called out.
“Yes.” Her voice was so weak and quiet I could barely hear her.
“You are going to be fine.” I reassured her. “This is just like a game okay!?!”
“Kendra it’s not a game it’s-“
“I don’t have time to argue Hazel!” I said firmly, “We are going to run okay!?!” Once I said that I realized how stupid of a plan it was to drag my sister up to the village being attacked by pirates. It was probably a bloodbath up there. I sucked in my breath; a sudden wave of nausea attacking me.
“Okay. Hazel I need you to do exactually what I say!” I was interrupted by an ear-splintering scream filling the air. I looked at the direction it was coming from but the sky was getting dark and the rain was heavy. I couldn’t see far ahead. I’ m running out of time.
I looked back down at Hazel. She looked as white as a sheet and her eyes were filled with terror that broke my heart. “Hazel,” I said again for she’d look at me in the eyes, “I need you to be brave. Okay!?!” She nodded her head. “You need to be strong. You are going to be just fine…we all are. Now you need to do what I say all right!?!” She nodded again, “I need you to get low down in this grass right here.” I pointed to the tall grass at our feet. Stay here and I’ll go get momma and pa.”
Hazel let out a sob, “No! No! You said you wouldn’t leave me!” She screamed. I quickly covered her mouth with my hands to muffle her voice. “Hazel. I love you; and this is the safest thing for you! I asked you to be brave. Now I need you to be more brave than you ever have been before.”
“I don’t have time for buts Hazel,” I said my voice cracking but I cleared my throat trying to stay strong for my sister. “You stay here. Be quiet. I’ll be back.”
She nodded this time; but tears silently fell down her cheeks.
Tears began to flow down mine and I prayed to God I’d see my sister again. “That’s a brave girl!” I said smiling; my salty tears flowing down.
“I’ve got to go get momma and pa now. I’ll be back.”
“You’ll be safer here.” She cried out.
“I’ll be back!”
I turned on my heels before I thought of staying there with Hazel. With all my heart I wanted to, but I had to get to my parents. I had to make sure they were safe.