Hey guys! So I posted a story before and I must admit. The writing bug has infected me. So, due to three reviews, I decided to write this. I'm not going to torture you and say that I must have reviews to finish writing the next chapter. The truth is, if I feel like it, I will. If I don't then I won't. Now, reviews would probably encourage me to 'feel like it'. Just saying. Anyways, thanks for reading this, it really means a lot. Happy reading!
Oh, I own nothing.
Source of the Fire
Apples or bananas?
This was the question floating through my mind as I gazed distastefully at the bruised and discolored fruit presented before me while shifting my heavy shopping basket to my other arm. "Why don't you take both?" Said the seller from behind her display table. "They're both delicious. I just picked them this morning." Oh, really now? I highly doubted that. These were a week old at the least. Not to mention that her hands were completely free of any kind of dirt or filth.
I sighed. I hated coming to the market place. Not only was it a long walk from my secluded house at the edge of the forest, but it also never had quality food. I would have just used the apples from my apple tree, but sadly, I had finished them the week before. Then, two days ago, one of the monkeys from the forest decided to test his courage and wander out from behind the trees. He must have been hungry because I caught him raiding my banana tree. Unfortunately, I didn't chase him off in time. He escaped with two entire bushels of my precious fruit. The rest died due to the cold front that had just blown in.
Normally, I didn't mind the erratic mood swings of the sky. They brought change to my otherwise boring life. I must have done something to anger the wind and bring its chilly wrath upon my vegetation.
It wasn't only my trees that felt the brunt of the weather. All of my plants had died. My pumpkins, carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, wheat, and even my sugar cane all became casualties of the weather's vengeance. I had been so optimistic at the lush produce that I procrastinated canning them so that I could stare at the product of my hard work. It really had been a good harvest. Now, there was nothing and I had run out of food.
"Excuse me miss. If you're just going to stand there daydreaming then I'm afraid you'll have to leave. You're blocking the way of my other potential customers you see," boasted Minamotto, the fruit seller, pompously. I glanced around at the lack of a crowd. The market place was busy, but there was an absence of shoppers surrounding her booth. Whether it was due to my presence or her lack of edible food, I couldn't honestly say. It could be either one. I wasn't particularly welcome and, though I wasn't out rightly ridiculed, I could still hear the whispers that the creepy girl had come to town.
"Let's go miss. You're bad for business," the woman's impatient voice interjected through my thoughts once again.
While narrowing my eyes at her, I decided to just get both. I picked up the apple that possessed the least amount of bruising and a banana that was still very green. I would just let it ripen on its own. As for the apple, although it was the choicest of its group, it still possessed many bruises. I could probably cut the bruises out and use the rest to make apple sauce.
I left her booth quickly and walked to the butcher's booth. Wordlessly the butcher handed me a slab of meat and told me the price. I didn't comment on the fact that the previous customer had bought a much larger piece of beef at a much cheaper price. I was in too much of a hurry to argue with the robust woman this time. There was also the fact that I wanted to return to my shelter as soon as possible.
The reason for my urgency had little to do with the villagers' feelings and more to do with the rumors I had heard of a pirate ship having docked earlier that morning. Otherwise, I would have bought a lot more than what I already had.
Unfortunately, I was not done shopping. I still had one more place to go. The bread stand. I dreaded approaching the sneering face of the man behind it. Steeling myself, I ducked my head and walked to the corner of his stand. I was about to grab a loaf when his hand covered my wrist.
"Look whose back," he exclaimed with a sick grin on his face. "Have you reconsidered my offer then?" Apart from running the only bread booth in the village, he also ran a side business. One that involved activities that were not decent for common conversation.
"I told you, I'm underage and not interested," I mumbled quietly so as to not attract attention.
Almost immediately his grip tightened into a very painful one and his eye's grew hard. "I didn't quite catch that. Why don't you say out loud how you've accepted my offer?"
Unwillingly, I began to shake with fear. After failing to stop it I reverted to my old failsafe. I sneered and told him, "I said no. Now let go of me you oaf." Although he let go of my wrist I knew I had made a mistake and karma would eventually get back at me.
"In that case, I have a loaf of bread just for you." He reached towards the bottom of the pile and pulled out a loaf. It looked ok and I was relieved at his easy acceptance this time…until I heard a clunk as it hit the table. Poking it, I realized that it was rock solid. I would have protested indignantly, but I decided to refrain and take my small victory. I picked it up and paid him the amount he listed. Again I ignored the high price and left with my head held high.
I didn't like to be around men as it was. Pirates even less. They lied and cheated and gambled and drank and stole and flirted. Normal men did these things too, but pirates got violent if they didn't get what they wanted. Pirates had knives and guns as well.
In my haste I nearly tripped over Toby, a cute seven year old boy who was considered the sweetest child in the village. He was also the only male that I could stand to be around. I glanced at his adorable cheeks as I apologized.
"Sorry Toby, I wasn't watching where I was going."
"Don't worry about it miss Haruna. Just be careful. I don't want you to trip and scrape your knees."
My eyes began to water at the boy's concern for me. Toby was the only member out of the entire village who treated me with kindness. I noticed he was once again carrying a large pot full of boiling water.
"Is your grandmother's stove broken again?"
"That pot looks really heavy."
"I don't mind. Gammy needs hot water for her tea. It helps her bones stop hurting."
"Would you like some help carrying it?"
"If it won't bother you,"
I playfully tapped my chin. "Well, my baskets are really heavy and I would love some help carrying one of them." I gasped in mock surprise. "How about this, if you carry one of my baskets then I'll carry that pot for you. That way, we can help each other out."
Toby thought for a moment and his smile slowly started to grow. "Okay, it's a deal."
Grinning to myself I handed Toby my lightest basket and took his pot from him. He carried the lighter basket with ease as we made our way to his grandmother's house. About halfway there, Toby stopped. "Do you need a break," I asked.
"No, I'm full of energy!" He boasted with a grin. His grin slowly fell as he held out the loaf of bread I had picked up earlier. "Why is it so hard?"
I quickly rearranged my facial expression to hide my shock. I was not aware that the bread had been inside of the basket that he held. Cursing my oversight, I plastered on a fake smile and laughed. "Silly Toby, I like my bread that way. It weighs more and makes me full faster."
"Our bread's always soft," he continued. Damn, I told myself, he's observant.
"Bread is a lot like tea," I tried, "Some people like it black, and some people like it with milk and lots of sugar. I happen to like my bread hard and crunchy."
Toby seemed to accept this but his eyes still had doubts in them. I decided an uneasy acceptance was enough and enacted a different approach. "So, was that just an excuse for a break?"
"No way, I'm not tired at all!"
"Then let's go,"
"I'll go first. That way, I can protect you."
"Ok then. Lead the way." At my words, Toby marched in front of me with a proud gait. Smiling to myself I followed him and ignored the glares of the townspeople that followed me.
We soon arrived at his grandmother's house. I had planned to switch loads with Toby before the grandmother even noticed my presence. Unfortunately, that plan was ruined when she came hobbling out and yelling. "Get away from my grandson this instant. How dare you come anywhere near him? What do you plan to do? Are you going to kill him like you did that little girl?"
I quickly grew tired of her ranting and interrupted her. "Calm yourself. You're going to pull something if you continue to strain yourself. Think about it. What kind of example are you setting for your grandson?"
Dumbstruck, she glared at me. "Don't you dare tell me how to act in front of my grandson."
Seeing that there was no way to get through to this woman, I switched loads with Toby and told him goodbye. I noticed the bread fall out of the basket but decided to leave it. I would rather leave now than try to eat a rock.
I turned my back and began to walk away. I had every intention of walking all the way back home, but something struck me in the shoulder. Pain flared up and if it weren't for the baskets on both of my arms, I would have grabbed it to help soothe it. I froze. That old hag dared to attempt to hurt my shoulder. My precious shoulder. If she really wants me to be a fiend then I'll show her what one really looks like. Slowly I turned around and glared at Toby's grandmother.
"Was that really wise," I asked in a deadly voice with an eerie smile on my face, "Let's not forget that you are old and frail. I could shoot you with an arrow in your sleep. Is that not what you're afraid I'll do to Toby? You say I killed that little girl. Should I kill you too?"
"You murderer," she screamed as a crowd approached us, "you…you…MONSTER!"
Monster? Was that what I had become? I looked down at Toby and saw fear in his eyes. Snapping myself out of my trance; I looked left and right at the villagers who were all glaring at me. Beneath those glares, their legs were shaking. I knew they hated me, but were they afraid of me as well? I looked back to Toby who was now hugging his grandmother tightly. I turned around and walked off.
On the long walk home the old lady's words echoed through my head. Murderer… Monster… was that really how they saw me? I could easily brush aside the first comment. It wasn't true. But the second, that word stung.
I bumped into someone right as I left the village and nearly toppled over with all of my food along with me. Luckily, a pair of heavily muscled arms caught me and brought me close to an equally muscled chest. Shaken by my lack of observation towards my surroundings I sagged slightly and leaned against the chest. It felt comforting to be in this almost embrace with him. Wait, him? I jumped out of his arms in fear and stared at him.
He was wearing a loud orange hat with two unique faces staring at me. One was frowning sadly and the other was smiling maniacally. He had freckles coating his cheek bones. He was also wearing black pants and nothing else other than his shoes.
Again I felt the familiar shaking of fear as I gazed at him. He was attractive, there was no mistaking that. He was a new face as well. I searched his face for any sign of cruelty but found none. So, he couldn't be a pirate. He must just have moved to the village. He seemed nice but I knew that would change by tomorrow. They always do.
"Careful, I'd hate for you to drop those." I continued to stare at him. The silence between us was penetrated only by the occasional shouts of the other villagers. "So, those look kind of heavy. Want some help carrying them wherever you're going. You see I'm supposed to be looking for…"
"Run away while you can," I interrupted, "if you don't, I might just kill you too." I glared at him but felt a smile growing on my face; causing my expression to turn sinister. I turned around and continued to walk towards my house; leaving the confused man behind.
So, interesting fact. I have a tendency to not name my characters as you've probably noticed from my other story Repairing Flame. So, after I wrote this I reread it and just popped in her name.