Update! This chapter is a little longer than the others. If you haven't noticed, for clarification, the ages of the siblings and the year are at the beginning of the chapter. And oops, I put a bit of a lead-in at the end of the last chapter, but that's the next chapter. Sorry. Anyways, enjoy!
To "Unpredictable (Guest)": I'm so glad you like it! If you're going to continue reading, I'd suggest checking on weekends for updates because that's when I have the most time to update. Thank you so much for reviewing!
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Four: Cold Shoulders
Chastity age 11, Credence age 9, 1916.
"Come on, Credence!" one of the boys called.
"Yeah, you can do it, Credence!" another shouted. Credence sighed and looked across the river. All the boys had jumped, and almost all had made it. The unfortunate boy who hadn't made it had run home soaking and in tears.
"I don't think-" Credence started, but the biggest and meanest of the boys on the other side of the river interrupted him.
"You're not gonna chicken out, are you?" he taunted. "Not gonna go running home to mommy and sissy now, are you?"
Credence bit back a retort, as he had learned to do in the past year. He spread his legs and pushes down, ready to give his all and leap across the river, finally proving he wasn't a baby.
He froze as he saw the water rushing below him.
Chastity rushed along the narrow, rocky path, clutching her books tightly to her chest. Only one thought raced through her mind, and that is of her brother. She had told him not to go galloping around with those boys again, she told him, and if he came home sopping wet and got a beating from Mother he'd only have himself to blame. But if she didn't make it in time, then she'd blame herself, and there was no way she wanted him beaten bloody again.
"Credence!" Chastity called as she saw him preparing to jump. She tried to keep the panic out of her voice. "Credence, Mother says it's time to come home. She has a meeting tonight."
"Ooh," one of the boys called. "You better go, Credence, you don't want mommy or sissy to get mad."
"Shut your face, Will, I know for a fact from your sister you wet the bed 'til you were eight," Chastity snapped. She grabbed Credence's arm and steered him away.
"Thanks," Credence mumbled. Chastity turned back to the boys.
"You all go to my mother's school. You start spreading lies about my brother, I'll make sure she knows for a fact you've got witch's marks in unrespectable places, and I'm not sure you want your asses hanging out for all the girls to see." She glared at any boy that dared contradict her. No one did, terrified in the face of the girl that could have passed for eight but seemed to know all of their weaknesses.
"Thanks," Credence muttered again.
"It's not a big deal," Chastity said. "Cold shoulders are nothing to be bothered by. If those idiots would stop giving you a hard time we wouldn't have to go through this every other week." Chastity glanced around as the rocky path turns to a sidewalk. At five o'clock, the streetlights were beginning to turn on, and the darkness was beginning to set in. Chastity immediately resumed the look of the small, modest girl most New Yorkers knew. She grabbed Credence's hand and pushed him slightly in front of her, so it looked like he's leading her instead of the other way around. She kept a tight hold of his hand, though. The two barely made it home before five-thirty, their curfew, but they both looked acceptable. Mary Lou accepted it.
Both Chastity and Credence let out a breath they hadn't realized they had been holding in.
The next morning, the children filed into the school building. Chastity stood at the door, as usual, giving each one to pass through a small stack of pamphlets to hand out. She stood stiffly, though when she saw Will and his gang she glared. They took their pamphlets and rushed to the dining room, where the children gathered every morning. "Hand out your pamphlets!" she called, as was routine. As Will passed her, she said quietly, "I'll know if you don't." He scurried away.
However, her threat wasn't enough. At lunch, as she passed Will and his goonies to sit with her friend Rebecca, one of the boys, Arnold, caught her arm. Arnold was a large boy her age, and she was insanely sick of his constant antics that always resulted in punishment for him but occasionally laughs for her.
"Your brother 'ad better watch 'is back," Arnold hissed. "If 'e gets cold shoulders 'gain, we's won't be so forgivin' this time."
"You had better watch yours," Chastity replied cooly. "Or there may be more than one person watching your fat behind."
Arnold blushed. Chastity ripped her arm out of his grip and practically raced to where Rebecca, Credence, and a small boy called Geoffrey were sitting. Credence had his head hunched over his bowl of porridge, while Geoffrey was trying to get him to laugh. Rebecca brightened when she saw Chastity, and they talked about simple things like the weather and the recently renamed New Salem Philanthropic Society, or just N.S.P.S.
Chastity once during the lunch made the mistake to glance at Arnold, Will, and their friends. What she saw was a scrawny boy she figured they just kept around for laughs called Patrick waving his arms wildly with an expression of fear and discomfort on his face. She knew immediately he was mocking Credence.
She stood up, muttered to Rebecca that she would be right back, and went straight to her adoptive mother, standing behind the bowls of porridge and baskets of lentils.
"Mother," she said formally. "I have been informed by Arnold and Will that they believe Patrick has a witch's mark on the back of his left thigh, just underneath his buttocks." She said this quite loudly. The entire lunchroom fell silent as her words were spoken.
"Patrick!" Mary Lou called. Patrick's face went white. He stood and walked over to the two women, looking very much like he was walking straight to his own death. Mary Lou repeated the information Chastity had given him, quite loudly, and the entire lunchroom burst into laughter. Once sharp glance from Mary Lou silenced that.
"No, ma'am," Patrick replied. "I don't believe I do."
"You don't believe you do," Mary Lou echoed. She sighed. "I'm sorry, boy, but this is for your own good." She marched him out of the dining room into the entrance of the church. Several boys raced after them to stand in the doorway and watch Patrick's embarrassment. Chastity was content to watch with Credence, Rebecca, and Geoffrey from afar. She took immense pleasure in seeing how red Patrick's face was when he walked back into the room, followed by her mother, his friends howling with laughter. She caught Will's eye.
"You'll be next," she mouthed. His eyes widened and he turned away. Chastity grinned.
"Thanks," Credence said quietly, barely loud enough for their two friends to hear. His head was raised slightly higher than before.
Chastity smiled and put an arm around her brother. He froze at the contact and she quickly withdrew. They spent the rest of the lunch hour in silence. Then Mary Lou, getting a sudden, horrifying idea, decided to check all of Patrick's group of friends for witch's marks.
Needless to say, the rest of the day was highly enjoyable for Credence and Chastity.