Still trucking along, have not abandoned this whole thing yet. As of last night I was sitting at 8050 word count, so I managed to put a significant dent in this weekend. That was my goal as I would really like to get to the point where I don’t have to write more than a chapter any given week night. At this point I am five chapters in with a clear vision for the next three or so chapters, but past that everything is very fluid. Once again… I am posting the next chapter completely unedited. I figure December is a fine time for edits and rewrites.
Jace awoke to the gentle rustling of the leaves blown up by a brief gust of wind. He expected to open his eyes and see the low light of early morning, but instead was greeted with the high mid day light streaming blindingly in through his window. He briefly wondered why exactly he had not been woken up by Uncle Benj to do his chores like he normally was, but then almost as a spark or recognition hit him he remembered. Today was his birthday, and I guess Benj had let him sleep in for once.
How could he have forgotten, even if momentarily that today was his birthday? This was the big one, sixteen, and finally he could turn the learners permit in his wallet into a real drivers license. For the last several months Benj had been sneaking off to the old barn each night. A few weeks back there was a loud peal as the old chargers engine roared to life. Jace guessed the big secret was that Benj had planned to give it to him for his birthday. He pictured himself roaring down the county roads and into town whenever he wanted.
Not that he disliked farm life, but he always felt so isolated from everyone else. As a result he had a hard time forming ties to the other kids at school. He was never able to attend the birthday parties growing up due to being so far out of town and the never ending string of chores needing to be done around this old farm. After awhile the invites just stopped happening. There was always a stream of family visiting, but never anyone his age. As a result he spent a lot of time day dreaming about the day when he would get a car and his freedom.
He pushed himself over the edge of the bed and stood up stretching the afternoon light. He was suddenly hit by a pang of hunger realizing that he was absolutely starving. Jace wandered down the hall and flight of stairs leading to the kitchen below. In the kitchen he rummaged around the cabinets for a bit before finally settling on a bowl of cereal. On the door to the fridge was a short note.
Did your chores
Went to town for supplies
Jace wondered how long he had to himself before Uncle Benj would make it back from town. No sooner than he had asked himself that did he hear the sound of the old farm truck rumbling down the dirt road towards the house. He figured he at least had time to finish the bowl of cereal and run upstairs to put on some clothes before Benj would be walking through the door needing his help to carry in the supplies. One of these supply runs normally meant Groceries, but since we were expecting company tonight for his birthday, he had no idea what all Benj might have picked up while in town.
Jace was only partly correct, about the time he had finished his bowl and walked over to the sink to rinse it, the front door creaked open. He heard the gruff and familiar voice of Benj “Jace? You up and dressed?” Jace turned to face the voice, but before he could reply he saw his Uncle Benj standing in the door with someone extremely tall behind him. Within a few moments the other stepped out from behind Benj and he could see that it was rather tall, but also rather lovely girl. He felt a sudden wave of realization rush over him as he realized that he was now standing face to face with a stranger wearing nothing but his boxers.
She met his gaze and he could see her starting to blush slightly as well, eventually turning her head to be polite. “Jace, get upstairs and get dressed, we have company” Benj scolded then turned to the girl and apologized “I’m sorry maam, I expected him to be up and dressed”. Jace quickly darted back upstairs and rummaged through his room to find something to wear. After a few minutes he had pulled on a pair of jeans and a red hot chilli peppers tee. He stopped at the mirror and noticed he was still bright red from embarrassment. He forced himself to breathe deeply and after a few moments he had calmed down and his cheeks were returning to their natural color.
By the time Jace had gotten back downstairs, the girl had taken his place at the kitchen table and was viciously devouring a plate of cold chicken and a few biscuits that Benj had apparently fixed for her. He saw his Uncle out on the porch, and rather than risk further embarrassment he decided to join him out there. Questioningly Jace gave his uncle a look that was quickly translated by the elder Waxwood. “I met her in town, and she looked like she had not eaten in days. Based on the way she took to that plate of food I guessed my assumption was right. She needed a safe place to be… and we could use another hand around here” Benj said in a rather plain and matter of fact way.
“Her names, Kale. Something special about her… but she’s a bit twitchy.” he said looking down the hall from the porch to the sight of her decimating the food. Changing the subject Jace asked “When is the family getting here? I expected for someone to be here by now.” Almost on queue Benj nodded to the lane, and coming into view was a group of figures walking down the lane. Jace always wondered why none of his family seemed to drive cars, especially since most of them lived so far away. Benj never really would explain much of anything to him, he would just clam up and get real quiet anytime he asked.
He outright refused to say anything about his parents, other than they died when Jace was really young. He certainly had no shortage of family growing up, and one of them always seemed to be lurking around in the background. As the figures came into view he could make out Aunt Morrow, Uncle Oaks, Uncle Bemel, Uncle Josah, and trailing behind the pack his favorite… Aunt Beth. While he loved all of us Aunts and Uncles, there was just something special about Bethilda. Whenever he was having a hard time, or feeling lonely, she knew exactly what to say to make him feel better. Jace had never been able to figure out why exactly they walked like this, it seemed like it would be easier if we just met them at the bus depot in town.
By this time Uncle Bemel had pulled ahead of the group slightly and was walking down the path to the porch from the front gate. With his great red beard wrinkling into a smile he yelled up at Jace with arms stretched out “Happy New Year Jace!” Jace of course went out to meet him and returned with a big hug. He never really understood why his family seemed to call a birthday a “new year” but he had gotten used to it. He remembered the embarrassment the first time one of the town kids had a party at school and he wished them “Happy New Year”. To tell you the truth there was a lot of things his family did that never really synced with the rest of the world.
The rest of his relatives had now made their way up the path as well and similarly wished him a happy new year and gave him a big hug. Leading up the pack was Beth, she lingered extra long giving him a tight squeeze against his ribs. “You are looking handsome as ever Jace, did you have a good year?” It just hit him that sure enough… the last time he had seen Beth was on his birthday last year. “Yeah it was, looking forward to finally getting my drivers license so I can leave the farm when I want to.” Jace replied. Bethilda made a slight grimace when he talked about leaving the farm, but she quickly shrugged that away.
“Jace go in and gather up some drinks, I am sure they are thirsty after their walk” Uncle Benj bellowed from behind him. With that Jace turned and wandered into the house, by now he had all but forgotten about Kale, so when he saw her again now sitting against the back of her chair slowly sipping a coke he jumped slightly. “I’m sorry about earlier… I” Jace started to stammer but was cut off abruptly with a reply from the other “It’s fine… you didn’t know” muttered Kale, to be truthful she didn’t even know she would be there.
She was surprised at the turn of events herself. She had finally gotten up the nerve and saw that old farm truck sitting outside the feed store, loaded down with packages. She had only just begun rummaging through the bags, found a banana and cracked it open when she felt a huge hand on her back. “Can I help you with that miss?” grumbled a gruff voice of the hands owner. She thought about shifting, leaping back into the shadow to get away, but something kept her from doing it this time. She turned to face the man, sheepishly chewing on the stolen banana, surprised to find that he did not seem angry in the least.
“I’m sorry mister… I haven’t… it’s been days since.” Kale stammered breaking down into tears still holding the banana loosely. Benj wrapped his arms around the girl saying gently “It’s okay, we’ve all done things we aint proud of. Tell ya what, I got a big farm not too far from here. I could use some help preparing for winter. We’ll give you a warm bed and warm meals for as long as you need them.” With this Kale allowed herself to completely break down, despite everything she had been through the big man felt safe. She needed work, she needed a place to stay, and it had to be better than the foster system had been.
She finished her banana as the big man finished loading the truck. When he finally got in the truck he look at the girl with a sideways glance. “You got a name?” questioned the big man. “Kale” she replied rather simply “Just Kale”. Benj looked her over for a bit before responding “and I’m Benjanatos Waxwood, but most folk just call me Benj or Uncle Benj. You’re gonna be fine now.” And with that they pulled out of the town and onto the long series of winding roads eventually leading to the farm. Against her better judgement she felt a bit of hope creep into her… you know she thought maybe she would be fine.