Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Prologue and Chapter One of SORROW WOODS!

Hello lovelies!

I know I keep telling you that my first novel will be out in August and I guess it might be a little frustrating or annoying because you don't really know me or my works. I might be new to this whole publishing business but I've been writing for several years now and have seven completed novels on my shelf. To say thank you for not moaning about how much I bang on about my books or lack of publication I've decided to share with you the prologue and chapter one of Sorrow Woods so you can check out my writing style.

This book will probably be classed as YA with with a warning that it may contain upsetting scenes etc or the new and very popular NA genre.

**If you're reading this on goodreads then it won't be formatted correctly. You'll need to head over to my actual blog to read it in the correct format**

I hope you enjoy.......

Beckie x

*please note that at this stage the prologue and chapter one are unedited.


I run my fingers over the little lines I’ve carved out of the piece of wood and sigh as I count them all. My Mother has been gone for eight whole days now. She’s never been gone this long before and she’s certainly never missed my birthday.
            I stand up and brush the dust off my shorts, stretching out my aching muscles. I look down at my faded rainbow-striped top that’s sticking to my ribs and realise that it’s too hot to stay indoors where there’s nothing to do but worry about her. I pick up my drink and step onto our wooden veranda and out of the stifling heat that constantly lingers in our house.  I take a sip of my water and look out across the dusty horizon and then up at the cloudless, bright blue sky that wraps itself around the tops of the mountains in the distance.
            I’m not exactly sure where it is we live. I know there are lots of countries on Earth and some countries have cities and states but here, where we live, there is nothing but the woods, the orange sand, and us. Sometimes I think we live in the middle of the desert, but then I look behind me at the tops of the trees that cast our house in delicious cool shade in the afternoon and I know it’s not the desert. In the books I’ve read, there are never any trees in the desert.
            I sit down on the top step as a trickle of sweat slips down my forehead and hangs on the end of my nose. It stays like that for a few seconds before it plops off onto the splintered piece of wood that digs into my thigh. I stare at the tiny circle of water, watching as it dries almost instantly on the wood. It’s been broken for a few days now and I think I remember Mamma asking me to fix it before she left me.
            Just as I’m about to grab the hammer, I hear the familiar rumble of an engine. I look into the distance and see my Mother’s rusty, sun-faded red truck kicking up dust behind it, as it zooms up the twisting, deserted lane to our house. I sigh in relief.
            My Mother has finally come back to me.
            When she stops the truck at the bottom of the steps, I stand up and wait for her to smile at me through the glass but she doesn’t. Not this time. This time, she throws her door open - which creaks like an old lady’s hip - and walks up to me with a serious-looking face. She appears tired. Her wild red hair flies around her face as she marches up the steps. I brace myself but realise, when she pulls me into a tight hug, that there is no need to be afraid of my Mother.
            “Happy tenth birthday, Serena.”
            I sniff her. She smells different. She normally smells like the wind when it’s blowing in a storm, but today she smells like metal.
“Thank you, Mamma.” She pulls back and pushes my long, blonde hair away from my face with her sweaty palms. “I’ve missed you so much.”
            “I missed you too,” I respond.           
            She hugs me again and sniffs before pulling back and smiling at me.
            “Would you like to see your present?”
            I grin at her. “Yes, please.”
            “You’ve got two this year.”
            Two? I never get two. I bound down the steps behind her and follow closely until we’re at the back door of the truck. She turns and hands me a small clear box. I take it slowly from her, having never held something that’s so smooth and see-through before, and stare at the white rectangle-shaped object that looks modern and digital. I don’t know what it is. I’ve never seen anything like this in real life before, and as I try to think back to the newspapers that I’ve read, I can’t ever recall seeing a picture of anything like this either.
            “What is it, Mamma?” I ask.
            “It’s called an iPod.”
            “An iPod?” I blink at it as I twirl it around in my hand.
            “You won’t have read about it yet, but it’s a little gadget that you use to store music. That there,” she says, pointing towards the thing in my hands, “has over one thousand songs on it.”
            Music? I can listen to music on this little machine? “Thank you,” I say, as I start to open the box. I stop when I hear the cry similar to that of a young animal. I look up at her and see her smiling at me. “Is that noise coming from your truck?” I ask.
            She nods. “Are you ready for your second present?”
            I can feel my eyes widening. I don’t know what she has for me, but judging by the huge smile on her face, I’m gonna like it. She reaches into the back seat again and curls her arms around something before walking towards me. I can see nothing but a pink blanket. She bends her knees and offers her arms out to me. I gasp.
            “Where did that come from?”
            She smiles and rubs its face. “It’s mine. Ours.” She looks back down at it and makes a sort of cooing noise. “It’s your sister.”
            I frown. I don’t want a sister. “How?”
            “I had to go into the hospital in the city. That’s why I’ve been so long.”
            I think about all the encyclopaedias that I’ve read. I can’t ever remember her belly being big like it is in the pictures and I don’t have a Daddy.
            “So I’ve gotta share you?”
            She smiles and brushes my cheek with the back of her hand. “Darling, she’s going to be your best friend. You’ll be able to help me look after her whist she’s a baby and then when she’s older, she can run among the trees and play with you. I don’t want you getting lonely.”
            “I’m not lonely,” I say quickly. Why did she have to go and get another one? Was I not enough for her? “I have all my books and I have you.”
            “You’ll see,” she says, walking up the wooden steps and away from me, holding the baby that is apparently my sister.
            I look down at my new music thing and figure I don’t have much choice. Mamma says that once you live here, you can’t go anywhere else because no one else wants to look after the house, and God would be sad if no one looked after the house or the woods.
            “What’s her name?” I ask after following Mamma inside and sitting down beside her on the sofa.
            I pull a face. I don’t like that name. I lean over and look at the baby that lies in my Mother’s arms. She’s tiny. All of her skin is wrinkled up and her eyes are closed tightly shut. She looks like she’d break if I touched her too hard. I sigh and lean my head against my Mother’s shoulder. I’ve missed her too much to argue with her right now.
            “I got you some new books, by the way, and a few newspapers.”
            I look up at her and smile. I love getting new books.
            “Thank you, Mamma,” I say.
            “You’re welcome, Serena.”
            We sit there in silence for a few minutes. I watch my Mother’s eyes roaming over Elodie’s face and see her smiling. Did she smile at me like that when I was a baby?
            “What does she eat?” I ask, curious.
            “She doesn’t eat, not yet anyway. She drinks milk.”
            I blink up at her and stare into her large blue eyes. “We don’t have any milk,” I remind her.
            “I got some more supplies whilst I was in the city. I’ve got enough milk to last four months and then I’ll have to go and get some more.”
            “But where are we gonna keep it? The storage barn is full.”
            She shakes her head. “There’s plenty of room. You’ll see.”
            I’m not so sure but I nod anyway. “So did Elodie come out of your tummy?”
            “Yes,” she responds simply.
            “How did she get out? Why wasn’t your tummy big like the other Mammas in my books?”
            She leans over and kisses the top of my head. “You can’t always believe everything you read in your books, Serena.”
            “Why not? You said books will teach me everything I need to know.”
            She nods. “I know I did.”
            “So where did Elodie come from?”
            “Your tummy wasn’t big enough.”
            “It was,” she huffs and pulls the baby closer to her chest. “You just weren’t looking hard enough.”
            I stare at her. I always look at her hard enough. She’s the only person I can look at. I sigh.
            “Have you had breakfast yet?” she asks.
            I shake my head. “I was waiting for you.”
            “Well then, you take your sister and I’ll cook us some eggs.”
            She puts the baby into my arms and walks to the stove. I look down at my new sister and study her face. She hasn’t opened her eyes yet so I don’t know what colour they are. I wonder if they’re green like mine. If she’s my sister then she should look like me. My nose starts to feel like it’s being tickled and before I know it, I’ve sneezed, making the baby jump in my arms. Her eyelids flash open for the briefest of seconds, but it’s enough for me to see that her eyes are bright blue and look nothing like mine.


2,527 days later

My Mother throws the rest of her clothes into her old brown leather suitcase with a huff and slams it shut. She scowls at me as she snatches it off her bed.
“Please, Mamma?”
She strides quickly over the rickety, uneven floor and stalks out of the house with me following right behind her.
“I’m not having this conversation with you now, Serena. I’ve told you before that you can’t come with me.”
            “Why not?” I ask. “Why can’t I come with you? Why can’t we both come with you? I don’t understand and I’m not a child anymore, Mother.”
            She sighs and throws her case onto the back of her truck. “It’s not about how old you are, Serena. You just don’t need to go to the city and you know that whilst I’m gone, you have to stay here and look after your sister.”
             “Fine,” I huff as I cross my arms. I know I’ve lost this argument because I always lose this argument. “How long are you gonna be gone this time?”
            She pulls her door open and wipes the beads of sweat from off her forehead with the back of her hand,pushing her bright red hair from off her face and into a ponytail that sits high up on her head. “Three weeks - just like I always am.”
            She never used to go for three weeks. She says ‘always’ as if her trips to the city have always taken that long, but they haven’t. I don’t forget these sorts of things. “What day is it now?”
“Sixth of April.”
I take a step towards her and run my hands along the edge of the truck. “Will you be back for my birthday?”
“Yes,” she sighs, sounding more annoyed with me than I’ve ever heard her sound before.
“And Elodie’s?”
She nods and yanks the door open. “Yes. See you soon.”
I stand back, watching as she climbs into the truck and turns the key over in the ignition. It rumbles to life and in an instant, she’s gone, leaving just a trail of dust behind her. I flop down onto one of the old wooden steps and sigh. Why doesn’t my Mother understand that I’m not a baby anymore? The books that she brings me back from the city tell me about a wonderful, interesting world that’s out there, but the fact that she won’t let me explore it is starting to really bug me.
            “Come on Serenaaaa.”
            I turn around and stare at my six year-old sister, who smiles up at me and twirls her long dark hair around her finger. She wants to play hide and seek. I hate hide and seek. “You go hide,” I say. “I’ll wait here and count to one hundred.”
            She grins and sprints off into the woods. I don’t bother counting. I wait about ten minutes before standing up and stretching my muscles out. I pump my arms and legs and run until I can’t breathe anymore.
            The sweat drips down the back of my neck and slides in between my shoulder blades. It’s too hot to be running around, I think, as I lift my leg and climb over a fallen tree. “Elodie!” I call. “I’m gonna find you and when I do, I’m gonna tickle you until you’re begging me to stop.” I hear her giggling to the left of me so I turn and run without thinking. I hate playing hide and seek with Elodie because she always hides in the woods and it’s too hard with all of the trees to ever find her. I also think she cheats by moving about as I’m searching for her because sometimes, I’ll find her hiding in a place that I know I’ve already looked. Every time I take a step towards the place where I think she’s hiding, the twigs and leaves rustle and crack underneath my foot, meaning there’s no way I could ever creep up and surprise her. I always end up being the hunter that gets hunted.
            “Boo!” she calls out from behind me, before giggling and running off again.
            “Oi,” I laugh, as I run through the trees after her. “That was cheating!”
            I hear her laugh trickle and bounce along the trees around us as she sprints on ahead of me. We’re both really fast at running, so fast that sometimes the trees start to blur at the side of my vision, just like they are now. I take a deep breath and pump my arms and legs faster. I’m not letting her win today, not when she cheats at every game we play.
            “You won’t catch me,” she calls.
            “I will.”
            We run and run and run. I’m running so fast that the twigs hanging down off the low branches whip against my face and the leaves get stuck in my long, blonde hair as it flails out behind me. Just as I’m about to pounce on her, I feel something warm trickle down my face. It sneaks down my cheek and into the corner of my mouth. My tongue darts out and within an instant my mouth is full of the taste of metal. Blood.
            “Elodie, stop!”
            She just laughs and carries on running. I stop and turn back around. This is the farthest we’ve been from home in years. It’ll take us hours to get back to our house now.     
            “Elodie,” I call again, “I’m not playing anymore.”
            She squeals, the sound echoing all around me, but she still doesn’t stop. She just runs as if it takes no effort at all. I can run, but I’m sure she could run a marathon and not even be out of breath. I sigh, roll my eyes, and run after her again.
            After about ten minutes she starts to slow, and I finally have the chance to jump on her. We tumble to the ground together, laughing and hugging in the dirt. “You run like a cheetah,” I pant.
            She sticks her tongue out at me and says, “You run like a hippo.”
            I tap her nose. “You’re a cheeky monkey.”
            She giggles and stands up, brushing the dust and dirt from off her tiny shorts. I stare up into her bright blue eyes that are surrounded by deeply tanned skin, not unlike my own. Her long, black hair falls to the bottom of her spine, and is nearly as long as mine. I have bright green eyes, she has blue. My hair is blonde, while hers is black. She’s short, but lean and I’m tall, but have lots more muscle than she does. I look down past my breasts that are covered in a black crop top and look at my bare midriff and the muscles that ripple across my stomach. My muscular thighs stick out from the bottom of my black shorts, but my skin is the deepest brown I have ever seen - much deeper than Elodie’s. Mother says that Elodie will grow into her muscles and that her skin will deepen until it’s as dark as mine.
            “When do you think Mamma is going to be back?” she asks.
            I twirl a twig around in my fingers and shrug. “She’s gone to get supplies so she’ll be gone three weeks like normal.”
            “We can’t live that far away from the city, can we?”
            I shrug. I’ve been thinking that for years now, but my Mother never gives me a straight answer. Sheused to leave me when I was younger, but she’d only be gone for a few days. She’d come back with food in the back of her truck and scratches and bruises all over her body. She always refused to tell me what caused those injuries to her, and the fact that she wouldn’t tell me, made me worry about her even more. She would always just unpack the truck, give me a hug, and then spend the next few days in bed.
Lately, it’s become more than just a few days away, and the days she spends in bed afterwards often stretch to more than a week. She also comes back with even more bruises and scratches than she used to. I’d never questioned it when I was younger, but now that I am sixteen my thoughts lead to deeper, darker things. I hope I am wrong.
            “What are you thinking about?”
            I snap out of my thoughts and smile at Elodie. “Just how long it’s gonna take for us to walk back home.”
            She rolls her eyes. “You’re always talking about having to go back home. Why don’t we just stay out here?”
            I shake my head and stand up. “The woods are too dangerous for us to be out at night, Elodie. You know that.”
            She sighs. “Let’s go then. I’m getting hungry.”
            I throw my arm around her neck and pull her into me. Just as we take the first steps back towards home, a loud, ear-popping snap splits through the trees. We freeze. Elodie gasps, her eyes wide in her head as she looks up at me. My chest is rising and falling faster than it was when I was running.
I feel like all of my blood has frozen in my veins. My legs won’t work. My body won’t push me forward. I can feel sweat dripping all over my body from the heat and the exertion of running, but I’m dithering. I feel cold inside. That noise was the loudest thing I’ve ever heard in my life and it’s still ringing through my ears. I shiver.
            “Serena,” she whispers, “what was that noise?”
            My brain suddenly starts to work again. The noise of the birds panicking in the sky above me makes me look up, and when I do, I see a cloud of dust floating over the tops of the trees. I don’t know what that noise was, but I know that it’s not good or else the birds wouldn’t be screeching through the sky like that. We need to go.
            “Run,” I say, “and don’t stop until we get home.”
            The panic in her face transfers to her arms and legs as she lunges forward through the trees. I follow her, matching her pace for pace.
            “Hurry,” I call out to her. I can hear the panic in my voice. I’ve never heard it before and I don’t like how it makes me sound.
            We’ve run for all of two minutes when she suddenly skids to a stop. We’re running so fast that I don’t have time to stop myself before I crash into the back of her.
            “What are you doing?” I huff. “Get going. I told you not to stop.”
            She turns her head slowly around and points to the right of her with a shaking arm. The fear in her wide, frightened eyes makes me hesitate for a split second. When my eyes follow her finger, they snap onto a boy. I instinctively reach out and haul Elodie behind me without taking my eyes off him. The first thing I notice about the boy is that he’s wearing faded blue denim jeans and a white t-shirt that stretches tightly across the tops of his arms. He has short but messy black hair and deep brown eyes that sit wide in his head. In his hand, he holds a gun. I’m not sure what type it is, but I know it’s a gun because it looks like the pictures of guns that I’ve seen in my books at home.
            “What the hell are you doing here?” he says, stepping towards us. “You shouldn’t be here. Go away.”
            He’s talking to us. Another person is actually here, in our woods, and he’s talking to us. I push Elodie back and step away from him. “Who are you and what are you doing here?”
            He frowns and starts to stride towards us.
            “Stay back!” I order, pushing Elodie further back.
            “I’m not going to hurt you,” he says, looking confused. His eyes are roaming all over me. I can see him looking at my face and then down my body, where his eyes rest for a long time on my legs. He frowns again, making his face wrinkle up.
As my own eyes look over him, I soon realise that he’s just like the boys that I read about in my books. I ignore the gun for now and stare at his strong jaw line and perfectly clear face. My eyes search his features, whilst my brain registers how different he is from us. I notice his Adam’s apple. I notice the way his broad shoulders meet his thick arms. I notice the way his jeans hang low on his hips that don’t curve in like mine.
            “Who are you?” I ask again.
            “My name is Kaiden, but everyone calls me Kai.”
“Kai?” I repeat, listening to the way my mouth says his name. I’ve never heard of the name Kaiden and never read a book that has a Kaiden in it either.
He rubs his face with his hand. “You need to leave,” he snaps.
            I glance back at Elodie, who is staring with her mouth wide open in awe at the boy. I don’t know what to do. He said he wasn’t going to hurt us, but it must have been his gun that made that horrible sound. What was he shooting at if he wasn’t shooting at us? I shake my head at him, whilst my heart pumps furiously in my chest. “These are our woods. It’s you that’s gonna have to leave.”
            He snorts. “How did you even get here?” His accent is not the same as ours. His words are clipped and sharp, where as ours are more rounded and lazy.
            “We live here,” says Elodie. “How did you get here?”
            “You live here, in these woods?”
            I look back at him and those eyes that remind me of the colour of chocolate and nod.
            Mamma said we should never talk to anyone else. She said we would probably never see anyone else in the woods, but if we did, we were to run away and to not talk to them. “I don’t need to tell you that.”
            He smiles. His teeth are white and clean. “No, I guess you don’t.” He steps even closer to us and I watch a frown take over his forehead when his eyes lock on to my face. Why is he looking at me like that?
            “Let’s go, Elodie,” I say, pushing her back with my hand.
            “You could at least tell me your name,” he says, smoothly. “It would be rude not to, really.”
            Rude? Is it really rude to not talk to him? I don’t know. I don’t know what to do, but it doesn’t feel right to just ignore him and walk away. We’ve always wondered about other people in the world and he might be our only chance to find anything out. I swallow and say, “I’m Serena and this is Elodie.”
            He nods once. “Nice to meet you.” His eyes fall back onto my face and a look or an emotion that I’ve never come across before washes over him. “How long have you lived in these woods, Serena?”
            It’s just talking. He’s not gonna shoot us or hurt us. He just wants to have a conversation with us. I’m sure Mamma wouldn’t mind if we just talked to him. Would she? I don’t know. He looks as interested in us as we are in him. “I’ve lived here since I was two and Elodie has been here since she was born.”
            He nods and takes another step towards us. I push Elodie back but she hits a tree. There’s nowhere for us to go now. He has us trapped.
            “You’re bleeding,” he says, nodding at me, “on your head.”
            I reach up with my hand and feel the warm blood skim over my fingertips. “It’s just from the trees. We were running.”
            “Why were you running?” he asks.
            “We were playing a game. We run all the time.”
            He smiles, stepping closer to us again. He’s so close that I can smell him. He doesn’t smell like the wind, rain, or trees, like we do. He smells like salt and something that I’ve never smelt before. It reminds me of flowers, but not the sweet type of flowers. He smells musky and dirty, yet clean and fresh at the same time.
            “Why do you have a gun?” I ask, curious.
            He looks down at the weapon in his right hand and lifts it up high. He turns it around, making the sun gleam off the shiny metal. “I was shooting animals before you pair got in the way.”
            Elodie whimpers behind me. “Why would you do that? Animals are our friends!”  
            He blinks at us. “I’ve always hunted animals, mainly birds,” he says with a shrug.
            “Birds?!” she screeches. “What have the birds ever done to you? Why are you hurting them? You might be taking a mother away from its babies!”        
            He makes a face and scratches the back of his neck. “They’re just birds.”
            “They’re not just birds! They have families and they live in the trees. How would you like it if the birds shot at you?”
            I turn to see that Elodie’s face has turned bright red with anger. I place my hand on her shoulder, warning her to calm down.
            “This is bizarre,” he laughs. “What school do you go to if you live all the way out here?”
            “We don’t go to school,” says Elodie, almost crying. “And we don’t shoot birds.” 
            His eyes widen in his head. “You don’t go to school?”
            We shake our heads.
            “Then how do you know stuff? How do you know this is a gun?” He holds it up to us again.
            “We read lots of books that have pictures and our Mother teaches us.”
            “Elodie,” I hiss, “stop telling him things.”
            She blinks. “Why? Do you think he’s gonna shoot us?”
            “I won’t hurt you,” he says seriously. “I just want to talk to you.”   
            The sun breaks through the trees and bathes him in a pale yellow glow. He looks like an angel and all I want to do is to touch him to make sure he’s real. As my eyes scan over him, I notice for the first time that he has some type of multi-coloured ink all over his left arm. Why would he draw on himself like that? Maybe they’re maps. Maybe he doesn’t know the woods like we do and needs to be able to find his way out.
            “What are those drawings on your arm?” I hear myself ask.
            He rolls his eyes. “They’re tattoos, not drawings.”
            I’ve heard of tattoos. I know that they’re pictures or writing that are put onto the skin with a needle. I don’t think you can get them off once you have them on. Some of the boys in the books that I read have tattoos. They’re usually not very nice people. I turn to Elodie and grab her hand. “We need to go.”
            “Don’t go,” he says. He’s moved from the light and he’s now so close that I can see his long, black lashes moving up and down when he blinks. “Let’s just talk some more.”
            “I don’t think we should be talking to you at all.”     
            “Why not?”
            “Mother says we shouldn’t talk to strangers,” I tell him.
            “I’m not a stranger anymore, am I? You know my name and I know yours.”
            I shake my head.
            “We’ve never seen another person before,” admits Elodie. “We shouldn’t talk to anyone else.”
            He bursts out laughing and looks down at Elodie who frowns at him. “Are you being serious?”
            She nods. “It’s just us and our Mamma.”
            We nod.
            He sighs and sits down on a fallen tree trunk, looking confused. He also looks like he has thousands of questions and doesn’t know what to do with them. “How old are you?”
            “I’m sixteen,” I say, “and Elodie is six.”
            “When were you sixteen?”
            “A while ago. I’m nearly seventeen.”
            He shakes his head. “When are you seventeen? What day is your birthday?”
            “May the fifth.”
            “May?” he repeats. “The fifth of May.”
            “When is your birthday, Kaiden-the-bird-shooter?” Elodie asks, stepping out from behind me.
            He looks up at her and frowns. “Christmas Day.”
            Elodie seems to forget that he’s upset her and smiles at him. “That’s cool.”
            He shrugs. “I don’t get double the presents though.”
            “We don’t get presents at all,” she says.
            He looks up and blinks. “That’s too bad.”
            I shrug. We’ve never had presents at Christmas. Mamma always says that Father Christmas can’t find our little house out here and we don’t need presents anyway because we have the Earth. Both Elodie and I would have still liked to wake up on Christmas morning to a room full of presents like we’ve read about over the years. Elodie even has a picture pinned to her wall near her bed that she ripped from a picture book when she was three years old, showing what a room looks like on Christmas morning.
            “Haven’t you ever been anywhere else other than these woods then?”
            “Sure,” I say, “we’ve been to the Lake after the rains, and we go up the mountains almost every single day.”
            He shakes his head. “I don’t mean that.”
            Oh. Why doesn’t he just say what he really means then?
            “I mean, haven’t you ever been to the city?”
            I shake my head. “We’ve never been in the truck. Mamma always goes to the city.”
            “What does she do in the city?”
            Elodie steps forward and sits on the ground opposite him, crossing her legs. I stay where I am. “She gets supplies.”
            “What sort of supplies?”
            “Water, food, and sometimes books, newspapers and clothes.” I shrug. “Those sorts of things really.”
            He nods.
            I’m about to ask him more. I want to know where in the woods he lives but we hear another ear-splitting bang. Elodie jumps.
            “Home,” I order.
            Neither of us says anything more to the boy. We just turn and run home and this time we don’t stop, not even when Kaiden shouts for us to wait. We run until our legs and lungs feel like they’re gonna give up on us, and don’t stop until we get back to the house.
About an hour later, I crawl up the steps and collapse onto the top of the veranda. I can’t decide what part of me is aching the most. My legs feel as if they’re disconnected from my hips and my lungs feel as if they exploded out of my chest a long time ago. I turn over and lie on my back until I feel like I can breathe properly again. Elodie joins me, but instead of panting like me, she starts to laugh.
            I frown at her. “What’s so funny?”
            “Today. It’s been fun.”
            Fun? I don’t for one second think Mamma will agree when we tell her we were talking to a stranger in our woods that had a gun. Mamma will be furious.
            She sits up and shields her eyes with her hand. “Do you think he followed us?”
            “No,” I say, sitting up and leaning back against the wooden post that supports the roof above us. “He couldn’t run as fast as us and he won’t know our part of the woods like we do.”
            “That’s a shame,” she says. “He could have been our friend if he didn’t hurt animals. That upset me.”
            “I don’t think he’d make a very good friend.”
            She turns to me and grins. “I think I liked him. Did you?”
            I shake my head. “He had tattoos and a gun, and he didn’t speak to us right. He was probably very bad.”
            Elodie turns to me and rolls her eyes with a playful grin on her face. “He didn’t shoot us though, did he?”
            I shrug. “I guess not.”


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