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“Abigail” is my second novel–a fantasy romance that was published in late July.
When Abigail’s supposedly immortal faery mother is found murdered, her human father sells her in to slavery. Bought by a young and wealthy landowner named William, she is whisked away to a Grecian island to play caretaker for his baby sister.
However, the island has a deadly secret connected to Abigail’s past. Her budding romance with William is shattered by Abigail’s intimate, unwanted connection with the island’s faery prince. Meanwhile the faery king plans revenge upon the family. Abigail must join forces with the very race she’s sought to deny, to save the humans she has learned to love.
* * *
My father was selling me into slavery.
No manner of pressure could fix the uncomfortable tick caused by the throbbing behind my closed eyelids. I alternated between digging the palms of my hands into my eyes and seeking solace from the earth.
Sliding my right hand behind me between my back and the wall, I pressed it firmly to the moist stone. With just a little mental push, I sent myself into the ground beyond, feeling the worms crawl and the dirt shift. For a moment, I was able to forget the dank cell and let the Mother’s arms wrap around my shoulders, the earth’s strength seeping into my skin like a much-cherished blanket.
A burst of girlish laughter brought me back to myself, leaving me bereft. My skin was chilled beneath my thin, muslin dress; a stark contrast to the way the earth had brought me warmth. Bringing my hand back around, I pulled the shawl tighter around my shoulders—even though it was riddled with holes—and tucked my bare feet under my knees.
Perching on an old barrel that smelled of stale wine and piss, I surveyed the scene around me feeling oddly detached. It was the kind of dark that made one sluggish and miserable, from where nightmares originated. There was not a single window, or even a crack in the earthen walls to bring us comfort from the outside world; we were lucky to have the pale yellow glow of the oil lantern hanging by the only door.
We swam in the scent of feces, its source a crude hole in the floor where we relieved ourselves. The stench hung in the air like another entity, stagnant and unhealthy. From where I sat, I could feel two women with illness creeping through their bodies.
Fourteen women, some of them but children, in a room barely big enough to house eight.
The little girl sitting to my right leaned against the wall with her knees pulled up to a face so covered in filth she looked like an animal. I caught her eye, a vivid green shiny with unshed tears but hard with lessons learned much too early. She couldn’t have been nine years old. I tried to give her a comforting smile only to find the muscles in my face weren’t responding.
How do you comfort innocence destroyed?
Matilda, the one person I counted friend in my five weeks locked away, was in a puppy pile of teenagers in the corner, telling stories she shouldn’t. I knew from previous conversation that she had once belonged to an older aristocrat who had raped and mutilated her in ways beyond imagination. How she continued to exist day to day with the memories of such…even more so that she told the tales so easily.
If I know anything now from my own experiences, humans tend to practice selective memory.
I closed my eyes once more, attempting to rein my thoughts. With nothing else to do—no books to read, no garden to plant—my mind tends to run wild.
“You seem very calm today, Abigail.”
Pretty Matilda, finished traumatizing the young ones, was settling beside me on an old wooden crate, tucking her dingy blue dress around her knees. Her chestnut eyes were sparkling with good humor in her pale, simple face. I gazed down at her, and cocked my head in contemplation as I counted her freckles. “To feel anything right now is redundant. What comes will come despite thought or hope.”
She rolled her eyes, leaning back against the wall. “Could you at least try to speak as if you are only twenty?”
Breaking eye contact, I focused on my usual meditation point, a black knot in the wood wall directly across the room. It was nearly invisible in the flickering lamplight. I closed my eyes once again in an attempt to shut out reality. “I’ll try. It’s harder when I’m upset.”
One of the consequences of appearing young when my body is much older than it seems. Sometimes what comes from my lips doesn’t match what others see.
I felt her lean close on the little stool, her wild red curls brushing my bare knee below my dress. I cringed away from her so slightly that she didn’t notice. Five weeks I’d gone without touching her and delving into her mind; I refused to give in. “It’s almost over. We are almost out.”
I straightened imperceptibly, drawing in a deep breath, comfortable in the darkness behind my eyelids. “Yes.”
“We can hope our new masters are good—”
“Matilda,” I cut in sharply, eyes flying open. When she jumped back slightly at the sight, I knew I had lost my glamour. I closed my lids on the lavender fire that glowed there, and steadied myself. Sometimes she made me lose my temper. The downside of keeping human friends, I suppose. I took a few deep breaths before opening my eyes and going on in a lower tone. “False hope will only make the little ones worse in the long run. I wish you would put an end to it.”
“What is life without hope?” Her voice was small and I felt a pang of regret. Good intentions never go without punishment.
“Life is a long, terrible thing,” I whispered, more to myself. I couldn’t meet her eyes.
The door creaked open like a scream in the hushed room, pivoting outward. Every face around me, nondescript and identical to the one beside it, turned to see who was on the other side. The big one with the bushy red beard stood in the doorway, dressed in rags fit for no better than a pirate. His dirty white shirt had short sleeves and barely covered his rotund belly, while his black vest hung open over his loosely draped black pants. Scuffed brown boots tapped on the floor as he gazed around in disdain.
It was time.
“1, 4, 8, 9, and 13,” he said sharply. Thirteen; that was me; it was crudely tattooed on the inside of my right wrist. I slid from the barrel, my heart beating wildly. Matilda followed me, her fingers clutching my shawl and her eyes wide.
The room was silent as we were shackled together. I brought up the rear, stepping lightly and slowly so as not to walk all over the little one in front of me: the green-eyed girl. I could see every bone in her little shoulders. She looked like a beaten dog.
Torches lined the hallway outside our cell, casting evil, wavering shadows on the dirt floor. Mine, as usual, was absent, a by-product of my abnormal heritage. The young man walking somewhat behind and to the left of me, obviously new to the guard, kept glancing from the floor to me as if I might disappear.
Too bad that wasn’t within my range of powers. If that was the case, I’d be harvesting my potato patch instead of walking towards an unknown destiny.
Dry dust swirled around my ankles, the hallway steadily getting warmer as we ascended the steep hill. A sharp corner brought us into blinding sunlight and fresh air. I felt unwelcome tears sting my eyes and choked down a sob of gratitude for the warm rays that caressed my shoulders. I let go of my shawl outside the door, where it trailed from my fingers to the ground without a thought; it had never been mine, anyway. Already I could feel my strength returning, the sun filling my reserves with its loving energy.
We came out of the jail tunnel behind a raised platform crudely constructed of wood and haphazardly sewn burlap sacks. I could hear the noise of the crowd on the other side as we were lined up with our backs to the stage.
The first girl was a teen with shorn brown hair and slumped shoulders, her spirit in tatters on the ground. Her hands were shaking so much I feared she was going into shock. A man with muscular arms and an almost invisible neck unshackled her from the community chain and led her away.
So the waiting began.
The big guard walked by tapping his sword to the side of his beefy leg. His black belt strained with the weight of his belly, a wild patch of red hair sprouting from above the loose ties of his shirt. He leered at me from the center of a head full of dirty, rust colored curls.
“Glad to see you’ve survived, pretty thing,” he murmured, brushing a thumb down my cheek. The offensive finger continued to my neck, and even further to the crest of my breast.
Disgust flooded me. I gave him my best glare and emptied my eyes of emotion. The human color remained, but he was seeing the inhuman inside, the part of me that is connected to the Earth, to the things that bump and crawl in this world.
Confusion darted across his countenance and he inched away.
It was entirely too tempting to do something stupid, like zap him with a single touch. My cover would be broken and the people who knew what exactly I was. They’d slap a steel cuff on my ankle so fast my head would spin…if they didn’t hang me first.
“How is it you see out of those pig-like, squinty eyes?” I retorted with a sneer.
Slap. Colors exploded. One of his hands was the size of my head; the force threw me to the ground where I landed hard in the dirt. I sucked in a couple of deep, centering breaths with my chin tucked to my chest. I kept my eyes and palms to the ground, spitting blood as he walked away laughing.
One by one my companions were unchained and led to the stage I couldn’t see. The sting of my cheek eventually ebbed. Matilda gave me a cautious smile and a lighthearted good-bye wave as she shuffled to the stairs. I watched until she rounded the corner, her ankle chains leaving lines in her wake. It wasn’t clear to me whether I would miss her or be glad to be rid of her.
The young guard, handsome in a childish sort of way, waited until we were alone before coming to me. Lacing my fingers before me, I tried to appear as easy and approachable as possible, despite the chains weighing me down like a criminal.
“Why do you cast no shadow?” If I hadn’t already been prepared for the question, I might not have understood the whoosh of air that escaped him in the form of words.
I regarded the Italian thoughtfully, all dark coloring and confidence. The physical closeness of his body to mine would allow me to read him, and I conceded to the temptation. When my eyes caught his, he froze; prey. I could imagine the hairs rising on the back of his neck as he watched the dark brown of my eyes fade to be replaced by irises so bright purple they could burn. With a decent amount of effort, I focused on not allowing my skin to revert to its natural form; I didn’t want to scare him away. One, two, three…I charged in.
I can’t explain how the thoughts come. A series of pictures, words uttered in my head; also scents, colors, emotions, and sensations. Flashes of insight into the life of the person I choose to read. Physical touch isn’t necessary, just proximity, although with touch sometimes it comes unbidden.
His wife’s name was Theodora and his daughter, Victory. They lived in a one bedroom shack above a butcher’s shop. I could smell the blood. His daughter was sick…tuberculosis. She was going to die; it was in her stars. Mere man can’t fight the fate set forth by the universe. He was a good man, who took care of an elderly mother and gave to the poor…I saw an empty pantry and a deteriorating marriage.
“Why are you here, Marcello?” One might have thought I’d hit him. I saw the questions pass over his face. I placed a hand to his bare arm, my skin like fire next to his human temperature. “You don’t belong with these men.”
“I need the money,” he stuttered. Even unsure, he didn’t shake me off. I let his dark eyes study me, his other hand coming up to cover mine on his arm. “My daughter—”
“The butcher needs help,” I told him watching the elderly man in that sacred place of my mind. His wife was passing away as we spoke, her hold on life threadbare. The timing was impeccable; how grand the Universe is when it demands intervention. “You will make much more money. The old man has no child, and his only will to live is leaving soon. He will leave you the shop if you take a job with him. You have a choice to make. Your current path will end your marriage and result in suicide.”
The poor man was shaking, his skin ice beneath my hand. His brown eyes resembled that of a doe, flashing around in panic beneath the archer’s gaze. I could feel his indecision on my skin.
“Number 13, your turn.” The brute was back, abruptly ending my connection to the sweet, naïve Italian. My hands twitched to wrap themselves around the big man’s neck.
I’ve killed before. I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.
* * *
Praise for “Abigail”:
“Abigail” is a story of slavery and freedom and of lessons learned much to young – some of which should never have to be learned at all. You will suffer with Abigail as her father sells her into slavery and joy in her newfound hope. Heather brings the world of faery alive and (if you are like me) you will wonder if she is giving herself to the wrong man. Her descriptions of the locales will have you there. Is is an enchanting tale – well-told and will have you waiting for the author’s next treat.
Kathy B. Green
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