Drum roll please! dun dun dun… The Last Pages has released! Yay! It is officially available on Amazon, and in one or two weeks, it will also be available as an ebook!
Now, to celebrate, I have here with me, two sample chapters.
The cows chewed softly and the barn was ready to be closed up. Kale loved the sweet smell of hay, and she lingered as long as possible. A barn swallow gracefully swooped from the rafters and out into the surrounding fields. The dust in the barn sent swirling patterns through the light rays of the setting sun. Kale grabbed an old three-legged stool and sat down. She was perfectly happy to sit and stroke a calf as its mother gobbled down her grain. When she bent towards the calf to scratch behind its large floppy ears, Kale brushed her braid of wavy golden chestnut hair over her shoulder again. The calf stared up at her with its dark, questioning eyes and she smiled down at it.
Something shifted in the corner of Kale’s eye. She looked around, assuming it was a mouse. Suddenly, she spotted two eyes glowing from behind a barrel. The eyes were too big and blue to belong to a mouse, or even a cat for that matter. Suspecting that there was someone in their barn, Kale’s heart pounded so heavily that it felt as if it was in her throat. By the position of the eyes, Kale could tell that whoever it was had yet to spot her. Slowly rising, she walked over to the barrel, her feet making no sound on the bed of hay. She walked towards the barrel and without warning, she spun around and demanded, “What are you doing here?” She smirked when she saw a harmless figure jolt in surprise. The barrel fell over, revealing the silhouette of someone crouching behind it. A boy stepped out from the shadows; his dirty face lit up by the sun. He lifted his glance towards her, and they sized each other up. Kale guessed that he was about her age, maybe older, and his unkempt appearance gave away his position.
Without warning, the boy darted out of the barn and down the road, disappearing in the evening shadows with ease. Kale ran after him. Her eyes franticly searched the shadow-riddled yard. After several long minutes, she finally accepted that he was gone.
Kale did not think of the encounter as completely unusual, as there were many runaways that passed through her town, but Kale could not help but wonder who this mysterious visitor was. She went back to the house and tried to fall asleep beside her mother, but questions ran through her head throughout the night until sunlight filtered through the dust-paned window, waking Kale from her restless slumber. She put a kettle on for her mother, grabbed her satchel, and slipped out to the market. A mist hung over the town, and the fields between the poor farm houses in Kale’s community were covered in dew. A songbird whistled joyously from its perch in the nearby trees.
Kale wished to dance all the way into the city on a day like this, but she restrained herself in case anyone might observe her. Once inside the city gates, she strolled through the market for a while, marveling at all the pretty objects in the shop windows. All of which cost more money than she could acquire in a lifetime.
As she passed a cake store, Kale spotted someone poking around in the ally. Recognizing him as the very same boy she found in the barn the night before, Kale called out, but the boy darted away. She ran after him, winding through the streets in hot pursuit. He grew farther and farther away each time she turned a corner until finally she reached a fork in the road and could not see him anywhere. Kale searched the whole area until she was forced to give up, struck by the realization that he was gone, again.
Nearby, a street vendor recognized her.
“Hello Kale!” the old merchant called out from his stall.
Smiling, she walked over. “Do you know that boy?”
The man rubbed his greasy hands on a rag and shook his head. “No, I haven’t seen him around. Why do you ask?”
Kale sighed. “I found him in our barn last night, and I was just wondering who he might be.”
The man nodded. “Yes, well I can ask around for you. But tell your mother I said ‘hello’.”
“I will!” she called, heading back to the market. Finding nothing to suit her fancy, Kale slowly made her way back home. On the dirt track that meandered through the big stone gates, Kale smiled at the guards standing idly there. They smiled back and waved, recognizing her from her many other trips.
Back at the cottage, Kale’s mother was now up and enjoying her breakfast tea. “Morning, Kale. Find any bargains in the market?”
Kale shook her head. “No, but Barty said to say ‘hello’.”
Her mother chuckled. “He is such a nice man. I need to remember to pay him a visit soon.” She handed Kale a cup of tea. “Well, you should start on your chores now, I believe the cows need to be milked.”
Kale nodded and downed her tea in a gulp. Placing it on the table, she headed out to the barn. Sliding open the large oak door, Kale slipped into the musty barn and was greeted by the lows and moos of cattle. Although she scanned the area carefully, there was no sign of the boy she saw earlier. Slightly disappointed, she grabbed her stool and started milking. Placing the bucket beneath the cow, Kale coaxed the milk to squirt inside. A lonely meow at her right heel almost scared Kale off her stool. She turned and laughed when she found Shadow, the barn cat, begging for milk. His large green eyes said more than words could, and Kale aimed the teat at the grey mound of fur. He skillfully caught the stream of milk in his mouth, swallowing it with pure pleasure.
When he was satisfied, Kale watched as he gracefully slunk off on his daily rounds to catch little rodents. The cow Kale milked swished her tail at a fly and batted Kale full on in the face.
She chuckled and swatted the cow’s tail away. “What was that for?” The cow didn’t answer and kept chewing her cud. Kale sighed. “What would you do if a mysterious boy showed up in your barn, Belle?”
The cow turned, her eyes large and questioning. “I want to find out who he is, but it isn’t my business, really,” Kale continued, dreamingly. Losing interest, and realizing she clearly wasn’t getting a treat, the cow swung her head back to her food.
“But I can’t help wondering who he is! Why am I so interested, Belle?” The cow ignored her. “Ugh, I don’t know either…”
Her mother’s call from the house brought her back to the moment, and she quickly finished up. The cows knew the routine, and milking the rest did not take long.
Three large buckets of milk later, Kale slid the barn door all the way open and shooed the cows into the pasture. After locking the gate and tossing some water into the trough, she lugged the milk up to the house.
Kale made cheese throughout the rest of the day. She and her mother only paused to eat lunch and bring the cows back in. At nightfall, they surveyed the day’s work. They had successfully made two generous packages of tender cheese that were ready to be cured and still had half a bucket of milk left over that could be consumed with their meals. Kale’s mother patted her on the back. Exhausted, they both retired on the bed.
Will I see him again? Kale wondered before her eyes flitted shut.
It was Sunday. Kale rejoiced in her time off work and bounded out of the house to find something to do. Amy and James, the twins living in the house across the road, were playing in the dirt as usual.
Kale walked over and crouched beside them. “You two making mud pies again?”
A pudgy little boy looked up at her, and in a matter-of-fact voice stated, “No, we not maka mud pie! We maka brekast. Too early for maka mud pie, dat for dessert!”
Kale laughed. “Why, of course. Silly me.” She picked up a stick to join the two rascals. “May I help?” Immersed in their play, the children smiled and nodded before delving back into their creation.
A familiar voice rang out from across the street, “Kale! Come to the house, Kale!” Sighing, Kale left the two children and ran towards the house. She reached their old cottage in no time, swinging herself inside by the doorframe. Her mother turned from the shelf, with two coppers in hand.
“Go buy a loaf from Sake. I’m sure she will still have something that is fresh.” She placed the coppers in Kale’s hand and kissed her daughter on her cheek.
Kale nodded and left the house, heading up the dirt beaten track once again towards upper and lower town. Normally she would be excited for the trip. Kale loved to look at all the beautiful things in the shop windows, but today the sky was grey and promising rain. The wall surrounding lower town was massive, made from huge blocks, puzzling Kale by how they could have gotten there. The cracks in the stone were covered in a thick green layer of spring moss, but the wall still provided a sense of security for the middle class families living in the closely packed buildings. There were guards positioned at the gates to lower town, but they saw her and nodded, allowing her to continue.
As she passed through the massive gate in the wall, Kale marveled at its thickness. This gate alone could pass for a tunnel. She placed her hand on the cold, smooth stone, running it along as she walked. Her soft pink skin was out of place against the dark forbidding stone. She was sure that if she whispered in this chamber, the stones would reflect her voice, repeating it like so many gossipy women, as if she had said something wrong.
Out in the open again, the noise of the street vendors hit her like a wave.
“Combs! Bone Combs! One for a six pence! Combs!”
“Come-and-git ‘em! Hot fresh pies!”
“Buy my wool! Home spun wool!”
The clouds cleared somewhat, and an orangey glow reflected off of everything. The old woman, Sake, was at her bread stall, calling for her share of buyers. Kale reached her canvas-roofed sale table with no trouble, a feat only accomplishable by one who knew how to maneuver the packed streets.
“Hi, Sake. Mother sent me to buy our supper,” Kale announced.
Sake seemed to light up at the sight of Kale, who would sometimes trade goods with her or do errands and deliveries.
“Of course,” Sake responded. She bent beneath her table and stood up with a small loaf.
“I saved the best for you, though there was some man here earlier who was giving me a hard time for it, so I put it under the table.” She grinned, revealing her rotten mouth that seemed to be full of more spaces than teeth. Kale gingerly took the loaf and wrapped it in her shawl. She then dumped a couple of coppers on the table.
“Thank you so…” she began, but there, in the corner of her eye, she saw him.
That boy again!
He slipped around the corner and disappeared.
He would not get away that easy this time!
“I’m sorry, Sake. I have to go,” Kale mumbled her apology. As she took off, following the boy’s trail.
Sake shook her head, muttering to herself, “That girl is going to get into trouble some day,” and carefully placed the coppers in her pocket. “Not my place to judge, she and her poor ol’ ma. Bless their souls.”
Sake was not the only one watching Kale. In the shadows something shifted and unfurled two black wing-like limbs. One onlooker spotted the dark figure as it took off into the sky, but he shook his head incredulously and looked at the bottle in his hand.
“Gotta lay off the grog,” he said. Dumping the bottle on the ground, he walked away.
Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to go order a copy if you liked it. : )