1 - ONE NIGHT
THE LAST THING Jules Blaze thought of before he closed his eyes was how he, how anyone, could undo the curse his people were under. He was in the middle of a dream, a nightmare as far as he was concerned, begging Grandpa Leroy and Grandma Bonnie not to leave, when someone banged on their front door, shaking their entire tree house.
Who’d be crazy enough to disturb them at this hour? He sat up on his bed and cocked his head. His mother’s soft tread tap-tapped on the wood floor.
“Who’s there?” her muffled voice asked, harsh and whispery from sleep.
The banging stopped.
“Erin, open up.” Saul’s voice, gruff and loud, jolted the last fog of sleepiness from Jules. He peered over at his brother sleeping noiselessly in the bunk below him, and quietly slipped down the ladder. On tiptoe he sneaked to the trapdoor opening that led down to the living room where Saul stood dripping from the rain.
“Is everything okay?” Erin said.
“Would I visit now if it were?” Saul said. Then in a gentler voice he added, “I’m sorry. Please, let’s take a seat, Erin.” He nodded at Jules who’d slipped down the pull-down ladder to join them. “Jules.” Jules thought about his father at the war front and swallowed a lump in his throat. Was this why Dad hadn’t sent any word to them for the last months? Because he couldn’t?
Saul held Erin by the arm. He led her to the dining room chairs behind the sofa covered with knitted shawls and afghan throws.
Jules trudged to the window and peered at the branches outside. The arm of the oak tree grew so thick they could easily live in it, although getting up there could be a problem, especially since he was afraid of heights. These days they didn’t even live in stone houses, or even wooden ones, unless living under a tree counted as a wooden home. Elfies lived in trees, or burrowed under rocks, in the forest of Reign.
“Take a seat, Jules.” Saul locked eyes on him for an instant. “I just received word from the riverfront patrol—Leroy and Bonnie’s boat capsized in the storm. They’re searching for the bodies, but it doesn’t look good.”
Erin let out a gasp and brought a fist to her mouth. “No!”
“Boat? How can they be sure it was them?” Jules leaned forward in his chair.
“Some of their belongings floated to shore, and I identified the wreck—the pieces drifted to the bank.”
Erin looked at him blankly.
Saul said, again, “The boat…was a wreck.”
“Boat?” Erin said.
“I’d loaned it to them.”
Saul looked at the ceiling. “They’d wanted to get across to Handover.”
“Handover? That’s preposterous. After telling us never to cross the river and saying how dangerous Handover is?” Erin’s voice sounded angry amidst her sobs.
Saul pushed his chair back and stood. He reached into the cloak of his pocket, brought out a few items and laid them on the dining table. “Some things to remember your folks by.” And with that he turned and stalked back out into the dripping night.
Jules stared at his grandpa’s pocket watch, the green felt hat the old man always wore, especially on damp days, and his grandma’s silk scarf she donned when the wind ruffled her snowy white hair. Erin sobbed more violently, and Jules stood behind his mother’s back, leaned over and hugged her trembling shoulders.
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Genre - Young Adult Adventure Fantasy
Rating – G