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Authors: Dana Michelle Burnett

Far Away (Gypsy Fairy Tale Book Two) (4 page)

BOOK: Far Away (Gypsy Fairy Tale Book Two)
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Chapter 8

 

It was a lonely Christmas that year. It was my first Christmas without my grandmother, and I felt her absence acutely. So much so, that I took no pleasure in decorating the tree, but did it anyway just because that was what I was expected to do. If I didn’t, I would be the subject of every conversation in town while everyone came up with ideas to get me in the “holiday spirit”. It was easier to just pretend.

To make matters worse, Kieran was out there somewhere in the world, probably surrounded by beautiful women and not thinking about me at all.

Alec invited me to spend Christmas with him and his grandpa, but I turned him down. Christmas was a family holiday he shouldn’t have to share his with me. It would have made me feel even more alone than I already did.

“Now you know we’d love to have you,” Alec argued as we closed up for the holiday.

“I know,” I said with a smile that I hoped was convincing. “But I’ll be fine.”

If followed me out and stood beside me as I walked the door.

“I just hate to think about you being all alone.”

I patted his arm, “You worry too much.”

“Maybe,” Alec said as he pulled on his gloves. “But I just want to make sure that you’re going to be okay.”

“Trust me,” I called over my shoulder as I walked away. “I’ll be fine.”

I didn’t look back, but I could feel him watching me until I was halfway to my door. Only then did he turn and cut across the lots to the house that he shared with his grandpa.

On my porch, sitting on top of the stack of colorful holiday mail, was a plain square package addressed me. I picked it up with the other mail and took it inside. Since it was the only gift I was likely to receive, I opened it immediately, even before I took my coat off.

Inside the plain cardboard box, and buried under wads of tissue paper, was a small velvety box with a hinged lid. When I opened it, I was looking down at a butterfly pendant of silver filigree on the thin chain.

I searched the tissue paper again and found a creamy sheet of paper folded in half. I unfolded it and looked down at Kieran’s beautiful handwriting.

 

Always loving you.

Kieran

 

I fastened the necklace around my neck and removed my coat. I picked up the letter and read it again. Where was he? Why did it take him so long to contact me? What did the travelers do for Christmas? Were they performing somewhere or were they spending it in their campers just parked on the side of a deserted road?

At least now I knew that where ever he was, he was thinking about me. It hurt to spend Christmas alone, to have no family of my own, but he hadn’t forgotten about me. I sat in the living room, staring at the twinkling lights of the tree until it was late enough to just go to bed.

Merry Christmas Kieran...Where ever you are...

 

* * * *

 

The feed store looked empty and barren once the Christmas decorations were removed. I had come in early for the express purpose of packing it all away and removing every trace of the season even before we opened. I boxed up the last of the garland and handed the box Alec as soon as he came in that morning.

“This should be all of it,” I said as I dusted my hands off across my jeans. “Could you take all of this out to the barn?”

His eyes fell to the necklace around my neck. He drew in a sharp breath and looked away.

“Why did you take everything down?” He asked in a tight voice, making a point not to look at me again.

“I just felt like it,” I said and dropped the pendant back into the collar of my shirt.

“Don’t most people leave everything up until New Years?”

“I was tired of looking at it,” I said.

Alec nodded and giving me one quick sympathetic glance, “Yeah, I guess you would be.”

I felt the tears stinging my eyes, but I refused to let them fall. This was not the way that my life was supposed to turn out...

“I really miss her Alec,” I mumbled and turned away before he could see the truth on my face.

“I know you do,” he said as he gathered up box. “I’ll take these out and be right back.”

I nodded, keeping my back to him to protect the lie. While I did miss my grandmother terribly, it was Kieran that made my heart ache, and no matter how close friends we were, I knew I could not share that secret with him.

Alec came back in through the back door with a burst of cold air. I heard him take off his coat and shake the snow from it before hanging it on the hook near the door. I wiped my hands across my cheeks quickly, just in case any tears had escaped.

He came into the front room, rubbing his hands together. “I swear I think it dropped another ten degrees out there.”

“Really?”

“Yeah,” he said with a shiver and moved to stand over one of the heat vents. “By the way, have you ordered the spring feed yet?”

“No, why do you ask?”

He stomped his feet again and rubbed his hands together, “Just thought it might be a good idea. I was just in the barn and there wasn’t much stock left out there.”

I flipped open the account ledger and grabbed the small stack of receipts from last week, “It’s way too early to be thinking about spring orders.”

“Not really,” Alec said as the furnace kicked on and a gust of warm air blew up to him. “Next week is New Years and we’ll need to have the order in shortly thereafter.”

I looked at the calendar and sure enough he was right. I was so busy feeling sorry for myself, I let my business responsibilities slide. Wasn’t store the whole reason I didn’t go with Kieran and the travelers to start with?  I didn’t want to abandon everything my grandmother worked so hard for.

It hit me then... Spring... It wasn’t that far away... That meant...
Kieran
...

I shook my head to clear it, “Why don’t you do it?”

“Really?”

“Yeah,” I said as if it just didn’t matter. “Just order whatever you think we need.”

Alec stepped over and put his hands on my shoulders.

“Are you okay?” He asked, trying his best to look me in the eye.

There was something too familiar about his touch, like it was crossing line of what our friendship was supposed to be, but still I didn't pull away or step back.

“I’m fine,” I said without meeting his eyes or looking up at all.

“Then why won’t you look at me?”

Because that just confuses everything...

Before I could think of what to say or what to do, the bell over the door chimed and Alec’s grandfather came and. He looked at me there in his grandson’s arms and frowned.

Was this not the same man that welcomed me into his home on Thanksgiving? Why did he look so angry now?

Sensing the old man’s disapproval, Alec stepped away from me.

“Hey grandpa, what’s up?” He asked as an embarrassed blush colored his cheeks.

Alec’s grandpa glanced at me, frowned again, and then turned his full attention to Alec.

“I need you come straight home after work,” he said.

“Sure,” Alec answered with a shrug. “What’s going on?”

“I just need you to come straight home,” the old man said in a dead voice.

“Um, okay.” Alec agreed.

For a moment it looked like the old man was about to say something more, but then he turned and left just as abruptly as he had arrived.

I just sort of stood there, confused and not sure what it just happened.

“What was that about?” I was finally able to ask.

“I don’t know,” Alec said with a shrug. “He’s just been in a mood lately.”

“Anything I can do?”

Alec seemed to consider my offer, even moving to the window to watch his grandpa disappear around the side of the building. At last he just sighed and shook his head.

“No,” he said. “But if it’s all right, I’m going go ahead and take off. Maybe I can find out what all of this about.”

“Sure, go ahead,” I said, ignoring the overwhelming sense of foreboding that was bearing down on me.

“Great,” he said with a smile. He walked past me to where his coat was hanging on the hook, “I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”

“Yeah,” I said. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Putting on his coat he took off after his grandpa and all I could do was stand at the window and watch them walk away.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 9

 

I spent the rest of the day working alone in the store. There were only few customers now and then so I didn’t really need the extra help, but I missed Alec’s company to help pass along hours between open and close.

Once I locked up from the night, I went home to my always empty house. It got me to thinking that maybe true maturity was realizing that no matter what, in the end, we were always going to be alone.

Well that’s depressing...

I flipped through the television channels while eating my barely palatable frozen dinner. How was it that the meatloaf was burned, the corn rubbery, and the mashed potatoes still frozen in a potato popsicle all at the same time?

I tried to find something interesting on television, but nothing really caught my eye. When did everything on television get to be so stupid?

This is how it starts...Alone...Depressed...Next I’ll get a few cats...Then I’ll be the crazy cat lady watching game show reruns until she’s found dead...

Giving up, I threw my dinner into the trash and turned off the television. I locked the doors, switched off the lights, and was halfway upstairs when there was a knock at the front door.

I hesitated. Who in the world could that be? Everyone in town was either already in bed or at the very least settled in for the night. Was it the Mileans? Why were they knocking? Why not just bust down the door and kill me without warning?

I shrank back against the wall and wished I had a gun or weapon of some kind. If I was quick, maybe I could make it to the steak knives in the kitchen.

“Harmony,” Alec’s voice called from the other side of the door. “It’s just me. Open up.”

Alec? What was he doing here?

I rushed down the stairs and opened the door. Alex stood on the doorstep looking pale and wide-eyed.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, motioning him inside. “Why are you out so late?”

He stepped through the door, refusing to meet my eyes. “I just wanted to apologize for cutting out on you today.”

“It’s fine,” I said watching him closely. “Was everything okay at home?”

He nodded, looking down at his feet with his hands shoved into the pockets of his coat. It seemed that despite wearing that heavy coat inside the warm house, he was shivering as if he was cold.

I took a cautious step towards him, “Are
you
okay?”

“Yeah,” he said without looking up. “Everything is fine.”

“Are you sure?” I asked. I’d never seen him like this before; he seemed angry and afraid all at the same time.

At last he looked up, his eyes focused again on the pendant and chain around my neck. Just as quick, he looked away again.

“Yeah,” he said flatly. “I’m sure.”

“Alec?” I reached out to touch his trembling arm.

Alec spun around and pulled me into his arms, crushing the up against his chest. I was too surprised to push him away until my ear was against the steady beat of his heart.

He lowered his face down into my hair, “Tell me Harmony, what do you do when the world just doesn’t make sense anymore? I just don’t know what to do. There are just things that I don’t understand and I don’t know if I even want to understand.”

I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t know if it was because of how tightly he was holding me or the strange mix of emotions that being this close to him caused.

I squirmed against him, “Alec?”

He let me go and backed away, looking even more shaken than before. What was going on with him?

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t come here to unload on you.”

“Alec, wait –“

“No, it’s all right,” he said as he clawed the doorknob behind him. “I just wanted to apologize for today.”

He was out the door and staggering off into the darkness before I could stop him.

“Alec!” I called after him, but he was already gone.

I closed the front door and locked it again. I leaned back against it and pressed my hands against my chest. I could feel my heart beating against my ribs as if it was trying to escape.

What was that all about?

I climbed the stairs again slowly, suddenly exhausted.
I felt as if I had to force my feet to take each and every step.

Well whatever it is...
I’m too tired to think about it tonight...

I crawled into bed and was asleep before I had a chance to think any more about Alec and his strange behavior.

I fell into dreams almost immediately that night. I knew that I was dreaming and I knew that I should wake up before something terrible happened, but I couldn’t.

In my dream, I was with Kieran and he was guiding me through a very green forest. I could feel the warmth of his hand in mine and the dampness of the leaves clinging to my skin.

Suddenly we were running, as fast as we could, from some unseen force that was closing in on us with every step. I was tired and my side ached terribly, but Kieran pulled me along and forced me to keep up.

“We have to hurry,” he said in that weird dream speak were his lips didn’t move.

I tried to tell him that I was running as fast as I could and that he should just go on without me, but my words had no sound.

I tried again, but once more no sound came. I wanted to tell him to leave me and save himself but I had no voice? I clutched frantically at his arm, but he just kept pulling me through the forest with him.

Suddenly, I was blinded by the bright light as we burst out of the cover of the trees. I pulled my hand free from Kieran’s to help shield my eyes. Where were we? What was this?

Once my eyes adjusted, I saw that we were standing on the edge of the cliff overlooking the ocean. Far below us, the grey waves crashed against the sharp black rocks.

We were trapped. There was nowhere left to run, and nowhere left to hide. This was it.

I turned to Kieran, expecting him to know exactly what we should do... But he was gone. There was only empty air beside me where he had stood.

“Kieran!” I screamed, my voice returning then so that I could call to him again and again.

The wind whipped at my hair and carried the sound of my voice down below to the rocks where the waves swallowed it whole.

I turned in slow circles, looking for an escape route. What was I supposed to do? Where should I go?

As I stood there, in a weird sort of quick sand panic, Alec stepped from the edge of the trees. Instead of being relieved that I was no longer alone, I was angry, as if he had anything at all to do with Kieran disappearing.

“Where is he?” I demanded as though he had chased Kieran away. “What did you do?”

Alec stepped up to me slowly, his expression never changed even as I ranted against him. It had to be his fault, something he had done; Kieran would never leave me alone like this.

Without a word, Alec reached out and pulled on the chain around my neck. It broke away easily fell down onto the dew covered grass.

“Alec –“

There was no time for me to say anything else. Alec’s hands were on my shoulders and I was falling backwards. I screamed as he got smaller and smaller on the edge of the cliff until my body crashed down onto the black jagged rocks and then I was silent.

BOOK: Far Away (Gypsy Fairy Tale Book Two)
10.63Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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