IV

I woke to the hustle and bustle of a Monday morning. I could hear my dad chopping wood outside our house, and I smelled the salty smell of smoked bacon coming from the kitchen area. I sat up, said a blessing for the trees that were being sacrificed outside my house, and stood up from my bed. I walked downstairs to the basin of warm water, which my mother always put near the fire for when we woke up. She made a habit during wintertime of gathering snow and putting it in the fire pot, so that we all had warm water to wash with.

I dipped my spare piece of cloth in the water basin and splashed it in my face. The warmth felt so good, mixed with the heat from the fireplace. I closed my eyes and felt the searing heat on my arms as I knelt down and scrubbed my face. Noah came up behind me, startling me and making me drop my damp washcloth back in the basin with an unnerving slap. I splashed a bit of water at him playfully, only to be scolded by my mother. I turned back to the basin, frowning into the water, when it suddenly began to warp.

My fingers clutched the edges of the basin as the water rippled and lapped at the edges. I tried to move, but my legs felt frozen to the floor, my eyes glued to the warm water in front of me. Suddenly, it went smooth as glass. It became foggy, but then, a picture formed. It was a road, surrounded by trees, much like our forest, but there were more houses around on this road. I looked through what appeared to be a window, and outside I could see small flickers of light, dancing at the end of the road. The basin calmed then, and my legs were able to move again. I coughed and gasped for breath. I looked back into the water, but all I could see was my cloth at the bottom of the water. I poked at the surface of the water, but nothing happened. I reached my hand in and pulled out my washcloth as quickly as I could. After staring at the water for some time after that, I finished my washing and made my way upstairs to get dressed.

After breakfast, my mother sent me into town to bring some kindling to Goody Thompson. She handed me the basket, laden also with jam, some spare smoked bacon, and salt. As I headed out the door my mother stopped me, requesting that I wear the scarf Goody Thompson knit for me. It was surprisingly warm, despite its many thin spots, probably caused by Goody Thompson's shaky hands. I made my way through the snow, passing my father on the way, giving him a good morning nod.

My eyes drooped on the walk to town. I was excruciatingly tired from the night before, and did not get much sleep. Once I got to town I found many people bustling about their homes, trading in the town center and gossiping among themselves. I looked toward the church. Sure enough, Reverend Lewis was standing at the entrance, as if it were his perch. It seemed like he was looking right at me. I stared at him as I walked, until I unknowingly bumped into one Abigail Denning. I was knocked to the ground, kindling, jam, salt and all, strewn about the wet cobblestones. Abigail, however, remained perfectly upright. Abigail, two months older than I, acted like a right and proper woman, only she wasn't right nor proper at all.

"I say! You should mind your step, Deh-bohr-ah," she stressed each syllable of my name, which made me cringe. I leaned on my elbows and looked up at her, scowling.

"Excuse me, Miss Denning, I didn't see you coming, although such an attitude should be sensed from a distance, so the mistake must be mine, I apologize," I said, climbing to my feet. I felt a twinge of pain in my wrist, but I ignored it. Abigail glared.

"You mind your tone, Deborah, or I'll have a word with Reverend Lewis about your disrespect to your elders." She swayed her shoulders as she spoke, her neck getting increasingly longer with each word as she tried to make herself seem taller with age. I suppressed a laugh, but had to pretend to pick up my things to hide my laughing. I stood up after picking up the small jar of salt and looked Abigail in the eye.

"Miss Denning, I was merely trying to take these things to Goody Thompson's home, compliments of my family, so if you don't mind, may we discuss our age differences, or lack thereof, later?" I gave her a small smirk, and she looked as though she would have burned me there if she could. She didn't answer, but instead, turned on one heel with a 'humph,' and walked briskly away. I continued on my way to Goody Thompson's house.

"How sweet of your mother to send these things for me," Goody Thompson beamed. I had collected most, if not all of the twigs from the road, and the jar of jam remained in tact, thankfully. The bacon, which had been wrapped in a sheepskin cloth, stayed clean. I smiled at her as she assessed each thing in the basket, and collected the kindling by the fireplace. I sat in a rocking chair when I heard Goody Thompson gasp. I snapped my head up (as I had then realized my head was lolling from lack of sleep). Goody Thompson was staring at my apron where my arm rested in my lap, and there was a smudge of red on the white cloth. I lifted up my hand, and realized the twinge I had felt when I fell was the twinge of a scrape on my arm. I stood up and explained that I "slipped" on a patch of ice in town and must have cut myself in the process. She sat me back down again and told me to remove my apron so she could wash it. I did as I was told, and sat back in the chair, rocking myself back into a lull. It was unfounded, however, as a short while later Goody Thompson returned with none other than Adrian Compton.

"Deborah," Said Goody Thompson, "This is Adrian Compton, who moved in this morning," she beamed at the boy standing next to her. He gave me a knowing smile. I smiled falsely back.

"Good day, Master Compton, pleasure to meet you," I stood up and curtseyed politely. He grinned at my submission. Goody Thompson turned to him.

"Master Compton, would you be so kind as to wrap her wrist in some damp cloth while I wash her apron? She had a nasty fall on her way here," He smiled.

"Of course, Ma'am," he said. He watched her leave the room, and bid me to sit.

"I would rather stand, if you don't mind," I stated skeptically.

"You are injured, and I have to dress your wounds miss, if you please." He was still pretending not to know me. I smiled.

"She's gone you know," I said. "You can admit to knowing me now."

"I know, I just find this amusing, is all." he gave a short chuckle. I reluctantly sat down, and he knelt down in front of me. He reached over by the fireplace into a bucket, and pulled out a cloth which was soaked in water. He wrung it out and placed the cloth over my wrist. I did not react, although my wrist felt like it had been split open. The water was cold, and I could tell it had been sitting there for a while. Adrian wiped the dried blood from my cuts, looking up at me periodically to see if I was in too much pain. I made no reaction, nor move. "You're a strange one, Miss Vane," he raised his eyebrows after the third application, which felt like I had a million pins stuck in me. I forced a small laugh.

"I understand this, I am not ashamed," I admitted. I didn't like his tone, but perhaps light conversation was harmless. If I made it seem like a joke, like a meaningless folly of an idea, no harm could come to me.

"Your late night strolls, you withstand pain better than other women your age," he looked up at me, finally seeing a reaction on my face; one of bewilderment. He was finally treating me like a peer. "I saw your argument with Miss Denning," he said solemnly. I blushed.

"Y-you did?" I stuttered. While I was proud of my reactions to Abigail, being tossed down on the ground as a result of clumsiness was not exactly a wonderful impression to passers-by.

"Yes, and I was impressed. She bumped into you when I clearly saw her stare straight at you as she walked. You fell but you did not react harshly. You were respectful, even after she was condescending of you," he smiled up at me. "And, you held your own." He reapplied the cloth, and I winced slightly. He noticed, but he did not react. I was finally seeing the kinder side of Adrian Compton.

Goody Thompson walked in, carrying a dishtowel in one hand and my apron in the other. She hung up the apron on the mantle and began wiping her hands dry of water.

"It should be dry soon, you are welcome to stay for tea if you wish," said Goody Thompson. I accepted, eager to see what the others, or at least one other saw in this new stranger.