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Chapter_8 - Bergin Book, The Hideaway

Chapter_8 - Bergin Book, The Hideaway

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Published by Annie Bergin
Though there are legends about ancient magic and mighty heroes, some choose to believe they are real, and others still choose to hunt them. Whether by accident, or by design, Kalreena Jass finds herself on a path she could never imagine, seeking something she doesn't think exists, while fighting to save the life of someone she doesn't know. Who can she trust along the way? And who is the watcher with the chilling warning:
"Be careful who you choose for friends"
Though there are legends about ancient magic and mighty heroes, some choose to believe they are real, and others still choose to hunt them. Whether by accident, or by design, Kalreena Jass finds herself on a path she could never imagine, seeking something she doesn't think exists, while fighting to save the life of someone she doesn't know. Who can she trust along the way? And who is the watcher with the chilling warning:
"Be careful who you choose for friends"

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Published by: Annie Bergin on Jul 06, 2010
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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10/08/2012

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Bergin Book 
By Annie Bergin Page 34
Chapter Eight
The first glows of sunrise eased up through the darkness, spreading their tired armsacross the horizon to push away the nighttime with a warm, stretching yawn. The mountainsparkled in a halo of first light, glistening in majestic beauty as the sunbeams slid lovingly overthe sleeping rocks and stirred the world from its restful slumber. A cool wind prickled my skin,carrying with it the scent of floral blossoms from the tree behind me, yet nothing else seemed tobe stirring in the gardens of the Hideaway.Wrapped in a thick blanket that was snug around my shoulders, I closed my eyes to thedawning of this new day, too troubled to sleep, yet too worn down to fight the thoughts thattumbled helplessly through my mind. It had been an exhausting night that had drained me to thevery core of my soul. Yet amidst all that had happened, and with the ceaseless questions thatcontinued to spin within my head, it was no surprise to find sleep was beyond me; no matter howlong I had lain upon my bed willing the dreams to come, even they were avoiding me.I took another sip of the hot tea and let its burning liquid torment my senses. While mylips winced at the searing heat, my taste buds tingled as the honey inside danced upon mytongue. Only for a moment did I smile at the flavor of such comforting sweetness, yet when Istared at the hot, heavy mug keeping my fingers from going numb in the early morning, my mindwandered again and an overwhelming sadness consumed my heart. No matter how I tried to hideit, things were no longer the same.As my thoughts began to slide once more into the unhappy torment of my bewildermentat the many strange things consuming my life, I was stopped in my tracks by a shiver that ranacross my skin. Behind me a door clicked closed, and I turned in surprise to find that I was nolonger alone.
“Sorry,”
Mhena said quietly, noting the startled look I tried to hide. Her black hair wasdisheveled and appeared as though she'd tied it back with haste, and she, too, had a blanketwrapped around her.
“I didn't think anyone else was awake,” I said, taking anothe
r sip of my tea to distractmyself from the sudden burst of irritation which snapped through my thoughts. I said nothingelse as I watched my friend pull up a chair beside me and settle into the seat, careful to tuck theblanket around her nightgown; she folded her legs underneath her body and smoothed theblanket over her bare feet. My gaze fell to the mug in my hands, and I could feel the steam brushmy face as I breathed in the green tea and honey. I pursed my lips, but remained silent.My friend smoothed the blanket flatter around her frame, and nestled deeper into thewide wicker chair. She looked out towards the mountains and saw, much as I had done, the sunthat was warming the rocks and spreading its golden light across the horizon. We were still inrelative dimness, and the shadows that eased themselves around us were cold to the touch. Myeyes followed my friend's as she looked around the gardens of the Hideaway, perhaps looking asI had done to see if we were as alone as she imagined. And as her eyes drew back to where wewere seated, I saw a flash of recognition cross her face when she spotted a bag tucked under myseat, the same bag I was given by the ghost, and the same bag we had shopped for together onlya summer before.
”Oh,” was all she sa
id, her voice a mix of startled surprise and dread. I glanced down atthe bag I could see only partly sticking out under my seat but chose not to respond; I didn't feel Ihad the words to explain, so quietly sipped my tea, trying to read her reaction and gauge fromthere what to do next.
 
Bergin Book 
By Annie Bergin Page 35
”Where did you get it?” she asked, looking first at me, then back to the dark colored
satchel with the familiar red silk knot-work stitched upon the front. There was an edge in hervoice I couldn't place and I felt a moment's concern slide through me. I looked at her face, seeingthe dark lavender eyes betray so many of her thoughts and conflicts, then pulled my gaze awayfrom her to stare once more at the mug in my hands.
“You wouldn't believe me if I told you,” I said, t
aking another sip of tea.A long silence passed between us. The leaves in the tree behind us swished and swayedin the cool morning air; the sound only further served to remind me of the strangeness thatseemed nestled upon me. I looked up at the heavens, still sparkling with stars that were growingmore faint as the lazy morning sun began its journey across the sky. There was no lunar eclipsethis time, and no stranger to watch over me as I journeyed through forgotten memories. Yet Icould feel the wind prickling my skin as though in reminder of the ghostly girl in the woods, andthe face in the water's reflection. I shuddered, then tried to cover it by quickly placing the mugupon the wrought-iron table to the left of me; the
chink 
of the ceramic hitting the glass made mewince.Taking a deep breath, in part to steady the knot that formed suddenly in my stomach, Ireached under my chair and drew Mhena's satchel up onto my lap. The bag was cool to thetouch, having been wrapped in shadows since I'd hidden it there, what seemed like hours ago. Itwas bulky though not really heavy, and my curiosity sparked even more when I heard my friendgive a quick, almost inaudible gasp.
“Right then,” I said, mostly for my own reassurance. Carefully I unfastened the leat
herstrap, only fleetingly realizing my scraped hand as I did so. Pausing for a moment, I flexed myfingers and stared at my palm where the angry red scrape had been and where the bandage hadbeen wrapped to help it heal; there was nothing to be seen, no scar, no scratches and no scrape. Iclosed my hand again, then took the bag's strap and tugged it free, pulling the satchel open. Istared for a long time at the contents within.There were multiple sheets of parchment inside, all neatly stacked together so that theedges were almost in line with each other. There were also letters, bundles of envelopes tiedtogether with cord that felt waxy to the touch. I probed some more and eventually pulled out themost curious and perplexing of the items, not quite knowing what to think, yet strangelyfascinated nonetheless.
“Interesting,” I mused, though in truth it was more odd and unusual than it was
interesting. Setting the satchel aside, I stared long and hard at the doll, taking in her soft, fabricfeatures and her hand-made clothes. She was a child's toy, one that was weaved from cloth thatwas as soft as it was pale, and her hair was made from dark wool that had been twisted andcurled, then tied into pigtails with red ribbon. Her clothes were a red dress beneath a smock of white with embroidered flowers, all tiny and detailed but otherwise nondescript. I continued tostare, not quite knowing what to say. All the while I was aware that Mhena was holding herbreath, her eyes never leaving the doll in my hands.
“I don't get it,” I said, after what seemed like an age. Mhena didn't move. Her stillness
made the knot in my stomach tighten just a little bit more, and I looked from the doll to my
friend, and back to the doll again. “Okay,” I said, “you're going to have
to tell me because I don't
think I understand. What's with the doll?”
 She moved very slowly, stirring only to exhale the breath that had held her so tightly inplace. Then she eased a curl of dark hair from her face and looked from the doll to the bag, andthen to me. My skin prickled in a fear without words.
 
Bergin Book 
By Annie Bergin Page 36
“Remember when I went to visit my aunt?” she began, her voice a whisper that was
almost as hushed as the breeze. I nodded, and I could feel my own breath holding tight in mythroat and my skin shiver in dread at the fear my friend seemed to be fighting.
“That was quite a while ago,” I answered, hearing my voice tremble as I spoke. I looked
again at the doll, not quite knowing what to think as I took in the fabric face and the dark eyesthat seemed to be smiling back at me. There was nothing creepy that I could see in her hand-made face, and no sinisterness I could find stitched into the flower-filled smock or the dressbeneath. I waited. Again a shudder rippled across my skin.
“Well,” my friend said,
 
looking once more at the bag and the letters within, “someonemade this for when I left.”
 
“Why?' I asked, clearly not getting it.
 
“For company,” came the reply.
 
“You need a
doll
to hang out with while you're at your aunt's?”
 
“Not me,” Mhena answered, her voice barely above a whisper. “They made it for 
 you
.”
 
“They–?” I stopped. “What did you say?”
 Mhena leaned forward in her chair and carefully took the doll from my stunned grasp, hereyes a sad sort of calm that floored me almost as much as her words. I continued to stare as shethen took the satchel and removed some of the parchments with a familiarity and a tendernessthat told me she had done so many, many times before. With gentle fingers she smoothed someof the creases aside, careful not to smudge the contents that I still couldn't see, and then sheextracted one of the sheets and handed it to me. I was almost too shocked to take it, until finallycuriosity won out and I accepted the parchment from my friend.It was a heavy art paper, smooth to the touch and almost oatmeal in color, and upon itssurface was an exquisite sketch, a charcoal artwork with fine detail and careful blended strokes.My mind tried to formulate a thought as I stared at the piece, absorbing every detail of itsfeatures, but no thoughts would come. Instead I felt a strange, cold sense of fear that slid quietlythrough my soul and nestled in the very depths of my being.
“We didn't want to tell you,” Mhena told me, regret heavy in her tone. I was only partly
listening, trying hard to stay in the present while the image before me seemed to draw me back toanother day and time, a moment of my life that someone had somehow captured on paper andreturned to me for reasons only they seemed to know.
“But I don't even remember this–”
 I became lost in the image, seeing myself through the eyes of another, sitting on a tallstool by the bar of the Hideaway, with ringlets and curls that spilled down my shoulders, butwith my face lost in a moment of thoughtful sadness that was so real I could almost feel it again.There were others in the picture, partly drawn outlines or suggested in their presence by a fewcarefully drawn strokes of the hand, adding to the bustle and activity that summed up the tavernon a typical day. But it was that face, that one single moment of 
me
which someone hadwitnessed, then sketched so tenderly to capture forever; did they really see my life as soheartbreakingly lonesome?
“How many other people know about this?” I asked, hearing a sharpness in my voice that
 
even I didn't expect. “You said 'we',” I reminded her. “So who else knows?” I knew by her face I
wasn't going to like the answer.
“We were only doing what we thought was best.”
 
“Wait,” I said, suddenly having a horrifying thought. “Does this have
anything to do with
what happened at the park?”
 

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