Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Teaser Tuesday: Harsh Words

Hello, all! Some of you may remember some snippets I posted about a year ago from a manuscript entitled "The Long Road Home," which was set during the potato famine. My senior project this semester is revising and continuing that original project, and thus far it's going really well!

Here's a scene that wasn't included in the original version of the first few chapters. Maire, the protagonist, has just had a rather unorthodox proposition, and her younger sister questions her about it. Enjoy!

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“Maire?”

Maire jerked round, pulling her hand free of the strange man’s grip, to find her sister standing in the road gaping at her. 

“How long have you been standing there?” she asked.

“Where did that man go?” Brigid countered, pointing.

Maire turned round again, expecting to find the man looking at her with his sly smile and his dark, dangerous eyes laughing at her a bit, challenging her to figure out what to do next, but where he had stood, there was nothing. He was simply gone, with no sign of him on the road in either direction or in the fields beyond. He had vanished, a puff of smoke on the breeze, leaving nothing but his strange mix of promises and threats.

“Who was he, Maire?” Brigid asked. “How did he vanish so quickly?” 

“What man?” Maire said, in a voice she knew was shaking far too much to be convincing, but she was too busy scanning the roads for any sign of him. How was it possible that he was simply gone, in the space of only an instant? People could not disappear so quickly. People could not become invisible. 

Had she somehow imagined the whole conversation? Had she finally gone mad, after everything, after starving, after Michael, after Cunningham’s threats, had she finally lost her mind and invented a man and a job? 

But she knew she hadn’t imagined it. That man had been real, just as the sick, sinking feeling in her throat was real, just as the inexplicable pull she felt towards his promise was real. 

Something was wrong. Something was very, very wrong, but Maire was reeling too much to put the pieces together. 

“What did he want from you?”

Maire blinked, remembering that her sister was standing there gawking at her, and she shook her head to clear it. Brigid still held her fishing pole in one hand, but now, at the end of the line there were two little fish, hardly thicker than Brigid’s skeletal wrist but nearly as long as her forearm. And there were scratches on her cheek. 

“What happened to you?” she asked, stepping forward to examine the marks. “Did you fight someone for those? Mum will skin me alive if she thinks I’ve started you fighting, did you think of that?”

“I didn’t fight for them, I caught them, and then I ran away before anyone could get them from me,” Brigid snapped. “Who was that-”

“But someone still took a swipe at you, didn’t he?” 

“Shut it!” Brigid shouted, stamping her foot. Maire started; it was not like her sister to shout at her. “Maire, who was that man?”

Maire almost let the words “I don’t know,” slip past her lips, but she stopped herself. For one thing, he’d said she should tell anyone, hadn’t he? It was to be a secret. She’d agreed on that. But she could not admit her uncertainty to Brigid, any more than she could tell her the truth of that encounter. And yet she knew nothing about him. She did not know where he came from or where he would take her or why. 

She was to accept work from this man and she hadn’t even thought to ask his name.

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