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In Place of my Heart

By PENGUINGIRL1210 All Rights Reserved ©

Children / Drama

Chapter 1

FIRST CHAPTER {The Golden Scissors} PART 1

There was another one there again. In the woods, there is a single clearing of lush grass shaded by the sturdy oak trees and protected richly by the warm sun that streaks through the clouds, dazzling the the canvas of leaves. This is my secret spot away from the house. I come here, ritually, knowing that a new lost object will show itself when given a moment’s time. Now, it’s a pair of golden scissors. Delicate and pristine, they look as though they were once owned by royalty. The filigree carving on the handles intrigues me. I wonder who once owned these? I suppose they’ll tell me soon.

Coming up from my knees, I stand in the soft verdure, preparing to leave the carefully-hidden spot aside. It’s magical almost. The trail through the wood is crushed stone, the ground cover blanketing all the trees’ roots is ivy or other small shrubs and plants, but here is gentle, almost cushiony grass—waiting for anyone with a wary heart to come and rest.

Clutching the gilded memento in my unworthy hands, I vow to the patch of earth that I will soon return. And the sunlight dims once again, receding to the far reaches of the sky.

At the path to home, I push away all my lingering thoughts. These objects’ possibilities always weigh heavily on my mind and, as they tend to do, burden my heart. But I shouldn’t let them distract me from my work. But I can’t help it that my thoughts always wander to their stories and their ideas, for I know in my heart of hearts that they are telling me the secret to life. Whatever the secret to life may be—that realm of possibility and meaning I’ve been searching for my entire life. It could be as close as the chilling metal’s sensation on my hand to as far as the night is from the day. But I know I’m getting closer with each object I find. It’s only a matter of time.

The path home is strewn with sticks and twigs from the trees as the trees sway on either side of me. The edges of the leaves are turning crisp for the sight of autumn, and the ground is still a bit misty from yesterday’s rain. I like the damp smell of the ground after it rains, so it feels nice to have the aroma linger a while in the chilly air. The sun’s warmth makes everything seem bright today, and I left my scarf at home knowing I wouldn’t need it today.

It isn’t long until I reach the house again. No matter how many times I venture into the forest and follow the road to its end, greeted by the relaxing sounds of chickens clucking and occasional bellows from the cows, a quiet sense of unease fills up my stomach. The simple cabin, not unlike all the others around here, looks out at the forest with two windows boarded up by blankets to keep out the cold and a door that squeaks and rattles the house whenever someone enters or leaves. It’s a familiar solitude of wood. But it’s not my home, and no matter how hard I try to convince myself I have to return here every day, I still can’t accept my convincing or relax and be myself here. It just can’t be my actual home.

I must have been gone too long because just as soon as I set foot on the farm grounds, sending dust into the air, Miss comes bursting through the door and barreling straight towards me like a wild boar. I don’t need any excuses or any reasons; they don’t work on her. The authoritative figure of the house, she keeps everyone in a straight line, and no less than a straight line, of her own (decision). We refer to her simply as “Miss” because that is all we have the time to say and, due to its simplicity of respect, that is all we can know her by. With her long, brown hair spun tightly into a bun, she barks out orders and keeps order as far as her kingdom stretches, which is really just this small farmstead. She’s wearing that long, red-patched dress today that makes her look more intimidating.

“Where have you been again?” she demands of me. “Come back and finish your chores!” Snatching up my arm, she drags me away to the house.

In the haste of being snatched away from my thoughts, my grip on the scissors slipped, sending them gliding to the ground. Composing myself, I keep my hands from impulsively reaching toward the precious object as it fades further away from my eyes; instead, I take a deep breath and use this opportunity to my advantage. Yet again.

“I was searching for something I lost, Miss!” I yell out in defense, pulling away from her vice grip on my arm.

“Well, what could you possibly have lost?” she asks, doubting my claim. “And did you have to spend all morning searching?”

My eyes turn and tether to the glimmering scissors, and I channel the magnificent way they glimmer in the light to fuel my pretend surprise. “There!” I shout joyfully. “I found them! There were here on the farm all along. I must not have noticed I dropped them here.”

Miss lets me go, allowing me to reunite with the beloved trinket. Rubbing the back of her head in bewilderment, she advises me, “Well, you really must be more mindful with your things—and not to lose them!”

At last. I shall hide these as soon as I get back in the house. I don’t want to miss what these have to tell me. It could be important. The blades’ shine has been dulled by the dirt from when they fell, so I carefully wipe them on the cloth of my dress, wishing for the object to remain truest to its pure form.

“I haven’t seen those before. Where did you get those things?” Miss inspects, angling her glasses to make sure she’s seeing things right.

“Oh,” I fabricate convincingly, “I found them at a market once. I found them to be useful. No one wanted them.”

“That’s strange,” Miss replies swiftly, shrugging off the issue. “As long as you didn’t steal them. Come on, now. Finish your chores. The others are waiting!”

Once the door slams, and the rattling of the house subsides, I wait a while in quiet before proceeding into the house. With a sigh of relief, I know I’m safe again for today. I can’t let them know about these objects—the stories they tell. Not in a house where I don’t belong.

The home is bustling, as usual: the kitchen bubbles over in preparation for dinner, and the other kids of the house are all off abiding their own chores. Miss goes to air out the quilts and to finish the wash while our other guardian, Matilda, rocks in her favorite chair and reads again to take a rest before dinner. Matilda is much nicer than Miss, more tempered in her slightly older and wiser age. Though she isn’t the kids’ mother, either, she treats us all more sweetly and even interacts kindly with the father on certain occasions when he returns. Her brown hair is graying at the edges, where the strands curl up around her ears like a dress.

It’s warmer inside than it usually is this time of year. The fireplace is going strong, and the soft ember light illuminates the gentle wood and burgundy cloths that decorate the floors and walls. It’s very toasty. On the other rocking chair now is Mary, the oldest, who is waiting for me to take her place to finish the sewing. We have to patch the quilts and make warm clothes for the coming winter; the almanac says it’s going to be a very harsh and cruel winter. Mary’s long, brown hair, softened by blond hue and hazel eyes that capture autumn’s wheat fields, falls in waves as Mary focuses on her intricate work of patching the big quilt. Once I step close enough and my shoes thump on the wood, her eyes dart up at me, and she flashes a big smile, relieved I’m here to take over. Without words, she stands and hands me the quilt, making sure I have good grasp at the thread before she lets go so I don’t lose her place.

“I’m going to start dinner now, Mati!” she calls, heading to the fireplace to fill the big kettle with water.

Closing the small book, Matilda checks the time and calls back, “All right,” as she creaks the rocking chair back and propels herself from the comfortable seat with a pained “oof” directed at her constricted back.

There’s barely any work left to do on the quilt as I examine the red thread’s small path it took around the patch. Mary’s much better at sewing than I am, anyway. She’s almost always wearing that red gingham dress that Miss helped her stitch together, and that always stands as proof that that’s her household job. Her place. With a sigh, I thread the needle, squinting my eyes and trying to summon my patience for the rest of the journey.

My eyes wander to the pocket of my navy dress—the scissors. They haven’t told me anything yet. Sometimes it takes a while for the object to speak to me, but it normally doesn’t take this long. It used to be that by the time my feet hit the front door, I’d have a wonderful tale to recount to my journal and another possession to tuck away for all eternity. Lately, the mysterious trinkets have been taking their time to show me their stories. I’m worried. What if they don’t tell me in time or what if they have nothing to say? There must be something.

As my thoughts return, my eyes focus to the thread again, noting a jumbled mess of tangled knots and loops. My thoughts wandered again. But I can’t help but worry.

The door swings open triumphantly, and the youngest, Sanry, hops into the house with a jubilant shout. “I’m here to bring the water!” she announces, walking up to Mary.

“OK! But be careful because the kettle is heavy. Use the pail this time, all right?” Mary advises Sanry, though the young girl’s confidence knows no bounds.

“I can take it this time! I’m almost 10!” she announces pridefully, taking grip on the kettle and straining with all her might to lift the mighty vessel off the ground.

Mary, shaking her head, offers some help, and the two set off outside. The outdoor air whips through the room, ruffling the quilt, reminding me of the coming cold. I suppose I should help with dinner, too, setting the quilt aside because I’m not very skilled especially when my thoughts are elsewhere.

Matilda fans the fire in preparation for the stew and lifts herself up off the ground yet again to fix up the vegetables. Picking up the peeler, I stand by to assist once the girls return with the kettle. The table piles up with fresh carrots and potatoes for our stew. I don’t look forward to winter when all there are are root vegetables that taste very strange, though I enjoy making stews with everyone and especially enjoy the warmth the broth instills in the cold season. The way the steam escalates and trails away into the ceiling, returning to the sky, entrances me every time.

“Want to peel the potatoes?” Mary questions, waving me back to reality with a potato. I must have been lost in thought again; I need to stop doing that.

I nod, receiving the washed potato in my hand and working on slicing off the peels, which pile on each other on the tabletop for later. We use them to feed the pigs sometimes if we have some. For now, the peels will wait until that date or maybe nourish the ground for winter. As Mary & I peel, Matilda chops the vegetables into little chunks and sets them in the water over the fire. I’ve always found it strange that the vegetables float in the water; it seems like they’d sink rather than float. When the surface of the water is packed with floating vegetables, the scene looks like a lake filled with rowboats and sailboats. It would be fun to go sailing someday, I believe; one of my favorite tales the objects have told me was one story from a patch of a sail. The ship conquered the sea, embarking on a long journey along clear waters under clear skies. Unfortunately, the story didn’t end very well, but I enjoyed the liberating experience I felt while sailing on the ship, catching blue as far as the eye could see. We take land so much for granted here. I wonder what it would be like to cook a stew on the sea?

A sudden, sharp sensation pricks my nerves and runs my entire face dry. No. I didn’t. My knees give way, sending me sliding to the ground.

“Tabbitha!” Mary yells out, dropping to her knees beside me. “Are you all right?” she asks calmly, cradling her hands around my quivering right hand.

My body refuses to react to anything other than with fear and desire for isolation, but Mary manages to discover the cause of my panic despite my pulling away.

“Oh, it’s a little cut, I see,” Mary observes, reaching for Matilda to bring a towel. “It’ll be fine, Tabby. Just relax.”

A towel is wrapped around my hand and tightly wrung around my index finger until the pressure halts the pain slightly. My breathing slows to a steadier panic, but my head still feels light like my inner self could just float away at any second. I can’t feel my arms; I think I overdid it this time.

“Just relax. This towel will help,” Mary assures, holding on to my hand in consolation.

I let out a giant breath, one that rings through me like a nourishing chime of a bell. I’ll be all right. I don’t know why panic cripples me whenever I feel pain. I hate being hurt. It reminds me how fragile I am.

“There! All better now,” Mary declares after a moment and releases the towel completely. “Here. I’ll help you up.”

Humbly, I hide my right hand behind my back and reach for her with my left. Once off the ground, I feel a bit more relaxed. Stronger as I’ve encountered pain and surmounted it. I just hope it doesn’t happen again.

“Here,” Mary voices while handing me the peeler she was using, “use this peeler. It’s much less temperamental than the one you were using. Even I can’t get that one to work.”

I nod once again, taking the tool in hand while a released breath disguises itself as a sigh of dreadful worry. I’ll just be more careful. Maybe I’ll peel the carrots instead.

Evening brings the refrain of the sound of chopping as the wood that will fuel our warmth is split and portioned for the days to come. Though I’m wary of using the axe, it hasn’t hurt me yet, so I’d like to help the boys someday to chop the firewood. I don’t think Miss would want me to join them, though. Now it’s just Tuck outside because Hans is out working with the father again. Tuck, though younger than both Mary and me, can be responsible at times, and I believe he gets that work effort from Hans. He, like Sanry’s flaxen hair and Mary’s golden highlights, has lighter hair that reflects the unity between them all. Piling the logs in his arms, he finishes a long afternoon’s work by stacking the logs against the house and covering them with the black tarp to make sure they don’t get soaked in the rain. The excess logs take refuge in the house to assist us or to provide us much needed warmth now that the cold season draws ever nearer.

This is the time the house feels the warmest. All the residents of the home, family or not, are present around the time dinner is about to be served. Milk and some cream from the cows flavors the stew, making it thick and very aromatic. It’s almost time to join together at the long table. Though I don’t feel like a part of the family or household most of the time, I feel an intrinsic sense of belonging when at the table with everyone enjoying a nice meal before bed.

As I watch the stew bubble and turn a buttery color, Sanry hops up behind me, holding her bowl on her head and handing me one, too. Though she insists she’s almost 10, her face and thoughts are still so full of youth, and her forehead barely comes up to my shoulders. She looks up to me as she looks up to Mary and to Tuck, but I wish she wouldn’t. I don’t have much wisdom or strength to provide.

“Dinner is amazing!” Sanry declares. “All our hard work comes together into one! I got the water for the stew, you and Mary and Matilda took care of the vegetables, Tuck got the wood, and Miss got the meat from storage! If one of us weren’t here, then there would be no stew!”

The things she says sometimes seem silly to me, but now I begin to understand what she’s really saying. It’s true, isn’t it? We all have a part to play that shines in the work we do together. Maybe I’m the one that should be looking up to Sanry. I never realized just what those golden eyes notice.

“Dinner is ready! Bring your bowls!” Matilda announces as she finishes stirring the stew.

We all line up to receive our share, and the fire is put out to stop the stew from cooking so we can save the remnants for tomorrow’s lunch. The stew, with steam rising from the surface just like I remember, is the start of something different. Another season. Another year upon us. I wonder if the golden scissors know what lies ahead for us, too.

All in our seats at the table, there are only two chairs left empty—the one opposite Miss at the end of the table and the one to the right of it. This is how our family nights usually are, though. Matilda reaches out her arms, and we all join hands as usual for the dinner prayer. As I close my eyes and the words float across my ears, I wonder if I can add a thought or two in my head about the scissors. But then I wonder if it will even be heard. Still, quietly, I request in my heart, “Please let me hear what the scissors have to say.”

With the stars twinkling in the sky above, the distant glimmers shimmer in the golden sheen of the scissor’s blades. But no matter how much I concentrate, no matter how much my mind wanders, the tale it holds waits forever beyond my comprehension, and I can’t reach any further. What if it’s important? What if I need to hear it now?

Ever since I first came here, all those misty years ago, my purpose has been to discover these lost objects in the forest’s clearing and to hear their grand tales of times and souls forgotten. I know they must mean something. Ever since the first trinket, a beautiful silver key, first spoke to me. Its tale was about a wonderful white plantation home with adjacent farm plains stretching into the sunset. The children there played games of imagination to deter their boredom when they finished their few daily chores. The key was to a far-removed closet hidden on the third floor of the magnificent home. The children insisted that room made dreams come true.

The message was so strong; the feelings and sentiments so vivid. I was there living among them, and I recall the entire scene as though it were thread into my own fabric of life. There was another object the next day, a spool of red thread, and another each time the previous’ story was recount to me. I knew there was a reason these objects were showing themselves to me. And it can’t stop now.

“Children, all of you come here now!”

Suddenly, Miss’ voice sends a chill through the calm night air and wakes our small house from its slumber. She didn’t sound pleased—much like an angry bear. What have we done?

With a feeble sigh, I set the scissors aside and join the others, shimmying from their seats and blankets in our shared room, to heed the call in the living room. We take our time descending the ladder; I remain last in the room, as usual, though I wish I could stay here and avoid the punishment. I can’t. I need to carry the burden, too.

Miss stands before us all with eyes glinting like sharpened steel at the forge as her hands rest on her hips, displaying how disappointed and unhappy she is with us without even sharing a single word. I hold my breath, hoping that my silence will turn me invisible.

“As you know, there isn’t much feed for the chickens left. Pa will be coming back soon with the food, but for now, we need to make sure we’re not over-feeding them! And whose job was it to take care of the chickens today?” she declares, looking us over.

All of us kids, without intention, turn our eyes slightly to Sanry, for it was her chore today.

“I’m sorry!” Sanry bursts out, knowing she was caught before she even realized. “I saw some birdies outside earlier that were really hungry! I shared just a tiny bit with them!”

“Our chickens need that food more,” Miss scolds. “They’re our livelihood, do I need to remind you!”

“I know!” Sanry yells back, her face turning red from holding back a fit. Though she’s summoning her words in attempt to be mature and to rationalize, the whiny tone she emphasizes makes her seem like she’s complaining immaturely, “But the birds looked sick, and I couldn’t just do nothing! I thought I would try to help them!”

Tired of her complains, Miss steps forward two steps, shaking the floor to its core. With a decisive swipe, she slaps Sanry’s face, quitting her words. “That is enough. Return to your room.”

That’s all it took. Tears flow from Sanry’s young face, spilling salty water all over her nightgown. She lets out a pained yelp and shields her eyes. “It wasn’t my fault!” she screams out, turning back and flailing up the ladder, most likely to return to her corner of the room and to bundle herself up in her blankets like a caterpillar in a cocoon.

“Don’t make a fit!” Miss yells out to her as she goes. With a sigh, she brushes Sanry’s behavior aside and motions for all of us to go as though she’s dusting us away with her hand.

Mary gives chase to Sanry almost immediately to comfort her, and Tuck lets out a huff, muttering to himself that it’s hardly a big deal and that there’s plenty of feed left.

I’m the last in the room—again. As usual. Sanry is cocooned as I thought she would be, and Mary is attempting consolation through the thick wrap of covers and blankets. Tuck, tired of rooming with us, shuts himself up in the farthest corner on the floor.

I feel so useless. Sanry’s shuddering tears make me cry, as well, as the pain pries itself from my cold heart at last. Flopping on the bed, I conceal my strain and take the gilded scissors once again into my feeble hands. With my heart of hearts, I whisper feebly and painfully into the pillow as the moon hovers through the window and until my thoughts fade to rest.

“Please, please. I beg you. Tell me the story because I’m listening.”

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