Chapter 1: Tressa
Despite the fact that our little village had only dirt paths and was located next to a river, I found that I have always enjoyed the rain. But today, it was getting increasingly more difficult for me to keep a smile plastered to my face. The rain was pattering hard on the top of my little shack, seeping through the cracks and peltering my vegetables. It would have been a good business day had the weather turned out. Not to mention that whenever it rains in Highrose, the humidity is unbearable and my already messy hair becomes a bit of a rat’s nest.
Not that I should be complaining. After all, I could have the poor, beaten shack of Mr. Hemly across the square. Even from this distance, I could tell that he was soaked through to his breeches.
My shack was the only one in the market selling vegetables today. Everyone else, not including Mr. Hemly, stayed home for obvious reasons. I couldn’t afford to do that and so there I was, wet and annoyed, and not making any money. Every family in Highrose was poor and had to work extremely hard to make any sort of income. Unfortunately, my father was ill and my sister was only nine, so that left me to care for them. Although Clementine has always tried to help out as much as possible, there isn’t much for a nine year old to do.
My job was simple. Our family owned a vegetable garden, one that my father started before Clem was even born. When I was little, he would teach me everything I needed to know about gardening so that if he ever became too old to do it himself, I could take over. About a week ago, my father got sick. Really sick. And even though I know he’s dying, he continues to tell me not to worry and to take care of Clementine.
I’m trying. I really am but it’s hard to take care of her, father, myself, and the vegetable garden. Not to mention I had to rebuild this stupid shack to the best of my abilities. So now I’m standing here in the rain, trying to keep dry and sell vegetables. It hasn’t been working so good.
I glanced up, startled. I hadn’t noticed the person standing in front of my shack, wearing a black traveling cloak with the hood pulled over his head. His broad shoulders were hunched against the rain and I wondered how long he had been standing there.
“Hello. A bit wet today isn’t it?” I smiled as brightly as possible. I couldn’t make out the details of his face but I assumed he was around my age, probably a year older.
He didn’t smile back or show any sign that he had heard me. Instead, he pulled down his hood and I stared.
I was right about him being around my age but he was so much better looking than any man I had ever laid eyes on. His black hair was unruly and fell into his eyes, as blue as sapphire. He had some stubble on his chin and jaw and raindrops were falling down his high cheekbones. He was staring curiously at me and I self-consciously ran my fingers through my messy hair.
“Um…” I squeaked and cleared my throat. “W-would you like some vegetables sir? We-I have um lots to choose from.” I offered lamely. He continued staring at me for a few moments before glancing at the vegetables. Finally, he picked up a potato and examined it. I would have thought that it was amusing had I not been so unreasonably nervous. “Is that all you’d like?”
Without answering, he put the potato back and his eyes found mine again. “Do you live here?”
Confused, I nodded. “I mean I live in Highrose. I don’t live in this shack! I live in a house, near the river…” I could feel my cheeks burn from hearing myself stammer. It’s times like these that I wish I was better at talking to boys.
“Tressa!” A high pitched voice called out before he could respond and I turned to see my best friend, Lucille, and my little sister, Clementine, running towards me. They both were giggling when they got to the shack but they stopped when they noticed the man I was with. Lucille, who was seventeen and only two years younger than me, was openly admiring the man before her but the man, I noticed, was looking at Clementine. It was the kind of look that made my skin crawl and my initial attraction to this man evaporated. I was about to say something when his eyes met mine for a few seconds, as if he knew exactly what I was thinking. He smirked and wordlessly walked out into the rain.
Lucille was still staring as she watched him leave and when he was gone, she turned to me and squealed like a school girl. “Who was that?”
“I don’t know. A man?” I said dryly. I watched him until I couldn’t see him anymore. A sudden chill went down my spine and it wasn’t because of the rain. I turned to Clementine and held an arm out to her. “Clem, get out of the rain.”
“That man was so attractive! What was his name?”
I glanced at Lucille and shook my head, amused. Only she would be more concerned about an attractive man than my sister catching a cold. “I don’t know. He didn’t say much. Now, what are you two doing here?”
“We came to see you.” Clementine piped up. “We figured you were bored, standing here in the rain.”
“Clearly we were wrong.” Lucille grinned at me and I rolled my eyes at her.
“Well, as you can probably tell, I haven’t made any money and he was the only customer I’ve had all day.” I scowled at the rainy square in front of my shack. Mr. Hemly placed his ‘CLOSED’ sign on his booth and left. I was now the only person crazy enough to be selling vegetables in the pouring rain.
I felt Clementine pull at my sleeve. “Come on, Tress. Let’s go home and dry off. We’ll make father a nice dinner and we’ll spend the rest of the night playing cards. You can come back tomorrow.”
I smiled down at her. No matter what mood I was in, she always had a way of making me feel better. “You’re right, Clem. Let’s go home.”