Chapter 1 - Childhood
“Aura age 8”
I’m hiding behind the apple tree, watching the stranger.
He rides a big horse, but why is he on our land?
A basket of crab apples rests at my feet. Mama is baking apple cake today, and I’ve come to pick the apples like I usually do. The stranger gets down from his horse.
But, wait, he has a sword!
My tummy feels uncertain.
What is he doing here, and why does he have a sword?
He’s tall but not like a man, more like my older brother, Caleb. The man-boy walks his horse to the stream, my family’s stream. It’s hot today, and the horse looks sweaty. The stranger is probably riding it too hard. I love horses, and I’m going to ride like the wind one day. The man-boy with dark hair stands beside the horse, stroking it as it drinks.
Uh-oh! The man-boy turns and looks right at the tree I hide behind.
“Who’s there? I know someone is there; I can sense it!” He rests his hand over the sword.
Is he magic? I’ve been quiet as a mouse!
I know if I run, he’ll chase me with the horse, and I won’t stand a chance. Taking a deep breath, I lift the basket of apples to show how strong I am, then step out from behind the tree.
“This is private land!” I bellow, trying to sound bigger than I am.
“You’re no bigger than a sparrow,” he laughs, taking his hand away from the sword, “a little bird, and no land is private from me. Spying is unbecoming. I am the master of the universe. All the land belongs to me in one way or another.”
“No, this is my land!” I laugh, and he scowls. “You speak big words for a boy,” I call back, feeling secure behind the basket of apples I use as a shield.
The man-boy takes a step toward me. I drop the basket and pick up a handful of crab apples. I throw one at him, and he jumps out of its way. His laugh is mocking, “Girls aren’t supposed to throw things. It’s unbecoming.”
“Is that your favorite word, unbecoming?” I call out and throw another apple. It just misses him.
“You should think better than to mock someone like me,” he laughs, “and your girlish aim is terrible!”
"Oh yeah!" I throw two in a row, and they hit him. The first gets his arm, and I laugh as he tries to shake the pain away. The second one smashes into his side. I laugh louder, watching him jump around like a grasshopper. Then, when the man-boy turns around to protect himself, I throw another crab apple that strikes the back of his leg.
“Fuck, that hurts!” he bellows.
“Good,” I yell as I step back to put more distance between us. “Girls are just as good as boys!”
Who is this mean man-boy who swears?
“You think so, huh?”
I nod with a hand on my hip. He calls out, “Okay, let’s see how well you can throw. Try again, girl sparrow!”
The man-boy takes a stance, legs spread, arms out like he’s going to pounce. Without hesitation, I pick up four more apples and whip all of them in a row at him. He jumps to avoid three, but one hits the front of his thigh.
“Swearing is unbecoming!” I yell to him.
He laughs. “Okay, not bad, little girl. Are you up for a throwing contest?” He looks at the stream.
I puff out my chest and stick out my chin. “How do I know you won’t use that sword on me?”
The man-boy pulls out a gleaming sword. Wow! I’ve never seen one before. Papa and Caleb carry daggers. He sticks the pointed end into the ground and takes a few steps closer to the stream.
“Okay?” He challenges with a stupid grin on his face.
Before I take a step toward him, I call, “If I scream, my Papa and big brother will come. So don’t try anything!”
“It’s my duty to protect people,” his grin fades, and he bows his head. He doesn’t look so threatening now.
I come up on the other side of his horse. It keeps us apart and is another shield, I think. I hold the basket in front of me. If he tries anything, I will throw it at his head.
“So what now?” I ask.
“I need some of your apples. Let’s see how far we can throw them across the stream. I don’t want to scare you, so how do you want me to get the apples from you?”
The rushing sound of water over the rocks is loud when I bend and roll four crab apples under his mighty horse. It’s a boy horse.
“Your horse is beautiful. What’s his name?”
“Thunder! He runs like lightning. He’s a good horse.”
“Yes, he is,” I stroke Thunder, then ask, “Okay, who goes first?”
“You, of course.” He says with some joy in his voice this time.
Taking the most giant breath I can, I pull my right arm back, elbow slightly bent, and with as much force as I can muster, I throw the apple across the stream. It propels a distance and then hits the water bouncing off a rock.
“Not bad, little girl,” he says. “My turn.”
He throws all four one after the other in a row. Straight lines like arrows, I imagine. All of them reach the bank on the other side.
“Do you want me to show you how I did that?” He asks.
“Okay.” I want to be able to do that. Caleb won’t believe it!
“Am I coming to your side of Thunder, or are you coming to my side?” Man-boy asks.
“You come here.”
The man-boy comes around Thunder and stands beside me. He smiles, and I smile back. My shoulders relax. “Okay, watch how I stand.”
The man-boy turns sideways, “It’s not just your arm. Use your body too. It will put more force behind the throw.”
I watch his back leg come forward at the same time his arm throws the crab apple. Again it reaches the bank on the other side with ease.
“Now, you try it.” He hands me an apple.
I stand as he did, take a deep breath and pull my arm back. Then, like him, I use my body and step forward as I throw. The apple doesn’t hit the bank but goes much farther than the one I had thrown before.
“Wow!” I jump up and down. “Did you see that?”
“Yes, good. You learn quickly. Throw a few more. I bet you’ll reach the bank this time.” He sounds excited now too.
Pushing my hair behind my ears, I throw six more, and three make it to the bank. I’m jumping again and laughing. He’s laughing too.
“See, anything is possible if you keep trying,” he says.
I smile up at him. His blue eyes smile too. “You should probably go. Your parents will think you’ve gotten lost.”
I offer him an apple. “One more throw at the same time?”
He nods and stands closer to me. We take the same stance and throw the apples. Both make it to the bank.
“You’re an expert now,” he says.
“I guess so. My brother Caleb won’t believe it until I show him.” I pick two apples from the basket. “Do you want one to eat?”
He nods. I bend to wash them in the stream, and the man-boy takes one of my hands. I look up at him, wondering why.
“I don’t want you getting washed away. The rains have been heavy, and the rushing water will sweep someone your size away in no time.”
I nod and use my free hand to rinse the apples in the stream. Then, standing, I shake off the water and hand him one.
He bites into it, making a crunch sound. “Not sweet, a bit tart. I’ve never had a crab apple like this directly from the tree. Not bad.”
As he finishes, he throws the core across the stream, and it lands on the bank.
“Good throw!” I clap my hands, and this makes him smile again. He lifts the basket and hands it to me, then strokes Thunder. I watch him pick up his sword and put it back in the holster on his hip. He really is tall, taller than Caleb. He mounts his horse.
“Which way is home for you, sparrow?”
I point behind me. “Okay, go home. I’ll watch from here.”
“Thanks, stranger!” I call back as I walk away.
“Bye, little bird,” he says.
Mature Audience / Explicit Sensual Scenes