by Tracy M. Kubiayk – Read time: 5 min.
Billie counted five moons hovering in the bright lavender sky. Soft grass tickled her skin while a light breeze swept across the warm ground. The air smelled like roses. Along with the flowery scent came a strange sensation, a feeling of confusion and wonder.
Something is different. What is this place? I’m lost.
Hooves trod in the distance, Billie could hear the horse gallop somewhere nearby. She sat up.
Why was I lying on the ground? What the heck? What am I wearing?
She touched the soft material of the simple blue dress, then stood up to get a better look at it. Sleeveless with thin straps, like a drape it fell below her knee. Tied around her waist was a white sash belt. Over the square neckline and hung around her neck was an old fashioned key on a long gold chain.
She studied the key. It was three inches long with intricate designs etched throughout, and it was warm in her hand. Made of heavy copper-like metal, probably bronze, it had two teeth for the key hole of whatever it was meant to unlock. It began to radiate a golden glow.
“What on earth?” she said, releasing it. The glow faded. It didn’t burn, but it had startled her.
The horse was getting closer, its gallop sounding faster. She looked around, a bit frightened.
Dazzling green trees with a shimmering white, moss-like substance hanging from the limbs grew around the land that sprouted the most colorful array of some of the strangest flowers she’d ever seen. She was standing in the middle of a clearing surrounded by five tall stone pillars. They reminded her of Stonehenge as she saw it in a library travel book about Europe, but she was pretty sure that wherever she was, it wasn’t London; and it wasn’t Wild Rose, Wisconsin either.
A dirt path off the clearing widened into a narrow road that curved into the mysterious forest. Because it was the only path around, Billie figured the horse must be coming directly toward her. She moved out of the center and toward one of the white stones. The grass beneath her bare feet was so soft it felt like a bear skin rug.
Where am I? she wondered again.
The rock felt warm and let off a faint vibration. She hid behind it as the horse approached. The hoof beats slowed to a stop.
“Helena. Helena are you here?” a woman’s voice called. “The feast is beginning, Helena, you don’t want to miss all the fun now do you? Helena?”
The woman did not sound threatening at all, which eased Billie’s worries.
Curious, she took a chance and peeked around the stone. A woman of stunning beauty sat straight and regal upon a brilliant black mare. She had short brown hair and wore a headband made of twigs and flowers. Billie wondered why they both wore the same garb, the blue dress with white sash.
As the woman scanned the forest she noticed Billie peeking out from behind the stone. “Come out from there,” she said in a neutral tone.
Billie moved away from her cover, slowly approaching the woman on horseback.
“You look like Helena with those long blond curls. And you have her eyes, but you’re not her. Who are you, child?”
“My name is Billie.”
The woman noticed the key around Billie’s neck. She looked at her closely; her eyes lit up in understanding. “Oh,” she said, “you’re an Initiate. You should keep that key secured beneath your dress. You don’t want to loose it, do you?”
Billie tucked the key into her dress, it felt warm against her skin. She didn’t know what to say to this woman. On closer inspection she noticed the petite lady looked very small, mounted on the large horse. Her ears were shaped different, with small points at the tips.
“She has a headdress like mine, but with pink flowers, and well, she looks like you.”
“Who?” asked Billie.
“Helena,” she answered. “Have you seen her?”
“Ma’am? You call me? You are new here. My name is Eden. You look quite young. How did you cross over? Where did you get that key?”
“I don’t know, ma’am, Eden.”
“You don’t know!” She dismounted the mare.
Billie took a couple steps back as Eden entered the clearing within the stones.
“This circle is charged,” said Eden. “Wait a minute. You don’t know how you got here or how you got that key, and you’re so young. I think I know what’s going on here. I stepped into your dream.”
Billie sat up abruptly. The morning sunlight shined into her bedroom. She took a deep breath.
“Wow.” What an incredibly visual dream. She sniffed the air, smiling. I can still smell the roses.
She rubbed her eyes and sat up in bed.
“Billie!” She heard her grandma yell from downstairs. “Billie, come get breakfast. The school bus will be here in half an hour.”
Reality came pouring back into her mind. Today was the first day of school, the first day of the fifth grade. She was very glad to go back. It would keep her mind off her mother. And, she would be able to see Holly again. She hoped Holly was in her class, but wasn’t sure because she hadn’t spoken to her lately.
She jumped out of bed and hurried downstairs for breakfast.
Billie tried not to cry. She stood on the stairs in front of the school. Her watery eyes made the long line of school buses blur into a huge yellow caterpillar. A tear escaped down her cheek. Using her shirt sleeve she quickly wiped it away, clearing her vision. It hadn’t been such a great first day of school. Holly wasn’t on the morning bus and she wasn’t in her class either. Plus, Billie still had moments of sadness that were difficult to overcome.
Many schoolmates piled into their buses, but Billie couldn’t see anyone who had been on her morning bus. Most kids wore jackets, which made it more difficult to spot a familiar kid. Billie thought it was nice outside, so she had stuffed her jacket into her backpack.
Which bus is mine? I’m running out of time.
She was afraid it would leave without her, or she would be unable to find an empty seat. She considered going back into the school to find Mrs. Drew. Her teacher would help her.
This was the first year Billie had to ride the bus on a regular basis. Her mom used to enjoy driving her and picking her up everyday. But now it was just Billie and Grandma living at Cottage Hill. Her mom was in heaven.
She began to feel the crying pains in her throat again.
This is bad. I’ve cried so much all summer long. I’m not going to cry anymore.
Determined, she turned away from the buses and started up the steps heading back into the school. However, she didn’t get very far before bumping right into Mrs. Drew.
“There you are, Billie. I’ve been looking all over for you.” The teacher brushed bushy gray hair out from her eyes.
“Hi, Mrs. Drew.”
“Billie, this is Vivian. She’s new this year and lives down the road from your house. Will you take her on the bus with you?”
“Are you the girl that lives in that neat cottage on the hill?” asked the girl.
Out of the corner of her eye Billie noticed a butterfly. It flitted around them. “Yes. It’s nice to meet you, Vivian.”
“You, too. Call me Viv,” she replied while attempting to wrestle her long brown hair out from beneath her heavy book bag.
“Mrs. Drew,” Billie said, “I don’t know which bus is mine.”
“Oh, Billie. I’m sorry. I forgot this was your first year riding the bus.” Her wide eyes and wrinkled forehead, followed by a head tilt, conveyed concern and sympathy. “I’ll be right back.” She walked away to speak with another teacher.
The butterfly landed on Vivian’s shoulder. “A monarch,” she said while slowly moving her hand under it. It flitted onto her finger.
“Cool,” said Billie.
When Mrs. Drew returned, the butterfly flew away. The girls giggled.
“It’s that bus right there,” she said, pointing to the second bus in the line.
The girls stepped up and into the bus. “Where should we sit?” asked Vivian, searching for an empty seat.
“Billie! Billie! Come sit over here,” a young girl with bright red hair yelled from a seat near the back.
Billie’s eyes lit up. “Oh, that’s Holly! Holly McCarthy. Her mom, Heather, was my mom’s best friend. You’ll like her,” she said to Vivian.
The girls made their way toward the back of the bus. Billie felt relieved to find a seat, but even more, she was excited to see Holly again. When they reached her, she gave her friend a huge hug.
Holly removed her backpack from the seat and placed it on the floor. “Sit here both of you. Hello,” she said to Vivian, “I’m Holly.”
“Hi, I’m Viv.” She smiled back.
Holly thought Viv to be smaller that most girls their age and reminded her of a pixie she saw in a movie she had recently watched. She wondered if Viv was also in the fifth grade.
“Who’s class are you in?” Holly asked Viv.
Holly was satisfied. Mrs. Martin did teach the fifth grade. “I’m in Mr. Hecker’s class. He’s kind of weird, a real bookworm, pocket protector and all, but nice enough. Billie’s in Mrs. Drew’s. Right, Billie? That’s what Sally said when I was looking for you. I was late for school. First day and I’m late! And I couldn’t find you all day. You must be in first lunch. I’m in second lunch and didn’t see either of you. It’s too bad we can’t all be in the same class or at least the same lunch hour.”
“Yeah, that bites. But it’ll be okay,” said Billie. “We can still all be friends.”
“Very true. Do you want to come over after school tomorrow? We can make candy apples or something fun.”
“I can’t tomorrow,” said Vivian. She was surprised she could get a word in. She thought Holly lovely, but she sure was talkative. “I have violin lessons on Friday.”
“I’ll ask my Grandma to call your mom about it. It should be okay,” Billie said to Holly.
The three girls talked on and on the long bus ride to their homes.
—THANK YOU FOR READING THE FIRST TWO CHAPTERS OF MY FIRST NOVEL, “THE GUARDIAN.” I HOPE YOU ENJOYED THEM. SOMEDAY THE RIGHT PUBLISHER WILL ACCEPT IT, AND YOU WILL READ THE ENTIRE MANUSCRIPT. I HOPE.—
Approximate word count: 96,000
First Serial Rights © Tracy M. Kubiayk
Feature Image from http://www.etsy.com “To Die is Gain” Ethereal Art by Katey Elise sold by PerelandiranInMarnia