This month I’m sharing excerpts from my WIP from previous NaNoWriMos, working title Ash and Team. It is inspired by the Mi’kmaq-French Cinderella story called Oochigeaskw.
Ash (our Cinderella character)
Azula (her older sister)
Team (our “prince,” an invisible spirit)
Meg (his older sister, our narrator)
Out of sight of the village, she broke into a skip, reveling in her new found freedom. Once inside the forest, she greeted the trees as she walked among them. “Hello, fir,” she said, touching their trunks she passed. “Hello, hickory. Hello, birch.” She grinned as she felt them respond.
She heard footsteps and the occasional splash of water through the trees ahead of her; someone was standing on the bank of the creek at our meeting spot. Ash picked up her pace so as to not make me wait any longer.
But when she entered the clearing it was not me she saw. Team was standing with his back to her, tossing stones into the creek.
She just couldn’t seem to stop smiling today.
“Team,” she called. He turned immediately, dropping the rock he was about to throw. He saw her and smiled back. “What are you doing here?” she said as she approached.
“Me? What are you doing here?” He threw another rock and waited for the satisfying splash. “I think you’re the one following me, now.”
She was about to protest when he handed her a rock. “Here, your turn.”
“Why are we throwing rocks?” she said, squaring off with the creek as he had done.
“No, pull your arm back further,” he said, touching her arm to correct her. She threw and couldn’t help grinning when her rock went as far as his had. “Why not?” he said in response to her question. “Sometime, on the lake, I’ll teach you how to make them skip.”
“You can’t do it here?” she asked as he handed her another.
“No, not in running water. It has to be still. And you have to have a nice flat rock.” He threw his last stone and brushed off his hands. They faced each other, and as their eyes met, Team was suddenly awkward. Ash had never seen him so unsure, as if he didn’t know where to look, or what to do with his hands.
“Is…something wrong?” she asked.
“Oh. No,” he said, focusing back on her with one of his brilliant smiles. “Why don’t we take a walk?”
“Okay,” she agreed. “But just a short one. I’m supposed to be meeting someone.” He nodded absently, already turning. She walked next to him, not really paying attention to where they were going. Team didn’t seem to be either. She could practically hear him thinking next to her. If only her spirit sight abilities granted her the power to read minds as well.
“Ash,” he said.
“Yes,” she said, waiting. She couldn’t help smiling a little at his uncharacteristic absentmindedness. But he smile faded as he kept walking without smiling and without looking at her.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” she said.
He gave a short laugh. “No, I don’t think I am.” He stopped suddenly, turned to face her, and took her hand. “I have to tell you something.” He dropped his eyes to her hand in his, suspended halfway between them.
And suddenly his whole demeanor changed. “What happened to your hand?” he asked, looking back up at her with concerned eyes.
“What? Oh, nothing.” She snatched her bandaged hand away. “It’s fine. Sorry, what were you saying?”
“It doesn’t look fine.” He tried to grab it back. “Did you hurt yourself?”
She drew back from him. “It’s just a little burn.”
“Ash.” He said it quietly, sadly even, as he stood deflated and dismayed by her retreat. “Tell me. What happened?”
“I am telling you. It’s nothing.” She was getting upset now. “Don’t look at me like that.”
“It was…it was her, wasn’t it?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” This wasn’t what she wanted. All she had wanted was a meeting with her friend, and then a walk in the woods with Team. To not think about Azula, or her hand for a while. How had she ended up here, arguing with him?
“Ash. It’s okay; you can tell me. Remember? You can tell me anything. Please.”
“What does it matter? It’s done.”
He was standing eerily still. “How many times…how many times has she done this? Your sister?” He was looking over her now, and she could see him seeing all the things he’d seen before in a new light. The burn mark on her sleeve. Her hair shorter on one side, and ragged. She felt so exposed.
“It’s not like that! She didn’t mean to—”
“It doesn’t matter! It’s not okay!” His eyes were pleading with her. “Ash, come home with me, please. My sister—”
“I don’t want to talk about it. Why are you pushing this?” Her voice was getting louder, cutting into him, making him confused and reckless and desperate.
“Because I love you!” he said without thinking. “I want to marry you!”
“You don’t even know me!” she shot back.
He had come alive again, his usual animated self. He stepped closer to her like he couldn’t help it. “Of course I do! And I know how to keep you safe. You can’t go back there, Ash. She’s dangerous. What if she hurts you again?”
She didn’t back down. “Don’t talk about my sister that way. She’s the one that keeps our family together. You don’t even know half the things she does for me.”
“I know she took your jacket; I saw her in it. She was trying to see the spirit,” he said with bitter exaggeration, “as if someone like that could possibly—”
“How could you know that?” Her voice came out lower, but if anything it sounded more dangerous in her ears.
“And she claimed it was hers. That she made it!” Ash was shaking her head, but he kept talking. “She’s manipulative and a liar and she only thinks of herself. And your father—”
“Stop! Just stop!” When had she started crying? She couldn’t remember, but her eyes were hot and her cheeks were wet. “How dare you? I gave her that jacket. You don’t know anything about me or my family. Just leave us alone!” With that, she turned and fled.
It was only after she was gone that my brother realized he was crying, too.