I'm pope? Well then.
Decree: share some thing creative and/or give feedback to someone on something creative they've shared, on any page of the needle-pulled thing.
Here's something creative, since I mentioned it above:
# Chapter One: Afternoon with the Wilisons
I had convinced myself that all was going well. I was sure of the steps I would take, and the outcome was essentially inevitable. All that remained was for me to carry out a simple sequence of instructions. Memory, comparision, results. Normal actions on a normal day.
Then came the interruption.
It was a trivial thing. Just my brothers being their usual noisy selves. I *should* have been able to ignore the shout. Today I could not. Today, concentration required strength which I could barely muster. I had forgotten my surroundings, allowing myself to be easily startled. In the aftermath of my slip I stared down at the haphazard line of black ink which marred the thin sheet of brown paper. It was undeniable proof of my diminished capacity. It easily could have been much worse. If the shout had come a word or two later, my spasm would have spread the ink to the dining room table.
There was nothing I could do about it now. I had a list to complete, and a schedule to meet. I could ignore the distractions, the pain, and the ugly line on the paper. I would finish my task, continue life as normal, and everything would work out fine. The first step was to find the place where I left off and...
"Hey, that towel is *mine*!"
"No, yours is the blue one!"
"That was a *different* blue one!"
There was no way I could restart my train of thought with this inane argument in the background. Waiting for Chadwick and Chester to resolve the situation themselves would waste valuable time. Intervening would also take time, but I figured it would be the quicker path in total. "Boys, hush. Please. The towels all work the same. It does not matter which you use," I said as gently as I could muster.
The two boys resumed their chore with no further pointless bickering, and I turned my attention back to the list of winter supplies. I was able to add three more items before the calm broke again. An unreasonably loud crash sent me leaping to my feet, causing an even louder shriek as the feet of my chair skidded against the floor. "Stop that noise!"
I had not intended to yell or to stand so fast. Cold dread washed through my body as I realised I had let myself act thoughtlessly. This was so much worse than my previous slip. I turned to my right, and looked over the wooden kitchen benchtop to see Chadwick and Chester crouched on the tiled floor, surrounded by at least half a dozen scattered metal baking trays. They were silent and motionless. There was no way to know whether this was a reaction to their own cacophony, or mine. That was not important. What was important was that I had displayed a terrible example of behaviour to some of my younger siblings.
Even as chills seized my limbs, I felt my face flush with heat. At seventeen, I should be able to moderate my actions at all times. I knew I was capable of acting properly. Yet I had failed, allowing my impatience to build until it burst forth like steam from a ruptured boiler. Surely no one had ever had reason to feel more foolish. I could imagine hypothetical extremely humiliating situations, such as a city signalman letting loose a steam whistle in the middle of midday meditations, but not even a junior trainee would be so undisciplined.
As the seconds dragged on, I desired increasingly more to be swallowed up by the unseen caverns beneath the earth, where the rays of the sun were unknown and nothing pure ever trod. Some days I felt like I belonged there, especially since my injury. My latest failure fed that feeling until it was almost a prayer. Almost, but definitely not a true prayer.
I stared at Chadwick and Chester. They stared past me. I knew who was behind me, but I could not stand the tension of not knowing what he was doing for a second longer. Stiffly, I turned around to see.
Our father, Robert J. Wilison, stood in front of his leather armchair, facing us. The leather-bound book he had been reading reasted on one arm of the chair. I had not heard him snap the book shut, and I knew I never would. Father was always gentle with his valuables.
Contrary to my intentions, I found I could not look at Father's face. I knew instinctively that his disappointment would be a mirror, reflecting my shame back doubled. My mind jumped away from the intense situation, charging down the first available track. The armchair. Father had selected and purchased the chair fourteen years ago. I had been too young to remember much of anything. But I could never forget that the chair was 'comfortable, but not *too* comfortable'. Father reminded his family of that fact on a regular basis. Nor could I ever forget that no one but Father was permitted to sit in the chair. Channing - one of my elder brothers - had sat in the chair, once. A long time had passed before he could bear to sit again.
I slammed the breaks on that train of thought, which had gone in precisely the worst possible direction. I struggled to breathe, my throat feeling like a kinked air hose. As my brothers and I waited in silence, Father looked back and forth, appraising the situation.
Father reached a conclusion with typical rapidity. "Boys, you are not being considerate or careful. You must be quieter and more gentle with our possessions." He removed the small black consequence book from the breast pocket of his heavy tan shirt. "That will be two black marks against each of you," he said, making the notations in indelible ink.
Chester opened his mouth to protest. He quickly shut it again, but the intent had been clear. That earned him a third black mark in the consequence book. Chadwick - the older of the two - knew better. He returned to his task, carefully placing one of the offending trays on a stack beside the sink. "Sorry, Father. Sorry, Charity," he said softly.
"Better," the Father said to Chadwick. He slipped the little black book back into its pocket and reached for the volume he had been reading.
Chester stood up holding a scouring pad. "Sorry, Father and Charity."
"I am sorry I snapped at you," I replied automatically. I should have been relieved that the situation appeared to be over, but instead a feeling of unease settled in my stomach, like a spoonful of cold pea soup. How had I escaped sentencing? Father could not have forgotten me, but why would he ignore me? There had to be a consequence for my failure eventually, and that implied that Father should have written something down. There was no other logical conclusion. This left a mystery, and until it was resolved I would be completely unable to concentrate on my work. "Father?"
He looked directly into my eyes. "Yes, my daughter?" His tone was gentle, encouraging me to continue.
I strugged for the right words while Father's gaze bore into me. "You... did not mark me down for my... outburst," I said, knowing better than to directly question his decision.
An expression passed over his face, which I struggled to interpret. Was he pleased, or disappointed? Or perhaps both? I did not not how to feel, or how to react. All my joints seemed to be rusted in place, while my hands began to tremble like a warped axle. Mercifully, my hands were clasped behind my back. Father could not see and judge my anxiety, though I hardly felt any less judged.
"It is up to you to learn to better temper your actions," Father said. His words were light, clear, and strong, like a silver horn welcoming a visiting dignitary. "You know full well the importance of meekness, Charity. Punishing you with extra chores or reduced privileges would make no difference at this point. Besides, you will not be mine to discipline for very much longer. You need to be ready to embrace change. Do you understand?"
I understood well enough. Father had decided that I was either not his problem, or else a lost cause. "Yes, Father. I shall do my best. And I apologise to you for the disturbance, and to Chadwick and Chester for setting a bad example." I should have said that last part sooner.
"Now, you had better finish my supply list before I leave. I will *not* be late to my patrol. If you fail to have it ready in time, you will have to place the order yourself." With that said, he settled back into his chair and returned to his place in the book, which I recognised as *The Farmer's Compendium*.
"Yes, Father," I said. There was nothing else I could say. The matter was setled. Finishing the list on time remained as vital as ever. I forced my focus back on ensuring that my family would have all the necessary supplies for winter. I knew I had only twelve more minutes before Father left for the general store, but I still struggled to keep my thoughts firmly fixed on the present task. It was so easy to let them drift off into the uncertain future. The consequence of failure was not what occupied my mind the most. If I failed, the consequence would pass in due course. I was not concerned by the impending winter, as I had already survived seventeen winters. Winter would come and go as always, but the arrival of spring would usher me into an entirely new season of life. I could not conceive of a life beyond my home and family, but my mind kept trying, giving birth only to uncertainty.
And behind all that lay the bigger concern. The one which might preempt all the others. The one I did not want to think about at all.
The boys soon finished their work in the kitchen, thankfully avoiding excessive noise. Their next chore sent them running out the back door, leaving the farmhouse in relative silence for several minutes. At nine and eleven they were two of the noisier siblings, outide of baby Cherish. The tinkling of glass chimes announced the top of the hour. I mostly ignored it. I also mostly ignored the soft sounds of Father rising from his chair, placing his book on a side table, and walking over to me. I was almost successful, except that I was acutely aware of everything that I tried to block out.
"Charity, is my list ready?"
"Double checking the master list," I said, not looking up from my work. I would be done in only a minute, if only I was left alone.
"It should be complete. What is the delay?"
That was one question too many. I completely lost my place in my mental list. With my progress completely halted, there was no reason not to look up. I forced myself to meet Father's eyes, and stated the unwelcome truth. "My hand. It's getting worse."
"It *is* getting worse," Father corrected. "Speak properly."
I silently cursed my thrice-rusted brain for allowing such a careless slip. I dreamed of some day becoming a cleric's secretary, and here I was letting myself speak like some unenlightened barbarian or a traitor to humanity. "I am sorry, Father. The cut has become possessed. Writing neatly is difficult," I said, enunciating with utmost clarity.
"The cut is on your *left* hand," Father said, clearly skeptical of the injury's impact on my writing.
"The pain is affecting my concentration," I said, glancing down at the bandage wrapped around the affected hand. My fingers were left uncovered and on display, which was a not insignificant blessing, and a mixed comfort.
"You have until I put on my boots and coat. If anything is missing - or illegible - you will be responsible for rectifying your shortcoming."
"I understand, Father." I resumed checking my written list against my mental list of required winter supplies, and my memory of what we had in storage. It should have been easy, but the pain turned concentration into a struggle. I refused to let such a minor thing stop me from completing such a straightforward task. But my refusal achieved nothing. The clock ticked away the seconds regardless of my efforts.
The constancy of the ticks drew my attention away from the irregular pulsing of the pain. Grasping for a solution, I anchored my thoughts to the clock, shutting out everything but the ticks and the lists. Tick, salt, tick, large cloth bags, tick, small cloth bags, tick, glass jars, tick, spare mirrors, tick...
Dressed for the short walk into down, Father reached for his best crossbow on its hook beside the front door. I stood, holding the completed list. "All done," I said, handing it to him. My action caused some pain, which I tried to mask, but Father caught my wince.
"Since your wound is not improving, I believe I should seek clerical help," he said, resting his hand on the doorhandle.
"Are you saying you might ask, Father? Tonight?" Given my repeated failings and razor-thin success, it was beyond reach of my hopes.
"I do not know whether I will have an opportunity, but I shall be prepared to ask. And even if a chance arises, such a boon does not come cheaply," he said slowly.
"I... understand," I said carefully. I knew he would prefer to boost my hopes higher than the clouds, but propriety forced him to speak the truth.
Father swiftfully laced his boots, but he was looking at me when he said, "I hope the cost is one that can be paid."
I hoped so too, but it was an empty hope. I knew that a high price would serve justice more than a low one. An easy price required a great and unique need, or great favour, but neither condition...
"Stop daydreaming, girl," Father said, interrupting my musings. He opened the front door, but turned back to give one last instruction before leaving. "And tell your mother I will return for the evening meal, unless I find anything *interesting* on patrol."
After relaying the message to my resting mother, I began my next scheduled task: finishing the sewing of a new set of curtains for my future home. I knew sewing as well as I knew my own family, but the concept of having a home of my own was still unbearably foreign. While I understood that it was the destiny of every girl to leave her childhood home behind and start a new family, I was more than a little frightened by the idea. Not only would I leave my father, mother, brothers, sisters, and Wilison Farm behind, but Forrester's Crossing too. More than that, I would leave farm life entirely. This was why the sight of the ring on my finger was a mixed comfort.
Life in the city of Deepbloom would be nothing like life on the periphery of Forrester's Crossing. I would need to learn every detail of a new house, new streets, a new schedule, a new *society*. Although Deepbloom had not seemed especially different the handful of times we had visited, living there would almost be like living under a different sun. Practically, it would be exactly like living under a different sun. Two rail stops to the south, the solar angles were a little different, and the sunrise and sunset times differed too. I had always known that the track of the sun was relative to the observer, but had only ever experienced dawn at Wilison Farm, and dusk in the near vicinity of Forrester's Crossing. To actually see a different sunrise would be nothing short of phenomenal... if I ever reached this future.
As alien as the concept seemed, I was actually excited at the prospect of experiencing the sun from a new perspective. I had studied the solar and lunar charts for other cities, but experiencing the difference for myself would add a whole new weight to the numbers. The numbers in the charts were right, of course. They were *clerical* documents. But I had not been able to resist the drive to confirm the derivation of the numbers for myself. Sneaking a look at Channing's old textbook had been very wrong, but it had been so satisfying to recreate the values in the charts by following the procedures I had hastily memorised. Now I knew for myself that the numbers were correct. Soon I would also know from experience that the numbers were *true*. I knew that when the clerics wrote that a claim was right, it must also be both correct and true, but there could be no wrong in desiring to experience that truth in a more personal way. To experience the sun as a deeper truth was a worthy aspiration even for an unimportant farm girl such as me.
None of the excitement over such an opportunity made the thought of leaving my family any less daunting. I would be the sole person responsible for cooking, cleaning, and caring for children. So many decisions would be mine to make, with no mother to correct me if I made a mistake. I would miss my siblings most of all. The protectiveness of my older brothers, the care and kindness of my sisters, all of that would be out of my reach. It would be especially hard to leave the younger ones. Sometimes I almost felt like I was a second mother to them. Caring for them had been excellent practice, for which I was very thankful, but it would hurt to let them go.
But all that was for the future. For now, all I had to worry about was keeping the folds in the curtains even. Most of the work was in operating the foot treadle. Guiding the fabric through the sewing machine hardly aggravated my hand at all, compared to writing. I could almost pretend everything was normal. Life would continue to follow the expected track, from known station to known station, as mapped out centuries ago.
A small head of frizzy black hair poked into the sewing room. "Charity?"
"Yes, Chynella?" I nodded for my ten-year-old sister to enter the room while I finished sewing the current row.
"I am helping Mother finish a batch of goat soup." Chynella was clearly pleased to be entrusted with this task.
"Oh, I thought she was still resting."
"No, she is instructing me while resting. She wants you to pick us some fresh parsley."
"She knows how important my sewing is," I said, frowning at the interruption.
Chynella picked up a spool of black thread and began fidgeting with it. "Yes, that is why Chalice and Chastity are taking turns at *your* job of looking after the little ones."
"Put that down! Is everyone really too busy to get parsley?" I ignored the part about our teenaged sisters, as their involvement in that role was inevitable.
Chynella put the spool back on its shelf, looking sheepish. "Do you want Chace or the twins trampling through the herbs again?"
"No, but you could..."
"Mother says the sun will be good for you."
Finally, the real reason why I was being sent outside. "Standing in the sunshine will not fix my hand."
"She said you look feverish."
"I'm *not*..." I realised how I was speaking, and stopped to really consider the way I felt. "Perhaps I am a little feverish. A few minutes outside cannot hurt."
"I hope it helps. The fever is making you snappish," Chynella said with her typical bluntness. I hoped she would grow out of it soon.
"No, that is not the fever. I worry about leaving you all." I stood and ruffled my sister's hair.
Chynella ducked away, as if anyone could make her hair any messier than its natural state. "Charles is married now and everything is fine."
"Charles lives a mere five minutes walk away, and we dine with his family twice each moon. I, on the other hand, will not be able to afford to visit from Deepbloom nearly so often." I said the words casually, as if I had convinced myself there was nothing to fear. As if being in another city was the most significant obstacle.
Fortunately, Chynella didn't dig any deeper. "You had better get the parsley right now, or else Mister Douglas will never take you and then you will be stuck with us forever!"
I made another grab for my sister's hair, but Chynella skipped away, almost knocking a stack of embroidered cotton sheets to the floor. "Be careful, Chynella. If you break something valuable I might have to steal you away to work as my housemaid." Though the rebuke was serious, the threat was not.
"Mother would never allow that, she needs me too much!" Chynella stepped into the hallway. I followed close behind.
"No shouting, Chynella," Mother called from her bedroom. "If you fail to learn to moderate your voice, you will be fit for nothing but herding goats."
"That is not true," I whispered. "Goats are frightened by loud noises. There must be other far more suitable callings." I tried to sound certain of that, but I had my doubts. It was impossible to miss the fact that loud women were in very low demand.
"Sorry, Mother," Chynella called down the hallway, being more careful not to shout.
The conversation was clearly derailed, so I grabbed my bonnet, scissors to cut the parsley, and a small wicker basket to carry it. Since I would not be outside for long, and the evening breeze had not yet begun, I decided I wouldn't need a jacket. After ensuring the bonnet's ribbons were securely tied, I slipped out the back door of the off-red brick farmhouse. Not everything was proceeding as expected, but it was all still quite normal.
# Chapter Two: Farming with the Wilisons
Leaving the Wilison farmhouse by the back door took me directly past the household's two steam accumulators. The metal chambers stood taller than I did and were wider than they were tall. They were set several meters from the house. The distance was a careful balance between the benefits of shorter piping on one hand, and the requirements of safety and not shading the house on the other hand. The farm machinery ran on a separate, larger system. The household steam boiler was a little further away. The herb garden was on the opposite side of the boiler, but my walk was nearly twice as long due to the fenced-off solar reflectors around the boiler. Cutting through the middle of a solar collector was absolutely not a safe choice during the daylight hours.
I dutifully walked the long way around the holy site. A field of assorted grasses lay to my right, populated with mobile chicken coops. Either Chalice or Chastity had already collected the eggs, and an older brother would soon move the coops. The almost still air and Autumn sun combined to make pleasant conditions for an afternoon walk. An easterly breeze should bring cooler air soon, but I expected to be back indoors before the evening change. However, the wind was not nearly so predictable as the inexorable passage of the sun. Few things were. Even Mount Capture, visible in the east, had been a volcanic eruption in the untold past. Mountains looked unchanging, but they were worn away by the unstoppable forces of weather and time. The unseen boundaries which defined the territory of the demons had been set by The Great Maker Himself, yet those could change without warning. It was for that reason that I slowed my gait as I came close to the enclosed herb garden.
I had never liked approaching the edge of the construction envelope. The feeling of dread had only increased as she grew to understand the danger. By necessity the enclosure was inside the safe zone, but that was only a small comfort. Just knowing I was a few steps away from the realm of impurity was enough to make me walk a little slower. It was like how the presence of a cleric made even the most pious stand a little straighter and choose their words with a little more care, even as they tried to act completely normal. I knew full well that walking slower would not change anything. It was not as if I could cross the line accidentally, and it would not matter if I did. My brothers and many others were presently harvesting crops in the fields beyond the line, with negligible additional danger, but being so close to the line reminded me of the unknown peril which hung over everyone.
Nowhere was completely safe. Each person lived only so long as the Maker willed. All anyone could do was hope, and obey. For me, that meant picking parsley. I set down my basket and drew the bolt to the enclosure's door. There was no lock. Locks were a waste of valuable time and metal which added nothing to security. Wire mesh and a bolted door was enough to keep out hungry animals, while nothing would stop raiders, demons or...
A movement on the edge of my vision startled me, shattering my reflections on security. I instinctively brandished my scissors as my mind flip-flopped between running back to the house and hiding in the herb garden. Before I could move one way or the other, my eyes caught up with my instincts. I could see the aproaching object well enough through the garden's wire mesh. It was human-shaped, lit by the fading rays of the sun, and walking in a civil manner. There was probably no danger.
To get a better view, I entered the garden and walked through the rows of herbs. I reached the far wall, which was right on the edge of the building envelope, and looked through the mesh at the stranger. No one was working in the closest field, and no one should have finished work yet, so I had not expected to see anyone in the area, much less anyone approaching my home from the forest. I was concerned, but much less than I would have been if darkness had already fallen.
"Peaceful greetings," the stranger called as the distance closed to about ten paces. His accent was quite strange, as was his manner of dress. The cut of his dark brown trousers was oddly tight, and the style of his high-collared, thigh-length, black jacket was unlike any I had seen. He wore a helmet which seemed like a mixture of a riding helmet and a mining helmet, yet eerily distinct from either. Much of the top of his face was obscured by thick, dark eyewear of a ridiculously large design. Aside from the clothing, something about the newcomer seemed subtly wrong, and clearly foreign.
"Er, I mirror your greetings," I said politely. I was never comfortable meeting strangers, but Father regularly drilled all his children on proper hospitality. To display shyness was a weakness, and the way of weakness went to ruin.
I belatedly noticed that I was holding the scissors in a threatening manner. They were useless here, so I lowered my arm.
The stranger continued approaching until he reached a reasonable distance for conversation. "I'm Skids Dro."
"I am Charity Wilison," I said, a little concerned by the stranger's loose manner of speech. Now that he was closer, I could see that he wore black gloves which were missing their fingers. I also noticed that he was slightly shorter than me, and belatedly realised that the jacket was actually a loose, sleeveless vest. Under the vest, he wore a very deep purple shirt, which was only just distinguishable from black. Even through the wrist-length sleeves, I could see that the stranger's muscles rivaled those of any of my older brothers. None of the articles of clothing bore any insignia or patterns, and all were clean and in good condition, and what I could see of his face and fingers was undecorated. That was comforting.
"That's all?" the stranger asked, sounding a little puzzled.
Leaving him confused seemed wrong, so I continued sharing. "I have a middle name too. Mari."
The stranger's puzzlement persisted. "But... Wilison?"
The question hurt, more than a little. "Is there something wrong with my family name?"
The stranger tilted his head to my left, seeming no less confused. "It's... different." As he spoke he stepped forward, gradually enough that I barely realised it was happening. "What does a Wilison do?"
I could not see the stranger's eyes, but I imagined that I and my life were being examined like a microscope slide. The thought reminded me of the time I stole a look through my brothers' microscope, just to see for myself that it really functioned as promised. The guilt added to my discomfort, but I pushed it aside so I could try to navigate the conversation. "Pardon?"
Why didn't he ask that to begin with? "We farm." I gestured to the land around me. "This is the Wilison farm." This was without a doubt the most bizarre conversation I had either participated in or heard.
The stranger turned his head to look around. "Farm, sure. Fine, but you're not what I'm looking for. I need someone who works metal."
"What kind of metal worker? What do you need?"
"I've got a bike that needs repair. And I've got copper. To pay, I mean."
Finally, something that made sense. Bike repair was familiar territory. My brothers had broken theirs more times than I could remember. "Oh, you need the blacksmith. How far have you traveled, Mister Dro?" My best guess was that he was from one of the coastal cities. Perhaps Nesquay. The Nesquins reputedly liked to consume very strange drinks.
"Mister? No, my name's Skids, Charity."
I took a step back at the uninvited use of my given name. "Would you kindly address me as Miss Wilison, Mister Dro?"
"As you wish, Miss Wilison," Skids said without hesitation. "But you must call me Skids."
That simply could not be. I shook my head. "I cannot address an unrelated man in such a familar way."
Skids shrugged. "If you can't, you can't. But can you get me to the blacksmith, Miss Wilison?" I had a sense that he was holding in a lot more questions in favour of getting what he actually needed.
The sooner I could get rid of the odd fellow, the better. "Turn right here, then go left in about a minute and continue past the house until you reach the railway tracks. Turn right and follow the tracks until you reach the bridge. Cross the bridge to get onto the paved road, continue to the right, then take the second road to the left, which is directly after the railyard. The smith is a little way down the hill, on the left side of the street." I pointed in the general direction of Forrester's Crossing proper. "Oh, and do not cross the rails other than by bridge." That ought to be common sense, but this fellow did not seem either common or sensible. He did seem to be a quick thinker though, which was one point in his favour.
"Yeah, we don't step on the rails where I'm from either," he said. That was comforting to know.
"And where might that be?" I asked, unable to contain my curiosity.
"North and east of here. Thanks, you've been very helpful, Miss Wilison." Skids turned as if to leave me.
That could only mean Makerslight. Alternatively, he could be lying, but he seemed too earnest for that. Despite all his strangeness he was too civilised to be a barbarian raider, and raiders were not known to travel alone. "Did you travel all the way from Makerslight by bicycle, Mister Dro?" I expected not. His clothes were strange, but they did not look cheap. In spite of the weirdness, I deduced that the outfit was well thought out, for a specific purpose. So he should be able to afford to travel by train, and there was no reason for one of The Pure to do otherwise over such a distance.
Skids nodded, turning back to face me. "Yes, I did."
"Amazing! How many days did that take?" I could not imagine what it would be like to spend a night out in the middle of nowhere, with nothing but what little could be carried on a bicycle.
"Heh, I left very early this morning," Skids said, grinning proudly.
I decided his voice did sound similar to the few Makerslight accents I'd heard, though it was still strange. What I could see of his face wasn't quite right either, but I couldn't figure out why. His story didn't make sense either. Makerslight was 200 kilometres away. The only sensible route was via Burdale, which added about 100 kilometres to the trip. "This morning? How... oh, is it one of those new powered bicycles?"
He nodded again. "That's right. The second left after crossing the bridge, was it?"
"Amazing," I repeated. "Yeah, second left," I remembered to add, though my mind was mostly elsewhere. Steam engines were as old as civilisation, but the idea of being so close to one while moving at high speeds and also being responsible for the steering was frightening. And thrilling. But mostly frightening. "I was not aware they had such long range, but Makerslight tends to be surprising."
"Yes, well, I'd better be on my way."
"Right, night will fall soon. Make haste, but do not rush, especially on the bridge." Rushing lead to error, and error resulted in ruin. That reminded me that I was on borrowed time. "Oh, I have parsley to pick!"
"I'll leave you to it, then." This time he actually left, and I saw that he was carying a heavy black backpack.
Having remembered why I was outside, I scrambled to fill the basket with parsley. I dropped the scissors while narrowly avoiding cutting my hand again, due to my panicked haste. Foolish of me, barely minutes after I'd warned Skids against rushing.
When the job was done, I closed and latched the door, and returned to the house as quickly as I could. I even bent the limits of propriety by hiking my skirt up halfway to my knees. This allowed my to jog half the distance without risking tripping. Beyond that point, I might be spotted by someone in or near the house, and that would lead to questions. While I didn't think I'd done anything wrong in speaking with the stranger, the conversation had left me feeling so unsettled that the last thing I wanted to do was explain myself to someone who hadn't been there. Better to leave the odd conversation in the past, and get on with whatever was left of life with my family.
I'd really like to know what people think, especially if there's glaring errors, whether you like Charity and find her situation interesting, and what expectations this writing creates. Also is anything confusing or missing.