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Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Miseducation of Selena - Chapter Three

Chapter 3

My ride home took longer than the trip to town because I made Goldie walk rather than run lightly. There wasn't a reason for making her walk, I just wasn't in the mood. Well... I suppose there was a reason. I wasn't looking forward to the possibility that I might chop my hand off!
I eventually arrived at my shelter – Bom had nursed most of the way – and then took the time to unload, unsaddle, and care for Goldie. She rubbed my cheek with her nose affectionately before taking off to find something to eat.
I felt close to starving by this point, and pulled the other half of what I'd made for breakfast out of the oven in the corner of my tiny house. “I'm so glad I don't have to cook anything right now!”
Yawning, I shoved a chunk of meat in my mouth, and then rubbed my eyes. I think a nap is in order. I closed the woven twig shutters, and then the door to my shelter. Now that I had an ax, I might want to make an actual door, but that was nowhere near important since the makeshift one from twigs served me just fine.
I kicked my bed once for good measure to somewhat fluff up the pile of straw, then straightened my blanket and climbed on top of it. Thankfully, my baby was content to nurse quietly until we both drifted off to sleep.
I think a couple of hours passed, but suddenly, Goldie was screaming. I sat up and clutched my heart in terror! What would make Goldie scream like that?
My door opened, and a man stuck his head into my shelter.


I'm beginning to think that we are never going to find her!” Sebastian complained.
Don't say that!” His father exclaimed, and then made a quick prayer to his favorite God to ward against such a possibility.
You can't really think that Selena would have traveled all this way!” Sebastian whined.
I sincerely hope she has, because otherwise, all those people who pointed us in this direction were lying.”
Unless they were talking about a different woman with a golden horse,” Sebastian muttered. He didn't mean to sound so hopeless, but he was tired, hungry, and just plain old cranky!
Looks like there's a town,” his father remarked, glad to change the subject.
They both kicked their horses into a gallop so that they could arrive in town just a bit faster. Slowing as they entered the town, they discovered that there were only 8 buildings that lined one short street.
Let's ask about her there,” Sebastian pointed to what looked like the most likely place to find a hot meal and information; the tavern.
Nodding in agreement, his father nudged his horse in that direction, and then dismounted and tossed his reins around the post provided. Sebastian did the same, and then followed his father into the tavern.
My word! Travelers!” The tavern owner remarked. She was a tall matronly woman who seemed both kind and strict. Like she tended to treat her customers like children in need of loving guidance and a firm hand towards discipline.
She didn't wait for them to speak. “I only have one room to rent, if you should happen to need a place to stay. Other than that, I can get you food and drink. My regulars should be arriving any time now. Sit!” She ordered as she pointed to a table and then disappeared through a door.
Exchanging a glance, the two decided to do as told. The door to the tavern opened a moment later.
Hey Molly! Bring me a tankard of ale!”
There was an indecipherable roar from behind the door, which opened a moment later. “... So you're going to have to wait your turn!”
The tavern owner – Molly – carried a tray laden with food. She served her travelers briskly, then promised to be right back with drinks. “A tankard of ale for each of you, right?” Again, she didn't wait for an answer.
When she returned with the ale, she served them first, and then turned to her other customer. “Here's your ale, Joe.”
Thanks Molly!” Joe praised with a grin. He took a long sip, and then quietly roared in appreciation. “That's good! … Hey, did you hear the news?”
Molly snorted. “You're my first customer other than these two! I haven't heard anything yet.”
Joe grinned at her. “Remember that pregnant woman that arrived a while back?”
Poor thing!” Molly clucked. “I can't imagine how brave she must be to live all on her own like that!”
She's not alone anymore. She came into town today to sell some pelts, and she had her baby with her,” Joe announced.
Molly actually waited for Joe to say more, but he was suddenly too busy drinking. “Well out with it!” She demanded. “Did she have a boy or a girl?”
A boy,” Joe answered after swallowing.
The door slammed shut. “I can't believe I forgot to ask that!” Sally blurted out as she and her husband joined the conversation. “I even sold her clothes for the babe.”
I can't imagine what it must be like!” Molly nearly wailed in sympathy. “It's a wonder that she didn't die! Out there all by herself, no one would have ever known!”
She may well still die,” Sally added dramatically. “I sold her an ax and a hammer today. She told me that she needs to figure out how to make a table and a chair.”
A new customer entered both the tavern and the conversation. “If Selena needs a table, you should have sent her my way!” A younger man exclaimed.
Sally snorted. “Like I would send a lone woman your way, Tyler!”
What do you mean by that?” Tyler demanded in offense.
Molly stepped in front of him so that he couldn't start a fight. She stared at him pointedly until he sighed and took a seat at an empty table.
Don't be so prickly, young man!” Molly insisted sternly. “Sally meant nothing other than the obvious fact that you are young and unmarried and Selena doesn't need another babe in that belly!”
Tyler blushed as red as he possibly could. “I wouldn't have put one there!”
Molly harrumphed softly, then changed the subject. “A tankard of ale?” She disappeared before Tyler could agree.
Sebastian cleared his throat, calling attention to the fact that no one seemed to notice that they were there. “Do any of you happen to know where we can find Selena?”
The entire tavern went silent, except for Molly banging the door upon her return. She glared at her traveler guests. “I'm not inclined to send two men after a defenseless woman living all alone in the forest.”
Sebastian frowned in concern. “Isn't telling us that she lives in the forest the same as sending us after her?”
Joe scoffed, slamming his now empty tankard on the table as Molly served Sally and her husband. “Good luck finding her if that's the only clue you have.
Sebastian bristled as if he was about to start an argument, but his father held out a hand to stop him.
Selena is 19 years old and has brown hair and eyes. She rides a golden horse named Goldie. We're not two men with nefarious intent... I'm her father and this is her twin brother.”
The Tavern was utterly silent once more in shock. They were inclined to distrust strangers, but these men knew enough about Selena that they were probably telling the truth. Even so, there was no guarantee that Selena wanted them to find her.
Joe sighed, deciding that if he were Selena's father, he'd stop at nothing to find his missing daughter. “She lives in the forest about two hours south of here. We don't know anything other than that. However...” he paused, praying that he was making the right decision. “Since she literally just left town about two hours ago, you can probably follow her trail pretty easily.”
Two hours?” Sebastian muttered. “Why did she decide to live so far away?”
Good question!” Sally agreed. “She doesn't talk about herself much, so your guess is as good as ours...”
Thank you,” Selena's father praised them sincerely. He tossed enough money on the table to pay for their food and everyone's drinks for the entire night. “It sounds like I have a grandson, so I'd like everyone to have a few rounds on me.”
This statement was met with cheers as the travelers left and more regulars entered the tavern.
Finally,” Sebastian exhaled in relief, not-so-secretly happy that they'd found her.


Father?!” I blurted out incredulously, hastily pulling the edge of Bom's carrier up to make sure that I wasn't exposing anything inappropriate.
Selena!” He cried out happily, trying to figure out how to safely enter my shelter. The way it was built, it was half underground, so the door wasn't exactly tall enough for my father to just walk through.
I scrambled to my feet, and took one step toward him before stopping. I wasn't entirely sure that I wanted to hug him.
What are you doing here?”
He decided that my shelter wasn't tall enough for him to stand up in, and abandoned his attempt to enter. Instead, he grabbed my arm and pulled me to him. I was still so surprised to see him that I automatically stepped out of my shelter and into his arms.
I'm so sorry I threw you out like that!” He apologized, holding me tight. I pushed against him, but he refused to let me go.
A sudden cry prompted him to step back abruptly.
You almost squashed Bom!” I exclaimed, checking to make sure that my baby wasn't hurt. He stopped crying almost immediately, more than happy to latch on and start nursing again.
Selena!” Sebastian completely startled me a moment later, hugging me from behind. I actually screamed in surprise!
You're here too!” I stated excitedly, tempted to jump up and down.
Sebastian realized that he was also holding my baby, and moved his hand around to get a better feel. “He's a bit small, isn't he?”
Father chuckled. “All babies are small at that age!” He carefully pulled me back into his arms, and then stroked my hair. I think he was holding back tears.
Meanwhile, I could hear Goldie having an equine conversation with Sebastian's horse. Just as Sebastian was my brother, his horse was Goldie's brother. Only they weren't twins. No wonder she'd screamed!
Sebastian made a sound of disgust. “What a place! No Lady should ever even stay the night in such a tiny little hole!”
I snorted softly. “I don't think I am a Lady anymore...”
Of course you are,” my father assured me. He sighed. “Listen... I came to find you because I felt terrible. I threw you out because that is what is done. It's what's expected of someone in my position to do, but... I couldn't sleep at night! I had nightmares about what could happen to you! I needed to know that you were safe...”
I frowned and prompted, “But?”
He took another breath, and then released it slowly. “There's only a few ways that you can come home. I think the easiest is to tell everyone that you eloped, but then your husband died, so you came home to raise your child.”
What's the not so easy way?” I wondered.
You could move into one of the empty crofts in my jurisdiction. What you tell people would be entirely up to you.”
I looked around. The life I was building here was not so bad, but I was incredibly lonely. I hadn't even managed to start calling my shelter home yet, which was a good indication of how badly I wanted to go back to my real home. I nodded slowly.
So I eloped, had a baby, and am now a widow,” I stated. “I guess I'd better come up with a name for my husband. What goes well with Selena?”
Sebastian laughed. “I have no idea! In any case, when can I hold the baby?”
I smiled, purring happily. “Just give me a moment.” I slipped back into my shelter, removed the carrier, and then readjusted my shirt so that it fully covered my breasts again. I emerged and handed my baby to my brother, but my father took him first.
I laughed. “You know... I don't think I've put him down or let him out of my arms once since he was born!”
Suddenly, I remembered that Sebastian had insulted my shelter and rounded on him angrily. “And by the way, I built this shelter with my own two hands! I don't particularly care if it's fit for a Lady, and I don't appreciate you insulting it!”
Sheesh!” Sebastian replied teasingly. “Sorry!” He looked around again. “It's getting too late to go anywhere tonight, and I highly doubt that we can all fit in there...”
I chewed on my thumbnail as I thought over the practicalities of leaving here.
We'll just camp outside tonight,” my father stated as if it was nothing for him and my brother to sleep on the ground. Considering how long it had likely taken them to find me, they probably had gotten used to camping.
In fact, they must have left just before winter threatened to freeze the nights. The good thing about leaving here now – close to the middle of winter – was that it'd be spring before we got home.
I tried not to be anxious as father handed Bom to Sebastian. My hands betrayed my agitation by following him as if I might need to catch him. I took a deep breath and forced myself to trust that they wouldn't drop him.
To occupy my attention, I turned and walked to the side of my shelter where I kept a large pile of branches and twigs. Saving only what I'd need to feed my oven for warmth tonight, I carried the rest to a clear spot about 20 feet from my door. They could camp here, and would need a fire. Half my branches were piled to start the fire, and the other half were saved to feed it as necessary.
They were so preoccupied with Bom that they completely didn't notice what I was doing until I had the fire blazing merrily. At close to two months old, Bom didn't do much other than stare at them and try to grip their fingers. They softly discussed how much he looked like me, and how similar he was to us when we were babies.
I think Bom decided that he didn't know these two men well enough to let them hold him all night because he suddenly started screaming. I practically snatched him in my haste to calm him down.
Ohhh,” I crooned repeatedly. “You're fine Bom. There's no need to cry!”
He paused his crying long enough to realize that I was holding him again, and then waved his fist at me as if he was angry that I'd let someone else hold him. Light bouncing reassured him that all was well and he calmed down as abruptly as he started crying.
Sebastian laughed. “You named my nephew Bom?”
I returned his laugh and shook my head. “No! I have no idea what to name him, so he is simply baby of mine.”
Oh,” Sebastian murmured. “I get it, Bom...”
I gestured to the fire. “Looks like it'll be dark in about a half an hour. You may as well get comfortable.”
My father looked surprised that I'd managed to get a fire going while he wasn't looking, but he didn't say anything. Sebastian scratched his head as if wondering whether or not I'd used magic to simply conjure it up, but then shrugged and clicked his tongue to prompt his horse to come to him.
Rather than watch them set up their camp for the night, I retreated to my shelter so that I could put the carrier back on and settle Bom in it so that he had access to my other breast. The arrangement worked well. He was cradled in the sling able to drink whenever he wanted, and I got to do what I needed to.
Such as hunt...
I grabbed my quiver and bow, carried them out to the fire, and set them down next to me as I sat. I wasn't tired yet, so I figured I'd talk to them for a bit.
So... how did you find me?” I wondered curiously.
It wasn't easy!” Sebastian exclaimed.
My father shook his head to agree with my brother. “At first, it wasn't so very hard. We headed in the direction we knew you went, and then asked people along the way if they'd seen you.”
As he talked, the sun disappeared completely. I realized that it was a moonless night, which made the stars seem all the brighter. Even so, they weren't enough to give us any real light, and our surroundings seems as black as ink.
Just when we thought we'd lost the trail,” Sebastian took over just when I was beginning to wonder if my father was going to describe every town, road, and person they saw. “We came across a man in a tavern. He heard us asking about you, but nobody could recall seeing anyone matching your description. Then he suddenly jumped up and shouted, 'I remember her!' It seems you shot him in both legs,” Sebastian explained with a chuckle.
I looked away guiltily, and just so happen to see the fire reflected in a pair of raccoon eyes. “Did he happen to mention why?”
Come to think of it,” Sebastian hummed lightly as he looked to the stars. “No, he didn't.”
I assumed that he was lying to impress us,” my father remarked dryly.
Let's stay with that theory!” I insisted with a nervous chuckle.
My father gave me a strange look. “Uh... Why did you shoot a man in both legs?”
I sighed, and then confessed. “He tried to steal Goldie! But I bandaged him right back up!”
I see...”
I couldn't tell if he was being serious or suppressing laughter, but I rather hoped that he was thinking of something else to talk about. The glowing eyes from the raccoon disappeared in a way that let me know it had turned its attention to something else, but hadn't moved yet. I raised my bow and shot before it had a chance to look back and notice me about to kill it.
A thump indicated that I'd hit it and knocked it out of the tree. With a softly triumphant cheer, I set my bow aside and walked over to retrieve my next meal. Nudging it carefully with my boot, I determined that it was dead enough that it wasn't likely to attack me when I picked it up.
I grunted under my breath as I lifted it into my arms. “Wow! You're a big fellow!” It was at least 25 pounds, which was about three times more than Bom weighed.
Both my father and brother watched me in astonishment as I carried my prey back towards the fire.
I don't know if either of you are hungry, but I haven't eaten since I got back from town. As long as I'm cooking, I might as well make enough for everyone, right?” I offered in a roundabout way.
I wouldn't pass up a bite to eat,” my father replied nonchalantly.
How in the world did you know that was there?!” Sebastian demanded.
I dropped my burden so that I could sit where I was sitting earlier without falling or waking my baby. I patted Bom with one hand in an unconscious response to my thoughts.
Easy,” I stated as I looked around. “See?”
Sebastian looked where I pointed, squinted, and then gasped. “Oh! … That's rather creepy...”
I laughed. I guess it had never occurred to him to hunt at night before! “Perhaps, but it comes in handy since raccoons are nocturnal creatures and also big enough to feed me for awhile. This way, I don't have to hunt every day!”
As I talked, I was busy gutting and skinning and just generally preparing my meal. I looked up at my twin and grinned.
By the way, if I haven't said so already, thank you for giving me this dagger! I could never have fed myself without it!”
Sebastian looked like he wanted to protest that I was using such an expensive weapon for something so mundane, but he bit back his comment and nodded his head.
Two of the three horses whinnied, but Goldie snuffled softly in recognition.
Um...” I held up my hands soothingly. “Don't move and don't get upset.”
What are you talking about?” Sebastian asked in confusion. I didn't get a chance to answer him before he gasped in alarm.
Shh!” I insisted as I pulled the intestines out of the raccoon and offered them to my dangerous half friend. He trusted me only enough to let me feed him and occasionally pet him, but other than that, he treated me like he might bite me at any moment. It wasn't normal for a wolf to befriend a human after all!
The wolf's coat was normally gray, but the fire made it shine with hints of silver and orange. He slowly took the intestines from my hand, and then scrutinized my companions for a moment before deciding to sit and get comfortable while he ate his meal.
I liked having company from time to time, and didn't mind sharing my food. He almost certainly liked a free meal whenever possible, so this little half friendship of ours worked out nicely for both of us. Plus, I'm fairly sure that he kept other wolves away from me, which was actually strange since wolves are normally pack creatures.
My father was normally a man who didn't often show his emotions, but his jaw currently hung so low that a bird could almost nest in his mouth! “You have a pet wolf!”
I wouldn't exactly call him a pet,” I muttered, concentrating on my work. Wolfie – my secret name for him – huffed a whine when he saw me pull out the liver. “Not a chance! The liver's mine!”
He growled as if trying to scare me, but I ignored him. I dug around a bit, and then held out my hand. “Here, you can have the heart.”
He made a noise that sounded like “Hrmph!” but then took my offering.
I was finally ready to cut the raccoon into smaller pieces to cook. I made sure to cut the pieces small enough that they would cook quickly since I was now far too hungry to wait a long time.
It took me only a moment to rearrange the fire so that there was room, but then I got up and retrieved a large flat rock I'd found that reminded me of a platter. I set it directly in the fire, knowing that it would heat up and cook the meat without the meat falling into the ashes or getting charred from the flames.
It won't be long now,” I promised with a grin as I tossed the chunks of meat onto the rock. “I don't have any salt or seasonings though, so it will be on the bland side, but at least it's something to eat.”
Wolfie whined again, so I took pity on him by separating a leg and handing it to him. He licked my hand in thanks, and I rubbed him on the head. “Now go on! I'm going home in the morning, and I need to get to sleep soon... Sorry I won't be around to feed you any more.”
He whimpered as if he understood me, though I am sure he was merely concerned by the tone of my voice. I genuinely sounded sorry that I wouldn't be able to feed him, which made me realize that I was going to miss him. With a growl in the direction of the horses – which I'm almost positive was simply to make him laugh as they shrieked – he took off, disappearing pretty quickly.
I inspected the meat, claiming the ones that were done to my satisfaction. “I don't have any plates, but a dagger makes a pretty good skewer.”
Sebastian looked almost ready to cry. “I am never taking anything for granted again!”
I giggled. “I'm sure you would have managed even better than I have if you were in my place.”
Sebastian snorted. “I wouldn't be in your place...”
I stared at the fire without really seeing it, understanding that he now looked down on me for what happened. He seemed to realize that he'd said something thoughtless, because he suddenly pulled me into a hug.
No! What I meant was that I would have fought harder or...”
I exhaled in disappointment. His attitude made it abundantly clear that I should have done everything in my power to stop something that I hadn't fully understood from happening. I pushed him away so that I could get to my feet.
I'm tired and I want to get whatever sleep I can,” I informed him tersely. “See you in the morning.”
He sighed, obviously at a loss at what to say to make up for his blunder. “Good night Selena.”
I walked to my father and kissed him on the cheek. “Good night father.”
He murmured goodnight and then watched me walk to my shelter. Part of me wondered what he was thinking, and part of me no longer cared. I was astonished to realize that I no longer had it in me to be a good little girl and do what I was told.
This gave me more than plenty to think about as I drifted off to sleep.

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