This is a first draft in public. Comments, critiques, and desires are welcome. When this draft is done, I’ll layer it over like wallpaper in an old farmhouse. Right now, I think I’m struggling with pacing in this format. In an actual book, I think it’d be fine. Or more likely, I’d combine a few things to speed it up. Thoughts?
There is a ToC if you need to catch up.
Steady as Stone
By the time Jackie returned with cold fish and half-eaten crusts, Sharna had convinced herself it was all an elaborate way to punish her for the thief’s heist-gone-bad. Maybe Jackie had been tracking her all along. Maybe she was hoping for ransom money from the Mansion, not realizing Sharna was no longer wanted. The hungrier she got and the harder she scrubbed, the more her anxieties spun wild possibilities.
She eyed the thief from under a furrowed brow and tore off bread with her teeth. She spoke with her mouth full. “What took so long? I thought you had left me for Miss Smokes out there.”
Jackie had pale, puffy circles under her eyes and she’d been extra quiet when she’d returned. She did comment on how sparkling and sweet-smelling Sharna had gotten the room, but there’d been no friendly banter. Was she giving up on the plan?
“My arm hurts. I’m broke. I miss Ty. I’m being actively hunted by my Jewel, and I’m eating food from an alley.”
Sharna quit chewing. “Ewww.” She swallowed her mouthful as her stomach clenched. She put her half of the fish back on the waxed paper. “Maybe you should reconsider my original idea. Let me take The Stalks back to the Mansion.”
Jackie laid down on her side, still chewing the day-old fish. “That won’t solve any of my problems.”
“No, but it’ll solve mine. And you don’t know! Maybe they will offer you a reward. Maybe they’ll offer me a reward, and I can split it with you.”
“You really don’t get it, do you? If I show up to collect my half of that imaginary reward, I will be taken, at best, to The Barrows and left to wander until I die in the dark. If I go home, I will, at best, be beaten and then left on a corner somewhere to be picked up by Wave Guards and thrown into The Barrows.” She bent her legs and laid on her back to stare up at the ceiling. “Same outcome, different route.”
Sharna squirmed. “I once thought about being a pancake lady on the Sands.” She looked at her fingers laced in her lap. They were soft and unblemished.
Jackie turned her head and smiled. “That would require ingredients with which to make pancakes and fire – even the pancake ladies have overhead costs.”
Sharna felt small and useless. “There must be something I can do.”
Jackie reached into her pocket and withdrew The Stalks. “You can take these. I almost got caught today, and if they’d been found on me, I’d have been as good as dead. Maybe you can see if you can start them growing.”
“You’d trust me to keep them after I just told you we should return them?”
Jackie didn’t say anything. She held the seeds out, her eyes locked on Sharna’s. Even exhausted, her hand was as steady as stone. Sharna bit her lip. Jackie was trusting her, making her a partner. No one had offered her anything so intimate before. Even when she’d gone to the Mansion, it had been without anyone asking her what she wanted. For the first time, she was being given a choice.
(See you next Saturday, and thank you for reading!)