It’s that time again! Wednesday briefs is a group of authors who write a piece of free flash fiction (between 500-1,000) words based off of either a visual or text prompt. I’ve linked the other authors, so if you could please go check out their stories and show them some support. I pulled Guardian of the Wolves because I’m working on cleaning it and expanding it further for potential publication.
This week I am continuing with Darkest Before Dawn. Rose is a twenty-two year old woman who has taken custody of her younger brother Ben. The duo are fleeing cross-country, with something terrible and shadowy on their heels. They’ve come to rest in a farmhouse that’s been in their family for years–seemingly abandoned. Rose will do anything to protect her secret, and the secret that her little brother is unknowingly harboring.
I’ve used the: “How can you say that?”
“You didn’t tell me that there would be rats.” Ben entered the room. He carried a bucket of water that sloshed precariously with each step.
“Be careful.” Rose took the bucket from him and set it in the center of the room. “You might have to mop twice. While you’re doing that, I’m going to go beat the rugs.”
“Can’t you mop and I beat the rugs?” Ben grinned again. “I’m strong enough.”
“You screamed over a mouse, you get to mop.” She gathered up the old, filthy and possibly mildewed rugs.
“How can you say that?” Ben whined, shoving the mop into the clean water before slopping it onto the hardwood floor. “You better not tell anyone.”
“Keep whining and I’ll tell everyone I meet.” Rose struggled to get all the rugs out the door, dropping them with a grunt on the porch. She carefully lined them up on the porch railing, before hopping down the stairs. She carried with her a rug beater that was probably the same age as the house. Rose set to beating the filth out of the rugs, taking a weird satisfaction in the cloud of dust and dirt that enveloped her and the porch. She built up a hard sweat, body aching, muscles screaming for release by the time she switched the rugs, and continued to beat the dirt out of them.
“Howdy.” The man’s voice startled her, and she turned, brandishing the rug beater as a weapon. The thumping of the rugs had muffled his approach. He held his hands up, palms out, a wide, easy going grin on his face. “Don’t mean no harm, my pa sent me by.”
“For what?” She tugged the bandanna down that covered her mouth, and inhaled some dust, causing her to cough.
“You’re in the sticks, missy, people gon’ get curious when strangers come by and move into the abandoned house in the middle of the night.” He dipped his head when he spoke to her, Rose catching sight of his brilliant blue eyes that were covered by his baseball cap.
He was tall and lean, clothes hugging a leanly muscled frame. He had dark hair, long enough to peek out from under the cap, with long lashes only setting his eyes off more. He was tanned and weather-beaten, jaw and cheeks rough with stubble.
“You got a name? Or you gon’ make me guess?” His voice was low and easy going, with enough of a drawl to make his words melodic. There was something in his speech pattern that set the whole thing off, but Rose couldn’t put her finger on it.
“Aren’t you supposed to introduce yourself first?” She hadn’t lowered the rug beater. “You’re on my property and all.”
He extended his hand to her, “You can call me whatever you want, but ‘round here most call me Darren.”
She took the hand and shook it briefly. “Nice to meet you.” She turned back to the rug and started slapping it again, hoping he’d take the hint. She could see him in her peripheral vision. He walked closer, and leaned against one of the rugs, watching as she took her aggression out.
“Is there something I can do for you?” Rose said, arms crossed over her chest, the rug spotless.
“That’s a loaded question.” He winked at her, and shook his head. “I’m just curious about how’d buy this old shithouse.” His lips twitched again. “Especially since it’s haunted.”
“It’s not haunted.” Rose rolled her eyes, “Keep your voice down. The kid doesn’t need hear anything like that.”
“He your kid?” Darren jerked his head toward the house.
“Maybe,” Rose said. “Don’t feel much like sharing right now.”
“I don’t have any ulterior motive. I just wanted to come by and say hello before you got overwhelmed with the welcome brigade.”
“So is the accent and country boy thing an act? Or do you just like to hide your education from everyone around here?” She heard the change in his speech, and put two and two together.
“It’s not an act, but I lay it on thick when I’m home. People don’t like that I went to a fancy school rather than keeping up the farm.” He stepped toward her, and Rose took a step back.
“You’re not very friendly are you?”
“I’ve seen enough horror movies, it’s always the good country boy next door. He’s the one carving up the neighbors and feeding them to the dogs.”
“Hogs darlin’. Dogs are picky, pigs eat anything.” The easy going drawl was back, as well as the insufferable grin. “Should remember that city-slicker.”
“I’m not a city-slicker, I know my way around.” Rose glared at him. He only grinned back at her, hands jammed in his pockets.
“Well missy, if ya’ll need anything done that you can’t do yourself, give me a holler. I’m that way.” He pointed back toward the house behind them. “Might wanna do something ‘bout the roof before it gets cold.”
“I suppose you know all about that don’t you?”
“Wouldn’t of offered if I didn’t know a couple things about roofs.”
“I’ll think about it.” Rose said. “Now may I get back to what I was doing?”
“You got a good glisten going on.” Darren said. “Sure you don’t want a glass of sweet tea? We can just stop by, introduce you to my momma.”
“I don’t like sweet tea, and I’m sure your momma will be coming with the welcome brigade. Don’t you think so?”
“She’s bringing a casserole. We could share that.” Darren’s grin got wider, if that was at all possible. “Casserole is meant to be shared.”
“I will share it, with the kid. You can eat with your momma.”
His laugh made her stop what she was doing and just watch him. His face and body transformed, the sound bright but completely masculine. “You and me, we going to get on just fine.”
“If that’s what you think country-boy.”
“It’s what I know, missy.”
To Be continued.
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