It’s that time of the week again! Time for me to release the next chapter of my current novel work in progress!! Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below! Now still keep in mind that this is the first draft, so it’s still pretty raw and an unedited 2,745 words. 🙂
If you missed Chapter 1 you can read it here and if you missed Chapter 2, you can read that one here.
Awkward silence hung in the air as they were walking toward the tree. Coleen spotted a bright, red Cardinal and pointed it out to Penni, hoping to break the lull of conversation.
They stopped and without either girl saying a word, watched it peck at the ground trying to find a juicy worm to feed to his young. He was successful and completed the task that he set out to do, then flew away.
They arrived at their destination, sat down on the ground, against the trunk of the big tree and the quietness of the situation caused Penni’s palms to sweat. Coleen picked up a leaf, and slowly began breaking it apart into tiny little pieces, then dropped them straight down onto the pleated skirt of her dress. When there was nothing left of the once whole leaf, except for the small pile of remnants on her skirt, she got up on her knees and brushed it all off, causing them to flutter to the ground. Penni bit her lower lip, looking downward onto her sweat covered hands, not daring to glance up at Coleen and without looking at her friend’s face, broke the silence.
“Coleen, I overheard some things that were said about you and I wanted to talk to you about them.”
“Go ahead, ask away.” She said, and sat back down on the crunchy leaf covered ground.
“Well, I’m not quite sure how to say this, but I’m going to give it a shot anyway. Are you and Mark…?”
Penni looked over at Coleen and instantly knew that was all she had to say to see the startled expression creep onto her face.
“Together? There I said it, it’s out there.” She waited a few seconds and continued. “So, are you?”
All the color from Coleen’s face, flushed. “What would make you think that?” Coleen pushed out in an octave higher than what her normal voice sounded like.
“Well, I heard a couple girls talking about how they saw Mark give you kiss on the cheek before you guys went your separate ways. I didn’t hear much else, because by that time I was running outside, balling my eyes out. Is it true Coleen? Please tell me it’s not.”
Coleen looked at her dearest of friends with misty eyes. “I wish I could Penni, but I just can’t lie to you any longer. Yes, it is true that Mark and I are seeing each other.” Coleen then looked up toward the once bright, blue sky that was now speckled with dark grey clouds, so she didn’t have to see the hurt on Penni’s face.
A tear broke the barrier and fell down Penni’s cheek and soon after another one fell, but that was all she would allow to escape. She pushed back the others that were threatening to follow and with clenched fists, she stood up abruptly and placed them down at her sides, backing up like she was awaiting a chance to flee.
“How could you do that to me, Coleen? Even after you knew how much I liked him, and what’s worse is that you did it behind my back, day after day, without saying a word about it!” She caught Coleen’s gaze and held it for a brief moment. Making sure she knew just how much she was aching inside, and then broke off the eye contact to look at their carved initials on the trunk of the Old Hickory. “H-how long have you g-guys been…?”
That was all Penni could choke out, unless she wanted to completely break down and lose what composure she had left.
Seeing the hurt and pain that she had caused her friend to be in, made her move to be by her friend’s side, but that only pushed Penni away further. Coleen let out a sigh, and answered the problematic question that hung heavy in the air.
“Nearly two months. We have been together for nearly two months now. I’m so sorry Penni! I should have told you sooner, this is entirely my fault and my fault alone. If I had said something sooner, we might not be in the position we are in now.”
It was all Coleen could do to keep herself from crying as well. Her eyes trailed the path that Penni’s had taken and her eyes landed on their initials. She opened her mouth as if to say something else, but let it go.
Penni’s gaze never wavered from where it was locked. She clenched her fists even tighter until her knuckles turned white as a sheet, and then willed herself to relax by crossing her arms in front of her chest. She turned her head to look at Coleen one last time before speaking again. “Please, just get out of my sight right now! I don’t want to see your wretched face ever again!”
“Oh Penni, you don’t mean that, do you? Right now you’re angry and don’t know what you’re saying, and for that, I am truly sorry. Really I am will you forgive me?”
“Angry? I have every right to be angry! My best friend is dating my crush, lied about it, and I had to find out by overhearing some girls talking in the halls. I said I don’t want to talk to you anymore! Please, just go away. I think that would be the best thing for a friend to do right now, if I can even call you that anymore.”
Okay fine, I’ll leave you alone if that’s what you truly want, but I want you to understand that I didn’t mean to hurt you like I have, it wasn’t intentional.” Coleen left it at that and turned to walk away back to the orphanage. She glanced back and saw nothing but Penni sitting in a heap on the ground, her heart ached at the sight but turned to the path before her and kept walking.
After a few minutes had passed, Penni looked up to see through misty eyes, only the silhouette of her dearest friend in the world walking out of sight. She was left completely alone to cry by herself with nothing but the birds chirping to keep her company. She sat there in the middle of the woods, with her back up against the tree with her hands covering her face, and elbows propped up on her knees.
Skip Hilton was going on his usual walk after dinner, but this time it wasn’t his school work or his morning devotion that occupied his mind, it was Penni. His evening walks out to the Old Hickory Tree and beyond to the river bend usually helped to clear his mind.
As he got closer and closer, he could make out someone sitting on the ground and leaning against the Old Hickory, sobbing. He slowed his pace from a brisk walk to more of a tiptoe. The sunset shone bright on the girl with the auburn hair. Skip racked his brain trying to figure out who this girl could be. There are only six girls with that color hair in the orphanage. He then began to narrow the options down to two girls from the build, style of hair and paleness of skin, May Willow and Penni Joy. “Crack” Skip looked down, only to see that he had stepped on a twig and broke it in half. He stopped right in his tracks and went to hide behind the nearest tree. He saw the girl look up, wipe her face off against her dress sleeve, and look around.
“Who’s there?” she asked.
Skip would recognize that voice anywhere. “It’s Penni!” he whispered excitedly.
“Please show yourself or I’ll have no choice but to make you.” She stated.
Skip’s long sleeved, light blue sweater and his worn out, dark blue jeans didn’t help hide him anymore than his bright red hair did. He stuck out like a sore thumb!
Penni stood up, spotted the sleeve of his blue shirt sticking out from behind a bare leaved tree, and made her way over there. She crept up slowly to the tree not wanting to spook him, but when Skip heard her approaching, he jumped out and took off running toward the creek. Penni hastily ran after him, noticing his red hair, but couldn’t tell exactly who it was. There were about three boys that beheld that color of hair. She had been chasing the mystery boy for about five minutes, darting back and forth between trees, jumping over logs lying on the ground, shouting for him to stop until he disappeared over a rise.
All of a sudden, she couldn’t feel the ground beneath her anymore. Penni tumbled down a hill and landed on something soft, yet firm. She was afraid to open her eyes not knowing what laid beneath her, until she felt leaves being pulled softly out of her hair in clumps. Only then did she slowly open her eyes and saw the face of Skip Hilton with a big old smile on his face. She was caught up in the moment and just had to laugh, and he couldn’t help but laugh along.
Penni realized that she was still on top of him after a good minute of laughter and rolled off to the side, face full of confliction. She laid flat on her back, looking up at the sky through naked tree branches and ran her fingers through her hair trying to find any stray leaves that may still have a hold.
“I can’t wait till everything is green again. Right now, everything is so boring this time of year. All the trees look the same brown, tall, and leafless. Don’t you agree?” said Penni trying to calm her frazzled nerves.
“You’re absolutely right. I agree with you one hundred percent. I was actually thinking the same thing. Well, around the same lines of it anyway. I love the flowers that bloom every year around the orphanage, what are they called again? They’re those ones that always seem to bloom first. Most of them are yellow, but some are white and they have a trumpet shaped center. For some reason I can’t remember what they’re called.”
“Those ones are the daffodils! They’re my favorite too! It’s a sign that spring is right around the corner!”
Their conversation went on for hours. It was the first time that they felt comfortable talking to each other with no other worry in the world. Penni had no clue how they had so much in common. They both loved music, both thought that the outdoors was a lot better than indoors, and so much more.
They talked until dusk and Penni finally said with a sense of unease, “Oh my goodness! Look at the time!” Pointing to her navy blue wristwatch and then thrusting it into Skip’s face so he could see it too, “Can you believe that we’ve been talking for two hours? Everybody is probably wondering where we are. I don’t want anybody jumping to conclusions and thinking that we are together.” Penni paused to take a deep breath in, and then let out a big worried sigh, “We aren’t together, are we?”
Skip was taken by surprise when she said this and allowed a chuckle to escape his lips with a shake of his head.
“Oh no, we are far from together. We couldn’t be farther than together than we are right now, we are just friends.” he said quickly.
“You are totally right! I don’t even know why I brought that up. I feel like a complete idiot. I’m sorry. I don’t know what came over me to make me say such a thing.”
There was an uncomfortable silence that hung heavy in the air causing both orphans to fidget with their hands until Skip spoke up, “We better get going if we want to be back by dark.”
Penni had never felt the sharp pain in her foot until she stood up and put her body weight on it. “Owe! My ankle hurts a lot!” Penni fell back down to the ground and bent over grabbing where it ached. Skip crouched down taking hold of her ankle to examine it. He tried to move it up and down then side-to-side, but with every little movement of her foot Penni winced in pain.
“We need to get you back to the orphanage so that Miss Lucas can take a look at you. My guess would be that it’s broken, but I’m no doctor.” He looked back down at her ankle. “It’s starting to swell pretty badly. We need to get going.”
Skip tried to lift her up, but he couldn’t succeed.
“Oh Penni, What happened to you?” said a voice coming from behind. Before Skip could look back to see who it was, Coleen was by Penni’s side, asking umpteen million questions.
“Everybody’s been looking for you two. We’ve been worried sick ever since you guys didn’t come back for Evening Prayers.”
“Please stop with your ongoing questions and concerns. I’m all right. I just had a little tumble down that hill over there. I’m fine, really I am.”
“Your ankle doesn’t look like your fine, it’s starting to turn purple, and I’m guessing that it wasn’t a little tumble. Look at it yourself and tell me what really happened.”
“I’ll tell you as long as it stops your nagging. It all started right after you left…”
When Penni was done telling Coleen the whole story, pretty close to half of the orphanage was there to aid her.
Mr. Summerset helped Skip carry her back up the hill and to the nurse’s office.
After everyone and everything had calmed down a bit and the only people left in the room were Penni, Nurse Lucas, Skip and Coleen, Miss Lucas began her examination of Penni’s ankle. No matter how hard Penni cried because of the pain she was in, Skip and Coleen never left her side.
Penni didn’t stop crying until the nurse was done examining and had come up with a diagnosis.
“It looks like you’ve got yourself a grade three ankle sprain Miss Joy. We will need to put you in a cast that will end at your knee and we will put you on some crutches. They will take a while to get used to, but you look like a smart girl, I bet it will only take you a day, before you have the hang of those things. I think you will be just fine with friends like these. You are a very lucky girl and I hope you know that.”
“Yes, ma’am I do. I have the most awesome friends in the whole world!”
She gave Coleen a big hug and started to apologize, “I’m really sorry about what I said. I was just so hurt, that I was blinded by my own pride and jealousy. Will you ever forgive me? I wouldn’t blame you if you never talked to me again.”
“How in the world do you think that I could do that? Of course, I forgive you as long as you forgive me. None of this would have happened if I would have told you as soon as I agreed to go out with Mark.”
“Trust me, all is forgiven. The feeling of betrayal is long gone.” Penni and Coleen hugged once more, and then Penni turned to Skip,
“Thank you so much for helping me. I don’t know what I would have done without you.” It was all Penni could do to keep herself from bursting out with laughter at the thought of what they had gone though and how they ended up where they are now.
Skip smiled, and patted her back, “You’re most certainly welcome. I’m looking forward to knowing you better in the future.” Skip scanned the room then said, “Did anyone notice to where the nurse went?”
“I slipped out while you kids were talking, that way you could have some privacy. Alright, we should get started on that foot of yours. First we need to get the swelling down by putting some ice on it and once that is done, we will start on the cast. Would you two please step out of the room while I do that, it’s pretty cramped in here.”
“Sure I can do that!” Skip and Coleen said in unison. Everybody in the room started to chuckle as they exited the room.