watching, reading, and writing stories

Sneak Peek: Chapter 1 of The Lost Brother

on December 21, 2015

Merry Christmas everyone!

I’ve been editing up a storm this past month and I’m about to print my first test copy of my sequel novel Finding Home: The Lost Brother. Since it’s Christmas time, I thought I’d post the whole first chapter for y’all to read. So enjoy! Merry Christmas! And feel free to leave comments if you’d like to.



A Lost Home

“The rich rule over the poor,

and the borrower is servant to the lender.”

Proverbs 22:7

The small town of Hampton was full of life as the salty air rushed swiftly by in the afternoon breeze. The stalls of vendors reeked with fish and mollusks. Even the children playing hide and seek amongst the crowd wore smiles of joy. War, it would seem, could not touch this place or leave any lasting marks on the landscape.

However, for young Josiah, life was not well. It wasn’t that he was ungrateful for the family that had taken him in, now that he was an orphan, but still things would never be the same. Josiah set the heavy water bucket down for a minute to catch his breath. It was a long climb from the village well back to the breezy hillside where he now lived. He studied the imposing stone structure for a minute, so different from the home he had grown up in. He tried to picture the old cottage, with the kitchen fire bringing warmth and light to the whole family. He could still picture each of his brothers smiling faces. That’s how he remembered them, always smiling, always having fun.

Josiah had been completely content as a child, ignorant of his parent’s money problems, and constantly babied by his mother, he was after all the youngest. Although he was inevitably picked on by his older siblings, life had seemed good to him; that was until things turned for the worse.

He stared at the full bucket and sighed. It was no good brooding on the past. He had been told over and over that he couldn’t change what had happened and that he should be thankful for his life.

“Josiah? Are you going to dawdle all day or are you going to fetch me that water?” a loud voice echoed down to him.

“Coming!” Josiah replied, trying to sound respectful. He flexed his fingers and again took hold of the rough handle.

The large woman with dark brown eyes that met him at the door could have been pleasant to look at if she wasn’t constantly frowning. She glared down at Josiah with her permanent frown planted squarely on her face. Then to make things worse she crossed her arms, “What took you so long? A grumpy old donkey could move faster than you.”

Josiah’s eyes fell to the ground, “Sorry Margaret.”

“It’s Lady Margaret to you!” the lady said with a huff. “How many times do I have to remind you? You’re such a dunce. Now give me that water bucket.”

Josiah handed the bucket to her, and reluctantly took another empty bucket from her outstretched hand. “Yes Lady Margaret.”

“Now be quick with this one, no more lollygagging, got it?”

Josiah nodded, and turned back down the large hill. He plodded along, willing his legs to move faster than he felt possible.

An hour later, Lady Margaret finally felt satisfied with the amount of water Josiah had collected and released him from his chores. “I shall be indisposed for an hour, but I expect you to be back here when I am through. Do you understand?”

Josiah nodded, “Yes Lady Margaret.”

“Good.” With that Lady Margaret shut the door curtly.

Josiah sighed and turned to face the sea. This was his favorite time. Lady Margaret for all her faults also had a love for long baths that allowed Josiah a precious hour of freedom. He skipped down the hill’s worn path towards his best friend’s home.

A sturdy little cottage, covered with flowers came into view. The woman of the house loved flowers, and so the sweet scents overpowered the salty sea air around the home. Vines covered with little purple flowers climbed all over the stone walls, while window boxes overflowed with yellow and pink blossoms. Even the ground seemed to explode with growth. No matter what season, some kind of flower was always in bloom at this home, even if only in the windowsill while a wintry storm blew outside.

Josiah smiled to himself and called out, “Alex?”

A woman’s face popped out from behind a bush teeming with little pink flowers, “He’ll be out in a minute Josiah. He’s washing the dishes for me.”

Josiah nodded and smiled back at the woman’s kind face. “You need any help?”

Thin strands of her brown hair swayed as she shook her head, “Not today, I’m almost done.”

Josiah nodded and began to wander through the various flowers while he waited. As he watched the bees hum from one bloom to the next, he finally felt a sense of peace. Compared to the dark stone mansion where he now lived, this place felt like heaven. Why couldn’t Alex’s family have adopted me? We’re already like brothers. Josiah sighed because he knew why. Though Alex’s family was generous, there was a limit to the help they could give. They were not well-off, and could barely keep up with feeding their own children. In comparison Lady Margaret and Lord Gregory had a surplus, and no children to care for. Even though Josiah felt more like a servant than a son in their home, he couldn’t complain. He had food to eat, a bed to sleep in, and a roof over his head.

“Hey Josiah!” Alex said excitedly.

Josiah turned to his see his friend wipe a wad of soap bubbles out of his tangled brown hair, “You done with soap duty?”

“Yeah, you done with bucket duty?”

Josiah rubbed his calloused hands, “Yeah, for today anyway.”

“You want to play at the beach?”

“Actually, I was thinking of… you know.”

Alex shrugged, “Sure, we can play there today.”

“Well let’s go then, I only have an hour you know,” Josiah said as he sprinted towards an old dirt path.

Alex picked up a smooth walking stick and swung it over his head, “I’ll get ye yet ya slippery eel!”

“You’ll have to catch me first!” Josiah called over his shoulder. He darted through the forest, slipping under low limps and over thick tree roots like a wild animal.

Five minutes later Alex called out, “Alright, you can stop hiding now Josiah. I’m tired of this game.”

No one answered, just the call of birds echoed under the green canopy.

Alex sat down and crossed his arms, “I’m not playing anymore Josiah. You always win.” Alex waited for an answer, and still there was nothing. “At least give me a hint!” Alex searched the brush, poking his long stick into the thick foliage. “Uhgg, you’re no fun. I’m going home.”

Josiah suddenly sprang out of a bush and tackled Alex to the ground. “Got you!” he said triumphantly.

Alex pushed his friend off, “No fair, you didn’t even give me a hint that time.”

Josiah sat up with a grin, “Sure I did; didn’t you hear the bird calls?”

Alex tilted his head to the side, “That was you?”

Josiah winked.

“It’s not fair,” Alex pouted. I never got special lessons about being quiet in the woods.”

Josiah frowned, “Yeah, well just be glad it wasn’t you.”

“Come on, tell me about it.”

Josiah shook his head.

“Please,” Alex whined.

“Cut it out Alex, I don’t want to talk about it.”

Alex continued pouting, “But I’m your best friend! You can share your secrets with me.”

Josiah stood up with a grunt, “Come on, let’s go to the house, I don’t have much time left.”

Alex got up reluctantly.

The two boys scurried through the woods and soon broke into a clearing. They returned to the path that led to a well-worn cottage in the distance.

“Are you still planning on living here one day?” Alex asked.

“Of course, we’re going to be neighbors. I’ll live in my cottage, and we’ll build you another one right… there.” Josiah pointed to an uncommon spot of level ground.

“I wish you could live here now,” Alex sighed. “Then we could play all the time… like before.”

“Like when we were kids.”

“What are you talking about? We are kids,” Alex said a bit confused. Then he laughed, “Except when I’m doing dishes, then I’m just like a real adult.”

Josiah shook his head and laughed, “Yeah, you’re a real grown up now.”

Alex hit Josiah in the stomach playfully, “Hey, it’s a start.”

“Yeah, well don’t be in a hurry, being an adult isn’t that great, trust me.”

Alex stared at his friend with concern, “What do you mean?”

“Never mind.”

“One of these days Josiah, you’re going to tell me what happened to you.”

Josiah studied the ground and kept silent.

Alex sat down with a huff and stared out at the ocean, “It is a nice view though; I can see why you like it up here.”

Josiah nodded, but he turned to look at the cottage instead. He closed his eyes and imagined his family standing there with him.

“Guess you have to go home now,” Alex muttered.

Josiah’s eyes snapped open and he glanced at where the sun was in the sky. “Yeah,” he mumbled.

“Well, guess I’ll see you tomorrow,” Alex said as he stood up and wiped the dirt off his hands and onto his pants.

Josiah nodded glumly, not wanting his hour of bliss to end.

Alex headed for the worn path that led to his home and turned to wave. “Bye Josiah,” he called.

Josiah lifted his hand in farewell and watched as his friend disappeared into the trees. “Bye,” he said under his breath. He took one last look at the snug little cottage then took off at a sprint heading for the cold stone structure that he now reluctantly called home. He arrived out of breath and even though he had run the whole way, he was still late. Through the door he could hear Lady Margaret mumbling to herself. He couldn’t make out the words, but she sounded irritated. Part of Josiah wanted to turn and run away. I could just leave, never look back. I could just live on my own…. But something held him there.

“I can hear you breathing,” Lady Margaret said loudly. “Get in here now!”

“Too late now,” Josiah mumbled to himself. He pulled the door open and walked into the poorly lit structure.

“You’re late,” Lady Margaret said with quiet impatience.

“Sorry,” Josiah mumbled.

“You don’t even have an excuse this time?” Lady Margaret said disappointedly.

Josiah shook his head.

“Gregory is not going to like this,” Lady Margaret said matter-of-factly.

Josiah cringed.

Lady Margaret smiled, pleased that her comment had the desired effect. “Go wash up now, dinner is ready.”

Josiah nodded and sulked over to the washbasin. He rinsed his hands slowly, his mind racing with which punishment Lord Gregory would inflict on him this evening.

Just then Gregory’s oversized body walked in through the door. “Ah, it’s good to come home to a warm meal,” he said happily. “What’s this I smell Margaret? Could it be lamb?”

Margaret laughed, “No, guess again.”

Gregory’s heavy footsteps caused the stone walls to echo with loud thumps as he made his way to the table.

Josiah frowned at the large muddy tracks scaring the freshly polished floor that Gregory left in his wake. Great, guess my punishment will be cleaning that floor… again.

      Gregory inhaled deeply, moving the thick brown hairs of his mustache. “Hmm, perhaps venison is our treat of the evening.”

Margaret shook her head. “Come now, stop being so extravagant.”

Gregory frowned and rubbed his scruffy beard, “We’re not having chicken again, are we?”

Margaret nodded, “Unfortunately when we have more mouths to feed, the delicacies give way to the practical.” She eyed Josiah accusingly.

Josiah avoided her gaze and took his seat. It’s not like I wanted you to take me in either.

      Gregory sighed, “I was hoping for something else… but at least it’s not fish.” He sat with a loud thump in his massive chair at the head of the table.

“True,” Margaret said.

“Well, come now, let’s eat,” Gregory said.

A servant rushed in with a platter of steaming chicken, and another followed with a platter of rolls. The two servants rushed in and out of the kitchen, carrying dish after dish of steaming food.

Gregory waited for no one and began tearing into a chicken leg and several rolls before the whole meal was even on the table.

Margaret sat delicately in her own chair and began picking out several choice pieces of food.

Josiah sat quietly, waiting for them both to begin eating. He had come to the understanding that the more his presence went unknown, the better. Once the two had finished serving themselves, he grabbed a few leftovers and nibbled at them quietly.

When Gregory was starting on his second helping of food, Margaret cleared her throat.

Gregory ignored her as he kept eating.

A servant refilled Margaret’s glass, but she cleared her throat again, more loudly this time. When her husband still ignored her, she finally sighed, “Gregory.”

Gregory made eye contact, but refused to stop eating.

“We’ve had another unfortunate mistake that needs correcting.”

Gregory rolled his eyes and swallowed. “What is it this time?” he moaned.

Margaret locked eyes on Josiah, “Our dear little boy has refused to follow directions again. He needs to be disciplined.”

Gregory glanced at Josiah with annoyance, “Really? Can’t you go one day without getting in trouble?”

Josiah’s eyes dropped to his plate.

“Apparently not,” Margaret said with distaste. “It’s a pity that we have to deal with all his childishness. His parents really should have done a better job of raising him.”

Josiah glanced up at Lady Margaret, stunned. He felt like crying and yelling in rage at the same time, but nothing came out of his dry throat.

“Margaret,” Gregory said calmly. “There’s no need to bring that up. It’s not like he could help it.”

Margaret sniffed, and went back to cutting her chicken into bite sized pieces. “Well he still needs to be punished. I won’t allow his gruesome behavior in my house.”

“Fine,” Gregory said quietly. “Then he won’t sleep in your house tonight, how’s that?”

Margaret gave a quick nod of approval and went back to eating.

Josiah glanced up at Lord Gregory, “So where will I sleep tonight?”

Gregory’s face softened, he almost looked apologetic, “In the barn.”

Josiah stared back at his plate of food.

“What do you say?” Margaret said with an air of satisfaction.

“Yes sir,” Josiah said quietly.

* * * * *

Josiah stepped into the weather-beaten barn. The small lantern in his hand illuminated a damp structure with several stalls where quiet animals stood staring back at him. It was more unnerving in the dark than it ever was when he had to feed the animals in the light of day. Josiah clung to the thick blanket in his other hand and took a deep breath. “Alright, nothing to be afraid of in here,” he tried to reassure himself.

The wooden panels creaked as a sharp gust of wind came in from the sea. Little streams of air whistled through the cracks in the siding.

Josiah gulped and took another step inside. He jumped as the wind slammed the door shut behind him. “Calm down,” he told himself quietly. “It’s just wind, it can’t hurt me. He settled down on the damp hay of an empty stall and snuggled in his thick blanket. Josiah wasn’t sure he’d be able to fall asleep in the dark barn, but he tried to get comfortable all the same. It’s nothing like sleeping on the hard ground, and I’ve done that plenty of times….

* * * * *

“Josiah? Come on, we’re moving on, you can’t sleep anymore.”

Josiah saw his father leaning over him. He yawned and wiped his eyes, “Where’d our roof go?” he asked confused.

His father laughed, “We don’t have a roof out here. We’re not at our cottage, remember?”

Josiah stared up at the trees, “Oh yeah. When will we get to go back?”

“Soon, very soon…. Come on now, up you go.”

Josiah sat up and looked around at his brothers also stirring out of their slumbers. He tried to focus on their faces, but they all looked fuzzy, and the harder he looked, the more blurred they became. Soon everything around him was nothing but a haze of colors.

* * * * *

Josiah opened his eyes, everything was dark. “Father?” he whispered.

Something stirred next to him.

Josiah turned and his eyes adjusted to find a chicken snuggled up next to him. “Ah!” he yelped as he jumped up.

The chicken clucked and flapped away.

Josiah sat back down with a sigh, “It was just a dream.”





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