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Summertime: Chapter 1
Summer peeled open her sleep-swollen eyelids.
The emerald pendant was convulsing sharply against the base of her throat, mirroring the wild pounding of her heartbeat. Sweat beaded on her pale forehead and her vision slowly cleared the image of her tiny bedroom.
Light poured in from the small cracks in the ceiling, illuminating specks of dust and dirt floating around in the air. Summer was lying on her cot that became too small a couple years back, swathed in several layers of thin, homespun blankets. A rickety chair in a corner held the few possessions she owned in a small leather sack with a clean stack of neatly folded clothes sitting beside it. The walls of her room were darkened with browned mottling from age, the floor was of dirt and the ceiling had a fist-sized hole in one spot. It was her home.
Summer threw the patched sheets of blanket aside and shivered as the early morning air raised the hairs on her legs. It wasn’t a pleasant sensation - eerie and uncomfortable. Quickly, she dressed in her full gear and slid on her worn hunting boots. There was a long day ahead of her.
She paused by the door, a hand on the knob. Her pendant had ceased the pulsing and resumed its cold, inanimate form. Picking it up, she stared into it curiously. It reflected the same breathtaking beauty for the last seven years. The emerald green abyss was obscure and unfathomable, intriguing Summer to solve its mystery. She curled the emerald into her fist and closed her amber eyes. Faint images danced behind her eyelids, forming barely visible shapes. The glimmer of the fire, a glimpse of a –
Suddenly, the door flew open and Summer yelped, the pendant slipping from her grasp. An elderly woman with elegant salt-and-pepper hair and the bluest eyes stood there, sinewy hands on her hips and looking not at all ruffled.
“Mira.” Summer shook her head and clutched her faintly beating pendant. “Mira, you scared me half-dead. You could knock next time.”
“And you could get up earlier next time,” Mira replied. “It’s nearly noontime.”
Summer groaned. “Sorry about that. Is there any breakfast?”
The old woman chuckled lightly. “You’re lucky I even saved you any, my dear.” Mira glanced at Summer’s clothing, and her sky-blue eyes narrowed, her wrinkled mouth opening. “You’re not –”
“Well,” said Summer loudly. “I’m starving. I think I smell cornbread.” Summer ducked out her room and into the immediate next, the kitchen. Sure enough, on the wooden dining table was a plate of freshly baked cornbread. Her stomach rumbled.
Mira was still narrowing her eyes as Summer plopped down on a hard wooden stool and chewed on a slice of bread. Avoiding it was no use; Mira would somehow nudge it into conversation before Summer left.
“Good day, hmm?” Summer said in between hungry bites. “Sunny, I think.”
Mira raised her level gaze toward Summer and leaned on a wall. There was no anger or annoyance in those honest, blue eyes, just slight frustration.
“Summer, are you going to those woods again?”
There was no point hiding it. “Yes.”
Mira sighed. “I thought you going to help prepare for tomorrow’s feast with the other villagers.”
“Somebody needs to hunt for the fresh meat.”
“Not you.” Mira hesitated. “Women aren’t supposed to be doing men’s work.”
“All the men in the village are chickens. None of them would hunt out there anyway.” Summer ripped the remaining piece of bread into pieces. “I’m the best hunter here. And don’t go discriminating women either.”
Mira looked up at the ceiling. “I see I can’t convince you either way. I’m not going to force you,” she added, seeing Summer’s look, “but please, Summer. Be careful.”
Silence. Summer slowly looked up to meet Mira’s relentless, ever-concerned blue eyes. A faint smile made a way onto Summer’s pale face, a flicker of amusement.
“When am I not?”