An Excerpt from: Wedding Feast

Chapter 1

Copyright © 2009 CJ Elliot

All rights reserved, Wild Child Publishing.

"Miss Chloe, what's the matter?" she asked.

I wiped my eyes. "I'm just tired, sweetie. Just tired."

"Why don't you go lay down in my room?"

"That's okay. I'll have your dad drive me to a hotel when he gets home."

"Paw usually goes hunting for days at a time."

"What?" I furrowed my brow. Surely I'd heard her wrong.

"I don't expect him home for a couple more days."

Tears threatened to overtake me again, but I refused to give in to them. There wasn't anything I could do about the situation--no sense crying about it. I focused on Gilly, wondering if she felt trapped too. "Does he leave you alone with the kids all that time?"

"I'm used to it. Maw's been gone for a while."

Words failed me. I didn't know how to make her load any lighter. Though she didn't seem at all distressed by her lot in life in any way.

She crossed the room and filled a teakettle. From the top shelf, she pulled a dusty canister and spooned out a couple of mounds of the powder inside. When the water boiled, Gilly poured it into a chipped stoneware bowl, stirred, then strained the mixture into a cup.

"Drink this. It'll soothe your nerves and help you sleep." She handed me the mug.

I took a whiff of the steam rising off the cup. It smelled earthy and floral. "What is it?"

"A tisane Maw taught me how to make."

I took a tentative sip. The flavor of the liquid was spicy, musky. I'd never tasted anything quite like it. The warmth spreading through my belly soothed me at once.

Gilly pulled up a chair next to me. Her eyes held a deep longing and wisdom far beyond her fifteen years.

She told me, "I think you should call it a night. Get some rest. Hopefully the phone will be in service tomorrow."

"Are you putting me to bed?" I asked, my tongue thick in my mouth. "What's in this tisane?"

"Some herbs to help you sleep. Get your bag, Miss Chloe. I'll show you to my room."

I picked up my bag as I'd been instructed to do, and she led me by the hand through the house. My head felt light, and the room spun.

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