Thursday, June 6, 2013

First Rewrite/Second Draft: Excerpt from Chapter 5 (Part 1, Nicolae's Escape)

Excerpt from PART 1, NICOLAE'S ESCAPE: CHAPTER 5 of the First Rewrite/Second Draft


Nicolae was running though long, dark corridors not knowing where he was, nor did he know how he had gotten there.  Only that he had to get out. 
Eloisa was here.  He could feel her presence as he frantically searched for her.  He called her name, but his voice was drowned out by the howling winds circulating throughout the blackened maze. 
Suddenly he saw a small, dark haired boy run out ahead of him and turn a corner.  Nicolae instantly recognized him.
“Sebastian!”  Nicolae tried to call out, “Sebastian!  Wait!”
Nicolae began his pursuit of the boy.  He would catch glimpses of him, turning a corner and would follow only to come up empty at a dead end. 
The urgency in Nicolae to find Eloisa and Sebastian grew as the howling wind carried a female voice whispering to him inside of the dark labyrinth.  Nicolae paused, trying to hear what was being said. He couldn’t make out the words, but the rhythm of the voice seemed to resemble chanting.
Nicolae’s mind clouded as his senses dulled and his limbs began to feel like stone pillars. 
As the chanting continued, a pair of cold hands slipped up from behind Nicolae, enclosing around his throat.  The rotting flesh and long, claw-like fingernails pierced into his neck, awakening him from the lulling trance. 
Nicolae struggled to break free of the deadly grasp and saw Sebastian, standing at a short distance from him, staring as he fought for his life. 
Nicolae briefly shut his eyes as he strained to pull the choke hold from his neck.  He reopened his eyes to Sebastian right in front of him, hovering above the ground at an eye level with Nicolae, looking into him with eyes that were completely black.  The boy’s features were more angular than Nicolae remembered them to be. 
Nicolae choked out his brother’s name, attempting to reach out to his little brother.  Sebastian’s mouth opened into a hideous grin that boasted rows of razor sharp teeth.  Horror filled the young man as the creature he once knew as his brother hissed at him,
“Let me in, Nicolae!”…

Nicolae sat up gasping for air and clasped a hand to his throat.  His eyes frantically searched the old sitting room that was inside the empty, abandoned farmhouse he was spending that night in.  He let out a sigh, releasing his hand.  Nicolae sat, waiting for his breathing to return to normal and still shaken by what had just taken place.  He looked down at the hand that was just on this throat and saw a small smear of blood.  He searched the room again and brought his hand back to the area of his neck where the claws of who or whatever had pierced the skin and discovered that he did have a small amount of bleeding in that area.  Nicolae turned his gaze down to the floor he had been sleeping on, looking for a stray nail, anything that would logically explain why he was bleeding, but there as nothing around his sleeping area that could have been the cause
Nicolae rose onto his still trembling legs.  He wiped at the last remaining trickle of blood and picked up his bag.  He decided to move on.  There wouldn’t be any way he could or would want to fall back asleep.  Even the serenity of his sleep had been invaded.  A lump of despair rose into Nicolae’s throat at the thought.  Eloisa had left him.  He had last seen her the previous night in his tent back at the village he stayed in.  He recalled the way she had looked at him and it occurred to him that it may have been her telling him goodbye.  Nicolae clenched his fists at the thought.  He was not ready for his Eloisa to leave him.
How am I supposed to continue without you? Nicolae thought as the tears burned in his eyes. 
The idea that perhaps Eloisa was letting him know that it was time for him to move on crossed his mind.  But he didn’t want to move on.  He wanted his nights with Eloisa, to feel her with him they way he had when she was alive and those precious moments were now being replaced by something more sinister with his brother.  Sebastian’s disappearance troubled Nicolae more than anything else had.  Losing his parents, other siblings, and Eloisa had been among the most horrific experiences of his life, but he at least knew what had happened with them.  With Sebastian, there were no answers.
Nicolae surveyed the room one more time as he collected himseld and started toward the front door.  He wanted to get out of there, back onto the path, and put as much distance between himself and the house as soon as possible. 
He was almost out the door when he heard a loud bang up on the second floor.  Nicolae turned back, listening, trying to place the sound.
Furniture being knocked over…?
The house was silent around him.  Nicolae turned to leave again, placing a hand on the sheath of his dagger.  He halted his steps again when he heard something pattering across the floor toward the top of the staircase. 
Every warning sensory in Nicolae’s body was going off at the realization that he was not alone in the house.  Somone was up there.  But who was it and where they trying to follow him?  And if they were, then why?
Nicolae took quick, silent strides over to the staircase and crouched down beside it.  He took out the dagger from the sheath and another one out from his bag so he would hold a dagger in each hand.  He looked up with anticipation as he saw a human shape appear at the top of the stairs.  He timed himself as it moved swiftly, descending the stairs. 
As his suspected pursuer reached the landing, Nicolae rushed out, pummeled the individual to the ground.  The scream that came out from the other person caught him off guard.  It took him a few seconds to find his words when he realized who his pursuer was.
“What the hell is wrong with you?!” he finally yelled.  “Once again, I could have killed you!  Have you no sense at all?!”
Teresa lay underneath him, frozen with shock and fear as she looked up at the young man who had her pinned to the floor with two daggers criss-crossing her throat.  Her body began trembling and her mouth was unable to form words. 
Nicolae rose, putting his daggers in one hand and offered her assistance in standing with the other.  “Get up,” he ordered.
A shaken Teresa hesitated before taking Nicolae’s hand, allowing him to help her to standing.  She stared at the floor as Nicolae retrieved his bag from over by the stairwell and peered back up at him as he removed a flask from in his bag and unscrewed the lid.
“Here,” he said, handing the flask to Teresa.
Teresa looked at the flask and then at Nicolae, staring wordlessly at him.
“It’s just water,” Nicolae said rolling his eyes.
Teresa blinked her eyes but made no other attempt to move.
“Do you think I’m trying to poison you?” Nicolae scoffed.  “I had the opportunity to slice your throat just now and I didn’t.”  He took a sip from the flask to demonstrate the safety of it’s contents and said, “There now.  You see?  Perfectly fine.”  He held it out to Teresa again.  This time, she slowly took the flask from him and sipped the water that was inside of it.  Teresa kept her eyes on Nicolae as he crossed the room to the side furthest away from her.  He folded his arms across his chest and turned back to her.  Their eyes locked to one another and he asked, “Are you alright?”
Teresa clutched the flask as she still struggled to find her voice.
“Look, I apologize for attacking you,” Nicolae continued, “but you shouldn’t be sneaking around behind someone in the dark.  What if I did end up slicing your throat before realizing it was you?”
“I…I don’t know…I wasn’t thinking…” Teresa managed.
Nicolae sighed.  “Besides, I thought I told you to go back to your village.  We’re quite far from it now.”
There was a long pause between them before Teresa said, “I know… and I told you I can’t be there anymore.”
Nicolae walked back over to Teresa, studying the girl.  The initial fear had left her large, brown eyes and in their place was relief, bewilderment.  She had a very young appearance that gave a naivity away.  Her dark hair framed her round face and hung down to her small waist that was just beneath a full bosom.  Nicolae caught himself staring for longer than he should and moved his gaze back over to the staircase.
“So you’ve been following me since this morning,” he said.
Teresa nodded, feeling her skin flush.  Nicolae smiled wryly, unable to hide his amusement at the situation feeling.  He was also slightly impressed that she had managed to follow him for an entire day undetected.  He turned back, looking at the petite girl who stood before him.
“Have you had enough?” Nicolae asked indicating the flask.
Teresa nodded and handed it back to him, giving him a small ‘thank you’.  She watched as Nicolae secured the lid back onto the flask and caught a glimpse of his precious box as he returned the flask and one of his daggers to his bag.
“Just out of curiosity,” he continued returning the other dagger to the sheath on his belt, “for how long were you planning on following me without my knowing?”
Teresa shrugged sheepishly.  “I don’t know…” she said.
Nicolae shook his head and ran a hand over his face as he remembered her expressing interest in accompanying him earler.  He looked at her as she continued to watch him with wide eyes.  He sighed, thinking about how there was now way this young girl would be able to handle what he was embarking on, much less being in his company.  “I have to take you back to your village,” he said.
“No!” Teresa protested.
“They woke up to both of us missing.  It’s possible that they believe I’ve kidnapped you.”
Teresa took her eyes from Nicolae.  “I wrote them a note…” she said. 
Nicolae frowned.  “Did you?”
“Well…I tried…”
Teresa’s reading and writing abilities were next to non-existent.  She had wanted to learn but everytime she would try doing so, Gabriella or one of the elders would discourage her, saying that all she needed to learn how to be was a good wife to her future husband. 
“You tried,” Nicolae prodded.  “Meaning you weren’t able to and they still don’t know that you left on your own or even why you are gone.”
Teresa was stood silent, her heart pounding in her chest so hard she was certain that he heard it.
“Your silence speaks volumnes,” Nicolae said.
“Answer me truthfully,” Nicolae said, his tone rising.  “Yes or no, were you successful in writing your note telling them you left at your own choice.”
“No,” Teresa admitted.
“Well, I’m taking you back.”
“Please don’t,” Teresa begged, her voice barely above a whisper.  When Nicolae didn’t answer, she said, “You’re angry with me.”
“Of course I am!” Nicolae exclaimed.  “Did you not stop to think at all about what type of situation this puts me in with those in your village?  To have them thinking that I betrayed them after they extended their hospitality to me.  I’m taking you back, explaining to them what happened, and then I’ll be on my way.  Now come.”
Hot, salty liquid filled Teresa’s eyes.  She looked down and tried to blink them away.  “I can’t go back,” she said.  “They want me to get married.  They’ve picked someone out for me and I don’t have a choice.  I don’t even know who it is!”
“That’s not so unsual,” Nicolae said, and that was true.  Arranged marriages were about as common among the Romani as they were among the upper class.
“I know,” Teresa said as the first of her tears began streaming down her face, “but I can’t do it.  I want to fall in love with my husband before getting married to him.” 
Teresa had made that last statement looking Nicolae directly in the eyes.  Nicolae felt his heart skip a beat as there was something in the way Teresa looked at him that reminded him of Eloisa.  He turned away from her, placing his hand on his bag and feeling the wooden, square object.
Teresa watched him as the tears continued to cloud her vision.  She knew he wouldn’t be someone Gabriella or any of the elders would choose for her and that was part of what attracted her to him.  But the more she studied him, the more she could see that there was more beyond his strong, silent exterior.  He was hurting and she was able to see that.  She remembered seeing his scars that crossed his chest and back.  She remembered seeing what he looked like under his clothes and her thighs pressed together at the memory.  Teresa wanted to experience all of him and had a brief fantasy of lying in his arms underneath a sky full of stars without any barriers of clothing between them.  Though the idea of being that exposed to him frightened her, it was something that Teresa knew she wanted.  Fate had brought them together.  She was certain of that. 
Nicolae could feel her eyes on him and it made him uncomfortable.  The last person he allowed to see him vulnerable was Eloisa and he knew that he would never be able to have that again with anyone.  But there was part of him that felt for the girl as he understood what it was like to be kept from happiness.  With that in mind, Nicolae turned back to her and said, “You’re certain no one has followed you here?”
“Yes,” Teresa insisted as she wiped the tears from her face, “I kept watching all day to make sure no one was following me.”
“Well, I will admit I’m impressed you made it this far outside of your village, regardless of how foolish a move it was,” he said.
Teresa’s eyes lit up but Nicolae held up a hand cutting her off before she had the opportunity to say anything.  “Listen, if you’re that intent on traveling with me I want to make a few things clear,” he continued. “You mind your own business and I mind mine.  I’m not looking for any type of close companionship.  I’ll take you to the seaport and see that you get on and off the ship safely and I’ll do my best to see that you are given whatever you need once we are off.  But that is the extent of our relationship.  If you can’t accept those conditions, tell me right now because otherwise it is best for you to return to your village.”
Teresa tried to mask her disappointment. 
I’m not looking for any type of close companionship…that is the extent of our relationship echoed back to her. 
No, that’s not acceptable, she wanted to say, I think it’s ridiculous how you keep yourself so closed off from everyone.  But she nodded in agreement.  Perhaps she would find a window of opportunity to get closer to him.  It was at least a start and she didn’t want to think about what awaited her back at the village, should she go back.
“Good,” Nicolae said.  “If we set out now, I expect to cover much ground before the next nightfall.  What did you bring with you?”
“What do you mean?” Teresa asked.
“You know.  Supplies.  Food, weapons, anything?”
“Not really…” Teresa muttered.
“Yes or no. ‘Not really’ isn’t an answer,” Nicolae said.
“No,” Teresa said.
“And how long did you plan to follow me undetected without anything to sustain you?”
“Well, I did bring some food with me… but…I ate it all,” she confessed.
Nicolae rolled his eyes and raked a hand through his wavy black hair.  “This is going to be a long night.  Do you not have any concept of rationing?”
“I guess not,” Teresa said through gritted teeth.  It’s going to be a long night for me too if you keep talking to me as if I’m stupid, she thought, I can learn if you give me a chance.
Teresa watched Nicolae who seemed to be deep in thought, weighing out options.  He drew in a breath and said, “Look, it’s probably better that I take you back.”
“Why,” Teresa demanded.
“Because I lack the time and patience to parent someone and that’s what you need,” he snapped.  “You’ve proven to me that you know nothing of survival and I’m not in a position to teach a novice.”
Teresa’s mind was spinning with several potential reactions.  Her body began to shake as she searched for the right words to respond with.  She had never stood up to anyone before, at least not to the extent where it could potentially result in an argument.  Her nails dug into her palms as she clenched her fists.  Her mouth and throat were dry as she tried to speak without knowing what would even come out.
“You know nothing about me,” Teresa said.
“What are you talking about?”  Nicolae asked.
“You think you know everything,” Teresa continued.  Her voice seemed to have mind of it’s own.  She was on the verge of hysterics and was trying her best to keep from doing so. 
Nicolae looked at her, puzzled.  “I’m telling you the way it is,” he said, “would you rather I lie to you just so you feel better?”
“Well you don’t have to be so mean!” Teresa exploded.  Her willpower in holding back her tears crashed as she ran out of the house.
Nicolae stood dumbfounded at what had just happened.  Are you insane? he wondered.  But he also knew that he couldn’t let her run out into the night by herself. 
“Hey!” he called as he ran out after her, slinging his bag across his torso.  It also occurred to him that he didn’t remember her name. 
Nicolae was able to catch up to her in almost no time, grabbing her arm to stop her.  He turned her to face him and held onto her shoulders. 
“Let go of me!” she cried, struggling to get out of his grasp but he was too strong for her.  Nicolae could see new tears spilling down her face.  “And what’s your plan if I do?” he countered.  “Do you even know the way back to your village?  Did you watch your path in case you would have to retrace your steps?”
Teresa collapsed defeated.  Nicolae loosened his grip on her as she sank to the ground sobbing.  He observed her for a second before sitting down next to her, thinking of Eloisa and how her mild and calming manner was part of why Nicolae found being around her so comforting.  He had a flash of a memory with him and Eloisa lying on the mattress back in the shed in Romania.  She was lying on her back, holding him as he laid on top of her, his legs entwined with hers as he rested his head on her chest.  That had been one of Nicolae’s favorite positions to lie in with Eloisa as it demonstrated the extent of how they depended on one another while both being there for the other.  Eloisa had had strength in areas he didn’t and he was strong for her when she needed him to be.  Because of that, they complimented one another very well. 
This other girl seemed sweet, but definitely had a wildly emotional streak that was a little offputting to Nicolae.  But he also hadn’t intended to hurt her this much and was afraid of her taking off into the night.  Of course he would feel guilty if anything were to happen to her.  “I’m sorry,” he finally said, “it’s just that…living the way I do…it’s not easy.  Even for me.  You always have to be thinking at least twenty steps ahead of where you are and you can never afford to let your guard down.  Like I said, there are times when it even gets difficult for me.”
He waited while Teresa’s sobs died to small hiccups.  “Do you even remember my name?” she asked.
Nicolae hesitated before saying, “No.  I make it a point not to remember anyone’s name.  I prefer not get too personal in my encounters with others.”
“Why do you live your life alone?” Teresa asked as she wiped tears away with the back of her hand.  She could see Nicolae tense up at her question but then he made himself relax before answering, “Because I choose to.”
“Why?” Teresa asked.
“Look,” Nicolae said as he tried to keep his patience contained, “part of the agreement of us traveling together is that we both mind our own business and not pry into the other’s life.”
“I know,” Teresa said, “but I want to know more about you.  I want to know you and for you to know me.”
Nicolae looked at the pretty young girl who wore her heart on her sleeve.  Pangs of guilt began to rack his body as he tried to search for the words to get through to her.
“And my name is Teresa,” she continued, “so now you can call me by my name, Luiz.”
Nicolae looked back to the house, avoiding eye contact with Teresa as he didn’t have any intention of telling her about how he had adopted his father’s first name.  But there was something about her that drew him and he found himself saying, “If you still wish to do so, I suppose you can come with me.  But it is imperative that you do as I say.”
Teresa nodded as traces of hope re-entered her eyes. 
Nicolae stood up and then offered his hands to Teresa, helping her to stand. 
What have you just done? Nicolae heard a voice from the back of his mind say. 
Teresa felt her heartbeat quicken.  Having his rough, callused hands around hers was enough for her knees to grow weak.  She had had another memory of seeing him standing by the lake without a stitch of clothing and fought the heat that crept up toward her face as she noticed the faint outlines of his lean chest muscles through his shirt.  She saw herself stroking her hands over his torso, healing the pain that caused his scars with her touch… 
Teresa was shaken from her fantasy when Nicolae dropped her hands, breaking their physical connection.
“First and foremost,” he said indicating his bag, “never leave your supplies lying unattended.”
Teresa looked down at the bag catching a corner of the box poking out.
“What’s in that box?” Teresa asked. 
A defensive glint streaked Nicolae’s eyes.  “That is none of your concern,” he said, “and do not ask me that again.” 
Nicolae began walking ahead of her before he stopped and turned back to her, waiting for her to follow.  She jogged to catch up to him and peered up at the man she only knew as Luiz, walking in a stoic silence beside her as he tried to comprehend what all had just occurred.

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