Hi guys! Quick note: I updated The My Stories page with everything it was missing. Also, thanks for all the nice comments yesterday. You guys rock, seriously. Thanks again.
XOXO NIGHT TEMPEST
Model Ruben Cortada as Samuel. Unnnngudhdhdhdhdasdad. *Melts* That's it. I'm leaving my boyfriend for this man. Not really but I can dream. *sigh*
Heart For Trade: Week 3
Jarum took Ryan’s hand without a word. The two boys stared out the window, watching the line form for the ad. Ryan’s heart raced but he kept his mouth shut. He had no other choice. He had to do this. His father’s lips were already set in a tight line. Creases formed around his eyes—a sign that the stress was becoming too much to bear. He was hurting with the decision he had to make. Ryan’s heart broke all over again.
Bart counted twelve leaders in total so far. A few of their men tagged along, but kept to the trees in careful wait. The first to approach Bart was an older gentleman. He looked tired, but smart, and Ryan could feel those eyes harboring something he didn’t like. Jarum slowly cracked the window to hear what the man had to say before pulling Ryan closer.
“George, leader of Jenkins Gully.” The man didn’t even offer his hand. Bart looked him up and down in study. He’d heard the cautious tales of the Gully folk and he didn’t like this man one bit.
“I heard your lot lost a few teenagers in a mining accident. Don’t you think putting children underground is a bit unsafe?” Bart watched George’s reaction.
George flicked his eyes around at Bart’s men, nervous and so he should be. “Couldn’t be helped. We don’t have strong hands like we used to. We gotta make living somehow.”
“And how about the summer before that, you had a runaway boy. What made a boy of eleven run away from the only security he had in these times? People just don’t run from their family.”
“It was his choice. It couldn’t be helped.” George looked away. His jaw twitched in anger.
“You seem unable to help a lot of things. And you know what? You can go on home. My son won’t be joining your lot, now, or ever. Good day, George.”
“You ain’t even heard what I brought with me!” George growled. His eyes dangerously close to hell itself.
“It doesn’t matter. You can give me bullshit answers all day. But we both know what happened to those boys—what’s been going on over there. You’ll never put your hands on my son. Do you understand?” Bart rose, towering over the man. His men rose too.
“To hell with all of you.” George backed away. “You don’t know shit.”
He snapped his fingers, ushering away the men holding onto two cows. Although Bart needed those animals, he would never subject Ryan to that man or his sadistic ways. Touching children like that and when they grew aware that it was wrong, they disappeared.
“Next,” Bart called out, ignoring George’s curses as his party journeyed back out onto the road.
Two men, twins, approached Bart with extended hands. Finally, Bart thought, some manners. That is until they opened their mouths and started talking about how many hours a day the boy could handle. They didn’t want and Bart repeated mentally, no sissy homo who couldn’t earn his keep.
Ryan laid his face on the table. Jarum stroked his back to soothe the stress from his muscles. The stench of animals, the fresh smell of meat and wines, the rustle of fabric—it didn’t stop until the sun began to move down behind the trees. Still Bart hadn’t come to get him. No one had passed an interview yet and there weren’t any others left to interview.
Jarum held his breath. He stood up to make sure his eyes weren’t seeing things. Not a soul except for Bart and his men stood on the porch. The others were long gone. How could he have spaced out like this? What had happened? Had a deal been made and they had missed it? No, Jarum thought. Bart would have come to tell them if it had.
Blue lights lit up the front window from around the trees. The hum of an engine of some sort broke the silence. Ryan sat up. Sleep crinkled one side of his face. His eyes focused just as the vehicle pulled up in front of the house. A vehicle! He’d never seen one except for in a few books he’d read. His curiosity caused him to lean forward. His breath fogged up the window like a child waiting for Santa Claus.
Bart slowly descended the porch. It had been a long time since he’d seen a vehicle of any sort. The last he could remember had been when he was young, maybe twelve. His father had taken him to the trading market in Surik. A man had been there with a large rig that had surely cost him his first born. Bart had stared enviously at the shiny metal, the big leather seat behind the wheel. The man had caught him staring and smiled—offering him and his father a little ride around the market. It had been one of the best days of his life—something he would never forget. Riding out the memory, Bart had a good vibe as the two men approached from the vehicle. Any time he thought of his father, it was as if the older man was right there with him—a very good sign indeed.
“I hope we aren’t too late. We had to make a few stops to pick up some things.” A redheaded young man smiled at the leader, extending his hand. “I’m Benjamin Gardent of Rineway Village.”
“I’m Bart.” The leader took the hand offered—nice grip, soft hands, very clean.
Upon closer inspection, Bart noticed the men’s attire. Thick denim pants tucked into shiny black boots, well insulated coats with hoods and hair that was clean, well groomed even. Each of the men smiled, no teeth missing either. Bart had to stop staring at such a rare sight. He felt slightly disgusting in their polished presence—his weathered pants with holes running up his legs, a thin jacket that had at least six years of wear. He was nowhere near as distinguished as the men of Rineway.
“And I’m Samuel, the leader of Rineway.” He offered Bart his hand—large, a little calloused with a tiny tattoo of initials at the connection of his thumb and pointer finger.
“Nice to meet you both.” Bart nodded. “I’m afraid I’ve never heard of Rineway before.”
“We keep to ourselves for the most part, South of here on large patch of protected land. You can’t be too careful with these rough traders running about.” Samuel smiled.
“No, you can’t.” Bart studied the leader. Protected land? Well I’ll be damned. Bart was impressed and envious to boot. “Tell me about yourself, Samuel. What makes you worthy of my boy?”
Thrown by the question a bit—as he’d expected something more formal for an interview—Samuel flicked his eyes to the front window. Two faces ducked out of the way. He leaned to the side, trying to see who was there. Bart cleared his throat with a stern face.
“I asked you a question, Samuel. Now I don’t mean to be rude, but it’s the least you can do to answer me.”
“I apologize.” Sam scuffed his boot in the dirt. “May I be honest with you, Bart?”
“After the stuff I’ve put up with today? It would nice to get the truth for once.” Bart nodded. For such a large man, Samuel seemed sort of shy. He had a boyish look in his eyes, something familiar to Bart, but he couldn’t put his finger on it.
“I’m a simple kind of person. I don’t like a lot of fuss, over me or in my life. I smoke a little. I drink a little. But I’m not a bad person for it. I work hard to make sure others around me are taken care of. I’m educated and I can offer your son more in that way if he so desires. I’m a leader, but I’m also a friend and I take caring for my people very seriously.
No one that lives under my roof is there by force. They live a good life and choose to stay because they love one another. They have food to eat and clothes to keep them warm.” Samuel connected with Bart’s sentimental gaze. “I’m the same as you, trying to get by and making the hard decisions because no one else wants to. It gives me pleasure to know they’re happy, even when things get rough. But we stick together because we’re family and that is what family does.
The reason I’m here today is not to put your son to work but because—”
“I knew I’d seen that look before,” Bart interrupted Samuel with a small smile.
He liked this man. He felt safe with his words. Hell, if he wasn’t already a leader, Bart would’ve offered him a spot in his own village. The reason he felt an instant connection with Samuel was because that look reminded him of Ryan. This man was lonely and looking, just like his son.
“You got that sad, shy look. Just like my son. Been trying to hide it from me his whole life, but I’m not stupid. I know what he wants.”
“And what is that?” Samuel took a deep breath. He saw the curtain slide shut in the front window.
“Romance like in those damned books he reads.” Bart chuckled. “I’m not saying romance doesn’t still exist, but I try to be realistic with what we have. Furthermore, how do I know you’re not looking to get you what you want and dump him the first chance you get?”
The look of horror on Samuel’s face told Bart everything he needed to know. His gut clenched, knowing Samuel was the one he’d been waiting for all day. But would Ryan agree once he knew what the leader wanted? Bart knew Ryan found men attractive over women. He hadn’t said much to bring the subject up, but Bart did know from local gossip that gay men and women were hard to find. Not to say they were extinct, but they generally kept their sexuality to themselves. Some villages still frowned upon their preference, saying they only brought disease to their locals. Bart knew that was complete bullshit. Gay people were the same as regular people. Anyone could catch a damned disease. Bigots, Bart snorted to himself.
“I can read you plain as day. I don’t know you but I feel like I do and my father taught me to follow my instincts. I’ll let you meet him but that’s all I can promise. If my son was brave enough to go along with this, he at least gets a say. Don’t you agree?”
“Of course,” Samuel rushed. “Anything you want.”
“Well, there are two things we ought to get out in the open before I go and get him. One, what can you offer this village that is worth me giving up my only son? And two, how are you prepared to deal with his best friend that refuses to leave his side?” Bart heard the snorts and grunts from his men on the porch.
“Friend?” Benny raised his brows with a smile. “That wasn’t in the ad.”
“Jarum, my son’s best friend, is a real stubborn kid. But he has the right to be. His parents died when he was little and we took him in. Had a real rough go of life and my son is his brother in every way but blood. If you separate them, Jarum will only come after Ryan.” Bart shrugged.
“Are you making this Jarum part of the trade then?” Samuel cocked a brow, looking to the empty window.
“What if I was?”
“Then we’d accept.” Benny elbowed Samuel. “Wouldn’t we?”
“You would?” Bart’s stomach twisted on the edge of an answer from the leader. If Jarum went with Ryan, he’d have a piece of home with him always. To know his boy would be looked after when he couldn’t, would mean the world and then some.
Samuel noticed Bart’s hopeful eyes, a slide of emotion through them. This Jarum really meant that much to Ryan. Ryan, he groaned. The man had a name. Samuel sighed and closed his eyes. “We’ll take him too.”
Bart cleared his throat, looking away. They were taking Jarum too? Oh good God. Could he let both of them go? Yes, he decided, he had to. “And about the other part?”
“We left the trailer a few yards outside the village limit. We figured if there was a line, we didn’t want to crowd. But this…” Benny pulled out a list of inventory. “This is everything we brought. In case you wanted to check it off yourself.”
Bart stared at the paper he was handed. Not handwritten on crummy old paper like he’d have done. The list was typed, printed out. He looked up at the two men in wonder.
“This is printed.”
“Um, yes, we have a printer.” Samuel squirmed under Bart’s eyes. He didn’t want to answer too many questions. Questions were bad when your home existed entirely on secrecy.
“I’ll be damned,” Bart whispered. The items on the list finally jumped out at him. He scanned the list a few times just to be sure he wasn’t reading it wrong. “Now look here. We don’t have electricity for a freezer thingy. Is this a joke?”
“If you’ll look at the bottom of the list, sir…” Benny smiled.
Reading again, Bart was taken aback to find a solar powered generator. “What about in the winter? Sunlight is rare when the sky is gray.”
“That’s where my genius comes in.” Benny pulled at his collar with a wink. “I’ve created a natural wind powered turbine that converts the energy into electricity. It’s easily attachable to the generator which will store the overflow if you wish to create a larger set-up. It should power the entire village for electricity and then some.”
“Extraordinary.” Bart clutched the paper to his chest. He didn’t understand half of what Benjamin had just said but he got the important parts. “This would mean we could heat the sheds. Maybe find a few of those plug-in space heaters in Surik if the price is right. They’d have to bunk up tighter than usual, but you have no idea what this means for us.”
“It means you can use one of these to talk to your son.” Benny went to the buggy and pulled out a box. He handed the radio and the battery charger to Bart.
Bart looked in the box and made a noise deep in his throat before he fell to his knees. Tears pricked his eyes as he covered them with his hand. The stress and the realization that he’d never see his son again—all of it took him by storm. They would let him speak to Ryan from far away? He could hear his voice whenever he wanted to? Bart let out a sob, gripping the box for dear life.
“Dad!” Ryan ran from the front door. He’d been watching the interaction between the men for a few minutes from a crack in the door. But when his dad fell to the ground, he couldn’t just stand there. “Dad!”
He skidded to a stop, falling beside him father. “Dad?” He pulled his father’s face to his.
His father pushed the box from his lap for him to see, a wide smile on his teary face. Ryan let his hands go to look inside. He stared at the small box with a protruding stem. It looked like a speaker of some sort. A bunch of wires and another box were attached. “What the hell is that?”
“It’s so I can talk with you whenever you want.” His dad wiped the tears away. “Even if you’re far away.”
Ryan let out a slow breath before he looked up at the two men standing over them. His eyes shifted from the redhead to the man with long dark hair braided over his shoulder. Green eyes made him shiver. He rose to his feet just as Jarum pulled him back.
“You good, Bart?” Jarum growled, narrowing his eyes. He felt Bart’s men closing in on his back.
“Just fine, Jarum. Having a moment is all.” Bart chuckled dryly. He got to his feet and attempted to brush the dirt from his already dirty pants. “This is…”
“Don’t give two fucks who they are. If they touch Ryan, I’ll slit them both.” He pushed his friend behind him.
Benny grinned. He covered his mouth to hide the laugh on the way but lost it. The skinny, feral like man trying to protect his friend was so dramatic that he couldn’t help it. Slit them? He could try.
Samuel coughed, covering his own laugh. “You must be Jarum.”
“What’s it to you?” Jarum’s eyes burned for violence.
“It’s to me,” Samuel teased. “Because if all goes well, you should be packing your things instead of making threats you can’t keep.” Samuel raised his brows in challenge but his smile was golden.
“What?” Jarum panicked. They were taking him instead? What would happen to Ryan? He looked to Bart.
“Go grab you things, Jarum. If Ryan agrees, the both of you will leave for Rineway Village tonight.”
The boys looked at each other in shock. Like puppets, they turned as one to stare at the men of Rineway with open mouths.
“No way,” Jarum whispered.
Benny gave the feral brunette a slow grin. “Yes way.”