Sally (A Book Excerpt)

Sally spun around and ran back into the corn field. She picked up the basket of food and wandered through the tall stalks toward the forest. Jacob said that he would find her, but she had no idea how he would. Perhaps he was bluffing so he could get rid of her and move on. No one else could be bothered with her. Still, she trudged on. She walked until she found the place in the thicket where he originally set up camp. It was empty with no sign that anyone had been there. Breathing sounded from behind her and she turned to look up at Jacob. He didn’t seem as intimidating as he had before.

“You were tracking me?” she asked.

“I was.”

“How can you move so quiet like that?”

His mouth was set in a straight line, but his eyes smiled.

“I will show you how.”

He removed one of the two shot guns strapped to his back and handed it to her.

“This is for you. I bought it in town. A Martini-Henry, it was a British Army single shot rifle.”

She held it, running a hand down the smooth wood of the stock. It was elegant, beautiful even.

“Are you sure?” she asked.

He nodded, smiling.

“It is yours to keep.”

She blinked quickly, taking in the reality that she was holding her own gun.

“This is a fine gift,” she breathed. “Thank you so much.”

“Follow me.”

Jacob brought her close to a dying tree with a marked trunk and loaded the first shot for her.

“Let’s see how your aim is.”

She blushed, feeling a little foolish.

“Don’t worry,” he said calmly. “This isn’t a life or death situation. Hold it with your right hand and your left hand will be the one to pull the trigger with.”

She looked at him in surprise.

“You knew I was left handed?”

“When we were eating, I noticed how you held your spoon. Now,” he paused, “focus on the target ahead. You can’t be distracted when you’re holding a loaded gun.”

She swallowed hard.

“Right.”

“Hold the butt of the rifle hard against your shoulder so it won’t bite ya after firin’.”

“It won’t hurt, will it?”

“Not if you hold it steady against your shoulder. Keep your non-firing grip strong and keep them elbows down and in.”

She took a deep breath and adjusted her positioning.

“Which eye is your most dominant?”

She closed each eye individually.

“My right eye is a little better.”

“That makes things easier since you are left handed. Now, steady your aim.”

“How do I aim properly?”

“A shooter puts his trust in his marksmanship. Keep your body still, stand strong, and keep your eye on the target in a straight line. Once you’re okay that you have a good line of vision, set your target and lower your cheek to the stock.”

She pressed her cheek against the rifle.

“Like this?”

“You need to relax.”

“I’m trying.”

“Well, relax more.”

She focused on the bull’s eye and fired. She felt her shoulder move back from the force of the rifle shot. The deafening boom and the force of the rifle’s butt against her shoulder set her heart racing. Casting a glance at the tree, it was clear that she hadn’t hit the mark.

“Reload. Don’t hold your breath this time.”

After several rounds of shooting and reloading, her confidence grew, and she could see that shooting a gun was not so difficult. Her aim got better and after the eighth try, she hit the mark.

“I did it!” she cried.

He grinned.

“You did well.”

She looked up at him and smiled. He looked like he was trying not to cry so she looked away. He must have been thinking about something else. The forest darkened as the sun descended. Her renewed vigor dampened at the thought of going home.

Jacob scanned the woods.

“Did you hear something?” she asked.

“A herd of deer is moving close by. If you can come here earlier tomorrow, we’ll have a good chance of catching a buck. I’ll show you how to track.”

“I will be here early. I can make a quick breakfast for Jeremy and leave it out for him before he wakes up. I will leave at dawn.”

“Good.”

She looked up at him. Suddenly her world did not feel so dark.

“Thank you for this. After today, I feel more like myself somehow.”

He crossed his arms.

“Don’t give other people the power to tell you who you are. Only you can decide that.”

She frowned at him and wondered how it was possible for a man to think such a thing.

“Even if I am a woman?” she asked.

He studied her for a moment.

“We are all humans. We all have a right to be free.”

She drank in the compassion radiating from his dark eyes. It made her long to travel with that philosophy. There was something different about those who never lived a settled life. Just like with her dream of moving to Cambridge to study art over a year ago, the thought of running away made her fingertips tingle again.

“I look forward to tomorrow,” she said at last.

“Meet me here,” he said.

She carried her gun facing down like he showed her as she walked back home. If she could hunt, she could provide for herself. If she could shoot well, she could protect herself.

Once she was back on the farm, she hid the rifle in one of the crates in the barn. The lights were on in the house. Jeremy was waiting. She opened the door and peered over at the table where he sat. He eyed her with a blank expression. It must have mirrored the one that she gave him the other night when he walked in on her sitting there.

“You were gone for a long time,” he said.

“I like to wander. You know that. I’ll get dinner ready and it won’t take long.”

He looked at her suspiciously but held his peace. She prepared a quick dinner. They ate without saying a single word to one another. The strange spell that brought them closer was broken. Possibly forever. They were back to being strangers living under the same roof. It was just as well. All she wanted was to get out of there, yet a little ache in her chest was a reminder of how she missed that wonderful morning when she woke up in his arms.

If you’d like to read the rest of the story, you can purchase Sally here! ❤

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