The Faith: Book I of the Uprising Trilogy

Page 43 of 45

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A harvest moon shown through the sky, and the constant breeze trickled through the trees as our reduced family gathered for supper. In spite of her impetuous, occasionally infuriating nature, Claudette is an excellent cook. As always, her onion stew was filling, and the bread was delicious and warm. Our conversation, although reserved, flowed around the table.

"Valentine, how is your needle work?" I asked my youngest, dipping my loaf into the peppery stew. Bless her heart, the little girl perked up in her chair and beamed at me.

"Mama!" she spoke. "I have worked at the cross stitch all morning and I belie—" Her voice cut off abruptly, and glancing toward her in surprise, I saw she barely breathed. Turning my chair around to face our cottage's door, my breath caught in my startled throat as well.

A figure stood there, his form lit by the golden candlelight. He loomed for ages before stepping into the house, swiftly and violently slamming the door in his wake. It was Henri's body, but my son, unbeknownst to me then, was not present in this shade.

"Henri!" I cried, my voice breaking with joy. I leapt up and rushed to embrace him. His haggard, haunted face stopped me cold. Days of unkempt stubble crept across his face like patchwork, and a massive scar cut through his pale skin along his cheek. Even in the flickering candlelight, I could see there was no life in his eyes; he stared towards the back wall, seemingly oblivious to my words.

After another rending moment, he spoke. "I am on leave. I am . . . exhausted. Good evening." At that, the phantom silently drifted towards the stairs, climbing to his old bedroom amid the rafters.

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