“Keep going!” Claire urged as little Morty began to wail against her breast, his cry a voice to the cramps of his sisters’ legs and stomachs.
They were running again, Claire carrying the baby, Lila stumbling along beside her. Their rugged breathing grew louder with every step.
The man had seen them, it was only a matter of time now. He wanted Morty and he would not be far behind.
We have to get to Daisy, the thought pounded in Claire’s mind to the tune of her feet upon the desert earth. God, I hope she’s real. She shuddered at the thought that it was only a dream.
They scrambled on for miles until their run was barely more than a crawl, still using every ounce of strength to push themselves further.
“Claire, I ca- a- an’t,” Lila whimpered, falling to her knees. Claire fell into the dust beside her, clutching Morty closer. Claire scooped her tired sister into her lap, kissing the seven-year-old’s mohagany hair that now reeked of sweat and grease. Tears stung at Claire’s eyes as she looked around, hopeless.
They were in the middle of the desert and she had no water for them, no milk for little Morty. He’d fallen asleep as Claire’s pace slowed to a gentle rock for him, he’d be famished when he woke again. Claire shook the guilty thoughts away.
“I’m tired,” Lila whined, head already resting in Claire’s lap, her eyes closed and off to dreamland before she’d even finished her statement.
“Shhh,” Claire soothed, “let’s sleep, We’ll be safe for a while…” It was a question, not a statement, but it was all she could do.
The sun was gone from the sky now, the final hues of green fading into the deep blue starlight. With a sigh, Claire pulled her siblings closer to her, wrapping them in her brown cotton shawl.
“Gauh!” Daisy groaned into the darkness, toppling over into the cool dirt. They’re coming, she smiled to herself, relieved as she slipped out of consciousness.
She woke when the sun was just peeking over the horizon, sherbet clouds flooding the sky as far as she could see. She swept up the herbs and salt from the evening’s ritual, gently scooping up her crystals to waft them through the campfire smoke or douse them in rose water before tucking them gingerly into the green velvet pouch at her hip.
Her belly moaned, and she giggled like the fairies she’d grown up with. Setting up the kettle for tea and oats, she made extra knowing Claire and the children were close now. She suspected she would meet them within the hour. Finally, she sighed.
She glanced down at herself, realizing she looked a mess. Her once-white sundress was a dusty gray-brown, though the tiny embroidered sunflowers were as brilliant yellow as the day they were sewn on. Her boots were tattered, the soles falling apart from traveling hundreds of miles across unforgiving terrain. She noticed with relief that her olive green stalkings were only minimally damaged, with a single run along the back of her left calf. The velvet pouch at her hip looked good as new, of course.
“This will have to do,” she sighed.
With a bemused smile and dancing eyes, she patted the dust from her dress and twirled, arms high above her head.
Author note: For status on the full book, visit the The Books Page! This is a taste of the first book in the Wild Series! Also, Claire and Morty are not the official names of these characters, just placeholders until the real names are born. Suggestions welcome in the comments below.