Monday, July 6, 2009

Excerpt - The Outcast by Jane Toombs

The Outcast by Jane Toombs

Fifteen-year-old Jehenna Scovia hung back, eyeing the great black engine hissing out steam like her gypsy grandmother told her dragons did, along with fire, in the old days. In those olden day stories, maidens had knights to battle the dragons, but there was no one to battle anything for her. She knew the orphan train from New York City had stopped here especially to pick her up, arranged by her father, who'd had one of his men deliver her to the station. She'd be willing to bet none of the girls already aboard were like her—a half-gypsy outcast no one wanted.

Chances are no one would want her where this orphan train was going, either.
A hand grasped her shoulder—the man who'd brought her here. He marched her to the train car and shoved her aboard. No use to struggle. As Grandma Luba would say, Jehenna's fate was cast.

The train lurched forward. Seeing no empty seats, Jehenna eased down next to a younger girl—maybe about ten--who clutched a tattered little doll close to her and murmured to the doll in a language Jehenna didn't understand. Across the aisle another girl, older than the doll girl and pretty, with auburn hair, stared at the floor rather than looking at Jehenna. Which was fine with her.

Then the girl sitting next to the one with downcast eyes said, "I'm Shauna—and she's Abigail, but we call her Abby, You're sitting next to Katrina. She pointed. That’s Galen over there and there’s Isabel. What's your name?"

As Jehenna told Shauna, Abby raised her head. Seeing the younger girl's eyes were bright with tears, Jehenna said, "Don't cry. Maybe things will work out for you." A pretty girl had a better chance, didn't she?

A dark-haired girl who already had a woman's figure leaned across the aisle.toward Abby. "Stop worrying. We gotta believe it’s gonna be all right.”

Next to Jehenna, Katrina sighed, her expression clearly saying she wanted to believe them, but couldn’t.

Wishing she could console both the younger ones, Jehenna couldn’t think of anything more that might. Even though she was sure nothing would ever work out for her, she hated to think little kids might ever be mistreated.

The dark–haired girl named Galen stood up and said, ."We got a lot of hard work ahead of us, that’s what.. No easy row to hoe for any of us. We might not know what’s coming, maybe not much like it, but we can stand up for ourselves. That's what I mean to do."

Isabel rose and joined her. "Okay, Galen, for better or worse, we're all starting a new life out there somewhere." She thrust out her chin. I'm looking forward to mine."
"Me, too," Shauna said, easing past Abigail to stand next to them.

Abby stared at them for a moment, tears gone. "A new life," she murmured, then joined the other girls.

But maybe not a better one, for all of us, Jehenna thought.

"So we won't ever give up," Galen said, looking at Jehenna. "How about we make a pact that In ten years time we'll meet someplace fancy. "Might as well go for the best. Make it Boston, at the Omni Parker House Hotel. Let's see, that'd be August 17, 1878. Everyone agree? Come on, we'll hold hands and make the pact."

Katrina got up, eased past Jehenna, then held out her hand. "You come," she said in her accented voice. "You are one of us."

Jehenna had no intention of making any kind of pact with the others, certainly not a foolish promise to meet in ten years, but bitter experience had shown her it was always best to look like you wanted to fit in. She rose and walked hand in hand with Katrina to the others. Shauna reached for her other hand.

"Meet you in Boston! " Isabel cried. "Ten years from now."

As they all murmured agreement, Abby warned, "The agent's coming. We better sit down."

Katrina held Jehenna's hand as they scuttled back to their seat, smiling at her as they eased down onto the bench. Poor kid needed a friend. Jehenna sighed. How could she make the little girl understand that an outcast couldn't be anyone's true friend. Ever.

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderfully tempting read! Have a soft spot for anything involving Gypsies and outcasts. Going to have to look this book up and discover just where Jehenna will end up.