Forever Young (Chapter 2, page 1 of 3)


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Chapter 2

Eternity wasn't much of a town. The village consisted of ten low cottages with rough, wood-shingled roofs, each with the same whitewashed finish. Samantha peeked through the windows of a couple, but saw no one inside. "Doesn't anyone else live here?" she asked.

"Just Reverend Crane, Mr. Pryde, and the boys," Prudence said, her voice as low as a whisper.

"The boys?"

"You'll see them later. They live in the other dormitory."

"There are only three adults?"

"Yes."

In the center of the cottages stood a square building made from blocks of granite. From the steeple with a cross on top, Samantha knew this must be a church. "Is that where the reverend lives?"

"No, Reverend Crane's house is near the caves." Prudence took Samantha's arm to steer her away from the church. Samantha followed Prudence obediently down a dirt path leading into a forest of ancient pine trees so tall they blocked out the sun. The shadowy forest reminded Samantha of the dark beach and the dogs howling. When a breeze rattled the tree branches, Samantha dug her fingers into Prudence's arm hard enough to make her yelp with pain.

"I'm sorry," Samantha said.

"It's fine. We're almost there." After a fork in the road, the trees thinned to reveal a wide, swift stream. Samantha took a step back at the sight of the water.

"Is it safe?" she asked.

"We all bathe in here." Prudence set Samantha's new clothes-a gray dress and white apron like Prudence's-on a rock. "Do you want any help?"

"No, I can handle it," Samantha said, although she couldn't remember ever taking a bath before. She took a bar of soap from Prudence, her nose wrinkling at the strong lye odor. At the edge of the water, she stuck a toe in. A second later she jumped back. "It's cold!"

"If you're quick it won't be so bad."

Samantha reached for the hem of her nightgown. "You aren't going to peek, are you?"

"No, I'll wait for you over there." Prudence pointed to a cluster of boulders near the trees.

Samantha removed her nightgown and soiled underwear, leaving them in a heap at the water's edge. She took a deep breath and then dashed into the water. The frigid water stung her like a million wasps; she put a hand to her mouth to keep from crying out.

Then something cold and scaly touched her leg. She jumped back as a school of silver fish swam past. Her feet dug into the sandy bottom, but couldn't find purchase. With a cry, she tumbled into the water. The swift current took hold, carrying her downstream. She tried to swim towards the shore, but her frenzied paddling did nothing but tire her muscles out. She managed to keep her head above water long enough to scream.

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