Young Hearts (Chapter 7, page 1 of 3)

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Chapter 7

Joseph Pryde eased across the snow on his skis. Not many people enjoyed cross-country skiing, but from his experience as a long-distance runner he appreciated the discipline and patience needed to trek across mile after mile of snow. The lack of popularity was an added bonus, as it meant no one else was around to disturb him.

Today was anything but a leisurely jaunt, however. Joseph had waited two weeks for this. Now with sunny skies and spring temperatures, he had the perfect weather to photograph the site.

A small article in the Seabrooke Weekly three weeks ago announced a developer had purchased a large parcel of land outside town. The land would be turned into time-share condominiums to make Seabrooke "New England's Aspen." While the rest of the community celebrated the jobs this would generate, Joseph mourned the loss of a hundred acres of virgin forest.

He became determined to photograph as much of this landscape as possible before the bulldozers arrived to tear it down. He hoped to put together a retrospective for the school newspaper-where he served as an assistant editor-that might rally support for saving the forest. To this end, a digital camera dangled around his neck.

Joseph stopped among a grove of trees to snap a few pictures of the majestic old evergreens. Mom used to take Joseph for walks in this very same forest. She let him run through the brush until he tired and then carried him on her shoulders. He closed his eyes as she'd instructed him to do and listened to the sounds of the forest. He heard nothing but the rustling of branches. Soon even those sounds would be gone and another part of his mother would be dead along with the trees.

Joseph still remembered the night he woke up to the sound of Mom screaming. He raced down the stairs as fast as he could, finding her in the kitchen. A black woman held a knife to her neck. Joseph cried out. The stranger rammed the blade through Mom's chest. Mom sagged to the floor. He stood in the doorway, too terrified to move. A policewoman took him by the shoulders. She looked into his eyes and said, "Mom's gone to Heaven."

Only years later did Joseph learn who had killed his mother, though he never understood why. Mom had been such a gentle soul, incapable of hurting anyone. She donated to every charity, took Joseph to church every Sunday, and never raised her voice and yet a maniac had murdered her that night.

Joseph shook his head, forcing himself to concentrate on the task at hand, gliding ahead on his skis until he reached a clearing. Sunlight reflected off the snow to blind him. He reached up to flip down the shades over his glasses. When the green spots cleared from his vision, he held up the camera to photograph the rugged stone walls of a hill.

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