Harking – Chapter 1

The rumble of the train slipping into the railyard sent tremors through the old house. The subtle shaking worked its way along the stone foundation, moving into the floor joists and walls, finally making its way into the beams and roof trusses, rattling the light fixture above the bed.

Her heart pounding and sweat beading across her brow, Harking opened her eyes and looked at the ceiling as the steady squeal of the train’s brakes smothered the silence, the added effect of the train rolling into town making the dream seem all the more real.

Tossing off the heavy quilt, Harking slid her almost six-foot frame out of bed and walked to the open window, parting the curtains as the first rays of sunlight made their way into the valley. Standing in her pajamas she sucked in the cool mountain air and stretched, massaging the back of her neck, oblivious to the trio of boys gawking up at her from the back alley.

The first catcall startled her.

“Hey, Harking,” one of the boys yelled, repeating the shrill call as Harking shoved a middle finger into the air.

There was a chorus of laughter and the boys raced off on their bikes.

“Assholes,” she muttered as the trio disappeared around a corner.

Harking quickly changed into her bike shorts and grabbed a jersey from the hummock of dirty clothes on the floor. Hauling the shirt over her head as she rushed down the stairs, she hesitated at the landing. Quietly, she nudged the door open and peeked into the bedroom. Seeing no sign of movement, Harking closed the door and slipped into the bathroom.

She was out again in a few minutes, her long auburn hair tied back and hanging down the centre of her back, the remnant strands of blue hinting at a rebellious streak. Once again, she checked the main floor bedroom, this time standing silently against the door and listening for any sign of movement.

Satisfied Marion was still asleep, Harking tiptoed into the kitchen. She quickly made a peanut butter and jam sandwich, slid it into a plastic bag, then added it to her pack along with an apple from the bowl of fruit on the table. Standing at the sink, she ran the tap and filled the dented water bottle, took a sip, and then topped it up.

“In a hurry?” said the voice behind her.

Harking’s shoulders slumped as she screwed the lid on the bottle and turned around. “Sorry, Marion. I didn’t mean to wake you.”

“Not to worry,” said Marion, pulling the housecoat tightly around her lean frame as she walked to the stove. “I can’t stay in bed on a beautiful day like this.” She grabbed the kettle and filled it with water. “Tea?”

“No thanks,” said Harking. “Gotta run.”

“Those boys are going to drive you crazy, young lady.”

Harking hesitated. “You heard them?”

“Hmph,” Marion muttered. “The whole town probably heard them.” She pulled out a chair and sat at the small wooden table. “Sound carries pretty far at this time of day.”

“Oh well,” said Harking. “Nothing we can do about that. Boys will be boys.”

Marion smiled and ran a hand through her shoulder length grey hair. “Isn’t that the truth?”

Harking finished loading her pack and stood at the doorway. “Do you mind if I take off?”

“Not at all,” said Marion. “But where are you taking off to, exactly? In case I have to send out a search party.”

Harking laughed. “Same as usual. Up back of the lake.”

“Still looking for that bird?”

“Yeah. I know it’s out there, but I have to actually see it to add it to my life list. That’s the birder’s rule.”

“Well, you’ll have more time to look for it now that school is almost over for the summer.”

“You mean for good.”

“Goodness, that’s true. I can’t believe you’re almost finished.” Marion paused. “With this stage anyway.”

“Couldn’t happen soon enough. I’m done with school.”

Marion smiled. “Don’t be in a rush. Once you start working, you’ll be working for the rest of your life.”

Harking waited impatiently by the door. “I kind of do want to get going, though. The birds are more active in the morning. I thought I’d put out Dad’s recorder and the remote camera to see if I could pick up anything interesting.”

“Killing two birds with one stone, so to speak,” said Marion. “Okay, get out of here. But be careful. That’s some of the only good bear habitat left in the valley. I don’t want you to charge down a trail on your bike and surprise a sow.”

“I’ll leave the bike by the main trail and hike in. I don’t want to run into a bear either.”

“Smart girl,” said Marion. “Hopefully those boys are as smart.”

“I doubt it,” said Harking. “Anyway, they’re off doing their own thing. I never see them.”

“Just as well,” said Marion. “They seem like trouble. I’ve heard they’re cutting their own trails all over the valley.”

“It wouldn’t surprise me,” said Harking. “They think they can go wherever they want in the park.”

Marion shook her head. “Some people’s kids.”

“They’re okay,” said Harking. “A little misguided perhaps. Tyson is the only one I really need to keep an eye on. But when Match is around, Tyson and the others are pussycats.”

“Hmph, Match,” said Marion. “What a name.”

“Yeah,” said Harking. “I’m not even sure what it’s short for.”

“No doubt something cryptic,” Marion scoffed. “Probably makes no more sense than his father. But don’t get me started.”

Harking raised her eyebrows, but didn’t respond.

“Go on and get out of here,” Marion shooed her, not having to make another offer as Harking vanished through the doorway.

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