TITLE: Secrets Rise;Ch4
By Amber S.
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Punk grunted as something poked into her back. She squirmed and resettled herself, the sweet smell of hay wafting up to her.
“Punk!” Again something jabbed her.
She moved out of the way, then yawned and looked over the edge of the hammock. “What?” The clock sitting on the crate caught her eye. 8:35. 8:35?! Punk rubbed her face. “What are you waking me up so early for?!”
“So?” She left off rubbing her face to curl up again. “I shouldn't be awake for at least another hour.”
“But church starts at ten!”
“So? I'm not goin'.” She snuggled down into her blanket.
“Yes you are!”
“No I'm not.”
“If you are living with me, you have to go to church.”
Punk growled to herself. “I'll stay here with Grace.”
“Grace is coming.”
Punk sat up and glanced at Grace's empty hammock. She twisted and looked down. There sat Grace on the hay bale, hair brushed and pulled back into pigtails, face washed. Still wearing the raggedy clothes she always wore.
“She can't go to church in that,” Punk protested.
“Why not? I go in this.” Art waved his hands at his frayed jeans and paint spattered T-shirt. “They only care that you wear something.”
“I don't want to.” Punk huddled down in her hammock. Art didn't reply, but she heard him walk to the sheet rope next to his hammock. A moment later, her hammock tipped.
“Hey!” she yelled, bracing herself to keep from falling. “What're ya doin'?!”
“Getting you out of bed,” Art said casually. “I know you won't get hurt from falling from this high, especially with all the hay on the ground. I'll tip it the rest of the way if you don't get out.”
“All right! All right!” Punk scrambled for her rope and slid down. Once on the ground, she brushed herself off and shot Art a glare. “Tryin' t'kill me on Sunday mornin'.”
“Stop talking like that. You're going to rub off on Grace.” Art held out a brush, which Punk snatched and started jerking through her hair. “There's water to wash your face in the rainwater bucket.”
Punk finished her hair and stomped over to wash her face.
“Granola bar?” Art offered as she dried her face on her sleeve. She picked one out of the box and tore it open.
“Why do I have to go to church?”
“Because you're living with me.”
“That's not a good enough reason. Why?”
“Because it will be good for you! You haven't been for what, a year?”
“A year and a half.”
“See? It is about time you started going again.”
“I'm not gonna keel over 'cause I'm not goin' t'church.” She slipped into her street talk, knowing it would annoyed him. “I'm fine the way I am.”
“Fine, but you still have to go.”
Punk muttered under her breath.
Art frowned, but otherwise ignored her grumblings.
"How far's it?" Punk asked.
"Not far. A twenty minute's walk at most."
"How big's it?"
“How big is what?”
"Not too big."
"Good." She crumpled up the granola bar wrapper and tossed it in the trash box.
"We should be heading out soon," Art commented, getting to his feet. "I'll take Grace, which will, sadly, prevent me from offering my arm to your aid."
"I'll survive." Punk rolled her eyes.
Art picked Grace up and swung her onto his shoulders. "Hold on, girl! Here we go!" Art charged out of the alley, neighing like a horse.
Punk sighed and walked after him.
They walked out onto the main sidewalk and down the road.
“Is that someone's house?” Grace asked, eyes large as she pointed at the courthouse.
“Nope, that's where they test people who might have done something bad.”
“And have meetings and stuff,” Punk added.
“What kind of meetings?” Grace asked. Art didn't answer, but gave Punk a sideways look.
She shrugged. “I dunno. Just meetings.” She focused on the sidewalk.
“That is Ms. Harrison's house,” Art said. “The lady that sent the cookies.”
“Can we go see her?” Grace squeaked.
“Not right now. Maybe on the way home.”
Punk grunted as Art made the suggestion. Art didn't comment and they passed the house without another word.
Punk's thoughts turned to Fredrick. Would he have another job for her soon? True enough, Art's place made it easier to live, but she had to help with something.
"Alert! Destination ahead!"
Punk lifted her eyes from their inspection of the sidewalk at Art's call. A church stretched out before her. Huge. "I thought you said it wasn't that big!"
"It is smaller than it looks on the outside. Calm down."
Punk stopped. "I'm not--"
“Oh, come on, Punk.” Art grabbed her hand and tugged her forward, towards the door. She almost decided to turn and run, but when she saw someone from the doors of the church watching, she forced herself to keep an even pace. No point in making anyone think she was a heathen.
"Good morning!" the door man greeted them and held out a hand. Art shook it.
"Morning! This is a friend of mine." He motioned to Punk. "And this is Grace, a girl she's taking care of."
The door man smiled at Grace. "Hello, little missy. How are you this morning?"
"I'm good." Grace returned his smile.
The man turned to Punk. "And how are you?" He offered a handshake.
"Fine." Punk kept her hand to herself as she walked through the door, into a foyer. The feeling of unease increased, despite the friendly atmosphere.
"This way." Art kept a hold of her hand as another man opened one of the double doors into the sanctuary.
Punk's legs locked. The sanctuary was huge! Hundreds of people sat and stood, talking. No one gave them a second glance, even as she stood in the doorway, refusing to move.
Art stood still, holding her hand. He smiled, but Punk could tell he was somewhat nervous. "Come on, we can sit in the back if you want," he whispered.
Punk forced a step, and another. Art led her to the back row and sat down, setting Grace on his lap. Someone waved to him.
Punk sat in her seat, stiff as a drain pipe.
"I wanna sit in Punk's lap now." Grace held her arms out and Punk picked her up.
"Hey, Art!" A boy leaned over the back of Art's chair. "What're you doing way back here?"
"I just feel like sitting here today." Art stretched his legs out in front of him. "This is Punk, a friend of mine. Punk, this is Ben."
"Hey." Ben nodded to Punk, then turned back to Art. "Mom wants to know if you're still gonna be going out to lunch with us after church today."
"I'd love to. Do you think she'd mind Punk and Grace coming to though?"
"I doubt it. I'll ask and let you know after church." Ben hurried off.
Punk leaned forward in her chair, holding onto the edge. The lights dimmed and a guitar began playing. Everyone stood up and soon drums, piano, and more guitars joined into the song. Punk remained sitting. Art bent down to whisper in her ear. "I can hold Grace so you can stand, if you want."
"I'm fine." She wrapped her arms around Grace and listened to the song.
Grace twisted around in Punk's lap, grinning. “My name is in that song!”
Punk nodded as the church began the next verse of Amazing Grace.
At the end of the song, everyone clapped and reseated themselves. The preacher walked to the front and began the welcome. Punk sighed and looked around the room, irritated with Art for tricking her into this.
People got to their feet again and began shaking each others' hands. A woman walked through the row in front of her, stopping when she saw Punk.
"Good morning! What's your name?"
"Punk." She ignored the outstretched hand.
"It's good to see you here today!"
Punk nodded and the lady walked off.
Art sat down next to her. "Like it?"
She answered him with a glare. He shrugged and looked away. "It'll grow on you," he used as an excuse.
"I don't want it to grow on me," Punk growled. "Not that big, my front teeth."
Art chuckled. "Aw, come on, it isn't that bad, is it?"
"Don't ask." Punk scowled.
Art started to say something, but quieted when the music began again. Grace held her arms out to him, and he picked her up as he rose. Punk watched him for a moment, then sighed and stood up too.
Art belted out the song at the top of his lungs, as did most everyone else. Punk read the words from the screen, deciding to spare the congregation her singing voice, if it could be called that.
As the last song drew to a close and everyone sat, Punk breathed a sigh of relief.
Now she just had the sermon, and that wouldn't be as bad. She crossed her arms and sat back in the chair, ready to listen, but not ready to be pleased.
So she was surprised when, at the end of the service, she found that she had enjoyed it, besides being indoors for so long. Grace grinned from beside her.
“That was fun!”
Art smiled at Punk. "So what did you think?"
She shrugged. "It was all right, I guess."
"Grew on you?" Art grinned and pulled Grace onto his shoulders. Punk didn't answer.
"Hello, Art!" A woman walked up and gave him a one armed hug. Beside her stood a man, and behind both of them stood Ben. "You all ready to go to lunch? How's Arbys sound?" she asked, smiling at Punk.
Art nodded. "Sure! This is Punk and Grace."
"Nice to meet you! The van's out front. We can give you a ride."
"I can walk," Punk stated. She cast Art a look that told him not to argue, then strode out of the church.
As the fresh air hit her face, she relaxed. Why couldn't they have church outside? And in the afternoon? Now that would be something she would go to without a fuss.
She worked herself into a jog. She had seen the Arbys yesterday, when Art showed her around. She would get there before the rest of them, she knew that. She wouldn't be held up by people who wanted to talk.
She ran across the street and down the sidewalk. What would she do if Art tried to get her to go to the church again next week? She couldn't refuse, but she didn't feel like waking up early every Sunday to sit in a stuffy place. It had been a nice stuffy place, true, though the music had been a little loud for her taste.
She turned a corner and strolled up to Arbys. She didn't see Grace, Art, or the church people anywhere, so she sat down on the grass and stretched her legs out in front of her. The joys of not living in a house with parents. She wiggled her toes. A scratch ran down the top of her bare foot, caught by some stray thorn or wire. She shrugged. One of the bad points of not having parents. Whoever said anything was perfect? She plucked up a dandelion and rolled it between her hands.
A car door slammed.
She looked up and waved at Art. He walked over to her. “That was rude.”
Punk raised an eyebrow. “What was?”
“Refusing to ride with them and just taking off like that!”
Punk blinked at him. “Why would they care if I walk or not?”
Art sighed. “Well could you remember your manners for the rest of time with them?”
“No talking with street slang?”
“Thanks.” He offered a hand to help her up. She stood without his aid and they walked into Arbys. The family waved at them from a table near the front of the building.
Punk slipped into the chair next to Grace and nibbled a lip as she glanced around the table.
“We ordered Arby melts for everyone,” the mom said. “I hope that is all right.”
Punk nodded and managed a smile.
“Sounds awesome!” Art grinned.
The mom watched Punk for a moment, then asked, “Are you eighteen?”
Art cast her a look and Punk frowned at him.
“Ah.” The mother didn't look too convinced, but she didn't say anything else. "Art's told us a lot about you."
"Oh?" Punk glanced sideways at Art.
"He says you're a great friend. And that you've been to church before. What church was it that you went to? He said he couldn't remember the name."
Punk shrugged. "I don't remember either. A lot different than yours though."
"Well the music wasn't as loud for one. And it was a lot smaller."
The mom smiled. "Must've been a shock for you then, huh?
Punk shot a glare at Art. "Yeah. It was."
Art scratched an ear, then looked over Punk's head. "Ah, here's the food."
"Art?" Punk looked up from her book.
Art commented on a finer point of painting to Grace, then turned. "Yeah?"
"I just remembered Fredrick. The guy that gave me that job."
"He told me that if he needed me again, he'd park his car to the left of the dumpster at McDonalds, and that would be a sign that I needed to meet him the next day at noon. I wonder if he has his car parked there. It's been a week."
"Well it doesn't really matter, does it? You're here now, so you don't need to worry about taking jobs like that."
Punk shrugged. "It would be helpful for me to make some money."
"Well, yes, but not in that way. We'll be fine without his jobs."
Punk didn't answer.
"Look!" Grace tugged on Art's shirt, giving him yet another paint stain.
Art nodded and smiled. "You're doing great!"
Punk studied the ground. “I'm going for a walk,” she announced, rising.
“Want an escort?” Art stood up.
“No, I just want to get out by myself for a bit.”
“Okay, have fun then.” Art waved and turned back to Grace.
Punk walked out of the alley. As soon as she cleared the edge of Art's town, she broke into a jog. She'd check McDonalds from the top of the hill at the edge of her town. It would still be a good walk, but at least she wouldn't have to go all the way down, and at least she didn't have Grace with her this time.
Punk glanced at the sky. The sun shone midway up, but its rays did little to warm the air. Punk puffed out a breath, wondering if she could see it as a cloud. No, not yet. She huffed across the next stretch of land, then slowed to catch her breath.
As she climbed the last hill, she found that she wasn't sure whether she wanted the car to be there or not. If it was, she would have to have a secret from Art. She couldn't tell him she was doing this, he would refuse the money without thinking twice. But she would also be able to help. If it wasn't there? She wouldn't have anything weighing on her mind, but she wouldn't be helping at all. She came to the top and looked towards McDonalds.
The car sat parked next to the dumpster. Punk turned around. So that was it. Tomorrow she would have a job and be helpful. She strode down the hill, feeling a surge of excitement and adrenaline. She wanted to do something now, as a form of celebration.
Her mind turned to the vegetable garden Art had commented that Ms. Harrison had.
She wended her way along the street until she came to Ms. Harrison's house, then stalked around back. Sure enough, she had a huge, well tended garden. Punk's mouth watered. Not much was still bearing fruit, but the tomato plants were still productive, as were the green beans.
Punk glanced around, then clambered over the fence. She tiptoed to the garden. Little dirt pathways connected all the vegetable beds. Punk slunk down one of the paths, towards the tomato plants. She reached out. Just as her hand was about to close on one of the plump, fruits, she heard a growl. She looked up.
Her heart leaped. A huge German Shepherd stood at the head of the pathway, shaggy fur on its shoulders bristling. Punk stood still. She had had this happen before, several times. Sometimes standing still worked.
The dog snarled and charged.
Sometimes it didn't.
Punk turned and ran for the fence, dog barking up a storm behind her. The dog snapped, barely nicking her leg. She yelped and vaulted over the fence, tumbling into a ball on the other side. She looked up and stared at the dog, which still growled and barked from behind the fence. Why hadn't Art warned her about the stupid dog? He had mentioned the garden, sure, but what about the dog? If someone told you about a good place to get food, they were supposed to tell you about dangers. Unless they were enemies, like Reaper.
She whirled around and stomped away. Art was going to get an earful.
She stormed down the alley and exploded through the sheet.
“Hey! Where ya been?” Art turned around. When he saw her expression, he put his head to the side. “Something wrong?”
“Yes, something's wrong! Why didn't ya tell me there's a great big shepherd dog guarding that garden?”
“What garden?” His face was blank.
“Ms. Harrison's! The one you said was so great and huge and wonderful to get food from.”
“Ah, I didn't mean you should steal it.”
“How else does do ya get food from a garden? Go up to the front door, knock, and ask for it?”
Punk blinked. “What?”
“You just ask and she'll let you go out and pick what you want. She's a widow, doesn't eat all that much.” Art chuckled and leaned against the wall. “So you met Bruce?”
“Yes. He's a sweet dog.”
“Is not. He about bit my leg off.” She looked down and stared at her leg.
“You're bleeding!” Art lurched forward. “Sit down! Sit down! What happened?!”
Punk slumped onto the hay bale. “That dumb dog is what happened! I didn't know he bit me that bad though. It doesn't hurt. Must just be bleeding more than usual scratches.”
Art grabbed a rag and water bowl. “Hold still, I'll clean it. I hope we don't have to go to the doctors.”
“We ain't goin' to the doctors,” Punk snapped. “It isn't bleedin' that bad.”
Art shook his head and kept dabbing at the wound. Punk kept still. The wound began to throb.
“Where's Grace?” she asked, leaning back and bracing herself on the hay bale.
“Taking a nap,” Art answered, not looking up. “You're not getting dizzy or anything, are you?”
Punk almost laughed. The thought of her getting dizzy over such a wound was quite funny. “No! I'm not getting dizzy. Art, it's fine! It hurts, but I'm not gonna bleed to death.”
Punk almost denied again, then a thought hit her. She raised a hand to her forehead. “Oh... I do feel rather strange.” She let out a sigh and fell over sideways on the hay bale.
“Punk?! Punk! Don't go to sleep! Stay away! Can you hear me?!”
Punk gasped and fought away a smile. “I... I...” Art's worried face convinced her to let off the act. She sat up. “I'm okay.”
“You sure?! I mean, after a dizzy spell, or whatever that was...”
“It wasn't a dizzy spell. I pretending.”
Punk nodded. “Yeah.” She started to laugh, then let the amusement drop away. “I'm sorry. I didn't realize you'd freak out that much.”
Art stood up and ran a hand through his hair. “Don't do that again.”
“I won't! Like I said, I didn't know.”
Art waved a hand. “That's okay. Just don't do it again.”
Punk nodded. “I won't.”
“Still.” Art knelt next to her again. “I think you should rest your leg after I wash it.” He rubbed a bar of soap against his hand, then wiped the foam on her leg. She bit her lip as pain jolted her leg.
“It'll keep it from getting infected though.” Art continued to wash the bite, then he rinsed it and tied it up with a rag. “Now why don't you get to your hammock? I can make a pulley for you to make it easier.” He started for the sheet rope.
“No! I'm fine!” Punk hopped to the rope. “Really, I'm well enough to get to bed myself. It isn't that bad of a bite. I've had a lot worse, ya know.”
“Yeah, I know.” Art rubbed the back of his neck. “If you decide you can't climb up though...”
“I'll let you know.”
“No you wouldn't.”
Punk blinked and turned slightly. “What?”
“You wouldn't let me know. That's how you are. You just do things, without thinking about whether it is good for you or not.”
She stood for a moment, not sure how to answer, then frowned. “You're just saying that 'cause I don't always come running for help. And that's 'cause I'm strong.”
Art sighed. “Get good rest.”
Punk nodded. Art stood by as she hauled herself up and slipped into her hammock.
“Yeah, I'm good.”
“Okay. Sleep well!”
Punk pulled her rope up and coiled it around the head of her hammock. She tucked the blanket around her and watched the sky. The sky! That was the difference between this hammock and her other, besides the increased comfort. “Art? What do you do when it rains?”
Art's hammock creaked as he pulled himself in. “There's a tarp I pull over the hammock from the top of the walls. I like sleeping under the stars when I can though.”
Punk nodded. “I like it too.” She watched the dimming sky and the appearing stars. She did like it.
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