the second chapter of my book...any comments would be appreciated
The next Saturday, the girls at St Mary’s were allowed to attend the Founding celebrations. Sarah really didn’t care for such festivities so the nun’s gave her permission to go to the nearby park as long as she was back at the school by dark. ~1~
The park, one of her favorite places, was located several blocks down the street from St Mary's. It rested on a large island, stretching for miles in all directions, surrounded by a gentle flowing river. A sturdy bridge connected the park with the street enforcing its secluded appearance.
The park itself was a huge mass of woodland trails, grassy knolls, and picnic areas intermixed with creeks, and ponds. On a normal Saturday, it was filled with people. Couples walked the trails holding hands, children splashed in the ponds and creeks, families would picnic on the grassy knolls. This day, however, the park was almost abandoned due to the nearby celebrations.~2~
Sarah didn’t mind though. In fact, she enjoyed the solitude. She strolled through the sun-lit avenues taking in every sight, every vista. Occasionally she would glance up to see St Mary's steeple stretching its head over the trees. That sight always filled her with peace, confirming that God was on His throne and all was right in the universe.
The child's mind wandered to more mundane concerns as the afternoon slowly drifted into evening. She daydreamed about the upcoming summer when she would get to see her family again, her parents and siblings. They spent each summer at her parent's beach house where the family would swim, ride horses, run on the sand, all the things one did at the beach.~3~
Sarah was so absorbed in her anticipation; she lost all track of time. She returned to reality with a start realizing the air had grown considerably colder. Frowning, she looked around and for the first time noticed that how dark it was getting. The sun was almost down and stars were appearing in the evening sky. ~4~
‘I got to get back,’ Sarah thought remembering her teacher’s command to be back by dark. She cringed at the thought of Abigail Feathers, her strictest teacher, pulling out the yardstick for something more insidious than measuring.~5~
The sun had gone completely down. Shadows flittered across the once open and inviting trail. In the sunlight, Sarah could see through the entire forest, there were no areas of mystery, no surprises. Now, everywhere she looked there were pockets of darkness that could hide anything or anybody. The once inviting and open trail was now a cold and lonely road covered by shadows on all sides. ~6~
Sarah’s heart pounded rapidly. She sweated in the cool air. The darkness on both sides wrapped itself around her in suffocating arms. Sarah looked for the comforting sight of the steeple. It was gone, obscured by the night sky.
“Oh Jesus” Sarah whimpered.
She had no desire to walk through this spooky forest. But walking was far better than staying where she was vulnerable and exposed to the growing shadows. Gathering her courage she turned and headed towards the entrance.
Around a bend in the trail, she stopped. The park was silent, and still. The normal nighttime sounds, crickets chirping, animals scurrying, the distant sounds of cars had all disappeared. Sarah shivered. Somehow, on some deep inner level, she sensed she wasn't alone. Uneasy, she peered into the thickening darkness but saw nothing. ~7~
Sarah’s tension grew worse. Her heartbeat quickened as she continued down the trail. She went around one bend, then another. Her unseen stalker followed moving its way through the trees first behind her and then in front of her, staying hidden from her sight but not from her senses. ~8~
“Sarah” a voice called from the dark forest around her.
She stopped, trembling, and once again peered into the darkness. This time she saw red eyes staring at her in the shadows.
“Sarah..” the voice whispered mockingly
Sarah bowed her head, tears of fright coming to her eyes.
“Please, Jesus, help me.” She whispered into the air.~9~
The girl stood there on that dark trail, her head bowed for several minutes too afraid to open her eyes. Finally, she raised her head, and opened them to see nobody there. Sarah, however, felt no relief; in fact her fear grew stronger. Even though she couldn’t see them she knew those awful, red eyes were still there, staring, taunting. She could hear the cold voice calling her name. Or was it just the wind? ~10~
Her heart beat more ferociously with each minute. Sweat poured from her forehead, her palms, her entire body. Sarah’s breath quickened as panic churned on her insides threatening to take her over. A peaceful walk in the park had turned into a nightmare.
I have to get back to St Mary’s she thought glancing desperately for the steeple, I will be safe there. ~11~
Bowing her head, Sarah whispered another prayer. Still sweating all over and breathing heavily, she walked down the trail as fast as she could. She headed around bend after bend as the trail twisted and turned. Glancing around Sarah could see flashes of those red eyes as her stalker followed her.
“Sarah” she heard followed by mocking laughter.
Thoroughly unnerved she ran down the trail, barely ducking the branches that grasped at her. A dark shadow followed her in the woods flitting in and out of sight as it got closer and closer. She could hear its laughter, smell its hot, fetid breath, almost feel its hands on her. Screaming she ran around another bend right into someone.
Gasping in fright, thinking her stalker had caught her, she struggled madly in his arms. But they only held her. Calming down somewhat, Sarah looked up to see Alex’s concerned face. Sobbing, Sarah threw herself into his arms hugging him tightly. He held her gently. ~12~
“Sarah? What’s wrong?” He asked, his voice filled with compassion.~13~
Please help me! Somebody is after me!” The child sobbed against his chest.~14~
She could feel his hands gently stroking her hair, soothing her. Slowly, she calmed down and gently pushed herself away from him.~15~
"Now" Alex said gently "Tell me what happened."
“I was walking down the trails. Before I knew, it became dark. I had to go home because the nuns would be mad at me if I was late.” She looked at him and smiled, a little embarrassed. “I thought someone was following me.”~16~
Alex gave her an understanding smile ~17~
“I will check it out,” He said moving towards the bend in the path where she came from.~18~
Sarah impulsively grabbed his hand “No. Wait”~19~
Alex gently released her hand. “It will be alright”~20~
He left her and walked back down the trail and peered around the bend. He stood there for several seconds looking through the trees. Sarah stared after him terrified that the shadow would grab him and haul him into the darkness. But he soon turned and walked back to the little girl standing on the trail; her feet shuffling back and forth as she stared at him with wide, anxious eyes. ~21~
“I didn’t see anything” He said
“But… there is something out there. I know it. I saw it” The girl said trembling
Alex walked up to her, knelt and put his hands on her shoulders.
“Sarah. Look at me”
The child raised her head and stared into his eyes.
“It’s going to be okay.” He said, his gentle eyes radiating warmth.
Sarah fear's drained away, lost in that blue ocean. ~23~
Alex stood up “Do you need someone to walk you back to your school?”~24~
Sarah took his hand “Yes, please.”~25~
The two walked down the path holding hands. The light of the moon filtered through the trees chasing off the darkness. Sarah could hear the crickets returning plus the occasional scurry of small animals. The steeple poked its head out of the trees, a comforting, reassuring sight. ~26~
“So, what is a young girl like you doing out here all alone?” Alex asked her
“My school was going to the festival. I didn’t want to go. My teachers said I could walk here. I just lost track of time.”
“I like the festival. I like the crowds. But sometimes I need to be alone. This park is peaceful at night, isn’t it?” Alex asked looking down at her smiling.
“Yes” Sarah answered, looking up at him. The terrifying events that occurred moments ago were distant, almost as if they happened to someone else.
Minutes later, they reached the edge of the park and headed out across the bridge unto the street.. Still holding hands they walked down the street to the bend heading to the school. At the sight of the school, Alex stopped.
“I can go no further,” He said.~28~
Sarah, still holding his hand, turned to look at him “Why not?”~29~
He looked at her. She stared into his dark eyes and shivered.~30~
“I told you, I hate crosses,” he said coldly.~31~
“Wh…y?” Sarah asked again, her voice faltering not understanding. Her fear slowly crept up on her. His eye's, once so warm and inviting were now a dark ocean, cold and foreboding.~32~
Alex turned his head to gaze bitterly at the school. “Because, I hate God.” He replied.~33~
“But God loves you” Sarah said. ~34~
“I have a hard time believing that” Alex spoke in a strange tone, staring off into the distance.~35~
“He does. He sent his own Son to die for you.” Sarah said urgently.~36~
Alex turned to her, his gaze gentle, his eyes now warm and inviting.~37~
“That is what my dad told me” ~38~
“It’s true” Sarah spoke firmly~39~
“You better go in now,” Alex said changing the subject~40~
“I know. Will I see you again?” ~41~
“I live nearby. Perhaps I will see you later.”~42~
“Bye!” Sarah said running off to her school.~43~
Alex watched her run off, her red hair flapping behind her. ~44~