“Jeez, are we there yet?” Gibby impatiently whined, for the hundredth time, as he popped out his earbuds, draping the cords around his neck, still blaring alternative rock music.
Dr. Jonathan Robinson rolled his eyes at his son and chuckled, “Yep, we’re there.” He said sarcastically, “Get the hell out of the car.”
Gibby squirmed in his seat causing the stiff black leather to creak underneath him.There was no use trying to get comfortable. “Seriously, Dad, my ass fell asleep two states back.How much longer until we get there?”
“It shouldn’t be too much longer now.”
The late afternoon sun was blistering outside of the SUV, but the air conditioning kept the dark interior cool in the August heat.Gibby tugged at the long sleeves covering his arms, adjusting the hem until just the tips of his fingers stuck out.
“Where are we going anyways…BFE?” Gibby mumbled under his breath.
“No, if we were moving to bum-fuck-Egypt, we would have made a left at that last intersection about a mile back.”
Laughter shook Gibby’s shoulders.“Real funny, Dad.”He glanced over at his father, who kept his gaze fixed on the road ahead.It had been over twenty minutes since they passed another vehicle.The road between Greenville and Shepherd’s Crook was narrow as it twisted through the foothills edging up against the looming mountains.
He watched his father’s dark eyebrows pull together as he concentrated.From this angle, nobody could notice that half of his dad’s left eyebrow was missing.It wasn’t until Jonathan turned his attention back to his son that the angry red burn marks were now noticeable, as they marred his skin from his forehead, past his temple, down his left cheek and disappeared inside the collar of his shirt.
“C’mon Gibby, I thought you were going to try to make the best of this.”
Gibby stared at him in disbelief.“No,” when he suddenly snapped his mouth closed, the muscles in his jaw twitched.“You wanted to make the best out of this situation; I only agreed to stop complaining so much.”
“And this is you complaining less?” As Jonathan glanced over at Gibby, his tone suddenly softened.He hated to see the pain lingering in his child’s eyes, those hauntingly familiar eyes. They had the same light brown eyes, the color of coffee with too much cream, but that is where the similarities ended.Jonathan had short dark hair, where Gibby’s overgrown auburn locks curled around his ears, hiding very little of the thick scars running along his neck and down his back.
Jonathan knew that if Gibby gave him a lopsided grin, the same one his wife gave him when she stole his heart the night they first met, Jonathan would have to fight to keep the tears from burning the back of his eyes.
“Hey kiddo, you know that if I could have found another job closer to home, we wouldn’t have moved so far away.”Jonathan kept his voice barely above a whisper.
“I know…but…” Gibby didn’t have to finish his sentence; his father already knew what he was going to say.They had the same argument a dozen times this summer.The home that Gibby longed for was gone. Nothing was left, only a blackened burnt out shell of their previous life remained.
Trying to quickly change the subject, Jonathan turned his attention back to the empty road.“Shepherd’s Crook should be over the next ridge.”Just as his words filled the cab, they crested the hill, setting their sights on the peaceful little town that was going to be their new home.
Shepherd’s Crook had been founded by Father J.A. Tucket during the time of America’s biggest gold rush.When Gibby couldn’t find much information online, he checked out the local library looking for anything he could find.When other men were killing each other trying to make their fortune in gold, one simple priest led a group of men, women and children to this amazing valley.
Tucket believed that it was a sign from God that this land was protected on three sides by mountains and the flat valley edged right up to the lush green foothills before swinging out, making a large semi-circle across the top.From the ridge, the outline of the shepherd’s staff was unmistakable.
“Wow! Look at that.” Jonathan let out a whistle as he saw the entire town below them.
The vision that Tucket began with had been transformed in the late fifties to the sight that they saw today.It was as if a Norman Rockwell painting had come to life.Gibby had to admit that it was incredible.Everything about the place was perfect.The buildings looked like pieces of a train set, placed in each precise spot, creating the pristine town.
Town Hall sat at the center of Shepherd’s Crook.Rows of shops, various business, and cafés lined the crisp clean streets.A pharmacy, an ice-cream parlor, even an athletic facility rounded out the commerce of this little self-sustained community.
“Turn left now.” Jonathan followed the directions from the GPS.The town was larger than it appeared from up on the ridge.Homes were tucked away on tree lined streets that made up the outer rings of town.
Silver Forest Drive was on the west side of town.Taking the scenic route through the center of Shepherd’s Crook let Jonathan and Gibby familiarize themselves with what would be their new home.
Mature trees lined the sidewalks flanking Silver Forest Drive.The houses along the quiet neighborhood were mostly cookie cutter homes, identical in almost every way.Each two story colonial home had a sharp hip roof; the only difference was that some of them had black shingles while others had gray or dark brown. Matching clapboard siding and the same slotted wooden shutters finished off the unoriginal package.
The only house that was different was a little white cottage with three large dormer windows jutting out from the upstairs roof.A ‘for rent’ sign was still posted in the front lawn.
“We’re here,” Jonathan’s tired voice held hope for a fresh new beginning.
Before the SUV had come to a stop, Gibby jumped out and started to stretch his long legs.“God,” he grumbled, “I don’t think I’m ever going to get the feeling back in my ass.Great, it was always small, but now it’s as flat as a pancake,” Gibby complained as he rubbed his backside while making his way to the back of their vehicle.
Jonathan stepped out and stared at the house.The whitewash on the siding looked fresh.The trees were pruned, the lawn mowed, and the front porch was lined with flowerpots that were filled with colorful plants.Everything looked inviting.
Pointing to the flowers, “I guess the trees give them enough shade that they don’t burn up in the summer heat.”
The late afternoon was warm, but a gentle breeze had started to stir.A few stray leaves tumbled around the front yard before continuing down the sidewalk.
“Well, we got a lot of stuff to do before nightfall.Why don’t you start unpacking stuff while I figure out where the hospital is located?”
Jonathan waited for Gibby’s reply, which never came.
“Gibson Lewis Robinson!” Gibby cringed when his father called him by his full name.The first name was bad enough, but first, middle, and last meant he was in trouble.
“Jeez, Dad,” Rolling his bike in front of him, Gibby pushed it out from behind their SUV.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Jonathan’s eyes narrowed in on his son.
Shrugging his shoulders, Gibby gave him a crooked smile.“What does it look like I’m doing?”
“What about unpacking?”
“For real? Dad, c’mon! Everything I own fits into one cardboard box.How long do you think it’s going to take me to unpack?”
Jonathan didn’t argue with Gibby.They had both lost everything in the fire.“Fine,” Jonathan blew an exasperated breath through his lips, “But what if you get lost?”
Gibby hopped on his bike and rode small tight circles in the empty street in front of the house.The sun was reaching the far side of the sky, the summer day was still warm, yet Gibby refused to take off his jacket or change out of his long jeans.It was another argument that Jonathan wouldn’t win with him.
“You never batted an eye when I would jump on the metro and head into the city before--”
“That was different.”
“How? You think I’m not going to be able to find my way around this little rinky-dink town?”
Jonathan knew that he was a street savvy kid, born and raised in the city.Gibby had a good head on his shoulders.
“Just be back here by seven o’clock.We still need to go to the grocery store this evening.”
“Yes sir…and if I get lost, you can activate that GPS tracking chip you implanted in my ass.”Gibby heard his father’s laughter rumble as he sped off to explore their new town.
As the evening breeze grew stronger, a tiny dandelion puff was snatched from the lawn and spun around in the air.It twirled and danced as it flew towards the Robinson’s new home.Bumping against the living room window in the breeze, Jonathan immediately pushed open the sash as if the little fluff had been invited to come in.
Cardboard boxes were sitting on the coffee table and couch.Jonathan opened them, retrieving the few possessions that he and his son still had.Peeling back the packing tape, the cardboard flaps popped up with a whoosh, sending the little white speck further into their rented home.
From the front door, a narrow hallway ran the length of the house.A fully furnished living room sat to the left of the main entrance and just past it was a cozy study, filled with walls of books.Neutral hues of beige, cream and light gray offset the dark woodwork making the rooms feel more spacious.
While the living area was to the left, a polished dining room table and chairs sat to the right.They looked like the kind of furniture that only got used once a year at holiday events. From the hallway, a country style kitchen was past the dining area.It had all the modern conveniences that a kitchen should have.
Floating along inspecting the house, the fluff neared a closed door to the back of the house.It hovered there, bobbing on the air.Before retreating back to the outside world, Jonathan reached past the flower seed and opened the dark wooden door to his bedroom, stirring up the air, shooting the dandelion puff upwards to the second floor.
A small spot at the top of the staircase had been made into a quiet sitting area with throw pillows, a throw blanket and more books lining the walls. The door just beyond the hand carved banister was open.Shadows cast across the floor as someone moved about inside the only bedroom upstairs.The puff drifted closer to the door.Gibby was inside.He pulled several items out of a cardboard box and quickly placed them in the desk drawer.
The box was almost empty as Gibby grabbed the last item.It was a picture frame.The polished silver frame looked shiny and new, but the photograph behind the glass was warped and faded.Burn marks marred the tattered edges curling under the glass.
Gibby’s fingers traced the faces in the photo.The woman and young boy had the same auburn hair, heart shaped face, and upturned pink lips. His hands trembled holding the last thing salvaged from the fire.
Tears laced his eyes, but before they spilled over his cheeks, Gibby suddenly stiffened his shoulders.His ears perked as his hair stood on end.The feeling of being watched was overwhelming.This was a private moment and someone was intruding on him.
A cold chill snaked down Gibby’s spine when the fluff floated closer to him, until it was inches from his shoulder.The unusual feeling increased.When he turned to place the photo on the nightstand beside the bed, Gibby saw a dark figure in the hallway and let out a yelp.
“Oh my god!” Gibby jumped back and clutched the photo to his chest, eyes wide with fear while gasping for air.
Jonathan’s arms were folded over his chest as he leaned his shoulder against the doorframe and grinned while watching his son move around his new bedroom.
“You freaking scared the crap out of me,” Gibby growled, tossing the picture frame back into the empty box.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.You’re probably just jumpy because it’s a strange place,” He said, suppressing a smile.
Pushing away from the door, Jonathan walked into Gibby’s new room and glanced around for the first time.The room had cream colored wainscoting covering the lower half of the walls and deep blue paint across the top half.The sharp angles of the ceiling and walls appeared even steeper with the dark color, but two of the wide dormer windows let in a lot of light, even if daylight was dwindling in the summer night.The third window was in Gibby’s bathroom.That was one of the reason’s Jonathan picked this house, both of the two big bedrooms had their own private bathroom.
“We can buy you some new stuff to make it feel more like home--”
“This isn’t home!”
“Gibby,” Jonathan’s voice held an authoritative tone.He didn’t want to have the same old argument with his son, not again.Holding up his hands in surrender, “Look, Gib, we need to do some back to school shopping this weekend, anyways, so why don’t we pick up a few things for your room?A new bedspread and shower curtain will make this place feel a lot more comfortable.”
Flexing the muscles in his jaw, Gibby waited for his father to finish so he could object.“I don’t need anything.”
Jonathan’s eyes darted over to the frilly bedspread and pillowcases covered in big blue flowers.“Really?”
Gibby tried to keep his gaze hard as he attempted to stare down his dad.“Nope, I don’t need anything…everything is fine just as it is.”
Jonathan didn’t believe him, but he wouldn’t push the issue, not today.
Well, what do you think about Chapter 1 of Shepherd's Crook? This story will be a little different, but I think you'll like it. Let me know if you have any comments or questions. I'd love to hear from you.