Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Sneak Peek Chapter Excerpt from "The River Girl's Song"

As many of you know, my Christian Historical Fiction Novella, The River Girl's Song, will be released May 20th! 
In honor of the release, I wanted to share a short section of the story. If you would like a copy, you can find out how to pre-order a paperback OR Kindle copy on my website.

Here's the section:

The river . The hem of Zillia’s filthy skirts tangled around her feet and tripped her up while she ran down the bluff. “Orrie, I’m coming.” She reached the edge of the river and pushed through tangles of vines and brush. Orrie’s footprints dug deep into the sand, then disappeared into the water.
“Orrie!” she screamed.
Sticks and logs had gathered together in the depths of the river over time and formed an island. Orrie’s tiny face peeped out of the branches. He stood up and waved. “Zilly, duckies.”
“How on earth?” How could a two-year-old child reach the center of the river? She ran along the bank, searching for a way across. A log jutted out to the island. Orrie must have crawled over, using it for a bridge. Murky water lapped and tugged at the pile of sticks. The river was unusually high and swift for this time of year.
What if Orrie had been swept away? She couldn’t harbor such a terrible thought. He’s fine. I just have to figure out how to get him back on the shore. The log was too shaky to hold her weight.  Papa had taught her how to swim, but it had been years since she’d been in deep water.
A few steps in, and the water already reached her waist. River mud tugged at bare toes with each movement. Closer. The water lapped against her chest and the current pulled at her dress like witches’ fingers. Why hadn’t she taken off her clothes? Her brittle, cracked corset dug into her ribs. 
 Orrie grinned and held up a ball of yellow fluff. “Duckies!”
 Indignant quacks came from the mother duck. She flapped her wings and swam in circles around the island.
 Finally, Zillia reached the pile of sticks. She stretched out her arms, but couldn’t touch her brother. “Orrie, please come to me. The ducks are in their nest, and we need to go to our house.” She pointed to the mother duck. “See? She’s scared of us. We should go away so she can take care of her babies.”
 Orrie frowned. “My ducky.” He pulled the duckling close to his chest. The tiny bird opened and closed its bill and squirmed to get away.
 “Come on, Orrie.” If she tugged on the logs, she risked pulling the whole island apart. “You’re going to hurt it. Maybe we can buy a little ducky next time we’re in town. Would you like that?”
“My ducky.” Orrie stomped a foot and almost lost his balance.
How can someone so cute be so much trouble? Zillia pulled herself closer and reached for Orrie’s ankle. “You get over here right now!”
He scooted out of the way, laughing.
Her thoughts raced. What could she do? “I’ll give you a peppermint stick,” she promised.
Orrie’s face lit up. “Okay, Zilly.” He placed the duckling back into the nest, where it settled down among its siblings.
“All right, now come over here.” Zillia tugged on his sleeve. She finally managed to pull him into the water.
“Cold!” he squealed and struggled to get away.
Zillia fought to hold him in one arm while she moved back towards the shore. “Just a little ways, then we’ll go home and get dry clothes.”
Half way to the shore, her feet slid out from under her. She screamed and scrambled, but could not regain her hold on the rocks. In an instant she and Orrie were swept into the current. Orrie somehow managed to hang on to her neck while she kicked and struggled toward another log.
Fingers slipped across the moss then held. Coughing and gasping, she clung to the wood and the little boy. Her toes felt for a surface, but this area was too deep for her to reach the bottom.
“Zilly, Zilly!” Orrie’s tiny chin stuck out above the waves and he gasped for air.
“Hold on, Orrie. Hold on to me.”
“Help!” she called out, though it seemed a futile plea. “God, if you’re listening, please help us!”
Her fingers were becoming numb as the current tugged on them. Orrie’s hands gripped her neck so tight she thought he’d choke the life out of her.
What if she was being punished for lying? But Orrie didn’t do anything wrong. “God, I’m sorry. Please help us. Please!”
“Zillia!” a faint voce floated from the bank. “Zillia, I’m here! I’m coming down!”
She turned her head just enough to see Wylder burst through the trees along the riverbank. He pulled out a long section of thick, rope-like grapevine. His knife glinted in the sun and the vine snaked out on the ground.
“Grab this!” He threw it out to her. The vine splashed into the water close by and floated up to the surface, in easy reach.
 With what hand? “Orrie, you have to hug me tighter.”
Orrie’s grip tightened as Zillia let go of the log. Her scrambling fingers reached for the vine, and she caught it. There. She wrapped the thick vine around her arm.
Wylder tugged on the other side, and peace flooded through her soul. Only a few yards over, and once more Zillia’s feet dug into the mud. The vine slid from her fingers, and she scooped Orrie into her arms.
Wylder waded in to help them to shore.
What a blessed relief to feel powdery sand beneath her toes. Zillia sank to the ground. “Thank you, God,” she whispered over and over, hugging Orrie close.
Her brother squirmed and tried to get away. “Zillie’s wet.” 
 Wylder laughed. “You’ll be fine. In this heat both of you will be dry before we get to the house.” He pried Orrie from Zillia’s arms and held his hand out to her.
“Thank you.” Her shaking fingers closed around his wrist and she pulled up to stand.
He drew her close and let her lean on him on the way up the hill. 

Excerpt from The River Girl's Song, Copyright Angela Castillo 2015

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