It’s been awhile since I’ve posted any progress on my book, and with going back to school, it’s been a bit on the backburner (again), but with some recent encouragement from writing friends, and a Unicorn-loving little girl, I think it’s time to revisit Ruby.
Chroicoragh, the Unicorn in my backyard, inspired me to write this book. Ruby is a 13-year-old girl, growing up in the middle-of-nowhere, Middle America. She might seem familiar to you. Here’s my “elevator pitch”:
Her parents are breaking up. The hunky farm boy down the road doesn’t notice her. She’s having strange dreams of hummingbirds, and all she can think about is getting a horse. But when she discovers a Unicorn in her neighbor’s barn, Ruby Fortuna goes on the adventure of a lifetime.
An elevator pitch is something you could use if you ever are stuck in an elevator with, say, Faye Bender or Jennifer Laughran, or George Lucas, and they just happen to say: “Oh, you wrote a book? What’s it about?” Then you give them your pitch, and by the time you are stepping off the elevator, they’re shaking your hand and going, “Have your people call my people.” Then 12 months later you are at the book release/movie premiere/Newbery Awards, saying, “Thank you, thank you, it all started with a serendipitous elevator ride…”
But first, one must finish the book. :) Working on it! Until then, a teaser:
RUBY AND THE UNICORN
Dodder’s Field sat on a low hill above the river. The small cemetery dated back to the days of the town’s founding fathers, and some of the limestone grave markers dated over 150 years old. Elm and walnut trees stood guard over peaceful grounds, seldom visited, but well-kept. Graceful stems embraced granite monuments of residents past.
Moonlight shone down through the trees, giving the place an eerie otherworldly glister. Bad enough being in a cemetery at all hours of the night, but the strange glow trickling through branches and and reflecting off headstones made it seem they had stepped into another time. Though the air felt balmy, Ruby shivered as they entered the hallowed grounds. David looked around, scanning the shadows. Chroicoragh went forward, and sidestepped walking over a grave, out of respect for the mortal remains within.
Ruby, taking note of the plots, looked down and realized her boots and legs were not getting wet anymore from rain soaked grass.
“Hey, look. It’s dry here,” she said, and startled herself by how loud her voice sounded in the stillness of the graveyard.
David paused to glance around him.
“Huh, you’re right. Must not’ve rained here. That’s weird.” He was careful to use a more subdued voice.
“Really weird,” stated Ruby, “especially seeing as how big that storm was.”
“So,” David began, “this all started with a hummingbird?”
“I think so,” Ruby replied.
The two had been discussing the day’s events, and David was still trying to put the pieces together. Ruby had told him about her dream and then seeing the hummingbird when she woke up, and then later, in Molly’s barn, with Chroicoragh. And she told him all about the storm, and the lightning, and discovering the Unicorn.
When David had asked her why she’d been out at Molly’s in the storm, she told him about her parents’ fight, and that creep, Mr. Miller, and of the ruined photograph. She didn’t say anything about seeing Bobby and Missy and the other kids in the car. She’d been embarrassed and humiliated, and besides which, she didn’t want her best friend David to know she had a crush on Bobby, his bossy big brother. It would’ve been too weird.
“Well, I wonder what the bird has to do with any of it,” David pondered.
“I don’t know,” said Ruby, “I never really thought about it. I just thought it was strange to see a hummingbird. Have you ever seen one around here? My grandparents had some around their ranch out west, but I’ve never never seen one here.”
“Nope, me neither. Why don’t you ask her?” David said, thumbing in Chroicoragh’s direction.
Ruby perked. The thought hadn’t occurred to her, and she’d almost forgotten about her ability to communicate with the Unicorn, since the creature hadn’t spoken to her since they’d left David’s house. Chroicoragh seemed to be aware of Ruby’s thoughts, because the girl then heard the soft lilting voice in her head:
Child, sometimes ‘tis better to listen than to speak.
“What do you mean?” Asked Ruby.
The boy has a good heart, he will suit us well on our path. As we walked, I did not interrupt your tale so that I may better attend to the essence of your companion. “Where your mouth may make you blind, your ears may make you see” she quoted.
“What’s that from? It sounds familiar,” Ruby asked.
‘Tis wisdom of the Ancients, replied Chroicoragh, passing a large lichen-covered mausoleum.
“Where your mouth may make you blind, your ears may make you see?”
“What?” Said David.
Ruby repeated the phrase, and pushed a fern out of her way.
“What does that mean?” He asked.
It is a lesson. Remember it well, the mare cautioned.
“I’m not sure,” started Ruby, “but I think it’s the same thing my dad says to me sometimes when I’m arguing with him. Only he says it ‘Sit down and shut up.’”
Yes. One cannot hear what he speaks over.
“Anyway, Chroicoragh, do you know anything about the hummingbird?”
Dappled moon-shadows darted grey and white on the soft grass as they walked, and shafts of shimmery light stood like columns in a cathedral.
Humming bird? The mare questioned. What is a ‘humming-bird’?
“The little bird that was flying around your head today, in Molly’s barn.”
I saw only the sprite, Chroicoragh answered.
“Sprite?” Said Ruby.
“Sprite?” echoed David, “you mean like 7-Up? Ouch!” he said. He had run into a blackberry bush, and its thorny brambles stuck to his shirt.
“No, ssh,” said Ruby to David, “I’m trying to hear her.”
“What Sprite? Like a fairy?” Asked Ruby.
“Oh, yeah,” said David to himself, “shoulda known that. Duh.”
One of the fair folk, yes, Child. Siofran, Lord Chamberlain of the High Court. A wood-sprite; an honorable breed.
“Oh. Sounds important.”
Yes. Very important, Chroicoragh replied, but said no more.
Ruby noticed they had almost reached the far edge of the cemetery. She turned to David.
“Where did you see it? The fairy ring.”
He got his bearings.
“Well, there’s the Pierces’ plot, over here, and the Ayers monument is that way…where’s the tree with the ‘No Hunting’ sign? It marks the back of Schultz’s property. That’s where the fence is down and you can cut through.”
“How’d you find this place anyway?” Ruby asked him.
“Debbie showed me.”
“Debbie Twist?” Ruby said, in disgust.
“Yeah. Old Schultz is their grandpa. What?” He asked, noticing the look on Ruby’s face.
“Ew. I don’t see why you guys are always hanging around those Twists. I can’t stand them. They’re so phony,” Ruby tilted her chin up in defense.
“Oh, come on, Debbie and Missy aren’t that bad. Besides, our parents have been friends forever. We’re just used to seeing them, that’s all. Oh, there it is,” he said, heading for a large elm, an old metal sign nailed to it side, and rusty barbed wire enveloped in its skin. The fence had deteriorated enough to let the three of them pass through, single file. First David, then Ruby, and Chroicoragh following behind.
As Ruby stepped from the sanctuary of the graveyard to the woods beyond, she thought she heard light notes of laughter, like a giggle.
She trailed after David as he wound his way through the overgrowth, backtracking and correcting his path along the way, studying the trees around him, trying to find a particular spot.
We are near, Ruby heard Chroicoragh’s voice, but there are others.
“Others?” Ruby stopped, and reached out to grab David’s shirt, “wait up.”
He stopped, and the tinkle of laughter floated to them again.
“Wait a minute,” David said, “that’s where it is. But who’s over there? Did you hear that?” He asked Ruby.
She nodded, holding her finger to her lips in a “ssh” motion. Then she waved her hand, pushing toward the ground, signaling to go slow. She wanted to find out whoever was in the woods before letting her own presence be known, and especially didn’t want any strangers seeing two kids out by the cemetery at night with a Unicorn. Try explaining that, she thought.
With that thought in Ruby’s mind, Chroicoragh understood, and hung back just enough to be able to see the children, without being seen herself.
David inched forward, crouching low behind ferns, and a fallen tree. Ruby crept up beside him, and peered into the grove.
A circle of oak trees formed the border of a clearing, carpeted with thick moss. In the moss dotted with acorns, another perfect circle formed, a ring made of hundreds of mushrooms, some tall, some short, broad and button-like. Ruby could see why they called it a Fairy Ring. The moonlight within the ring flickered and shimmered like glitter in one of her grandma’s snow-globes. Mysterious and magical, it drew her in.
The sound of voices reminded her to remain cautious, and she pulled her focus away from the ring. Across the clearing on the opposite edge near the trees, lay a young couple canoodling on an old blanket. The boy wore cut off shorts, and tube socks. He kissed the girl, oblivious to anything else, and his hand groped beneath her blouse. Suddenly Ruby’s face felt warm. She avoided looking over at David, afraid he would notice her spying, even though she knew he saw the same thing.
The girl arched her back, and spoke softly. A ray of light illuminated the view, and Ruby’s heart caught in her throat.
END OF CHAPTER 12
I’m kind of scared to be putting this out there, so be gentle with me. Let me know what you think in the comments.
Would YOU keep reading?