Beauty is a beast: The Earthsong Series

Alyss is a forest girl. With her home-knitted shawl and shoes two sizes too big, no-one would ever put her down as a city girl. But when her parents ask her to leave for work and money, she can't refuse. So she goes and some very interesting things happen along the way.

(For the Unexpected Adventure competition)

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1. The Discussion

Alyss walked briskly down the crisp forest path, her dress whipping around her legs and sending a chill up her legs. She sighed crossly, wrapping her home-knitted shawl tighter around her upper body. It provided little warmth what with all the holes in it and she shivered in spite of herself.

As she rounded the gentle curve in the dusty mud track, she slowed when she heard her mother's voice. She was talking in soft tones and this caused Alyss to jump when she heard her father's booming voice in contrast.

'Rachel, love,' her father was saying, putting his arm around her mother's shoulders. Alyss sub-consciously stepped behind a thick oak tree to listen. 'Alyss is a big girl now, she can handle the big bad world on her own.' he continued.

Alyss's shoulders tensed. She knew where this conversation was going. Her father wanted her to go and work for them, to bring in some more income and even though she knew it was best for her family and her father was only doing this because it was a last ditch effort, it still hurt. A lot. She waited with baited breath for her mother to say something, anything, that involved Alyss staying at home.

Alyss is too young,' her mother finally said, 'she's just a girl, my baby girl.' Alyss breathed out slowly, relieved at her mother's reaction.

Her father sighed, telling her that it would keep them all alive for a while longer, give them some time to pull together enough money so that Alyss could come home.

'I... I guess we could do with some extra money...' her mother said miserably. This conversation had taken place many times before but never had her father got through to her mother. Even Alyss began to feel as if it would be for the best; her father's voice was persuasive enough.

Her father smiled wanly, happy he had got his way but a part of him upset that his wife had finally agreed. He did not want to see his eldest daughter go.  Hugging her mother tightly, he ambled off into the forest, calling over his shoulder that he was off to do a bit of work and he'd be home in an hour's time. Looking back to face her mother, Alyss saw regret and sadness. His features softened, telling her mother that it would all turn out okay.

It won't! Alyss felt like screaming. Don't let me go Mother, please! 

It broke Alyss's heart to hear her parent's talk about her behind her back but she had to stay strong. She would not allow herself to shed a tear, not until she was gone. Slumping to the floor, staring up at the clear twilit sky, the shining stars reflected in her kind brown eyes.

She sat there for around half an hour until her mother stood at the door and shouted for Alyss to come home. Hastily wiping away the tears that had formed in her eyes, despite the promise she had made herself, she stood up shakily to walk to the front door. Stepping inside the warm and cosy little bungalow, she realised how much she would miss her home.

Looking around the living room, she saw the hard mud ground that was scattered with colourful threadbare carpets, the home made table and chairs, the two rocking chairs that occupied the fireplace, the beanbags dropped around them for the children and the leaping fire in the fire grate that provided a warm glow and a heat that warmed Alyss's bones from the deep winter chill outside. She looked around again and realised that she would miss her home very, very much.

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