Tothelea: Chapter 1
"Mama, quit pulling!"
"Well hurry up then, Trevor!"
"Ok, ok!" The boy picked up his pace, matching his mother's on her hurried
path. She dropped his sleeve as he caught up with her. They walked along
toward the market, Trevor's steps coming quickly compared to his mother's
lengthier strides. The late summer sun beat down on Trevor's neck. It made
him hot and uncomfortable, but made patterns and rhythms from the shadows of
his and his mother's four legs which mesmerised Trevor for a while.
The shadows passed over a stick which Trevor picked up and began dragging
behind him, making a line in the dirt road. Without meaning to, Trevor slowed
down again, listening to the sound of the stick against the road. The white
noise hiss interrupted by short pauses as the stick skipped over rocks and
pebbles. He moved the stick left and right as they walked, making long curves
in the dirt. He turned around to look at the line receeding back the way they
"Trevor!" His mother's tone was unmistakable. Trevor dropped the stick--I can
get it on the way back, he thought, forgetting that on the way back his arms
would be full of groceries--and hurried to catch up with his mother again. She
grabbed hold of his sleeve, and did not let go until they reached the market.
The market in White Sands was small, as was the town. Perhaps a dozen stalls,
selling the produce of the season.potatoes, corn, apples.as well as the year
round reliables. Cheese in wheels and wedges, eggs, chickens. Hogs and goats
if you asked for them, although the season for piglets and kids was long past.
Trevor followed his mother from stall to stall, waiting patiently while she
selected her produce and exchanged coins with the vendors. He sighed--
inwardly, so his mother could not hear--as she got into an argument with one
of the vendors. This was taking forever. Trevor's eyes wandered lazily
around the familiar market, mildly enjoying the pleasure of watching people
who don't know they're being watched.
Something moved near Bilsen's stall, piled high with red and yellow potatoes,
snapping Trevor's eyes in that direction. No, nothing. His mother, having
won or lost her argument, continued through the market. Without thinking
Trevor went to the egg lady's stall, because that's always where they went
next. His mother began selecting eggs while asking the wrinkly old egg lady
whether she would have any chickens for sale this week.
There it was again! Trevor turned, in time to see a small hand pull a potato
off of the pile and disappear behind the stall. He wanted to go see who the
kid was, thinking that wouldn't it be smarter to steal something tastier than
a potato, but he knew his mother would yell. So he watched, and waited. A
moment later he saw the kid again, moving to another stall. It was a girl,
skinnier than any kid Trevor had ever seen. Her arms looked barely bigger
around than the stick he had been dragging. She wasn't wearing a thing,
unless you counted the indelible rind of dirt covering her from head to toe.
Her knees were almost black with it.
Trevor stared, unsure how to respond to the girl's nakedness, or her
brazenness as she walked right up to the apple cart, took an apple, and began
to eat it. The small potato, still in her other hand, looked untouched.
Neither the woman selling the apples nor her two customers paid the girl any
mind. This was unbelievable. Trevor wondered, what is it, free apple day?
How come I never get free apples? He wanted to walk over and take one for
himself. He could imagine the crunchy snap of the apple, its juice refreshing
in the day's heat. But he knew that wasn't going to happen. If he were to
try that, he'd get yelled at and his mother would have to pay for the apple,
and he'd end up with extra chores. It wasn't fair.
"Not now Trevor."
"Mama, who's that girl?"
"Just a second, Trevor!" She finished with the egg lady--chickens perhaps on
Wednesday, if they got to the market early enough--and turned to respond to
Trevor's insistent tugging at her. "What is it?"
"Look, over there! That girl just stole an apple!" Well, if he couldn't have
Trevor rolled his eyes. "Right there! Standing next to that lady!" Trevor's
mother looked, but didn't seem to see her. Trevor couldn't believe it. Was
his mother's eyesight going? He pointed. "She's right there. She's eating
an apple, and she doesn't have any clothes on!"
His mother looked at him, asking with her eyes if this was some kind of joke.
Trevor nodded sincerity back at her, and she looked again. Slowly, she said
"I don't know who that girl is, Trev." She stood, taking Trevor's hand, and
walked toward the girl. The girl saw them coming, and ran behind the stall
leaving her apple to fall to the ground. Trevor's mother put her finger to
her lips, as the two of them followed the girl. She motioned for Trevor to
pick up the apple. It only had a couple of small bites taken from it. The
tooth marks were small, too, and Trevor knew that she still had her baby
When they rounded the apple vendor's canvas-walled stall, they saw the girl
sitting on the ground, huddled into a ball pressed against back of the stall,
willing herself to be invisible to them.
"Can I help you, honey?" Trevor's mother asked. The girl pulled herself in
tighter, seeming almost to shrink before them. She looked terrified. She
looks, thought Trevor, like a little rabbit, the way they just freeze hoping
not to die when you come for them.
"Trevor, give her the apple back."
Trevor brushed some dirt from the apple, and slowly held it out to the girl.
She shut her eyes tight and turned away, as though they would really vanish as
long as she could pretend they weren't there. Trevor's mother got to her
knees, saying "It's all right. I want to help you. Where are your mama and
papa?" Trevor's mother used her bedtime story voice, all calm and soothing.
She took one of the girl's hands.the one not still gripping the potato in
white-knuckled fear.gently unwrapped it from around the girl's knees, took the
apple from Trevor, and slowly put it into the girl's hand.
"Would you like your apple back? I see you picked a very good apple."
The girl opened one eye, just a fraction, then then the other. She took
another tiny bite from the apple, and relaxed almost imperceptably. Trevor
watched the girl, his eyes tracing down the ribs showing in her side, and took
a furtive glance between her legs. It was true! Girls really were build
differently than boys! How do they pee? he wondered.
"What's your name, honey?" his mother asked. The girl said nothing, ignoring
them in favor of the apple. His mother took the girl's chin in her hand,
turned her head to face them. "My name is Jedith. This," indicating Trevor
with a nod of her head, "is Trevor. What's your name?"
The girl's eyebrows furrowed a bit, and she cocked her head in confusion.
Jedith patted herself on the chest, and repeated her name slowly while the
girl watched. She patted Trevor's shoulder, and said "Trevor" equally slowly.
Then she patted the girl's knee and shrugged a question.
The girl took the apple from her mouth and said, haltingly, "Ar.. Ar- mo-
"Armonay." His mother gave the odd sounding name a try, slowly. Then, "Oh,
Harmony! Your name's Harmony. That's a lovely name. Harmony, where are your
mama and papa?" Harmony only shook her head slightly, putting the apple back
to her mouth. "They're not here, you mean? Or you don't know?" Harmony
shook her head again. Jedith sat back on her haunches and thought for a
"You carry these, Trev," she said, handing him the basket with their
groceries. She looked at Harmony and said "Well, we can't leave you here,"
scooping the girl up in her arms. "You come home with us, at least until we
can sort out who you belong to."
They walked the mile or so home quickly, Trevor struggling to manage the
unusually large burden--normally, he only carried half the groceries--while
keeping up with his mother and not breaking the eggs. His mother talked to
the Harmony the whole way, her voice keeping the child calm. Or, Trevor
couldn't tell, maybe it was the apple. When they got home, Jedith made Trevor
put away the food, put water over the fire to heat, and drag the wash basin in
from the shed.
When the bath was ready, Harmony had to be coaxed into it by degrees. Trevor
watched as Jedith coaxed the apple core from the girl, who had warmed to her
and so gave it up easily enough. The potato was different.
"Alright, Harmony, now let me have your potato." Jedith held out her hand,
motioning towards the vegetable. Harmony shook her head no and clasped it
with both hands to her chest.
"Honey, I'm going to give you a bath. You don't want your potato to get wet,
do you?" She indicated the water. Harmony considered by turns the water and
"I wonder, child, do you understand a word of what I'm saying? Please, give
me the potato." Harmony twisted to the side, protecting the potato with her
body. Trevor watched as his mother waited patiently, hand outstretched,
hoping to outlast the girl's resolve.
"Trevor," she said, not taking her eyes off the girl, "quit staring. You're
making her nervous. Go over to the trunk and find one of your Papa's old
shirts for this girl to wear." Trevor went off to the foot of his parents'
bed, opened the trunk, and began rummaging through it. His father's shirts
would be huge on the girl, probably hang down to her ankles. As he picked a
shirt with a tear in one of the shoulder seams, he heard the girl cry out in
anger. He stood up to look and saw his mother prying the potato from the
girl's hands. She had to stand to hold it out of Harmony's jumping, grasping
Harmony wailed in protest while Jedith tried to calm her down. "It's ok, it's
ok! I'll put your potato right here for you." She moved to set the potato
down on the brick hearth next to the washtub. Harmony's screams only doubled
as she lunged for the potato. Jedith deftly scooped Harmony into her arms
before she could reach it or tumble into the fireplace.
"Not there? Ok, how about over here?" Jedith took the potato, and carried
both it and the girl over to the kitchen table. She put the potato right on
the edge where Harmony could see it from the washtub. Harmony's screams faded
to sobs. "You can have it back after we get some of this dirt off of you, how
about that?" Harmony twisted in Jedith's arms, reaching for the potato as she
was carried to the washtub.
Trevor fetched soap, a scrub brush, Jedith's hairbrush, and the old shirt as
his mother asked for them. She scrubbed Harmony from head to toe while
Harmony sobbed, her eyes never leaving the kitchen table. Trevor had an urge
to go take the potato--not that he wanted it or anything, mostly because she
wanted it--but knew he'd catch hell for it, so he did nothing.
As his mother soothed and scrubbed, Trevor couldn't help but wonder what
Harmony's story was. Who were her parents? Certainly, nobody in White Sands.
It wasn't that big a place, and Trevor knew everyone in it. By sight, anyway,
if not by name. Why wasn't she wearing any clothes? Why was she so skinny?
The terrified rabbit look on her face kept popping into his mind. Why was she
so scared? Trevor watched his mother bathe the girl and was glad, or maybe
relieved, that he had left her potato alone. It was hers after all, even if
she did steal it, and it was all she had.
When Harmony was dry, cleaner--her knees still needed work--and dressed, his
mother kissed her on the forehead and said "Trev, you look after her till Papa
comes home. I need to start on supper. I'm late already. Don't go too far."
She stood, taking her hands off of Harmony. Harmony ran straight to the
kitchen table to reclaim her potato. "Don't worry, child," Jedith said, "I'll
make enough supper for you, too."
Trevor held out his hand and waited until Harmony took it. "Come on. I'll
show you outside." They went outside into the late afternoon sun. Trevor
showed here where the woodshed was, and showed her the hatched his father used
to split the wood. He pointed down the road and told her about White Sands.
He pointed left of the sun and showed here where she could just see the ocean,
orange light playing on the tips of the waves, between a couple of hills. He
showed her behind the house to where Jedith's garden
Harmony was fascinated by the garden. Trevor named the things his mother had
planted in neat rows, while Harmony squatted down to feel the contours of the
mounded soil. She walked into the garden. "No!" Trevor called to her. "Mama
doesn't like it if we walk in the garden!"
Harmony paid him no mind as she made her way between the plants. Trevor
reached for her, to pull her back, but she was too far. To get her out of the
garden, or to stay out of the garden himself? He stood nervously on the
border of the garden, unable to decide which was the safer course of action.
But, Harmony hadn't stepped on any of the plants yet. Maybe his mother would
never know. He watched, urging her in hushed tones to get out of the garden,
as--no!--she knelt down.
"No, Harmony! You'll get dirty! Mama will know you were in the garden!"
Harmony ignored him. She set her potato down, and pushed both hands into the
dirt. The soil yielded easily as she scooped dirt into a neat pile, leaving a
hole. She put the potato in the hole. She replaced the soil, and patted it
gently with her tiny hands. She muttered something that Trevor couldn't quite
hear, stood up, and made her way out of the garden. She looked immensely
pleased. It was the first smile he had ever seen on her, and the joy of it
banished his fear of being caught in the garden.
He smiled with her and took her hand again as she returned to him. "Let's
brush the dirt off of you, Harmony. Mama doesn't like for us to track dirt
into the house." She allowed him to dust her off without complaint. Trevor
couldn't understand. It was like she was a different child, now. Calm,
comfortable with him, with being at his house. She planted her potato, and
now everything was ok? Trevor didn't understand, but he was happy for her and
began to wonder, to hope, that her parents did somehow live in White Sands
after all. He didn't want her to leave.
"Come on," he said, to banish the thought from his mind, "let's go wait for
Papa. He should be coming home soon." He led her to the front of the house,
to sit on the doorstep where they could see down the road. He pointed towards
town. "Remember I told you that the town is that way? That's where Papa will
come from." If Harmony understood him she didn't let on, watching a bug crawl
across her foot instead. They sat in silence for a few minutes.
"What was that you said in the garden? I thought I heard you say something.
'Vahay pulley me too' or something like that." She turned, and gave him a
quizzical look. "Is that what you said? What is that?" Harmony said
nothing, but turned back to play in the dirt at their feet. "I guess you
don't talk very well yet, huh?" Silence. "That's ok. You're still just
Trevor and Harmony sat, playing idly with twigs and pebbles, waiting for
Trevor's father to return. The sun dropped to the west, and as it began to be
painful to look in that direction, Trevor saw the familiar outline of his
father crest the hilltop nearest their house. He waved to his father, who did
not return the greeting. He looked to be carrying something. Trevor pointed
him out to Harmony. She glanced, but paid no more attention than that. Not
that Trevor had really expected her to.
When his father got nearer, Trevor took Harmony's hand and stood to go meet
him. "Come on, Harmony. Let's go see Papa." Trevor could sense Harmony's
shyness returning as they neared the unfamiliar man, and she shrank behind
"Hi Trev! Here, help me carry these packages, will you?" Trevor's father
bent down so Trevor could take the smaller parcel of the two that he was
"Hello Papa. What's in them?"
"Oh, nothing much. Some things your mother asked me to get."
"Papa, this is Harmony. Mama and I found her at the market today."
"Right here, Papa. See, she's wearing one of your old shirts." Trevor led a
reluctant Harmony out from behind him. Trevor's father looked down, confused,
and then jumped back startled. He fumbled the second package in his surprise,
and it fell to the ground.
"Gods, Trevor!" he exclaimed, "where did she come from?"
"I don't know. We got her at the market."
"I mean, where was she hiding? Just now?"
"Nowhere, Papa. She was standing right here, holding my hand."
"I didn't see her is all." He picked up the other package, warily eyeing
Harmony. "What did you say her name was?"
"Ok. Hello, Harmony. Did you just move to town?"
"She doesn't say much, Papa."
"Well, send her home now. I'm sure your mother has supper on about now."
Trevor started to answer, to say that he was pretty sure Mama meant for
Harmony to have supper with them, but didn't. He had a feeling it was best if
Mama explained it. He could tell Mama liked the little girl. Trevor
surprised himself by thinking I like her, too, and hoping his father would
feel the same way. He took Harmony's hand, and carrying the smaller package
under his other arm, followed his father home.
"Who's the girl, then?" his father asked, when they got home.
"Her name's Harmony. She's staying with us tonight," his mother said, and
left it at that. His father gave a noncommital "Hrm" but didn't challenge
her. Trevor was sorry that Harmony had startled him before, and worried that
he wouldn't like her as a result.
Trevor's father eyed Harmony suspiciously all through supper. Aside from
Jedith's fawning over Harmony, helping her with her dinner, it was an
unusually quiet meal. Trevor could tell that both of his parents wanted to
discuss the girl--although probably for different reasons--but didn't want to
do it in front of her. Or me, he thought. Harmony turned out to be a picky
eater. She wouldn't touch her meat, which was ok with Trevor as he got an
extra helping, and refused potatoes after the first bite. She ate a slice of
Mama's brown bread with some butter, though, and seemed to enjoy it well
After supper, Jedith made up a bed for Harmony from some old blankets while
Trevor cleared the table. She sat with Harmony in her rocking chair and
hummed to her softly. Trevor could remember, dimly, his mother doing that
with him when he was little. He wished he could join them there in the
rocking chair, but with his father's mood, he decided not to draw any more
attention to Harmony himself. When Harmony was asleep, Jedith put her down
and put a blanket over her.
They sent Trevor to bed shortly after that, although Trevor knew it was
earlier than normal.
"But Mama! It's not even dark yet!"
"Don't argue, Trevor. It's been a busy day. You get off to bed now."
Trevor gave her a little scowl, but did as he was told. Jedith bent down to
give him a little hug. Telling him nothing he hadn't already figured out, she
added softly "Go on now. Your father and I need to talk about some things."
Trevor shucked off his trousers and shirt and got into bed. It wasn't cold
enough at night to keep the shirt on, yet, and wouldn't be cold enough for
some weeks to keep all his clothes on at night. He laid down and closed his
eyes. He tossed and turned for a bit, listening intently to anything his
parents might be saying. He could hear his mother washing the supper dishes,
and his father sitting in front of the fire. When he judged that a convincing
amount of time had passed, Trevor stopped moving about and did his best to
appear asleep. But tonight, no, he was going to stay awake listening no
Jedith finished the dishes, and Trevor figured his acting job must be
convincing when his father said "So, tell me about the girl."
"Trevor spotted her at the market, while I was buying eggs. Oh, Dannel, the
poor thing is skin and bones! She didn't have a stitch on, either."
"She was walking around naked at the market?"
"I know, I wouldn't have believed it either. But I saw it for myself. The
poor thing." Jedith recounted the story, pretty much as Trevor remembered it,
of the trip to the market and of bringing Harmony home.
"Dannel, can we keep her?" Trevor's heart skipped a beat.
"What's in your mind, woman? She's a girl, not a stray puppy!"
"But she's obviously orphaned, and--"
"How do you know that? Have you asked around? Even a little?"
"No, but I can just tell, Dannel. She doesn't speak a word. We got her name
out of her, but that's all. Look at her, she must be five years old, at
least. Maybe older. If she were somebody's daughter, she'd be talking up a
storm. You remember how Trevor was at that age."
"Maybe she's addled."
"She is not addled! You look in her eyes and tell me that. She's a sweet
girl, she just needs a home."
"Hrm." Dannel paused for a moment. "I'll ask around tomorrow and."
She cut him off. "Dannel" Her voice quavered, and Trevor wondered if she was
starting to cry.
Trevor's father gave a heavy sigh. "Go ahead and say it. I know you want to."
Jedith sobbed, saying "It's just--Trea--and Harmony's about the age she would
be, and-- She's a gift, Dannel! Can't you see that? She's a gift!" Trevor's
mind flashed to the small plot behind the woodshed, with the small headstone.
He hadn't shown it to Harmony, as he avoided the place himself. The place his
mother visited often, but always returned from sad. Trevor always did his
best not to think about it, but now, listening, he remembered a dim time years
ago when his mother got big, and then there was a baby, but then the baby died
and they put her out behind the woodshed, and his mother cried and cried and
it made Trevor cry too. He shut the memory out.
"I know, love. I know. I miss her too." His father paused. Trevor ventured
to open his eyes for just a glimpse, and saw both his parents looking to where
Harmony's makeshift bed lay. His father's voice softened. "She is fair like
our Trea. I cannot deny that." Trevor could hear his mother choking back her
sobs, as his father continued. "All right."
"Maybe you're right. Maybe she is a gift. But I will ask in town tomorrow;
it could be she's somebody's child. Maybe somebody new in town."
"There can't be. I would have heard."
"Probably you're right, but we don't know that yet. We have to accept that
someday, someone might come to claim her. And if that happens, we cannot keep
her. We'd have no right."
"That won't happen," Trevor's mother said. "I just know it."
In the morning, Trevor's parents told him that Harmony was going to live with
them, assuming her parents didn't turn up. Trevor tried not to let on that
he'd been listening. "Ok."
"She's going to be your sister, now, Trev."
"Ok," he said, and nodded that he understood. But secretly, inside, he was
The first weeks with Harmony were, Trevor thought, a mixed bag. At first, he
resented the attention Jedith showered on her, even though he was glad, truly
glad, that she was his sister now. But she soon warmed to Trevor and his
parents alike, and his resentment melted away. She looked up to him the way
little sisters do, which pleased Trevor more than he really understood.
Trevor's friends didn't mind her tagging along either, and participating in
their games. She was so quiet--not like some of his friends' sisters, who
bickered with them, squealed a lot, and ran around being a nuisance--so neither
Trevor nor his friends ever minded her company. Although hide-and-seek
quickly fell out of favor with them, as Harmony always won. Trevor was the
only one who could ever find her, and that, he suspected, was because she let
him. Indeed, she showed an uncanny knack for diverting attention from
As he got to know her better, Trevor began to wonder about the time before she
lived with them. He wondered what had happened to make her so uncomfortable
with simply being noticed. The question frustrated him, as he seemed doomed
to wonder forever; even after a couple of months with them, Harmony still
hardly spoke a word. She learned to say "Mama" to get Jedith's attention, and
to say "Trev", but everything else she communicated silently by pointing.
Quietness aside, Harmony thrived under Jedith's care, and soon lost her bony
look. For her part, Jedith was overjoyed to have a daughter, and delighted in
altering their home and their lives to incorporate the new child. She
arranged a permanent bed for her. She made--and even bought!--clothes for her.
She did her best too to cook for her, although Harmony nearly drove her mad at
times with her uncommon selectiveness in what she would eat. Still, Trevor
could not recall his mother ever being so happy. His father, too.
Trevor loved his new sister. Indeed, before autumn had dropped its last leaf
Trevor could scarcely remember the time before Harmony.