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Fiction Inspirational Adventure

This story contains sensitive content

Ten-year-old Thomas Edwards, whom we will call Tom, remains very still in his seat, trying to keep attention away from him as much as possible. Perhaps, even make his existence in the room smaller than the object recently laid in the centre of the sitting room. He doesn’t know why he was called here nor does he know the woman standing in front of the fireplace. 


“It’s-it’s. . it’s a gift! To repay the k-kindness you’ve shown my husband. . .” stammers feebly by the lanky woman to Tom’s parents. Tom anticipatingly looks across from him in the sitting room. Mister Edwards sits comfortably on his couch, leaning all the way back with one leg resting on his other knee. Tom knows that this lack of straightforwardness when speaking irritates his father but when Tom looks at him the same foreboding expression remains. 


Tom notices his mother’s pursed lips while staring impatiently at the woman standing on her carpet. Missis Edwards stands beside Mister Edwards with one hand resting on his shoulder. She wears tailored nightclothes made from imported silk while the lanky woman wears a raggedy dress and apron, including the ugliest pair of shoes Tom has ever seen. He looks at his own slippers in mild curiosity. Tom is wearing the same footwear as his father, in fact, he is wearing the same clothing as him from top to bottom. Missis Edwards makes sure of that everyday.


“. . . it’s for your son, Master Tom.”

Tom looks at the woman in surprise before looking back at his supposed gift on the table, a box-shaped object wrapped in brown paper and a thin thread. 


This small gift seems incomparable to all the gifts Tom has ever received since birth. Just last November, he received a horse for his birthday. A horse just like his father’s, an Arabian. Tom never did show an interest in riding nor does he now. Nevertheless, he’s expected to attend irregular riding lessons on top of his daily tutoring. This and the occasional stroll with his father which he finds the most stressful makes him even less keen on riding. Annalise is a nice horse though.


Missis Edwards questionably raises an eyebrow and exchanges looks with her husband. He in turn, uncrosses his legs, sits up straight, and opens his mouth to speak. Tom tenses as if an invisible rope has wrapped around his chest. 


““Thank you, Patricia. That's very. . thoughtful of you. John is a hardworking man that's been with this household for many years, I wouldn't hesitate to help an old friend. But, if you will, we have terribly busy days ahead of us, as you know, fall is upon us, and it’s been a rather long night.”


Tom stares at Patricia who proceeds to stand there nodding and blinking. Oh, how clueless can someone be!


Seconds pass, Tom feels like shrinking. Missis Edwards has both of her eyebrows risen while Mister Edwards on the other hand had recovered quickly from the moment of uncertainty. He slides forward on his seat and clears his throat.


“Patricia.”


The woman eagerly takes a small step forward.


“Yes’r?”


He nods towards the exit.


Patricia yelps like she’s been pinched and leaves the room without turning her back to Tom’s parents. All the way out, she raps her last words of gratefulness and goodbyes, exclaiming “Oh my, oh my!” here and there. 


Silence except for the crackling of fire.


Tom turns away from the door and locks eyes with his parents. 


“Tom,” begins his father.

Tom instinctively looks back on the past three months during the absence of his parents. Missis Edwards and Mister Edwards had been away on business trip visiting a plantation in Brazil. This would be their first night and first interaction back home. The invisible rope from earlier tightens and so too does Tom’s grip on the couch’s armrests. Tom hopes they’re in a good mood.


“Bring your gift to your room but wet your hands before going to bed.”


The invisible rope releases and Tom lets go of his grip.

He bids his parents’ goodnight and leaves to go to his room, the gift in his hands.


_


Tom opens one of the double doors to his room and keeps it close to his chest so it only makes a soft click upon shutting.


Then, instantaneously, he briskly walks to his desk. Opens the lamp. Sits down. Lays the gift on the centre. Pull out a box of matches from the top-right drawer. Pull out a candle stick from the bottom-left drawer. Puts this on a candle holder. Closes the lamp. The room goes dark.


Swishhh

Tom swipes a match aflame that bursts into life with a mighty hiss. 

Quickly, he transfers the light to the candle.

A dancing, dim light appears over Tom’s desk.


The mood is set. 


Tom stares at his gift.

He hasn’t the slightest idea of what it could be.

But, even more so, who is Patricia?

What is he to her?

Or, maybe more importantly, what is she to him?


Rippp.

Tom unties the thin thread and tear away the brown paper.

He does these so carefully as if an infant were sleeping in the same room as him.


Alas, the ripping stops. 

There revealed on Tom’s desk are two stacked semi-thick books.


These books are nothing quite like Tom has ever seen before, or at least from his father’s library or the books he is required to read by his governess, Madame Lucina.

Tom hesitates. Maybe he should wait for his parents’ approval before reading them.


Tick. Tick. Tick.

The clock ticks away as Tom sits in indecision.

He peers closer at the first book and reads the cover aloud.


“The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain.”


Tom picks up the other book which is also by Mark Twain.


“The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.”


He decides to read them. Tonight.


Flip. Flip. Flip.

By and by, the sound of pages turning grows even faster and Tom is drawn even nearer to the new world he dearly holds. 

A new light burst into life in the room that night. 

A dancing fiery flame that of within ten-year-old Thomas Edwards.


_


"Step, one-two-three, step, one-two-three, don't drag your feet, Tom. No, don't look at your feet, look at your partner's eyes. Stop. Stop. I said stop. Boy, wake up!"


The young servant handling the phonograph jolts awake. The music stops.

Madame Lucina turns her attention back to her student, frustration in her voice.


“Tom, you’re all over the place, like your mind is somewhere else.”


Madame Lucina pauses.


“Is there something wrong?”


She looks expectantly at Tom who keeps his head down and stays quiet.  Her brows furrow.


“Tom, you’re an excellent student but if we don’t perfect this by the end of the week, don’t expect me to give such a wonderful report to your mother.”


Tom’s shoulders flinch, the invisible rope makes an appearance and squeezes an answer out of him.


“I did not sleep well last night.


Tom raises his head and Madame Lucina’s heart sinks. Tom’s eyes are puffy and dark circles crouch beneath them. It is a sorrowful sight to see especially from a ten-year-old. . . 


Madame Lucina straightens her posture and holds her chin up high.


“You can have the rest of the day to yourself, Thomas. Just remember your riding session with your father later in the afternoon,” she says speaking to the wall.


Madame Lucina looks from the corner of her eye. Tom does not move a milimetre off his spot.


“Go now, Tom, before I change my mind.”


For a second, Tom is still. In the next, he dashes to his room.


_


Tom is on his bed pulling at his boot when a tiny voice erupts out of nowhere.


“What are you going to do?”


Tom looks up and standing by the doorway is the same boy from earlier in the classroom, carrying his blue jacket.


Tom lets go of his boot’s heel.


“Who are you? And, how- when did you get here?”


“I’m Boy! Boy Abbot, your new helper. I know the name's funny, my parents couldn't decide on a name. Wouldn't blame them, I'd run out of ideas too after having thirteen children,” Boy laughs heartily at his own joke, his freckly and red cheeks puffing out, but Tom remains serious and confused.


“Helper? Where’s William?”


"Sick by the pox, probably not coming back. Shouldn't you know that?" answers nonchalantly by the younger boy.


This news strikes Tom heavily. William has been accompanying Tom for over two years now. To not see him so suddenly. . it will take time to sink in.


“What’s this? You can read? I wish I can read. Why isn’t this with the rest of your books?” 


Tom looks behind him. Boy is lying down on the bed, his head buried deep within one of the Mark Twain books. The pillow beside him, where Tom had tried hiding the books, is unturned.


Tom screams. He reaches across his bed and yanks the book out of Boy’s hands.


“Hey! What’s the matter with you?!”


“You can’t be meddling with my stuff. Besides, you’re supposed to help me undress.”


“You can read. So, I’m sure you can do that perfectly fine yourself.”


Boy scoffs and turns his head the other way. Tom sighs. He was going to take a nap but now he doesn’t feel like it. He slides a hand across the cover of the book he’s holding, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.


Tom’s heart skips he looks over to where Boy is, who is now playing with one of his toys. The toy box left wide open.


“I tell you what, you want to learn to read right? I’ll teach you.”


Boy’s eyes grow as wide as saucers. Tom grabs his other book and pats the spot next to him.


“Come sit beside me. I’ll read these and you pay very close attention.”


Boy nods his head, his freckly and red cheeks now redder with excitement. 

Tom reads out the first few words. . .


"‘Tom!’ No answer. ‘Tom!’ No answer. ‘What’s gone with that boy. . .’"


The two boys dive into the free world of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Together they dodge and embrace Aunt Polly’s attempts at parenting, deal with annoying siblings, solve murder, experience romance and heartbreak, and go through even more near-death, life-changing occurrences. 


Hard rain began to beat the roof above and Tom believed that the riding session with his father would be cancelled. By the time the two boys had finished reading, Boy had acquired a new name from Tom which he was very proud of, Huck. The two boys promise to one another that one day they'll go on an adventure together. 


Nearing the time of his riding session, the two boys are playing pirates when Huck stops suddenly and asks Tom a question.


"Tom, why don't your parents have slaves of their own? Just like in the book. Now that I think about it, all the rich people have em'. I haven't seen anybody black since I arrived."


Tom pauses and ponders on this question but just when he was about to answer, the servant, Darla, knocks on the door and calls out for Tom.


“Master Tom, your father’s waiting for you at the stables. Are you ready yet?”

The rain had stopped for a while and Tom had not notice!


Tom and Huck scurry around the room in a panic.


"Where are my boots?!"


"I don't know! Hey look, I found your jacket!"


_


"Why are you late?"


"I'm sorry, father."


"I'm not asking for an apology, I'm asking for an explanation as to your tardiness. Why are you late?"


Tom bows his head, his head bobbing as the two giant horses trot alongside one another. The invisible rope has made an appearance again and today it felt even more heavy.


"I-"


"Look at me, boy, when you're speaking."


Tom warily raises his head and looks at the eyes of his father growing with impatience and anger. The rope tightens.


"I was playing and had forgotten where I had placed my boots."


"Then, tell me, son” — Tom’s father reaches into his saddle bag  — “what of these Darla had found hidden in your room?"


In the tight clutch of his raised right hand are Tom's Mark Twain books. The invisible rope snaps with desperation and Tom’s mind races for an answer.


"That- Father- I- "


"Speak straight boy, I can't understand a word from you."


The invisible rope fastens and squeezes, harder this time. No more words come out of Tom.


"Despicable," his father begins.


"These, son, are a filth of ink and paper. Foolish writing to poison the minds of young boys like you."


Tears well up in Tom's eyes which he holds with every strength of his body. 

Crying would make him even more despicable.


"Tom, this is your future," his father releases the rein of his horse and waves his left hand at all the land before them including the large and numerous plantations in the distance.


"There are no such future as the reality proposed in these books nor will you have such future if you spend your time reading these garbage."


Tom's father holds the two books with two fingers and looks at them with disgust.


"I grew up as a farmer’s boy shovelling dung every day. I worked hard so that you wouldn’t. Never again let such things reach those hands of yours."


He drops the two books into the muddy grass below.

Tom looked behind him. He wanted to scream, he wanted to jump off, get the books and wipe the mud clean off, but the invisible rope around his chest had acquired a very tight and heavy knot. 

With his voice lost and the walls caved in, Tom answers in the only voice he knows of.

Theirs.


"Yes, father."


Tom’s father nods his head in satisfaction. His horse trots faster, leaving Tom behind, following in his footsteps.


_


“The Black Avenger of the Spanish Main! If art thou wave ye white flag, me merry men will take yer tender gold!”


“Get off my bed and be quiet, for the last time,” Tom sighs and rests his head on one arm. William, wouldn’t need to be told twice. He mumbles a few verses and recites them again with his eyes closed. He flips a page in a history book thicker than the two Mark Twain books combined. 


Huck hops down from Tom’s bed, his paper pirate hat falls to the floor. He stares defeated at the back of Tom’s slumped shoulders sitting by his desk. He’s been trying for the past hour to raise the crushed spirits of his poor friend.


What had happened to the imaginative and mischievous Tom Sawyer? The unpredictable and brave Tom Sawyer?  The caring and lovable Tom Sawyer? The happy Tom?


Then, it hit Huck. One last attempt. 


“Meow.”


More mumbling.


“Meow.”


Nothing.


“Meoow~.”


Tom turns around smiling. 

It worked!

No, it wasn’t a cat. It was Huck! He used the signal used in the book by Huckleberry Finn calling out to Tom Sawyer in the middle of the night. It was their signal before going on adventures. It was their signal.


Huck grins back and he raises his paper sword in the air.


“Tom Sawyer - The Black Avenger of the Spanish Main! If art thou wave ye white flag, me merry men will take yer tender gold!”


“Never!” Tom charges at Huck and the two boys wrestle on the floor. Tom comes out on top as the victor, he kneels on top of Huck while pointing the paper sword in between Huck's eyes. The two boys pant from exhaustion but are all smiles, grinning from ear to ear. Right at that moment, an idea slides into Tom’s mind. 


“Huck, come with me. We run away tonight.”


Huck’s smile goes away.


“To where?”


“I don’t know, we’ll see. We’ll take my horse, Annalise.”


Huck slides away from under Tom and leans against the frame of the bed. A frown on his face.


“I can’t Tom. We can’t.”


“Why not?” demands Tom. Why is he being difficult? This is what they wanted right?


“What about Ma? Pa? And, Lily, Martin, Bruce, Jack. . .” Huck proceeds to name his twelve siblings. Tom shakes his head and cuts him off.


“No, Huck. You are Huckleberry Finn, you have no family.”


Huck looks firmly at Tom.


"No, Tom. I'm not going."


Tom backs away, shock and hurt written on his face.

He turns around and sprints out of the room.


Now, Tom is on Annalise. The wind pushes past him as Annalise gallops across the estate into the darkness. Tom sees the fence separating the property from the road. He goes for the jump, although he’s never tried doing it before.


Annalise jumps. Her front body makes it past the fence but her back legs get caught.

The two plunge forward. Tom falls headfirst into the muddy bank below.


_


Tom stands up rubbing his forehead. He doesn’t feel any pain. He only feels slightly confused. But, also, he feels lighter. Whatever emotion he had felt before, the anger, the betrayal, it was all gone.


Tom sees Annalise who had already managed to get up, heputs a hand on her side and tries to talk to her but she only walks past him as if he’s not there.


Then, Tom sees him. A boy drawing something with a stick on the muddy patch below. Tom walks to him. As he gets closer, he notices that the boy’s blonde hair and skin had a faint glow to them.


“You.” Tom calls out to him. The boy looks up and Tom stops dead in his tracks.


“Tom, is that you?”


Tom walks closer, his heart beating faster.


“William?”


Oh my! Oh my! Master Tom, it is you!”


Tom peers at William’s face which seems fine.


“I thought you were sick?”


“I was but I’m all better now.”


_







June 24, 2022 08:58

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4 comments

Varian Rain
14:06 Jun 30, 2022

I really liked the connection between Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer to Tom and Boy. I enjoyed the way you turned a simple plompt into a complex relationship between father and son. Though I have read others with the family relationships I really enjoyed how you wrote the pressure pushing down on poor Tom's shoulders until he broke. I hope in your finished story we can learn about William, I have so many questions for that...was William sent away because of Tom's father? Or is it just the simple answer that he was sick. I feel like there is...

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Chris Morris
08:35 Jun 27, 2022

I really enjoyed this. Well written and engaging. Just watch out when you're editing as there are a few typos and grammatical/punctuation things. For example: "He bids his parents’ goodnight" The apostrophe isn't needed in this use of "parents". But, like I say still a good and engaging read. Well done!

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Hen Neralany
12:39 Jun 27, 2022

Thank you so much for the kind comment. I feel like crying because this was actually still a draft when it was approved. Time was against me on this one. I had planned to make drastic changes when I logged in only to find it as unfortunately so. The story I have in mind is very different from this and only the first two parts of my submission is polished (even so, they are still not perfect). As you could probably guess, I am upset, very. But, your comment helped lighten my regret, so thank you once again. Hopefully, one day I could upload m...

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Dhwani Jain
09:08 Jul 06, 2022

The story was good, but I think you could have written a better ending.

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