The Great Library of Burke is now available to read. Click here to purchase!

Mildred's Resistance Sneak Peek

Chapter 1

Dear Reader,

This book is written by an unknown author. That’s the name I’ve chosen and it’s the only name you’ll ever know. My identity is not nearly as important as yours.

Suffice it to say that you may trust me; everything in this book is true. I tell the story about the people of the Resistance and all that it meant at the time. Perhaps it means something to you now, but it will never mean anything to you like it did to us.

The Resistance wasn’t an explosion. Rather, it was a slow burn that turned to flame, and then to fire. As to blame, I ask you to draw your own conclusions, for you now hold the truth in your hands.

Sincerely Yours,

The Unknown Author

 

Mildred was a young girl, but she didn’t know it.

Most six-year-old girls didn’t spend their evenings hiding in a closet, protecting their little brother, while trying to block out the sound of their drunk father with magical spells. Most young girls dressed dolls, went to bed with a full tummy, and had time to play.

But not Mildred.

“Look at the picture of the dragon, Jorden,” Mildred whispered to her little brother, wincing when shattering glass crashed outside the small closet. “What color is it?”

Father screamed something at Mother, but Mildred couldn’t make out the words.

“Gween,” Jorden promptly replied, but his wide brown eyes strayed back to the door when the bellowing ceased. Mother’s calm voice responded, soothing some of Mildred’s worry. Mother would calm Father down; she always did. Then he’d apologize and be kind for a day or two before falling back into a sullen silence.

“Very good,” Mildred said, turning the page. Her right cheekbone throbbed every time she spoke, but she ignored it. Jorden was watching her warily, so she acted like nothing was wrong. “How about this dragon?”

A candle trembled in the air next to them, held there by Mildred’s weak ability to do magic. Beads of wax rolled down the candlestick, whose flame flickered eerily in the dark. A dollop of hot wax fell onto the back of her hand, but she ignored it.

“This dragon is red, isn’t it?” She pointed to a painted scene in the book, but Jorden wasn’t looking.

“Milly,” he whined, pressing his hands to his ears and leaning into her side. “Make the yelling go away.”

A slam sounded. Father had thrown a chair this time, no doubt. They’d never have the currency to buy new furniture. Mildred pressed her hands to Jorden’s ears and tried to think of an incantation that would block out sounds, but her mind had gone foggy. Her hand strayed to the tender skin covering the pulse in her cheek. Father had never struck her before tonight. She hoped Mother wouldn’t have to spend the next day in bed, like last time.

“We can’t make them stop fighting, Jorden.”

“I want Mother!”

She slapped a hand over his mouth. “Quiet!” she hissed, listening for the sound of approaching footsteps. Father often forgot about them during his ipsum-fueled rage, but sometimes he remembered. Even Mother’s protection spells couldn’t stop him if he really wanted to open the closet door. She softened her voice when Jorden’s lower lip trembled.

“I’m sorry, Jorden,” she said, gathering him into her lap. “I didn’t mean to scare you. But we can’t see Mother right now. She locked us in here, remember?”

He nodded. A long tear ran down his cheek from a wide brown eye.

“Let’s keep reading about dragons,” she said, holding the book a bit higher. “Want to keep reading?”

He hesitated but finally nodded and ran an arm underneath his drippy nose.

“Good,” she said in a tremulous voice, wishing she could cry. “I’ll sound out the words, and you tell me what color the dragon is, okay?”

Halfway through the book, Mildred paused when the yelling stopped, followed by a heavy thud. Silence fell. Holding his breath, he returned his eyes to the crack under the door.

Not a sound.

Mildred’s heart pounded in her throat. Was Mother okay? Had Father left? Perhaps he’d passed out, and they would escape over to Mrs. Tattleton’s across the street until the next morning, like usual. Jorden grabbed Mildred’s hand and held so tight it hurt. She wrapped her arm around his skinny body and waited.

The silence seemed to last forever.

A quiet murmur of voices eventually came. She strained to hear but found only hums. Mother’s voice, then Mrs. Tattleton’s, and then the deep reverberations of a male witch she didn’t recognize. It wasn’t father.

“Milly,” Jorden whispered. “What’s happening?”

“I don’t know.”

A long time later, the voices left, and Mildred heard the sound of feet approaching the closet door. Mildred hastily blew out the candle. It fell to the floor with a thud when she shoved Jorden into the corner and put herself in front of him just as the door opened a crack.

“Mildred? Jorden?” Mother’s voice called as light spilled into the closet. “It’s just me. You can come out now. It’s safe.”

Jorden scrambled from behind his sister and threw himself into Mother’s legs. Mildred clambered out behind him and followed suit with a cry of relief. Mother crouched down and hugged both of them, her brown hair shining with red highlights in the candlelight.

“It’s okay, children,” she said in a soothing tone, though her hand trembled against Mildred’s back. “We’re safe now.”

Mildred glanced over Mother’s shoulder to the kitchen, surprised to see their heavy iron frying pan sitting on the edge of the table. Mrs. Tattleton was kneeling on the floor, scrubbing the wooden boards with a heavy brush. The soap bubbles reflected a distinctive pinkish-red hue.

“Where’s Father?” Jorden asked. Mother pulled away.

“He’s gone,” she said resolutely. She touched Mildred’s swelling right cheek with the tender caress of a parent. “He’s never going to hurt any of us again, I promise.”

Jorden buried himself deep in Mother’s arms, letting free all his pent-up sobs. Mrs. Tattleton glanced up, saw Mildred watching, and blocked the stain on the floor with her body.