This passage is from the very first draft of the very first chapter I wrote. Both chapter and excerpt have since been rewritten several times. I don’t have the patience now to list all the things wrong with this version. Maybe later. Copyright 2001 by me. (Because, you know, someone might steal my words.)
She waited forever.
She waited, holding her breath, closing her eyes, and melting against the tree trunk, while the first man searched the bank near her hiding place. She could hear his rough muttering and smell his sweat. When she was sure he was gone she finally took a shallow breath, frozen in position and not daring to move.
She was still waiting, eyes closed, when the man and woman approached. “. . . donkey turd,” the woman said with disgust. “Probably walked right by the kid.” They searched more carefully than the first man; Jazlin could hear underbrush snapping and the whish of lifted branches. In front of the tree shielding Jazlin they paused, and Jazlin sensed the darkness of their presence. She felt her heartbeat slow to match the rhythm of her protecting tree. A long flat sharp blade sluggishly pierced the overhanging branches, wiping the trunk and nicking Jazlin’s arm. “Nothing there,” the man said, his voice now dragging. Jazlin heard the strangers poke lazily through other trees as they ambled away.
She continued to wait long after the strangers had left and the squirrels and doves returned. She sat, back to tree, and silently thanked the Kenirnal just like Daddy had taught her, thanked the Kenirnal first for life, then for hope, and finally for love. She named all ten Kenflati, in order, and thanked them for their protection. And she begged them to send Daddy back to her. At intervals she slept. One time she woke, ashamed that she’d soiled her pants like a toddler.
She waited, huddled against the tree, through two nights. Her stomach ached from its constant grumblings, and her parched mouth was teased by the rippling of the stream just out of her reach. Stay here, Daddy had commanded. Daddy’s never coming back, she thought. Hot tears scalded her face and splashed onto her tunic. Daddy’s gone. She sobbed and wailed her despair, crying for Daddy and home and food and water.
When her tears had subsided to bone-shaking sniffles, she crawled stiffly from the sheltering branches.