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Historical Fiction
Hiren's Journey
by Rebecca Onkar


The wails of mourning reachedHiren’s ears long before the news of her husband’s death did.

Brightly clad women, their faces covered in grief by thelong colorful folds of their sarees, stumbled their way on to the open groundin front of Hiren’s home. Their shoeless feet, bloodied from the long journey,were ignored in their urgency to attend to their mourning.

Hiren, unsure of what to do and overwhel...

Chapter 1

September 1835

Bram Armstrong wandered the dirty side streets of King’s Port for over two hours before finally giving up and going into a tavern for a drink. As a pastor of a small congregation, Bram thought twice before entering the tavern doors but here in King’s Port, over two hours from his home in Littleton, no one needed to know that there was a “Rev.” before his name. It was hot, unseasonably so for late September. He wished he had not worn his best brown greatcoat beca...

Chapter 2

“Well boys, looks like we got ourselves a new bidder out there.” The auctioneer quickly recovered himself and resumed. “That’s two hundred and twenty-five dollars, do I hear two hundred and thirty?” he said pointedly looking at the bidder in front of Bram. “Two hundred and thirty dollars, anyone?”

There was expectation in the air and a whiff of fear as the two hundred or so spectators waited, in gleeful anticipation, for the auctioneer’s gavel to fal...

Chapter 3

Thinking of Thea always brought a smile to Bram’s face. She had been his wife for the last six years and she was more than he deserved.

Still, he wasn’t sure how she would respond to him bringing home a strange girl. Normally Thea would be overjoyed to take on just this sort of project. Thea collected people like others might collect stray animals. To Thea it was unheard of to leave a person without a home and loving care as long as she could do something about it. If it were up to her sh...

Chapter 4
The Long Walk

It was only a short walk to Abel’s shop but it felt like a hundred miles to Bram. He could feel the eyes of all of King’s Port upon him and he didn’t like it. For a man who had spent most of his life unnoticed it was terribly uncomfortable to suddenly become the object of attention and speculation.

It was the speculation that he liked least of all. He fought an urge to turn and shout at the spectators that he had saved this girl from just the sort of lifestyle that they were at this...

Chapter 5

Maybe things won’t be as bad as I’ve imagined, Hiren thought as she leaned against the building behind her and soaked her aching feet in the warm water. She could feel relaxation sinking into her body like water into soft earth. Tension, her constant companion, was slowly leaving her and sleep threatened to overtake her as she cooled off in the shade of the building.

I must not sleep! She thought as she snapped herself upright and fixed her eyes back on to the man and woman attending her...

Chapter 6

Bram rose, ladled a cup of water, squatted down next to the girl and waited for her to take it. She paused only a moment before reaching out with both hands to accept the cup. She poured the entire amount of water down her throat without ever letting her lips touch the rim or pausing for breath. She handed the cup back to Bram and he walked to the jug to refill it.

She poured the second cup in to her mouth in the same way as before, but it was clear that her thirst had subsided a bit. She drank it s...

Chapter 7

Abel’s hand stopped in mid-smack on its way back to his older brother’s chest.

“Hiren,” she said again and lightly tapped her own chest with her fingertips.

“He–ren.” Bram recovered his tongue first and repeated the girl’s name a few more times. She didn’t respond except to nod her head one time while looking Bram in the eye.

“Bram. Abel. Hiren,” Bram said gesturing to each one of them in turn. Then he laughed once and...

Chapter 8
The Bath

Hiren looked at the woman standing over her with fear in her eyes.

“Stand up missy, time for your bath. By the smell of you, you need it.”

Hiren didn’t move and neither did Mrs. Ivins.

“I’m not going to stand here all night girly, Reverend wants you clean. Now stand up and take off your clothes.” Mrs. Ivins gestured with her hands this time and Hiren got the message to stand up. She did so slowly, sliding her back and hands against the wall behind ...

Chapter 9
Gone and Back Again

Hiren woke in the middle of the night to sounds of heavy breathing and the occasional grunting snore.

“They’re asleep,” she thought. She had meant to stay awake all night to keep on guard against any advances on their part. Just thinking about it made Hiren’s grip on the washer woman’s knife tighten. She had picked it up while the woman swept up the shorn hair and slipped it into her apron pocket.

Hiren felt around on the floor for the shoes that she had been giv...

Chapter 10
Love at First Sight

When Bram and Hiren reached Abel’s small house Bram was surprised to find Abel gone. Not pausing to wait, Bram gathered up his few belongings, and the trunk of clothes Abel had given to Hiren, and loaded them into the buckboard wagon he had borrowed from Curtis Mickelhauser to haul the church bell back to Littleton. Hiren busied herself with plucking the rest of the burrs out of her skirt and stockings; she was conscientiously avoiding Bram’s eye.

During the two hour trip to Littleton Bra...

Chapter 11
Unfamiliar Territory

“Good morning, Abram. We saw that you returned. How was the journey?” Sarah Chellings asked as she walked in the door with Charity by her side. She was wearing a faded and much washed gray and green gingham dress that was nearly worn through in the elbows and cuffs but, nonetheless, she looked neat and clean as she always did. Over her dress she wore a white apron, slightly patched. Her dark grey hair was pulled into a tight thin braid that fell halfway down her straight back and every last stra...

Chapter 12
Introducing Hiren

“Now let me get this straight, Reverend,” August Sweet stood from his seat on the pew and addressed Bram after he had finished explaining the circumstances of purchasing Hiren instead of the bell. “You went into King’s Port to buy the bell but got lost, so you bought a slave instead?”

“August, you know that’s not what Reverend said at all. Circumstances were such that he really didn’t have a choice in the matter.” Lionel Marks ran his fingers t...

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