Learn more about some of my favorite secondary characters from Hope for Charity, my upcoming novel set in 18th century England, in this series, The Backstory.
Tommy: Brave/Part 1
by Sandy Kay Slawson
Tommy covered his ears and moved further into the corner. His head hit the wooden slat underneath his mother’s bed. He froze. Waited. The man’s snores did not falter, but mum heard. No doubt she’d heard.
“Awake, you lice-ridden dullard,” Mum said with a stern voice Tommy recognized well.
The snores halted, but other sounds of equal foulness emanated from the strange man before he awoke fully. Tommy heard the crack of a slap, another familiar noise.
“Huh? What? Why did ye hit me, woman?” the man said.
“Get out of me bed. You fell asleep. If ye want to sleep here, you’ll pay the price of an inn,” Mum said.
“For this hovel?”
Strands of hay fell on Tommy as the man made his way off the creaky, saggy bed. When his big hairy feet hit the floor, Tommy covered his mouth to hold in a squeal. Go away. Go away. Go away, so I can lay on my mat near the warm hearth.
After the man left their cramped tenement, Tommy relaxed until his mother screeched his name. “Tommy, come here this instant.”
Five-year-old Tommy squeezed his lids shut, then wiped the wetness from his lashes with one dirty knuckle before it dripped and made lines on his cheeks. Mum shan’t like it if I cry like a babe.
Tommy twisted to his belly, then slithered like a snake out from under the bed. Snakes aren't afraid of anything. As he stood, Tommy said, “Sssss—”
“What are ye doing?” said Mum.
“I’m a snake—”
“Not a snake. A naughty boy. Did I not tell ye to be silent and sleep?”
“Then why am I awake? I can’t protect ye if the men are aware of your presence," Mum said with a fierce scowl.
Tommy scooted backward, but she didn’t raise a hand. Mayhap she'd not hit him this time. “That man made an awful loud racket. I tried to obey, but my eyes wouldn’t shut. Besides, I’ve got to go— ”
“He made a mighty din, didn’t he?” Mum giggled, then sighed. “All's well I suppose. Go outside and be quick about it. We both need some rest. Your birthday is on the morrow. I’ll have a special surprise for ye,” Mum said with a clap and a grin.
“Truly? I can't wait. What is it?”
“None o’ that, son. Do your business, then go to bed. Tomorrow shall be soon enough to find out.”
Tommy woke to the sound of his mother at the hearth. An unusual occurrence, for she slept later than him on most days. When he sat upright on his pallet, his mother left the fire, then settled on the floor beside him.
“A happy birthday to you, Son. I bought a special treat to celebrate and warmed it by the fire.”
Tommy wrapped his thin arms around his mother’s neck. “I forgot. 'Tis my birthday. I'm six.” He stood and hopped with excited impatience. “What is it? What is it?”
“Eccles cake. I bought two. One for you and one for me.”
"That's jolly good, Mum. I love those,” Tommy said as he danced around his mother.
After Tommy ate the last bite of the sweet, sticky goodness, and the sugar still glistened on his lips, his mother said, “I have another present.”
“In truth? Do tell.”
“In a way." A flash of something in Mum's features, gave Tommy an uneasy quiver in his belly.
“I've made a decision I think you'll like."
Again, that... glance off to the side. Tommy frowned.
"You're old enough to do simple jobs to earn coins for our coffer. If ye work hard, 'twill help me buy the necessities I can't afford on my own."
“Your old enough, I say,” Mum said with a spark of temper. “You'll leave after breakfast every morn and return after dark, and not before.”
“All day? Every day?” Tommy tried to comprehend this new set of rules.
“We’ll both of us rest on Sundays.” Mum ran her fingers through Tommy’s tawny locks. “Ye don’t like it under my bed when my friends visit. Ain't so?”
“I hate it.”
“Go out and work, then you won’t have to do it anymore. During the day, we'll work. At night it shall be us alone. Would ye like that?”
“O, yes, Mum.”
“Today you’ll play and enjoy your birthday, but on the morrow, you'll help earn our bread.”
Tomorrow… out there? Alone? Tommy stared at the door. He’d never gone further than the street in front without his mother.
This news sounded less like a present and more like a punishment. The Eccles cake turned to stone in Tommy’s gut. He left his mother on the floor, went outside, and sank onto the top step. Of a sudden, the world appeared dark and scary.
Mayhap if he begged and told her he didn’t want to work, she’d let him wait for his next birthday. Probably not. Once she decided, she didn’t change her mind often. Tommy rested his elbow on his knee and his chin in his palm. Six-years-old. Old enough. Old enough to earn money. Old enough to help his mum.
“Alright. I’ll do it. Somehow.”
To be continued...
Stay tuned for the next episode of Tommy: Brave/Part 2 next month. Have you been enjoying my "The Backstory" series? I've enjoyed writing it, and delving deeper into my secondary characters' own stories. Let me know what you think in the comments below. Also, don't forget to subscribe and share. As always, I am so thankful for you and pray that the Lord will bless you and your families with Faith, Hope, and Love. In Jesus' Name.