This is from an early, early version of the book. Before Hazel was even an inkling. It’s about how Ruth came to find the Portal and it was almost instantly scrapped by my brothers. “A little too…um…”
Forward, perhaps? Something along those lines.
But haven’t you ever seen something that you had to have? Haven’t you ever been following the crowd as they make their way past row after row of stuff at an estate sale, or an auction, or even a really good sale at a store? And it’s something one of a kind. And you have to have it.
If you’re too obvious about it, someone else might notice your interest and as is human nature, they would want it too. So you feign complete indifference to said item until you reach it and it’s right in front of you. Then all pretenses are off. You clutch it in your hands. “MINE!” your brain triumphantly yells. It IS yours.
And no one can take it from you EVER.
The shop felt crowded, although there couldn’t have been more than a dozen customers milling about. Ruth took a deep breath but felt the familiar sting of tears at the back of her eyes. It was too soon. Not wanting to weep in public, she quickly turned to leave when a brilliant flash of blue caught her eye.
In that instant her main overriding emotion was no longer grief. It was jealousy. Fresh, healing, raw jealousy.
Jealousy that someone else would buy what was surely hers before she could get her hands on it, even as she wasn’t quite sure what “it” was. She made her way towards the back of the store where the furniture was kept, to the place where she had seen that brief flash, all the while not taking her eyes off of it, impatient when someone would block her view.
People passed it as if they didn’t even see it, as if it meant nothing. For one heart-stopping moment an older couple paused in front of it. Ruth found herself gritting her teeth to keep from shouting when the woman rested her hand absentmindedly on it, but they moved instead towards a worn leather recliner a few spaces away.
Ruth finally reached her destination and once there, she placed her hands on it and refused to budge. Instead she firmly planted herself and waited for a wandering store clerk to happen by, not daring to simply remove the tag and take it to the cash register. What if someone else picked it up in the meantime, what then? No.
She didn’t inspect it, she didn’t check it for soundness or to see if the legs were level, she didn’t try and figure out where it would go or if she really needed it; All she knew was that she had to have it and that she would not rest until it was safely in her possession. She floated behind the clerk as he carried it up to the register, she paid and then supervised the loading of it into her car, although she remembered little of any of that or the drive home.
And now, here it was. And her heart was still pounding. And she still couldn’t believe it was really hers. She set it in the middle of the living room and quickly walked back to her front door, locking it firmly, before returning to examine her find.