It was an unseasonably cold morning for May. Snow stood– frozen… suspended in time as long as the boy’s thoughts hung in his head. Both were cold to the touch but unable to be thawed away. The winter that eclipsed his heart had gone on for much longer than a season. How long exactly, he could no longer remember; he had kept count once in that journal– the one his mother gave him– but his father had not liked it and burned it as feed for the fire. Keepsakes from his mother made Atticus uncomfortable– they always had. The boy stared ahead, his pace halting ever so slightly before he drew a sharp, unnatural breath and shook his head from side to side as if willing the thoughts to fall from the walls that caged them.
The sound of crunching sand and stone caused his heart to flutter even higher as he traversed to meet the curious gaze of the gruff man. The man whistled a command to his horses, willing them to bring the stagecoach to a halt.
“Fixin’ to go somewhere?” the man asked, eyes searching the boy up and down. The boy only bit his lip and averted his eyes in response. A moment passed before he started shifting his weight nervously and sneaking glances in the direction he had come from. “I’ll tell ya what,” the man said “I could really use some help unloadin’ those boxes in the back once I get to the docks. Would ya mind lending me a hand?”
The boy stared silently for a minute, meeting the man’s gaze with an intensity that caused a shiver to run down his spine. The man waited patiently, allowing him to weigh his options. One more sidelong glance down the road outstretched behind them and the boy hurriedly hid himself away in the back of the cart.
“What’s yer name?” asked the man.
“Don’t got one” responded the boy. “What’s yers?”
“Gabriel” he replied, turning his head to meet the boy’s. Not knowing what else to do, he smiled and fought the tears from showing in his eyes.
I like that name, thought the boy. He would adopt it as his own in the life that lied ahead. The stagecoach wheels began to turn, pushing the dirt and gravel further and further away with every revolution.