She looked to Paw and his clenched jaw. “Where are we? Do you know where we’re going?”
“Of course I do,” Paw grit out. “We’re out in the sticks. It must just be a little bit further.”
Minette shook her head at Paw’s stubbornness. The only thing they stood to lose if they turned back and went another way was Paw’s pride. Minette stared straight ahead, hoping the hills would rise up over the next turn, guiding them safely to the mines.
Droz didn’t feel like Droz here. Like this place was something unspoken–something not to speak about. And it was true, in a way—Minette had never been taught that Droz was anything other than a merry little community, safe in its walls.
Seeing something that contrasted that so aggressively made a cold feeling sit in her gut. How little did she know about the world beyond her front door?
A new building caught Minette’s attention. This one had a life dissimilar to the shacks and homes around it. It was two-story, brick, with a broad porch that wrapped around the building. All of the windows were open, and music, noise, and voices echoed out from the premises.
On the porch, a couple of old men with sunburned, sagging skin and bright white hair sat nursing their beer bellies in rocking chairs. One of the men had a banjo. He played a song that was like nothing Minette had ever heard before. It was twangy and morose, but oddly upbeat: she felt like she could weep over a dead lover and beat the bees out of a bad guy while listening to it.
The banjo man caught Minette’s eye. Her breath caught in her throat. Instead of glaring at her, or chasing her away like she thought he might, he smiled over at her, gap-toothed, and played even faster, singing along with a raspy croon. His eyes never left Minette’s, even as his fingers flew across the banjo strings.
Some other people came out from inside the building, and Minette couldn’t tell if they were boys or girls. People without shirts on. People with their shapes hidden under cloaks. They were of all heights and weights, skin colors and origins. They dressed like bandits and street workers, bartenders and night-walking women. They smoked and spit into spittoons.
They were something utterly new to Minette.
New, and not terrifying. No, they piqued Minette’s curiosity.