Valentine’s Day in Atonement, Tennessee

Happy Valentine’s Day my friends!
AT Valentine 2I wish there had been time to write a new short story as my Valentine to all of you… But I’m going to re-Press the one I wrote last year. At least it will be new to some of you.

What is new is the video I made for it. Yes, I tried my hand at making a trailer. So if you’ll put up with the short video, the story will follow.

It is an “Atonement” story, but one that is not in the novel at all. It takes place about 20 years before Ralda Lawton moved to the quaint little town of Atonement, Tennessee.

This tale features one of the Atonement, Tennessee characters — the sheriff, Robin Warden.  If you’ve read the novel, you’ll probably think he’s an odd choice, but that’s what makes it fun.  The sheriff is not the most endearing citizen of Atonement.  This short story takes place quite a few years before the timeline of the novel, with a much younger Robin who is only a deputy sheriff. He has recently come to the town of Atonement and of course, strange things happen.

Animoto video

Embedded

An Atonement, Tennessee Valentine

Hey Robin!  Where’s Batman?  He might let you drive the Batmobile if you’re real nice to him.”  The bullies hadBatmanRobin never outgrown their taunts.  Whether they were ten, twenty, or fifty, those jerks would harass him with the same old thing, Robin Warden thought as he landed on his chest with a thud.  Why had he thought of them?  He had been away from those guys for a month.

What was so wrong with looking like Burt Ward, or being named Robin?  Well, all right — he supposed he could understand how the jokes were tempting.  What he didn’t understand was why they got such a kick out of the same old jabs.

Robin picked himself up and continued looking for the pig.  He’d been chasing it all afternoon.  He couldn’t believe a stupid pig kept getting the better of him.  Maybe that’s why he had thought of the bullies he’d grown up with back in Asheville.  The pig was dragging his self-image through the mud. Literally.

True love heartHis breath froze on the air as he sighed… February in Atonement, Tennessee — “East Bumbles,” the back end of nowhere.  Then he realized that it was Valentine’s Day and he was even more annoyed.  Robin secretly had daydreams of a perfect Valentine’s Day, bringing flowers to a beautiful girl, romance, the whole hearts-and-flowers nine yards.  One year the guys had found out, and he’d never heard the end of it.  As if his unfortunate resemblance to the TV Batman’s sidekick didn’t give his tormentors enough fuel for their quips, they teased him about Valentine’s Day too…

He gave a derisive snort at the memory, and a porcine snuffle seemed to answer from the other side of a bush.  With a lunge he almost had the pig that time.  Almost.  It slipped out of his grasp like a magician, and it ran faster than anything that might someday become bacon had a right to run.  Robin patted his chest to make sure the deputy’s badge was still there.  At least he had that over the guys back home.  He was a real deputy sheriff.

“I’ll show those jerks,” he thought.  “I’ll be driving a real ‘Batmobile’ when I get my own police car, or close enough.  They’ll never match that,” he promised himself.  “And I’ll catch that dang pig or die trying too!”

Scrambling to his feet, Robin ran after the pig again.  He was amazed that his Valentine’s Pig ValentineDay was being spent that way.  He asked himself what difference it made.  He hadn’t made any friends in the tiny town of Atonement yet.  There weren’t many people his age period.  He’d only met a couple of girls, and they weren’t interested in him.  He let out an irritated breath.  The blasted pig might as well be his Valentine.

A glance at the cloudy sky told him night would come early.  He picked up his pace in the chase after the pig.  Leaves crunched as he pounded the twisting path, running, sliding, gaining, and losing.  Sometimes he wondered if the little porker intentionally let him catch a glimpse of it.  Once it actually seemed to be waiting for him to catch up.  Robin was so exasperated he could have screamed.

Until the unwanted memory of the bullies intruded on his thoughts, Robin had thought signing up for the Interstate Sheriffs’ Department exchange program had been the worst mistake of his life.  To think he’d believed he was bored living in Asheville, North Carolina!  It was a wonderland of excitement compared to Atonement, Tennessee.  However, after he thought about it, chasing livestock through rural Atonement was probably better than dealing with the bullies and jerks back home. Robin shook his head resignedly.

Gate Ajar Night

It was really clouding up, and it would be dark soon.  Robin thought uneasily that he wasn’t exactly sure where he was anymore; the pig had led him on such a chase.  That was kind of unnerving.  He’d only lived in the area for a matter of weeks.  The idea of being lost, in the woods, on a winter night was not something he liked to consider.

Then he caught sight of the little rascal running up a trail.  With a burst of energy Robin poured on the speed.  That sorry pig was not going to get away again!  It was headed straight for a tall iron fence.  The pig kept running.  So did Robin.  He finally had it cornered.  Or not…  Were some of the iron bars bent aside?

The young deputy cursed as the pig went through the gap in the fence.  However, Robin Warden wasn’t any bigger than Batman’s sidekick with the regrettably similar name.  He slipped through the damaged bars and made a heroic dive for the pig.  It complained loudly when he caught it by its back feet.

The wind kicked up as he tied a rope securely around the wriggling animal.  He was so intent on his task that he didn’t notice how threatening and dark the black clouds became.  Abruptly the pig became unexpectedly still.  That’s when Robin realized the earth was trembling.  A loud thump proved something heavy had fallen, but he didn’t see what it was.  An earthquake?  He knew Tennessee sometimes experienced very small quakes.

A sharp crack made him jump half out of his skin.  It sounded like lightning, but there was no flash, just the sharp, sudden sound.  Robin looked over his shoulder and saw that a huge old oak tree had a wide split down the center of its trunk.Split tree

The frightened pig huddled against him.  For a moment it didn’t dawn on Robin that he was holding the animal.  The ground stilled.  Robin and the pig looked at one another with wide startled eyes.  The pig looked as embarrassed as Robin felt.  At least the guys weren’t around to see that awkward moment.  He set the pig on the ground and stood up.

Robin took a deep breath.  “Oh crap!” he muttered when he saw that he’d dropped the rope.  However, the pig sat calmly back on its haunches, like a well-trained pet on a leash.  Robin quickly bent down and snatched up the rope before the animal could change its mind.

Mystified by the pig’s sudden change in behavior, he scratched it behind the ears.  It seemed to smile, but he guessed that was just the shape of its mouth.  He patted the pig’s head and said, “Good pig.”  Even as he spoke the words they sounded ridiculous.

Robin spotted the source of the heavy thud sound.  A tombstone was overturned.  He looked around at a very old and rundown Mausoleum_dreamstime_xs_20242963cemetery.  At least he knew where he was — the old Sunhold estate’s graveyard.

A snuffling sound drew his attention.  There was another pig behind the tumbled gravestone.  Then he saw a third pig a few feet away, rooting in the tall dead grass.  The more Robin looked around, the more pigs he saw.  There were at least a dozen.

Twilight descended and Robin stood in perplexed awe, looking at all the pigs.  As the light dimmed, the pigs seemed to emanate a pale glow.  The one he had spent most of the day chasing looked up at him with its smiling face and he took a reflexive step back.  The pig had blue eyes.  “What the—” he muttered, wondering how he had failed to notice that.

The blue-eyed pig nudged Robin’s knee and swung its head toward the damaged oak as if it meant for him to look.  The rent in the tree trunk shone with blue light that reminded him of the cobalt vase his mother had, a deep rich blue.

The pig took a few steps toward the tree, as much as the rope would allow.  However, the animal didn’t tug at the leash.  Robin stood rooted to the ground.  As twilight deepened the glow from the pigs became more apparent.  The other pigs walked tranquilly toward the tree.  The one on his rope sat back down, seeming patient and at peace.John_Collier_Queen_Guinevre's_Maying

The cobalt blue radiance expanded beyond the tree.  All the pigs snorted and snuffled in a way that sounded… pleased.  Then a girl stepped out of the glow.  The luminous pigs continued to look peaceful, but somehow Robin could feel that they were happy and excited.

At first Robin thought the girl was little more than a child.  But as she approached, Robin saw that she was in fact a petite woman.  Long ash blond hair fell in waves like a river of moonlight that reached almost to her knees.  Pale blue flowers were scattered through her tresses.  As she moved the blossoms seemed to bob on the currents of the moonlit river of her hair.

Robin stood in open mouthed astonishment.  She was so beautiful that he couldn’t speak; so purely lovely that there was no room in his mind to question the strange circumstance of her appearing.  Finally the idea that he should say something tickled in his stunned thoughts.  He tried to talk, and managed to make some kind of sound, but the noise that came from his lips reminded him of a hog squealing.

The radiant pigs gathered in a half circle at her feet.  They became quite noisy as they looked at one another and then up at the tiny woman.  Grunt, snuffle, snort.  Grunt, snuffle, snort.  The porcine grunts took on a specific pattern and rhythm, and gradually came together as if the pigs were chanting.  They seemed to grunt the same three syllables repeatedly, go-eh-win, go-eh-win.  Finally the grunting chant flowed into the sound of a name, Goewin.

He gazed up at her in silent wonder.  No face had ever been so sublime.  No name had ever bQueen and knighteen so poetic.  Goewin.  She spoke his name and he thought he might die from the happiness the sound gave him.  Robin didn’t realize that he had dropped to the ground on one knee, amid the glowing pigs that clearly adored her.  He felt unworthy of her touch when she laid her hand on his head and told him to rise.  He was no better than the pigs… probably even less.  At least the pigs could glow.

With weakness in his knees, Robin struggled to his feet.  As he stood he looked into her eyes.  He was astonished to find that they were lavender and as bright as any faceted amethyst.  Then when Goewin returned his gaze, Robin felt so light of heart that he was surprised he didn’t float into the air.

She exclaimed in delight.  “Oh you found her!  Deme, you naughty pig!  Your brothers and sisters came right away, but you roamed the countryside in your game, getting this kind man to chase you,” she admonished the pig, but her voice was gentle.  “Robin, I really am sorry that Deme led you on such a chase.  She took an instant liking to you.  To her it was a great game,” Goewin told the young deputy.

It never occurred to him to question how she knew his name, or that he had been in pursuit of the pig all day.  Robin could barely string two words together.  She seemed to understand when she paused briefly.  Goewin continued to talk, but he was sure she meant to give him a moment to adjust to the strange situation and her presence.  By chattering she gave him time to find his voice.

“It truly is important that I get these pigs back where they belong.  Do you know that 2 Pigsthere has already been at least one war over these pigs?” she asked, but nodded as if answering for him.  “Yes.  And it was a very foolish prank that let them get away this time.  How very shortsighted of that trickster to do such a thing.  But you, Robin, have helped set things aright.  You have my eternal gratitude,” she said as she lowered her eyes and curtsied deeply.

She actually curtsied, he thought.  First she’d placed her hand on his head and told him to rise.  Now she curtsied to him.  It made Robin feel like he was a knight of Camelot and she was a princess.  Suddenly he felt strong and valiant, as if he wore the brightest armor.  Then when he glanced at himself he gasped.  He was glowing!  A little anyway — the light wasn’t nearly as bright as the radiance of the otherworldly pigs, but he was definitely glowing.

His reaction made Goewin giggle.  It was like chimes, he thought.  Her laugh made him smile.  Robin didn’t know how long he stood looking at her like a dumbstruck fool.  He didn’t even care if he was being silly.  They looked into one another’s eyes, they laughed, he thought they even sang.  Later he couldn’t say what they talked about, what they actually did, but he never forgot the bliss he felt.  Moreover, he realized he might never feel such things again, so he simply enjoyed it.

Midnight moon farieRobin remembered noticing the various changes to the sky as the hours passed.  Then as pink and gold clouds streaked the morning, Goewin left.  She didn’t ask him to come with her.  Robin was pretty sure that she knew he was afraid to venture that far from the world he knew, so she didn’t invite him.  The young deputy could have kicked himself for that fear, for not asking her to take him with her.  However, Goewin touched his face and her hand sent a vibration that reached from his chin through his scull.  After that all he could feel when he thought of her was joy and peace.

However, that happiness didn’t stop him from going back to that same spot in the old cemetery every Valentine’s night.

The end.

 Copyright © 2014 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

No part of this writing, blog, or book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

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42 thoughts on “Valentine’s Day in Atonement, Tennessee

    • Hi GP — I’m pleased that you were looking through my old posts, and delighted that you enjoyed this short story.
      Its time-line is about 20 years before my novel (Atonement, Tennessee). It’s a more whimsical take on one of the “tier two” characters (as I think of them). This story also ties strongly to book-2 (which i’m *still* working on).
      Thanks so much for taking time to read and comment. Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Hi Teagan, I’ve been out of action for a while, but I’ll definitely be catching up on your posts and on Copper in particular 🙂 Loved this story – it was great being back in Atonement for a while and great video!

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  2. Why thank you Deb! Although the whole time i was working on it, i really did think how the ones you’ve been making of Cdog are so much better. Really i was. But i was rather pleased with my first try at Animoto. It was fun.
    It’s the music that came with the template — i didn’t try to change it. But i thought it fit well with my little (fictional) Tennessee town. Wishing you a fabulous Friday. 🙂

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  3. LOVE this trailer, Teagan! I think I detect ukulele playing in the background, which I absolutely adore (I have a uke that I’m trying to learn to play), and the images are so good and there’s just enough info to be provocative without giving away too much. So nicely done! 🙂

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  4. A whimsical tale, Teagan! I am glad you shared it here again as I don’t think I was following your blog yet when you first published it. I would have missed ever reading it! That moment when the earth shook and he was holding the pig made me laugh as I could totally imagine the pig’s big surprised eyes 🙂 I sending you big Valentine’s Day hugs ❤

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  5. Hi RC. It’s great to see you! Thanks — I hope everyone enjoys this little “re-wind.” That was what i intended. I guess if i could write the typical Valentine’s story, I’d be able to write Romance novels. But that’s not me.
    When i finish the sequel to “Atonement, Tennessee” (that’s Atonement in Bloom) this short story will tie to Robin in the current day. Although I’m not sure how much. Book-2 is still shifting, expanding, consolidating, and congealing in my mind as I draft it.
    Great-big hug, my friend! 😀 ❤

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  6. Thank you for bringing it back. A nice story that doesn’t exactly state Valentine’s Day undying love, but the happiness and hope of things to come. Robin seemed content with that.

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  7. Thanks so much Olga! 🙂 I used the cheap version of Animoto (they have a free one as well, and an expensive version that goes far beyond the one i used).
    >My CV? Maybe… You’re generous though. 😀 Actually I have used many of the things I’ve learned for this blog and for Indie publishing on my CV (resume), because they are up-to-date technical skills.
    >I do like to keep learning things. That’s a good thing since yesterday my manager handed me the task of creating a webpage (actually 9 pages counting the ones “underneath”). No, i do not have experience, training, or knowledge of that level of web work. Yes, we do have an *entire division* of web people and contractors too. interesting politics? 😈

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  8. I remember the story well and I think we had quite a few conversations about it Teagan. It definitely made me put Atonement, Tennessee on my list of must be read soon books. I love the video. I think you have another feather to add to your CV… Be well and Happy Valentine!

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  9. If this was an early attempt at video making then you’ve clearly got the hang of it, it’s amazing. As for the story, it’s a delight and obviously told by someone who’s a master of her craft.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

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    • David, you are the definition of “gentleman” — thank you so much. The Animoto template did most of the work — but i’ll take the compliment just the same ;).
      Wishing you a hug filled Valentine’s Day. ❤ ❤

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  10. Atonement, Tennessee is indeed an enchanting place filled with wonderful characters. I love it.
    I love the videos….and what a special Valentine’s day greetings….thank you so much…and may your day be filled with vibrant colour. Janet:)xx

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  11. This is as delightful a read as Atonement, Tennessee. Robin had his Valentine after all, and we all do as well. ❤
    A fantastic idea of going back to the past to showcase a character from the book. You are a wonder, Teagan.
    And, you made this video. Awesome. ❤ ❤ ❤

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    • Aww thanks so much Tess. Coming from a writing wonder like you that is a huge compliment. 🙂 I had fun exploring Robin’s younger years and events that shaped his adult personality. In Atonement in Bloom (book 2) i touch on that a little more. If i can ever get time to finish it… But i will! I promise. 😀 Valentine hugs! ❤

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    • You’re so kind, Kathryn. 🙂 The story is “lighter” than the novel — more whimsy. But I think if you like one you will enjoy the other.
      I just made myself ravenous looking at your cooking blog! And i had barely finished my bagel. LOL. Valentine hugs! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I love Atonement Tennessee, it’s a book of mystery, fantasy, love, it’s ethereal, and the story is so beautifully told. What a wonderful Valentine Teagan, thank you I wish I had something this wonderful to give you.

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