She dressed quickly in a long skirt and cardigan and went downstairs to pull on her boots in the porch by the kitchen door. As she bent to lace them, she noticed Tom's weren't there. Not just his work boots but his summer ones too; both pairs were missing. She stared for a moment at the space where they'd been, four vague outlines in a scattering of dust blown in under the door. Leaning forward on her knee, she touched one of these empty footprints as if it could tell her where he'd gone. But there was nothing, just the cold stone against her fingertips. She shook her head. What was she doing? She stood up, took her coat from the hook on the back of the door, pushed her arms through its sleeves, and drew its belt tight about her waist. Lifting the door's latch she stepped out into the brightness of the cobbled yard where the day fell in on her with a cool wash of air. She breathed in deeply, feeling the first metallic tang of autumn at the back of her throat. Shards of sunlight reflected off the stones. The dogs barked faster and louder to greet her. She moved towards them and they settled back on their haunches, stepping the ground with their forepaws, quivering with anticipation as if a voltage ran under their skins.
The dogs, let loose of their chains, wove and slipped about her as she walked up the slope across the lower paddock and through the coppiced wood behind the farm. The extra hours of restraint had charged them with a frantic energy and they raced ahead of her, ears flat, before doubling back, their sorrowful eyes looking up at hers, their heads low and their coats slickly black in the dappled sunlight. Sarah, in contrast, felt her legs heavy and awkward beneath her. She took the slope with more pace, pressing the heels of her palms into her thighs with each step. Twice she found herself stopping to rest against the trunk of a tree. She was twentysix years old, worked every day and was usually through this wood before she knew it, but this morning it was as if one of the dogs' chains had snagged around her feet and was dragging her back down the hill with every step she took.
Excerpted from Resistance by Owen Sheers Copyright © 2008 by Owen Sheers. Excerpted by permission of Nan A. Talese, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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