Next Tuesday, folks. Next Tuesday, Jubilee will be released. I’m pretty sure the Kindle version will be available a few days before the paperback. That is mainly because formatting for a paperback release is akin to doing Calculus without a calculator.
As you’ve hopefully figured out by now from the few posts on this blog, Jubilee deals with human trafficking. It’s something of a passionate topic in my home, as my wife and I have both been on missions trips to the area discussed in the book to give our time to this cause.
Anyway, Jubilee has been my passion project for the last 2 years, often pushing The Other to the side for large chunks at a time.
It will finally see the light of day next Tuesday. If you’re a blogger interested in obtaining an early copy for review, please contact me and let me know.
Without further ado, here is a sample, the opening chapter of Jubilee.
She had managed to doze off in the back of the truck. Despite the heat and the familiar fear that wrapped around her heart, the constant drone of the truck’s big engine had lulled her to sleep. She napped in the enclosed shell that covered the back of the truck, her back resting uncomfortably against the plastic wall. It wasn’t the most ideal place for sleep, but she had learned to take rest any way she could get it.
When she awoke, the truck had stopped. The engine no longer purred like a big cat, but she could hear it idling and felt its vibrations beneath her. She opened her eyes and saw the others there with her, huddled together in the dark. They had left her alone, letting her sleep. She silently thanked them for that, but she wished she had been in the huddle, even if only to feel like part of the group. Feeling alone in a situation like this made it worse.
But these other girls were new. This entire experience was new to them; they only knew what they had been told by people in their towns. They only knew the rumors. They had not yet experienced it for themselves.
She both envied and pitied them for that.
From the front of the truck, she heard both doors opening. Through the thin walls of the camper shell everything was muted, but she knew the drill well enough. She’d been through this twice already. When her aunt had pulled from her bed late at night and hauled her to the field behind their little shack in Managua, she’d seen the truck waiting there. Its headlights had looked like the eyes of a waiting monster. Seeing it parked there in the darkness, in the middle of the field, she had known what was happening.
“It will be okay, Gabrielle,” her aunt had said. “This must be done. For your family, this must be done. You will be okay.”
Gabrielle had not argued. She had not even bothered to fight. She’d been here once before, in this same situation. She knew that fighting against it would bring only bruises and pain. There was no sense in it. This was her life now and to protest against it brought only additional hardship.
As she expected, the slamming of the truck doors was followed by muffled conversation on the other side of the shell. Then someone came to the back of the truck, unlatched the metal shell door and swung it open.
Gabrielle looked to the frightened group of others across from her. There were five of them; one was crying into the shoulder of another.
She felt the crisp night air swirl into the cab and closed her eyes against it. She smelled the woodland smells from outside and even the scents of the men that had opened the door, a mixture of cigarette smoke and sweat. She managed to get in two seconds of fantasy, imaging that the cool night air was really the wafting breeze on a beach somewhere that she’d never see. She imagined the sound of the surf, the feeling of soft sand between her toes, bits of broken seashells digging into her heels—
The image was broken by the sound of the men’s voices as they peered into the back. Watching them approach, Gabrielle saw two other men fall in beside them. The four men looked into the opened camper shell as if looking at caged animals in a derelict zoo.
“Nice,” one said. “How much?”
“Five hundred cordobas,” came the answer. “For all six of them.”
Gabrielle listened to the conversation as the men discussed a price. One hundred cordobas for all six of them. It was actually a bit higher than the standard rate she was used to hearing. As the men continued to bicker back and forth, one of the new men crawled into the cab and approached the huddled group of girls. One by one, he cupped their chins in his hands and studied them. He then looked them over for scratches, bruises, deformities or any other details that might cause a decrease in their worth.
“Good, good,” he said snidely. “Yes, these are all very pretty.”
Pretty, she thought, echoing his comment. All he has to say about them is “pretty.”
She felt the stirrings of anger swelling up inside of her, something that she had learned long ago to keep buried. She felt it storming inside, buzzing like hornets in her stomach. The sensation intensified as the man turned towards her.
He extended his hand and cupped her face as he had done the others. He tilted her head to both sides and then placed his hands on her waist. His touch was not gentle; he touched her and examined her as if she was a piece of fruit he was considering at the market. He slowly spun her around by her hips and she could feel his eyes covering her.
When he was done with his inspection, he smiled thinly at her and turned back to the other three men that were waiting at the rear of the truck.
“Deal,” he said, sealing the transaction.
Gabrielle watched as the man climbed off the back of the truck. She watched the exchange of money and knew what came next. She, along with the other five, would be moved to another truck and then hauled off further into the wilderness to be sorted out among even more of these men’s recent purchases. From that point, there was no telling where she’d end up. She didn’t care one way or the other—she’d learned to stop caring several months ago.
As expected, she was directed out of the camper shell with the five others. When her bare feet touched the ground, she tried to recall the memory she had mustered only moments ago, of her toes curled in soft white sand. But the memory was not there. It had been chased away by the transaction that had just taken place.
The men moved her from one truck to the next in a blur of motion. She only had time to gather that they had pulled the truck to the side of a mountain road that was bordered with uninhabited forests to all sides. She heard frogs, crickets and other residents of the night. But she also heard the weeping of two girls ahead of her as the group of five was hauled roughly into the back of the second truck. This truck looked to be an old delivery vehicle that had a small cattle bed attached to the back of it. A cracked plastic camper shell sat over the bed.
Gabrielle followed the five ahead of her, nudged from behind by one of the four men. As she grabbed the tailgate and readied herself to be lifted onto the back of the cattle bed, a hand fell on her shoulder. It grabbed her roughly, and she was stopped.
No, she thought. No, not here. They aren’t even going to wait. One of them—or two of them or all four of them—are going to do it now, right here in the middle of this empty dirt road. And it won’t be because they even really want to…they just want to show these other five what to expect. They want them to be scared. To take the hope and the fight out of them.
Dreading that this was indeed what the men had planned, Gabrielle let herself go limp. Another thing she had learned was that if you just acted dead and didn’t fight, it was easier. It was over faster.
She was temporarily relieved when the hand on her shoulder stopped her and spun her around. It was the other man from the new truck—the one that had not come into the back of the camper shell to inspect them.
“This one is cute,” he told his partners with a laugh.
Cute, she thought sadly. He thinks I’m cute. That’s a new one.
“Si,” another one of them agreed.
She had never understood why some men asked this question. To most of them, it seemed to not matter at all.
“Nine,” one of her original drivers answered.
Yes, I’m nine years old, she thought as someone planted a hand on her rear end and squeezed, helping her onto the cattle bed. I’m nine….but my six-year old sister outsmarted your buddies yesterday and escaped.
Gabrielle clung to that last bit not only because it helped her to believe that her captors weren’t as strong and capable as they seemed, but also because it meant that her sister was safe. And as long as Natalia was not in the hands of these men, she thought she could endure enough to make it through. As long as she had the peace of mind that her sister was okay, they could do their worst.
It was nothing new. Their worst was what she had been taking since the age of five.