Strange things had happened in Summeridge before, like when 4-year-old Fanny McNae tried to ride her pig down the busiest street, or when 8-year-old Johnny Pipher got his tongue frozen on the metal bell in the Summeridge square and had to be doused in hot water to get it unstuck. But nothing like this had ever happened - nothing like this had even been imagined.
The bell in Summeridge square was positioned right in the middle of the square so that anybody doing their shopping or dining could hear it ring. Alina's small home was just close enough to the Summeridge bell that she could hear it ring once, twice, three times.
If you could hear the bell ring, then you had to get over to the square as quickly as possible. The bell was rung only for emergencies, and if you got caught ringing it without good reason, you were likely to be given some small punishment. Nearly all the children in Summeridge had tried ringing it once, but such instances rarely occurred.
Alina, believing that the bell had been rung for some sort of emergency, immediately set down the dress she'd been altering and slipped on her sandals. Fastening her hat upon her head, she joined the small crowd that was gathering around the bell and its ringer, Molly Jenkins.
Molly's red curls were tangled, and her normally tannish complexion was pale from fear. She was clenching and re-clenching her hands into fists, and once she was satisfied with the amount of people surrounding her, she cried out, "I have a confession to make!"
Alina felt as though someone had punched her in the stomach. What is going on here?
"Once, I got really upset with my brother and told him I wished that he'd get out of my life. The next day, he got in a fight at a tavern and was killed. I think he went to the tavern because he was so distressed by my words."
With a choked sob, Molly rung the bell with a tone of finality. Then, she tore her way through the crowd, face still in her hands.
Alina ran after her friend. "Wait, Molly!" she called, her own eyes brimming with fresh tears. "Molly, look at me! What's going on?"
But before Alina could follow too far after her friend, somebody reached out and grabbed Alina's arm. Alina whirled around to see someone whom she had never met before. In the midst of her fear, she registered the man's dark brown hair, icy green eyes, and tall, lean figure.
"Come on, Alina. Don't go and make matters worse."
With that, Alina found herself shoved to the ground. The man was nowhere to be seen.