( Presenting a special Halloween-edition sneak peek of the giant Jacob storyline! Everyone stay safe tonight, and watch out for Samhain! )
A snapped twig, then a rustle, and then a splash drew him out of sleep and Jacob pushed himself up partway to look around. Then, he heard a quiet sound mixing with the rushing water of the stream.
His gaze shot downwards to find a person not ten feet from him, sitting in the streambed. It was only a kid, he realized, with grubby shorts and a shirt with splashes of color on it. The little girl’s pigtails were mussed and she sat in the water with both hands clamped over her knee, but she stared with wide, teary eyes up at Jacob.
“Woah, hey,” he murmured, slowly lowering his head again so he didn’t loom over her. One tiny hand left her knee in a flicker of movement to brush at her eyes before clamping over it again.
“Y-y-you, y-you’re a giant,” she pointed out as Jacob lay down again. The stream wasn’t deep at all, so he could still see her clearly, and she actually seemed more upset about her knee than about how close she sat to a giant.
“I am,” he admitted in a quiet voice. “And you’re all wet. Did you slip?”
He kept thinking the hunters would come running to drag the little girl away from him, to keep her safe from his potentially dangerous movements. But they didn’t come, and Jacob was on his own with the tiniest kid he’d ever seen. She had to be around ten, he guessed absently.
She shook her head, and then sheepishly nodded. “I-I was … sneaking up on you …” she admitted.
Jacob offered her a tentative smile. “You were? I think it worked. Looks like you might have banged yourself up, though,” he replied. With his free hand, he took a chance to slowly lower it towards the stream so he could point at her knee that she so diligently covered with her hands.
His fingertip, bigger than her head, was only a few feet away from her, and she stared at it in more awe than terror. Something about the innocent wonder on her face lifted Jacob’s tired, weary spirits.
When she looked past his hand to his face again, though, she was frowning again. “I hit it on a rock,” she told him, lower lip pouting and quivering just a little. If Jacob didn’t pay attention, he’d miss it.
“Let’s get you out of the stream first, okay?” he said gently. His voice was quieter than he’d ever managed to make it, but there was no chance of her missing it. Once she nodded, Jacob’s hand closed the distance.
He pinched his thumb and first finger around her little waist, and she removed her hands from the forming bruise on her knee as he lifted her from the gently rushing water. Jacob set her down on the dry ground opposite the stream from himself and his hand retreated hastily.
She didn’t make a peep. Instead, she sat propped on her hands and stared at his huge hand.
“That’s gotta be better, right?” he prompted.
She nodded, and then, like kids are wont to do, checked on her bruise with all the seriousness she could muster. “My daddy’s gonna need to get me a ice pack,” she determined.
“That sounds like a good idea,” Jacob said. “I think you should go and get one from him, okay?”
She got to her feet with a wince. Her teeth bothered her lower lip as she tested putting weight on her injured leg. Once accomplished, she gave him a hopeful look. “Can I come back and talk after, mister giant?”
Jacob smiled and remained where he was lying down to avoid startling the trusting child. “I don’t think so,” he told her. Before she could sling her protests at him, he put one finger in front of his lips. She mimicked the motion with wide, surprised eyes. “I need to stay quiet out here, and my friends wouldn’t want you getting in trouble, okay?”
“I can play quietly!” she insisted, then closed her mouth and pursed her lips.
Jacob chuckled. “I bet you can. But if someone else finds out this is where you’re coming, then other people will find out I’m here, right? There are some people who are scared of giants and they might try to … take me away,” he explained, sparing the kid the details.
She looked worried and glanced over her shoulder. “So you’re a secret,” she surmised. Jacob nodded, and the girl drew herself up proudly. “O-okay. I can keep a secret, I’m not a snitch like Paul at school!”
“I’m really glad,” Jacob answered, his smile lingering. “You go get your ice pack, okay?”
The girl sighed, still looking disappointed. She stared at him for a few seconds more before turning and jogging away between the trees. Jacob saw her look back several times before she passed out of sight.