Jeremy found Gabriel sitting on the outskirts of his wheat field staring up at the overcast sky. He got down from his mount and approached him slowly, but his friend sensed his approach. Without taking his eyes from the clouds, Gabriel shook his head.
“No need to sneak up on me. I might be mad, but I’ve never been violent. At least, never with you.”
“How are you doing?”
“I need to go after her.”
Jeremy stopped close by and placed his hands in his pockets.
“If you feel that way then you should. You’d be throwing away your career being a preacher at the church, but maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.”
Gabriel cast Jeremy a sidelong glance.
“What do you mean?”
“There are secrets here. Things have happened that I didn’t want you to know at first for your own safety.”
Gabriel groaned and buried his face in his hands.
“It’s just as well you never told me. I was so infatuated with the idea of being part of that inner circle. I wouldn’t have listened to you.”
“You should follow her, Gabriel. I know she hurt you, but she loves you.”
“I know she does.”
A distant rumble of thunder reminded Jeremy of the inner storms that he and Sally fought every day. He suddenly pined for her.
“When Sally burst into our Bible study the day that she caught Mary, I’ll never forget how excited the pastor and the deacon were. It’s like they had been waiting for it happen. I finally saw through them when it was too late.”
Gabriel patted the ground beside him.
“Sit down. Things have changed, but not that much.”
Jeremy sat next to Gabriel as a bolt of lightning livened up the dark skies.
“Everything has changed,” sighed Jeremy.
“For the worst.”
“It isn’t too late to go after Mary. Not if you go now.”
“You’re right. Even if she hates me. Even if she blows my face off. I need to tell her how sorry I am.”
“She wouldn’t hurt you.”
Gabriel stared at him with an oddly devilish grin.
“You don’t know her.”
“Do I want to?”
“One day, if the four of us are blessed enough to share an evening all together again, she might tell you and Sally her story.”
“It turns out Sally’s not quite the blushing little bride I originally thought she was.”
“I always wondered if there was more to that girl than met the eye.”
“Far more. I’m a lucky man, even if I only realized it too late.”
“It isn’t too late.”
They stood together and walked to the stables. Gabriel’s eyes misted over as he prepared and saddled up his horse. They talked about their summer visits as boys and reminisced about the grandiose plans they had made together over the years.
“You think we’ll ever get around to doing that cattle drive?” asked Jeremy.
“I don’t see why not.”
“We should bring the girls with us.”
“You think Sally would want to come along for a month long trek across the wilderness with a bunch of smelly cattle?”
“I think she might. She’s turned out to be quite an adventurer like your Mary.”
“Well, what do you know? Her Papa would have your hide for not keeping her home bound.”
They both laughed.
“I wish things could have worked out better for all of us here,” said Jeremy, “but some places are broken beyond repair. I hope you don’t come back here. Sally and I will be leaving at the end of the month, too.”
“Maybe we’ll live close by one day again,” said Gabriel with a sad smile.
Gabriel climbed onto the saddle and studied Jeremy as though he might never see him again. The last time they parted ways they were still boys with dreams of reuniting for fishing trips and cattle drives. More and more, he wondered how many people he may never see again. It seemed strange to be so melancholic when they were still so young, but life had a way of mocking even the happiest of fellows.
“Godspeed. I wish you and Mary the best, no matter what the outcome.”
“And God be with you, Jeremy. Take yourself and Sally away from this place as soon as you can.”
The thunder rolled over the countryside as he rode away. Jeremy stood at the edge of the farm and watched Gabriel until his horse carried him over the ride in the road. His stomach ached with a mixture of loss, guilt, and longing for Sally.
He mounted his horse and rode for home and hoped that Sally hadn’t done anything earth shattering while he was gone.
He appeared through the mists like an apparition in a Gothic novel. Sally held her breath as Gabriel rode down the road toward her. She stepped aside so he could pass, but he slowed. Swallowing hard past the lump in her throat, she brought herself to look up at him.
“I am sorry, Gabriel. I’m sorry for being the one to unleash hell on your life.”
He shook his head.
“This isn’t your fault. I am going after Mary now.”
Goose flesh covered her arms.
“I am glad.”
“Jeremy was just over. I told him that the two of you need to get out of here as soon as you can.”
She forced a smile.
“We will. Godspeed, Gabriel. Go find her. Tell her how sorry I am if you can remember.”
“Take care, Sally.”
Then he became one with the fog again as he disappeared forever. Jeremy would be home soon, but she would have enough time to run her errand. Since Mama visited her earlier that day acting so out of character, she had to check in on her and make sure that she was alright. The man who she once thought was her father could stalk them all he wanted, but he couldn’t stop them from visiting. Now that she was in his good graces, he might allow them to get away with more alone time.
The home that had once been a haven to her as a child seemed so foreboding as it appeared through the mists. A tyrant ran that house. The scariest thing about it was that she had been so blind to the truth for most of her life.
She knocked on the door and it creaked open. Frowning, she pushed herself through the opened door. It was not like either of her parents to ever leave the door open. Her heart thundered beneath her aching chest. She shut out her outrageous assumptions and searched the house.
“Hello?” she called.
Panting, she looked in all of the rooms. No one was in the house.
“God, please don’t let it be,” she whispered.
Surely after everything they had been through, after all of the years of suffering, God wouldn’t let a man like Papa win while Jacob lived in the shadows and Mama played the part of a submissive wife slave.
Sally went to the garden and spread the bushes apart. Jacob’s black hat was still there. If Mama had ran away, she would have taken it with her. She made her way to Papa’s shed and took his spare shot gun. She loaded it and carried it with both hands as she wandered once again through the fog.
“Oh, Mama, where are you?” she called.
She walked in the direction of the church. Her ears rang as the earthly clouds thickened around her. Perhaps Mama had simply accompanied him to the church to practice her piano playing. Then she remembered the unlocked, open door. She shuddered and broke into a run. Though she could not see beyond a few feet in front of her, she knew the way to the church by heart. It was used as the school during the week and she had walked there everyday up until Papa’s hideous ideologies about life tore her away from the routine. She knew the way by heart, thinking back to her time walking to school with her friends talking about the simple things young girls spoke about.
Life was strange in that one could do the same things every day for years, spending time with the same friends, but one false move could break the cycle forever.
She continued to run. The church was close.
Her feet hit something soft, but firm on the road. She dropped her gun as she fell forward, screaming, and landed hard on her knees. Trembling, she looked behind her. She crawled toward the body left in the middle of the road. It was a woman in a lacy pink dress. Her brand new ankle boots poked out from beneath her skirts.
Sally reached her and turned her over. She looked into the pale resting face of her mother. She gently shook her.
“Mama, wake up,”
Her eyes traveled down to the terrible red stain at the front of her dress. Large boot prints were imprinted in the mud around them. They didn’t belong to Papa’s.
“Who stabbed you? Who, Mama? Tell me who!” Sally shrieked.
She held Mama and cupped one side of her face with her free hand. She was beautifully melancholic, even in death.
“Mama, wake up. God, wake her up. I need her to come back. Please, come back, Mama.”
Sally shook her again. Mama’s head fell limp without the support. It was only then that she realized she was sitting in a pool of blood. Mama’s blood.
Staring up at the sky, she searched for Mama.
“Where are you, Mama? What should I do?”
She held Mama tighter, buried her head in her delicate shoulder, and screamed. She screamed until her vocal chords went raw. Her eyes grew tired as she lay next to Mama on the damp road.
Mama was so cold. She always hated being cold.
“Good night, Mama.”