He stepped into the house. Sally wasn’t there.
“What now?” he asked in exasperation.
Shaking his head, that familiar sense of dread filled his being and he went after her. Maybe they would never share the same love that Gabriel and Mary had, but they might have a fighting chance of finding their own version of love once they got out of the crazy town.
He started his journey down the road on horseback. The fog still hadn’t let up yet so he had to keep his mount at a slow pace.
“Sally!” he called.
His warm breath trailed out into the cooling evening air and mingled with the fog. Then he heard the weeping. He jumped down from his saddle and stepped slowly toward Sally. The dark hair of Sally and her mother appeared through the fog.
Mrs. Thompson’s dress was covered in blood. Jeremy closed his eyes for a moment, willing for the situation to vanish and awaken from the nightmare.
He opened his eyes to see that Sally was weeping and her mama was still dead.
“Sally,” he said softly. “Sally, I’m here.”
She moaned, grasping her mother tighter. He sat next to her on the road.
“I am so sorry.”
“She just needs to rest.”
Her little jaw trembled.
“Papa did this.”
“Sally, we need to get off the road. I’ll carry her home with us.”
Sally sat up and played with her mother’s loose, wavy hair.
“Yes. We can nurse her back to health. Then the three of us can leave.”
He gently clasped her little shoulder. Her hopeful smile broke his heart.
“Sally, look at me.”
She looked in his direction without meeting his eyes.
“She’s gone. I am so sorry.”
“No. Quick! Carry her home. She needs water and a warm bed.”
“Sally, she is dead.”
She shook her head.
Sharp footsteps sounded above their voices.
“Who is there?” asked Jeremy, standing.
Mr. Thompson’s cold, blue stare was more piercing than ever as he appeared through the wispy gloom.
“Papa, tell him she’s just sleeping.”
“I need to take her and make funeral arrangements.”
Jeremy nodded helplessly. There was nothing he could say.
Sally stood, finally meeting Jeremy’s gaze.
“Tell him she’s still alive, Jeremy!”
“Sally, I am so sorry.”
Papa bent down and picked up Mrs. Thompson’s slender, lifeless body and carried her away. Jeremy blinked back the tears that stung his eyes.
“Is Amber all right?” asked Sally.
“Yes, of course. She’s staying at Pastor and Mrs. Scottson’s home.”
“Who did this Papa?” asked Sally.
Jeremy went to her, forced her to look at him, and shook his head. Mr. Thompson was already gone.
“Stop him,” hissed Sally.
“There is nothing we can do, Sally. We can only honour her memory now.”
He went to hug her, but she pushed him away. Her eyes darted all over the place as her mind slowly began to realize the reality. He longed to do something to help her, but there was nothing to be said or done once grief set in.
“I can’t survive this, Jeremy. I can’t.”
“Sally, I’ll take you home. We can prepare something nice to say at her funeral.”
She took a run at him and he blocked her with his arms.
“Sally, please. I want to help you. Tell me how you take care of you.”
“How dare you accept this? My Mama has just passed and you’re already talking about her funeral like she’s been dead for days! You let Papa take her away!”
He reached out to hold her, but she slapped him.
“Don’t touch me. You are the reason why she’s dead.”
She wasn’t aware of her words, because sadness was swallowing her whole, but the accusation stung like hell.
“Sally, I wish I could do something, but we can’t. If I tried to stop him from taking her, he might have shot me.”
She stared at him hard.”
“You are a pathetic, weak man,” she rasped.
“Sally, let me take you home so you can grieve away from this place.”
She increased the distance between them as she slowly backed away, disappearing into the fog.
“Sally, I don’t know what to do.”
She started to run, but he caught up with her and threw her over his shoulder.
“Put me down!” I hate you!”
She kicked and screamed, but she was so small that her movements had very little impact. They had to get home and away from the macabre setting. For all he knew, the deacons and Pastor Scottson wanted to get him next. None of the senseless deaths made any sense and all he wanted to do was take Sally and get out of there, but they couldn’t leave yet. They would have to play the part of clueless grieving family members. They had to wait until their planned date or they could get caught.
Sally’s struggling waned and her sobs quieted as they reached the property.
“I don’t want to lose you, Sally.”
“I’m already gone.”
“No you’re not.”
He entered the house and set her down on her bed, rushed out, and quickly locked the door from the outside. He felt like a monster, but there was no telling what she would do in her state. He went to the barn and grabbed four two by four wood beams and started to nail them to her window. When he finished nailing the third beam, she came to the window with a confused look in her red eyes.
She screamed and pounded the glass. She wasn’t going to get out of there. Not until she calmed down. He finished and stepped back.
He wanted nothing more than to help her get through her grief, but allowing her to roam free like a maniac could get her killed. He tossed his hammer across the yard and stormed toward the field. The tall corn swayed in the breeze as he approached. He hugged himself with his shaking arms and wept for Michael, for Mrs. Thompson, for Gabriel and Mary, and for Sally.
He stared up at the overcast sky and begged God to help him deal with Sally. Perhaps she was only meant to be a curse to him. A lesson to teach him to never assume that life was simple and good if one only worked hard. Sally showed him that it was meant to be so much more than that.
Or maybe he never did anything worthy of punishment. Maybe bad events befell good people and there was nothing anyone could do but try to cope with the aftermath. He wasn’t a fighter like Sally. He was supposed to be the one to protect her, but she was the braver one. It was why he was so afraid of letting her out of her room. Setting her free could kill her. There was no telling what she would do.
So he would keep her caged inside.