It was well after dark by the time Sally reached what had once been her mother’s home. All of the lights were off inside. The monster must have still been at the church.
Sally pushed her the window of her old bedroom open, pulled herself up, and crawled onto the table that rested beneath the pane. She went to Mama’s bedchamber and lit a candle. Sitting on her mother’s neatly made bed, she stared at all of her elegant belongings. Her perfume still lingered in the air. There was an energy in her room that made it feel like she was still alive somehow, even though it had been days since her passing. The solitary flame made the wall come to life with dancing shadows. It was a phenomenon that Mama always enjoyed looking at. The world was such a cold place without her.
She buried her face in her pillow, inhaled Mama’s aroma, and wept.
“Oh, Mama, come back.”
She took the second pillow and hugged it. She could almost feel Mama’s life surrounding her, intensifying her grief. To have someone you were close with for your entire life suddenly leave the world was the worst kind of hell.
“I will be with you soon, Mama,” whispered Sally.
She felt warm surrounded by Mama’s soft comforter and pillows. A soft whisper relaxed her and she closed her eyes, savoring her final moment alone with all of Mama’s things. She stripped down, poured the rose water from the fine boned pitcher into the wash basin and washed herself. She selected Mama’s favorite lavender dress and put it on. She went into Mama’s jewelry drawer and took a ring, a bracelet and choker and put them on. If she was going to die fighting evil, she was going to bring a part of Mama with her.
She brushed her hair and braided it out, smiling at the sight of herself in Mama’s things. Mama would be happy that she took the time to appreciate all of her stylish items, taking some of them with her. She would never condone violence, but she might have given one nod for being well dressed while inflicting consequences on the world’s scum.
“Are you still here, Mama? Would God let your spirit stay with me a little longer?” she called.
No one answered, of course. She had hoped over the last several hours that if she believed strongly enough that Mama’s spirit would visit her, then she would. No such thing happened as she left Mama’s room, poured a glass of water in the kitchen and then stepped outside toward the monster’s shed.
Jeremy watched Sally leave the Thompsons’ house in a clean dress with her hair brushed out and braided. It hadn’t been easy following her at a safe enough pace, but he realized how little he knew her in the process. She led an entirely separate life from him and it was very real.
She had transformed into another person. The old Sally who longed to love him was finished. He would never see that version of her again.
She stepped toward Mr. Thompson’s shed. He held his breath as she went inside. He couldn’t let her do what she was intended, even if it cost him his own life. He cast a desperate glance heavenward and started toward the building.
She darted out of the shed when he was steps away. Without noticing him, she sprinted with a long gun in her hands toward the stables.
He ran after her. Once she was inside of the stables, she slammed the door behind her as if she knew someone was behind her. He opened the door and peered inside carefully. She had already mounted one of the horses and was riding it out of its stall and toward the back entrance.
“Sally!” called Jeremy.
She glanced over her shoulder at him, threw him a nonchalant eye roll and rode away. He opened one of the stalls and led a mount outside of the stables. He scanned the area carefully before mounting and riding after the madwoman.
As he rode across the bleak landscape, he had lost sight of her. She would reach the Scottsons’ house well before he would, leaving too much time for her to get shot and killed. He urged his horse to run faster. He couldn’t lose her now. Not with how they left things.
When he reached the pastors’ property. it was too quiet. No one was in sight. Taking a deep breath, he jumped off the horse, grasped his pistol, and started toward the house. He reached the back of the Scottsons’ house. It was pitch black inside. He circle around it to the front. The pastor’s wife stood in the middle of her front yard. A chill ran down his back and arms.
“What happened?” he called.
He reached her side. She stared ahead without blinking.
“Ma’am? Did you see Sally ride past here?”
“She was here.”
He stood in front of her and grasped her by the shoulders. She shuddered and met his gaze at last.
Her eyes widened as she threw her head back. She pointed forward. He looked to the garden that she gestured to. He stepped slowly toward it, sensing the death that thickened the air around him. He swallowed hard, bracing himself for what lie beyond the rose bushes at the entrance of the gardens.
A little girl lay on the grass next to the goldfish pond. He put his gun away and ran to her.
“Amber,” he breathed.
He reached down to feel her pulse and drew his hand back at her icy touch. Blood stained the front of her dress. He closed his eyes and held her little hand.
He gathered Amber in his arms and carried her to Mrs. Scottson, who stood there crying and hugging herself.
“What happened?” he asked.
“I-I didn’t know he was capable of it, but he killed her. He killed that beautiful baby girl.”
“The pastor did this?”
“Yes. He saw Sally coming and killed her. Sally doesn’t understand how things work around here. By coming here, she killed her own sister.”
“These men deserve to burn in hell!” he shouted.
“Let me take her!”
She reached her arms to take Amber away. He let her.
“Did you see where she went?”
“I saw her ride in the direction of the river.”
“Where did the pastor go?”
She stared up at him in fear.
“He went after Sally.”
Rage welled up inside of him and he screamed. He remounted and rode like the wind toward the river, ready to kill.