Sally – Chapter Four

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A soft knock sounded on Sally’s door and she groaned.

“Please leave me alone.”

“Sally?”

The door creaked open.

Sally wiped her tears and rolled over to face her little sister. She forced a smile at the wide-eyed sprite who appeared completely confused.

“Hi, Amber,” said Sally softly.

“Why are you getting married right now?”

Sally sat up and looked at her disheveled hair and red eyes in the mirror across the room.

“Because Papa thinks it’s for the best. I should get dressed soon. Everyone is waiting. Did they send you up here?”

Amber shook her head.

“I knew you were sad. Will you be gone forever?”

The thought of leaving home forever as a married woman scared every inch of Sally’s being, but she had no more strength to cry.

“I’m afraid so.”

“Oh.”

Sally’s two best friends came in then. At the sight of their concerned looks, her initial numbness melted away. She covered her mouth as everything in the room swam.

“It’s all right,” said Sarah. “We are here for you.”

“Jeremiah is a good man. He will take good care of you and you’ll have a beautiful view of the river,” cooed Lisa.

“It’s not that I don’t like Jeremiah. I just don’t know anything about-”

Sally sunk to the floor next to her bed and Amber cried along with her. Lisa and Sarah sat down on the plush carpeting next to Sally until she was able to find her composure.

“I think that every girl feels the same way that you do on her wedding day,” said Sarah. “It will just take some getting used to.”

Sally stretched her arms out to gather Amber into a warm embrace.

“Always sisters,” she whispered. “Please visit me on his farm.”

“Always sisters,” whispered Amber.

Amber rushed out of the room, leaving the three teen-aged girls alone with the thick silence.

“We need to make you look beautiful,” said Lisa, pulling out Sally’s finest dress from the wardrobe.

It was a pale blue frock with white lace trim. Sally only wore it once and it had been one of the most fun evenings she ever had.

“The wedding is in an hour,” said Sarah.

“Oh my God,” breathed Sally.

“Your maid has prepared a bath for you,” said Lisa.

“Great,” muttered Sally. “Maybe I can drown my sorrows.”

“It will be okay. You’ll see,” said Lisa airily. “I find this all so exciting and romantic. Yesterday we were playing games with the other school children and tonight you will be a married lady! You are the first one of us to grow up, you know.”

Sally could only stare at her dim wit for a friend. It did no one any good to paint over the terrible situation and try to make it seem like some sort of work of art.

After Sally returned from her bath, she felt no less disturbed.

“Sit here, Sally,” said Sarah, “I’ll brush out your hair.”

Unable to look at her own reflection, Sally stared down at her hands resting on her lap as Sarah styled her hair. She longed to escape into her special world, but the reality was too heavy to escape from. Her friends helped her get dressed and they made a few final finishing touches. Both of them looked at her with glistening eyes and it was then that Sally knew the truth of how they both felt. They were just as sorry to see her get married as she was, but they would never dare to say so. It was simply the way of things.

“You look so beautiful,” said Sarah.

Sally blushed and stared at the floor.

“I’m going to run home and ask Papa if I can take a picture of you and Jeremiah so that you can remember your special day,” gushed Lisa.

Sally was about to tell her not to bother, but the daft girl already ran out the door.

“She won’t be long,” said Sarah. “I will pick you a nice little bouquet of flowers from the garden and then it will be time. Perhaps you can take some time to enjoy your final moments of freedom.”

“Thank you,” said Sally.

Her final moments of girlhood passed away far too quickly. First Sarah returned with six pink roses and then Lisa returned with her father and his camera equipment in tow. It felt as though her heart had collapsed into her stomach and it hurt to breathe.

The sound of Mama’s piano playing filled the house. Sarah gently squeezed Sally’s hand before taking her place behind Lisa. Each of them held a solitary rose. They slowly descended the staircase and it felt as though the world had shifted into a new, depressing reality.

Sally closed her eyes and followed her friends down the steps and into the heavily perfumed room. Mama looked over at her from her place at the piano; her mouth curved upward into a delighted smile that did not quite reach her blue eyes. Her father stoically approached her, took her arm, and led her to the end of the dining room where the pastor and Jeremiah stood. At the sight of the young farmer staring at her with the same horrified expression that she must have worn, her heart nearly stopped.

She blinked back tears, telling herself not to cry in front of everyone. She would have the rest of her life to cry.

Papa let her go and Jeremiah took her hand. It was warm and firm. She stared into his eyes for comfort, but she found none. He looked away from her with unmasked annoyance.

The moment passed by in a blur as Sally repeated her vows after her pastor and became Mrs. Jeremiah Smith.

***

It was dark by the time they reached the farm. His property remained relatively untouched by the tornado. The next day, he would work from sunrise to sunset tending to the cattle and building a new pen for all of the upcoming newborns. It was a wonder that the terrible storm hadn’t caused some of the cows to give premature births.

Beneath the inky sky flecked with twinkling stars, the farmyard looked eerily peaceful. Sally shifted next to him and he inhaled a hopeless breath of the fresh night air.

“Well, here we are,” said Jeremiah.

“Yes. My parents got what they wanted,” muttered Sally. “You have a lovely farm, by the way.”

“I am glad you like it. It is yours, too.”

“Jeremiah, I know nothing about…”

“Don’t worry yourself. I have a guest room for you.”

“Oh… well, I will go unpack my bag now.”

The relief in her voice eased a bit of his tension. He had been correct to assume that she needed her own room. She left him alone beneath the starry skies and he watched her retreat. With a tiny build and a spritely gait, she appeared far too young to be anyone’s wife. He would probably be able to get away with going on the cattle drive with his friend Gabriel in the fall. She was in no position to tell him what to do.

With a satisfied smirk, he turned in for the night.

Sally – Chapter Three

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After her mother broke the news to everyone within earshot, Sally cried out and flew out of the church like a wounded animal. Her skirts trailed behind her as she ran. The reality had crashed in on both of them. He hardly knew her and had no idea how he was going to juggle keeping a farm along with a child bride.

“Go after her,” said Mrs. Thompson.

His irritation intensified at the sound of the woman’s voice. It possessed the quality of a weak person who thought that she had power. He swallowed down the words he longed to say.

“We should let her be,” said Jeremiah. “I need to check on my cattle.”

He started to walk out of the church. The outside air caressed his dewy skin and he longed to run away, too.

“We will have the wedding tonight, Jeremy,” boomed Mr. Thompson.

He stopped in his tracks. Without looking back, he inhaled an angry breath.

“You couldn’t give either of us a final night before we are bound together forever?”

Heavy footsteps shook the floor as the older man reached Jeremiah’s side. Jeremiah clenched his fists. He had never wanted to punch someone so badly in all of his life. He was twenty-one with his whole life of him. He didn’t think he would consider marriage until he was old. His dreams of selling the farm in a few years to travel the were destroyed with the ferocity of a twister.

“Any man would consider himself lucky to wed my beautiful daughter. I will see you at my house at six o’clock this evening. Is that understood?”

Beautiful was not the word that Jeremiah would have used to describe her. She was cute, of course, but in a childish way. Not that any girl turned his head to begin with. He had better things to think about than romance and marriage.

“Yes, Sir. I will see you at six o’clock for the wedding.”

“Good.”

As Jeremiah left the church, he entertained wild ideas that would help him escape the ridiculous arrangement. He broke into a run for his farm. His eardrums throbbed even after he stopped in front of his home.

“Thank God.”

His entire property was spared from the tornado. If it had, an undesirable marriage would have been the least of his worries. His livelihood rested on breeding and selling his cattle to the butchers to get him through the winter. He took a deep breath and stared up at the blue skies. It almost seemed illogical that a storm had raged through the countryside mere hours ago.

***

Sally held her knees beneath the tall willow tree. She took turns weeping and staring up at the pretty pink skies until the sun went down. In the distance, she heard family and friends calling for her, but her loud thoughts drowned them all out.

Crickets and toads chirped all around her after the sun set, reminding her that it was time to go home. She arose to her feet in the darkness, lifted her skirts, and ran for home.

She reached the front door and hesitated before opening it. She grabbed the door knob; the sound of Jeremiah’s deep voice vibrated the door knob. Once she went inside, her entire world would change forever. She took a final moment to savour the girl she currently was. With a deep sigh, she opened the door and met the faces of every person who meant the world to her. The pastor leaned against the wall, her parents sat at the table with her little sister, and her best friends, Lisa and Sarah, prepared tea and sandwiches. She must have looked a sight to them.

“Forgive me,” said Sally quietly. “It’s been a very strange day.”

“We were worried sick,” began her mother.

Her father held up a hand to silence her.

Sally’s gaze travelled to Jeremiah. He sat at the other end of the table with a less than pleased expression on his face. She longed for someone to tell her that the entire day had been a feverish dream and that she had just woken up, but instead the silence thickened.

Jeremiah stood and knelt down in the middle of the kitchen. With dark wavy hair, chocolate eyes, and a square jaw, he was a handsome enough man, but she knew nothing about men. She tensed as he looked into her eyes.

“Sally Thompson, will you marry me?”

Sally swallowed hard, looking over at her Mama for guidance. Mama nodded for her to accept.

“Yes,” whispered Sally.

Everyone in the room clapped their hands except for her Papa. He had no doubt been the cause of the whole arrangement. Sally bit her lip and raced upstairs. When she was finally in the safety of her own bed, she curled up into the fetal position and wept.

 

Sally – Chapter Two

The scent of drenched earth wafted into the cellar like a spell as Jeremiah opened the door. As he stared out at the disheveled yard, his first thoughts went to his horse. He hoped she had been smart enough to run far from the twister. The Thompson’s house was still intact at least.

“Sally,” he called quietly. “It is safe to come out now. I need to escort you to your family.”

She dragged her feet until she reached the opening of the shelter. Her expression mirrored that of someone who had lost something very dear to her.

“The storm  is over, ” he said quietly. “It isn’t coming back.”

“It isn’t the only thing that won’t be coming back,” said Sally. “I feel as though everything has changed.”

“You’re in shock.”

He nearly reached out to touch her shoulder, but he restrained himself. He saw her family every Sunday morning at church, but he never took a moment to realize that she was nearly grown up. The time seemed to pass by faster since he started his own farm three years ago.

Sally’s wide green eyes scanned the torn up yard and uprooted trees.

“I was so sure we were going to die,” she whispered.

“You’ll likely see more tornadoes in your day and you will survive every one of them.”

She glared at him and he suddenly really wanted to be back on his farm.

“God only knows where my horse is,” he muttered.

“Oh. I hope she is alright.”

“The main thing is that we are alright. Come along.”

He had to slow down to not walk too far ahead of her and it irritated him. The church was roughly a half hour away in good conditions, but travelling with the little girl on a muddy road was going to take double the time. He gritted his teeth and silently cursed Mother Nature for sending a tornado of all things on the busiest day of the year for him.

He helped her to step over the big puddles on the road. Tears streamed down her delicate cheekbones.

“What ‘s the matter? I am sure that your family is fine. Soon you will be with them.”

“I’m grateful we survived, but it’s what you said about other tornadoes passing through. I’m not sure if I can handle another one.”

“It’s a part of life out here, Sally. Next time won’t seem as bad.”

“Maybe I’m not as brave as you are.”

He rolled his eyes.

“How old are you now? Fourteen?

“I’ll be seventeen in the fall.”

“Oh.”

The glare that she flashed him made him shut his mouth as they walked toward the bush. When the church steeple appeared through the thinning trees, he breathed a sigh of relief. Soon he would be free to return home, check on his cattle, and start repairing the damages. Sally’s family had little to lose with the amount of money that they had, but his entire livelihood would vanish if his farm was lost to the twister.

The Thompsons emerged from the church’s entrance. Their pale complexions appeared ghostlike against the darkening sky behind the church. Mr. Thompson strode toward them while his wife watched from the top of the steps with her arms crossed. Sally picked up her skirts and ran to her father. He gathered the slip of a girl in his arms and twirled her around twice. His blue eyes held questions in their depths as he looked over at Jeremiah.

“Daddy, Jeremiah rode by our house just as the tornado was about to suck us both in. We barely escaped before taking refuge in the root cellar.”

He cupped Sally’s face with his hands.

“Glory to God that you are alright.”

“It was Sally who saved me,” said Jeremiah. “She held that door open for me until the very last moment. I would have been a goner if she closed it.”

She flashed him an odd look and quickly stared at the ground.

“Thank you for taking care of my little girl, Jeremy. Would you step inside of the church with us for a moment? I need to have a word with you.”

He did not like the tone of the older man, but he had little choice but to comply with his request. Mr. Thompson was, after all, a deacon of the church. As they stepped inside of the normally warm, familiar building, an eerie energy surrounded them then. A couple of other girls around Sally’s age stared at him. One of them smirked as though she knew a terrible secret.

“Sally, why don’t you go practice piano with your mother?” asked Mr. Thompson.

Sally stopped and gaped at her father.

“Piano? I can barely think after nearly losing my life moments ago!”

“Keep your voice down. Come along with me, dear,” said Mrs. Thompson.

Sally’s father placed his hands in his pockets and cleared his throat.

“You see, Jeremy, this is a matter concerning my Sally. While it was unavoidable for you and Sally to shield yourselves from the storm inside of our root cellar, the fact remains that you were unchaperoned.”

Jeremiah blinked.

“Yes, Sir. Due to extenuating circumstances.”

“There are now witnesses here that can confirm that you two spent over an hour alone together. To keep Sally’s good name intact, I need to ask you to marry her.”

Jeremiah’s breath caught in his throat as anger formed in the pit of his stomach.

“Marry her?” he asked. “She’s a child.”

“Do not pretend that you suddenly forget the rules of propriety.”

Jeremiah threw his hands up in the air.

“The tornado is what forced us both to hide from it in safety. I did not touch her. The desire to do so could not have been further from my mind at that time.”

Jeremiah shook his head. The man’s gaze turned colder than ice as the silence between them thickened.

“Everyone will understand why we had to be in that root cellar alone.”

“If you do not agree to wed Sally before nightfall, I will see to it that you are banished from this town. Is that understood?”

“You can’t do that.”

“You don’t think so? I own half the town.”

“Of course you do.”

“Be careful. I am not going to ask you again. You have until nightfall to honour my little girl’s reputation. Good day.”

Jeremiah watched the icy-eyed deacon as he left him in the wake of another storm. He met Sally’s childlike gaze from across the room as she stood next to her mother looking through hymn books. She was right. The brutal storm had changed everything.

Sally – Chapter One

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Sally left her cocoon of thick blankets on the rocking chair and peered through the wispy curtains. She gasped at what the loud storm left in its wake. In all of her sixteen years, she had never seen such a sight. She allowed the eerie amber clouds to draw her away from the safety of her house.

Her parents and little sister had been at the church all day, leaving her alone to do as she pleased once the chores were finished. It was the first time that she had ever been left alone to face thunder and lightning. Though she knew storms could not hurt her, a growing sense of unease made the hairs on her arms stand on end even as she stepped barefoot across the yard. It was gone, but it rattled her to the core.

The tempest had torn over the countryside and vanished as quickly as it came. Rather than a rainbow, God had gifted her with the most lovely, odd skies. She lifted her skirts and broke into a run for the open field. She twirled a few times and then collapsed into the soft, wet grass. Her mother would scold her for being so free with her movements, but the truth was that Sally daydreamed often. It was the moments when she was alone that she forgot she was a lady.

She rolled onto her side and inhaled the damp ground’s earthy aroma.

“Oh, how I long to paint this beautiful sky,” she breathed. “And I shall.”

She willed for the yellow-stained sky to stay as it was as she raced back for the house to gather her painting supplies. Surely it would not vanish as quickly as the storm had. When her hand reached the knob of the front door, she peered over her shoulder and screamed at what she saw.

A thick black funnel cloud reached from the skies to the ground. Frozen in terror, Sally watched as it touched down at the edge of the forest. It was too close. Hard pattering broke the silence as hail rained down.

“God, protect me.”

With a wail, she covered her head with her arms and ran for the root cellar as her daddy had instructed her to do. The strengthening wind caught on her skirts and she thought for a moment that it was going to carry her away, but she made it to the door. She looked back. The tears in her eyes blurred the tornado, making it seem bigger. It was moving closer to her as the devilishly strong winds howled over the land.

“Oh my God. Oh my God.”

She opened the door to the shelter with shaking hands, flinching as the frozen balls of rain slammed against her back.

“Sally!” called a familiar voice.

She spun around, holding the door for support. Jeremiah Scott, one of the younger farmers in the area that she saw every Sunday at church, was riding his horse toward her. Behind him, the monstrous spinning cone gained width as it tore the earth apart.

“Hurry!” she yelled.

Every fiber of her being longed to close the door, lock it, and hide away before it took her. Her pounding heart made her wonder if she would drop dead from the terror that filled her veins. She leaned against the wall of the cellar as Jeremiah leaped off his horse and ran inside of the cellar.

He slammed the door shut and locked it. The winds howled beyond their small refuge and Sally wondered if it was the tornado’s call to claim them. She couldn’t see Jeremiah in the darkness, but she was suddenly grateful that she would not have to face the living hell alone.

“I’ll hold it shut,” he said, panting. “You get back there and hold on.”

A chill ran down Sally’s spine.

“Do you think it will come this way?”

“It’s wind, not a monster! It might vanish as quickly as it came.”

“Please God, let that be so!”

Sally cowered against the far wall and sunk to the floor.

“Wh-what were you doing out this way?” she asked.

“I was on my way home until this thing happened. It will be okay, Sally. People survive this all the time.”

Her parents’ faces flashed across her mind and she shuddered.

“What about the people at the church?” she asked.

“There’s a root cellar next to the church and I never heard of a tornado ruining God’s house.”

Sally swallowed past the painful lump in her throat. She hoped it was true that anyone inside of a church would be protected from nature’s wrath.

The door rattled. The tornado was nearly upon them.

“Hold on tight, Sally!” yelled Jeremiah over the screaming gale.

Gritting her teeth, she silently pleaded with God to spare them both. She barely knew him, but he seemed like a good man. He was risking his life for her; she nearly shut him out of the cellar moments ago.

She braced herself for the door to be torn from its hinges. She could already taste death, while hours earlier the thought of it could not have been further from her mind. Life changed so quickly. She was not sure if she was ready to accept real life just yet and it occurred to her then what little power she held over her own life.

“Everything is changing,” she whispered. “These may be my last words.”

Just when the deafening noise became unbearable, the winds slowly died down and the hailing turned into rain until all that could be heard in the root cellar was Sally’s soft crying.

“It’s over,” breathed Jeremiah.

“Don’t open the door! Not yet,” begged Sally.

She had a terrifying vision of the tornado still hovering above them like an evil spirit, waiting to rip them apart in its violent depths. A wild sense of impending doom welled up in the pit of her stomach. It felt as though the storm changed everything and that she would not be stepping into the same world again.

She shuddered.

“All right,” said Jeremiah quietly. “We’ll stay inside a bit longer.”

 

 

Sally – Prologue

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Prologue

Missouri, 1890

Jeremy ran for the pastel pink horizon, longing to fall into the sky. She loved pink and he deserved to drown in it.

“I killed her.”

He killed her slowly over the last several years.

They found her little body floating in the shallow end of the water over an hour ago. She left her rifle, pink hair ribbon, and Stetson hat on the river bank with a short note for him.

I am sorry, Jeremy. Now we can both be free.

Sally

Panting from the sprint, he stopped and collapsed on the field. He became one with the dying grass.

Before their parents pushed them to be together, before he ruined her life, she was the happiest girl in their village. Her easy laugh and bouncy gait made everyone love her, but he fell in love with her much later. After it was already too late.

He had allowed his pearl to sink to the bottom of the abyss and now she would never return. She was freed from him at last.

The reality of her death sent another terrible ripple through his core. Grief stabbed at him like a knife and he longed for death to take him, too.

“Jeremy!”

Groaning, Jeremy sat up. He was unwilling to meet the eyes of Gabriel, his best friend.

“Leave me alone.”

“Jeremy, please listen to me! She’s alive. Barely, but she’s breathing.”

Jeremy stumbled to his feet and ran back toward the house, unwilling to believe what he had just heard. When he reached her side, he knelt next to the bed and peered down at her pale, heart-shaped face. Her long, damp hair covered the pillow. She looked like an angel, even in death.

“I love you, Sally,” he said. “Please come back to me.”

Her eyelids fluttered open and he met her beautiful green eyes. He buried his face into the bed and wept.

Her cool hand touched his.

“We need to kill them, Jeremy,” she whispered.

He wiped his eyes and held her hand with both of his. Her gaze was hard and distant as she stared right through him.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“We will kill the people who murdered her. Then we are going to rescue those girls. We can’t…. we can’t let them…”

A solitary tear slipped down her cheek as she faintly squeezed his hand. Then, the darkness took her away again.

 

 

 

 

The knives spoke

Inanimate objects cannot speak, yet she heard the knives in the kitchen drawer calling for her. She lay in her bed with balled fists, begging for her mind to cling to thoughts of the beauty that lay just beyond the door if she could only reach it.

She shot up and peered out the half open window. The draft carried with it the scent of rain falling on the earth. She clung to the invisible gift of hope and raced past the sharp-edged tools that cried out of her to make use of them.

She reached the outdoors. The exertion pumped life through her veins and she continued to run until she reached the babbling brook. She submerged her hand beneath the cool, rushing water.

That broke the spell.

The Dreams

Norwegian Dream.

She had a dream, too. Of Canada. Now, I long to be close to where she was born. In a way, it will feel like she is still alive. Young and alive in Scandinavia and playing her banjo.

Goodbye, Grandma.

Her Rain

The rain always attracted her, called out to her. Its pattering against the windows awoke her from the monotony of her homework. She left the house and came to the rain, inhaling the fresh aroma no perfume could compare to.

She walked for a while, lost in thought, for the rain was what always fuelled her imagination and dreams. In the rain, she was content. She would never be alone as long as the soft trickling of water guided her.

Book Review: When The Black Roses Grow

WhereBlackRosesGrow (2)

When The Black Roses Grow By Angela Christina Archer

Twenty-five men and women were accused.
Nineteen hung to their death on Gallow Hills.
One suffocated under bone-crushing stones.
All believed to possess the power of witchcraft.

In 1692 the fear of witchcraft is spreading around Salem Village. While those who are accused and sentenced face death, everyone else faces the risk of accusations placed upon them.
***

I was drawn in to Emmalyn’s world from the very first page as she grieves for her mother who was tried and hanged as a witch. 1692 Salem is a dark place where many women are accused and sentenced to death as witches, but Emmalyn does her best to stay strong and live out her life in peace. There is so much danger looming and virtually every woman in Salem worries that she might be the next accused witch.
When a mysterious vine starts to grow in her home, she fears for her life as the dark magic is evidence that she is a witch. When James, a handsome stranger comes to town, he both excites and worries Emmalyn. He hides a world of secrets behind his piercing blue eyes.
Author Angela Archer weaves a beautiful tale of loss, love, trust, and the darkness that humanity can sometimes force upon others. I enjoyed protagonist Emmalyn’s authenticity and strength through the entire book. The tension and drama builds with every passing chapter.
I was not prepared for the epic twist at the ending! You will not want to miss what happens in this beautifully written historical tale.
Historical romance and fantasy fans alike will enjoy Where The Black Roses Grow.

You can purchase When The Black Roses Grow on Amazon here!