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Bloodshot eyes stare piercingly at the distraught woman in the pale blue smock, who after hours of tedious observation has wilted to the left in an unconscious state. With a voice frozen within, only the bloodshot eyes can relay his misery. His pale and ashy skin is like ice to the touch although to him it feels as if he were lying among fierce and firing embers. A rapid flutter of wings in his chest closes his eyes forever. His last gasping release of air erupts forth, awakening the pale woman, leaving her alone in the sullen room with a lifeless son.
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Meredith Swanson’s broad hips swayed rhythmically as she stepped between the sugary white sheets on the clothes line. Her graying black hair was pinned firmly in place at the nape of her slender neck. Her acute hearing detected a swift moving disturbance within the house. Moments later an alarmingly small, eleven-year old, read headed boy dashes across the sun bleached lawn. Spit pounces through the space in the front of his mouth, which lacked at least four teeth and lands on her apron as he came to her with the dreadful news.
± ± ±
The children once played there. They would carelessly frolic in the crisp mountain fresh water. During sun bearing summers no stones were to be left undisturbed, as they searched for things to go running home to mother with. Those were the early days of Meredith’s youth and of her distilled happiness. Until one fateful day in July of one particular summer.
± ± ±
“Momma, momma!” cried the boy with the toothless grin and shining pink gums. “You ‘member that boy who’s momma got real upset that day in church, yellin’ bout the Devil?”
“Yes Charles… what about him dear?”
“Well ma, he done gone and died this mornin’.”
Meredith turned from the clothes line to look at the boy. “ Good heavens Charles ,who on earth told you this?”
“His cousin Teddy ma. He went and got real sick one day after playin’ in the crick and well ma this mornin’ he done died momma!”
± ± ±
Hours ago Charles had told Meredith of a local boy’s death. She’d confirmed it with the boy’s pale mother. “Now to tell Jeremy of the service to be held…” she thought to herself as she beat the rug. She and Charles wished to attend the services to pay their respects. Jeremy, large in size and power, was small in sympathy and kindness, and his intelligence fled him when chased by whiskey. He would not like the idea of them leaving for the day, no matter the reason.
± ± ±
Meredith and her twin sister Rebecca were playing with their dolls in the yard. Their mother had made them out of dried corn husks before she died. Three months ago at age 27, she climbed the wavering Alder tree that grew along the south bank of the creek that snaked through their homely cluttered yard. With her arms held wide she let herself fall, from its canopy of dark, broad leaves, with a hemp rope around her neck. Rebecca and Meredith, were in the creek below, playing in the sun enriched water. Without their mother there was no barrier to protect them from their fathers drunken rages. Beatings and hatred befell them like daily hail storms. After eight months, he stumbled into the rushing current at dusk, ending the beatings. Meredith promised herself that would be the end, and that she would escape it forever.
± ± ±
Ragged shaped bruises decorate her body, and add the much needed colr to her face. Only a dense coat of sheer powder conceals her shame and Jeremy’s anger. Each night, Jeremy’s hands paint her body with new pain, and new hues. What ever happened to her promise. Meredith knows, it is time, to escape to her promise. A year after her mother’s death, Rebecca drowned herself in the very same creek, along the south bank. Child’s Creek they called it afterwards.
± ± ±
Jeremy came home late, with an air of whiskey about him. His dark angry eyes showed no mercy to her. He came into the bedroom where Meredith lay in silence and in darkness. She could smell his pungent breath before he even entered the room. As he lumbered towards the bed, her body tensed. Her mind chirped, “It is time.” Before his hand could grasp her shoulder, she rolled away onto her side to face him. “Jeremy, I think you should come see something outside.”
“What’s that you said wench”
“Jeremy. PLEASE. There is something you must see outside… by the creek. The dogs drug it in…”
His swollen dilated pupils glared at her in the darkness. She could feel their anger stab into her chest, like a well placed dagger between the bone.
“You w****… this better be worth my time. I have better things to do than this s***.”
± ± ±
“What am I looking at woman?” snapped Jeremy.
“Look closely, there on the south bank. What is it?”
Jeremy moved closer to the water, squinting into the dark. With his attention astray, Meredith pulled her gown tight around her legs.
“Time to escape.” She whispered.
With that, she silently lunged for an axe, resting against the stump of a long gone Alder tree. She had sharpened it that morning while Charles was away. One swing was all it took to end it. But she kindly gifted him with more.
± ± ±
Charles didn’t bother with questions. He had heard them talking that night, and he had seen from his bed, the faint glimmers of moonlight reflect off the squared head of the axe. The town folk didn’t bother either. They had known Jeremy, and were only surprised it took to long for Meredith, to carry out her promise.