Light from a full-moon came down in waves through the cloud covering, washing over Eleanora’s dark locks that she twirled between her index and middle fingers. It was a habit that she held for as long as she could remember – maybe it was a nervous habit. Regardless, she always twirled her hair while she was deep in thought. She didn’t remember the last time she was able to take a deep breath and just enjoy the moonlight as she was on this night. Her gaze was fixed on the horizon, and for once, she enjoyed the sight without any fear in her heart.
The past few months had been hell for Eleanora. Her days were quiet and still, as she hid out of sight from anyone who might pass by. Her nights were spent on the run, going from one hiding place to the next, being sure to never stay in any one spot for too long. The townsfolk were determined to find her, and it seemed like every night the search parties – if that’s what you want to call a group of simple bumpkins armed with pitch forks and torches – increased in numbers. She worried it wouldn’t be long before they would finally catch up to her.
That type of lifestyle would be hard on anyone, but it was even more arduous for Eleanora because of her pregnancy. She had wanted to provide only top-notch medical care for her child, but instead was forced into a completely natural pregnancy. She would even face the birthing process without a doctor or midwife. She wondered, that’s what women did for centuries before modern medicine, right? Twirl, twirl, twirl.
Her only companion was Jackson, whose devotion to her shone as bright as the sun. He was an average-sized man whose big, brown eyes could pierce right through you. He could always see people for who they were, and that’s exactly why he loved Eleanora. Sure, she was stubborn and a bit rough around the edges, but she also had a capacious heart that sought peace and fairness that only augmented her physical beauty. Ever since she’d been on the run, exactly six months ago from this night, Jackson meant more to her than ever as the only other soul she knew anymore.
“Shit!” Eleanora exclaimed, as she clutched her back in agony. Jackson burst into the room shortly after, eager to protect her and his child at any cost.
“Everything okay in here?” he asked with a quirky little grin on his face.
“Oh, don’t look so smug, Jackson.” she harped back at him. She wondered, since he had a hand in this pregnancy too, why did she have to carry all of the weight? Before Eleanora even had a chance to chuckle at the thought, she winced in pain again, this time in her swollen stomach. The two exchanged a look – the baby was nearly ready for the birthing process. It would happen tonight.
Jackson had never delivered any babies, nor had he even witnessed childbirth. But he was all she had, so he couldn’t outwardly show his nervousness. He couldn’t even call for medical assistance, not with the entire town hunting for Eleanora. Jackson watched as his wife endured a natural birth, without the aid of any trained professionals or medicine, and he successfully assisted his first-born son out of the womb and into the world. When he looked into his son’s eyes, he decided that had never seen such youth, but right away he noticed how the boy took after his mother’s appearance. From the dark brown hair to the olive-toned skin and hazel eyes, Eleanora and he were practically duplicates.
“Vincent,” Eleanora said, “His name is Vincent.” Jackson laid the newborn on her chest for the first time, and they looked upon each other as if they were old friends. This precious moment didn’t last long; Eleanora once again cried out as she experienced more, and worse, contractions. Jackson swept Vincent up and looked for the closest safe space for him, which happened to be a nearby dresser drawer where only his father’s sloppily folded shirts could act as his blanket.
Eleanora and Jackson were both baffled when a second infant revealed itself. “Twins? You’ve got to be kidding me!” Eleanora shouted through her pain. Before long, Jackson was no longer a novice at the art of helping a woman deliver a child, and he assisted his second-born, a daughter, into the world. As dark and dreary as the past several months had been, Jackson was sure that what he felt at this moment was pure happiness. He recognized his own brown eyes in his daughter’s features. He stared at her in awe – how could something so simple be so incredible? He turned to Eleanora to share his joy with her, but he was met instead by a motionless, pale vision of the woman he had grown to love so dearly.
“No!” he cried, “This can’t be happening!” He checked Eleanora for a pulse and respiration, he tried CPR, and he even begged to the heavens to for the return of his wife, but she was gone. Never to return.
Jackson cradled his daughter tightly as he staggered out of the room. He couldn’t bear to be in the same room with Eleanora’s body. Not now. Out of all the possibilities he imagined might happen on this day, this particular scenario wasn’t one of them. His mind shifted to his daughter, who hadn’t even been given a name yet. He closed his eyes to ponder a name for a little girl who no one knew was coming, but the only named the Jackson could muster was Eleanora.
Discouraged, Jackson took a deep breath and decided to go back for his son. He felt guilt in his heart like it had been struck by lightning; how could a man turn his back on his newborn son because of his own emotional state? Furthering his self-blame, he acknowledged that in the moment of learning of Eleanora’s death, he had simply forgotten that Vincent was still there, lying in the dresser drawer. He just instinctively ran to escape from the nightmare with only the child in his arms.
As soon as he stepped foot back into the dark room, he saw the eyes. They were huge, golden, and staring right back at him. Before he even heard the growling, he felt the vibration from the noise on his skin, forcing his hair to stand on end. As Jackson turned to run, he was struck down by what felt like a sledge hammer. The only thing he saw was the sight of his newborn, nameless daughter bouncing and rolling across the hard floor out of the doorway and into the hallway. In an act of defiance, despite his obvious fate, Jackson slammed the door closed behind him, sealing himself in the room with the beast and separating it from his daughter. He stood his ground, growling in his own right. If he had to go down, he’d do it to save his children, and he wouldn’t go down without a fight.
He dodged and weaved his way forward as his eyes scanned the room for anything he could use as a weapon, but nothing he could do was fast enough overcome the beast. Jackson’s eyes bulged as his heart was impaled; he never even saw the beast strike with its nearly super speed. Still, his only thought was of how his daughter’s eyes were just like his. After all, it was better than those golden eyes, so close to him now, peering down on him as he began his final inhalation. He didn’t understand how he didn’t see this coming, and his agony climaxed as he exhaled for the final time.
“This little piggy went to the market. This little piggy stayed home.” Clara spoke in a high-pitched, sing-song voice as she grasped the toes of the little girl who was already disgruntled about having to go to bed.
“Stop it, Aunt Clara.” little Thea replied, annoyed with the situation.
“This little piggy had roast beef. This little piggy had none.” Clara continued on, ignoring the child’s plea. “This little piggy we –”
Thea ripped her foot out of Clara’s hands and sat up in her bed. She sternly folded her arms across her chest and said, “I’m going to turn nine years old tomorrow. Don’t you think I’m a little old for this stuff? Besides that, you told me that when I get older that you’d finally tell me what really happened to my parents. That’s what I care about, not piggies!”
Clara sometimes wondered if telling Thea about her parent’s death so early was a mistake. Perhaps she should’ve waited to reveal the truth until she was older, and simply played dumb about the details until that time. Either way, she couldn’t reverse her decision now. She had always treated Thea like she was her own daughter, even though she was actually her niece. It was times like this that Clara wondered what Jackson would want for his child.
“Well sweetie,” Clara began, “Your father was an amazing man. He was my big brother, and he always looked out for me. He was smart, handsome, and a good worker. He could do anything that he set his mind to, and everyone loved him.” Clara’s voice started to break as she switched topics, “Your mother…” she cleared her throat awkwardly, “Well, I just didn’t really know her that well, sweetie.”
“You aren’t telling me anything that I don’t already know!” Thea hissed back.
“You have to trust me on this. You trust me don’t you?” Clara asked the child. Thea eased out of her tensed position and began to relax and unfurl on the bed. “I promise, when you’re 16, I’ll tell you everything that I know.”
Thea chalked it up as another failed attempt at information and rolled onto her side, pulling the blanket over her head.
“Goodnight sweetie.” Clara said softly, as she stood up to leave. She turned out the light, and then pulled the door almost closed, but not quite, just like Thea likes. As soon as she let go of the door handle, Clara started to second-guess herself.
Every time Thea brought this topic up Clara felt uncomfortable. She wanted to tell the girl the truth, but it was so much to bear even for an adult. How could she put that on a child? She walked slowly down the hallway leading to the dining room and continued obsessing over the topic.
She simply didn’t have all the answers that Thea wanted. Imagine Thea’s future disappointment not only finding that her father was murdered, but it was her mother who committed the crime! And even then, no one knows the true fate of her mother! And if Clara ever saw this woman again, she swore she’d force her that bitch to pay for that crime. No, Clara thought, Thea will have to wait at least seven more years before any open, serious discussion on the matter can occur.
“She at it again?” rumbled a low-voice from the dark side of the dining room. It was Slade, Clara’s husband. Clara always loved how he was so supportive of taking Thea in, but Clara noticed that over time he seemed to grow increasingly impatient with the young girl’s inquisitive nature. “One of these days, she’s going to find out with or without you, hon. Maybe we should just tell her.”
“What do you want me to do, Slade? Want me to explain to a nine-year-old that her mother was a psychopath who killed her own father? And what? At least three other people – maybe more?” Clara said intensely while simultaneously trying to lower the volume of her voice. “That’s crazy to say that to a child who can’t understand that kind of thing fully. It would mess up her head! I wouldn’t even know how to say this to an adult, much less a child.”
“What do you think she’ll think of you if she finds out the truth from someone else before you tell her?” Slade asked sheepishly, but honestly, as he took another drink of his nightly bottle of Miller Light.
“You know what, Slade? Having your support on this would have been really nice. I didn’t ask for my brother to die, you know!” She shouted at him as she stomped out of the room. She grabbed her purse and whisked past Thea’s bedroom door so quickly that she didn’t even noticed the little girl sitting near the cracked door, in the dark, eavesdropping on their entire conversation.
Thea’s heart sunk. Her mom was crazy? And a killer? Her heart raced as she wondered if she was fated to the same eventuality. Her mind scrambled so much that she didn’t even pay attention to where her feet were landing with each step, and she accidentally stepped on a particularly creaky floorboard. It groaned out loudly, and next thing she heard was the scraping of the chair against the floor in the dining room. Uncle Slade was coming to investigate the noise.
Thea wasted no time and leapt with all her might toward her bed. She made it there just in time to lay down, pull the covers over her body, and mash her eyelids closed. She felt the light come across her face as Slade slowly opened her door the rest of the way. He examined the room for a short period and found nothing out of place, so he left the girl to her slumber.
Thea breathed a sigh of relief. Slade was never one to fixate over the little details. Had it been Clara, she probably would have been caught red-handed and in trouble by now. After her adrenaline from almost being caught wore off, her mind went straight back to her family. Her crazy family. She pondered question after question about the how’s and why’s of the situation until her mind, exhausted, involuntarily succumbed to sleep.
PART THREE COMING SOON!