Beecher's Hope (1907)
"God dammit," muttered John, shivering underneath the tree near house. It was brutal, the winter had been. Nothing it seemed was wanting to work as he stretched up and reached for the axe near the chopping block. Wiping his brow, he closed his eyes thinking of the people in his life, past and present. Deep down, he always wondered what happened to everyone who survived Dutch. He remembered the pain of hearing the man, who gave him the chance to walk away, was long gone.
Arthur. It was such a long time ago. 8 years now, and time has just flown by, without remorse or stopping to pause. You're my brother, he had said and his reply was I know.
John chopped until he found the cold just too much. Surely this would be enough to keep the home until the warmth of spring came in full bloom. He paused a moment, his eyes straining against the cold as he caught sight of an incoming wagon near the property line.
"Wonder who that can be?" he mumbled as he sat down the axe and walked over to the house.
Someone was seated in the driver's spot; a woman with long hair, as dark as the midnight sky. Her face was partly covered by the straw hat she wore, but as she drew closer, he felt his heart skip a beat or two. The woman, stopped near the home, turning to something or someone else in the back of the wagon. Her voice carried like an angel.
"No, it couldn't be—" he started as the familiar shape of the woman's body recalled memories of a her from long ago. "ABIGAIL! Abigail, com'ere!"
A loud noise came from inside the house as the woman exited the wagon and turned toward the back side. She was motioning to whatever it was before she smiled up at John.
"What in the hell is with all your yellin' fo—" but like John, Abigail stopped in her track as the woman pulled the straw hat from her face. "Oh, my sweet Lord! Lucy!?"
It was Lucy Bennett, the woman who stole everyone's heart with her city ways, and right until the very end, she was the loyalist of them all, having stayed until that final moment when Arthur forced her to leave. John remembered sadly the look of pure fear on her face as Arthur kissed her and put her on the train for anywhere by there. The short months she was in the gang measured more in the way she responded to critical situations. It was her gift that few knew about. How she did an unthinkable act to save his boy, and how no one believed her, was the only reason they had ever angered her to the point she was ready to kill every last one of them. It took Arthur to calm her down but she never seemed to forget it. Lucy was braver than most, but reckless too. The boy in question had come out, and stood confused, beside his parents.
"Ma? Who is that?" asked the boy. Lucy let out a small laugh before wiping her eyes.
"He has grown," she said. Seeing her smiling face, it brought that last afternoon when he saw Arthur last to mind. The dying man had made a request of him, one that John hadn't been able to fulfill. And now, here she was. It brought a tear to his eye too. The sight of her after nearly eight years, his heart skipped as she drew closer… after all this time, Lucy came home to family.
"Hello John, Abigail," started Lucy, walking forward, a weak smile on her pale face. Her normally tanned complexion was several shades lighter and it made the two Marstons share a worried look. "It's so good to see family once again."
Behind Lucy, was a small girl, who stood just under her mother's shoulders. She was an intriguing child, that Jack had offered to bring in her suitcase, but she refused by means of hiding more under her mother's arm. This child had light chestnut hair, with dark undertones similar to Lucy's, that cascaded down a pale blue dress, a thin ribbon holding back the hair, and there, underneath all that was the most stunning pair of blue eyes either of them had witnessed. For several seconds, John stared into the young girl's eyes, not seeing her, but the warmth of an old friend. It was like he was finally home too, and maybe; he had never left at all.
"I'll be damned," muttered John, smiling and shaking away the small tear on his cheek. "So, it was true…"
Lucy saw John connecting the young girl to her. "Yes, it was true. Abigail knew back then."
"I did. My!... Has this little one grown!" laughed Abigail taking Lucy into a wide hug.
"You women…" laughed John. "Come! Come'er!"
Wrapping his arms around the women's' shoulders, memories of long ago in Saint Denis came to him. She was thinner, unhealthily thinner. He nearly touched his own elbows but looking down, John couldn't see the sparkle in her anymore like he did way back then. The pains of the last eight years having taken a toll on her too it seemed.
"It's good ta see ya," he said releasing her and turning her toward Abigail.
"It's so good to see friends once again," she said reaching for Abigail's hands as the young's eyes followed Jack curiously.
Watching the women go in, he called for Jack to help bring in the items from the wagon. Lucy asked for one box especially to be brought in and put somewhere safe. Locating the said box, John held it up and slightly rattled it. It was quite heavy for such a thing, but he placed it in the bedroom away from everything else. He returned to the sitting room seeing Lucy and Abigail talking while the children played. Well, Jack attempted to share his toys with the young girl, who just stared at him like a doe.
"It's been such a long time. Things sur has changed round 'ere," said Abigail, standing a moment to collect some teacups. "Where are my manners! John!"
"Yes, darlin', what do ya need?" he asked crossing his arms and seeing Lucy look up at him.
"Would ya get the cups down? I can't eve' reach 'em."
"Always was a short woman," he said with a laugh.
"Nothin' darlin'. Nothin' at all…"
John brought down the few cups they had as Lucy sat up to remove her shawl. There, they saw just how thin she truly was. While the child looked well fed, it was difficult to guess if Lucy had eaten in some time. Out of concern, he placed a piece of bread, down onto her tea cup too.
"Thank you," she said and instantly handed it to the young girl. John motioned for her to keep it and gave out a bit to everyone to ease her nerves.
It must have been hours that they spoke and Uncle joined in too. It was rather nice to sit there, so peacefully, his arm over the back of the sofa Abigail in his arm and across the way was Lucy in the armchair. John grew sleepy a moment and blinked, thinking he saw someone standing beside Lucy, watching over the young girl play. The figure was gone in an instant but he thought… no… It can't be… But we all got angels…. The figure had quickly glanced at him, but surely no….
"It's been too long. How have you been since… well you really…" started up Abigail.
"Difficult," admitted Lucy taking a sip of the last bit of tea. "Daddy welcomed me home. Mama not so much. They cursed me out when I came home pregnant with her. Daddy gave Mama a look of disgust before we left for good. Never seen her so red in the face. I hear that her estate washed out after that. Mama aint doing so well now," she laughed the last part.
"Ya father and ya travel?" nodded John.
"Yes. I missed him terribly so. Ar… Well, I was told me to go home, so I could be protected. It seemed he really know what was best for us. Tessa and I, I mean."
"That's a beautiful name Lucy," said Abigail, as their guest looked down sadly. Sighing heavily, before looking at her daughter, Abigail and John followed her glaze, seeing why.
This child was hers… and Arthur's. It was true. There was no denying that. Even now, when she looked up at her mother, it was in a similar way to how Arthur would look up in a curious sense. She cocked her head and smiled before grinning as she held up Jack's story book.
"Look Mama! Jack, here, says this is magical! Just like mine!"
"Yes, darlin'. Stories take us to places we can only imagine," smiled Lucy reaching for her hands.
"See, it says here that somehow, there are ways to reach the castle. You only have to find the way," read Jack pointing out the lines to the young girl.
"You have been too kind," replied Tessa beginning to rub her eyes. Abigail stood up and brought Jack with her. A moment later, Jack reappeared with another set of pillows and blankets.
"Here, Ma, says you can sleep in my room. I have some extras for you ladies."
"Thank you kindly," replied Lucy as she stood up, but was stopped by Abigail.
"Here! I'll get her into bed. Jack sleep in our room! Ya hear! John!"
John stood up with Lucy as they stepped outside. He helped her through the door and they stared out into the emptiness of the land.
"I can't believe I am still alive after all I went through after he died," she finally said after several minutes. John was leaning against the beam as Lucy lent forward onto the railing around the porch.
"Yer folks sound like horrible people," laughed John as well. "Why not rest a bit? You must'a had a long ride. Take a rest, Lucy. We can watch over— what is her name again?"
"Tessa," she replied weakly. "Her name is Tessa Morgan."
John smiled as he went to hold her hands. Squeezing them, Lucy smiled bigger before asking for a blanket. The nice evening breeze was coming in, despite the brisk chill, and John could tell in about an hour it would be dark once more. Lucy had arrived near high noon.
Lucy's action reminded him of their exchange back at Saint Denis in 1899. It was a strange time, but it was always something special to him. That seemed long ago though, but seeing her after all this time, made him feel dirty. She helped him realize that Abigail was truly his only love, but that didn't excuse the fact he found her exceptionally attractive. Her long hair, he had had the pleasure of pulling apart within his fingers…. Much like other men, who only dreamed of performing such activities with her, that much he was certain of. Thankfully, he had the opportunity and savored it in memory.
In fact, Arthur had said long ago, how Lucy was a different type of woman when it came to that, and John well… he had tried to go further with Lucy, but sometime felt different than with Abigail. She was confused by his actions at the time and he never would have guessed that both women were so vastly different in their actions in that regard.
"How about lying down inside? Abigail won't be up much longer. Rest up, Lucy," he offered.
"Thank you, Mr. Marston," she laughed again pushing the loose strains from her face.
"You are quite welcome, Ms. Bennett," he replied happily.
"Well… it don't matter now but I don't go by that anymore," she said wearily shaking her hand and cupping her face.
"Ya still Lucy right?" laughed John, resting his hands on her shoulders. He looked at her as she glanced up, pausing her breath and then a loose tear fell from her face. He wiped it away, smiling at the woman before him. He knew about her past with him, and he knew her role in everything about him. Simply put, John still enjoyed her company. They spoke few words as the evening waned into darkness, and finally the evening chill had returned. Standing to stretch, John helped her stand and showed her where Tessa was sleeping so peacefully. The young girl was holding onto a light brown bear and tossing around.
Sitting on the edge of the bed, Lucy looked broken and had a similar pale complexation, one that he had seen before. The memory of him walking away that night, that same paleness was too much but John held his ground before taking in the exact similarities. Her eyes were blood shot, not only from tiredness, and as she tried so hard to not cry, little Tessa finally calmed while her mother rubbed her back.
"Arthur use to do this too," she said sadly, wiping another tear away. John knelt down wrapping his arms around her thin, tiny frame allowing this exchange to show he cared deeply for her.
"Arthur's tough. Always was."
Lucy let out a soft laugh. "He was strong for sure." Her arms tightened around his neck and he let out a sigh, taking in her scent. It was just the same; a calming applewood.
"It is great see'n you again," he mumbled into her ear. "You're always welcome here."
"You were always too kind to me John," she said pressing her head against his. "I learned that over time, you remember names more than anything else." Lucy laid down as he pulled the blanket over the two.
"I'll wake you in the mornin'," he said quietly, closing the door remembering the way she came to be in their gang of misfits all those years ago….