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Authors: Amanda Meredith

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Dark Mountains

BOOK: Dark Mountains
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Dark Mountains

 

 

 

 

Amanda Meredith

 

 

ISBN-13: 978-1490955315

 

 

Dark Mountains

 

 

Copyright © 2013 Amanda Meredith

CreateSpace
First Print Edition

 

 

All Rights Reserved

 

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

 

To my husband, children, family and friends for i
nspiring me to follow my dreams. You have all taught me to never give up on a happily ever after.

 

 

Prologue

 

 

Lynch Kentucky 1984

 

 

The woman cried out as another flash of lightning lit up the black night. Thunder crashed, echoing off the mountainside, shaking the windowpanes of the old farmhouse. The woman was alone, left by her husband as she labored to bring her child into the world. There would be no hospital and no doctors to help her if anything went wrong. She screamed again as another contraction ripped through her body. It would be soon now. The instinct to bear down was growing stronger even as she was growing weaker.

She had everything ready for the birth. She’d read all the books she could find from secreting into the library when she went to town for groceries. She’d known he wouldn’t let her go to the hospital. He’d beaten her so badly the night before that the doctor would’ve taken one look at her bruised and battered face and called the police.

Another contraction hit and unable to resist the urge, she began to push. She cried out as the pain washed over her and she swore she
was being split in two. Thunder crashed again, rattling the house. Rain pelted the windows and the wind screamed through the trees as she brought her baby into the world.

The tiny red-faced infant screamed as loud as the wind was howling as the woman began to clean her. Pain still wracking her body, she clamped the umbilical cord and used the scissors to cut it. She wrapped the baby in clean towels and collapsed back onto the bed as her body continued to labor.  When the contractions began to subside, she picked up her daughter and held her close to her breast.

The infant’s blue eyes opened and stared at her mother’s bruised and swollen face. The woman tried to smile when the small hand wrapped around her finger but she was so consumed with fear that her lips only quivered.

Tears fell from her eyes as she realized that her daughter would grow up in that fear as well.
She’d never know the love of the man that was her father, only the cruel and vicious hand of a man that was twisted and evil. She cried when those innocent eyes looked at her with trust. She cried because though she would do everything in her power to protect her daughter, she could do nothing to save either of them from the darkness.

Chapter 1

 

 

2007

 

 

I sat by the hospital bed listening to the monitors beeping and humming. I watched the line showing her heartbeat bounce up and down, rhythmic and steady. I was holding her hand, knowing that she might never wake up and squeeze it back. She was in a coma and they had told me that it was uncertain if
she’d come out of it. I cried and begged her to wake up, told her that I loved her but she hadn’t moved and I’d run out of things to say. The room was too quiet and she had always liked the noise and the busyness of life. So I began to talk.

At first, it was just whatever was floating around in my head but then I began to tell her a story. It was one she would know, one she would love hearing
again and again. I began at the beginning; back where it had all began. I told my story as her chest continued to rise and fall and her hand remained still.

 

 

August 1987

 

 

I remember when I was four years old, already knowing my way around the woods that surrounded the base of the mountain. I threw a fit when my momma told me I couldn’t play outside in the mornings anymore.

Preschool.

I hated the sound of it. Anything with the word school tied to it had to mean trouble. My baby sister, Emma Lou, had cried, saying she wanted to go with me. I
couldn’t blame her for saying something so stupid. She was only two and a half and didn’t know any better.

I guess my hissy fit
didn’t work because the next day I was cleaned up and riding the worn-out school bus to school. I was still mad about going but what had made it worse was that the school was in our church’s basement. Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t have anything against church, but as a four-year-old boy who was used to having a free rein, going to church more than the expected Sunday was too much for me to handle.

Until I met Libby.
Her name was really Elizabeth Michaels but with the heavy Southern drawl I’d known since birth, Libby was just easier. I knew she was different from most girls the moment I saw her. She was pretty, with shiny brown hair that curled lightly around her pixie-like face. She sat in the last seat with her thumb in her mouth, staring out the window like a frightened rabbit.

To me, girls were an annoyance,
destined to be teased and bullied with frogs and spiders. When I first met her, I’d had a lizard in my pocket. Momma hadn’t thought to check before I left the house and I’d managed to keep it out of sight from the bus driver. When I saw the only available seat next to her, I smiled and reached into my pocket with evil intent.

I sat down next to her, feeling her flinch and pulled the lizard out of my pocket, expecting her to scream and burst into tears. Much to my dumbfounded surprise, she just smiled. She pulled her thumb from her mouth, reached into her ratty, faded jeans and pulled out a baby corn snake. I really had to fight not to jump back from her with a shriek. Not because of my pure shock that a sissy, little girl would have a snake in her pocket but because
I’d always been afraid of snakes.

The summer before, I had accidentally stumbled on a rattlesnake in our back yard. I think I must have screamed because Daddy had come running out of the house. Seeing the snake
curled up on the ground, he grabbed a shovel and promptly cut off its head before it could strike. He picked me up when I started sobbing and carried me into the house. He had sat and rocked me for two hours while I sucked my thumb and cried. When he had to leave for his shift at the mine, Momma took over, rocking me until I’d fallen asleep. The next day I was back to myself and out playing in the yard again.

So once I got over my shock of meeting my first tomboy, I befriended her; breaking every unwritten rule that boys are supposed to follow concerning girls. That first day, I had asked Libby to come home with me to play.
Momma was waiting at the door when we stepped off the bus. She gave me a hug and kiss before asking who she was.

“This is Libby, Momma,” I told her excitedly. “She’s
my bestest friend in the whole world! I told her to come over and play.”

“Does your Momma know where you are, honey?” She asked Libby with a soft voice.  Libby just shook her head and looked at the ground. “Well, that won’t do. You should always tell your Momma where you are.”

“Momma won’t mind,” Libby whispered. “Honest, she won’t.” Momma raised her eyebrow and smiled.

“What’s your full name?”

“Elizabeth Michaels,” she whispered, looking at the ground again. I heard Momma suck in a breath. I gave Libby a sympathetic look before giving Momma my best puppy-dog face.

“Go on out back and play,” she told us after a moment. “I’ll call Libby’s Momma.”

“Oh no!” Libby cried, suddenly clinging to Momma’s legs. “Please don’t call. Papa might be home.” Momma’s hand flew to her mouth as she watched Libby begin to cry. She shook her head and looked at me with a sigh. She knelt down and turned Libby’s face towards hers.

“Honey, your Papa’s still at the mine, don’t you worry. I’ll talk to your
Momma.” Libby just whimpered into Momma’s shirt. “Go on now. It’ll be okay.” Taking advantage of the temporary permission, I grabbed Libby’s hand and pulled her towards the backyard.

“Don’t worry, Libby. My Momma fixes everything,” I shouted as we ran around the house. We
didn’t see Momma shaking her head before she walked inside.

Papa came home later that night, after the sun had already sunk behind the mountain.
Momma was just getting dinner set on the table and papa raised an eyebrow at the extra setting. Libby and me were at the sink, washing our hands as we listened to Momma and Papa arguing in the dining room. Libby had a blank look on her face, like she was blocking out whatever she was hearing.

“You told her mother she could stay every day after school? Are you crazy?” He shouted as he slammed a hand on the table.

“Tim, you know what that man is like. How can I make her go home if I have a choice not to?”

“But Sheri, we can’t afford to feed another mouth,” he told her, his anger disappearing.

“I just picked up a few more orders,” Momma argued. “We can make it work.” I tried to pretend I wasn’t listening but I couldn’t help but scoot closer to the dining room. Momma tailored people’s clothes for extra money. It’s how she was able to stay home with us instead of working.

“I don’t know,” Papa argued. “I don’t want to be the cause of any trouble over there.” He glanced cautiously at Libby and me.

“Don’t worry, Tim. Carol Ann promised me it wouldn’t cause any problems.”

“I still don’t think it’s a good idea.”

“It’ll be fine, honey,” she answered kissing his cheek. “Besides, they’re best friends already. I couldn’t split them up now.”

“Aw, Sheri,” Papa ran a hand down his dirty face and eyed his wife wearily.

“It’s only right to try and help her out,” Momma whispered. “No one else has ever bothered. I saw the bruises on Carol Ann’s arms last week at the grocery store, Tim. Do you really want to tell that little girl that she can’t come over here after school?” Papa sighed, knowing that he’d lost the argument.

“You’ve got a soft heart,” he whispered, wrapping his arms around her.

“And yours isn’t as hard as you’d like me to think,” she retorted with a quick smile.

So
that’s the way it was for the rest of the year. Libby always got off the bus with me and stayed for dinner at our house. She began to open up more with my parents and before long, she was like an extension to our family.

When summer came, we spent all day together. Although Libby had to be home by dark, we made the most of our days, exploring the mountain and discovering new things. Every day was something new; like the streams that ran down the mountain. You could step into the exact same spot you just stood in but it would be a different stream already; it never stayed the same.

I knew me and Libby would be friends forever; of course, every young kid thinks that exact same thing with every best friend they have. But with Libby and me, it was different. We spent our summers exploring the mountain that we called home, getting into trouble almost every day.

The summer we turned ten, we discovered a small lake left untouched by the mining company. It was deep, cool and full of the clearest mountain water
we’d ever seen. There was an unusual outcropping of boulders off the shore that jutted out into the water. The last big rock hung over the lake, creating a perfect diving board. We’d swim in the cold water whenever the temperature was warm enough and would sit on the last rock, drying in the sun. When it was too cold to swim, we’d sit on the ledge in silence, never needing any words between us.

We ran like heathens on that mountain whenever Momma would let us.
We’d show up at the back door, covered in mud, our elbows scraped and hair in rats. Momma would take one look at us and just shake her head. Our family was a long way from being ‘well-off’ and Daddy worked hard to put clothes on our backs and food on the table, in addition to all the band-aides and soap we went through. Wasting things usually meant a whoopin’ but we had come up with the best solution.

We showed up looking
like we did with Momma spitting mad but we were ready. We’d spent half the afternoon picking the prettiest bluebells we could find and just when we thought Momma was reaching for the wooden spoon, we’d pull out our flowers and give her the best puppy face. 

“But Momma, we were just
pickin’ you some purty flowers ‘cuz we thought you’d like ‘em.” I’d say in the best Southern twang I could muster:

I suppose
we’d figured out early enough that most women, Momma’s in particular, went soft over flowers, because Momma would smile and make each of us take a bath before dinner.

“You’d better scrub
good because no amount of flowers is gonna work on your Papa.” She’d tell us as she sewed up our torn clothes while we scrubbed. We made it a habit during those hot summers and Libby became more of a fixture in our family. Momma treated her like a daughter and Emma Lou saw her as a big sister.

We never spoke of the family that Libby returned to before dark but I saw Momma’s sympathetic looks as she watched Libby walk down the gravel drive that led to her house. It took me a few years to figure out why she felt so bad for Libby having to go home.

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