Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Words on Wednesday ...

Words for Wednesday is provided by a number of people and has become a movable feast.   Essentially the aim is to encourage you to write. Each week we are given a choice of prompts: which can be words, phrases, music or an image. What you do with those prompts is up to you: a short story, prose, a song, a poem, or ignoring them. You can use some or all of the prompts.  Some put their creation in comments on the post and others post on their own blog. This month the prompts will be posted on Elephant's Child's blog, but are provided by Margaret Adamson and her friend Sue Fulton.

Image Source: WeHeartIt.com
Connie picked up the toy giraffe and an arm full of soft, fuzzy teddies in various sizes and colors.  She glanced out the window to where the distant evergreens lined the school playground.  The rain had been coming down in a torrent for hours as if somewhere in Heaven a faucet had been left open in a bathtub and it was now overflowing.  Some of the puddles looked as if they could drown a small dog.  The day matched her mood perfectly.

Normally at the end of the day, she would enjoy the walk to the small cottage house that she and Nick had bought shortly after they were married, but today she was seriously thinking of calling for a cab.  Not that she was in a hurry to get home though.  She and Nick had argued that morning over yet another of her dreams, and things had been left a little thorny between them when he left for the hospital where he was interning.

"I don't need this right now, Connie.  My first patient this morning is one with a massive carbuncle that I have to drain.  It makes me want to gag just thinking about it.  I never should have made fun of Dr. McSensitive's aftershave in front of the nurses he was trying to impress.  Now I'm just getting all the shit jobs.  Literally."

"Why is it then, that you always feel the need to put people down at group level?  Even me, Nick.  I bet you go to work and tell everyone what a crazy wife you got stuck with who keeps having dreams of people who died hundreds of years ago.  You want to know why I don't want to get pregnant right now?  Well, there's your answer.  I don't want you to belittle and demean our children like you do everyone else in your life!"

The look he had given her, followed by the slamming of the front door, told her that the guess about what he said about her at the hospital was pretty close to accurate.

She went back to cleaning up the classroom, putting a box of tubular building blocks in a tub on the shelf.  She noticed that the aspidistra she had saved from the last plant arrangement her mother had sent her was finally getting ready to flower.  Her mother had told her that the blooms would be right at the surface of the soil and unlike anything she'd ever seen before.

"It's also called a 'cast-iron' plant because it can pretty much survive anything except a nuclear explosion.  Even if you forget to water it for a month, it will still come back.  It will be perfect in your classroom, sweetie, especially for those long breaks and weekends."

Connie shook her head as a tear fell onto the leaves.

"Oh, mom.  I wish you were here and I could talk to you now.  I just don't know what to do."

Giraffe  Puddle  Thorny  Evergreen  Distant  Tubular
Torrent  Cab  Aspidistra  Faucet  Teddies  Carbuncle

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

serendipitous peace of mind

Families are an odd bunch.  

On the one hand, you feel as if you are supposed to like and love them because they are ... well ... family.  As if that "blood is thicker than water" thing means that you have to suck it up buttercup and accept them no matter what.

On the other hand, you sometimes realize that the differences between you and an extended family member are so vast, you aren't even in the same solar system.  Or even one that neighbors.

Years ago I apparently offended an extended family by divorcing my abuser.  Naturally, they were shocked and surprised by my decision to leave the marriage because "#2" had always worn his "nice guy" face when seeing them, and no one suspected what went on as soon as we got in the car to head home, or what happened behind closed doors.  (Which is the #1 sign of an abuser, whether physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological) 

The distance between us started to grow at that time when I refused to give details, which quite frankly were none of their business.  When I realized that I was beginning to be ostracized by them, it hurt deeply at a time when I was vulnerable.  But I let it go because I didn't want to go into details.  Right or wrong, I didn't want to influence anyone's opinion of #2, and I wasn't expecting anyone, family or friends to take sides.

Then some seven years after that divorce,  I "made the mistake" of writing a book.  Three of them in fact, one of which was a memoir (under a pen name) of that marriage and other relationships.  It wasn't meant to slander anyone ~ which was the reason for the pen name ~ because I know that there are always three sides to a story.  I wasn't writing about "them," I was writing about me.  My life.  My experiences.  My memories.  My point of view and perspective.

After that first book came out, I did get a message from an extended family member who said that they didn't remember a certain person the same way, and I was wrong to have said something.  I explained that I wasn't calling them out.  I was sharing what my father had said to me when I questioned him about why he was so emotionally distant during my childhood.

Now, to be fair, this extended family member grew up in the same city and state for most of their childhood as their own immediate and extended families.  They saw a side of that person I never got to see.  I got to see that particular grandparent fewer times than I have fingers on one hand.  But I wasn't talking about my experiences with that grandparent.  I was quoting what my father said about his experience.

A month or so ago, I realized that a certain extended family I had lost touch with was available to befriend on Facebook.  The last time I'd heard from them was when I sent some family heirlooms to them while we were in Texas, and got a note back saying, "gosh, wish I'd known you were there.  I was there at such and such a time and would have loved to see you and have coffee."  (I guess the Christmas cards I sent with the return address must have been lost in the mail) 

It had been years since I'd been left off their Christmas newsletter list, and cards I sent to them came back undeliverable because they moved, forgot to tell me, and the forwarding order had expired.  (I am still giving them the benefit of the doubt)  All I knew about their worldly adventures was gleaned from second-hand information being shared by other extended family members.

But I digress.  I sent friend requests, and reached out by email through a mutual relative to try to reconnect, and got shot down in a big way.  In fact, I'm now blocked.

For a day (just one day)  I wracked my brains trying to figure out WTF, and even sent an apology email asking for clarification because I was still delusionally thinking it was something I had done to offend them.  All I could come up with was "the book" about me.

So the serendipitous part of all this is that I could care less.  My life goes on just fine and dandy without them.  Always has, always will.  Apparently, I cause them more discomfort than they do me if they feel the need to ignore and block me.

"Family" is just a word in a dictionary.  The people you surround yourself with; the ones that don't judge and who accept you unconditionally; the ones who love you in spite of your flaws, nose boogers, or donkey-like laugh ... those are your true family.  They don't have to be blood, and most of the time, they aren't.

Do yourself a favor this Christmas, and don't feel obligated by "blood" to include people in your life that don't include you in theirs any other day of the year.  Free yourself of guilt; shorten your Christmas card list; turn off your phones and computers.  Laugh and enjoy life with your true "family."

Thursday, November 30, 2017

products I love ...

I'm always skeptical when a product makes a bold claim ~ like 100% satisfaction guaranteed for removing up to 80% of stains.

I love my morning coffee and afternoon iced tea, and a few months ago I noticed that my teeth really looked discolored.  Ugh.  And no, I'm not going to share before and after pictures.
But I will tell you that there has been a significant difference in how my teeth look after this one tube of toothpaste.  Enough of a difference, that I'm now a loyal Crest 3D White user.
(and yes, I'm 100% satisfied that more than 80% of the stains have gone)

Update on my Culturelle Probiotics experience:  I tried a different brand ~ a less expensive brand ~ to see if it would work as well and make my budget happy.
Short answer: No
Stick with Culturelle.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Words on Wednesday ...

Words for Wednesday is provided by a number of people and has become a movable feast. This month, prompts can be found here: Elephant's Child. Essentially the goal is to encourage us to write. Each week we are given a choice of prompts: which can be words, phrases, music, and/or an image. What we do with those prompts is up to us: a short story, prose, a song, a poem, using all or some, or ignoring them.

My storyline this month has been partially based on actual historical facts. My great-great-etc-great-grandfather, George Soule, came over on the Mayflower as an indentured servant and kept the log on the Mayflower. Elinor Billington did spend time in the stocks for slandering John Doane. Doane was married to a woman named Ana, but the affair is fictional (as far as I know anyway). John Billington (the elder) was in fact hung for the murder of John Newcomen and claimed before his hanging that he was an innocent man even though there was bad blood between the two men. Last week we met Francis Billington, son of John and Elinor Billington, and his wife Christian.  Today we meet Constance (Hopkins) and her husband, Nicholas Snow.  Constance was the same age as Francis when they started new lives after Mayflower landed.  Time has moved on from Francis and Christian, however.  It is now mid-September 1677.


Constance sat up and lit the candle at her bedside.  The sun wasn't yet up, but she could hear the sound of her grandchildren stirring in the room next to hers.  She pulled her linen cap over her ears against the cold and wondered how long it would be before her daughter, Mary, started the fire in the kitchen that would warm the house.  She pulled her cat under the covers to keep her legs warm.  Lizzy began purring at the unexpected privilege of being under the wool blanket.

"Don't you pretend to expect this all the time, ye puny girl!  'Tis just 'til me feets warm."

Lizzy kicked at her softly as if to ask who was fooling who.  Constance sighed tiredly.

"Lord, I knows thee had plans fer me when I was a young lass, but I's 71 now and I miss me Nicholas so immensely.  We was blessed with 12 beautiful children and 72 grands, but this past year since he's been with thee has been so lonely fer me.  I knows thee is invincible and I's not questionin' thee's plans.  But please, Lord, I's tired and ready fer home."

Hearing the whispers and giggles from some of her grandchildren behind the curtain that separated their rooms, Constance stopped praying.

"What are ye little ragamuffins up to now?!?!" she spoke harsher than she had intended.  "Don't ye be stirrin' up the devil this early in the morn' or I'll set yer tails on fire fer 'em!"

The curtain parted and her oldest daughter came in, shooing the children off.  "Go outside, all of ye and don't be wanderin' too far.  Get ye mornin' chores done and see if the biddy hen has any fresh eggs for breakfast."

"Mother, how are you feelin' this morn'?"

"Tired, love.  Tired.  I miss yer Father and was jus' prayin' that the Lord in all his supreme wisdom would jus' take me on home."

"But what would I do without ye, Mother?"

"Oh hush now, Mary.  Ye knows I's just a burden on ye.  But I knows ye loves me just the same."

~*~

Connie woke with a start.  Nick reached over in his sleep and patted her shoulder as if to comfort her, but she knew he was still sound asleep when his snoring didn't even slow.  She slipped from under the covers and tiptoed to where her laptop was sleeping on a desk across the room.

"At least you don't snore," she whispered as the screen came awake.  Her fingers zoomed across the keyboard as she made the latest entry in her dream journal.
29 November 2017 2:12am ~ I dreamt about her again this morning.  Nick thinks I've gone all goofy in the head, but I swear ever since I found Mary's November letter to her brothers about their father's land, I think Constance is trying to tell me something.  I know Nicholas's will divided the land up between the sons, and some to her for the remainder of her life.  But I have to wonder what might have happened to her children after she died in October of 1677?  Could she be wanting me to heal old family rifts this Thanksgiving that started 340 years ago?  I have to find out where the rest of their decendants are now.  Maybe they are the family I always wanted but never had.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Words on Wednesday

Words for Wednesday is provided by a number of people and has become a movable feast. This month, prompts can be found here: Elephant's Child. Essentially the goal is to encourage us to write. Each week we are given a choice of prompts: which can be words, phrases, music, and/or an image. What we do with those prompts is up to us: a short story, prose, a song, a poem, using all or some, or ignoring them.

As I mentioned earlier this month and in last week's comments, my storyline is partially based on actual historical facts. My great-great-etc-great-grandfather, George Soule, came over on the Mayflower as an indentured servant and kept the log on the Mayflower. Elinor Billington did spend time in the stocks for slandering John Doane. Doane was married to a woman named Ana, but the affair is fictional (as far as I know anyway). John Billington (the elder) was in fact hung for the murder of John Newcomen, and claimed before his hanging that he was an innocent man even though there was bad blood between the two men.  This week we meet Francis Billington, son of John and Elinor Billington. The year is 1644.

Image Source: WeHeartIt.com
Francis walked slowly in the woods along the frozen river, looking for maple trees to which he could attach a bucket and collect the sweet sap that would be boiled down to make the syrup and sugar he sold to make a living.  It had been a harsh winter, and he had become disillusioned with life in the New World and had lost interest lately in doing much more than just what was necessary to keep food on their table.

His mother had passed away the winter before, and he felt lonelier than ever, with no one he could confide in.  It had been 17 years since his older brother, John [the younger], had died, and 14 since his father.  Although he had been married to Christian for ten years, she had her hands full with their six children and was pregnant yet again.  His shoulders momentarily shrugged as a sob escaped him, thinking of the three children they had lost early on in her pregnancies.

Life may have been hard if they had stayed in England, but it wouldn't have been as harsh.  They might have stayed in a city with a respectable physician or midwife, but he knew it was naive of him to think that it could have been better.  He might have been able to find work or become a tradesman, but he also might never have met Christian.  As difficult as it was to provide for his family, the highlight of each evening was coming home to his children.

He stopped as he heard the sound of something dashing through the woods just ahead of him.  In the fading light, he knew he had just one chance to possibly shoot a deer which would provide meat for them for the next month.  Dropping to one knee in the snow, he quietly drew his muzzleloader free and filled it with gunpowder and buckshot.
~ * ~
Christian jumped as she heard the sound of a gunshot in the distance, shaking hot wax onto her hand from the candle she was using to light the others in their crowded cabin.  The burning wax caused her to drop the candle, catching a rag doll on the floor that belonged to one of the younger children on fire.  She screamed and grabbed a pail of water near the fireplace, throwing it onto the flames before they could grow any larger. 

Sobbing she fell to the floor, feeling the baby within her give a superkick to her ribs as her emotions got the best of her once more that day.  She was grateful to feel the baby was still alive, but her exhaustion and emotions were beginning to wear on her.

The oldest three children came running from the one bedroom that all six of them shared.

"What is it, Mother? What happened?"

She pulled the children to her on the now muddy dirt floor of the cabin, frightening them to begin crying as well.

"Nothing, dears.  Ma just had a scare, and I dropped a candle.  It caught sissy's doll on fire.  Help me to clean up and get some hot water started for supper.  Perhaps Father was able to shoot something to put in the water for dinner tonight."

"I hope so," whined the youngest of the three, "I'm so 'ungry. If I have to eat another potato this week, I fear I shall become one!"

Laughing now, Christian pulled the children closer to her, giving a kiss to the top of each of their heads.

"Let us pray then that God will provide us with something other than potatoes for supper!"

Thursday, November 16, 2017

imho ...

In My Humble Opinion ...

Image Source: WeHeartIt.com
Art has been in the news a great deal lately, with auctions of paintings by 'the Masters' going for outrageous amounts of money to private buyers.

A little known Leonardo da Vinci painting sold for a record-breaking $450 million.

Laboureur dans un Champ by Van Gogh sold for $81.3 million "with fees."

Chagall's Les Amourex sold for $28.4 million.

Image Source: WeHeartIt.com
Why someone would want to "hoard" a painting, that by all rights should be hanging in a museum for everyone to see?  Art is meant to be shared and hiding it away in a private home, or a bank vault is just selfish.  Especially art that is created by those we now consider to be a part of all of our cultural histories.

The price that is being paid for the art is also something I just cannot comprehend.  If you have that much money to spend on one piece of art ... why aren't you doing more to help humanity?  How many homeless and starving could be housed and fed with $28.4 million?  How many diseases could be cured with research financed by $81.3 million?  By $450 million?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Wednesday's Words ...

Words for Wednesday is provided by a number of people and has become a movable feast. This month, prompts can be found here: Elephant's Child. Essentially the goal is to encourage us to write. Each week we are given a choice of prompts: which can be words, phrases, music or an image. What we do with those prompts is up to us: a short story, prose, a song, a poem, using all or some, or ignoring them.

(Thanksgiving is celebrated in the United States this month, and I have a special connection to those first pilgrims. My great-great-etc-great-grandfather,George Soule, came over on the Mayflower as an indentured servant and kept the log on the Mayflower. So this month my words will be drawn by my imagination of what it must have been like for those early immigrants who did not face as much political whoo-ha as immigrants do today.)


Image Source: WeHeartIt.com
Ellie shifted in the stocks to try to get more comfortable in the agonizing cold.  Sleet had been falling for hours and she shivered uncontrollably.  The whipping she'd suffered had laid bare her back, tearing at her dress, and none of the council had attempted to cover her up when the rains had started.  While the cold was almost unbearable, it at least numbed the wounds and welts on her back.

Accusing John Doane of murder had been her attempt to clear the name of her late husband, John Billington, who had been hung for the dramatic killing of John Newcomen in 1630.  She knew he had died an innocent man when she made the discovery that her husband had been sleeping with Doane's wife the very day of Newcomen's murder, but she'd been unable to prove it at the trial.  Now their surviving boy, Francis, would forever be burdened with being the son of a murderer.

"Typical arse, Doane is," she muttered under her breath.

She wished she had a sip of the distinct elderflowers ale she'd made in the summer to warm her.  A noise behind her startled her thoughts.

"Oo's there?"

"Don't matter oo' I is.  I has an offer fer ye that might'n help ye t' clear ye 'usban's name"

The voice sounded familiar, but just the thought of who it might be was completely zany.

"Ann? 'is you, 'hore?"

Ellie heard a gasp, then a rustle of fabric as the person rushed away without saying anything more.  She sighed and shifted again, the anger that now coursed through her stimulating her blood to warm her just a bit.  How dare the very woman her late husband was having an affair with come forward to clear his name!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Wednesday's Words

Words for Wednesday is provided by a number of people and has become a movable feast. This month, prompts can be found here: Elephant's Child. Essentially the goal is to encourage us to write. Each week we are given a choice of prompts: which can be words, phrases, music or an image. What we do with those prompts is up to us: a short story, prose, a song, a poem, using all or some, or ignoring them.

(Thanksgiving is celebrated in the United States this month, and I have a special connection to those first pilgrims.  My great-great-etc-great-grandfather, George Soule, came over on the Mayflower as an indentured servant and kept the log on the Mayflower.  So this month my words will be drawn by my imagination of what it must have been like for those early immigrants who did not face as much political whoo-ha as immigrants do today.)

Ellie thought back to that ill-fated day when the decision had been made to leave their home, family, and friends in England and set out across the ocean for the New World.  Her husband, John Billington, had been offered free passage for his family to the New World, and since he'd had troubles finding work, they had agreed it was a good opportunity for them to leave everything behind and start new.

It had been harder than any of them expected, and there were days when she missed her family more than she had thought she would.  Her thoughts drifted to a letter she had received from her sister not long before they set sail.
Image source: WeHeartIt.com
"Dearest Elinor, I do wish you and John would reconsider leaving England, or at least explain to me why you were so decisive to travel to the New World.  I know you wanted to have your boys educated, but is it really necessary to start all over again under such tenuous conditions?  And with such little notice to your family here in England? Forgive me for saying so, sister dearest, but you are not a young maiden anymore, and I fear for your health and safety.
 "I have also heard stories of that branch of Separatists, and how they will try to unite you with them.  Please promise me that you will stay faithful to the Church of England.  If only for father's sake.  I know that he hasn't spoken to you in many years, but I do know that he thinks of you.  There have been times when I have heard him hum that song he used to sing to you when you were little."
Her thoughts were interrupted by the banging of the door and the sound of her sons arguing.

"It's mine!  I bought it!"

"It doesn't matter!  I'm the oldest, so it's mine!"

She turned to see them wrestling to get something in the door, and finally, both boys fell to the ground with a small hand truck loaded with wood on top of them.

"Mind the floor, ye two ruffians! I jus' swept it neat!  What are ye fightin' o'er?

"I bought this cart fo' a copper coin, an' he says it be his!"

"Well, I'll settl' this fair.  It now b'longs t'yer ma and pa!"


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Words on Wednesday ...

Words for Wednesday is provided by a number of people and has become a movable feast. This month, prompts can be found here: Elephant's Child. Essentially the goal is to encourage us to write. Each week we are given a choice of prompts: which can be words, phrases, music or an image. What we do with those prompts is up to us: a short story, prose, a song, a poem, using all or some, or ignoring them.

(Thanksgiving is celebrated in the United States this month, and I have a special connection to those first pilgrims.  My great-great-etc-great-grandfather, George Soule, came over on the Mayflower as an indentured servant and kept the log on the Mayflower.  So this month my words will be drawn by my imagination of what it must have been like for those early immigrants who did not face as much political whoo-ha as immigrants do today.)

She adjusted her bedraggled hair and tried to hide the stubborn pieces that insisted on being unwieldy under her bed cap, without much luck.  She felt ancient and frail, and much older than her 50 something years.

Someone had been pounding on the door, and she had been aroused out of the first good sleep she'd had since the Mayflower had landed.

"Wha'der want?" she yelled at the door.

"Open up, Ellie!  It's me and it's cold as a witch's tit out here!"

"Oh, and ye know how cold that is, do ye?"

"Shut it and jus' let me in, would ya?"

She opened the door just a narrow crack.  "Wha's in it fer me?"

"I found some o' them herbs ya been needin' fer ya pain.  If'n ya let me in by the fire, I'll giv'em to ya."

She looked him up and down with her good eye as if to evaluate whether or not he was telling the truth.

"If ye lyin' to me, I'll push ye in the fire I will."

"I ain't lyin' Ellie, lemme in!"

She pulled the door open just far enough to let him in, then quickly closed it against the cold.  "The fires got low, ye'll have to throw some coal on it.  Wheres the herbs ye promised me?"

"Here ya go, ya old biddy.  Ya fortunate I membered that ya needed them whens I saw them in the garden."

She pulled a dusty pot from off the wooden table and ladled water into it.  The handful of herbs were dry but she could still smell the power in them.  They would make a tea that would help to ease the pain in her joints, but only for a day or two.

"Ye di'nt steal them, did ye?  If they catch ye pilfering from the garden, ye know the gov'ner'll execute ye."

"In't the garden fo' the good of all?"

"Tis. Buts t' be shared by all, not pilfered f'one."

She set the pot on the coals closest to her and slowly stirred the herbs.  There were times when she wondered if leaving England had been the right thing to do.  Even more, times when she'd been so sick on the ship's crossing that she'd thought it would have been easier to just slip away with the waves.  But the hope for a new life had been stronger than the scurvy and seasickness.

None of them had been prepared for the hardships once they landed, however.  So many had died shortly after arriving, and she'd done what she could to help the others, mixing tinctures and teas with wild herbs that she was familiar with.  Winter had been harsher than it had been in England, and by the time the first spring buds were showing on the trees, they'd lost more than half of the hopeful settlers who'd set out from England just seven months before.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Wednesday's Words ...

The creature had caught him by surprise.  He'd been hunting that afternoon for a whitetail buck to fill their freezer for winter.  Even though he'd had his rifle, he'd been unable to fight back as powerful arms wrapped around him and pulled him off his feet.  He had screamed in agony as he felt his ribs break with the pressure, then everything had gone black.

When he had finally regained consciousness, he had found himself deep in a dark part of the ravine that he'd never been before.  He was covered in mud mixed with blood and his clothes had been nearly shredded off of him, offering him no protection to the surrounding bushes and branches with sharp thorns that tore at his bare skin with every move he made.

He had no idea how much time had passed.  Reaching instinctively for the wrist that held his watch, he screamed in agony as his ribs moved and the broken edges grated together.  He struggled to breathe and knew that his lungs had been punctured.  Darkness closed around his mind again as he realized he wasn't alone in the brush, and the pain in his leg was coming from something gnawing on him.  His last thoughts were of her alone in the house with their son, and how he wished he could protect them from what was coming.
~*~
Her hand froze on the doorknob to Hayden's room as the shadow at the end of the hall slowly moved towards her.  She held her breath, and in the silence, she could hear the pendulum of the grandfather clock downstairs as it swung back and forth.
*~*
The children at Hayden's school continued to tease him with tales of the haunted ravine that was home to an invisible monster that ate people.  He hadn't told his mother, or his teachers, about the notes that would find their way into his desk or locker.  Instead, he had continued to hide away in the library, reading everything he could find about the history of the small town called Tingler that was on the far side of the ravine, and of the house, they lived in.  He made notes in a small leather diary he had found in the back of his father's desk that still smelled of his father's aftershave.

Hayden had overheard the sheriff telling his mom that there were five people who had been killed, but there really had been seven.  The first two were a father and son who had been hunting in the woods in the late 1800's, long before the town of Tingler even had a name or a sheriff.  They were one of the first families that had settled there, immigrating from Germany after the Franco-Prussian War with other German families who had wanted new lives.  Their last name had been Engler, and the father, Theodoric, had been the older brother of Adolf Engler, the famous German botanist.

When they had disappeared, Theodoric's wife, Ana, in her broken English and thick German accent, had tried to get help from the church in a neighboring town.  They had misunderstood her and thought she was telling them that she needed to find Theodore Ingler, and the name Tingler, for T. Ingler, had been given to the small community of German farmers when they had eventually given up hope of ever finding them.
~*~
The shadow stopped at the edge of where the light from the hall lamp ended and sighed. As she quietly and shakily exhaled and inhaled, the shadow sighed again only this time it sounded as if it said her name.

"Bethany..."

She froze.

"Andrew?"

"Yesssssss."

A tear rolled down her cheek.

"I don't...."

Hayden screamed for her again, this time louder than before, just as another flash of lightning and an instantaneous crack of thunder filled the house.  The power went off again, and suddenly the temperature in the hall dropped dramatically.  She shivered as she heard Andrew's voice whisper right next to her ear.

"Open the door."

She turned the handle and pushed the door open.  Hayden burst from the room and into her arms in the darkness.  She felt cold air rush past both of them and the door slammed shut behind Hayden.  Feeling for the wall by the stairs, she carefully carried him down to the kitchen where she found the flashlight she kept in a drawer.  Turning it on, she looked at Hayden.  One of his pajama sleeves was torn and he had deep scratches on his arm.  A pants leg was also torn in the back where it looked like something had tried to stop him from leaving the room, but his leg was fine.

Something thudded on the upstairs floor, and against Hayden's bedroom door.  An inhuman howl filled the air.  She dropped the flashlight but quickly grabbed it again before it rolled too far.  Hayden whimpered and shook with fear.

Grabbing the first aid kit from under the kitchen sink, she carried him to the door to the root cellar.  It was still the original heavy and solid oak door that had been put in when the house was new.  The root cellar was just as it had been back then, a small room lined with shelves and without electricity.  They had cleaned and dusted it, repaired shelves as they needed, but had decided it would be a good tornado shelter that could double as a cold pantry and wine cellar.  The only changes they had made were to add a vent to the outside for fresh air, and several heavy slide locks onto the inside of the door to keep it securely closed in case of a tornado.  Now she closed the door tightly behind her and slid the latches into place.
*~*
The beast had lunged towards the soul as the door opened but had missed its mark.  Before it could try again, a cold shadow had stepped between the beast and the soul and the door had slammed shut.  Suddenly the beast was flying across the room, shoved with an anger and coldness it had never felt before.

"No more!" the shadow whispered fiercely.

The beast swung blindly in the darkness, and the cold anger pushed it again, this time to the floor.  Struggling to get away from the shadow, it howled wildly as it was thrown against the door by another larger shadow that had appeared out of the darkness.  "Nicht mehr!"  The beast's breath hung in the air as the temperature continued to drop.

"No more!" the shadow whispered again, this time echoed by seven other voices.  "No more!" they chanted, pushing and hitting the beast with their fierce anger.  For the first time in its very long life, the beast felt something unfamiliar.  

Fear.  

It howled again, swinging its arms and backing to the window, trying to get away.  Suddenly it was outside the window, suspended in the air by the shadows as they pulled the beast higher and higher above the storm clouds to where the sun was just beginning to rise.
~*~
Bethany listened at the door as she heard the howling and the storm fade into the distance. The candle she had lit to save the flashlight batteries dripped hot wax onto her hand and she inhaled sharply with the pain.  Hayden clung to her leg.

"Is it gone?"

"I think so, honey.  I can see sunlight under the door.  I think it's morning."

"Can we wait a little longer just to be sure?"

"If you want, but not much longer.  I want to call the sheriff."
*~*
The K9 and equestrian search teams had found a cave deep in the ravine, surrounded by thorned branches and bushes keep it hidden.  The skeletal remains of a man and boy were found in it, along with the remains of bears, elk, and a large moose.  They had tried to identify the human remains through DNA and missing person reports, but it had been Hayden who had suggested that they might be the first two victims, Theodoric Engler, and his son, Berend.

Fire crews from both sides of the ravine had burned the brush away from the cave, and it had been sealed permanently with concrete.  A memorial service had been held for the Englers in the town of Tingler after their remains were shipped to Germany and buried next to that of Ana Engler and her other children where they had returned a year after the disappearances.  As Bethany and Hayden were ushered into a pew at the back of the church, she thought the afternoon shadows seemed darker there than they were at the front of the church.
~*~
In the spring, Bethany decided it was time to repaint Hayden's bedroom and he had picked out a slate blue color.  During the day when he was at school, she prepped the walls, putting up tape that would divide the top half of the room to be painted, and the lower half for white wainscoting panels.  She taped around the door and window frames, painted corners and around the trim so that when he came home the two of them could paint the walls together.  It brought back happy memories of when she and Andrew had painted the room a soft green before Hayden had been born.
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As she was washing out the brushes one evening while Hayden took a bath, she was startled to hear a tapping at the kitchen window.  In the dusky light, as the sun was almost set, she could make out the shape of a raven at the window, tapping the glass with its beak.  She turned off the water and went to the kitchen door that opened onto the wraparound porch.  As she stepped outside, the raven flew off into a nearby tree and Bethany stood to watch the sunset as the shadow of the tree grew longer and longer across the porch.

She shivered suddenly as the temperature dropped and wrapped her arms around herself.  The wind picked up and rustled in the leaves left from last fall.

"Bethany...."

The whisper was so faint she almost thought she was imagining things, but realized that the tree's shadow wrapped around her was darker than the rest of the shadow.

"Andrew."

"I love you, Bethany.  So much. Hayden too.  You'll be safe now.  Forever."  

"I love you too, Andrew.  I always will.  Thank you for saving our son."

"I'll be here watching out for both of you.  Always."