This is the first chapter in our six week short story series Burning the Home of Twisted Blood. It is about the survival of two sisters in the American South during the time of Reconstruction. Enjoy and tell us what you think!
Losha Walters was not a popular woman. In fact, she tended to be shunned by the small Georgian town in which she resided. Her dark blonde hair hung long over her shoulders, lanky and greasy; not proper for a woman of fine standing in 1867. Her clothes had begun to let off a distinct odor from being improperly cleaned, and revealed large blotches of stains. As she slowly meandered down the boardwalk to the town apothecary shop, people avoided her like the plague, and she kept her head hanging low to block out their unforgiving gazes.
Three children lumbered behind her, two boys, brothers with identical sandy brown hair and large amber eyes, and a little girl. The girl was the youngest, still bearing her chubby baby cheeks at the age of four. She had black curly hair and blue eyes, resembling no one else in their family; which provided plenty of gossip in their small town. She would have been considered the most beautiful toddler in town if it weren’t for her continuously runny nose and permanent scowl. The little girl was known for her screaming, biting, fighting tantrums and loose cannon temper. The two brothers loved their little sister and were the only ones, despite their mother, to see her rare cherubic smiles.
The deemed father was William Shurley Walters. He was a tall man, though skinny, who towered over his small wife. He had a reputation for liking his drinks strong, and his women quiet. Losha had met William soon after she turned fifteen. She was a shy girl, born into a violent family, and wanted nothing more than to be swept off her feet by a handsome man. She immediately fell in love with William’s bigger than life personality, naïve enough to believe in his lies of true love. They married a few months later after Losha started to grow around the middle. The ceremony was short, a shotgun wedding, that ended up with the bride in tears, and the groom throwing punches at people in a drunken stupor. Eventually, they settled their family on a 40 acre plot of land a couple of miles outside of town. Their two boys were the spitting image of their father, same build, eyes, hair and even the same stomping walk, but their father’s domineering personality had dulled the boys. They were fidgety youngsters, appearing as nothing more than terrified urchins.
Proud of his Southern heritage, William joined the war fighting for the Confederates and left with the very first regiment out of Georgia. Losha begged him not to go; receiving a goose-egg on her forehead for her worries. She patiently waited for him to return, but the expenses of the farm were more then she could handle, and she was seen making frequent visits to the country merchant, Thomas Dutton about crop liens. After the third visit, Dutton, a fierce man with thick black curly hair and bright blue eyes, abolished all of her debts. Nine months later, Losha gave birth to a squalling baby girl.
Despite the rumors spreading around the small town, Losha remained vigilant in declaring the young girl to be her husband’s daughter. Sadly, or fortuitously, William Shurley Walters never returned home to see his miracle baby girl. He was shot in the back while fleeing battle and given the funeral of a coward by being left to rot. The widow, Losha, who refused to wear all black to mourn, never had to endure the experience of introducing the little girl to her “father.” The family had been pegged as trouble, a spectacle to watch whenever they surfaced from their small farm. Today was one of those rare moments.
“Ma, Shurley is staring at the Drover sisters again.” Thaddeus, the twelve-year-old younger brother drawled slyly. He watched his sixteen-year-old brother’s face grow red out of embarrassment and anger.
Losha clicked her tongue at them in disapproval. “Drover girls ain’t nothin’ but inbred trash boy and you’ll mind to remember that.” She snapped at her eldest, not pausing her strangely slow gait. Shurley looked down at his feet as he walked, his sandy hair flopping over his face and hiding the red growing in his cheeks. Thaddeus smiled broadly, relishing in his victory as younger siblings do until it is time for payback.
“What’s inbred?” Little Fern asked her momma with a confused scowl. Losha glanced down at the child clinging to her skirt and frowned. The girl’s nose had started to run again, leaving a trail of snot down the front of her freshly cleaned dark blue dress. As if oblivious to the problem, Fern made no move to wipe it away.
“Fern! Sakes alive I can’t afford to keep washin’ your clothes.” Losha stopped momentarily, and wiped the girl’s nose with her apron. “I need to get some more medicine for your sister. Go to Mr. Dutton and see if we can charge any more for flour and sugar.” She commanded the boys.
Shurley sulked at the request. “I don’t like goin’ there. Mr. Dutton is a cheat.”
“He’s always asking questions about you, Ma.” Thaddeus added with an uncertain frown.
Losha shuddered slightly. “Take Fern with you. He likes her.”
She handed the little girl over into the care of her brothers and gawked at the striking differences between the brothers and their sister. She sighed long and waved them away. The brothers took the hands of their little sister, and carefully led her across the dirt road to the merchant’s shop. Losha watched them until they were safely inside before brushing her snot slicked apron down. She placed a lanky strand of her once bright blonde hair behind her ear and entered the apothecary.
The man behind the counter was helping someone else with an order of laudanum, but glanced at Losha when she entered. The apothecaries brown eyed gaze wavered with annoyance at the sight of her in his shop. She waited patiently, studying a few hundred brown jars with various names. Finally, the customer left and Losha turned her attention towards the owner.
“I can’t give you any more credit.” He stated matter of fact, turning away from her.
Losha took a deep, shaky breath before responding. “Please, Jackson. Fern is sick again and the crops ain’t doing well this year. I just need one more bottle of the elderberry tonic.”
“It’s always one more Losha! That little one of yours is constantly sick. The bill will just continue to get bigger and bigger. When will you understand that?”
Losha wrung her hands in desperation. “Jack…there…there must be some way that I can pay you.” Jackson turned back towards her, his eyes watching her warily. She brushed her hair back behind her ears and stood tall before him. “I will pay for it however I need.” She said adamantly before lifting her long skirt up above her thighs to show him her skinny, long legs and her lack of any underclothes.
His eyes grazed over her body, taking in the still attractive figure of her hips and the bare curves of her womanhood. He shook his head at her. “No more of that Losha. I’m done sleeping with wretched whores like you. Now cover yourself up and get the hell out of my store!” He growled at her.
Losha’s face flamed in embarrassment, shame and anger. She let her skirt fall, covering herself before sneering at Jackson. “Whore? Who was it to even suggest the exchange of my body for medicine in the first place? You are no great man, Jackson Braxton!”
He shook his head again, giving her a pitiful look that was more insulting then the stinging name from before. Losha wanted to rake her nails across his face, to revel in the feeling of his skin under her unkempt nails and the swell of blood running into the perfectly white shirt he was wearing. Just as she felt like giving into her desires, Thaddeus came bursting into the shop.
The boy was out of breath, his olive skin complexion grey and his eyes wide with terror. Losha cringed as the door to the shop slammed against the wall, knocking a shelf down and sending a few dozen medicine bottles crashing to the floor.
“Dammit boy!” Jackson yelled, advancing Thad from behind the counter.
Losha stepped in between the barreling man and her son. “Don’t you dare touch my son or I will be sure to make a visit to your sweetheart, Daisy Lunlow!”
Jackson stopped midstride, glaring at her. “Get out Losha, and don’t you ever think to come back here.” He hissed at her.
Losha turned, grabbing her son and held him close until they left the store. After they were a good distance away, Losha let go of Thad and began to swat his backside with her hand. The boy yelled and edged away, but she grabbed his hair that was so much like his fathers, and yanked him back.
“Momma stop!” He howled as she let loose her aggravation on the boy, her hand going numb with the force. Suddenly, her arm was aching, her hand was on fire, and large tears were rolling down her face. Losha realized what she was doing and pushed back away from the child, wiping the tears off her face.
Thad continued to cry, his shirt now untucked and hair rustled from where she had smacked him in the head. Losha watched him momentarily, feeling sorry for what she had done but unable to admit her mistake. She looked around at the small group of people that had stopped to watch the town whore beat her fatherless child. She stared them down until the crowd dispersed. “Where is your brother?”
Thad sobbed out a few words that she couldn’t understand. “Stop crying an’ tell me where is your brother and Fern?” Losha snapped at him. Thad straightened himself up, took a deep breath and swallowed. His face was bright red from crying.
“Mr. Dutton wouldn’t…woul…wouldn’t give us nothin’. He took Fern.” He gasped out.
Losha was running for the shop before Thad could tell her any more. Her hair flying, dress a crumbled mess and face gaunt with fear, Losha stormed into the merchant shop with the look of a feral beast in her eyes. She saw Shurley first, his nose busted, left eye swollen shut and blood gushing down the front of him as he lay slumped over against the bulk barrels.
“Oh, Lord!” She screamed at the sight of him, tripping over merchandise in her hurry to get to him.
“LOSHA!” Dutton’s abrasive voice boomed, and she stumbled from the sound. She tripped over the hem of her dress and fell roughly on her knees next to the beaten body of her son. Twirling, she looked up into Dutton’s cold blue eyes. “I haven’t seen you lately. Have you been avoiding me?”
She saw Thad peeking into the open doorway of the shop and she shooed him away while placing herself over the unconscious body of Shurley. “Avoiding you? I can’t imagine why.” She answered him, forcing her voice to remain steady.
Dutton sneered down at her. “Always was a mouthy little bitch.”
She glared at him and looked around the small shop. “Where is my daughter?”
Dutton lifted his eyebrows at that and then laughed. “Come on out little one. Your whore of a mother wants to see you.”
Losha cringed at the word; twice in one day was too much for her spirit to bear. A movement to her left caught her eye as Fern came crawling out from a pile of flour bags. Her black hair was dusted white, her blue eyes round in fear as she stared at her mother in trepidation. “It’s okay, baby.” Losha said, motioning for her to come over. Fern took a few hesitant steps forward and then scurried back afraid. Losha frowned and felt a shadow pass over her. She looked up as Dutton grabbed her throat with one of his massive hands.
Losha struggled against the vice grip as he pulled her up from her position on the floor and slammed her against a wall. Small bags of herbs tumbled to the floor around her. She kept her eyes on Fern as the little girl watched the spectacle with wide eyed innocence. Dutton repositioned himself so that his body was parallel to hers with his forearm pressing against her throat. His other hand roamed down, between her legs. She struggled against him, doing her best to push his 200 pound body off of her 120 pounds.
“D…don…don’t!” She choked out. “Fern!”
Dutton stopped, his eyes glancing over at the identical blue eyes of the little girl. “With a mother like you? What do you expect?” He breathed against her cheek. Hot tears tumbled down her face as his hand went under her skirt. His face registered with delight at her lack of under garments.
“What do you want? Please! What do you want?” Losha gasped as he roughly played with her. The movement of his hand stopped. He pushed his hips against her so that she could feel his arousal.
“Only one thing will stop me now.” He whispered to her with ragged breath. “I want the farm.”
Losha blinked in surprise. “What?!”
Dutton smiled wolfishly at her. “I have been meaning to get my own place.”
Losha’s eyes focused on a movement behind him, and Dutton turned his head just in time to see a shovel slam into his temple. Shocked, Dutton let Losha crumble to the floor and grabbed his head in pain. Shurley had woken up during the fray between Dutton and Losha; his anger overtaking him as the man abused her. Blood was still dripping from his nose as Shurley braced himself, and took another swing at Dutton, this time only producing a glancing blow to the man’s shoulder.
Losha used the distraction to grab Fern and scrambled away from Dutton. She yelled for Shurley to follow her as she ran towards the exit of the shop. Fern had wrapped her legs around her mother, and was wailing loudly in her arms.
“Get back here!” Dutton screamed after them. Losha knew there was no way they could out run him. She stumbled into the sunlight and forced herself to move forward. She tripped off the boardwalk, onto the dirt road and looked back to make sure Shurley was close.
“Please, please!” She cried, begging anyone, anything to save them from the red faced, bellowing man emerging from the store behind her stumbling boy. She turned around to face Dutton, grabbing Shurley and shoving him behind her. “Stop!” She screamed.
Dutton didn’t even pause in his attack as his fist met the right side of her face. Her eye and jaw exploded with pain. She yelled and fell to the ground, Fern tumbling into the dirt with a piercing wail. Losha reached for her daughter before a jolting kick to her ribs knocked the breath out of her lungs and she curled up to protect herself. She knew another hit was coming; her head was throbbing, her mind threatened to sink into unconsciousness. She closed her eyes, waiting for the next blow.
BANG! The boom of a shotgun rang out right behind Losha causing her to flinch at the sound. She heard Fern scream again, and forced herself to look at the shooter. Her eyes went wide and filled with tears the moment she saw the red-headed woman standing above her with a gun pointed directly at Dutton’s head. Losha’s miracle had finally arrived.