Here is the second installment of The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony. Every Wednesday, I am putting up a new chapter of the book for free. Eventually, after another twenty-one weeks, you will be able to read the entire book for free.
If you missed the first chapter, you can find it here. If you just can’t wait to read the rest, there are links to purchase the book in many different formats at the end of the chapter.
From the moment Henrietta began to talk to Mendleson, she knew she could grow to like him, perhaps more. The incident with his wife was a barrier, of course. He obviously hadn’t recovered from it and blamed himself. Her heart thumped in her chest, even when he asked questions that strayed too close to subjects she’d rather not think about.
But he owned a warmth and a protectiveness that appealed to her.
If only she didn’t know how her life would end. If only she hadn’t learned it the day she had come into her Sight. If only I could live with the ignorance of the unsighted.
When he asked the question of her, asked if it would have been possible to save his wife, she’d pulled away. She knew then that he still held tight to the memory of that tragedy. She knew nothing good could come of continuing the conversation.
But he reached up and touched her hand, like she’d longed for him to do, but had refused to allow.
Her normal vision clouded, and her Sight took over at his touch. What she saw horrified her.
The monolith stands, stark and black, blotting out the night sky. The wraiths are on the plateau, coming for her. Coming to take her Sight. Coming to take her life.
A man appears and shouts something she can’t hear. A man that looks strangely like Mendleson. The wraiths turn and converge on him. Circling.
They pounce. She thinks she should hear him screaming, but hears only silence. They come away from him, and turn back to her.
He is laying on the ground, not moving.
The contact with Mendleson’s hand broke, ending the vision, but she had seen enough. The vision had begun like the one she saw when she gained her Sight. But now, it was different.
“Here,” he said. “let me help you up.”
The horror of what she’d just seen washed over her. “No,” she said. “Stay away from me.” She couldn’t let him die, not for her. “Stay away.”
She scrambled to her feet and ran. People were looking, but she didn’t care.
“Henrietta,” she heard him yell. “Stop, I’m sorry!”
She ignored him. She couldn’t let her vision happen. It was the wrong vision. It couldn’t be true. She didn’t want to be responsible.
I should never have come here.
She ran all the way home in the darkness.
When she shut the door behind her, she locked it, then lit a candle. She pulled her shades, then sat down at her table to think.
“How could this happen,” she asked herself. “How could he insert himself into my vision. It was my vision!”
She could only come up with one answer—she’d done it herself by coming to this town. “I should not have tried to avoid my fate.”
She looked around the small home that had been hers for the last three years. Nicknacks, pots, and books lined her walls, overseen by a portrait of her grandmother. She put her head in her hands and tried to focus on what she should do. Tried to evoke another vision.
Her sight left her empty.
“Fine,” she said. “I know what I should do, now. I know what I did wrong. I’ll correct it. He doesn’t deserve that fate.”
She wrote a note for the grocery boy to take with him when he came. She knew what the vision meant and knew what her lack of visions for others meant. Her time was near. She couldn’t see beyond her death. The end of the summer or early autumn.
She got up from the table and started sifting through her things, noting what she’d have to take and what she’d have to leave behind. She wouldn’t be able to take everything.
After a moment, she grimaced. Do I really need to take anything?
But she couldn’t make herself leave it all. Like she’d told Mendleson. Fates could be changed. Even mine?
* * *
Mendleson lay in bed thinking about his encounter with Henrietta, and no matter how he turned it over in his head, he couldn’t figure out what he’d done wrong. He’d only touched her hand, and she had pulled away violently. It was an innocent gesture, and she had reacted all out of proportion to it.
So why do I feel like I wronged her?
He couldn’t come up with any answers.
And the look on her face. It was like I’d suddenly turned into a monster.
It puzzled him until he finally fell asleep.
When he woke, he remembered dreams of Henrietta Swooth. Dreams that he didn’t understand. Dreams of her in trouble, running from something dark and foreboding. He remembered chasing after her, but she ran from him, too.
He climbed out of bed, ate a breakfast of bread and bacon, then went out to work his fields. He resolved, while eating, to put Henrietta out of his head. She was a strange woman. He’d thought there might be possibilities with her, but after her reaction to his touch, after she ran away, well maybe he’d been wrong.
He stepped out his front door, but couldn’t help glancing across the lane toward Henrietta’s home. The shades were drawn, and he didn’t see any movement. Don’t be a fool, Mendleson. It’s still early morning.
He went to his barn to get his horse into its harness. As he opened the door, he realized that Henrietta had given him one thing without trying. She’d given him a night free from nightmares of Mirrielle.
The day’s work proved hot and draining. The sun bore down on him, its heat a relentless opponent. He looked up occasionally from his work and didn’t see a sign of her, which was unusual. He often saw her outside in her garden.
But her shades remained shut throughout the day. Even the grocery boy came and delivered sacks of groceries, but he left them on the porch to bake in the sun.
When he finished for the day, he went inside and cleaned himself up. He didn’t know when it happened, but sometime during the day, he’d decided he should go and check on her and apologize for upsetting her. He couldn’t get her out of his head. He hoped an apology would do the trick.
He found himself standing on her doorstep only a little while later. His stomach buzzed with butterflies and his heart thumped in his chest. The woman did something to me. She must have. Yesterday, all he could think of was his wife. Since he’d talked with Henrietta, all he could think of was her.
The groceries still sat on the porch, ensconced in a burlap sacks. Maybe I’ll help carry them in.
He knocked on the door and waited.
A minute passed. Two. He knocked again. More minutes passed.
“Henrietta,” he called out. “Your groceries are out here in the sun.”
He knocked on the door again, then put his ear to it. He heard nothing.
Mendleson gave up after a few minutes more, after it became obvious there was no one home. He told himself not to worry. She just had a call to make in town, or something. It’s not because of you.
He descended the steps from her porch to the stone path that led through her garden to the lane. He turned back to look, and for a moment, he thought he saw one of the shades in the window move slightly. He watched for a bit. When it didn’t move again, he turned back to his own house.
That night passed even slower. He couldn’t get the dream from the night before out of his head. It left him with a feeling that she was in danger. He thought that’s what his dream was telling him.
He tossed and turned until he decided, late in the night, that he would skip his work in the field to try to figure out what happened to Henrietta. She could be safe and hiding from him, or something could have happened. He wouldn’t let the opportunity to protect her pass him by. He wouldn’t let it happen again.
When the morning came, he was up soon after dawn. He ate, then went back to Henrietta’s where he repeated the performance from the previous evening.
He decided to make the journey down to the town and find out if anyone knew of her whereabouts. She could be staying with someone down there just to avoid him.
He saddled his horse and began his ride. A half hour later, he hitched it to a railing outside of the grocer. The smells of the waterfront overwhelmed him, like they always did these days. The fresh salt air, tainted with the strong odor of fish, reminded him of what he’d given up.
The men working the docks cursed loud and incessantly. Mendleson found himself missing the companionship of those men. Of course, the men still working the docks and boats at this time of day were the lazy ones. The better fishermen had already put out to sea for the day. Paulus would be among them.
Mendleson stepped out of the cacophony and into the grocer, who had just opened for the day. The door, when it shut behind him, blocked out most of the noise.
“Mendleson,” said a rotund man who stood behind the counter. “I don’t see you much these days.”
“How are you, Hugh? I don’t have much need to come by.”
“The farming must be treating you well.”
“I’m not hurting for food, though I could use help harvesting it.”
Hugh laughed. “What brings you here?”
Mendleson stepped up to the counter. “What can you tell me about Henrietta Swooth?”
“Why would I know more than you? You live across the way from her.”
“She buys her groceries from you, Hugh.”
Hugh nodded, causing his jowls to shake. “She does buy groceries from me. My boy delivered her order yesterday, as a matter of fact.”
“I saw. They sat on her front porch, and were still there when I woke this morning. She doesn’t answer her door.”
“Well, now. That’s odd.”
“Why is that odd?”
“She sent a note with my boy, asking for me to send for a coach.”
“A coach? Did she leave already?”
Hugh squinted. “Why the sudden interest?”
“We talked the other night at the festival.”
Hugh smiled. “Finally, though I’m not sure why you’d pick her.”
“No, it’s not what you think. I said something. I’m not sure what, and she left, offended. I only want to apologize.”
“That woman is a bit odd. My wife swears by her viewings, though, and she pays on time.”
Mendleson wanted to reach out and slap the grocer. “Did she leave already?”
“What? Oh, why, no. There’s not a coach due for another two days.”
Mendleson slapped the counter.
“Why are you so upset?”
Mendleson couldn’t tell Hugh about the dream. It hardly made sense to Mendleson. “I just want to make sure she’s all right. I just want to apologize. Look, thanks for your help, Hugh. Tell your wife I said hello.”
“It was good to see you down here. I’m sure everything is all right.”
Mendleson left and went in search of the Justice. He’d want the man with him when he entered Henrietta’s home. He couldn’t keep the thought that she was in trouble out of his head.
* * *
“When will that man get the hint and leave me alone?” Henrietta asked her empty room when she saw Mendleson approach her house through the crack in the shades. This time, he had the Justice with him.
For a moment, her heart warmed. It seemed obvious he was worried about her, but when she thought about her vision it only made her more frustrated. How can I get rid of him? His concern would result in his death. She couldn’t allow that.
Whatever she wanted, she couldn’t let him find her now. Time to hide.
She went to the rear of her little home and pulled up the cellar door. She climbed down into the hole, the darkness of her cellar swallowing her up. She could only hope they wouldn’t be too thorough in their search.
She worked herself into a corner, out of the way of the light that would poor through the cellar door when they eventually opened it. I hope there aren’t too many spiders down here.
She heard the door above open, and then the shades. She could tell light flooded the room above as little rays poked down through the floorboards, illuminating the dust that came free with every step the two men made.
A thump landed on the table. Maybe they brought the groceries in.
“Well, it looks like you’re right, Mendleson. Something certainly happened to her. Are you sure she didn’t just go to visit someone?”
“I’m pretty sure,” said Mendleson. “Hugh said his delivery boy brought a message from her. How could he have done that if she wasn’t here? Why wouldn’t she bring in her groceries?”
“What did the message say again?”
“She asked for him to send for a coach.”
“Maybe the coach arrived already,” said the Justice.
“It didn’t. Hugh said there wouldn’t be another coach for two days.”
Two days? I have to pretend to be somewhere else for another two days? She wanted to curse, but held her breath instead. I can wait two days.
“Curious. You didn’t have anything to do with her disappearance, did you?”
“Why would I?” Mendleson said. His voice sounded indignant to Henrietta’s ears. “Why would I come and get you to search for her if I had something to do with it?”
“I just have to ask.”
The Justice walked to the rear of her home where the cellar door was. The door opened, and Henrietta crouched down, trying to make herself as small as possible. She hid her face in her dress.
“Is there a lamp in here?” the Justice asked.
She heard Mendleson moving around in an apparent search for something. He stopped. “How about a candle?”
“That will work.”
Mendleson moved to the cellar door with the Justice. The Justice lowered his hand into the room, followed by his head. He apparently didn’t want to climb down. Henrietta prayed he wouldn’t change his mind and kept herself as still as she could. She also prayed he would hurry. Her legs were starting to cramp.
After a few moments, the Justice withdrew, taking the candle with him. The door shut. “She’s not down there.”
“Then where is she?” Mendleson asked. She could hear the confusion in his voice. It was mixed with something else. Anguish?
It didn’t matter so much, as long as he remained safe and ignorant of where she was.
The two men milled around a bit longer before eventually leaving.
Henrietta stood, rubbing cramps out of her legs. “Two days,” she said softly.
She climbed out of the cellar and shut the door behind her. She brushed herself off, then looked at the table. On it, her groceries waited.
“I can do it,” she said. “I can wait two days.”
If you’ve read this far, and you just have to read the rest right now, you can get the eBook or a really awesome paperback from the following retailers.
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Read Chapter Three