Burning Bridges

Slowly she walked up the path toward the cabin. She had not been there since that night and with each step she felt her legs grow weaker.

“Mary, are you alright?”

She forced a smile. “Of course. It’s just I haven’t been out here since he…” She couldn’t finish her sentence.

“If it hurts you too much I can fetch it myself.”

She shook her head and kept walking. They reached the steps and for a moment Mary thought that she would be able to do this. Perhaps this would be the first step towards overcoming what happened and to beginning again. But when she reached the top step she froze, a wave of nausea coursing through her. She closed her eyes and all she could see was him and the way he looked at her before he pulled the trigger. She quickly sat down on the step and put her head in her hands.

“I can’t…I…I thought I could but…”

“It’s okay…I just need a razor. I can get it myself. Will you be all right out here?”

She nodded. “It’s beside the wash basin in the bedroom, on the vanity.”

Alex continued on, wondering why his little sister was acting so strangely. This pain went beyond the loss of a husband. He opened the door and gasped when he saw the interior. There was broken furniture and blood stains on the floor. He looked back at Mary then back inside the cabin. My God, what happened here?

He walked inside and quickly retrieved his shaving kit then returned quickly to her. He listened intently as she told him everything that happened; from being held captive by her husband, the rape, all the way up to her husband Jeb’s suicide.

Alex’s hands were bald into fist where they rested on his knees. His emotions were so mixed that she found difficult to read his expression.

He didn’t say anything after she finished her story and she waited in fear of what he would think of her.

“Dear God,” he said finally and stood up shaking his head. “Oh my God.”


He came to where she sat and knelt beside her. He took her hands in his and stared at them. He tried to pick through the thoughts that streamed through his head. All he could picture was the young girl, the little sister that he left first three years ago. How could anything so horrible have happened to her? He left her that day a wide-eyed young girl with a bright future and came home to a damaged woman that had seen more horrors in three years time than a woman twice her age.

His eyes watered as he looked up at her. Then he turned her hands over so that he palms faced upward. His eyes found the scars where the leather straps had dug into her skin. She pulled her hands from his grasp and began clearing the dishes from the table.

“Oh Mary, I’m so sorry. I should’ve been here.”

“You can’t blame yourself for what happened to me.”

“No, you’re right. But I can sure do something about this now.”

Alex ran to the barn and soon returned with a barrel of kerosene. She starred at him in stunned silence as he also retrieved a bale of hay.

He didn’t say a word to her as he took the hay into the structure and scattered it throughout the interior. He ended it with a trail out onto the porch and down the steps. He then began trickling the kerosene over the line he made with the hay and again disappeared inside with it. When he returned he tore a strip from his tattered shirt and wrapped it around a stick and dipped it into the kerosene barrel.

It was then that he looked at her. She was still stunned, her eyes locked onto the torch as he lit it.

“This cottage has been cursed since the day we built it. Are you ready to make them nightmares disappear?”

She still couldn’t make herself speak. But a sudden breeze whipped around her, carrying the sweet smell of the cracker roses from their mother’s rose garden. She wasn’t sure at first, thinking that perhaps it was just her imagination, but she thought she heard her mother’s voice; ever so softly carried upon the wind. She closed her eyes and saw her, as if she were standing right in front of her. She looked just as she had when she was alive.

“Now Mary Lou,” the apparition said. Her voice was melodic and beautiful like the gentle whisper of the wind. “What have I always told ye?”

I don’t know mama.

“We are in bondage to that which overcomes us. Acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune.”

Then she was gone.

Mary took the torch from her brother and lowered it to the trail of hay and kerosene. She took her brother’s hand as they watched the little cabin catch fire and it was soon fully engulfed in flames. Mary felt a certain wave of easiness pass over her. It felt as if a weight had been lifted from her chest and she could breathe again.

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