“Sweet mother of God, child! Say something!” Cy’s mother slapped Mary then clasped her hands together.
“You haven’t spoken for days!” Her aged jowls trembled and there was no mistaking the panic in her eyes.
Mary held tightly to the bar of the holding cell and shifted her gaze from Cy towards Mother Anders. She lifted her free hand to cover her cheek and calm the stinging.
The sheriff had stepped out of the building when the Anders family arrived. He assured them that he’d be right outside and they would be safe. Cy’s father was planted on a chair by the furthest wall. His elbows were on his knees and he held his head in his hands. Mary could see only the top of his head and she fleetingly wondered what he might be thinking.
It was no secret that the town was restless and on every corner and every front porch and every stool in the town tavern, there was talk of people taking the law into their own hands.
“Son, I don’t know how we’re going to do it, but we’ll get this sorted out.” Mother Anders pressed her face into the space between the bars and closed her eyes. “I know you didn’t do anything and your father knows you are innocent and if this silly wife of yours would speak up, everyone would know that you had nothing to do with this.” She turned her attention back towards Mary and dropped her hands from the bars.
“This is all your fault!” A tiny droplet of saliva landed on Mary’s chin and she wiped it away with the back of her hand.
“If you had managed your family properly, girl, then Cy wouldn’t have gotten a wild hair for
“Mary? Please…for God’s sake talk to me. They’re going to kill me unless you do something, unless you tell them I didn’t do it,” Cy pleaded.
“It’s no use, Cy. This girl is useless. She’s always been useless. Never done you a lick of good and never will. Your father will take care of this and you can come home with us. There’ll be no more talk of killing or
Mary gazed gently at Cy and held back tears as she thought of her home and all the dreams that she’d lost over the years. Things would not be fine. Not ever. How had it all come to this? There would be no escape from this nightmare. Not in this town or the next town or the town after that. She would never have the husband or the family she dreamed of.
Mary turned to leave. Cy and his mother paused and shifted their attention from each other to Mary as they watched her shuffle across the room towards the front door.
“Where are you going?”
Mary stopped and turned around to smile softly at Cy.
“Why… I’m going home.”
“Don’t mind her, Cy. Let her go. We are a family and we can handle this as a family. She’s not part of this family. Especially now that she’s turned her back on you and won’t lift a finger to right this wrong. I never liked her. Remember, Cy? Remember how I told you she’d never be any good for you? She’s the one that should be inside this cell, not you and I will die making sure that she pays for taking you away from me!”
“Ma, shut up!”
“Don’t talk to me like that! I’m your mother and I’m the only one you got now. There ain’t no love in the world like a mama’s love and that love, not hers, is going to save you and keep you here in Midvalley.
Mary heard the arguing muffle as she closed the door behind her. She looked back through the glass as Cy’s father, who was still planted on the chair, turned his head to the side just long enough for his eyes to meet Mary’s as she walked past the window of the sheriff’s office towards home.
Mary rocked in the chair by the parlor stove until it was dark and thought about Cy. She didn’t much care what happened to him but she was angry enough to let her mind wander and fantasize, almost gleefully, about what people would say about him when she was gone. Oh, the chaos would be sweet. Would they say he drove her to madness? Surely they would become even more enraged towards him when they learned how despondent his wife was over the loss of their child…when they learned that she had stopped speaking altogether and didn’t seem quite right in the head any longer. She could almost taste the wild stories that would spread about him. Serve him right, she thought.
She stood up and propped one of her feet up on the seat of the rocking chair.
Mary would be the perfectly distraught mother and no one would ever know what really happened as long as she kept her pretty little mouth shut.
She grabbed the back of the rocking chair and brought her other foot up to the seat. There was an awkward moment as she caught her balance and stretched upwards toward the ceiling beam.
She could see the headlines. Desperate mother. Monster father. It was the perfect way to get back at him and make him pay for the love and affection he had robbed her of.
One single tear caught in the inner corner of her eye let loose and fell as she slipped the rope around her neck and stepped off the chair.