Willa gets married and leaves the community only to return some time later, after running away from her new home. Her family and friends are horrified when they learn about how Willa was treated while she was away from home, and a new friend wants desperately to help Willa get justice for her mistreatment.
What horrors awaited Willa Stevens when she left home? Find out in The Beginning. $3.99 (See excerpt below.)
Excerpt from The Beginning
The Cemetery Hill Series Part 1
A Tales from the Mountain Story
By Shannon L. Buck
For Sheriff Jones: Willa’s Story
“I’ll tell you what happened, but you must promise never to go there.” She looked pleadingly at the sheriff. “They would kill anyone who went, and I couldn’t live with that. They are sick people. They’re crazy. I couldn’t even really tell you where they are. It took me weeks to find my way home.”
She took a drink and went on. “When we left, things were normal. Bobby was being sweet and pointing out the pretty scenery. I wasn’t very interested in the scenery, though. I was listening to his truck radio, and playing with the knob on it. I liked the music so much, I just wanted to hear all of the stations.” There was a slight smile on her face, and a dreamy look in her eye.
“Anyway, at some point, Bobby turned off the radio and told me that we were almost there. I looked up, and all I could see were trees and underbrush all around us. I’d never seen so much green all at once, and we live in the woods. The trees were so close to the truck on both sides, that I didn’t think it was really a road that we were on.
We soon went around a bend, and there was a small opening. There were three cabins in the woods around the opening, but you wouldn’t be able to see the cabins from above. The area above each was mangled with tree branches.” She took another drink.
“I don’t know how long we drove, but it took us a long time to get there. I remember feeling tired when we finally arrived.
There were all of the children that they had, sitting on the ground watching us. Those kids don’t hardly ever talk, Mama, and they never play.” Mildred put her hand over Willa’s and patted it. “It’s so sad. I wish I could have brought them home with me…” Her voice trailed off for a moment. Willa loved children and felt sorry for the ones she’d left behind.
“We have simple cabins here,” she continued. “They are not fancy. But I could tell right off that these cabins were in disrepair, and not as nice as ours. They all had big knives, axes, and the like hanging on the outside walls, as well as animal skins and heads. It gave me the willies.” She shivered. “And there was a weird smell about when we got out of the pick-up. Maybe it was from the furs. I don’t know.”
“We didn’t have our own bedroom because everyone slept on mattresses on the floor in one room. That’s all it was, just one room for eating and sleeping for everyone, not just his parents like it is here. This was hard, and very uncomfortable for me.” Willa looked away, and said, “I learned that first night, though. Just do what he wants, when he wants.”
Looking at her father, she went on. “Life was hard. It seemed that I was there to take over most of his mother’s work. She was ailing. I don’t know what with. His sister, Carol Lee, was already taking over his grandmother’s work, who was having a hard time getting around. Carol Lee and I cooked and cleaned inside, and did whatever his mother and grandmother needed.” Now she looked at her mother, “Not like how we all help each other with the chores here.
His father and grandfather hunted, and he was usually with them or fishing. He also cleaned what they all caught and cut wood. I overheard some talk of bootleggin’.”
They all took a moment for a sip of their tea before Willa continued. She had to stop talking for a moment. “Carol Lee and I also had to carry buckets of water from the creek. It was a long distance from the cabins, at least an hour. But we had to go twice a day, and we each had to bring back two heavy buckets of water at once. I don’t know why they didn’t have a well. It would have made things so much easier.”
She dropped her eyes when she said, “They didn’t have outhouses, either. You had to go in the woods. I hated that, especially when it was cold.
Soon my shoes had holes in them, and I couldn’t wear them any longer. It was so hard to do all of the chores and stuff without shoes, especially after it started snowing.”
After a pause, she continued, “That family is so weird, Papa. They have children with their own family! Can you believe that?” Her eyes were wide as she told them this. “I never heard of such a thing before. Poor Carol Lee is only sixteen, and she already has three babies. I don’t know which men are the fathers, but they all make her be with them. Bobby wouldn’t let me help her, and I cried so hard. Even he was with her when I was there.” Willa had tears in her eyes at this point.
“When mud season was over, Bobby was supposed to bring me home for a visit. He had promised that I could visit when the weather was good, and I was very upset when he said that he wasn’t going to bring me after all. I had waited so long, and I missed you all so much. I just wanted to come home.” looking at her mother with the saddest eyes, she went on. “I had planned to stay when I got here. I knew that Papa wouldn’t make me go back when he found out what it was like there. Right, Papa?” She asked, shifting her gaze to him.
“That’s right, honey. I would’ve helped you,” he said, choking down a sob.
“I cried so much there. I began writing things in my journal. I wrote about the things that they did to each other, and with each other, and how I just wanted to come home and see everyone here. I wrote that I would send help for Carol Lee and her babies. They didn’t know I had the journal at first, but when they found out about it they started hurting me real bad.” Anger flashed across the sheriff’s face as she glanced at him.
“His mother found the journal ‘cause she was looking through my bag. She couldn’t read, but Bobby sure could. He was so angry! He tore all of the pages out and then ripped them up and threw them in the fireplace. Then he hit me real hard. That night, he and his father and grandfather sent Carol Lee and her babies away, and Bobby’s mother and grandmother. They had the women send his uncles and brothers over.”
Willa started to cry, and it took a moment for her to be able to continue. “They had me make dinner for all of them, then the scariest thing happened. Bobby leaned toward me like he was going to kiss me, then he bit the skin of my cheek right off!” She was crying again, which she did off and on throughout the rest of the story. “I couldn’t believe it. All I could do was scream and scream.” A sobbed escaped her mother, as tears spilled down her face.