This is a short story written in response to the photo prompt from Sue Vincent last Thursday.
I hadn’t seen the house in seventy years. A lifetime. I stared at the ravages of time: stone walls still standing, but roof collapsed and weeds brought by the wind finding a home in pockets of the structure. For a brief moment, I saw it as it had been when I was a little girl. Tidy, neat, with its red slate roof intact…flowers growing in a plot by the front door, vegetables in a garden to the side, smoke wafting from the chimney, and three red-haired children running in and out the door. The sound of my Mam’s voice coming from within, “Mind your sisters, Siobhan. Don’t let them go down by the river.”
There was magic in those days, when Da came home from the fields and we all joined hands in prayer before a hearty meal, with stories and laughter for dessert. Then our lives took another road. Da died and Mam remarried to keep us all together. I never called him Da, that brute of a man, who beat our Mam and stole all the sunshine from our house. We learned to be quiet, to obey without question, to endure the whippings when we didn’t. Until, until…I found him on top of my youngest sister, grunting his desire over her screams.
Mam never said a word when she came through the door and saw him lying on the floor, blood seeping from his crushed skull. I was standing beside him, an unmoving stone, holding a log from the fireplace. My sister sat on the bed, shaking, wrapped in a blanket to cover her nakedness.
We buried him deep in the woods, the four of us dragging his body on a blanket to the hole Mam had dug. There were questions about where he’d gone, and under a cloud of suspicion, we were separated – I to serve in a great manor as a scullery maid, my sisters and mother to the workhouse. Mam died the next year of consumption, but my sisters survived. We lived.
I bent over, leaning on my cane, feeling the bones in my back cracking as I picked up a stone. I threw it at the house. Propelled by a strength I didn’t know I had, the stone hit the door frame with a thud. I had dreamed of this house every night from the day I left it, the sound of the log spitting his skull repeating itself over and over in my head, the darkness of the hole where we’d dumped his body reaching out, dragging me into its maw. Oh, I had paid many times over for my sin. Now I felt free, as if the flight of that stone had pulled the evil of my deed from my soul and carried it back to whence it came.
I turned my back and walked back down the lane, wishing I could skip. But that wouldn’t be proper for an old lady, would it?