The road ahead

junked bus

The story so far… Old Wives’ Tale

He was just called, “Pappy.” The implicit leader of the caravan who everyone turned to for settling disputes, for help or simple advice. He was father, cop and minister all in one.

When Charles and Amelia joined the troop, he accepted them into the fold, despite objections from the other members. Superstitions against the twins, Emmy and Jessie, were strong, and fear could drive people to do terrible things.

Pappy tried to quell the open hostilities, and quiet the worst of the talk of Amelia bearing demon spawn.

He knew if anyone was possessed by the devil it was Charles and not Amelia. The man, when deep in his cup, was plain mean. He was always ready to fight over any perceived insult, and lusted after all the young women in the caravan.

Pappy noticed when the Parker’s babies went missing. Charles didn’t ask for help finding them, and there were no bodies to bury. Pappy knew something was wrong, but also knew there was no sympathy for the couple. Most of the other travelers were relieved when the conjoined twins were no longer around. They didn’t want to ask too many questions.

It was Pappy’s old Bedford bus that transported most of the travelers south when winter broke. Charles and Amelia joined the rest of the campers who didn’t have their own vehicles, loading their meager belongings in the upper luggage racks. Allowed only one bag each, Charles had stuffed one of their duffles with what little personal effects they had. The other contained Amelia’s most treasured possessions.

Charles refused to let Amelia carry the precious bag on the bus, strapping it on the roof with the other luggage, open to the wind, rain and lingering cold.

Pappy noticed how upset Amelia was when Charles denied her pleas to carry that one bag on the bus, despite the available space. Once all the travelers were onboard, he took down the bag himself, and put it in the storage bin under the bus. Without looking inside the oil cloth bag, Pappy had his suspicions about its contents.

Sitting by the windows, Amelia saw Pappy stow her bag. When he looked up from locking the storage doors, he and Amelia exchanged furtive glances. She knew he knew, and she silently mouthed, “thank you.”

She did carry on her satchel, slung across her body. In it she had her knitting needles, carved by her granddad; a silver locket that once belonged to her mother; and all the herbal powders given to her by Grosi Fadri.

Amelia relaxed a little knowing her babies were out of the elements, but still longed to have them closer. Charles’ loud snoring told her he was passed out drunk from his early morning binge. She had laced his bottle with some of the verbena and valerian Fadri gave her. His resulting nightmares had kept him restless for days, and the hallucinations when awake were keeping him drinking.

All of it was keeping him away from her.

Pappy watched as the bus filled with travelers. From his driver’s seat, he had a panoramic view through the wide mirror that spanned the upper windshield. He kept an eye on Amelia. She was even more reticent than usual. Being married to a hooligan like Charles was enough to make any woman shy, but it was more than that. She was demoralized.

Overwhelmed by guilt for not doing more to protect Amelia and her babies, Pappy promised himself he would help her find a good family when they got to Tennessee. He knew just the people who would take her in, and keep her safe.

As Pappy started the bus, Amelia settled in for the long ride to Tennessee.  Once set for the season, Amelia would find a final resting place for her daughters, then she could put all her plans into action. The girls would love Tennessee in the spring. Maybe she could plant a lilac bush near their grave.

This week’s Studio30 Plus: “Reticent” and/or “Shy

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