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The Widow in the Woods: Part 11

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If you missed the first part of The Widow in the Woods, you can find it here.

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

When Christopher awakened, he immediately went to check on his little brother. The old lady was in the room giving him tea and those mysterious leaves again. It seemed to be working because Rick had some color in his face and his eyes were no longer clouded with pain and fever.

“How are you feeling, Ricky?” he inquired, tousling his younger brother’s hair.

“Better,” replied Rick. “I even went to the outhouse this morning.”

Christopher nodded his approval. It appeared that letting Grace live had been the right decision, as much as he distrusted the old woman.

He followed Grace into the kitchen, where Lexie was cooking breakfast and Jon was waiting expectantly at the table.

“Tonight, you’re sleeping upstairs,” Christopher warned the girl with a sinister edge to his voice. “I’ve had enough of you hiding out.”

Lexie did not meet Grace’s eyes, but she swallowed visibly. Then, she simply nodded and kept her face expressionless.

He didn’t like that. He liked it better when she visibly feared him. He’d have to make sure later that she did.

He joined Jon at the table, and Lexie wordlessly brought them their plates of steaming hot food.

Idly, Christopher wondered where Beth was. He wanted to rub his relationship with Lexie in her face. He supposed she was off pouting because he had turned her away. He tucked into a plate of scrambled eggs and toast, looking forward to a sadistic afternoon of putting Beth in her place, followed by a night with Lexie.

It was time to remind people who was in charge here.

By mid-afternoon, Christopher was irate that Beth hadn’t yet made an appearance. She wasn’t in the room she had shared with Luke, she hadn’t come down to eat, and that bitch was avoiding him.

Enough was enough.

He stomped out to the garden, where Lexie and Grace were working in companionable silence. “Where is Beth?” he demanded.

Grace stopped snipping off dead leaves from her vegetable plants and met his eyes. “I don’t know. She seemed upset last night. I’m sure it was because of Luke’s death.”

Christopher grabbed her and dug his fingers into her good arm. “If you don’t want me to break this arm, you’ll find her. Now,” he ordered coldly.

Grace wanted to plunge her shears into his face, but with one arm, she wasn’t confident she could take him down. Her mind raced frantically, but she had no options that wouldn’t bring the entire family down on her. “Have you searched the house?”

“What do you think? Obviously.”

“We’ll go and look for her,” Grace assured him, wincing as he released her arm.

He stormed away without another word, positively vibrating with rage. How dare Beth defy him like this? Lessons were going to be learned.

Grace and Lexie headed toward the greenhouse, and Grace called out Beth’s name as though she really expected to find her.

In the safety of the greenhouse, they sat wordlessly.

“Lexie, I’m at a loss,” Grace told her. “I’m so sorry that I haven’t been able to protect you and set you free of them.”

Lexie patted Grace’s good hand and looked at her with sincerity, hoping that her eyes showed how grateful she was. She knew Grace had done everything she could. She’d suffered a beating and a bad injury trying to protect Lexie. Now, it seemed that the clock was running out.

“Lexie, just run away – go so you don’t have to be with that awful man again,” Grace pleaded. “You’re young and your life is just beginning, I beg you, sweetheart, go.”

Stubbornly, Lexie shook her head no.

There weren’t any heroes coming. There weren’t cops or soldiers. Nobody was coming and help them.

If she’d learned anything from Grace, it was that sometimes, against the odds, a girl had to save herself by outsmarting those who had the physical advantage.

Grace found herself unable to persuade Lexie to leave. She had to come up with a plan, but first she had to deal with Beth’s disappearance.

When she and Lexie got back to the house, Jon and Christopher were sitting in the parlor with Rick, playing cards. Rick looked better, though Grace knew the improvement was only temporary. His apparent improvement was the one thing keeping her alive.

She interrupted the game. “Pardon me, gentlemen.”

Christopher’s eyes were positively glacial as he looked up. “Well?”

“I believe Beth has run away.”

Christopher erupted from his seat, his face filled with rage. “You’re lying.”

“I’m not lying. I checked for her things, and her backpack was gone. She’s left. She’s heartbroken over losing Luke, I imagine.”

“I don’t believe you. She wouldn’t dare go like that, off on her own.” He advanced toward Grace, towering over her. He enunciated each word chillingly.

“Where… Is… Beth?”

He grabbed her upper arms, and she winced as pain rocketed through her injured arm and her damaged ribs.

“I can make this a lot worse for you,” he growled, digging his fingers in painfully. Grace knew she’d be black and blue after this.

“Beth killed Luke.”

A voice Grace had never heard before interrupted Christopher’s tirade.

Lexie’s voice.

Instantly distracted, Christopher whirled around to face Lexie. “So you can talk,” he said with a sinister smile. That will make our time together much more fun. But it’s too bad you’re lying.”

Lexie hadn’t been able to stand there and watch Grace be battered again. Now, the words came spilling out of her as though they’d been blocked by a dam that had broken. “I saw it happen, and she thought I was asleep. She put a pillow over his face while he was sick. It took forever. She probably left because she knew you’d kill her if you found out.”

“She can’t have gotten too far,” Jon stepped, hoping to defuse the tense conversation. “Let’s go find her. I’ll try to pick up her trail, and you can search the property to see if she’s hiding.”

Christopher considered the suggestion. Now that he had a new target for his rage, the women in front of him were secondary. If Beth had actually dared to kill his brother, she would pay dearly. He’d make sure of it. With an abrupt nod, he strode out of the house, slamming the door behind him.

Jon, always calmer-natured than his brother, told Lexie, “You’d better hope she confesses when we find her. You know how he gets.”

Lexie nodded and watched Jon put on his boots to track Beth.

“I’ll get you something to eat in case you’re out there for a while,” Grace bustled off to the kitchen. She quickly made a sandwich, added some fresh fruit from her garden, and filled a canteen with water. When Jon joined her in the kitchen, she handed him a bag and canteen. “There’s a trail on the south side of the property, heading down the hill. If I were Beth, that’s where I’d go. It’s a few miles, but it leads into the nearest town.”

And, she thought to herself, it was in the opposite direction of the old root cellar.

When Christopher returned to the house, he emanated silent fury. He spoke not a word to anyone and merely sat by the window of the parlor and seethed. Lexie and Grace gave him a wide berth, with Grace pretending to nap and Lexie pretending to read. Even his adored brother Rick seemed to be afraid of making him lash out.

It was like sitting next to a volcano and feeling tremors in the earth. You knew the molten lava was building up pressure, working its way to the top. It was coming but you had no idea when it would spill over the sides and burn you to death.

“Fix me something to eat,” Christopher demanded. When Grace began to painfully rise to go to the kitchen, he stopped her. “Not you.” He inclined his head toward Lexie. “Her. I don’t trust you.”

Lexie, eyes downcast, quietly arose and went into the kitchen. She pulled out a large bowl and some ingredients to mix up some batter for pancakes. When Christopher followed, she allowed herself a small smile as she stirred the concoction vigorously.

She thought about how much she despised Christopher as she blended the batter mercilessly with an old-fashioned rotary beater. She was done being a victim. She only hoped she was guessing correctly about the sampler in the hallway and the concoction Grace had made.

She endured it silently as Christopher nuzzled her neck, trying not to let her revulsion show on her face. He bit her, teeth nipping to leave marks to brand her as his own. “I know you can talk now,” he growled the warning. “So, I won’t put up with this silent treatment tonight. Do you understand me?”

Lexie nodded, letting tears fill her eyes. He liked it when she was scared, so she’d give him scared.

Christopher licked the tear that trickled down her cheek and smiled in sadistic satisfaction. That was more like it. “Neither one of us will ever forget this night.”

Lexie looked at the floor and nodded. No, they wouldn’t forget this night.

Christopher sat down at the table, awaiting the meal that Lexie was preparing.

When the pancakes were delightfully fluffy and cooked through, Lexie stacked them on a plate. She took a bottle from the shelf in the kitchen – the one that Grace had added honey to today – and poured it generously over the pancakes. She topped it with a handful of fresh raspberries and a sprinkling of powdered sugar, making a lovely presentation worthy of breakfast in a fine restaurant.

She nibbled on a plain pancake and waited while Christopher dug in with gusto. Her heart was racing, the blood pounding in her ears. She made an effort to keep her hands from shaking. She mustn’t give anything away.

When Christopher asked for more, she didn’t hesitate to make him another plate doused in Grace’s syrup, fresh berries, and powdered sugar.

She recalled the mysterious words that had been stitched onto the black sampler. Did they mean anything? She felt like they had to mean something. Grace wouldn’t just stitch something so odd.

Hot as a hare,

Blind as a bat,

Dry as a bone,

Red as a beet,

Mad as a hatter.

Full as a flask.

How long would it take? She pondered. Should she leave and go to the outhouse? Would she come back and find Christopher had succumbed to the concoction? Had this all been a terrible mistake?

Her conundrum was resolved when Christopher pushed back his chair, making the wooden legs shriek across the floor. Without a word, he left, presumably to go to the outhouse.

Lexie washed the dishes and carefully put the jar of “syrup” back on the shelf. Then she returned to the parlor, where Grace awaited her anxiously.

Lexie pulled out a box of dominoes she’d seen on the shelves and laid them down for a game.

“Young man, would you like to join us?” Grace invited Rick.

“No, you go ahead. I need a nap,” he replied groggily. He’d really overexerted himself that morning and wasn’t feeling very well now.

Grace and Lexie each drew seven dominoes, flipped over a starter domino, and began to play. Grace had the distinct feeling that Lexie had made a rash move, but for the life of her, she couldn’t figure out what it had been.

About Daisy

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, adventure-seeking, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty; 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived; and 3), an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. Her work is widely republished across alternative media and she has appeared in many interviews.

Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books, 12 self-published books, and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses at SelfRelianceand You can find her on FacebookPinterestGabMeWeParlerInstagram, and Twitter.

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