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18 June 2012 @ 06:30 am
Dust Devils: Ashes To Ashes, Dust To Dust (Chapter 17)  
April 19, 1935—Boise City, Oklahoma



Dust Devils

Chapter 17

Ashes To Ashes, Dust To Dust

**O**

April 19, 1935—Boise City, Oklahoma

Jeb's cheek rested on Emma's head as he cradled her. He shushed and cooed to her until her body began to cool in his arms. Another wave of grief rolled over him, and he clutched her tight, tears falling and dissolving into her hair. He knew he had to let her go, but laying her out would be so final; laying her out would mean she was gone. Here, in his arms, she was still present, still needing the solace and comfort the old man could provide.

Always one to bury her fears and sorrows, Emma'd brushed off helping hands and shoulders to lean on, her grace and strength faltering just the once—when Henry died. All other times, she'd worked through her grief in doing for others, and he'd been just one of the many recipients of her compassion. Now, he'd never have the chance to repay her for all she'd done for him when no one else would.

Slaid interrupted his thoughts with an impatient grunt.

"We need to finish off the Devil Fighter," he said. "The little wh…the little one has run off. We must find her, ya?" He grabbed the large pot he'd used on Dean, revving up to swing again. Jeb grasped the handle of the pot before Slaid could strike.

"Y'ain't gonna lam him. We'll leave him to the law for what he done." Jeb yanked the pot from Slaid's hands. "What the hell is you thinkin'?"

"The law? We'll be his law. Ördög Fighter does not belong here. He has no family. No home, no friends. We do not need the law to teach him lessons, ya? Slaid will gladly teach."

"Y'ain't touchin' him." Jeb pushed him away and rose to his knees, readjusting his grip on Emma, collecting her slight body into his arms. "Let's put this angel in the bedroom for now." His voice trembled as he stifled a sob. "Go open the door for me."

He laid Emma on Dean's bed, folding her arms over her chest. He kissed each lid after closing her eyes and smoothed her brow. When he went to straighten her dress, he noticed her underwear bunched around her knees. His brows pleated in complete confusion for a brief second before seeing bloody smears on her thighs. Reality crashed into him, and he slumped onto the bed, his face a tapestry of disgust, grief and shock.

"No!" He fisted his palms together, raising them to his forehead in tortured prayer. "Oh no, no, please…" He collapsed against the young woman, smothering himself in her strangle-marks. His shoulders bobbed and shuddered with each sob, soundless except a soft, wheezing hiss that escaped his throat.

"Monster!" He bellowed. Rising, he caressed her cheek. "How could he?" He pulled away from her, looking around, bewildered and helpless, unable to make sense of what had happened. "I'm sorry, darlin'. I'm so sorry Old Jeb wasn't there to protect you. God forgive me. I'd—"

Wiping his eyes, he noticed his gun lying on the nightstand where Emma had set it days ago, after her confrontation with Slaid. He contemplated a moment, his body rigored with bitter anger. Then, with a growl, he grabbed it and ran to the kitchen where Dean lay on the floor.

He'd not moved a muscle since he'd been hit, and the head wound continued to ooze blood. Jeb used his foot to roll him over, exposing his face, half of it painted a sticky, crimson from lying in the puddle. The low rumble coming from his chest told Jeb that he was alive. But how he'd perpetrated such an obscene, salacious act with Dust Pneumonia, Jeb had no clue. The old man leaned in and aimed the gun pointblank at Dean's head.

"Why Dean?" He wept again. "She never done you nothin' but good turns—tended you, helped you, fed you. She never asked for nothin'. She never done nothin' but kindness after kindness."

"Pull the trigger!" Slaid leaned in, encouraging him, but Jeb's focus remained on Dean.

"It don't make no sense! She loved you! Any fool could see that." He re-gripped the gun, wincing as he summoned the courage to shoot. "I thought maybe you loved her, too."

"Do it, old man! Kill the Devil Fighter!"

"An' little Florabel loved you—idolized you. Why'd you do it? You went and made that little thing an orphan, took her mama from her, the only thing she had left in this world!" He released a guttural, wordless malediction.

"Shoot him!" Slaid continued to goad him. "We don't need the law. If you won't do it, give Slaid the gun. Slaid is brave—unafraid!" He snuffed in deep and spat into Dean's face.

Jeb waffled a moment longer. With a grunt, he slouched, releasing a staggered sigh. Pointing the gun toward the ground, his chest hitched in defeat.

"Damn you."

"No old man, give me the gun. Slaid'll do it! Give justice, ya?"

Jeb shook his head, eyes on Dean. "I cain't kill a man. We'll lock him in the root cellar ‘til we find Florabel and fetch Sheriff Burnett out here."

Collaring Dean, he dragged him toward the door. Outside, each man grabbed a leg and tugged him down the stairs. As soon as his head hit the first step though, Jeb stopped, growling in frustration. Part of him wanted to let the man get what was coming to him, but it couldn't be at his hands. He had Slaid readjust and take Dean's arms, lifting his wounded head off the ground before continuing. They half carried, half hauled him along the dusty path to the barn. Once inside, they pulled him through the syrupy fluids oozing from Penny's bloated carcass where it still lay in her stall, covered in hundreds of buzzing flies and maggots.

Jeb nodded toward the trapdoor under the hay. "Open the door." Jeb hoisted Dean over his shoulder for the descent into the cellar. He recoiled and grimaced as he approached the hole. "Christ! What's that smell?"

Slaid shrugged and led the way, lighting the lamp once he got to the bottom. After descending the ladder, Jeb let Dean slide off his shoulder. The unconscious man landed hard, folding at improbable angles like a broken accordion.

Jeb looked around and gagged. "Christ Almighty."

Slaid held the lantern, edgy and nervous. "It wasn't me! I haven't been down here in months!"

"Dear God." Jeb eyed Dean. "I saw him come out'a here just afore the storm." He gaped at the murals. "Ungodly. Unholy! I cain't…" He doubled over and retched into the pile of Molly's downy feathers. Jeb recognized them and growled. He pivoted toward Dean. "You obscene demon! All this time, it was you?" He wiped sweat off his brow and took a beat, expecting to heave again. "My God, how could he have fooled all of us?" Jeb looked at Dean, heartbroken, realizing Emma was not the only friend he lost. "I trusted you, boy. I believed you was a good man. How could I a'been so wrong?"

Slaid grinned as the old man strove to catch his breath. "I never trusted him, but no one would believe me!" The farmhand kicked dirt and gore into Dean's face. Slaid laughed and continued to kick more fouled earth onto him. "Ha! This is fun!"

Jeb shook himself free, noticing the farmhand's idea of ‘fun'. He pulled him away.

"None of that. The Sheriff will take him." He coughed and gagged again. "Leave him. We need to find Florabel. The child's off her nut with grief and fear."

He doused the lantern and followed Slaid from the cellar, threading a sturdy piece of wood left over from rebuilding the barn through the handles of the trapdoor.

"He ain't likely to wake anytime soon. But if'n he does, he won't be able to git out'a this. Let's go find the young'un." Jeb trotted from the barn, calling Florabel's name.

***

Once Jeb was gone, Slaid tossed his head back and spun around, arms outstretched in awe and wonder.

"Hala!" He hugged himself. "Slaid is worthy, now, ya?" Shuddering with delight, he stood listening while Jeb called for Florabel around the barnyard. Slaid opened his eyes and fell to his knees, diving into the straw, rolling and frolicking like a child.

"Devil Fighter." He laughed until tears streamed down his cheeks. "You could not have made it easier." Wiping his eyes, he collected himself. He rose and prowled through the barn, climbing the ladder to the loft until his head was level with the floor. He craned his neck, searching.

"Are you in here, little one?" He glanced around, a greasy smile on his face. "You will be Slaid's little whore, now." He rubbed the front of his trousers. "Slaid's whore, and no other's. Not the Devil Fighter's, not no one's." With a cloying lilt in his voice, he sang her name. "Lit—tle who—ore…?" After a moment he gave up, descending the ladder and hurrying from the barn. He needed to stay by the old man's side to show his concern, and to be there when he found the girl. If she disappeared now, all his hard work would have been for nothing.

***

Florabel huddled, unseen and unheard, behind the far bale of hay in the loft, locked inside herself, unaware of anything until Slaid had climbed the ladder. Hearing every word he said, she hugged her legs, trying to be as small and quiet as possible. She heard both farmhands calling her name from various areas around the farm. She wouldn't answer—couldn't answer. Mesmerized by a twisted knot in a piece of wood on the wall, she focused on its dark swirl as the horrific images of her mother's and Dean's dead bodies repeated on a loop in her brain.

"Mama." She rocked herself back and forth. "Mama…Mama…Mama…" She chanted the name over and over. "Mama…"



**O**

February 13, 2007—Boise City, Oklahoma

Silence descended after Florabel finished the whole story, including the day of her mother's death and the incredible morning after when Slaid summoned the wind demon. The hunters looked from one to another, stunned.

Bobby cleared his throat and spoke, breaking the others from their horrified trances. "From everything you've told us about that morning—what Slaid did—I think we might have a small window of opportunity. We now know, at least, one solid time when and where Slaid manifested the elemental, right down to the date and approximate time.

Sam stopped pacing. "What are we waiting for?" Turning, he headed for the door. "Let's go."

"Hold up, Sam," Bobby said. "We need to make sure we have all our ducks in a row this time. We went in there half-cocked last night and we all came close to goin' down in history ourselves. We're gonna have to make sure we have all the necessary spell components, and I'm gonna need a few different items in order to alter the spell."

"Spell?" Florabel raised an eyebrow.

Ellen shifted, rousing herself. "It's how we're gonna get Dean back. Slaid summoned a wind demon. It's a very low order entity, barely sentient. It's a type of elemental," she added, seeing Florabel's confused expression. "It's mostly energy. Extremely potent. They've been used as bridges or portals by people in the past. Dean fell through one and came out the only way open to him."

"You mean the night Slaid first summoned the thing?"

Ellen nodded. "That's what we assume, yes. Thanks to you, we know the portal was open on April 20, 1935. We're gonna alter our original retrieval spell so it grabs him from a point in time, rather than a point in space like we tried last night. It could work. It should work."

"It may have already worked." Bobby cocked his head at the other hunters. "I mean, from what Florabel described, it may have already happened on some level. Ain't no way to know for sure until we try."

"Which we need to do, and soon." Sam moved toward the door again. "Thanks for all of the information, Dr. Livingston."

"Wait," Florabel said. "If'n you do git him back, you'll need to git him to a hospital as soon as possible. He had—has, I mean—he has extensive injuries, not to mention that he's suffering from Silicosis. He'll need medical attention immediately."

"Silicosis? What's that?" Sam furrowed his brows.

"It's what we called Dust Pneumonia back in the day. It's a lung disorder. It's also been called Coal Miner's lung." Florabel closed her eyes, concentrating. "It's been so long, but I remember he also had severe head trauma, definitely a concussion if not a skull fracture." She flinched, shuddering. "I remember the flies." She opened her eyes. "You'll need a hospital, preferably one better than what we have here in Boise City."

The three hunters glanced at each other. "Well…shit." Bobby scratched his stubble.

"What?" Florabel asked. "What's wrong?"

"It's just that…" Sam ran his hands through his hair and closed his eyes in frustration. "Dean is sort of…he's kind of…"

"He's on the outs with the law," Bobby said. "Not for nothing he's done wrong. Sometimes in our line of work people mistake what we're doing for…"

"Grave desecration," Ellen said. Florabel goggled at them.

"Credit card fraud," Bobby added with half a grin. Florabel cocked her head.

"Bank robbery." Ellen shrugged sheepishly. Florabel's jaw hinged.

"Murder," Sam added without emotion. Florabel's eyes closed and then boomeranged open.

She coughed. "Murder?" Are you kidding me?"

"No, but that doesn't mean he's guilty." Sam shook his head. "Still, going to a hospital isn't possible. It's too dangerous. There was an…incident involving a shapeshifter not long ago."

Florabel batted her eyelashes furiously. "Shapeshifter?"

"It's…" Ellen began.

"Not important right now." Sam interrupted, fanning his hands.

Florabel nodded, absorbing and moving on as best she could. "Okay, we'll bring him here, then. I'll git supplies from the day clinic. But I may not be enough to help him."

"We all have medical training after a fashion," Bobby said. "Our job often times leaves us to fend for ourselves. We'll help."

"But getting him back is our first priority." Sam was on the move again. "So let's go."

"Jesus, Sam…will y'hold on?" Bobby grabbed him. "What part of being smart and ready don't you understand? We can't even get into the site for several more hours."

Ellen sighed. "I wish we could have persuaded Gerry to shut down. It's not safe. Those spirits could attack anyone at any time."

"Gerry?" Florabel piped up. "Gerry Burnett?"

"Yeah, that's him," Sam said. "He threw me out when I tried to convince him the site was too dangerous for the workers."

Florabel snorted. "The idiot." She stood. "Take me to that future Darwin Award winner. I'll straighten him out. This is one thing I can handle." She looked at each in turn. "Well?" She waved them off. "I don't know about you, but I want t'see my friend again. Let's git ready and go fetch him."



**O**

April 19, 1935—Boise City, Oklahoma

Florabel could no longer see her knot of wood for the twilight that trickled into the barn, filling the small spaces around her. Without its soothing swirls to hold her firm, her thoughts unraveled, and she began to panic. She'd been sitting there for long hours, unmoving, chanting her mama's name and holding herself still and small, fascinated by the blemish in the golden wood, one of the mysterious planks that had shown up when Dean first arrived.

She'd stayed there all day, frozen in place and in thought, ceasing her chant only when she heard Slaid or Old Jeb calling her name. Then she'd huddle in the corner, all but tunneling into the bale of hay to get away from the voices, curling in on herself and waiting until it grew quiet.

The last time she heard them they'd been angry and arguing with each other. She hadn't understood what they said, their voices too muffled, too far away. And so she stayed hid—stayed safe.

It'd been a long time, now, since she heard them, and the darkness slithering through the barn frightened her. She had no anchor, nothing to prevent her seeing her mama lying with her dress rumpled, panties around her knees—nothing to stop her from seeing Pally being killed by Slaid—nothing to stop Slaid from finding her and jabbing her until she was dead, too.

She tried to rock and hum, but it didn't help. Pally was dead. Her mama was dead. Her mama was dead. No amount of humming and rocking could help that. She'd promised never to tell about Slaid jabbing her, but she'd told Pally anyway—and now look what happened. Slaid had jabbed her mama just like he said he would, and he'd killed them both. It was all her fault. Guilt, terror and grief overwhelmed her, sending her flinching until she flung her arms over her head, trying to protect herself from the image of her mother's half-closed eyes staring right through her.

It was in that moment, bent to the ground, cowering and quivering, that she felt it—a soft, cool breeze tickling the nape of her neck. She touched the tender skin and small hairs drenched in sweat. Another draft stirred and fluttered by, along with the familiar sound of her mama's voice, whispering her name. For the first time since she'd crawled into the loft, she stood and peered over the bale of hay that had sheltered her all this while.

"Mama?"

Florabel. Baby girl.

Florabel swallowed and loosed a small sigh. "Mama, I cain't see you. Where are you?"

She felt the answer more than she heard it, her mama's voice penetrating her heart and mind rather than her ears. She listened to what her mama said, and she responded.

"Okay, Mama. I'm comin'."

She tottered to the ladder and descended. Her pants felt wrong and clingy, and she winced, staring down, mortified that she'd wet herself at some point. And here she was, all of eight years old, too. What would people think? She covered the wet mark with her hand to hide her shame and ran from the barn.

Muffled voices and lantern light spilled from the bunkhouse. Still angry. Still arguing. Florabel paid them no mind and hurried to the front of the house, opening the screen door as quietly as possible, making sure not to let it bang behind her. Tiptoeing through the dark house as though she were avoiding landmines, she faltered by the spot where her mama had lain. Florabel's eyes searched the kitchen floor where Pally had fallen, but all that remained was a sticky puddle of dark blood. Maybe they'd both been buried already. Footprints tracked across the bloodstain, smearing into her mama's good parlor rug. The blood scared her and she squealed, stopping only when her mama's voice told her not to think on it. She gulped, lip quivering, but she minding what her mama said.

The floorboards creaked as she made her way through the kitchen and down the hallway, stopping when she saw the still form lying on Pally's bed. She padded over and leaned against the mattress, watching her mama, scanning her from head to toe, committing each feature to memory. Crawling onto the bed, she settled herself close and laid her head against her mama's heart, and she remained like that for a long while before she spoke.

"I don't hate you, Mama. I shouldn't ‘a said that," she whispered at last.

She cocked her head, listening, then smiled—relieved.

"I'm glad, Mama. I was worried you'd think it were so. It ain't."

She quieted, closed her eyes. No warmth came from her mother's body, but she took comfort from it, nevertheless. Florabel knew her mother wasn't in there, but it was familiar. So familiar. She rubbed her mother's hand, Florabel's fingers ghosting serene patterns—her mother's hand that had worked so hard for so many years, kneading bread, scrubbing dust off the floor, smoothing her daughter's cheek, braiding her hair, wiping drool from Henry's chin. Florabel held the hand in hers, remembering the little scar at the base of her mama's thumb, a souvenir from falling off her horse on her fourteenth birthday. The waxy limb had already stiffened, but Florabel kissed the scar, nonetheless. She quirked her head, listening.

"I'll try and be good," she said in response to something. "But you know me. ‘Course Old Jeb says if'n y'ain't makin' mistakes now an' agin, y'ain't tryin' hard enough!" She used her best ‘old man' voice, her mouth twitching into a smile. She sighed and pleated her brows. "Mama, is Henry and Papa there?" She sat up, concerned. "But why ain't you goin' to see ‘em? Mama? I thought you'd want to see them gates with gold and diamonds on ‘em. Don't you want to?"

Another strong gust of wind flew through the room, and the sheet hanging over the window billowed to the floor, spilling light into the room. Florabel scooched down the length of the bed and slipped off the end. Tiptoeing over, she stood in the pool of moonlight; its marrowy glow shawled her body as she looked up.

The dusty disk of the full moon chased all but the brightest stars away, and she thought about Pally and his promise. She began to cry, mourning for him all over again.

Cocking her head, she brightened. "He ain't?" She reached up to the cool glass, touching the moon with her fingertips. "But I thought Slaid—" She stopped short as though interrupted.

She swallowed, her eyes flitting around, searching for something. Spying her little doctor's kit on the floor, she snatched it up.

"I will, Mama. Quick, as a jackrabbit!"

All business, she scurried around the room, tossing bottles of medicine and the wooden box of skunk oil into her kit. She stopped again, listening. "Okay, Mama." She pulled off the pillowcase next to her mother's body, dipping it in the bucket of water by the window and wringing it out. Tossing it over her shoulder, she dashed for the door. She stopped, shoulders drooping, and walked back to her mother's body.

Smoothing a ghostly wisp of her mama's hair, she kissed her. "I'll love you forever, Mama. You really should go see Henry and Papa, now." Florabel took one last look and then ran from the room.

She made her way to the barn. The men's heated discussion in the bunkhouse raged on, but Florabel left them to it, letting the darkness of the barn shelter and hide her. When she reached the trapdoor, she spent a moment dislodging the wooden beam from the door handles. Old Jeb had wedged it tight, and it took sitting on her bottom and kicking at it with all her might to jar it loose. Once done, she clutched her doctor's kit and descended into the stuffy, rancid darkness.

She found the lamp by touch and grabbed the small box of matches next to it. Tapping a lit match to the twisted wick, she replaced the chimney and set the lamp on the bloody table. Glancing around, none of the shadowy horrors in the room registered, not even the long tendrils of entrails hanging from the rafters like tinsel held her attention. She merely batted them away as she made her way to Dean.

If her mama hadn't told her different, she'd have thought he was dead. He lay in a heap on the floor, head swathed in blood that had channeled down and pooled in his shirt. The little girl squealed at the swarm of hungry flies attracted by Penny's corpse now feasting on Dean's bloody face. She shooed them away with the pillowcase, but they relit immediately.

She dropped to her knees. "Oh, Pally…"

His chest bubbled like a gaslight as he struggled to breathe through the pneumonia, head angled against his shoulder, a light foam trickling into his shirt. She moved his head so he could breathe easier.

"Huhhh…"

Florabel jumped when he groaned.

"Pally?"

She drew her hand over the matted hair on his forehead, wiping the gore away with the wet cloth, carefully—ever so carefully, as though she were wiping her mama's finest china. The blood saturating his shirt had dried, leaving it sticky and stiff. She plucked the gluey fabric away from his skin.

"Hhhhuuhh…" He moaned again, quieter this time, no more than a spent hum.

"I'm here, Pally. Please wake up, now. Mama says we need to go. It ain't safe for us here." She daubed at the creamy saliva trickling from his mouth and wiped some more blood from his head and cheek. She whimpered. "Please, Pally."

His eyelids fluttered but never opened. Florabel knelt over him and lifted each lid in turn, noticing how cockeyed they were, one pupil huge, the other a tiny dot. She didn't know what that meant, but it scared her. He was hurt bad, she knew that much.

"Pally, if'n Slaid finds us…" She choked on the thought and stifled a sob.

She undid a few buttons of his shirt and pulled out the box of skunk oil and small tin of turpentine. She mixed the two, mimicking how her mother always folded them together with her fingertips, smoothing it into a buttery paste. She rubbed it on his chest, and then put some on her own.

"There," she said, "we smell exactly alike now." She snuffled and cupped her small hands to his temples. "Please wake up, Pally. I'm scared without you."

He never spoke, but his eyelids twitched again. The pungent musk of the skunk oil and heady odor of turpentine must have hit him, because his head ticked as though he were trying to move away from her hands.

"Uhhnngh." His eyebrows pinched, forehead knotting. He was hurting—bad.

Florabel knew no matter how bad the danger, Dean wouldn't be able to move from the cellar. Not tonight, anyway. She reached into her kit and retrieved the large bottle of Laudanum. Her mama told her never to give him any. It was too dangerous for little girls to touch. But she remembered Doc Dawson said he could have one capful. She unscrewed the bottle and poured enough of the liquid to fill the small cap. She bent over his mouth and pried it open. Tipping the cap, she let the syrup drip into his throat. He gagged and coughed most of it back in Florabel's face.

"Pally, don't." She toweled the brown liquid away, whimpering. She couldn't tell if he'd gotten any in him or not, but she was too afraid to give him more. So that was that. Sighing, she capped the bottle. He coughed some more, his brow pinched with misery. Florabel remembered her mama saying how horrible Laudanum tastes.

"I'm sorry, Pally. I don't got no water." Water. Saying the word triggered her thirst and it soon became her sole focus. She hesitated a moment, biting her lip before making up her mind. "I'll be right quick."

Stealing her way to the well, she grabbed a small bucket and filled it with as much water as she could carry. She drank deep, then stood a moment, listening. The night was quiet; no more arguing voices came from the bunkhouse. That frightened her. If they weren't quarreling, perhaps they were hunting her, and if Slaid caught her without Old Jeb around…

Florabel shivered, feeling naked and scared. The root cellar smelled horrible, but Pally was there, at least, and it wasn't so open. She ran back as fast as she could without spilling the water. Shutting the trapdoor, she descended and knelt by Dean.

"I brung you some water, Pally." She pried his lips open then scooped some water into her hand, tilting it into his mouth. He began choking on that, too.

"I'm sorry, Pally," she cried in frustration and worry. "Shhh, don't fret now."

She tried rolling him over onto his side so he could breathe easier, but she didn't have the strength or leverage. After a moment he hushed and went back to sleep, so she let him be. Water would have to wait. She didn't dare try again. Her mama had always been an expert at getting him to drink when he wasn't awake. The little girl released a quivering sigh as the thought touched off her grief. She opened the large pocket of Dean's bib and slid the Laudanum bottle inside.

"Maybe we can try agin later." Huddling close to him, she coiled herself into the crook of his arm. "It'll be okay, Pally." He gurgled low in his throat at that, but Florabel didn't know if it was an answer or not.

"Mama's dead." She tucked herself against his fevered warmth and clung to him. "She says ain't goin' to Heaven until we's safe."

Her face pinched and she succumbed to her grief, releasing it in long, shuddering sobs. She buried herself in Dean's side, wailing for her mother until she exhausted herself, and even then her body contracted and spasmed. After a long while, she fell asleep amidst the low groans coming from Dean's throat and the buzz of fat flies gorging themselves on his blood and the other filth someone had thrown on him.



**O**

February 13, 2007—Boise City, Oklahoma

Blue sky speckled the cloud cover, breaking up the rain. Frosty air puffed from the mouths of the foursome huddled in front of the construction site. Florabel took in her surroundings.

"It all looks so different." Her eyes wandered around, searching for familiar swells and dips of the land, trying to marry this site to her memories. "I couldn't even tell you where the barn or house once stood." She lifted her small, thin hand to her cheek. "I ain't been out here in over seventy years. Lived in this town for all this time ‘cept my college years, and I ain't never come back here. Not since that day."

Ellen put an arm around the old woman's shoulder, breaking her reverie. "Come on, Florabel. Let's go see if we can talk to Gerry."

They walked up to the trailer and knocked. When Gerry opened the door he morphed from friendly to hostile in less than a second.

"Nuh-uh." He shook his head, pointing at Sam. "You, out of here before I call the cops."

"Cops?" Florabel's face puckered. "You damn go-cart racin', mouth-breathing Jackass reject, git your ass in that trailer. You an' me is gonna have a talk."

Gerry gawped, noticing the old woman for the first time. "Aw, Mad Dog, geez."

The old woman's eyes flamed like cinders. She snapped her fingers and pointed at him as she maneuvered up the high, narrow steps.

"Give me your damn hand, ninny. I'm an old woman and only five-foot-two. Didn't your mama teach you no manners?"

Gerry sighed and offered her his hand. "Yes ma'am," he said, cowed. He turned as Florabel kicked the door closed behind them.

The three hunters waited outside, shit-eating grins on their faces as muffled shouts and unmanly yelps wafted from the trailer. There was one large thump and a strange, whirring crack. All three hunters winced.

"That had to hurt." Bobby said with a snort.

After a few more bangs, Gerry surfaced, flinging open the trailer door and dropping to the ground. He had his radio to his cheek, barking orders into it as he walked away looking both annoyed and whipped at the same time. A moment later Florabel stood in the doorway with a satisfied nod.

"Right." She rubbed her hands. "So, Gerry says the boys will be cleared out within the hour. They won't reopen until we give them the say-so."

"You sure weren't jokin' about handling it, were you?" Sam took her hand, helping her down the steps.

"Like I said…a woman after my own heart," Ellen added. "So what's the plan?"

Bobby tugged his cap. "We need to pick up a few things before we begin. Ellen, why don't you take Florabel home while Sam and I go get what we need and meet back in about an hour?"

"Like hell," Florabel said. They turned to her in shock. "I ain't a-leavin'. This is my fight as much as yours. More, in fact. I ain't a-budgin'."

"Florabel, this is extremely dangerous. You could get hurt. Dean would kill us if we let anything happen to you. I can hear him now. And you think Gerry had it rough a moment ago?" Sam put his hand on her shoulder, but Florabel dug her heels in.

"I'm old, but I ain't feeble. I'm stayin' put. When you git him back, he'll need doctorin'. I ain't leavin' him alone, now." She closed her eyes, remembering something. "I ain't gonna never forget the look on his face at that last moment. He knew he was gonna die, but he didn't stop. He saved me. An' I'm gonna return the favor. I don't care what you say." She opened her eyes. "Ellen, honey, you an' me are gonna pay a visit to the day-clinic while these boys git organized. We need a whole lot of supplies and equipment."

"And you can just walk in there and take it?"

Florabel laughed. "I volunteer there. I have keys. And I can handle anyone who tries to stop us."

Ellen glanced at the trailer and watched the activity at the construction site as men started walking toward the parking lot. She nodded and grinned. "I can't argue with that. Let's go."

Florabel followed Ellen toward the truck. She stopped by Sam as she passed, touching his sleeve as she met his eye. "Gittin' home to you was the most important thing in the world to him. We ain't gonna let him down, Sam. We'll git your brother back."



**O**

April 19, 1935—Boise City, Oklahoma

Awareness kindled slowly, no more than a spark at first—a basal response from his brainstem. There was no thought associated with it, per se, nothing to weigh it against or make a connection with. It was a singularity—a speck of molten dust in the darkness. Pain. The spark lit a fuse that traveled upward, igniting each lobe in turn as disjointed, proto-thoughts began to accrete.

As he hovered on the cusp of oblivion, Dean's hollow thoughts took on enough form for him to recognize something beyond the agony. He heard a warbling, dirgeful mewl next to him that made his head throb. It sounded like…a cat? A cat was curled at his side, meowing mournfully. He felt its paws on his cheek, and as much as he wanted to bat them away, he couldn't remember how to lift his hand. The caterwaul hurt, not only its decibel level, but deep down it elicited a response from somewhere beyond the pain. It had weight and meaning. It made him feel a profound sense of loss, somehow, despite not knowing he ever had anything to lose. The constant lilting kept him bouncing and skimming along the surface of consciousness like a pebble on a pond. He could only drift down so far before the plaintive yowling buoyed him back up. After a long while, the cat stopped crying, its sobs diminishing into hiccups and judders that he could feel in his bones. The animal uttered one final sigh of misery before silencing.

"Mama…"

With that, both Dean and the cat slipped beneath the waves, all thought and pain forgotten.



Continue to Chapter 18

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jpgr: SPN Son of a Bitchjpgr on June 18th, 2012 02:33 am (UTC)
I can't believe Jeb can't see the truth about Slaid, the glee he's taking in Dean's discomfort, telling him to shoot. But I guess the old man isn't thinking too clearly seeing poor Emma like that. I had a feeling she was the other spirit...
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on June 18th, 2012 10:24 pm (UTC)
Poor Jeb! I don't think he is thinking very clearly right now. One of his girls is dead, the other is missing. When he has a moment to have a think-through, I imagine he might start asking a lot of questions. And yep, looks like Emma's gonna stick around and make sure her baby girl is protected. We shouldn't expect no less from Emma!

Thanks ever so much for the comment! And your avatar made me laugh. Hehe.
deangirl1: Dean thinkingdeangirl1 on June 18th, 2012 03:32 am (UTC)
I was on the edge of my seat all day waiting for you to post!! I really wanted to punch Jeb! How could he think it was Dean and not even suspect Slaid??? ARRRGGHH! Poor litlle Florabel! And awesome old Florabel! Loved her kicking ass and taking names! I love how you are slowly bringing the two timeframes together and filling the story in from both ends in a way... Poor Dean does seem to be in a really, really bad way - and yet, somehow, I just know he's going to manage to be the one to kill Slaid - and I can't wait! I hope that Jeb lives and learns the truth... and feels horrible... also can't wait for them to get Dean back - and to "watch" Florabel in action, saving his life...

Thanks for another wonderfully written chapter!
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on June 18th, 2012 10:31 pm (UTC)
Awww...poor Jeb! Frustrating, though, huh? Surely he knows Dean better than the circumstantial evidence. Hopefully things will turn around in the next chappie!

Yep, yep...our stories are about to collide in a significant way! Old!Florabel...haha...she really did earn her nickname, eh? Mad Dog, indeed!

Naaaahhh...Dean's tough...what's a little skull fracture and a whopping case of Dust Pneumonia? As long as he can bend his forefinger, Slaid is in peril. He's Dean-fuckin'-Winchester. He's a damn hero.

Thank yewwww so much for the comment!
mdlawmdlaw on June 18th, 2012 03:14 pm (UTC)
Dust Devil
Ugh! I'm dying here. You are killing me. I can't wait!!!!!! m :)
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on June 18th, 2012 10:32 pm (UTC)
Re: Dust Devil
I'd perform CPR on you, but I wouldn't want someone to think I was throttlin' ya. I'll just think heal-y thoughts. :)

Thank you so much, as ever, for the comment!
beckydaspazbeckydaspaz on June 18th, 2012 11:02 pm (UTC)
Man, when you have hurt Dean, you really have HURT! Dean. Not that I'm complainin' mind you. I quite like it...even if it does break my heart a little bit.

This(like all other chapters before and after it) was wonderful.

I love how very, VERY well you have married the two timelines. It reads like an episode script, with the F bomb. :P

Really great work Kat, doesn't read like a chapter you had a problem with AT ALL.

*oddles of love and respect*

-Puddin'
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on June 19th, 2012 12:29 am (UTC)
It's just a flesh wound!!!...and a raging chest infection...and a, ehr...oh hell, woman...it's hurt!Dean! How could I resist?

Aw, thanks for the pep-talk, puddin'. I'll always hold a small grudge against this chapter for the mere fact that it pushed me back an entire week in my writing schedule. :P Dumb chappie. Dumb words! /stink eye.

Thanks for the comment Puddin' Head-o-mah-heart!

/hugs
adrenalineshotsadrenalineshots on June 20th, 2012 12:49 am (UTC)
Well, it's high time I stop being greedy and take a break from reading your amazing work to tell you just how truly amazing it is!!

I was trying to resist this story until the last chapter was posted, but... well, lets just say that my first mistake was to say 'Ah... I'll just take a peek and read a few lines from the first chapter'.

I was HOOKED!

There was no way, except for complicated surgery, that I could be parted from this story after that.

And here we are :)))

What a truly fantastic and compelling tale you've been gracing us with! From the very start, original characters like Florabell and her mom, like old Jeb and evil Slaid manage to grab us and pull us into their world, making us worry, care for, hate them, pity them... all of those feelings that we've had 7 seasons of Winchesters to develop for Sam and Dean. You managed that in the first chapter, so WELL DONE!

Your Sam and Dean (and all the rest of the recognizable characters) all sound very close and true to themselves, so this whole thing takes in the mantle of a very good and exciting episode of the show, something that sometimes, not even the show manages to pull off *g*. And given that you've decided to so deliciously hurt Dean, bonus yummy for me *g*

As a side note, and because I'm sure everyone who's read this story so far has already told you how extremely well written and well plotted it is, I'll give you a more personal note: can I just say that I fell in love for the medical accuracy of your writing? Yes, it's geeky of me, and something that most don't bother to research or ask someone who knows, but I just smiled like a loon as Dean tried CPR on Emma and not only was it accurate, it was current *g*

Ok... I'll shut up now.

Thank you so much for this brilliant story and I'm looking forward for the remaining chapters :)))))
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on June 20th, 2012 02:09 am (UTC)
Wow, geez, thanks! I really appreciate the comments. Very coincidentally, I am currently reading (and I mean this literally...I was literally reading when I saw that I had a new comment) "Darkest Side of Black" over on fanficdotnet. Was looking for a longer piece to read and stumbled into it. Currently on chappie 5. Loving it so far (I'll let you know I think more comprehensively later)! Is that crazy or what?

Anyhoo...THANK you so much. I'm so very glad you are enjoying this. It was such a great learning experience, and I really enjoyed writing it (alright...there may or may have been a couple of attempts to stick my head in the oven...but they were thwarted by my good and faithful husband!). Thank you for your incredibly encouraging words for the OC's. Honestly, they really took on lives of their own, and when I was done with the story, I literally had some genuine sadness! I missed them! Heh.

Wow, I'm so glad the medical part is working, because that is definitely the ONE part that I am always uncertain about. I know next to nothing about medicine. So of course I have to chose these big hurt/comfort stories to write! LOL. This story was a little more fun, in that I could play around with homeopathy and old-wives medicine. I rather enjoyed learning about how they treated wounds and illnesses back before antibiotics were widely used. The parts where modern medicine is front and center...well...I am, admittedly, flying by the seat of my pants somewhat. Google has become my very good friend...that and I have a husband that would put Sam Winchester to shame when it comes to research. So he helps me out a lot with stuff like that.

Thank you again, so, so much for your very kind review. I am delighted that you like the story!
adrenalineshotsadrenalineshots on June 20th, 2012 09:26 pm (UTC)
Wow! That is one freaky coincidence *g*

I'm very glad you did your research and that you have such a useful helper! I loved to learn about old medicine and these home made remedies that, in certain cases, are still better than what current medicine can do :)

(Anonymous) on June 21st, 2012 05:07 am (UTC)
Hello, hello, it's anonymous me again! I'm glad I tried to prepare my heart and emotions before reading this chapter, because, oh, wow, this one really hurt! I don't often cry reading fanfic, but I was wiping away tears in more than one spot reading through this one! That whole first section with Jeb cradling Emma....the way Dean's head hit the first step as Jeb and Slaid dragged him out of the house....Florabel chanting her mother's name over and over while hiding in the loft....all her "conversations" with her mother's spirit....the final moments with Florabel and her mother's body as she told her to "go see Henry and Papa now"...the flies gathered all over Dean....and the way Florabel finally curled up next to her Pally and let her grief out. Oh, man, you just about killed me!

I think the highest praise I can give this chapter is to point out that it really was pretty OC-centric. Dean is unconscious throughout it; and Sam, Bobby, and Ellen chime in a few times in various spots. Overall, though, it really focuses on Slaid, Jeb, Emma, and (especially) Florabel. And it could not have been more spell-binding. Writing one good OC in fanfic is difficult (we've all read some pretty bad ones). Writing more than one good OC in fanfic is extremely difficult. Writing an entire chapter where the focus is mainly on your OCs is next to impossible. You, my dear, have managed that and more.

And can I just say that I love how old!Florabel has turned out, with her spirit and spunk still intact! Of course she's coming with Sam, et. al. I wouldn't want to get in her way!

Oh, I also wanna say something in Ol Jeb's defense. I know a lot of people are jumping on him and asking how he can't see through Slaid's manipulations, but I think we need to cut the poor guy some slack. He's just found the woman he pretty much considers a surrogate daughter raped and murdered, so he's not exactly thinking clearly. And it did have to look pretty bad at the moment he came in, with Dean pounding on Emma's chest and cursing her. Slaid just planted a few seeds and egged him on, but the scene Jeb walked in on definitely did not paint Dean favorably! I only hope he'll live long enough to see the error of his ways and hopefully assist Florabel and Dean with getting out of this mess. Fabulous job again, and I look forward to the next chapter!
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on June 21st, 2012 10:46 pm (UTC)
Oh wow, thank you so much. This chapter was actually the first part of my big *climax*. It was supposed to be ONE chapter, but it went overlong, so I had to break it into two. So yes! Wow! You are so right…it is completely OC dependent. Other than that snippet at the end with Dean’s POV, which isn’t much because the poor guy is barely sentient, the entire 1935 storyline is told from an 8-year old’s POV. At least by this point in the story, I suppose I can somewhat get away with that, since most people will be invested in the OC’s. The early chapters of the story were also very OC dependent (since BOTH boys were unconscious for nearly FOUR chapters!), and I knew I would lose some people because of it (and I did). But those who made it past those chapters aren’t likely to be daunted by this one. You’re all rock-stars! LOL.

But I felt giving Florabel her grief was far more realistic than if she merely blew through it, but I was concerned with the face-time that it got…I’m not going to lie. I really do feel that this story is Dean’s story, but this moment was Florabel’s and it was overall important to Dean’s story even though he was out of commission. I was hoping that it would be an organic outcome of the events and not merely a self-indulgent author stroking her OC's.

THANK YOU for your defense of Jeb!!!! Thank you SO much. I agree with everything that you have stated. That was exactly in my mind when I wrote the scenes in both chapter 17 and 18. Jeb was overwhelmed with shock and grief. He wasn't thinking straight.

I've had a few folks both here and on fanficdotcom bring up Old Jeb being duped by the circumstantial evidence and not believing Dean right off. One was disappointed that Old Jeb didn't shoot Slaid later on in the cellar. But I think Jeb is pretty much a fish out of water, here. His gun, I suspect, has never been used for more than “shootin’ varmints”, so taking a life, even one that deserves to be taken, is pretty daunting. But then again, he didn’t say he wouldn’t kill Slaid, only that he didn’t think his aim would be any good as shaky as he was. He really is a gentle human…maybe even too soft given the stakes here, but I still find him sympathetic in spite of his imperfections. He’s going to be imperfect again in future scenes, but that doesn’t spoil the character for me…it merely makes him real…at least in my eyes. How well that translates into an overall satisfying character for the reader is not something that I can guess at. He may ultimately disappoint, but I can live with that. Despite that, I wouldn’t change a thing about him. There are a lot of people in my own life who have disappointed me and been less-than they maybe could have been at times, but I still find value in them nevertheless. My mother, for instance, was the most loveably “fallible” person I ever met! And I daresay that goes for myself as well. I’m not even remotely as good as Jeb is…but sure enough, my family still loves me! I guess Jeb will have to remain a “he is what he is” character. I’m rooting for him, though. I recall reading how Tolkien received a lot of angry mail concerning Frodo’s “failure” to destroy the Ring and ultimately succumbing to Its power at the very end of his quest. Some people were outraged at Frodo’s inability to throw the Ring away…they felt that he was anything but heroic and didn’t deserve the praise that was heaped upon him. But Tolkien stated that Frodo had done the very best that he could…and that was heroic enough. He got the Ring to the mountain. He did everything he was capable of doing. And so is Jeb. He’s doing everything that he is able. He’s an ordinary man in extraordinary situation. And in that respect, I think he’s being extremely heroic.

Thanks again for your amazing comments. I'm giddy every time that I see you've left me one!
(Anonymous) on June 25th, 2012 05:29 pm (UTC)
Hello again. I have a different sort of comment for you today. You said you're giddy every time you see I've left you a comment. Ironic, since I feel a little giddy every time I see you've responded to one of my comments! I think it's so nice of you to take the time to respond to each and every one of the comments you've received. Definitely makes it all feel a little more personal for your reader!

Okay, I'm gonna let you in on a little secret. I've been undergoing some medical treatments since early May or so...nothing life-threatening or anything like that! But enough to be stressful all the same. I knew there would be a definitive point in time when I'd know if the medical interventions were successful or not. But getting to that point seemed as though it would take an interminable amount of time! Enter this story. I can't remember exactly when I started reading, but I think you already had a few chappies out. I'm always hesitant about WIPs, but when I actually read through some of your A/N and saw that the story actually was completed, I gave it a second thought. When I saw that, true to your word, updates did come out when you said they would (I lurk at hoodietime, which is how I found your story) I figured I'd give it a shot. And I'm so glad I did. Waiting to get to the point where I'd know about the success or failure of my treatments was very difficult, but every Monday and Thursday, I knew I had something to look forward to. So, in a way, I didn't have to think of waiting until some point in late June--I just had to think of waiting until Monday or Thursday, when the next chapter of Dust Devils would come out. Maybe that sounds a little silly....excellent as this is, it is still just a piece of fanfiction. But it gave me something to look forward to, and helped me divide up the waiting into smaller chunks. And so I want to thank you for that. Thank you for writing such an engrossing story that it allowed me to "slip away" for awhile from the worry and stress of waiting in my RL. Thank you for allowing me to escape into this world you've created, even for a short while. Thank you for enabling anon comments and responding to each of them, which gave me something else to eagerly anticipate. I truly appreciate it. I have read the next chapter, but have not yet commented on it. But I hope you'll forgive my tardiness when I explain why. Because the medical treatments I've been receiving have been for infertility. And my husband and I just found on Friday that it worked. I'm pregnant with my first child! So thank you so much for giving me something else to focus on and anticipate while I was undergoing the treatments and waiting to find out if they were successful. I assure you, it helped!
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on June 25th, 2012 10:28 pm (UTC)
You know, my husband actually called me at work and read this review to me over the phone. My work locks out LJ, and Fanficdotnet, so I can't see them. As my husband was reading this to me, he had to keep taking a beat here and there to avoid getting TOO choked up! Aw...he's such a softy! But I was right behind him! And this was a pretty bad allergy day for me, so right now, after reading this a second time...? My nose has a pulse, and it's so big it may qualify for its own zipcode!

Honestly, I don't think I've ever read anything more heartfelt that was directed at me or this story. Wow. Just...WOW. First and foremost...CONGRATULATIONS! I am so thrilled for you and your husband! That is SO amazing. I'm sure you two are absolutely over the moon. Gosh, that is just fantastic.

I'm so glad that the story was a good way to mark time and just relax for a little while. I had a few people disappointed that I was serializing this instead of posting it. I got one review over at fanficdotnet that was quite rude. The person said that she didn't appreciate being strung along for months and would, therefore, NOT read the story at all. Hrmph! But see...?! I knew there was a good reason for it! /acts pompus!

I absolutely love responding to comments, so you are more than welcome on that regard. Back when I first started reading fanfic, I didn't know much about these sites or how they worked. I never left comments for authors...some of them who I would have LOVED to have said something to. But I would read other people's comments and it appeared that most of the people knew one another, and I felt out of place, and I wasn't sure how to create logins, and I didn't feel qualified enough to chime in...etc, etc. Then, one day, I read a short story from one of my all time favorite fanfic authors and just could NOT stay quiet. So I actually signed up for Live Journal THAT day...got a log in...and left my comment for her. I didn't think for one moment that I'd get a response, but about a couple of hours later, I received a kind-hearted, thoughtful, thought-provoking, response from her. In a way, it made me feel closer to the story. Being able to discuss it and participate with the author. It really meant the world to me. And you know...she kind of spoiled me. I tend to leave reviews for stories, but I am not going to lie...if the author makes no attempt to reach out, I usually tend to not waste my time leaving them reviews in the future. I'm not being petty...I just want to discuss stories...not merely fawn on the authors. LOL. So being able to discuss something that *I* created is thrilling for me! And I learned a valuable lesson from the fanfic author who so graciously responded to my tentative attempts to reach out. I'll never take a single comment for granted!

I can't tell you how lovely it was to get this today. I am just so dadgum thrilled for you and your husband! You're gonna be a mama! How COOL IS THAT?!

/hugs

Kat

Edited at 2012-06-26 12:27 am (UTC)
(Anonymous) on June 28th, 2012 08:06 pm (UTC)
Oh boy, now I've really fallen behind on both my reading and commenting! Time to try and play catch-up!

I enjoyed your response to my previous comment very much! In fact, it made me get a bit teary when I was reading about you and your husband getting a bit teary. LOL! What a nice husband you have (mine's a bit of a softy, too!). Thank you so much for the congratulations. This will be our first child, and it's taken a couple years longer to get here than either of us wanted and/or anticipated. We're both real excited and looking forward to the first ultrasound on the 6th. This story really did help me through the waiting. It was kinda like knowing I had a friend waiting for me every few days! :-) So those people who were pissed or rude to you about not posting all at once can take a long walk off a short pier! Besides, leaving a review to inform someone you will *not* be reading their story because you don't agree with the logstics of how the author is posting it ranks up there on the List of Stupidest Things I've Heard in My Life. If she chose not to read this amazing story because she wanted to be petty, hey, her loss! (I'm hormonal; I can say things like this now)

I honestly don't comment very often, although I should make more attempts to do so. There are a lot of great authors out there who should know how awesome I think their stuff is. But I don't have either an LJ or an account on FF and not everyone accepts anon reviews (there have been a few times I've tried but the author did not enable anon comments--probably because they were burned in the past by a troll or something, I'm sure). Still, I could do a better job of making an effort. It is enjoyable, as you pointed out, to be able to talk about the story, and it really does serve to make it more personal and meaningful and give you a bit of a connection to what's happening. I'm sure I've felt more of a connection to this story because of the back-and-forth I've been able to maintain with you.

Anyhow, I better cut this off before it gets much longer. Just wanted to say thanks again for the kind words, the congratulations, and also the knowledge of your "real name.". So thank you, Kat. And, since it would be polite to return the favor, please call me Beth. =)
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on June 28th, 2012 10:23 pm (UTC)
Howdy Beth! Well, well you and I are doing our part to prevent drought! :P Whoo-wee! I’m flooding again!

OMG, that person who left that one “review” made me laugh, honestly. I think it’s really funny that someone would complain about not getting something (that someone was giving to them for FREE) fast enough. And you know, I have had several people tell me nicely that they are setting this story aside and will eagerly read it in its entirety when the posting is complete! How hard is that? Ha. That’s all she had to do, but nuuuuuuuupe…she had to write me and scold me and inform me that she wouldn’t be reading my fic as though I were somehow losing her business or something. What was that greedy girl’s name in Willy Wonka…the self-entitled little snip? That’s who she reminds me of! /snort. But by and large people have been really great.

Yay! First ultrasound! That is so freakishly awesome. So you’re going to totally have a Season 8 baby! Haha! Funny how I mark the time in “SPN-Seasons”. And, you know, if you totally get stuck on baby names…I’m in my late 40’s and never had a kiddo. I have a HUGE list of favorite baby names that I don’t have enough cats/dogs/goldfish to give them to! /snort. Heh. I totally love the name “Clementine”. And I’m being dead serious. LOL. Yeah, it’s probably best that I didn’t have kids…yep…yep…. ;)
(Anonymous) on June 29th, 2012 08:37 pm (UTC)
So, "Clementine," huh? As in "oh my darling'?" Um, thanks for the suggestion, but I think I'll stick with what we've got. ;-). I've actually had a name picked out for over ten years now. When I first thought of it, it was not a real popular name, but in the past few years, I meet more and more people with this name, so now I have to look like a trend-follower! Ugh!

This is a bit awkward, but I feel as though I need to say it anyway. It's obviously none of my business why you do not have children, but if I have made you feel uncomfortable I any way by talking about my news, I do apologize. It is not at all difficult to recall the bittersweet feelings others' pregnancy announcements were greeted with, while my DH and I struggled with our infertility. I have no idea if you've experienced anything similar (what with it not being my business and all) but I felt like I needed to say that. So anyway, there it is....

Beth
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on June 29th, 2012 11:35 pm (UTC)
No love for Clementine? LOL. I admit I have goofy tastes. Ha! But that's so cool that you have been holding onto the name for all these years. I wouldn't really worry about the popularity. It might actually be a little better for the kid to not be named something SO unique that it becomes a problem in and of itself. I'm sure that if I ever really named my kid Clementine...she'd smack me upside the head once she grew old enough to do so! :P

My not having kids was plain and simple...just waiting too long to be "ready". I got married for the first time on my 39th birthday....so I was an...um...VERYYYY late bloomer ;) By the time my husband and I were settled with a house, careers, and all the stuff we would need...we looked at each other and realized..."holy shit we're 45!" Well, actually *I* was 45...he was 43. The bugger thinks he's all that and a bag of chips because he's younger than me! Grar! But really...that's about it. Just waited until it was too late. But in the long run, it's probably all for the best. I'm a little scattered and flaky. I hear kids need to be fed and bathed regularly and all that. I'd probably forget all about it, and I'd be all like "Dude...what are you CRYING for...you ate on Thursday! Now can you go play with your knives...I'm trying to get to level 40 in World of Warcraft! Geesh!"

But seriously though...I did go through a period of mourning for not having kids. Adoption is just too time consuming and costly for us, and we're even approaching most cut-off ages for that. It's all good, though...I totally get to be that "Kooky Aunt Kat" to my nephews. They think I'm awesome because I totally teach them dirty songs to sing. Yep. I'm totally one of THOSE relatives! ;)
(Anonymous) on July 2nd, 2012 05:49 am (UTC)
Oh Kat, I'm sorry; I didn't mean to pry! I would say, though, not to give up on something like adoption if it's something you think you might be interested in. My husband and I were actually starting to seriously consider it before we found out the IVF worked and we were pregnant. After talking with someone at an agency, I think both of us feel like we will head down that road at some point in the future to continue to build our family, although it can be quite expensive as you mentioned. But it still sounded like something that could work for us at some point in the future. Anyway, I'll stop talking about it now since it is really not my place to be asking. =)

That's cool that you get to be the "Kooky Aunt Kat" for your nephews, though. I'm sure they appreciate having one of those, although I suppose their parents might feel differently. LOL!

Beth
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on July 2nd, 2012 10:42 pm (UTC)
No fretties! I didn't consider it prying in the slightest. And I'm totally cool with it, now. I"m starting to lose the "zip" I used to. I'd probably be wayyyyy too tired for a kid of my own. Better to corrupt the nieces and nephews...eyup-yup!!! :)
tifachingtifaching on June 21st, 2012 10:57 am (UTC)
I've been afraid the other spirit was Emma for a while. No way she's moving on while her baby is in danger.

I love Florabel's guts. She's terrified but she's still going to help poor Dean with is unequal pupils and his dust pneumonia.

Once again, beautifully, beautifully written. I'm with that poor frightened girl and her tough as nail future self. I'm feeling Dean's pain and Emma's resolve and Jeb's grief and anger. Slaid needs to get what's coming to him, that evil bastard.
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on June 21st, 2012 11:28 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I definitely think Emma is in for the long haul until she knows that Slaid won't be hurting anyone else...especially her baby girl. She's a great mama, and she'll put off her eternal reward until he get's his comeuppance!

Florabel is definitely her mama's daughter! She's brave and loyal and she's not going to let anything bad happen to the people she loves if she can help it. And that's something that stays with her for life! She's awesome!

Thank you SO much for letting me know your thoughts! You rock!