by Grasshopper


The End of the Story or Perhaps Just the Beginning

For this story to be told and understood, we had to go back twenty-seven years; back to what was the beginning for some and the end for others.

The Native Americans have names for each cycle of the moon; they know that all things in nature sleep, waiting until the moon wakes them. People's dreams and sins rise and fall to the whispers that travel on the moonlight. Perhaps, if the evil that lived in McLaren County, Wyoming had listened to the soft whispers of Niyol, the wind across the mountains, there wouldn't have been a story to tell, but we all know that evil never listens; evil just destroys.

Callie sat in the lounger on the stone patio in the south of France letting the morning sun warm her ruined skin. It had been two years since the fire that took her beauty away; two years since she had seen the face of her enemy. All these years, all these years of waiting for Wesley, of being the good daughter, and it was that face she should have seen; that face she should have destroyed.

Rising with the aid of two walking sticks, she walked slowly through the French doors into the lush living room, the walls covered with artwork.

Lily had bought the paintings and drawings for her, thinking they would bring her peace of mind. Callie spent most of her days staring into the eyes that had betrayed her.

There was her twin brother Cole, a thief and a liar. Her father and mother, always loving one child more than the other. The child, his eyes so like Wesley's, full of mystery and pain, and Mercy, the poor sweet bird with the broken wing. There were no pictures of Wesley Straihan, but he lived in her mind, his silver eyes and lying tongue.

The night of the fire, when she had gone to meet Craig at the old Straihan house, she had tumbled down those rickety basement stairs, her leg snapping as it bent under her. The shadow standing in the doorway illuminated by the moonlight had said not a word, just shoved her, closed the door and walked away. When she realized she was trapped, she laid her head down on the cool cement floor and waited to die hoping that the fire destroyed all of their happiness too. She would see them all in Hell.

As the acrid aroma of smoke filled her nose, she heard someone calling her name. "Callie, where are you? Callie?" She heard the frantic cries of a horse and the banging down of doors. She felt someone lift her and carry her painfully up the stairs and out into the cool night air. Her face felt odd, her hair smelled like burned toast. The pain in her arms and back was too much to bear.

The next weeks were a blur. Lily had told her how they got her on the helicopter that night and took her to Switzerland on the Campbell private jet. The doctors saved her, skin grafts took months and months. Callie never looked in a mirror. Her golden hair was gone, her beauty now shrouded in scars and hardened skin. Liliy told her she was lucky to be alive. Callie just laughed. Yes, what wonderful luck. Michel Arceneau had deserted her and all she had now were memories and pictures of the people who had done this to her staring at her from the walls of her life.

She dreamed of them at night, bizarre twisted dreams. She wanted the boy, called to him, but he never came even in the dreams. He would make her life bearable. He would love her.

Mercy couldn't sleep. She kissed Craig's hand as he slept and then she checked on the children, Katy, Violet and Billy. They were her treasures.

Their lives were nothing, nothing like hers had been. She protected Craig and them children constantly.

Sitting out in the bench swing, she listened to the night sounds and smiled at the cries of the coyotes out on the bluffs. Another noise, foreign, buzzed in her ears. The sound of some kind of motor way off in the distance, coming closer. As Mercy watched the night sky, a bright light shone down on the bluffs like a flashlight from the sky.

A helicopter passed overhead and disappeared over the cliffs toward the Campbell's ranch. Mercy sat stone still. She felt it. A threat in the air. Her mind crossed back to a night two years ago and her eyebrows creased into a frown. She rocked in the bench swing, her bare feet dragging and then pushing to keep her moving; the hem of her long gauzy nightgown trailing in the Wyoming dust; her eyes watching the line of moonlight shining on the sandstone bluffs near her brother's house.

Callie drove the ATV slowly across the rocky ground. She knew the path by heart from all the times she had ridden Firefly to the bluffs. Her legs ached and her arms felt on fire, but she needed the child.

Stopping in the shadows of the treebreak, she looked at the house her brother had built for Wesley. Oh, she knew all about them and their lies. Freaks of nature, they were. Sick and disgusting, and they had her son.

She began to walk slowly, her canes propping her up. "Lucas," she whispered, her voice carrying across the still night air. "Lucas, come to Mommy, sweet boy. Mommy needs you."

"Well, Mommy can't have him, just like Callie can't have whatever else she wants."

Callie turned toward the voice that struck at her from the darkness. "You!" she cried.

"Yes, Me!" Mercy said, no emotion in her voice. "I thought this was over, Callie Hewett. You think you can just come here and ruin everyone's lives. Well, think again. That boy does not belong to you. He is with his family and you'll never touch him."

"There are no stairs this time, you ugly crippled thing," Callie spit out.

Mercy stood still for a second and then laughed. "Excuse me? Ugly? Crippled? Have you looked in a mirror lately? I wouldn't be so quick to point fingers. The fire took your outer beauty, but your jealousy and hate destroyed whatever inner beauty you had years and years ago. The saddest part of this whole thing.... You have the most beautiful son and you threw it all away."

"I will have him," Callie sneered. "He will come to me." She turned away and began to walk along the cliff path toward the big house.

"I don't want him to even know you were here. He deserves a happy life. We all do. I wish you could see that."

Callie kept walking. "Lucas, come to Mommy. I love you, darling boy."

"You don't know what the word means," Mercy sighed.

"You can't stop me," Callie said.

"Oh, but I can." Her hand came out and she shoved. Callie stumbled and then, her arms wheeling in empty air, fell from the bluffs, the drop to the rocks below finally ending what had become a nightmare. Her body fell into one of the thousands of deep crevices and was covered over by smaller stones. A fitting grave.

Luc woke up. He'd been dreaming of his Mommy. She was calling to him and he felt her pulling him out toward the bluffs. Then his Auntie Mercy had pulled him back. He sighed, rolled over and cuddled Pat as he fell into a dream free sleep.

The growth in Callie Hewett's brain, pressing, pressing, was finally dead. It had twisted her mind and caused a beautiful girl to become a souless woman. First, the antidepressants, then the pain pills, double triple handful ..

The malignant mind became the malignant woman. No one ever knew... Such a shame.

Lily came. She told them the story of Callie's recovery and they searched the land. But the land did not want to reveal its secrets. The rain fell, the wind shifted dirt, the scavengers fed. Callie was gone.

Dinner as usual at Wes' and Cole's house. Laughter, love and terrific food. Albert at one end of the table and Sarah at the other. Wyatt had crafted another leaf for the table. Wes, Cole and Luc, Annie and Teezy, Craig, Mercy, Katy, Violet and Billy, Wyatt, Sarah and Albert.

Luc, Teezy and Katy all sat in regular chairs now. Violet and Billy pouted that all they had were bumper seats. "When your chin is higher than the table, you can get rid of the bumpers," Cole laughed.

"You got another show coming up soon?" Craig asked.

"Yep, New York this time," Wes grumbled. "I guess it's tuxedo time again."

Cole laughed and gave Wes a cheeky grin, "You're gonna have to promise me something to make me leave the ranch."

Wes hummed, "Can't take my eyes off of you."

Albert rolled his eyes, "I'm not even going to ask."

"I did what I had to do. My mother told me when Wesley was born, "You have to be a big girl for your baby brother. He will need you always." I've never forgotten, Mommy.

Karl raped me the night before I killed him. He said if I told Wesley he would hurt him. I couldn't let Karl hurt my baby brother. I yelled his name so he could see who was hurting him. He had the saddest look in his eyes.

I had to be rid of Callie. She threatened Wesley's love twice.

I'm not asking for forgiveness. I would do it again. Perhaps life can ease down now and begin for all of us.

The night that Callie died, Wesley Straihan's eyes changed from silver to dark green rimmed with circles of gold. Kat ran her fingers through his long brown hair as he slept and kissed his cheek. "You'll be fine now, my son. I will always love you."

Mercy sat in her bench rocker for nights after, but the wind was gentle and the moon blessed her. "You can rest now, sweet girl. I will always love you," Kat whispered.

Luc and Teezy sat on a high limb in the cottonwood behind the house. "Bless you both, hold hands and fly high," Kat sighed. Luc's eyes widened and a spark of silver shot through them. "Teezy? Will we have to think a long time about this?"

"Yepper," she grinned.

They held hands and..........................

All lyrics are the property of their respective authors:

Slumber Boat ~ Alice C. D. Riley and Jessie L. Gaynor

I See the Moon ~ Unknown

Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground ~ Willie Nelson

Can't Take My Eyes Off of You ~ Frankie Valli

Thanks everyone for your comments, ideas and suggestions. I write for you and I hope you enjoy it.


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