Lily

Lily

A Story by CJ Campbell
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A woman chooses to live quietly to escape the loss of a child.

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Lily

 

 

Lily took one final swing for the day and laid the axe neatly into a log and surveyed her morning’s work with satisfaction. It was enough to last for the next three days. This had become one of her favorite pass times helping to build up her strength and endurance for this rugged life she had chosen.

 

As she lifted her slender frame and stretched out her arms to the mountains around her she was not sorry for the choice she made. This was a far cry and a long way from the treacherous surroundings that had led her to this place of outstanding beauty and solitude. Looking down the valley from where she stood, she could see Rain, her two year old black stallion, grazing in the fields. To her left were the lower hills and above them the mountains covered in the frothy green of early spring. Birds sang their songs as they prepared to mate. Here and there an early insect added its buzz to the symphony of sounds. When she listened carefully, she could hear the waterfall that wasn’t too great a distance from where she stood.

 

Lily turned back towards the house. She knew what had possessed her to build her home in this place. She wanted a place that was fresh and clean and she wanted a home that was equally as fresh and clean. The house was very modern in structure. Very simple and streamlined, It was one of those new ideas in architecture for people who were concerned about the environment. Environment was very important to her. It’s structure was glass, wood and steel. The designers and the contractors who built it said it was capable of withstanding the rough winter she had just endured. Yet, she knew there was much work to be done to carry her through another winter.

 

Although she knew she had sought isolation  and called it solitude, she recognized the compromises she needed to make for safety and peace of mind.

 

From time to time, she went into town for supplies. Town was forty miles away. She was already known as the Hill Lady. In their own way the small town folks looked after her. Bill, a carpenter, called to make sure there were no major house jobs to be done " he didn’t believe in the pre-fab stuff. He chuckled when he arrived a month ago commenting that it was amazing the whole shindig hadn’t collapsed under the ton of snow that was still melting off the roof. He was a good guy and true family man - a rare breed.

 

Then there was Ted the grocer who made sure that she got all the provisions she needed at such a distance. He thanked her too for the new line of foods he was able to stock. Some of the town folk had adopted her tastes for some of the finer things in life, gourmet coffees and the like, and were glad to pay the prices.

 

Sandra, the beauty salon owner, was her ace in the whole. She knew everyone’s secrets and was pretty good at keeping them. Then there were the three red heads at the diner, Cheryl, Darla and Maryann. They collected all the town gossip and kept it for Lily on her rare visits to town. Sometimes, when it wasn’t busy at the salon or the diner the five of them would gather in the diner for a good round of girl talk, good cooking and fresh pecan pie with home-made ice cream.

 

No, there was no man in her life. The mere thought made Lily twist her mouth in derision and stomp up the path to the front door. That part of her life had ended long ago - some thirty years prior. As she reached the platform in front of the house, Lily paused and shook herself.

 

“That’s old stuff. Don’t bring it up again. It’s over. Done with.” Yet, even as she entered the sliding glass door she knew that she wouldn’t be able to shut out the past forever. Someday, someway, the past would find her. Somewhere, someone would read something and make the connection and the past would become the present.

 

“Enough” she muttered. “Tea time.” She headed towards the kitchen.

 

Cooking here always gave her such pleasure. It was bright from natural light and the stainless steel appliances blended beautifully with the grey granite counter tops. For the fun of it she had decided on the most outlandish bright red cabinets with stainless steel handles. The concrete painted floors added a touch of high décor and seemed warm from the recessed lighting in the ceiling and the low pendant lights over the island. She loved her six burner stove. Sometimes she wondered why she had gone to the expense of adding such a great kitchen. She was the only one who cooked or ate there.

 

Placing the bright red tea kettle on the stove she made sure the cap was closed. The sound of the whistling was something else she enjoyed. It added an odd little punctuation to the day. Now, what was there for lunch? A bowl of her homemade chicken soup and a bun would be good. That decision made, Lily opted for a quick shower before lunch.

 

As she allowed the water to cascade over her she thought about people’s reactions when they learned that she was the one who had purchased the land up on Fuller’s Mountain. Not too many people wanted to be that far away from civilization and a woman, well that was something to talk about. There was the proverbial question of why? A question Lily refused to answer. Thankfully, most of the townspeople had some modicum of reserve. It didn’t mean that they weren’t curious.

 

Lily asked herself the same question. But, she had the benefit of knowing the answer and knowing the answer she was able to artlessly circumvent the questions.

 

Stepping from the shower, she quickly dried herself and dressed. The kettle was whistling a merry tune.

 

Walking to the kitchen, Lily found a tray. She placed her tea mug, and bun on the tray, quickly warmed her soup and then carried the lot out to the platform which was also a patio. Sitting down she glanced gratefully at the vista surrounding her, said a prayer of thanksgiving for her food and ate.

 

So often she was able to escape her thoughts. There was always plenty to do. She wolfed down the rest of her lunch and lunged to her feet. It was Tuesday. This was the day she did her bulk cooking. That way if she had to go into town she knew what she would need because of what supplies she had diminished.

 

She placed the tray on the counter and the dishes in the sink. She gave the dishes a quick rinse and put everything away. Then she looked into the refrigerator. Turnips. That would keep her occupied.

 

As she pulled out the heavy knife she asked herself why she had purchased them. She hated having to cut them. They were always so hard to cut.  They were just like her thoughts. Difficult. Hard. No matter what she did they always persisted.

 

“Ow!” The knife slipped and cut deeply into her wrist. Cutting herself was the one thing Lily had dutifully told herself she must avoid in her present situation. “Ouch!” It happened again. She looked down at the slow red stain as it spread. She leaned over towards the sink to turn on the water. The blood ran into the sink and swirled and flowed down the drain. As much as she knew she needed to stop the flow she was paralyzed.

 

For the first time in fifteen years she allowed the memories to flow back. All the memories she had locked away so carefully and so forcefully erupted like a volcano out of her enforced isolation.

 

It was Thursday. As usual Dave was to take care of Rose their eight year old daughter and let the after school baby sitter, Diane, go home. A client had canceled. She stopped by the fried chicken place and thought they would have a pleasant simple dinner. She called out a greeting as she entered the door. The silence was deafening. As she rounded the wall that separated the front door from the kitchen she first saw her husband, His face was twisted in a grimace she knew well. It took a moment before she fully recognized what she was seeing. Her husband and her daughter, his hand over her mouth.

 

She remembered screaming. Flashes came back of Rose complaining about her father. But Dave was a good man, a wonderful husband a good father. A good father. That’s all she could repeat to herself. A knife lay on the table where he had used it to threaten their daughter into silence. “A good father.” The phrase seemed to burn itself into her brain. Rose always asked about Daddy’s knife. The butcher knife was on the table. There was a ringing in her ears. “A good father.” She could hear herself screaming the words. She grabbed for the knife as her husband regained enough of his senses to understand what was happening.

 

In the struggle she stabbed at Dave. It must have cut because there was blood. Then they were screaming at each other. She remembered him yelling,

 

“You’ll never prove it. No one would believe her or you.”

 

In their rage they forgot about the terrified child. Rose picked up the knife from the floor and struggling to reach her parents, her panties tangled around her ankles, she tripped and fell. Her gurgling scream electrified the room.

 

 In that moment of insanity, Lily picked Rose up and held her near the sink trying to stop the blood with paper towels, kitchen towels, She ripped off her coat. She was screaming at Dave to call an ambulance. He ran out of the house. By the time the ambulance came it was too late. Rose died in her arms.

 

It was ruled an accidental homicide. It was that and so much more. Dave wasn’t even held accountable for the rape of his own child. A good father. How she hated that term. She knew what it meant. She had experienced her own father’s goodness. A therapist tried to help her understand that is why she might not have been willing to listen to her daughter. It seemed such backward thinking. A good father.

 

Lily crumbled to the floor shaking and screaming with rage and pain and grief. What had paralyzed her then still paralyzed her. Her blood, Rose’s blood the same blood she had seen as a girl the night her father had raped her.  She was ten. Rose was eight. Blood flowed from her hands. Suddenly in the maze of memory and reality she was aware that someone was calling to her.

 

Lily. Hi I’m Rodger my uncle Bill sent me up here to check ---

 

His voice froze as Lily turned towards him. All he could see was the blood that was pouring from her.

 

Without a second thought he slammed the screen door open and in four running strides reached Lily. He didn’t ask what had happened. He knew that this was a matter of time. He ripped a curtain from the window, ran to the refrigerator and emptied the ice bin into it.  He quickly ripped a section of the curtain to make a tourniquet to stop the flow of blood. In his mind he wondered why she hadn’t made any attempt to stop it. There was no time to dwell on that consideration. He ripped down the other curtain and wrapped Lily and the ice pack into one bundle. Strong arms trained in years of combat and as a volunteer fire fighter, lifted Lily and with running steps he deposited her in his truck. With the one hand on the wheel and the other dialing his cellphone, he called ahead for an ambulance to meet him at the bottom of the mountain.

 

It was like swimming up out of a dense fog. There was light that was barely distinguishable and sounds that began as a whisper and grew to the magnitude of Big Ben chiming by her head. An excited voice said “She’s coming around.”

 

What were they talking about? She tried to lift her head up but fell back. She was so weak. What happened?

 

“You had a close call missy. Next time someone may not find you before you succeed in doing yourself in.”

 

Then she remembered. She was peeling and cutting those darn turnips and the knife slipped. She had cut her hand.

 

“I don’t think cutting my hand counts as trying to do myself in,” she responded weakly.

 

The one who she now identified as the doctor leaned closer and looked at her quizzically and stated pointedly, “Miss Armstrong, cutting both of your wrists with a butcher knife is not the same as accidently cutting your hand. If Bill’s nephew, Rodger hadn’t come when he did, you wouldn’t have survived. Thank him when you see him.”

 

“Doctor, I think that’s enough for now.” The gentle but firm reproach came from a feminine voice. Lily turned her head to see a tall woman with wavy dark brown hair streaked with grey, standing at her bedside. Instinct told her that this was a psychiatrist. It wasn’t her first encounter.

 

******

 

It was another spring when Lily returned to the mountain.  Everything looked the same. Ted and his wife had taken Rainbow down the mountain and stabled him for the time she recuperated. As she looked down the valley, Rainbow and his companion were enjoying the fresh greens of the spring fields. Someone had even cleaned up the kitchen and the trail of blood on the deck had been erased by putting in a new boards.

 

A lot had happened in that year including healing and a chance at happiness. Rodger had been so attentive and kind. She could never actually repay him for saving her life. Of course he didn’t want repayment.

 

“I do this for a living. It’s what I was trained for.” That was his take on his timely arrival.

 

And he was telling the truth. An ex-special forces military he had seen combat and the lives of his buddies had often been in his hands. Even though he wouldn’t speak of the details, it was evident that his courage and quick thinking had been tested to the limit. It was that attribute that had saved her life. Yet as his attention grew, Lily felt herself warming to him.

 

He even knew who she was.

 

“Yeah. I remember that. I was stationed in North Carolina when that story broke. You weren’t more than a kid yourself. That coward got off free. All the guys in the barracks were saying that they wanted a piece of him.”

 

“I’m afraid to ask, but, what did they say about me.”

 

“You know, you don’t give people a lot of credit. You’re harder on yourself than anyone else is. It was an accident.  People I heard talk about it had nothing but compassion for you. My mother was dying when the trial came up. She said, it was a wonder that you came out of it at all. She couldn’t imagine what it was like " the kind of mental and emotional pain and torment you were suffering.”

 

Lily had to admit, Roger was kind enough. man enough and definitely handsome enough. He knew how to dance and that was a major plus. The relationship had begun to blossom until the night of the Winter Dance at The Stables.

 

It was great fun and not really a date - just someone doing a kindness for someone that had been through a really hard time. Lily came to appreciate him in the fact that after he had discovered the total truth about her he hadn’t spread the word. Instead he acted as if she was really okay. He even paid the entry fee for Rainbow in the Best Dressed Horse Contest and helped braid his mane. Rainbow won second prize after Caramia Roger’s horse.

 

There was dancing and great food. Sandra and the three redheads became a back up quartet

singing Rodger’s praises. It all went well until Bill came over and thumped Rodger on the back.

 

“You know Rodger is really a great guy, and I say that inspite of his being my nephew. Someday, he will make someone a good husband and in the future, I know he will be a good father.”

 

All she could muster was, “Really.”

 

A good father.” Even though she hid it well, the phrase made her blood run cold.” It was a trigger. Two days later she was on her way back to the mountain.

 

This time it was better. Now it was more solitude then isolation. Dr. Rena had helped her face some of her demons, there was still a weekly office visit and the Doctor was just a phone call away. That was a comfort. In fact, the entire experience had been filled with love and the comfort of friends. But the comfort of trusting a love in her life was truly a struggle.

 

A week passed in perfect solitude. There were many phone calls. Cheryl, Maryann and Darla came up over the weekend. Sandra came too. It was a great time. Girl talk, a mani-pedi from Sandra, popcorn and a bevy of chick-flicks including Steele Magnolias and Maid In Manhattan. It was nice to have people in her home and for the first time her kitchen was put into full use. Home was finally a home and not somewhere to hide.

 

Lily stepped outside. It was good to be out on the deck again, too. The sun was gently warming. Birds sang. In the distance someone was running a tractor. Rainbow was in the field. When she listened between the bird calls and the hum of insects, she could hear a distant waterfall.

 

She breathed into the silence and the beauty of her new found solitude. She could see Rose’s smiling face and now she cherished the memory. There was a truck coming up the road. She recognized the sound. It was Rodger. He had called to say he was on his way. She stood and waved to him. Perhaps it was time and room for new memories.

 

© 2012 CJ Campbell


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Another great read.
You paint a fantastic picture of North America, and the struggle to build a home Lily is battling through.
She's a very strong character, and this is a beautiful story.

Posted 7 Years Ago


Wow!!
Wanna read more!!

Posted 7 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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Added on September 9, 2012
Last Updated on September 19, 2012
Tags: woman, child, rape, healing

Author

CJ Campbell
CJ Campbell

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