Good Tuesday, readers! I hope this last day of February is treating you well. Here’s the next installment of my short, serial story: Poor Valley Witch. To start from the beginning, click here. Thanks for reading!
Landon went back into Mamaw’s house. I need answers, he thought. His grandmother knew what was happening. It was time she let him in on whatever this family secret was.
She sat at the battered kitchen table, staring at the jam jars he’d gotten out for their tea, before he’d seen the vultures in the attic. Before they’d been the subject of a, what? A Baptist protest? Landon shook his head. Sweet tea with his grandmother seemed like something that had happened about a million years ago.
“Tell me,” he said, sliding into the chair across from her. She shook her head, like a petulant child.
“Tell me what the hell is happening, Mamaw! What is this? Why is some witch,” he stabbed his finger toward the window, and Poor Valley, beyond the tall pines. “Some witch sending her vultures to get my things? What does that mean?” Mamaw stared at him with wide, wet eyes. Her mouth quivered. He’d never seen her so vulnerable as she was today. It made him feel bad, like he was staring at her naked.
“I … made a mistake,” she whispered. She sat, clutching the jam jar with its skim of tea at the bottom, her wrinkled hands white with effort. Landon opened his mouth, then shut it again. He let the silence lay heavy. Finally, she took a deep breath and looked up at him.
“When your father brought your mother home and said they’d gotten married, I tried. I tried to find a way to make it ok.”
Landon sat back in the chair. “Mamaw, are you seriously losing it? What the hell does my mother marrying Dad have to do with any of this?” He’d always had the impression that his grandmother didn’t like his mother, that her constant disapproval had driven a wedge between his parents. And his parents’ commitment hadn’t been strong enough for them to stay together. His mother’s love for him hadn’t been strong enough to make her stay.
“Your father was promised to the Poor Valley Witch.” Mamaw let out a shaky breath, releasing the jam jar where it sat on the table, her hands small and quiet in her lap.
“He was promised to her? Like in Rumplestiltskin, he was supposed to belong to her, or something? I’m not getting this, Mamaw.” Landon rubbed at his face. He was tired.
She laughed, some of her old spunk in the sound. He looked up at her, surprised by that.
“No, he was promised to her as in he proposed marriage to her. He told her he would marry her, would have babies with her, would live up in Poor Valley for the rest of their … well, the rest of his life.” Bitterness crept into her voice.
“And then, what? He ran off and met Mom on spring break in … in, Florida? And they got married?” It was a reach, the most ludicrous thing he could think of, but as soon as the words were out his grandmother was nodding.
“That’s pretty much what happened, babe. Your father was faithless, as we used to say. And you just don’t jilt a witch.” Mamaw stood up and took the jam jars over to the sink, pouring the sugary brown tea down the drain. She looked frail, silhouetted against the window.
“So Mom left. Is that why? She finally couldn’t take the pressure? Did the witch curse her, or something?”
“Not exactly,” said Mamaw. “The witch tried to kill your father, first. She was unsuccessful. And then–” Landon’s cell phone chimed. His mother had texted; her plane was about to take off in Tampa.
“Mom’s on her way here,” he said. “She said she’ll rent a car in Knoxville.” Mamaw nodded.
“I’m so tired, babe,” she said. “Let me lay down a bit.” Landon got up to put his arm around her, help her to her bedroom. Something in her manner made him think she needed help, needed to lean on someone else. Put down her burdens for a while.