Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Witch Wood Demon, Part 4

The Witch Wood Demon, Part 4
By H.A. Handy
Copyright (c) 2005 by H.A. Handy

The house Angelica found herself at was a single story rambling house set precisely into a lovely valley. It looked old and comfortable. The road was about two hundred yards from the front gate which the horse stopped at.

"Are you awake, girl?"

"Yes ma'am," Angelica heard herself reply.

"Fetch the gate if you don't mind sparing an old woman the trouble of getting off and walking the horse to the barn." Angelica couldn't help but smile at the words. It had been a long time since she had been asked to fetch anything. A place in her heart just seemed to open up as she slid awkwardly from the horse. Luckily the stirrup was close to provide her a hand grab before she embarrassed herself and ended up with a face full of snow.

The gate was an old fence gate, big, long, heavy and once red as all of them had been. A stubborn splotch of red paint still clung to the top of the very center of the uppermost rail. Angelica slid the latch and opened the gate. The horse, Abner, moved forward, seemingly without being bidden or directed, and headed toward the house.

"Josh? Joshua! You here?" Edna called from the back of the horse as Angelica walked beside it.

"Right here, Granny!" came a voice from inside, and a duplicate of the man/demon-thing came out the front door and struggling a thick wool-lined denim jacket over very large muscles. Joshua wasn't wearing glasses and his eyes were the most beautiful hazel Angelica had ever seen. On closer examination, he was perhaps a little younger than the demon-thing, at least he wasn't as cold and hard, because the smile that came to his face was shy and bright.

"I've got a fire going in the living room. The 'lectric lines are down." Joshua lifted Edna down from the back of the horse gingerly. "You should've let me go, Granny. These things are gettin' hard for you."

She honestly could not remember the trip to the house because she had fallen asleep leaning against the strong, bony back of the old woman as the horse bounced her, surprisingly, into slumber.

"He's my grandson. Johnny's grandson," Edna said proudly. "His mother died in childbirth so, he's been with me every since he took his first breath."

Edna led the way onto the porch and into the fire lights glow of the living room. A couple of kerosene lanterns were lit throughout the house and several candles, giving the house a soft glow from the glare of all the white from outside. Edna shuffled easily out of her thin coat and thick gloves. Joshua had the man on the couch and his boots off and covered with a couple of thick quilts. Joshua vanished for a couple of minutes while Edna guided Angelica to a heavily stuffed chair beside the fire.

"So, what's going to happen?" Angelica heard herself ask from far away. She wasn't even sure why she had asked it in the first place, really. The silence and the warmth of the fire were somehow dangerous.

"We'll talk about that stuff when you rest a while. Here, outta the coat now." Edna slipped Angelica's coat off and threw it beside the door delftly. Joshua appeared as if on cue with two more quilts, one of which went around Angelica's shoulders. "You get her warm, Josh, I'll see to Caleb."

"No, no, that's all right...." Angelica's protest began, and then ended as her feet were promptly propped onto a rest and her boots were removed, as well as the wet socks. Somewhere in the back of her mind, Angelica hoped her feet didn't smell. If they did, Joshua didn't let on because his warm, calloused hands, began massaging her feet with utmost gentleness. At first it was very painful, the warmth that was beginning to flow back into her feet, but then, Angelica relaxed. Joshua seemed to rub her feet for an eternity before he covered them with the quilt again.

"I'll make some cocoa and some sandwiches, I bet you're starved." Angelica smiled at how different the words were compared to the deep throaty of them. Taking her smile as an affirmative, Joshua stood, smiled down at her and then vanished through a door where she began hearing sounds of wood being split out back.

They have an old wood cook stove! Angelica's heart leapt high at the thought of seeing one of those after so long! Uncle Greg had had one of them at the old place up on Junction Hill - he called it his hunting cabin. He made over that place as if it was a palace! In some ways, it was, because there he had taught her hunting, fishing, tracking, and told her all kinds of stories and taught her the old timey songs. It was wonderful, a palace of the summer. Sometimes when things went really bad at work Angelica would close her eyes and remember the cabin and hear the lush richness of birdsong in summer and she knew she could get through one more case, one more problem, just one more....

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