Read part 1 here
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Beth Johnson was shaking so hard she could hardly stand up. Memories came flooding into her mind, swift and debilitating, and she felt her knees begin to buckle under her. The man that towered over her moved swiftly as she started to sway, and settled her into the chair he had been occupying.
Beth nodded, gripping her hands together tightly in her lap to still their trembling. She waited a second, forcing the fear and anxiety down deep, and then braced herself to stand.
Jed reached out and gripped her wrist, intending to help her to her feet, but when she gasped and pulled away, he looked down at the bruise that was already forming there. He lifted her hand and shoved the cuff of her blouse up to examine the discoloration; but it wasn’t the bruise that had the blood rushing from his head. The scars that circled her thin wrist had his eyes rising to hers in shock.
Beth shrank back onto the chair and yanked her arm away from the stranger. She pulled the sleeve of her blouse down over the faint white lines that reminded her every day of a past terror that still had the power to awaken her in the middle of the night.
Jed dropped his hand and stepped back, mind reeling. What had happened to this girl? The answer seemed to be all too obvious and Jed wasn’t quite sure how to handle the revelation.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you.” He spoke the first words that entered his mind, as he swept his gaze over her and then looked into her tormented brown eyes. “Are you alright?”
Beth dropped her eyes from his penetrating gaze and darted a glance at the doorway to the kitchen. She wished with all that was in her that she was back there, in the safety of the cozy warmth with Margaret.
The pile of broken dishes was all but forgotten as she eyed the distance between her and that gateway to sanctuary, weighing the advisability of pushing past this mountain of a man and rushing across that expanse of floor.
As she sat there, contemplating escape, something suddenly rose up within her and strengthened her spine. She had survived all those years ago, she was not about to let this man intimidate her into hiding in the kitchen like some weak-kneed ninny.
“Yes, I am quite alright,” she answered with a quiet dignity that seemed so far beyond her years, it almost had Jed smiling.
He studied her, seeing the strength and resiliency that had taken up residence in her lifted gaze. He had watched the transformation with amazement, wondering which was the real girl. The trembling, terrified child that had dropped her tray of dishes, or this young woman with a backbone to rival that of a grown man.
The paradox had a fleeting wish to remain in town to find out skipping through his mind.
And then she stood, forcing him to step back, and he was once again struck by how small and fragile she looked.
“Excuse me. I must clean up this mess.”
She stepped around him and bent to begin picking up the pieces of pottery that had scattered across the hardwood floor, and Jed knelt next to her, gathering up the larger pieces and laying them on the tray.
“Do you have a broom?”
His quiet question rippled through the silence that had fallen between them and she nodded as she stood to go into the kitchen. Jed could hear the quiet conversation through the door and a minute later he heard the door swing on its hinges. His back was to the door and he did not see who had joined him.
“Young man, what are you doing?”
The sharp question would have brought Jed to his feet with an explanation; but it was the voice that had his head turning and his eyes widening in shock for the second time in the past thirty minutes.
The tiny gray haired woman stared at him in amazement.
“Jedidiah? What are you doing here?”
Jed was reaching for her even as she stepped toward him, arms out in joyful welcome.
© Drusilla Mott and https://drusillamott.wordpress.com, 2018