Grace Smithington. A Short Story.

I wrote this short story a couple months ago, and I decided to post it today. Hope you like it. 😀

              The town lay in the ashes of tears. A dark cloud pervaded the land, quenching any hope, and leaving despair to topple even the bravest of warriors. Every being longed forget the world and huddle near the stove, letting the heat wash away any dread of what was to be. No one wanted to be the next one in the increasingly larger graveyard. No one desired to lie in the cold earth six feet under, letting the melody of death sing its song again. Fear was edged in everyone’s tired face, for the confidence of the epidemic taking its departure was long gone as everyday yet another sepulcher was made to hold the latest victim of scarlet fever.

The little girl sat under the tree with her face turned to the setting sun. Her young form bore the weight of a hundred heavy hearts. The small child drew her eyes back to the three grave markers. Her mother, father, and baby sister lay beneath the dirt. Ever since they had departed, she ceased to feel the pain of hunger or the nag of thirst, her mind centered of what it could have been. Though she was young, she knew death. Yet this was much more different than Sussy and Pussy’s death, for they were just pets. The child had heard of death, just as the Reverend had stated. “Its knarred hands grasp your loved ones, taking them from your clasp. Snapping and clamping away until it leaves you in a state of utter depression. But there is Hope…” Yet at that moment Grace Smithington couldn’t remember what he had said after that. Grace observed the wilted drooping flowers above her mother’s grave, the flower peddles were nearly falling, as if suppressed by the anguish in the air. Yes, Grace Smithington most certainly felt like a flower, wilted and ready for death.

              Not far from where little Grace sat, two elderly women, who had survived thus far, scurried along with baskets under their arms. The lane they walked upon was well worn, but now was void of any being besides the two. They prattled about until the older noticed the slight girl sitting in the distance.

              “That one’s gonna die of cold, if the scarlet doesn’t get her yet.” The older smirked.

              “Ain’t dat the one who’s parents died just nigh this week?” The younger questioned.

              “She’s da the one. The fever got her whole family. Ever since dey pasted on she hasn’t moved from dat tree. As iffin she be believing deys gonna come again.” Older woman lifted her voice and yelled to the girl. “You’d better get on inside, right now, afore you freeze to death.”

              Grace, who had heard every word of their loud conversation, chose to ignore the warning of her elder, and stay her ground under the tree, not once flinching. The young girl felt a flame rising in her chest, bringing her usual rosy face to a hardened stone pillar.

              “Ye hear me?”

              Perturbed that Grace wouldn’t obey her authority or much less acknowledge her, the older woman wobbled on with an air of haughtiness.

              “Ye can see why nobodies taken her in yet. She’s arrogant as can be.” The woman huffed.

              “Ain’t she da lass who was ever so sweet, and wore em bows in her hair?” The younger asked, compassion in her voice, for she herself had lost her beloved sister a month before.

              “Hmm…” The woman disregarded the girl and hurried on her way, the younger woman hurried to keep up.

              Grace was once more laced with loneliness in the ghost town of a hundred souls. She stared into the distance. She wasn’t the child Jeff and Lily Smithington had birthed. No, there was no more joy in her essence. Her happy ways and gifted dance were no longer part of her. The slash across her heart bled so profusely that the swell left no scab, and then she would be just as her family. Dead.

              The paddle of two feet stirred Grace from her deep contemplations. Nine-year-old Benjamin Perkins hustled up. His eyes held the depth the ache he knew Grace was experiencing. Not uttering a word, he slipped a warm roll from his pocket and offered it to her. Grace would have declined, but Benjamin pleaded with his eyes, for he must have noticed how thin she was getting. So, she hesitantly took the bread, assured him with a bite, and placed it at her side.

              Benjamin motioned for Grace to follow him, yet Grace fixed her gaze elsewhere. He touched her arm, anxious for her to be inside away from the coming storm. Dark clouds hovered over the atmosphere, ready to pour the contents of a thousand lakes upon the earth. Grace shoved his hand away, expressing to him with her eyes that she needed to stay.

              With a sad look, Benjamin trudged away to report to his mother. She would know how to comfort Grace.

              As if the wind came and swept everyone to stillness, Grace sat alone. She rose her frail body from under the tree and away from the graveyard. Grace knew what she would do. She hurried on, her fragile body unsteady.

              Up and up the cliffside led her. Making yardage as a prairie dog on chase, she nearly ran. Grace stumbled upon the jagged rock and her arm was lacerated on the sharp rock, yet the blood and pain only prodded her on.

              The gathering storm shadowed the land. The brooding clouds threatened rain any minute, emitting small droplets to remind those below to take shelter. Lightning struck in the distant sky.

              Yet Grace wasn’t to be deterred.

              The edged surface of the cliffside boasted of a one hundred foot drop, yet today, it seemed ten times taller to Grace, as she stood upon the cliff, eyeing the eternity that lay between her and one step. The wind whistled through her hair as thoughts crashed through her brain as she studied the open air. She pushed her foot forward, taking a small step towards the edge.

              “Grace!” The fatherly voice of Mr. Perkins warned Grace. He was on the hill with Benjamin and Benjamin’s mother followed close behind.

              The moment Grace heard the voice her heart broke, yet suddenly she had fallen and was slipping over the edge. She reached around, searching for something to grab. Her hands clung to the sharps rock.

              “Help!” Grace yelped, for she didn’t want to die. The clouds broke sending showers upon them.

              In an instant, Mr. Perkins grasped her arms. He scooped her up into his chest and brought her gently to Mrs. Perkins, who stroked her hair.

              Grace felt tears blended with the rain dripple down her face as she snuggled closer to the matronly embrace. Then she began to weep, letting the river of sorrow ease from her body.

              The Perkins brought Grace down to their home, and, after wrapping her in warm blankets and feeding her broth, they led her to the empty bed near the window.

              Grace gazed upon her new parents, and a smile streaked across her face like a rainbow after a storm. Perhaps there was hope… and as she would later find out, this Hope brought more than just life. This Hope brought eternal joy as well.

Thank you for reading.

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