Even in so much as my father has consecrated the union it seems to me that it must be wrong, in at least a human, and more so ever a religious sense.
Cotton Edwards came out of the low opening of the marriage tent and swelled up visibly. I thought I could hear a quiet sobbing from the inside. He glanced around then looked to me.
“Morning to you Sister Ruth,” Edwards said, in a boastful brassy tone. “I can smell breakfast and the missus ain’t quite ready yet. But I could eat a hog. If it weren’t illegal. So let‘s say we get going.”
Father could not see, Mother could not admit, Aaron was not ready; I knew…the man was pure evil. I ran to the tent.
“Hey now little girl, none of that, he took a swipe at me. Helen’s gonna come out in her own good time.”
I ignored him and rushed into the tent. Sister Helen was huddled in disarray at the foot of the marriage bed, trying to be as small as she could, as if to escape notice, the sobbing was louder.
“Oh! Helen…can I do anything for you?”
She opened her eyes and looked at me, almost as if she knew me, and a transformation came over her and it changed everything.
She stilled and said, “Good morning Ruth, it seems I have overslept, we can’t have that now, can we?”
Mechanically, that’s the only way I can describe it, she pulled the covers from her and began to dress.
I screamed! And screamed again! She was covered in blood from her neck down. I had never seen nor heard of any such thing. I caught myself and ran to the basin and grabbed a cloth, moistened it and began to try to clean her up. Helen did not speak but hummed an aimless tune.
She did not resist nor did she help. When we were finished, and she was as clean as I could manage, I helped her to dress, and holding both of her hands in my trembling left led her from the tent. In my right I held the shotgun that leaned at the tent‘s entrance, and if Edwards had been visible when we got outside, he would have been dead.
I kept both Sister Helen and the shotgun with me as I went in search of my father. I found him where expected, in the field tending the grain crop.
I told him what had happened and all the while Helen maintained the same disinterested appearance. She was not real, less than a doll, as emotionless as a blank sheet of paper.
“Child,” my father said to her, “Know ye not the ways of men? Is something wrong? Are you truly in pain?”
Helen replied, “He is Lord and I must do as He commands. That is the way and the truth. I am sorry if I cause anyone to trouble over my condition. Forgive me, for I have sinned and must work to make amends.”
“You are indeed blessed my child,” my father Jedediah said. “Understanding and acceptance are both gifts of the Lord.”
I was at first in shock and then denial and I said nothing. Later, as I led Helen back to our campsite, I was sure I had seen both faces of evil.
I must find Aaron. I must find sanity. I must find a way to kill that rotten bastard Edwards and not get caught.