What it Means to be a Christian

What it Means to be a Christian

6 October 2017

 

Hello everyone,

 

I can’t believe it’s fall already! Wow how time flies when you’re having fun, living life and serving the Lord! Today, I have now been a Christian for 5 years. It seems just like yesterday when I was immersed under the waters, baptized, and renewed in newness of life. Being a Christian these past 5 years has been a difficult but fulfilling road. Growing up, my parents raised me in the strong routine of attending church on a regular basis, praying as often as possible, and constantly searching for God’s truth in your life as far as the plan He has for you. He has a unique and beautiful plan for each and every one of us, and gradually, as I grow older, at age 29 I’m learning more and more of what it means to not give up on God, to keep unwavering trust and faith in Him, and how important it is to always put God first in your life. I hope that these truths are as encouraging to you as they are every day to me.

 

Therefore, below are the top ten things that I’ve learned since first becoming a Christian.

  1. God is not only omnipresent, but he is 100% involved in my life. No matter what fears, worries, or stress-related happenings occur upon my day, God is always right there listening to me and answering my prayers even when I do not know His answers.
  2. When you submit full control of your life and particularly your future to God, amazing things happen. He blesses our lives immensely, and we gradually learn to have a stronger faith in Him.
  3. When you pray to God, the Holy Spirit intercedes for you on your behalf, so that your prayers to God’s ears always sound perfectly done. Those words you can’t completely express the way you’d like to, God already knows what you want and need and answers your prayers.
  4. God’s answers to prayers isn’t always no, but quite often is “not yet.” This is one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned while being a Christian. An even harder element is accepting that and moving on with your life even though every bone in your body is desperate to know the answer.
  5. God amazingly blesses us in our lives. I have an amazing husband, a wonderful job, an enjoyable passion for writing, and a loving family. God is good.
  6. Evangelism is hard, but worth it. The more heavily I become involved in my church, the more I understand this. it’s not just a success when somebody becomes a baptized Christian, but even telling people about Jesus is a success. Because it’s exactly what God wants for us to do.
  7. There are amazing people in the church who love you very much, who are like family, and who will always support you. They will never judge you, because everyone deals with their own imperfections and struggles in life. Everybody is a work in progress. All that is important is that you are constantly working on your imperfections, as opposed to accepting them about yourself. God wants us to constantly work to be better and happier people.
  8. There will be people who cross your path who become receptively cold to your Christian message. Even some of you out there might see my blog post and think to yourself, “what a load of garbage.” But if you preach the Word of God with love and honestly tell them so, particularly with what I am doing to you right now, to them it might be tough love, but it’s the only way to evangelize, the most important thing God wants us to do in our lives. If someone you love doesn’t understand that, let it go if they become angry and cold. But don’t give up. Keep showing yourself as a good example of how to live a Christian life, and keep working hard to do right in God’s eyes. In the end, it’ll be so incredibly worth it.
  9. It is soooo amazing to be married to a Christian spouse, someone to come home to every day who greets you with love and is always supportive to you. The inspiration he or she gives you will be the best; trust them in their wisdom. If you are going through a trial or struggle, just be upfront and honest with them about it. After praying about it first, of course.
  10. Becoming a baptized Christian is the best decision I ever made in my life. It is such a simple action. All you need to do is believe in Jesus’ words in the Bible by believing in Him, confessing and repenting your sins to God, and becoming immersed with water for the forgiveness of sins. The Greek word for “baptism” is “baptismo,” which translated means, “to submerge or immerse,” which means to plunge someone completely under water. This puts you into the death of Christ, and then taken out of water renewed in Christ with a brand new, beautiful life that begins free from sin and vowing to God that you are going to live your life for Him going forward until one day, you find yourself in eternal paradise. This is what the Bible says, and this is what being a Christian is all about.

 

I love being a Christian. It’s the most important thing in my life, and I have yet to regret it. There’s nothing more comforting than bringing your troubles to the Lord to handle and take care of. He already has your prayers answered. But He loves you serving Him every day. If any of you has questions on the things I mentioned above, please message me privately. But please, keep any ugly words you may think of to yourself. Life is too short for ugly words anyway.

 

And for those of you who are Christians, keep on keep’n on. Don’t give up, and remember, your hard work will be rewarded one day.

 

Have a good rest of your month, and Happy Halloween!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

JMK~

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Book Got a Bad Review – Now What?

4 August 2017

Hello everyone,

 

First of all – let me start off by saying that the best and happiest route in the publishing business is getting published through a literary agent. Then, the publisher they get for you should be the one doing the main promotions of your book. Doing so yourself is up to you. But if a publishing company tells you that you and you alone are responsible for promoting it, that just has red flags all over it.

 

Regardless, though – what happens when you do get a bad review? What should you do, if anything, and how should you react?

 

Well, the first thing you should remember is that the reviewer doesn’t know you personally and is not criticizing your life, your personality, etc. They’re simply telling you what they think about your book. And doing so doesn’t mean that you wrote a terrible book. Your book is awesome no matter what! Don’t forget that – YOUR BOOK IS AWESOME NO MATTER WHAT! You put your blood, sweat, tears and valuable time and resources into this masterpiece. So yeah, when a bad review occurs, it hurts. But don’t focus on the bad – focus on the good. If such popular authors as JK Rowling and Kate Morton and Stephanie Meyer gave up on their first book due to bad reviews, think how different we all would be! Harry Potter would never be finished! Of course it’s difficult to believe, but I’ve looked on Amazon, and such famous authors DO get bad reviews. And yet, their publishers and agents still sell thousands of more copies of their books! And why is that?

 

BECAUSE OF THE GOOD REVIEWS!!

 

See? The good reviews are what really matter. And then there are the bored bad reviewers – those who haven’t read your book but they just wanted to leave a cruel review. I’ve known people like this, because they’ve admitted on their review that they didn’t even like my book. Such people are heartless and cruel, and have no other time on their hands other than try to get you upset with such awful reviews. Once again, ignore these people and simply focus on the good reviews. These are the ones that truly matter and also the ones that will get you incredibly far in life, where you will sell hundreds of thousands of books, because people love reading good reviews!

 

Of course, it isn’t supposed to be about reviews or how many books you sell. It’s really about making a true difference in the story you’ve told. SOMEONE NEEDS YOUR BOOK. Don’t forget that. You will change someone’s life with your book one day.

 

And you know what? All that hard work will pay off and will be so incredibly worth it. Never give up! Never surrender.

 

Have a good week! 🙂

 

JMK~ 🙂

 

 

Offering Editing Services 

Hello everyone, 

Beginning today I’m offering editing services for anyone who needs something edited! 😀😀 Please share this among yourselves, and let me know if you have questions! 🙂 

Editing Services

Are you looking for a professional to write and edit something of yours? A poem, short story or manuscript or any other documents? Are you on the verge of sending something into a publisher and need another’s eye about what you have written? You’ve come to the right place! I will edit and proofread your documents while providing free feedback and criticism to you at a single cost.

Why Me? 
I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in English with an emphasis on Writing. I also fourteen years of my own experience, including college, to professionally give you a good writing and editing approach.

How does it work? 
You contact me via email or social media with your attached document you would like edited. If it is a short story or manuscript, I will provide free constructive criticism in comments throughout the work. Constructive criticism is nothing personal against you or your work, but something critics give on a regular basis. It is not mean feedback, but honest, creative, and direct feedback. I will give you honest and creative approach that will be most beneficial to you and your work. Examples of things I’d comment on is research done for something in the story, or POV aspects.

What do you look for when editing?
Sentence structure, grammar, punctuation, spelling, POV within paragraphs, and that the paragraphs are indented correctly. When editing, I will also determine what readers would like about certain parts.

What is the cost?
Manuscripts; books of poetry or short stories – $50
Individual poems or other documents- $20
 
How do I pay?
Through PayPal, find my account under name Jenna Kinzler (brown hair with black sweater and scarf), and send to this account. Otherwise, I can give you my address and you can send a check. 
 

How long will it take? (Depending upon project):
Manuscripts- 2-3 weeks
Other – 3-5 days

Exceptions
I will not accept material about or eluding to the erotic or sexual nature which includes bestiality, rape, incest, or alternative lifestyles. Also, please only submit works that carries as little profanity as possible. If you have any questions about these, since there may be exceptions, please contact me. It is better to ask questions than to miss out on an incredible opportunity for your work to be edited professionally.

Need more info?
Please contact me via one of my social media pages seen here, or by my email: books_jmg@yahoo.com.  

Thank you! I look forward to working with you all! I promise you it’ll be a rewarding and exciting experience for both of us! 

When Life is Unfair

When Life is Unfair

2 June 2017

Hello everyone,

The Bible gives us all sorts of good life lessons from real-life stories of people who have fought through the worst, and survived. My favorite apostle of all time is Peter, because in the beginning of his relationship with Jesus, he was very charismatic and wasn’t afraid to speak his mind. He loved Jesus, don’t get me wrong, but he was always questioning Jesus’ motives and reasons for doing things. I think he did so, not because he didn’t trust Jesus, but because he wanted to understand the right thing to do in these situations. He was a man who fought his faith, and who saw Jesus’ miracles hands on. He was also kind of a troublemaker, such as denying Jesus 3 times and cutting off a soldier’s ear to defend Jesus. I could almost picture Jesus looking at Peter when he did that, pretty much saying, “Peter, come on.” The story that really sticks with me, though, is the story of, when Jesus walked on water, Peter didn’t have enough faith to trust in Jesus to walk on water, too. As charismatic, courageous, and adventurous as Peter was, in that tiny moment, fear and distrust of faith got the best of him.

Such a story tells us that even when the apostles saw Jesus in actual physical form in front of them, they still had a lack of faith, such as not trusting when they were in a boat with a sleeping Jesus in a middle of a terrible storm. Nowadays, we trust Jesus completely. But the instant a trial hits us – a loved one dies; a dream disappears; we don’t get an expected answered prayer – we instantly turn into the “why God? Why me?” person. We are all human, but God expects us to trust Him. That is who He is. He is amazing.

A couple months ago, I saw the movie, “Is Genesis History?” It was really a tell-all story of God’s creation and how amazingly He created this earth, more than we can possibly imagine. We know that God created everything and made every human uniquely different, but did you know he made every single living thing unique too? From the biggest animal like the elephant to the tiniest ant – God knows every single one of them and made them all differently. And He cares for every single one of them, too! Isn’t that amazing? Then why is it that when a trial hits us, we forget about that and focus on the trial, as if we are all that matters, as if God doesn’t care about us, as if what we want matters more than what He wants for us.

Faith is a troublesome thing. When life is great, you may have a strong faith in God. But when life is sour, you forget about God and lose complete faith in Him. But we need to be faithful, because of the storm. We need to praise Him in that storm (yes, you read that correctly) and we need to trust that for whatever reason He’s letting the trial happen, no matter what, He has a unique plan for every one of us. He doesn’t have the same plan for somebody else. Just like there’s nobody else in the world with the same personality as you and I, there’s nobody who will ever have that same God-designed plan. Because we all handle life differently, act different, and are different! We are unique as God has blessed us to be, and to dive toward that beautiful plan instead of running from it will give us blessings instead of sorrows.

Recently, and still, I’m going through a personal trial. It is a trial of my faith, of trusting the Lord. My endless fear had been that God will not provide me with specific blessings in my life, or else He would make them different than how I’d like them to be. For months, I struggled with this, in denial that I had no faith problem. I read countless Bible reading plans and devotionals that gave me comfort. But finally, I realized that I needed to trust and accept that God would provide. I had to be courageous to accept that, and I needed to be wise to know how to accept it, and I’m still praying for these things. But because of this trial, I’ve actually drawn much closer to the Lord than I ever thought I could be, and not only that, but I’ve trusted the Lord much better, harder, and stronger than I ever have before, and I’ve been happier and more accepting of life because of it. God may not provide exactly what you want, but He will provide something that’s beautiful, wonderful, and much better than you could ever imagine. Even much better than what you wanted! You may have wanted something wonderful, but God provided something even better than that! All because you didn’t give up hope and kept your focus on the Lord. For example, when my late sister died, my parents blessed me with three more sisters. When a sheep epidemic hit our family’s farm one year, God not only healed the epidemic but blessed us with far more sheep than we ever thought of. God always comes through for us even when all seems hopeless.

You may think that your life is stuck in a rut and not going anywhere. But right now, God is using this time where time in general seems to be running agonizingly slow as you wait for His answers to your prayers. He’s using this time to train you in patience, gratitude, and overwhelming trust and love for Him. He’s using this time to help you grow in trust and love for Him and with your loved ones. He’s not just sitting there waiting. He’s growing the seed in your heart that relentlessly wants to stay put! He’s watering and watering and watering. And soon, you’ll be ready to receive these blessings. Will they be what you really wanted before? Probably not. Will it be exactly as you imagined it would be? No. But will it be worth the wait? Ohhhhhhhhh yes!!!!!!!!!!!

You may be stuck in a rut of growth, just like me. But hold your horses, partner. God has something beautiful planned for your life, something that will make the long wait worth waiting for, and something where you’ll be incredibly glad you trusted in Him all along. So trust in Him, friend, and trust as hard as you can. It will be a stunning sight of heaven when it is all over.

Oh, and don’t forget these three very important verses along the way, something to keep with you at all times, particularly every time a sliver of doubt assails your mind:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not onto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5,6

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12: 8-10

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11

So is life really unfair? No, because God’s got it covered. All you need to is sit and wait and trust.God will provide, in accordance with His will, in His good time. And it will be beautiful.

JMK~ 🙂

TMS: Part 2: Chapters 13-End

13

Twenty years earlier

She hadn’t known that it would happen. There was hardly an explanation either—except that the magic suitcase had brought her here, of all places, to the busy town of London, England.

The magic suitcase had brought her back to life.

Marilyn Jackson peeked around the corner of a big brick building as she stood inside one of the London alleyways, in complete shock. She’d squeezed her eyes shut when the lit stick of dynamite had reached the end of the line, but instead of feelings of pain or even seeing the beautiful land of Paradise, she’d opened her eyes and had been laying on the ground beneath her. It was the strangest thing—perhaps the magic suitcase was much more than she’d ever imagined.

She didn’t know where her three children were, but she also was not worried. There was no doubt that they were safe. But now, she must continue to go on, for the mysteries of life were lying straight ahead. Now that she was presumed dead to the rest of the world, God still had a special plan for her.

Marilyn took a deep breath as she strode down the alleyway and toward the busy downtown area. All kinds of people roaming around her. Reporters, artists, drivers, and the average London citizen: adult or child, were hurrying around the streets of London. A boy was on the edge of one street giving away newspapers and, curious, Marilyn took one that he handed her and studied it.

She gasped—she was in the future! According to the newspaper’s year date, it had been exactly twenty-some years since she’d been in Morwick, witnessing her husband die, watching her daughters disappear inside the magic suitcase, leaving her baby to Cornwall Reaves for him to protect forever. She’d died inside the coal mining tunnel – but the magic suitcase had revived her. Her fate had been sealed that awful morning, and yet, she’d still awoken to find herself alive.

As Marilyn strode down the downtown London streets, not knowing where she was going but also not caring, she thought of her parents, particularly her father, who had so deeply loved her mother – who in such a short time had been the best mother Marilyn had ever known. If either one of them were alive today, what would be their thoughts of her life, of how the magic suitcase had saved her?

She walked faster, feeling determined and also a little anxious to discover what will occur next upon her. She’d probably never know where the suitcase had brought her children, and she’d also probably never find out. But by now, they were incredibly happy living their own lives, and that was all that truly mattered above anything else. For she trusted the magic suitcase.

Suddenly, though, as she gazed amongst the people and wagons hurrying down the streets at fast paces, she stopped—and froze. Her blood ran cold with shock, and then, tears welled up in her eyes – tears of utter, complete happiness.

There, across the street a little ways from her, stood a man holding his own newspaper, frowning at it in confusion. Marilyn could recognize those high cheekbones anywhere—those pale blue eyes, the dark, wavy hair, the beard that curved around his jaw, even his sun-browned skin. He was a man who had worked in the coal mines since age twenty-one, a man who had loved his career until his dying day in which he’d dissolved in that coal mining tunnel like mere dust from the ground. She’d gazed into those pale blue eyes every day. He was the father of her children, her best friend, and every reason that she’d ever chosen to live in her past – and every reason for needing to continue to live the rest of her life until the Lord called her home for good.

Tears sprang from her eyes and rolled down her cheeks.

“Henry!” she screamed at the top of his lungs, waving her arms. “Henry!”

Henry looked up, since he recognized the voice as well as his own, and his pale blue eyes searched the crowds until they found her. They widened, and he dropped the newspaper.

“Henry!” she exclaimed, rushing through the crowd of people and wagons. “Henry, Henry!”

“Marilyn!” he shouted, his booming voice sounding like the most beautiful roll of thunder. He began to run toward her.

She ran straight toward him as soon as she reached the other side of the street. He stopped, tears in his own eyes, and extended his arms with a big smile on his handsome, weathered face.

Giant sobs overtook her as she jumped into his arms, feeling his arms collide around her, perfect as always, and Henry swept her feet off the ground, holding her and cherishing her. She buried his face in his shirt, smelled his wonderful scent of pine and home. Her love for him was powerful, as was his own love for her, the greatest and best treasure either of them had ever known.

Finally, Henry set her down, pulling back only to cradle her jaw in his large palms, tears damp on his face.

“Is it you?” he whispered, in tears as she fingered the waves of his hair with tenderness. “Is it really you?”

Nodding, Marilyn beamed, and then kissed him with a deep passion, and he kissed her back. Their arms stayed linked around each other’s bodies, their hearts once again united.

And from that day forward, through death and eternity, that link would forever remain.

 

 

 

Dear friends,

 

Thank you for choosing to read this book. It means the world to me that you would support me in my endeavors. One day this Part 2 might become published, but not now. May God continue to bless you always.

 

JMK~

TMS: Part 2: Chapters 11-12

11

Two Days Earlier

With his usual clipboard in hand, Henry strolled through the early morning breakers of Coal Mountain. His job as superintendent was important: he had to make sure the work was completed the way the law required. He stretched the rules a bit, too, but with only one thing: making it optional instead of mandatory for young boys to work in the coal mines. He did it for the sole purpose of taking care of Morwick’s family’s children.

Besides, in his generous opinion, boys were far too young to be scouting through the coal mines, destined to be follow in their fathers’ footsteps. Henry reported to the state on a regular basis via telegram, telling them about the status of the coal miners and the work being done.

Typically, by the time the coal miners first came to Coal Mountain, they were in their early thirties and usually either newlywed husbands or beginning fathers. While their wives awaited at home to make sure they came home without a scratch, Henry stayed alone in the mine, pondering how to tell one of the miners’ wives their husbands had been injured. Either that, or the worst—which he had to deal with two years ago for the first time—telling a miner’s wife her husband would never be coming home again.

Henry remembered that terrible day. It had been a day like any other. The runners, laborers, drivers of the coal carts, and regular miners were working about like normal. Christopher “Scout” Taylor had approached Henry, asking about his wife and daughters, and then joked about how his then-pregnant wife “grew bigger and bigger by the hour.” Scout had always joked with Henry how his wife should “stop eating so many pies.” Scout, like everyone else in the mines, had been a devout husband and father. His wife, Patsy had been expecting their second child. They’d already had a little boy, not quite three years old at the time of his father’s death, oblivious to it all. His name had been Christopher Junior.

Henry, with the help of the miners, had decided they needed to blow up a certain coal tunnel because there was bound to be much better coal to dig into on the other side. For some reason, however, the dynamite wires hadn’t been connected correctly. Without waiting for anyone else to volunteer, Scout had—to replace the wires—and then once he did, the rest of the men, including Henry, had witnessed Scout disappear into the dust of Coal Mountain.

The last image Henry had glued in his mind of Scout haunted him sometimes, remembering his victorious big smile once he’d successfully replaced the wires of the dynamite.

He and Cornwall Reaves decided they would have to leave the mountain to tell Patsy her husband hadn’t survived. He remembered the happy look of greeting on Patsy’s face—quickly changed to grave horror—and Henry and Cornwall had said nothing but only bowed their heads at her, hats in their hands with sympathetic eyes.

Henry remembered the blame, remembered how for weeks afterward, Marilyn coaxed Patsy to not be angry with Henry. It hadn’t been Henry’s fault for the incident—it had been Scout’s choice. But Patsy, disbelieving her friend and turning against the entire town, took off with her mother and father only a few weeks following the second child’s birth—a baby girl. She’d had enough of the Jacksons and of Morwick.

It’d taken a long time for Henry to forgive himself for the blame, and also to stop believing over and over that Patsy’s words were correctly stated. It’d taken all of his family’s love and much, much prayer with God for him to finally accept the truth: it hadn’t been his fault. It had simply been an accident.

After Scout’s death, however, Henry had changed things on Coal Mountain. He switched security of the outside of Coal Mountain by hiring Xander Prick—which nowadays had become closer to being a huge mistake. He also altered the hours of labor the men were to work. They would not be allowed to work past eleven p.m. They were commanded to go home every evening to get no less than six hours of sleep. As superintendent, Henry had gone above and beyond for his coal miners and the others workers, for he cared deeply for them. This was his dream career after all, and he did not want to see it diminished by his own actions.

Henry abided by the laws of the state with all of his might, and he took extra precaution to make sure every man understood the regulations. After all, he needed to make sure another man did not suffer the same consequences as Scout Taylor had. His children would never know their father, so alas, Henry needed to prevent reoccurrences of the past as much as possible.

Coal Mountain’s work started at strictly five-thirty a.m. every morning. Every worker had been assigned to be there no later than five-thirty a.m.—and no earlier than five a.m. Every morning, Henry kissed his beautiful sleeping wife on the cheek, threw on his work shirt and trousers, kissed his girls on their sleeping heads, and went off to work at Coal Mountain. First, he made sure the walls were secure to mine and second, that nobody had been left behind during the night to sleep in one of the mines. Although, the men were pretty good at abiding by his orders.

The runners, also known as the conductors who took care of the loaded coal cars and who directed the drivers of the cars, were the first ones there every morning, next to the drivers. The laborers’ jobs were to load the cars of coal once the miners had blasted through the tunnels, bringing about as much coal as before, usually. They blasted no more than ten times a day—according to Henry’s orders—but the explosions also varied due to the thickness and security of the mountain walls.

Henry wished he paid the workers more, too. The biggest pay he gave equaled to no more than a dollar and sixty-five cents per hour, according to state laws. The state commanded strict regulations, though, and as the superintendent he of course had to abide by them. But even though he was also the mayor of the town, no job as mayor came as important as taking care of the safety of his coal miners and the other workers of the mountain.

Having a family of his own, he understood how hard it felt for Marilyn and the girls—particularly Marilyn—to not see him for sometimes, days at a time. Those times were only when a big storm came, and Henry did not let his men work on rainy days because of the fact that they may become sick. During the rain, if they were permitted to work, it turned into harder labor and few meals, although the wives were all warned ahead of time to pack their men extra food in their lunch bags to keep their bodies’ nutrients up. Long days such as those were hardest on the boys who decided to work in the mines, and Henry kept an extra eye on them.

No matter how hard it became for Marilyn and the girls, he also trusted first and foremost that his family understood the importance of the work and the fact that his workers could not get through a single work shift without his help. He valued their lives, safety, and happiness. Most of them liked working in the mines, although the work still remained quite difficult. For the boys, they at least had much easier jobs compared to the men, such as bringing the workers supplies and being there in case they needed to hold something for one of them.

Henry stepped out of the coal mines and into the fresh air, marking off the attendance of the miners on his clipboard. He felt guilty when he went out into the fresh air, but his job didn’t include being in the mines as long as they did. Although he did help them on a regular basis, he did not always need to.

As he walked toward the small, wooden supply house where all the mines’ extra supplies—and his paperwork—were located, he passed the front which the Prick family’s men daily guarded. Xander Prick fell into step with him. His three sons, the other security guards of Coal Mountain, were at his heels.

“You know, Henry,” Xander complained as he followed him. “I’m getting tired of standing outside this stupid mountain, waiting for nothing to happen.”

“Is that so?” Henry lay his clipboard upon the ledge of the shed, and turned toward him. As he did, Cornwall Reaves came out of one of the holed mines of Coal Mountain, announcing that he planned to take his break, where Henry nodded at him.

“It is.” Xander crossed his arms, glaring at him. “And come to think of it, I’m getting tired of how you’re running things around here.”

Hearing this, Cornwall Reaves, drinking water from his canteen, frowned and strode over to where they were.

“Look, Prick.” Henry crossed his arms, copying him. He stood a couple inches taller than Prick, and stronger-looking, too. “I’ve been doing a lot of thinking myself lately. Seems that in the past few months, you and your family have been causing nothing but trouble. It’s bothering a lot of Morwick’s residents, in fact.”

Xander crooked an eyebrow. “Oh yeah, Mayor?”

“Yes.” Henry shook his head. “Look, we really appreciate everything you and your family have done for this town. We are grateful for the work you’ve all contributed—you and your family—in making this place a home for all of us.” He sighed. “But I’m afraid you and your family have become too much of a nuisance. It’s time for you all to leave.”

That caught Xander off guard. His gaze filled with hatred and heavy bitterness even more as he stared into Henry’s face.

Cornwall, after washing his face with the water from the canteen, wiped the water over his forehead as he looked on.

“I can’t believe I’m hearing this.” Xander turned around and then began pacing the ground before them. “You’re telling me you’re going to give up the security this pathetic excuse for a coal mountain needs, all because my family’s a big ugly nuisance?”

“You know exactly what sort of havoc you’ve been causing for the good people of this community.” Henry’s voice etched out strong and stern. “Now I’m giving you and your sons two choices—leave town with the rest of your family, or become coal miners.”

“Become coal miners!” Xander screamed, his fists erupting at his sides. “Well, I have news for you, Jackson! This is war! You hear me? This is war!” He came right up to Henry and stared him straight in the face. “This time, you’re not going to get away with anything. This time, you and your family’s lives are going to be ruined forever!”

Without any warning, Xander lurched forward and punched Henry in the gut.

Henry, shocked, bent forward, just as Xander shoved him to the ground. He fell, and abruptly, all three of Xander’s sons sprang into action.

“Henry!” Cornwall called out, hurrying forward, but Sid Prick shoved the end of his gun into Cornwall’s stomach, where he also fell like a rag doll.

Xander kicked Henry in the face, and he collapsed to the side, where Prick kicked him again, several times. As he did, Xander screamed at him: “You are no longer mayor and commander of this town, Henry Jackson! You are no longer in charge of any of us! Do you hear me? Any of us!”

Spitting blood from his lips, Henry lay on the ground still, but conscious, his eyes squeezed shut to block out the pain slamming through his body.

Then, as Jude Prick hurried over to tie up Henry’s hands behind his back—in turn, Sid and Zayn pinned Cornwall against the ground as he struggled against them.

Turning toward Cornwall then, Xander pointed his shotgun toward the younger man, pressing it against his forehead firmly—so hard, in fact, that he cried out in pain.

Then, sneering with anger, Xander cocked his shotgun.

No!” Henry screamed out then, getting up so fast Jude had to lay ontop of him to keep him from moving. “Please, Xander, no! Please! Don’t do this!

“Why shouldn’t I?” Xander growled over at him. “He’s your friend, isn’t he? Plus he’s seen everything here.”

“He has a family!” Henry shouted out, his dark hair messy and his face coated with stark grief.

“And you don’t have a family?” Xander glared down at him. “Let me get something straight with you, Henry. You’re not in charge of any part of this village anymore. Is that clear?” He smiled. “That means every person who takes your side—every single person—will suffer the consequences—including your own family. Especially your family.” He chuckled.

Breathing hard with growing anger, Henry glared up at him, his shoulders tight and the veins on his neck bulging with anxiety and deep anger.

“In fact…” Finally, Xander removed his gun from Cornwall’s forehead, causing him to breathe out in relief. “I’ve made a new plan, boys.” He glanced over at Sid and Zayn. “You two, I want you to tie that man up and then—go out and get Cornwall Reaves’ family—his wife and his two young sons—bring them here so we can hold them hostage…and show them we really mean business!”

Staring at Xander in shock, Cornwall—enraged—fought against Sid and Zayn. “No!” he shouted. “No! Please, no!”

“Shut up!” Xander snapped at him, and then glanced over at Jude. “Now, Jude—I want you to go find your mother and sister.” He gazed straight into Henry’s face, as if he sensed his next words would destroy him. “Tell them we are ready.”

Henry glared at Xander. “Ready…for what?” he demanded in a growling tone.

Xander, pure evil, did nothing but smile. “Ready to kill off the entire village.”

Shock encompassed Henry’s face. “What?” he whispered.

“That’s right.” Sneering, Xander raised his eyebrows and told him the stark truth that would be the worst thing he would ever hear upon his life: “Henry Jackson, you are never going to see your wife and daughters—again!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12

          Six hours later

“Now, I will remind you, Jackson, that you’re treading a steep line.” Xander scowled over at Henry. “A very dangerous, steep line.”

They were standing outside one side of Coal Mountain, beside a long, narrow tunnel that appeared like it had no ending with the length of it. A mess of hard rock and clay were both inside and around the tunnel as well, because the tunnel had been created for Xander’s own reasons the day before. No doubt he was planning something that would shake all of them, not to mention destroy everything Henry and his family had worked so hard for.

Except for the Reaves family and Henry, all of the coal miners were sitting outside the coal mountain, farther away with Xander’s sons, Zayn and Jude. They in turn stood beside them with shotguns as a guard them to make sure they stayed where they were. All the coal miners were gazing with anger toward Xander Prick, and all were completely tied up in ropes, their filthy coal-mucked clothes and faces a drastic appearance from the rest of them.

Henry, his hands tied up behind him, stood beside Xander. He would be helpless to whatever came next. Nearby, the Reaves family stood. Cornwall Reaves leaned against a smaller part of the mountain with one arm around his wife Anna. Anna Reaves had both hands on the shoulders of her young sons, ages thirteen and nine, Nathaniel and Joshua, and she fought back tears. Jude Prick had his own shotgun pointed at them.

“You’ve decided you’re going to take over Coal Mountain,” Henry demanded, sweat at his brow. “Not me. So why am I running this so-called steep line?”

“You’ve never given anyone else the chance to be, as it could be said, team captain.” Xander grinned as he strode over to Henry, and then shoved a tight fist into Henry’s stomach.

Henry let out a loud cry, squeezing his eyes shut and causing Anna Reaves to wince, while her sons hid their own faces against her.

Henry breathed hard as he bent over, pain stark on his dirt-smothered face.

“You think I’m playing games here?” Xander clutched Henry’s hair and tugged his head up, forcing him to look at him straight in the eye. “I’m going to take over this village, this mountain, and this great and wonderful investment. I’m going to watch my wife and daughter return after drowning all of the women and children in the river…and if one of your daughters, or even your wife, returns here alive, I am going to make you watch me burn them…alive!”

Breathing hard in determined anger, Henry glared at him. “My wife is the smartest woman in the village, even smarter than your wife, Prick,” he snarled, and then spat in his face. “She wouldn’t let any bad things occur at that river.”

“Just you watch!” Xander slapped one hand across Henry’s face, and then started to turn away, when a familiar voice called out, as sweet as heaven: “Henry!”

They all turned, and a big smile swept across Mrs. Reaves’s face as all the women, led by Marilyn, appeared outside the mountain. Many were holding lanterns to light their way, and Nova and Ulsa were nowhere to be found.

~*~

Marilyn could not keep from staring at her husband’s face as she stopped walking, followed by the rest of the village women who had agreed to come with. There were a lot of them. Ronald, though, had taken his sweet wife home to grieve.

Henry’s face filled with warmth and hope, but also with some blood marks, as if Xander had been beating him.

“The girls?” he called out.

Marilyn smiled. “They and the other children are all safe with Mrs. Price and Mrs. Crest in town.”

Frowning, Xander trod over to the women, all exhausted from walking, and peered into Marilyn’s glaring gaze. “All right, woman. Where are Nova and Ulsa?” He gazed toward the other women, where most of them glanced away as if they were terrified of him. “Well?” He stepped closer to Marilyn’s face, causing her to flinch and tighten her grasp against the soft linen of her dress.

Not getting an abrupt answer, Mr. Prick wrapped his hand around her neck. “Tell me, woman!”

“They’re dead,” Marilyn replied.

Mr. Prick froze. He let go of her and then, cautious, he straightened to glare straight into Marilyn’s face, who looked at him, unafraid.

“I am sorry, but Mr. Jenkins shot Nova in self-defense, after Nova killed Lena, his wife.” Marilyn did not feel sorry at all. “They were going to drown all of us. Ulsa ran away, and we found her dead in a snake den on the way back here.”

Henry shook his head, his face a mixture of shock and true sadness.

Xander clenched his fists at his sides. “They were supposed to kill all of you! I commanded that!” he screamed into Marilyn’s unwavering face. “You fool! How could you have done that?”

Marilyn glanced behind her at the other women, desperate to protect them at all costs, and then glared back over at Xander.

“You’re all going to die now!” Xander yelled out, backing away. “I am going to destroy this village and all of its inhabitants! Mark my words!” He marched over to Zayn. “Zayn, bring all those men to their feet! The men need to see this!”

Zayn and Sid forced all of the coal miners to their feet, while Xander cut loose Henry’s tied hands. “Henry, you’re going to be a part of this, too,” he proclaimed, scaring the women. Walking past the women and the Reaves children, he burst out, “All of you will watch this!”

He strode straight over to Anna Reaves and grabbed her by the arm. As she shrieked, he pulled, half dragged her toward the huge hole of the deep coal mine tunnel.

No!” Cornwall shouted, but Jude held him back as he struggled against him while both Nathaniel and Joshua ran away to the women in safety. “Prick! You leave her alone!”

“Shut up!” Xander demanded. “Jude, make sure you secure him, or he’ll be next in this extravaganza.” At Jude’s curt nod, he glanced at Anna, who stared at him in shock. “Now listen here, woman! I want you to walk down the tunnel, as far as you can, without looking back!”

Shocked, Marilyn and Henry exchanged glances of pure fear.

“I’m not going down that tunnel!” Anna cried out, trying to jerk out of his grasp. “It’s too dangerous!”

Sid shoved a gun to the edge of her back, causing her to cry out. “You’ll do it!”

Cornwall rushed forward, but this time, both Jude and Sid grabbed him hard, pulling him back. “No! Please, Prick, don’t hurt my wife!” he yelled, his face contorted with pain.

Sid pointed his shotgun over at him. “You wanna die, too?”

Cornwall, fear stark on his face, breathed hard against the strong men.

Xander pushed her forward. “Start walking, woman! Come on! Now!

“Stay back, ladies!” Mother commanded in a loud, trembling voice, knowing with all of her heart what may happen next.

Anna’s forehead was sweaty and pale in the light of the lanterns, and she swiped her hands on her dress before, terrified, she grabbed onto the edge of the mountain with trembling hands. She walked into the dark tunnel. She tripped over one of the rocks inside, whimpering, her hands holding onto the walls narrowly leaning in on her.

Faster!” Xander commanded, and Sid cocked his shotgun.

Shrieking, Anna hurried down the tunnel faster, her hands clasped to tight fists against the walls.

Xander hurried over with Zayn and his gun at his heels, and then shoved Henry forward, causing Marilyn to gasp. “Now! You’re going to make a choice. You’re going to choose on whether or not you will save this lady by risking your own life!” He glared. “What will it be, Henry?”

Speechless, Henry glanced behind him toward Marilyn.

Marilyn stared after Anna’s retreating back in shock, unable to believe what was happening before her.

But then she glanced at her husband…and gasped. Tears welled up in her eyes as she stared at him.

Henry glanced back at the tunnel, the woman’s whimpers echoing against the walls as she went deeper and deeper into the tunnel at a careful run.

Finally, Henry gazed, and when he did, Marilyn swallowed hard at the rough emotion on his face, filled with such apology and love.

Then, he said brokenly: “I love you, Marilyn.” Every word was noted with such emotion, such power, that tears sprang to Marilyn’s eyes.

She gasped again. “No!” she screamed.

Henry spun around, clutched onto the mountain wall, and then heaved himself inside the coal mine tunnel.

“Hold on!” he yelled to Anna, who peered back to see him hurry toward her as fast as he could. “I’ll help you!”

“You can’t help her, Henry!” Xander shouted. “Give up! There’s no use in making things right! I’m the one who will take over Coal Mountain! I will! I am!”

“Henry, no!” Cornwall squeaked out, his hands clenching into the soft dirt beneath his fingernails, shock on his face.

“Hold on, Anna!” Henry exclaimed, several feet away from grabbing onto her hand. “I’ve got you!”

Marilyn backed away from the scene, sobbing, and shook her head back and forth.

“Henry!” Anna cried out. “I don’t understand what’s going on!”

“We’ll be all right!” Henry demanded, his voice echoing inside the narrow cave. “I promise! I won’t let anything happen to you! Take my hand!” He extended his big, strong hand, determination on his face—when suddenly, out of the corner of Marilyn’s eye, there became a spark of fire.

Holding the lit match in his hand, a smile large and tart on his cruel face, Xander Prick announced: “My town…my rules!”

He lit the stick of dynamite in his hand, and threw it—to everyone’s astounded belief—into the tunnel where Anna and Henry were.

No!” Cornwall screamed at the top of his lungs, before Sid punched him, bringing him to the ground and then holding him back. “No! Please, no!

The dynamite landed near Henry’s feet with a soft thud, the flame disintegrating the line.

Henry glanced down at the stick of dynamite, and then, eyes wide with shock and disbelief, glanced back. “No!” he shouted.

Anna’s screams were earsplitting as she fought against Henry to get back toward the tunnel opening, but it was too late—screams of the village echoed around the area as everyone ran from the scene as fast as they could, including the Pricks and Cornwall. Everyone ducked for cover, and Marilyn, after pushing Cornwall to the grass, collapsed to the ground with her body protecting him.

The explosion went off, detonating the entire area. As everyone hid their heads, bits of rock flew everywhere, piercing everyone’s ears. Dirt and rock hit people’s bodies, and smoke rose up from the shifting, large rocks.

The tunnel collapsed, drowning what was left in its midst, taking away all of the air from it, and sinking the entire village’s hearts.

The cloud of smoke was all that remained of the explosion, filling the entire area.

It felt like several minutes before finally, most of the smoke had left and the sounds of rocks collapsing around them completed.

As soon as Marilyn straightened, she looked up and discovered that the tunnel was no longer there. She gasped. “Henry!” she screamed, hurrying toward the collapsed wall, but she felt Cornwall’s hands hold her back. “Henry, no!

But Henry was gone, and so was Anna.

Xander smiled over at the mountain wall which was now a huge pile of rock debris, and then, he started laughing, like he’d achieved a mighty goal. He stood, but as he turned around, two men came over to him.

“You think you can eliminate people’s loved ones like they were nothing?” one demanded. “What gives you the right?”

Xander chuckled, holding up his hands. “There’s nothing you can do about it now, boys. I’m in charge now.” He took out his gun from his holster, as fast as lightning, and shot both of the men in the chest.

Screams echoed around the entire huge crowd of men, women, and the Reaves children.

The two men crumpled to the ground like rag dolls.

“I will take all of your wives and children!” Xander stormed from the top of his lungs, his voice bouncing around them, making him sound like a monster. “I will strip the food and water from your houses! All of you will die!” he pronounced, gazing up at the night sky like he was king of the universe.

Marilyn’s skin trembled, cold with stark grief.

Nearby, Cornwall lay stomach down on the ground, his shoulders shaking in quiet sobs. Close by him, Nathaniel and Joshua sat on the ground as well, their faces both filled with incredible sadness and deep loss.

“You’ll never get away with this,” Marilyn snapped at Xander, although her voice still shook, and she glared at him. “You will be sorry when you stand before the Lord one day—”

“Trust me, woman,” Xander snarled, pointing his pistol straight at Mother’s forehead. “If anything, you will be the one who’ll be sorry!” He put down his pistol. “I could kill you right now, woman, both you and your unborn child! Not to mention your pathetic children!”

Marilyn slapped him. “Don’t you dare touch my children!”

Xander studied Mother hard, the anger growing even more intense beneath his gaze. “I will do,” he growled, “whatever I so desire anytime I want! Nobody will stop me!” He began shooting recklessly at the mountain, scaring all of the men and women around them.

“Come, ladies,” Mother whispered, although without much of a voice. “Let’s go home.”

By her side, some of the women wept as they made their way away from them, along with some of the rest of the men, women, and the Reaves children, glancing behind them on their way out to make sure Xander wasn’t following them. But soon, other families left Coal Mountain too, leaving Xander and his sons behind them to run their lives.

 

The following day

Cornwall Reaves stared into space unseeingly as he sat on the sofa inside his home, one arm around his son Joshua as he cried quiet, gentle sobs against his side. Nathaniel, his older son, walked over to his other side from the window.

“Papa,” he whimpered, fear on his small face. “Papa, what happens now?”

Cornwall peered over at him, and then rustled his hair. “We’re going to be okay, boy.” He gave a sad smile. “We’re going to be fine.”

Suddenly, the front door burst open, and Marilyn appeared.

Cornwall bolted upright, and then stood. “Marilyn!” he exclaimed in a shocked voice.

Marilyn glanced behind her, her hands full. Then, she set down her belongings next to the sofa: a small brown suitcase and a basket with a blanket covering the top of it.

“Cornwall,” she said as he stood. “I need you to take this.” She grabbed his hand at his side, and then planted a piece of paper inside it. “It will get you and your boys exactly where you need to go. Listen to me!” She clasped his shoulder. “They’re coming for me, all right? I need you take this suitcase and basket, and get out of here. Quickly! The Prick sons are coming to take me away, and they’re going to burn you and your sons inside this house…alive!”

Nathaniel gasped as he stared up at Marilyn, shocked.

“Marilyn…” Confused, Cornwall shook his head. “Marilyn…where are the girls?”

But Marilyn only shook her head. “There’s no time.” She glanced behind her as the sound of footsteps became obvious on the Reaves’s front porch. “But you need to trust me, all right? Trust me and read the letter! It’s the only way to get you and your sons to safety!”

Cornwall snagged Marilyn’s arm. “Marilyn!” he demanded. “Where are the girls?”

Marilyn frowned at him, and then studied him straight in the eye. “You have to trust me!”

Just then, all three of the Prick sons hurried inside the house. Zayn and Jude grabbed onto each of Marilyn’s arms, pulling her away from Cornwall.

“Trust me, Cornwall!” Marilyn cried over her shoulder as the men carried her out of the house. “Trust me, please! Please, you have to trust me!”

After they disappeared from sight, Sid came straight over to Cornwall. In turn, he stood protectively in front of his two sons, studying the younger man hard.

“Well, well.” Sid grinned a decayed-tooth grin over at him, and then looked him up and down. “Cornwall Reaves.”

Cornwall glared at him, furious anger stark in his blue-green eyes.

“You’re all going to burn.” Sid came up to him and looked at him straight in the eye. “And don’t you even try escaping!”

Grinning, he tossed a lit match to the floor as he exited the home and slammed the door. Cornwall hurried over to the lit match, and stomped on it hard.

But it didn’t matter—there sounded the clinking sound of chains coming about the house door, and then, the sloshing of liquid as the Pricks threw buckets of petrol around the house.

“Father!” Joshua called out as Cornwall ripped open the note and read through it. Then, with a look of disbelief on his face, he glanced over at the suitcase, then the basket.

Nathaniel bent down next to the basket. He then lifted the top blanket—and gasped.

There, nestled beneath other blankets, squirmed a beautiful newborn baby. On the front of the basket, near the infant’s legs, lay a leather-bound book.

Shocked, Nathaniel glanced up at his father. Joshua looked over into the basket, too, and his mouth popped open.

However, smoke seeped through the bottom of the front door. There erupted the sound of laughter, and then, the engulfing of flames.

“Papa!” Nathaniel cried out, panicking.

Suddenly, Cornwall tossed aside the letter. Then, grabbing one of the kitchen chairs, he rushed over to the back window and threw the chair through the window, shattering the glass.

Both of his sons stared at him as he came over. Then, Cornwall knelt before his eldest. “Nathaniel.” He clasped the boy’s shoulders. “I need you to leave! Exit through the broken window there and escape!”

“But where will I go?” Nathaniel cried out, terrified.

“Walk until you reach the nearest town. There, you will find a train depot. I want you to wait there. Help will soon be provided for you after that. All right?”

“But Papa!” Nathaniel exclaimed. “I’m scared!”

“So am I.” Clamping his hands to his son’s face, Cornwall kissed his son hard on the forehead, emotional but with the strength of an ox. Then, after glancing around him at the fire beginning to sweep inside the house, he smiled over at him. “Son, we need to separate so they don’t find us.” He took the book inside the basket, and gave it to him. “And I need you to take this and keep it safe. Do you trust me?”

Hesitant, Nathaniel nodded.

“Do you love me?”

Nathaniel nodded again.

Cornwall smiled. “I love you, too.” He blinked hard. “I’m proud of you, son. I always have and always will be. You’re my eldest son, and I’m very, very proud of you.”

Nathaniel choked on a sob. “But Papa, what if I don’t survive?”

“You will, son. You will.” Cornwall swallowed hard. “Because you’re like me.” He clasped his shoulder. “Now go!” He shoved him forward, and Nathaniel hurried toward the broken window, glancing back only once to see Joshua staring at him, in whom he may never see again.

After he climbed out of the window, he stood near the house—and peered inside.

Cornwall lifted the Jackson’s baby from the basket. As if the baby sensed danger, it started crying, but Cornwall kept it secure to the close of his chest, and then, bending over the suitcase, unlatched it.

The suitcase’s top flew open—and revealed beautiful, magical colors of the rainbow, colors of the sky and birds, colors beyond Nathaniel’s wildest dreams. Shocked, he gasped as, without hesitation, his father said something to Joshua.

Joshua stared up at his father in fearful confusion. Then, taking a deep breath, he jumped inside the suitcase, and disappeared.

Nathaniel gasped in amazement.

Then, Cornwall peered around him at the fire creeping inside the house he’d shared with his wife for many years. Finally, he covered the baby’s head with one hand, and jumped inside the suitcase, too.

Cornwall and the baby disappeared—and then, so did the suitcase, right before a flash of fire took hold of the sofa and engulfed it into flames.

Nathaniel gazed around him, and then stared straight toward the big hill behind their house. Swallowing hard, he stepped forward, and ran up the hill as hard and as fast as he could. He ran and ran, terrified of the Pricks finding him, and terrified of what his life could possibly hold after this.

Once he reached the top of the hill, Nathaniel looked down at what remained of Morwick. The railroad cars in front of Coal Mountain were silent. People were running about, screaming and taking hold of their families as the Pricks set fire to another house, then another, causing pain and misery around the village.

Then, after one final look, Nathaniel turned and hurried down the opposite side of the hill, toward his future and the miles of green trees and land that lay before him. He couldn’t stop—and didn’t stop—for that he should only obey what his dear father had commanded him to do.

 

TMS: Part 2: Chapters 9-10

9

The next two days, Marilyn sat inside her bedroom, unable to eat, staring out her window into the gardens and longing for a better life. Zelda and her father had argued the night before, but she hadn’t made out what words were being said. This time, they hadn’t been fighting much, causing her to realize with a sinking feeling that Zelda was both wearing her father down and controlling his and all of their lives.

There would never be another way. They may never encounter an end to all of this torment that raged through the household, where she became Zelda’s next victim for revenge, for a constant brutal need to use “their daughter” whenever she had the chance.

However, as Marilyn stared outside, she noticed movement from inside the garden gazebo. Though he was farther away, she recognized the person there.

There, sitting on the long, curved bench reading with his feet up, was Henry, dressed in a suit like always, and her heart flipped over. She couldn’t help but smile. No matter her previous confusion for the man, she knew one thing: the comfort of his friendship that had somehow caused her to become in love with him. She must leave the estate forever, but there seemed no way to do so now, not with Zelda in command of everything.

Suddenly, a quiet knock came about on the doorway, and Maisie peeked inside.

Marilyn smiled in relief. “Hello, Maisie.”

“Hello, dear.” Maisie peered behind her to make sure nobody had seen her, and then slipped inside the room, closing the door behind her. In her hand she held a small envelope, in the shape of a telegram, along with a plate of food full of luscious fresh strawberries, blueberries, and fresh cut watermelon from the kitchen. She sat at the edge of her bed, and handed her the plate of food first. “Here. I know you haven’t come out of your bedroom since yesterday.”

Seeing the food caused Marilyn to realize how ravenous she really was, and she thanked Maisie, taking the food and beginning to eat it.

Between her third and fourth bites, she smiled at Maisie, who gave her a loving, kind smile back. “What has been happening out there?”

“Not much. It’s been rather quiet.” She sighed. “I’ll wait until you’re finished eating to explain further.”

It didn’t take Marilyn long to finish, because she’d been famished. After she finished, feeling better, she told herself she’d sneak into the kitchen for some more food later, and set aside the empty plate.

“What’s happening?” she asked in an uncertain voice.

Maisie studied her for a long moment, and then whispered, her face looking miserable: “Zelda is kicking me out of the house for good. I’m supposed to have my bag packed by dawn.”

What?” Marilyn couldn’t believe it. “You mean to tell me that she’s forcing you to leave because you and Father are married?” she demanded, feeling even angrier at Maisie’s slight but obvious nod. “But why?”

“I suppose she believes that word is going to somehow get out that she’s not your father’s actual wife.” Maisie frowned and shook her head, gazing out the window for a long moment. “It’s funny, it really is – ironic, more than anything – but I’m trying my hardest to not think ill of the woman, no matter how unbelievable she’s being.” She glanced at her. “You should, too, my dear.”

Marilyn nodded. “I’ll try my hardest to, Maisie. But…” She sighed. “Why isn’t Father doing anything to keep it from happening?”

Maisie smiled. “My dear girl, I love your father more than anything in this world, stronger and more purer than any other love could ever be.” She gazed down at her hands. “But…your father is much destroyed. His heart is broken after everything that has gone on in the household since we first decided we should hire Zelda. Some way or another, she ended up getting the final say in everything going on within the estate. He was the breadwinner…and yet, she’s acting as if she controls everything and everyone.”

“I know.” Marilyn swallowed hard, and then clasped Maisie’s hand. “I’m really sad that you have to leave…Mother.”

Maisie smiled, and proud blush reddened her cheeks. Then, once she raised her head again, there were tears in her eyes, and she cupped one side of Marilyn’s cheek.

“The day you were born, aside from our wedding day, was the happiest day of my life, you know.”

Marilyn bit her lip, her throat swollen with emotion and not knowing how to respond to that.

Maisie let her face go, but continued to hold her hand. “Once the midwife brought you into my arms, I had the most perfect realization of what to name you. You and I both carry the same middle name. I named you Marilyn Elizabeth James.” She chuckled, and then patted her hand and slipped the small sheet of paper into her palm instead. “This is for you. Ben brought this to me right away, and right away, I knew to whom it belonged.” She stood, and then studied her daughter’s face. “Will you be there to wish me goodbye tomorrow morning?”

Marilyn nodded and smiled, not knowing what to say. She wanted to tell her birth mother how she was sorry, that she longed for her a much better, happier life, that she wished all of these terrible events had never happened. From the bottom of her heart, she was sad that Zelda had desired to become fake Mrs. Wesley James, to control all of their lives.

Instead, however, she remained quiet.

Maisie, smiling, cupped her chin, and kissed her on the forehead. The kiss was one of the sweetest actions a mother could possibly show with her own child, and it brought Marilyn to tears as her birth mother left the room.

Fighting back her emotions, she ripped open what appeared to be a telegram from Henry. She smiled at what she read, which caused her to gaze out of her bedroom window toward the gazebo, where Henry awaited for her return.

She glanced back at the small note on the telegram, which simply read:

           

Dear Marilyn,

            I will be sitting right here at your gazebo, waiting for you so we can begin our life together. I want you to know that I’m really looking forward to that day, and until then I will be, forever and always, yours.

            I love you.

            Henry

 

 

Dawn came far too fast. Marilyn rose early, and worked between sewing and gazing outside, staring with longing at the gazebo where Henry relaxed again today, reading and every so often glancing back at the manor. It seemed as if he longed to see her, and Marilyn could not quiet the quick pounding of her heart whenever he did so.

Then, finally, her name was called downstairs.

Soon, Marilyn found herself in the large foyer, along with Father, Zelda, and Maisie. All the servants of the household were there, too, standing in line farther back and closer to the wall compared to the rest of them.

Maisie had her suitcase packed and sitting by the door where Ben also stood, awaiting the next command. Maisie, dressed in an old turquoise and black-colored dress, along with a gray bonnet and gloves, finished saying goodbye to all of the servants. Charlotte, in tears, dabbed at her damp cheeks with a handkerchief, and Marilyn sympathized with her. She’d obviously been Maisie’s closest friend of the household, and now she would never see her again.

Marilyn backed up so she stayed out of the way, and stood near the window which led onto the gravel driveway and a big buckboard that awaited outside, ready to take Maisie away. She noticed that her father, several feet away, stood straight as a statue but quiet. No emotion played on his face.

“Goodbye, everyone,” Maisie whispered to the servants, looking calm and collected, although smiling. “I will miss you all.”

Charlotte nodded, sniffling hard, and then finally hid her face in the handkerchief.

“All right, that is it.” Zelda shot forward, nudging Ben out of the way, and swung open the door. She indicated the door with a sharp twist of her hand, and then glared over at Maisie, who merely looked at her with quiet obedience. “You’ve said your goodbyes. Leave!”

Maisie studied her for a bit longer. Then, she stepped over to Ben, who handed her the suitcase without another word, and she stood in the doorway, glancing around the foyer as if painting a beautiful picture of the room in her mind. Her gaze fell upon Marilyn. She smiled over at her, love quite evident in her eyes.

Marilyn smiled back, afraid to say a word, but also not knowing what words to say. “Goodbye” didn’t seem good enough. She wanted to tell her that she’d miss her and that she would be missed by everyone, but no words came to her mind.

Suddenly, then, Maisie glanced over at Father. This time, however, she didn’t smile. As she gripped her suitcase, she and Father stared at each other for a long moment. Marilyn studied at her Father’s face, sullen and stark, but then, tears welled up in his eyes. Yet they didn’t fall.

“I’m commanding you to leave now!” Zelda commanded. “Maisie! Out! Now!”

Maisie, acting as if she could not hear, strode forward, her focus on Father, and then reached forward, her hand grasping for him. Her face was filled with desperation, apologetic…so many pleas of help written there.

Marilyn swallowed hard, her heart pounding from inside her, as Father extended his own hand, his face contorted, and he grasped Maisie’s hand. Her fingers went around his, and they were connected, together only for a moment, as emotion after emotion played across Father’s own face.

Tears rolled down Marilyn’s cheeks, and she squeezed her eyes shut, looking away. What hit her the worst was knowing her parents would never see each other again, and she couldn’t bear to see Maisie leave with so much left to say and to give as a mother.

With resignation, Maisie let go of Father’s hand. His own hand dropped to his side. Then, after one final look at him as she backed away, Maisie twisted away. She hurried outside and down the road.

Her knees feeling like wood with numbness, Marilyn walked to the window as Ben helped Maisie into the buckboard. He closed the door, and then walked back inside the house.

Then, with her face sad and blank as she stared outside, Maisie began her way to a brand new life. The crunching sound of the carriage wheels descended upon the gravel as they disappeared from the property.

Without another word, Zelda glanced at Father with bitterness before turning and disappearing down the hallway.

Father sauntered outside, first walking and then hurrying down the gravel road before stopping and, to Marilyn’s great surprise, falling to his knees. Once this happened, unable to see anymore, she turned and whispered to the servants with a cutting smile: “You may go now.”

They did as she asked, and Marilyn left, too, treading back upstairs toward her bedroom.

While she did so, her heart swollen with grief, she tried her hardest to ignore the desperate, bone-chilling screams from her father echoing off the stone walls of the estate like broken glass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10

That evening, fighting to know the truth, Marilyn opened the door of her father’s office. Soon, her father would start drinking again, so she decided she better do it now before she lost her nerve. If she didn’t, she might never receive the chance to again. After Maisie’s departure, he might change to a different human being.

His soul and heart were both becoming different.

As she stood in her father’s office doorway, the hallway light illuminated inside to reveal two un-opened tall bottles of whiskey on the top of the pianoforte. His desk sat next to it, and its owner resided in his office chair, facing the adjacent window, and puffed every now and then from his cigar he held within trembling fingers.

She swallowed hard. Then, taking a deep breath, she brought her lantern into the room, letting the door click closed behind her.

“Father? It’s me.” Marilyn brought the lantern over to the end table by the sofa, its location between the pianoforte and her father’s grand office desk.

The room should’ve been a little bigger for an office at a huge estate. But granted that her father rarely used it anymore except for sitting in it and mulling over his thoughts, not to mention drinking, it still seemed an understandable place for him to be.

Marilyn, hesitant, sat on the edge of the sofa, and studied her father’s face.

Her father wore his bathrobe over his pajamas and slippers, and he puffed again at the cigar, his head resting against the back of the chair.

“Is something wrong, Marilyn?” he asked, no emotion obvious in his voice. He sounded dead, as if all the joy and happiness found in life had been sucked out of his body.

Marilyn didn’t blame him, since Maisie’s absence from the household had taken a great, significant toll on him.

“I have one question for you, and one only.” Fear clung tightly from deep inside, but she forced it away. She’d now developed into a mature adult, and she trusted Father with the truth. Besides, she needed to know. “I’d like to know how you and Maisie met and came to…here…before you married.” She swallowed hard.

Father stopped puffing his cigar. Then, he glanced over at her. His gaze was blank, emotion-less. He set aside his cigar in the ashtray on the end table beside him, and then rested against the chair for a few moments longer.

Then, before Marilyn assumed he wasn’t going to say a word, he spoke, his throat slightly hoarse from fatigue: “Within that first moment of bliss, she’d been acting on the theater stage.” One side of his mouth crooked up, and a sudden sharp gleam sprang across his face, causing Marilyn to relax in her seat. “She was on the London, England stage. She bore a singing role, and she did it so well. Her voice was beautiful. She sung as if the song were her last, as if she wanted all the world to know how talented she was.”

Marilyn smiled as she imagined it.

“Of course…” Father chuckled, a sound foreign to Marilyn for most of her life. “She’d been a replacement for another actress, who’d abruptly become sick that morning and unable to perform. The audience loved her, though. She sparkled, transcendent before everyone’s eyes, startling and so beautiful. So beautiful…” He gazed off into the darkness of the room, in deep memory. “The first chance I got, I went to see her backstage, but they told me she’d already left. I ran outside the theater, wanting nothing more than to meet up with her.

“Then, at last, I found her standing on the street corner, looking lost, sad, and concerned. All the light which had been in her eyes on that theater stage had vanished from the world. She’d grown up an orphan on the streets, having lost her parents in a terrible train accident as a small girl. Nobody wanted poor, shy her, so she’d survived alone.

“The first thing I said was: ‘You were charming tonight,’ which had probably not been the most delightful sentence in the world to say. She peered up at me as if I were a crazy man drunk from the theater and wanting a girl to bring home. But as an honest, hard-working man, I wanted no such thing. I told her funny stories about how I worked as an administrative assistant at my father’s work, and the more nervously told stories I gave her, the more she relaxed with me. She agreed to meet up with me for tea later in the week. Well, as you can imagine, that week couldn’t go by slowly enough. After the tea meeting ended, she asked if we might meet up for dinner sometime, and of course I felt much obliged to want to do so.

“The more we got to know each other over the next four or five months, the more I fell in love with her. She was a girl from a poor background, much like my mother who, ironically, had also been an orphan on the streets. I continued to hold my ground. I couldn’t let go of the most priceless treasure I’d ever known. She stayed at a boardinghouse at the end of the block from the theater where she worked, so it became easy for me to go right over there at the end of my own work shifts, flirting with her and teasing her, making her laugh and blush, because she was so shy and cute. Then, one night, I couldn’t take it any longer. I was so nervous. I bought some flowers at one of London’s flower shops, with a note asking her to marry me, and tucked the note within the flowers, although still visible to the eye. I went to the boardinghouse front door and knocked. She stayed up late, the last person to go to bed every evening since she also worked the financial books for the boardinghouse. She swung open the front door, and seeing her so beautiful in the dim porch light, I couldn’t speak. I handed her the flowers with a smile. She took them, but then studied me for a long moment, wondering if there was anything else I wanted from her, still oblivious to my proposal note hidden with the roses.

“So then, I kissed her, wrapping my arms around her and pulling her close. She kissed me back, a long, deep kiss. By the time we finished, she’d accidentally dropped the flowers on the ground in the process, and we were both breathless… I smiled at her, put my hat back on my head, and left.”

Father’s smile on his face shifted into a deep frown, then the still, sad and dead-looking expression it’d been before. “She’d accepted it, of course. We married, bought this estate, and then had you. I’ve never regretted it since, Marilyn. Not once.”

“I know you haven’t, Father,” Marilyn whispered.

Father turned his head away from her, gazing back into the darkness. The conversation was over, any other words left unsaid.

Marilyn, with a heavy sigh, stood and turned to go. But before she passed him, Father snagged her wrist.

She glanced over.

His hand becoming more gentle, her father lifted her hand and nestled it against the side of his scruffy beard. Such a sweet gesture was something he’d done many a time when she’d been only a little girl, before everything terrible had happened. Remembering that, her heart went out to him even more.

Finally, he heaved a sigh, and once he did, Marilyn realized he was crying.

“I’m…so sorry you had to deal with all of this pain and struggle over the years, sweetheart,” he whispered in a raw and broken voice, and all Marilyn did was stand there shocked. She clasped her other hand to his head and brushed his hair.

“I’m so sorry…” he continued, squeezing his eyes shut. “I’m so sorry for hurting you…”

Her breath caught then, and Marilyn recognized it as the truth, the cold stark truth she’d awaited for all of these years. She smiled. Then, giving him a hug, she kissed the top of his forehead.

“I love you, Papa,” she whispered then, giving him the nickname she’d called him so often when she was a girl. “I always have and always will.”

Finally, she brought back her other hand, and made her way out of her father’s office, leaving him to cry in the darkness.

~*~

In the middle of the night, unable to sleep, Marilyn found herself once again at her bedroom window, in her nightgown and staring off toward the gazebo that now sat empty, since Henry had gone back home for the day.

Suddenly, however, there erupted a slamming of the door and all at once, the sound of Zelda’s harsh argument with Father about something.

In return, though, causing Marilyn to jump in her seat, her father returned with a furious tone that sent her still in her place: “You fired the only woman I love to prove your point, Zelda? That you are once and for all the ultimate authority of the household?”

By how he slurred his words, he’d been drinking.

“I am the command of the household, Wesley, and that is how you have to come and accept it!” Zelda shouted back. “But she’d always been a wretched woman, completely poor, barely no pennies to her family name, and yet you are to love a woman like that, who is hardly a woman in the first place?”

“How dare you say that about Maisie! How dare you!

Marilyn clasped a hand to her mouth.

“Wesley, what are you doing? Let go of me! No, Wesley, no! Please! No! NO!”

            Tears rolled down Marilyn’s cheeks at the sound of the first hit, then the the second. After that, the fight ended, and she sighed with relief, for her father did not show himself as an abusive man at all anymore. He’d only gone and slapped Zelda to prove a point, that no matter what authority she had in the household, she’d still gotten rid of his first and only love.

Marilyn’s body shook as she hugged herself, listening to Zelda’s crying that sounded so sharp and piercing to the ears that she couldn’t move, could hardly breathe. All she did was pray that the abuse had truly ended.

Moments later, after the stark slamming of the bedroom door, the darkness of the house became bone-quiet. Marilyn, trembling, slipped back into her bed. She covered the sheets over her head, in case it happened again, and she cried herself to sleep. She prayed for mercy, for justice, for happiness in her life.

Most of all, she prayed she would one day see Henry Jackson’s face once more.

~*~

The next morning, while sitting in the armchair beside her bed, catching up on her sewing, Marilyn glancing up when hearing a knock at the door.

She set aside her sewing, and got up to answer it.

When she opened the door, Charlotte stood on the other side, tears damp on her face.

“Your mother wishes to speak with you downstairs in the dining room,” she whispered.

Understanding how Charlotte felt upset about Maisie no longer living there, along with the entire household situation, Marilyn placed a comforting hand on the maid’s shoulder.

“Thank you, Charlotte,” she whispered, who bowed her head and bit her lip, shy for her upset manner being so obvious.

Marilyn turned and strode down the stairs, wondering what Zelda had planned for her now.

Once she reached the dining room, however, she found her father at the head of the table, looking like he hadn’t slept all night, drinking his morning coffee and reading the paper. His scrambled eggs on his breakfast plate had grown cold.

“Ah, there you are.” Zelda, bags of fatigue under her eyes, yet also looking as if she still reigned in control of things around the estate, clamped down her coffee teacup as Marilyn approached. “I have news for you, my dear. It so happens that you will not have to worry about Maisie Carter anymore.”

“How’s that?” Marilyn snapped, not caring at all how she spoke to the authority of the house. “How have you come to ruin our lives even more?” She glanced at her father, who threw aside the newspaper and flipped out a bottle of gin from the inside pocket of his coat. He dumped some into his coffee.

“Watch your mouth, young lady.” Zelda sat up straighter in her chair, and then stood. “Just because you think your life is over doesn’t mean you have to be so nasty to your own mother.”

“Oh, so now you’re my mother again.” Marilyn forced out a laugh, tasted it as bitter. “How in the world has this come to so you can take over my life?”

Eyes wide with disbelief, Zelda raised a hand to slap her, but Marilyn struck it aside instead.

“Let me get something straight with you, Zelda,” Marilyn bit out. “You are not my mother, never will be, and I will do whatever it takes—and I mean whatever it takes—to get my birth mother back.”

“You won’t need to!” Zelda exclaimed. “Because I have decided to create a divorce settlement for the two of them!”

“A divorce?” Marilyn screamed, so angry the roof of the mansion would explode with her ire. “You’re forcing Maisie and Father to get a divorce?

Zelda glared over at her, her face pale from under the dining room light. “Marilyn, calm down. This is no time to get fussy!”

“Get fussy? Get fussy? Is this what you call it now, Mother? Or should I even call you that?” Marilyn shouted, her voice getting hoarse with how high-pitched her voice became, her blood boiling with fierce anger. “After you blame me for letting myself be born, who tells me to love a woman who claims to be my biological mother, separating my real parents forever? This is no family! This is a nightmare! And I’m never going to be free!” She lifted her chin in defiance. “Until now!”

She glanced over at her father, who was, not quite to her surprise, smiling over at her. Pride shone on his face. He was proud of his daughter.

Which gave Marilyn all the encouragement she needed.

She spun away, and then hurried from the room and out of the house at a dead speed.

“Marilyn!” Zelda bellowed behind her. “Marilyn! You come right back here this moment!”

But Marilyn did not care. She did not care about running away forever, leaving her family behind. No doubt they no longer loved her. Maybe they never had.

But one person in particular did.

Rushing out into the pouring rain, Marilyn didn’t stop from running. She ran and ran, straight down to the garden gazebo a quarter of a mile away from the house, where Henry awaited.

He sat reading a book as she bolted toward the gazebo. But as she neared, running as fast as she could, Henry set aside his book, as if in shock, and stared at her with wide eyes as she strolled into the gazebo toward him, soaking wet.

“You are my husband,” Marilyn declared, breathless, “and you saved me.” Her shoulders heaving, she neared him until she lured hardly even an inch away from him, staring into his deep blue eyes. “I love you, Henry.” She smiled. “I love you very much.”

Surprised, Henry hardly needed much more time to respond. Beginning to smile, he cupped the back of her head, drew her close, and kissed her deeply. The intense kiss caused Marilyn to grab onto his shirt and pull him closer, an action that both took her breath away and made her dizzy, but in a good way.

When Marilyn drew back to gaze into Henry’s eyes, she didn’t need a reminder of his own love for her. Her past now no longer mattered. Her family would disappear from her memories. Being in his arms like this, Marilyn was finally home.

Hundreds of memories would surround Marilyn years afterward. Memories from when Henry took Marilyn to Morwick, New Zealand to live and raise their family in a different country, and also to promote their coal mining business. They sent off fliers and went into nearby towns giving out advertisements for several months. Soon, families traveled to Morwick, settled, and began to help with the coal mining business. Money began coming in, a specific chunk going to Henry and Marilyn and their newborn daughter Martha, who was born a year after they’d settled in Morwick.

Marilyn never received word from her old family again, except for a letter from Charlotte several months after she’d left home. Charlotte, who’d received Marilyn’s letter one month after they’d arrived in Morwick, telling everyone they were settled, had written back only to tell her the news. Maisie had died in a hospital following a terrible wagon wreck. Hearing the news, her father, sick from grief, had drunk himself to death several days later. Zelda, on the other hand, soon after left the estate, forgetting about creating the divorce settlement between Wesley and Maisie, and was never seen again. This left the servants to sell the estate and find employment elsewhere. However, Henry’s parents sent letters every few weeks, and they responded when they could.

Four years later, one month after Alice was born, Morwick bought a brand new train. This became the second train since they’d found Morwick.

Marilyn smiled. She’d had quite a lot of fun with Henry and the children. It had truly been a great life really worth living.

But now, as she strode down another deep coal mining tunnel, knowing the outcome of her fate, it still could not keep from frowning. Although the situation seemed pretty grim, she reminded herself that all three of her children were safe, and that gave her comfort. Martha and Alice were off to worlds unknown where, unseeingly, three days after they’d left, the magic suitcase had reappeared on her doorstep.

She had lied to Martha and Alice for the first time in their lives: the magic suitcase reappeared after three times of being used, not two. After that, whatever became of the suitcase, she didn’t know. But it was a great comfort to know, at long last, her children were safe.

And soon, so would she.

As she remembered this, Marilyn couldn’t hear Mr. Prick’s harsh laughter, couldn’t remember his threat after Martha and Alice had left that he would destroy Morwick forever. The single solid smile hiding her tears left all of her gentle, tranquil face as she stretched toward Henry, her children, and most importantly, her Father in heaven and meeting Him…as she disappeared into her new adventure of endless eternities…