The Cabin VI: From Aggie's Rocking Chair, CHAPTER 1 preview

Thumpa … thumpa … thumpa. The train that Daisy and the twin boys rode in moved swiftly over the rails. The rhythmic noise of the passenger car lulled the restless boys into a fitful sleep. They hadn’t wanted to leave their friends in the suburbs of Wheeling, West Virginia, where they had lived since they were two. But after sulking for the first few miles of their journey, Drexel and Dakota finally slept.

Unlike her boys, Daisy found the cramped quarters and cadenced thumping too unnerving to allow for sleep. To add to her despair, she was unsure of her travel route and plans. Once before she and the boys had traveled, but that was on the bus that took them to Wheeling when she finally summoned the courage to flee from the only home she had ever known: a dreary, isolated cabin on the mountain above Winding Ridge.

Her first trip to the city took place when she and the other women in Jacob “Jeb” McCallister’s life were taken in for questioning by detectives regarding heinous charges that had been brought against him. Except for those two times, she had never been off the mountain. Now, however, things were different; this time she was running away from the bright lights and comforts of Wheeling, which she feared posed an even greater threat to her than her former home with Jeb.

Confined in the passenger car, she was heading straight back to her roots. The dark, remote mountain cabin was much more primitive than she had realized before her exposure to the city’s comforts. Moreover, the cabin was home to the very same man from whom she had run in desperation six long years ago.

Back then, she had been a young girl dreaming of a life free of pain and constant need. The only place she could find quiet time alone had been the outhouse, where she often sat on a wooden bench with two cut-out holes. There she would page through the Sears Roebuck catalog, ignoring the stench that arose from only a few feet below.

Early in her life with Jeb, Daisy discovered the privacy of the outhouse was preferable to the constant quarreling of the other women who shared the cabin. Sitting indoors with a catalog would have been an invitation to Annabelle, the eldest of Jeb’s women, to order Daisy “to step and fetch it” when Annabelle wanted her to perform an unpleasant chore.

As a result, Daisy closeted herself in the outhouse, dreaming up carefree lives for the good-looking people who modeled on the pages of the catalog. Unbeknownst to her at the time, the lives such people lived were seldom as carefree as she imagined. The pretty pictures never revealed the real nature of the outside world. They were just that: pretty pictures.

Daisy fondly remembered many days, sitting in the outhouse, away from Annabelle's eagle eye. She would gaze at the catalog as the sunlight spilled through the high, moon-shaped windows of the outhouse, oblivious to the cobwebs and spiders dwelling in every crack and crevice.
She had spent many hours sitting on that bench dreaming of the life portrayed in the perfect pictures, but the catalog hadn’t exposed her to the city as it truly was. In fact, the lives of many of the city people were just as lonely and frightening as those who lived on the mountain to which she was returning. In the catalog’s colorful pages, she never saw the evil side of the beautiful people who lived there.

As the train raced noisily toward her destination, Daisy’s mind traveled back to her life-changing trip to Wheeling six years earlier. Those were the dark days when Jeb had finally been caught and arrested for selling his own children. On her trip to aid in the child trafficking investigation, she and Jeb’s other women were taken in for questioning.

Annabelle, Aunt Aggie, and the others had strongly resisted leaving the mountain for a forced visit to an unfamiliar city. But not Daisy; she saw it as an adventure. Nevertheless even she had been unaware how much the journey would alter her life. During her short stay in a Wheeling hotel, the encouragement she received from social workers and others helped her eventually summon the courage to leave Jeb and the mountain cabin for good. When there was no other choice left to her, Daisy had faced up to the challenge and made her second trip to the city, where until recently, had been enjoying a promising new life.
Her flight took place the night that Jeb returned to the cabin above Winding Ridge from one of his frequent absences. When he discovered that Daisy had been working in the town bar behind his back, he became enraged. His fury was intensified by her bold disobedience, which took place in full view of the townspeople, his other women, and—to his mortification, his Aunt Aggie.

Thus in the dark of night, Daisy had taken her sons away, filled with hopes of a happier life.

Without so much as a sound, they were out the back door.
Moments later, well out of the hearing of the others back at the cabin, Daisy dared to speak: “Drexel, hold tight to Mommy’s pant leg so ya won’t get lost. I need to carry our moneybox, an’ I can only hold one little hand at a time.”
“What’s a moneybox?” Drexel asked.
“It’s a box that holds money, you dork,” his brother responded.
“Dakota, where did ya hear that word?” asked Daisy.
“Which one, Ma?”
“Ya knowed that’s what Joe calls us.”
“Yeah, I remember hearin’ ‘im callin’ ya that,” Daisy sighed.
“Where’re we goin’?” Drexel asked.
“Remember, I told ya that we was goin’ to th’ city one day? Well it’s now.”
“I didn’t think it was goin’ to be in th’ nighttime.” Dakota rubbed his bleary eyes and complained, “I’m sleepy in th’ nighttime.”
“Ma, can I hold your hand now an’ Dakota hold your pant leg?” Drexel asked.
The walk was long and easier said than done in the pitch black of night, but Daisy was determined to make the trip as fast as possible. It would be a disaster if Jeb woke up and followed her. They wouldn’t have a chance if he caught up with them in his truck before they reached the boardinghouse and safety.
“He must not be aware that Cliff Moran’s in town,” Daisy surmised, “or he wouldn’t have come back to th’ cabin or anywhere near th’ mountain. Maybe he thought his changed appearance would fool everyone.”
“What’d ya say, Ma?” Dakota asked.
“Nothin’, I’m just keepin’ us company. Ya have to keep walkin’.”
“Well, ya sound like ya’re scared,” Drexel whined. His mother’s fear was contagious. “Ya’re not scared, are ya’, Ma?”
“No, honey, I’m just bein’ careful of th’ thorns we can’t see. Don’t be scared. We’re goin’ to be just fine from now on. I promise.”
“Okay,” the boys whimpered in unison.
In a particularly rocky stretch of the road, Dakota and Drexel sagged to the ground. They were too tired to continue. “What am I goin’ to do?” Daisy moaned. “We gotta get to th’ boardin’ house before your pa catches us. Okay, I’ll take turns carrying ya.”
She picked Dakota up and kept walking. Spurred on by the threat of his father catching up, Drexel stumbled as he followed, gripping his mother’s pant leg.
When they came to the foot of the mountain, where the town of Winding Ridge stood, Drexel asked plaintively, “Is it my turn yet?”
Daisy set Dakota on his feet and picked up Drexel. “Come on, now! We’re just goin’ to that buildin’ yonder.”
After what seemed a lifetime to Daisy, they came to the boardinghouse. She lowered Drexel to his feet, opened the door and, with the children following, walked into the lobby. By that time it was dawn, and Monica was shuffling papers behind the registration desk. “Can I help ya?” she asked.
“Please, there’s a man stayin’ here. His name is Cliff Moran, an’ I need to see ‘im,” Daisy sobbed in fright and fatigue.

That night Daisy had succeeded in getting off the mountain with her young boys. Her triumph was due to her good fortune in finding Detective Moran at the boardinghouse. With his support, she and the boys were swiftly taken to the nearest bus depot, a two-hour drive away. There they boarded a greyhound that would take them to Wheeling. The next day, after a night of many stops for other passengers, climbing on or off the bus at their destinations, she and her boys finally got their turn. Happily, they stepped down from the bus and stood at an intersection, where she recognized familiar buildings.

With little confidence, she was ready to cross the street, along with the twins, who were hanging onto her as she carried their only possessions. She felt blessed that she had been in the city once before. Watching the cars speed by, she knew she wouldn’t have made it in the strange and frightening city had she been one of the many women who had never left the remote mountain of their youth. Likewise, she wouldn’t have been successful if she hadn’t already met Melinda, the social worker who managed Wheeling’s shelter for abused women. Daisy knew she had to find Melinda as soon as possible.

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