Sylvie reached her arm around the young mother's shoulder. Ella felt sure it was as much to keep her from bolting as it was to comfort her. Not that Ella hadn't thought about running off with her baby into the darkness and hiding in the swamps, waiting out the mistress's memory. But nobody had ever survived for more than two days out in the swamps.
Even if she did make it past two days, it was no guarantee the mistress would come to her senses. Since the day of the funeral, the mistress's silhouette could be seen through her bedroom window at all times of night, her arms animated, her fists shaking accusingly at nobody.
Ella didn't know what happened first, Sylvie's grip tightening to a bruising clench or the gunshot that seemed to crack right over her head. The small procession halted and they all gazed up at the house.
"Lord, what she done now?" Sylvie said.
While they watched, Master Ben came storming down the back steps from the upstairs gallery in his nightshirt and bare feet, dragging his bed linen behind him.
"It's about time y'all got here. She's about to hunt you down and she's got her daddy's derringer."
The group stepped aside to let him pass. "My advice," he grumbled without looking back, "is to hurry up before she reloads."
"God be great," Sylvie said under her breath. "I wish she would go ahead and shoot the man so we could all get some peace."
Excerpted from The Healing by Jonathan Odell. Copyright © 2012 by Jonathan Odell. Excerpted by permission of Nan A. Talese, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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