A/N: I'm not writing this story with the intent to turn it into the standard redneck fic with incest and violence waiting in every corner, but for the sake of allowing a deeper insight on the underlying circumstances surrounding the characters that will eventually drive them to such extremities. That said, expect an actual story, not senseless porn. Will eventually turn NSFW though. You've been kindly warned.
Summary: A failed farmer is forced to marry a woman who has already lost her flower if he wishes to receive his parents' inheritance. Bad habits and a worse temperament prevented him from ever loving her for what she was. Soon he will come to realize that the seeds he has planted will come back to sting him like thorns, as the reins of his family are already changing hands.
Her name was Jacqueline Blackwood.
—Jackie, the quaint elderly in the village had been the first to call her, the fond pet name that had been previously following her late grandmother for 83 years.
Jackie was a girl at the age of nineteen, less thrilled in her current life that was painted in ashen, more willing to imagine actual colors existed somewhere far away. Every time Jackie's fingers glided over the pages of her lineage she'd remember how she had been born into a family tree of countrymen with deep roots. Farmers, woodcutters, fishermen, hunters. No matter how hard she'd try to single out one of her relatives for a distinctive trait, they all looked one and the same.
Kneeling over a shot bear somewhere up in the mountain, showing off a big catch by the riverbank, posing with one hand latched on the pitchfork or the axe. Muddy boots, patched pants with suspenders, hairy arms up to the shoulders, neglected beards, confident smiles nevertheless. In fact, each one of them seemed to treasure some kind of personal triumph in their moment. They had all liked doing what they were good at, obviously, they took pride in it.
If only she could say the same for her.
A small dust cloud puffed when Jackie shut the old album of black and white photos. This thing hadn't breathed in a good while.
She let it rest next to her, on a linen blanket that had thinned out too much to be called a blanket anymore. Just the touch of the scratchy fabric under her palm was a cause for itchiness. Jackie's chest heaved empty of motivation as she closed her eyes and almost reluctantly lifted her neck. On the count of three she'd open her eyes, wishing to think someone up there may be hearing her inward pleas and magically make her wake up in a different world.
Like every time before, what awaited across her, was the mirror. A foggy oval mirror, chipped all around from the passing of ages, the vintage bronze frame infected by green and smelling of decay. She hated staring at that mirror. Not because it was an ancient relic left behind by generations of grandmothers like it was a necessary evil tradition to be passed on to the newer branches, but because its hopeless outlook fitted perfectly the sullen face it reflected back to her.
Jackie was gloomy, too gloomy for a girl at nineteen. She wore the kind of face it'd take someone but a fleeting glance to ascertain that she'd given up on life and that such brooding could well be contagious. No one could blame her for dwelling in the realms of pessimism though, as Jackie's circumstances were a very delicate matter.
She parted her lips and had them illustrate an 'I hate you' towards the mirror. Her mouth was only good for mimicking words because...
Jackie could not speak.
She was not deaf or mute. Jackie's ears were actually more keen than most people's and she had been able to talk normally like every other girl. What had crippled her voice was a childhood trauma, not so much a physical one, as a psychosomatic one.
One day her father, Bobby Joe, didn't return from some village errands. He'd always be back home by 10 p.m. no matter his schedule.
Worried, Jackie's mother sent her out to look for him, and so Jackie did. She set off amidst the heavy downpour leaving no stone unturned despite the challenging night weather, all because she was afraid something bad might have happened to her father.
Her lungs had been depleted calling out for him all around the village and it was drawing close to midnight. No one would bother coming out of their cozy nest to help her or ask what was going on, the villagers were just locked inside their houses, either sleeping or pretending to be sleeping next to a fireplace that was keeping them warm from the cold. Jackie was tired and soaked to the bone after two hours of searching for her father. Her efforts were bearing no fruit. She was going to return home empty-handed and only god knew how her mother would react realizing Bobby Joe had gone missing.
However, as Jackie slipped inside a narrow alley caressing her hand alongside a wall to collect her breath…
She saw him.
Hiding behind a wide dumpster and grunting with a menace, Bobby Joe with his pants down and a fat-chested woman on her knees working on his crotch.
"Father…?" She had muttered, not with shock or disbelief, but naivety and confusion.
Not much drama followed.
Jackie had ended up with her back squirming against the wall as her father's vengeful clutch threatened to snap her tender 10 year old throat.
"Say a word to ma an' I'll rip yer tongue out. Ya listenin' girl?"
Jackie would never forget the vow in her father's eyes or his hand that was big enough to grab all around her neck, easily squeezing her like a sponge. She took the words to heart and never spoke of what she later came to know as her father's cheating on her mother. Of course, the small community still caught wind of the news, as the woman that had been together with Bobby Joe that night spread word how the crazy 'limp-dick' slammed his own daughter against the wall and almost strangled her.
Sadly enough, this had been all but the end of Jackie's bad luck.
Not only did Jackie never say a word about that night's incident, she never said a word again. Naturally introverted and timid ever since her days as a toddler, Jackie had lost her voice out of immense fear that her father would deliver his promise to her if she ever talked. Since that night, whenever she'd attempt to mutter words on the condition she were alone in her room, just to remember how her voice once had been, she could still eerily hear her throat's fragile joints scrunching under the pressure of her father's grip.
It was all in her head, yet enough to strip the shy Jackie of her voice.
Bobby Joe was not a knight in white armor, even the rocks were aware of it. He was the kind of man that'd stomp a goat at the knee if the animal was too stubborn to move. He'd not hesitate kicking cattle at the udder out of spite on a day it wouldn't yield enough milk, not giving a damn if the animal screamed, writhed in pain, or even if it actually collapsed. He'd just keep beating it unforgivingly, sometimes until the screams were no more.
Then he'd take the killed animal's meat not to his family's empty plates, but to the butcher for money. Money that would yet again not go to his family's needs, but his empty glass of scotch. Somewhere in the darkest pits of his addicted mind there were whispers talking to him, repeating themselves over and over, louder and louder for every passing hour, not ceasing till they were realized.
Break a goat's leg, tell the curious fools its leg got caught in some fence when it tried to hop over, take it to the butcher, pour the money inside the glass.
A ruthless self-important man with a misleading lanky build that reminded everyone not to judge a book by its cover. He was a farmer now at the age of 49 with a strength that had already started to abandon him as had the hair on the crown of his head. With a bad temper and an even shorter fuse if anyone risked talking to him, he was especially dangerous when he'd be out on a serious date with alcohol.
The cause of this bottomless spiral of blind chugging was, and had always been, his wife, Rose.
Not the peachiest of marriages. Even back when he was a youngster Bobby Joe had been rather unfulfilling in his affairs. 'Too cheeky and unromantic', some of them would confide even now, 'pouring some syrup over the pancakes wouldn't hurt', they'd add. As such, with no woman willing to condemn herself to such a crass partner, Bobby Joe had quickly learnt how to find great indulgence in whoring, where petty things like honey whispers to an ear were not included in the bill.
When he hit thirty years of age however, days of grace period as a boy long gone, Bobby Joe's exasperated old folk decided it was the last year their family name would have to suffer being treated as the village's laughing stock, declaring they were not fools to forever keep catering for a lecher and threatening to disown him of everything that would be his. Either he'd marry a woman and have kids to keep the family name going, or he'd find himself stripped of every dime in his wallet. Without a dime not even the whores would want to see his face. That was an apparent fact that had scared Bobby Joe out of his wits.
There was only one girl in the village that had yet to be matched to someone for marriage. A young girl, only at her 18th year, born into a poor family of peasants with great financial need, whom no one dared to take to church.
'The Black Rose', they called her.
Despite her low status in society Rose had never allowed misery to be part of her life. She was a lively and sassy girl, so lively and sassy that her appetite for 'syrup and pancakes' had earned her the reputation of a slut before she could even fully bloom. Of course, it was also rumored that her family's financial predicament was what had pushed her down that road, while some had surmised that the truth was to be found somewhere in-between the two versions of the story.
Even so, with his back against a wall Bobby Joe grudgingly agreed to marry a girl who, not only was much younger than him —an issue for inviting gossip behind his back— but tarnished as well. Rose was young, yet not a virgin for his taking. He grabbed her by the arm, dragged her all the way to church, knocked her up within a month of treating her little different to a whore.
Nine months later, Jackie was born.
Short brown hair, pale like they'd been bleached, draping like thin curtains over dark brown eyes making her look like a dusky witch chanting curses in her mind.
"Jackie dear!" Her mother called from another room, the kitchen probably, "Dinner is almost ready, please come at the table?" Her voice cheerful and encouraging as always.
Jackie's hips halfheartedly complied, impassive eyes already taught to pay no mind as the bed springs annoyingly squeaked from the rust.
Her shoulders felt heavy as she stood across the mirror. Still about 5'7'', didn't look like she was getting any taller, or the mirror doing her favors despite having just recovered from a bad cold. She saw herself quite a bit scrawny, probably less than 100 pounds. The only feature Jackie found not utterly pathetic about her body was the white nightgown of cotton that wasn't sticking flat on her chest. Her mounds, albeit still at the size of lemons, were paradoxically healthy. Though she secretively wished one day there'd actually be a person telling her how her bosom was indeed growing well instead of having her own self-pitying musings do the work.
That day didn't look like it was going to dawn anytime soon, and considering the nightmarish night that had etched her with a distrusting scar, the day she'd see the church dressed in pure white would probably never come.
Jackie walked away to let the room draw a breath from her suffocating silence, certain that her absence wouldn't make the room feel any emptier or lonelier at all. Her sickly body did not even suffice to make the wooden planks squeak, and the planks would squeak pretty easily. Someday she was sure her half-lidded eye would realize how proud it should be that she were the only member in the family with a cat's silent stride.
Yeah, as if...
She entered the kitchen and saw her mother filling a copper bowl with the ladle by the stove.
Beef stew...? She wondered with a bit of surprise when her petite nose responded to the inviting whiff of cooked vegetables. Carrot was her favorite.
Must be a rare occasion for her mother to be preparing beef stew for supper. It'd usually be something less delectable, like rice soup or gruel. If they were lucky enough, some bread would be accompanying their poor meal.
"Jackie!" Her mother chided, pointing at her feet with the ladle. "Why are you not wearing socks? Do you want to come down with a fever like last time?"
"Nngh.." Jackie's neck drooped and her nose grumbled in stubborn defense.
Wandering barefooted inside the house was a bad habit of hers that was never going to change. Being unable to talk, Jackie could only communicate with growls, grunts, hums, but mostly gestures. That was the only way she could inform someone that she was trying to say something.
The front door's handle suddenly clicked.
Jackie felt unease swelling in her chest as she stared the door. Her mother, Rose, was also guardedly observing who it would be that would pass through their doorstep, her fingertips entertaining the bread knife next to her. The thumping of boots eventually shook the floor and Jackie listened to her heart beat as if it were in her eardrums. They were two lone women inside a small house and the idea of unexpected visitors wasn't really welcome, especially this late. Creeps or thieves were not extinct around the mountain side of the village. They always had to be prepared for the worst.
"Man, it's freezing outside..." A boot wrestled the wind roaring through the gap and sealed the door.
Rose sighed with relief that it wasn't just anyone's voice. She smiled and withdrew her eyes to start slicing the bread.
Jackie's heart pounded again, this time not out of fear. Her lids began to widen almost with anticipation.
"Too warm to put on your socks Mouse?" He smiled with a tease while carrying three hefty logs in his arms.
Yes... There was one person in this family that actually made Jackie's gloomy outlook in this world a bit brighter.
The boy deposited the two logs in an empty corner next to the fireplace, then crouched on his knees to shove the last one inside the dying embers. With a relieved wheeze he palmed his forehead and brushed the few blades of brunette hair away from the moist yet cold skin.
"This firewood will keep us going, for another night at least."
He assured himself with a nod of sharp amber eyes as he sized up the reigniting flames.
One year younger than her, this was the only man left still fighting for this family, Jackie's little brother.
~TBC. Reviews are welcome!