The Grey Girl

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Chapter 10: Untitled chapter

Ring of Light

Through the blinding pain, Chloe was aware she was cold and wet. She also began to figure out that her foot was lying on her upper arm. She tried to call out, but each breath felt like a knife being plunged into her chest. She already knew she would never walk again. This thought brought her pain, not for herself but for Rupert Holt, her friend. He had finally started to move things forward by asking her to the winter dance. He would be so disappointed. She thought of her mother and how she could never help her with the housework and the baking. She cried for her brother, who she would never get to play with again. He would grow up with an invalid as a sister. Her poor father—she would no longer be able to assist him in his machinery shop. She so loved fixing the old tractors and cars the farmers brought in. Her small hands had been so helpful in the tight spaces. Her mother had been so proud when Chloe was accepted into college, the first in the family—especially since Chloe was a woman. She was only eighteen; she’d have a long life to be in a wheelchair. So her thoughts went.

As the night wore on and the cold crept deep, she began to understand and accept that she wasn’t going to be in a wheelchair; she was never leaving this hole. Morning found her weak; her breathing was shallow. Each breath was agony. She could see the morning sunlight far above. It was a beautiful blue-sky morning. Chloe wished she could feel its warmth. She could feel very little now. Darkness was closing in, but it was not relief. It was a shadow blocking out the view. Wood scraping on stone, a thud as a heavy box crashed down beside her. Then another, then a third that severed what was left of her right arm. She saw the stump but felt no pain; it barely bled. A sizzle from far off came closer and closer until a stick and fuse lay burning on her once-beautiful gray-wool coat. The bright flash ended her pain.

Edgar smiled in relief, dabbing at the sweat on his brow. While the smoke still billowed out of the well, he fought to keep himself upright. The adrenaline and relief mixed with the hangover fought to take his consciousness. He could taste the bile in the back of his throat. The edges of the well tumbled in. Edgar called for some workmen to come fill the rest of the hole. Edgar’s brother Richard stood on the back porch watching the work. Edgar felt his stomach turn over as he watched Richard eat a plate of eggs. “’Bout time you got this done,” Richard called. Edgar replied with just a short wave.

“Damn! There must have been an animal down there when it blew,” a burly workman called out, holding a bloody mess on the end of a shovel.

Edgar’s already-pale skin reached a new level of white. “Oh, that is gruesome.” Richard laughed. “What do you think, Edgar?” He patted Edgar on the shoulder as Edgar’s hands hit his knees. If his stomach hadn’t been empty, its contents would be on the ground at his feet. As it was all he could do was dry heave his bile. “Just chuck it in the hole and cover it, will you?” Richard smirked as he turned back toward the house, leaving Edgar to fight through his sickness.

When Edgar went in to town later to get the truck fixed, the story of the deer being hit was completely accepted. The panic and sickness returned when news of the local girl going missing hit the papers. He fought it in his usual manner, by blotting it out with drink. When the police came to question Edgar after reports that he had spoken to the missing girl on the morning of the day she went missing, Edgar’s father initially refused to let them even speak to him. Richard even said that he stopped in to see Edgar after he left the office, and Edgar was still busy at the mill. When Edgar finally was allowed to speak, he explained he had offered the young woman a ride on that cold morning, as any man of good breeding would. She went missing right after school, and since Edgar was in his office working on paperwork at that time, he couldn’t have had anything to do with it. The police apologized for bothering such a well-respected and connected family. After that the investigation turned into just another runaway eighteen-year-old girl looking for a life in the big city. This never sat well with Chloe’s family and friends. Edgar would often ignore the dirty looks he received in town. He got used to the young man following him, watching where he went. After a couple of years, Edgar would take pleasure in knowing Chloe’s body was beneath the floor of their conservatory. After these thoughts, he would drink until he couldn’t feel the guilt or anything else anymore.

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