Chapter 1: The Song of the Amish girl
Henry Arthur was a thirty-something loner who lived in a town called Asheville. He owned a small shabby cottage where he resided with Mr. Sprinkles, a chubby old tomcat. Every evening after work, he followed the same routine – a jovial chat with the cat, a humble dinner, and one hour watching the news channel before going to bed.
Henry didn’t have quite an impressive personality; he was short heighted, short sighted, plump and partially bald. On the other hand, he was a highly educated gentleman; he earned a doctorate degree in Physics and became a teacher at the community college in his neighborhood. He loved his job and the quiet life he lived never bothered him.
Cornflakes with cold milk and chunks of fruit is what Henry preferred for breakfast daily. He had six safari suits that he wore to work; a different color for each day. For Monday it was off-white, for Tuesday beige, for Wednesday it was teal blue, for Thursday a muddy green and for Friday it was brown. Each morning he would walk to work from home – a fifteen minute journey that he considered a sufficient form of exercise.
He would pass by the local market and witness the vendors getting ready for business, a rose garden owned by some rich lady in the neighborhood, and the town’s abandoned church building.
It was a Tuesday when he approached the church on his daily route and heard a faint, yet mesmerizing echo. He couldn’t help himself and stepped closer to the church doors to listen. It was the most beautiful voice to ever reach his ears.
It was the sound of a woman singing a song he’d never heard before, something about the beauty of love and life combined together. The music gave him goosebumps; he was frightened and intrigued at the same time. The song ended shortly and he came out of the trance.
He peeked through the dusty glass, but didn’t see anyone. He told himself that he was hallucinating and started to run as he realized he was running late for work. The next day he heard it again and stopped outside the church to listen, his ears pressed to the closed doors. The melodious voice of the mysterious woman captivated him; it felt like a drug that infused him with warmth and calmness.
The song played several days in a row, and then one day Henry was greeted with silence. He sat by the church door for several minutes, longing to hear that unworldly voice but nothing. He began to pace back and forth impatiently and felt a pang of anger, which was unusual for him.
Not long after he wanted to cry because he didn’t have the strength to leave just like that. Being someone who had never been impulsive, he was surprised when he braced himself and rammed into the rusty doors that gave way easily.
The place was a mess, brimming with spider webs and worn out furniture. There seemed to be no life within the place dimly lit by sunlight penetrating through stained glass around the roof. Henry sighed and was about to leave when he heard the cry of a child.
He turned back startled and noticed a pair of distraught eyes staring back at him from the far end corner. He moved towards them cautiously and found a frail young lady crouched on the floor with a baby child wrapped in her arms. She had dark circles around her haunted blue eyes, pale skin, and long blonde hair drenched in grime.
“Don’t hurt me!” she uttered in a trembling voice.
Henry instantly recognized that soft and soothing sound; she was the beholder of that lovely voice that had touched his heart like nothing before.
“Why didn’t you sing today?” he asked abruptly.
She gaped back at him surprised by the unexpected query. Henry apologized for his bad manners and introduced himself. He mentioned his daily route to work and how moved he was when he heard her singing. She listened wistfully and seemed to ease up a bit. Then he asked who she was and why she was living in an abandoned church with an infant? Her face fell and tears dwelled in her eyes.
Henry was bewildered and all he could think of was offering her his handkerchief. She accepted it reluctantly and he watched her sympathetically as she wiped her face, and stifled her sobs.
“My name is Melrose,” she revealed.
Henry waited for more to come but soon realized that it was all he was getting out of her at the time. He sat across her on the floor and asked if the child she clung to was her own. She nodded her head vertically.
“How old are you?” questioned Henry.
“Nineteen,” she replied.
He then asked her where her home was and if she needed help getting there or contacting family. She said that she had no home and no one to turn to.
“My son is all I have,” she said dejectedly.
Henry couldn’t leave a young helpless girl all by herself, though he wasn’t sure what he should do considering her situation. He decided to take the mother and child home where they could clean up and have some food. He told her to come with him, but she wouldn’t budge, insisting that she could take care of herself.
It took some time to convince her that she wouldn’t survive for long on her terms and Henry assured that she could trust him. She followed him all the way to his cottage on foot; the people of Asheville watched them with keen eyes, accompanied by contentious whispers.
Henry seldom brought guests home and when he did, Mr. Sprinkles just couldn’t control his excitement. He danced around Melrose’s feet and let her tousle up his fur. Some color emerged in her face as she beamed at the cat and made small talk.
“I’m glad you like Mr. Sprinkles,” said Henry, “he’s all the family I have,”
He laid some fruit and a jar of fresh milk on the table for his guests, and then went out to get some clothes for the two. On return, he cleaned up the spare room in his home for them to sleep in.
“Are you a widower?” Melrose asked him before going to bed.
He let her know that he’d never been married, nor had any children. When she asked for a reason, he enlightened her that he wasn’t among the desired eligible bachelors in town.
“That is ridiculous,” she remarked, “you’re the kindest man I’ve known”.
“Kindness in not enough to love someone I suppose, and you hardly know me” humored Henry in response.
Several months elapsed and Henry’s cottage became home for Melrose and her baby boy. She eventually disclosed her story to the person who provided her shelter and safety. She was Amish and lived in a small village far away from Asheville.
Every day she walked five miles to go to school in a town across the village; which entailed crossing a bridge over the river. There she met a very fine-looking young man, unlike anyone she ever knew. Everything about him was profoundly compelling, from his glistening black hair to his wicked smile and rather futuristic attire.
She often ran into him sitting at the edge of the bridge, throwing pebbles into the water. He never said anything to her, but waved and winked whenever she passed by. Her heart skipped a beat at his audacity each time, and every night he would show up in her dreams. There he would say and do things to her she could never imagine; he evoked emotions that Melrose knew were immoral and inappropriate. Nonetheless, she couldn’t control her urges for long and decided to confront him one day.
“What’s your name and what do you do here every day?” she stuttered.
“You can call me the devil’s cousin,” he replied with a smirk, “why do you care to ask what I do?”
He gazed at her impishly; his dark gleaming eyes hypnotized her and she couldn’t look away. He got to his feet without breaking eye contact and stepped very close. Melrose’s heart hammered in her chest, but she couldn’t move. He proceeded to stroke her cheek, she felt a fire light up inside of her. Suddenly, she let out a yelp and made a run; she didn’t dare look back.
“See you in your dreams,” he yelled behind her.
Unsurprisingly, she did meet him in her dreams again, but not in person at the bridge for the next few days. She became distressed as her heart yearned for him. The way he touched her in her dreams and the way she let him have his way became something she wanted to experience for real. She regretted running away from him that day and made up her mind that she wouldn’t repeat the same mistake if she ever saw him again.
In her dreams, she begged him to come back to her. He would chuckle and ask if she was sure that was what she truly wanted; she swore that it was. Soon enough her wish came true, and she couldn’t be happier. He looked like a dream standing in the middle of the bridge, dazzling her with his cunning smile. She ran up to him and asked him where he’d been the past few days. He took her hand and told her to come with him. She didn’t ask questions or complain, she only complied.
He dragged her on a long and quiet walk that lasted beyond an hour, far off from the river into woods. At one point they came to a standstill, somewhere in the middle of thick trees, cut off from civilization. He pulled her close in his arms and brushed his lips against hers; she closed her eyes and surrendered completely. Several hours later she woke up all alone with the darkness caving in. She cried out for him running aimlessly amidst the woods, but he had disappeared for good – from her reality and her dreams.
Melrose managed to find her way home and over time realized that she was carrying his child. Her family and neighborhood humiliated her for the dreadful sin she had committed. She was banished from her community into a world unknown.
She tried to find the father of her child, but not knowing his name made it impossible. Nobody nearby or further from home seemed to have known anyone of his description. She wandered off with her child, one place to another in search of refuge and means of survival.
Click here for the next part!