Eat Up. The Story Of Sweet Vera
The awakening from the Cellar- Ch. 4
Vera woke up, being carried through the woods in her Father’s arms. The sun was peeking through the trees, like a watercolor painting with a million pinholes punched out. She felt warm and cold at the same time but oddly paralyzed as she tried to raise her head. “Rest, sweet Vera,” she heard through her Father’s chest.
She hardly remembered the night before. Her eyes were heavy, and her head felt woozy. As hard as Vera tried to open her eyes, she couldn’t. Her eyelids felt like bricks as if they were glued shut. She gave up fighting it and closed her eyes, letting her body fall limp in his arms.
Vera sat up in a cold sweat, only to be met with sharp stabbing pains that ran down her legs. It was a painful reality of the all-encompassing afflictions that had taken over her tiny body. There wasn’t a single part of her body that wasn’t wrenching in torture. Vera attempted to rub her sore ribs, but her little arms were too weak and heavy. She could hardly move them. She tried to lift her head, but her neck was stiff. Any movement shot a lightning bolt of pain that shocked her system. All this energy trying to move and assess her body made her sick to her stomach. She was beginning to feel that she might throw up everywhere. She wondered if she could speak, to call out for help.
That’s when her nightmare came rushing back to her. Those bloody cloth bags, the cold, wet, muddy stone steps, 2,333 steps up and down, she went back and forth. That finger. She was sure it was a finger, maybe a hand? The round and oddly shaped bag. The last bag that Vera carried down… that one bag that she thought she saw human hair. Light, golden brown curls hung out the top. It was a terrible dream. Vera replayed back in her mind trying to put the piece back together and also throw them all away to never be thought of again. Then all of a sudden, she threw up violently. Vera, let out a scream. “Help, I can’t move!” as she got sick all her bed. Her screams ripped her unused vocal cords as she choked up vomit.
Alice came into Vera’s room, as caring and loving as Vera knew her to be. “Here, drink this.” Alice handed Vera a warm mug of hot chamomile tea and honey. “It’ll calm and smooth you, my sweet girl.” Alice removed Vera’s bedding and began to wash her with lavender and hot water. It was painful and soothing at the same time. “It’s okay, my girl, I am here,” as she bathed her daughter, washing away her sickness and cleaning her wounds and bruises.
After Alice finished washing Vera, she gave her clean linens and began to brush her hair into a bun. “This is only so I can put lavender and seed oil on your neck, and then you can put your hair back down,” Alice said, pulling up Vera’s hair. “It’s okay,” Vera said in a small voice. She still wasn’t sure how to take her parents yet. “Well, I know you can’t be well today. So no work or school for a few days. You can stay home. Rest.” Alice added, kissing her daughter’s head.
Alice grabbed the lavender and seed oil and began to massage sweet Vera’s neck and down her spine. “You took quite a fall, girl,” Alice said, working the oil mixture into Vera’s skin. Vera lay on her side, unable to see her face, but she wanted to look into her eyes.
“What do you mean?” Vera asked… “I don’t remember falling.” Of course, Vera. Child, you fell a hundred times in the woods last night. Honestly, you don’t remember?” Alice laughed off.
“Oh, right. Yes, I guess I did fall,” Vera replied, confused. She did remember falling now but wasn’t sure where this conversation was going. Was this why her body hurt so bad from walking through the wood or was there more?
“Mother, why were we in the woods last night? I had a strange dream about it. I don’t know what is real and what is just my dream?” Vera asked, trying to turn her broken body over to face her Mother. Alice kept oiling her daughter, now working on her legs and feet.
“Dear, you were in the woods because your Father and I asked you to be. We called you to the barn, and you came. You know this. You got lost, and it scared you. You fell and nearly killed yourself before I found you and bought you to the barn.” Alice answered very matter-a-factly.
“Yes. Mother, I know all that, but why?” Vera pushed further.
Alice stopped massaging her daughter’s feet and looked up into Vera’s eyes, and in a cold dead stare, Alice said, “Vera, you said that you understood. I suggest you drink your tea.” Vera saw her Mothers sweet demeanor change before her eyes. It gave her chills that ran down her spine.
Vera, trying to save her Mother from becoming angry and keeping her from leaving her side, desperately reached out for her, “I do understand, but it’s just us now. I won’t say anything outside this house, between you and me. But it wasn’t just a terrible dream, was it? I was in that cellar…wasn’t I?” Vera pleaded, with distress in their voice, trying to sit up, but it was no use. Poor Vera was in bad shape, unable to use her legs. Moving her upper body at all was nearly impossible without help. All she could do was cry out to her Mother to stay with her.
Alice started putting away her herbs and oils and then stood over her daughter. “Vera, you aren’t well. You’ve been sick for a couple days, sleeping without a single movement. Not even a twitch of an eye. I can see it’s going to take a few more days of rest to get you back to normal health. I will make you some soup. Now, back to sleep for you.” And with that, she left.
Vera was again left alone in her bed with her broken, bruised body. It wasn’t long before exhaustion took over, like drunkenness, and she was asleep. Her Mothers’ herbal oil and tea had knocked her right out.
Vera began to stir. She could smell the smokiness of the fireplace and a savory smell that made her stomach rumble with hungry. She thought it must be another dream. Her senses were slowly trying to awaken. The flicking and crackling of the flames were extraordinarily loud and warm on her skin as if she was right next to them. She could hear humming and footsteps, back and forth, and feel the floorboard bend underneath her. For an instant, a familiar dark hole appeared in her mind, and two glowing eyes stared back at her. The sounds around her grew louder and more distinguished as the frightening image faded.
Vera had been locked inside her dreams for so long she didn’t know what was real and what was not anymore. Just wandering through the dark, foggy woods looking for her parents, only to be met by a man with curly hair. He spoke no words to her. She could never make out any feature of his face, as she never got close to him. She followed the man for what seemed like forever, trying to get close enough to see him. But just as she would get up to him, he would get further away. This seemed to go on forever, and she never caught up to him. However, it felt like he was leading her somewhere. A dark hole in the ground, and her eye shot open.
The smells and the sound of her parent’s voices were calling toVera. She slowly began to part from her dream and wake to her home. Vera peeled her eyelids open to see her Father making a large fire and her Mother cooking away in the kitchen. She had been moved from her bedroom to the family room of their small home.
“I see my sweet Vera is awake,” her Father said with a smile spread across his face. “Alice, come and see your daughter! Feed her and make sure she is well.” Wallace boasted. Wallace kept tending to his fire joyously. This confused Vera a bit. She didn’t know why her Father was home. Why he was as happy as Christmas Day! However, she realized many things didn’t make sense to her right now. Her head was still hurting, and she had no concept of time anymore. She felt like she may not even be able to speak.
Alice rushed to Vera, “My girl, I have good news for you! I don’t think I will share it just yet, for I want you to be able to take it all in. Eat up this soup… tell me what you think.” Alice smiled and handed a bowl of soup to Vera as she tried to adjust herself in the chair.
The soup was nothing Vera had ever seen before. She looked at her Mother oddly as she moved her spoon through the mixture. It looked chunky and had large pieces of meat and vegetables in it. It was a brown, reddish tent. She couldn’t tell what kind of meat it was. or what vegetables were used. They were almost soggy. Still trying to get her bearings back, Vera could hardly hold the small bowl by herself and needed assistance. She took a small spoon full of the odd mixture, and although it looked strange, it smelled delicious. Vera looked at her Mother and took a cautious bite.
“Well, what do you think of it?” Alice asked with excitement, “it’s meat stew! I take the scrapes, odds, and ends, then add them to my soup. It keeps from wasting and spoiling! Then I have a brand new meal! Isn’t that smart, Vera! My stew has been selling like mad!!” Alice continued proudly of herself. “Now I had to be creative as I do have my secrets. I can’t have anyone copying me. Many have tried to recreate it but can’t get it right!” She added with a twinkle in her eye.
Vera took a few more bites. She had to admit it was good. It was like nothing she had consumed before. But the weight of it hurt her stomach. “It’s good. But my stomach hurts to eat very much.” Vera said with a cracked voice as she handed the bowl back to her. “How long have I been asleep? What time is it?” She added, realizing it was dusked outside, as a chill had entered the atmosphere.
“Oh, sweet Vera. We have been so worried about you.” Alice said, coming to sit by her daughter’s side. “We called on the doctor to check on you after you stayed asleep for a few days without waking. When we had to work, the doctor and his wife kept an eye on you when we were away. Bless their hearts.” Alice turned to look over to Wallace.
“They will be so pleased to hear the news you are awake.” Alice’s eyes began to water a little, and she lowered her head. “Vera, many things have changed while you were sleeping. Several men have gone missing from the mines. So many, in fact, they closed them down. There are rumors that it might be haunted. But we know better because the missing men are travelers, not from these parts, and have no family here. We believe they are targeted.” Alice paused to gather herself as a few tears ran down her face.
Wallace walked over and sat down on the floor next to his daughter and wife to console them. “Alice, my wife. Remember, these men that have gone missing kept no good company. They gambled, drank too much, and spent time with floozies. They put themselves in dangerous places and had evil company. We must use these events as a lesson to make wise choices for our futures.” Wallace said directly and with conviction in his voice.
“We’ve done our best to keep things going through this struggle and sad time. Your Father worked on a few fishing boats when they closed the mines. Times have been difficult everywhere. He went to work in a few different mines when the fishing stopped, traveling for a while. Those mines closed as well. Hardly any of the mines’ within a day’s journey are working any longer.” Alice explained to Vera, holding tight to Wallace’s hand. “Not just because of this strange mystery either. Food storages, business closing. But also because of a terrible sickness that hit everyone. We’re lucky we have had a great supply to sell at the market for our town. It’s kept us fed as well and healthy.” Alice added, now folding her hand as if to pray.
“Vera, you’ve been out like a light for a few weeks. I suppose, Lord, has blessed us, keeping us above water, but none of it mattered if we lost you.” Wallace added, lending over to kiss his daughter’s head and then his wife’s. Wallace stood up as if he was about to give an important speech. “Now, the good Lord has blessed our family with provisions. We haven’t gone hungry like many. Our family is together and safe. We’ve been given away through these means to make money, so no tax collectors have knocked on our door. It has all given us the ability to have a new and better life, Vera. This is the good news that your Mother would like to share with you.” Wallace concluded, reaching down to help Alice stand beside him off the floor.
“Now, I know this is a lot, sweet girl. You’re probably confused. I tell you, this life will pass, and a new life awaits. Life in America. Alice’s eyes lit up, and her hand wrapped around her cheeks.
“You’ve helped your family so much over the years in more ways than you know, my sweet baby. Making many loaves of bread, soups, and pies with tasty meat fillings. These things no one can get anywhere else but from us. You have helped to make us special. We have fed many. With all that we have sold, we have saved. But things were getting”… Alice paused and shot a weary look over to Wallace… “harder to keep the baking and making going. Supplies were harder to come by. I had to be creative, and people are… noisy.”
Alice continued taking a few steps closer to Vera. “You helped our family in many ways during all this. We preserve meats and vegetables and feed people, even when people are demanding and helpless. We took odds and ends, the rubbish and unwanted, and made them into a new meal. They were wanted again. Alice’s voice now sounded a bit quieter but higher pitched; it made Vera feel uneasy.
Vera went to shift her body in the oversized chair, still trying to take in all the new information her parent had given her. “We are moving to America?” Vera questioned.
Yes! With joyful laughter, Alice hugged her daughter tighter and pulled her closer. “Isn’t it wonderful!”
“I don’t know? Vera said, still hugging her Mother, “Should I be happy? Do you want me to be happy?”
“This is a good thing, Vera. I know, this place is all you know, but it will be better there.” Her Father interjected.
“This next week, we sell the last of our things and the goats. We have just been waiting and praying for you, Vera. Alice explained, now rearranging Vera’s blankets. “We will be sailing on a giant ship across the ocean. Isn’t that amazing?” Alice added with a smile on her face.
“That is enough for tonight. Clean Vera up, then call on the doctor. We haven’t much time.” Vera’s Father kissed her head and then went back to his fire.
Alice began to wash Vera’s face and gave her a clean blanket. But before Vera could ask another question, she watched her Mother wrap a scarf around her neck and shut the door behind her, leaving to get the doctor. “I’ll be back soon,” Alice said as a gust of cold wind and dried leaves blew in.
Now in silence, Vera sat uncomfortably with her Father alone. She wanted she ask more questions. To tell someone about her dreams. She wanted to know why they were leaving for America. She wanted to know why and what happened in the woods? But as much as she loved him, they didn’t really talk. This was not something they would ever talk about. So she remained quiet.
It would have stayed that way. Vera would have watched the shadow play the wall from the fire and never said a word. She would have listened to the sounds of the flames kissing the kindle without making a peep. But Wallace broke that silence when he turned to her daughter and spoke.
“You may hear some things in the next few days, Vera. They are rumors. Do you remember what I told you about the good and the wrong people? Then the ones that God intervenes for? Wallace asked, speaking slowly with intent.
“Um,” Vera said, unsure. She went back through her mind to replay the events. The woods, the cellar, the bloody bags, her Mother’s changed demeanor… she kept flipping through her mind. Her Father came closer to her, and now Vera felt an urgency to remember. She pushed herself. Think she told herself!
Then she remembers something… not from that night at all. It was from a week or so before. It meant nothing to her at the time. It was just gossip. A group of women in the market talked about a curfew being put in place in town. That the constables from a neighboring village were searching for a missing person.
Vera now remembered someone saying they caught a foot in their fishing net. The women and men all laughed it off. So it meant nothing to her then, but now many people were missing. And that brought her fast forward to the night in the wood. The night her Father came home in a panic. Someone was dead. She remembered he was indeed covered in blood. She carried many blood bags down to that cellar… She remembered everything now.
“Yes, I remember father,” Vera answered, making no eye contact.
To be continued. Remember NO POST NEXT WEEK!
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