BREAK MY FALL
The Breaking Trilogy, #1
"The first time I returned to Lancaster was for my brother's funeral.
The second time was for Myra."
For twelve years, I lived alone in my cabin, building a life with my two bare hands. I was free from their rules, their policies, and their lies.
They are a cult.
My father is their leader.
To protect my brother's widow, I'm making her my wife. It's her only way out.
But drawn to the purity in her deep blue eyes and the innocence of her gentle voice, I wonder if I'm not the biggest monster of them all. I have to save her from them and myself. Because every second I spend with this timid woman, I fight the urge to claim her.
Make her truly mine.
And I know it's wrong.
I will break her fall—if I don't break her first.
BREAK MY FALL
© M. Mabie 2018
I stretched after stepping out of the Peterbilt and the muscles in my neck burned. Mill work wasn’t the easiest, but it was honest, and my debt to the Roaches was finally paid. It was my twelfth year in Fairview, and I finally owned my small patch of land. Outright.
Free and clear.
It was mine, and it didn’t take a board of pious trustees or a metal ring to get it. It only took hard work.
The next step was my own storefront in town. Soon, I wouldn’t have to piecemeal out my work and I could sell all my furniture from one location. I’d always be there to help the Roaches when they needed me, but I’d go full-time for myself.
Chris and the last trucks filed onto the lot as the others who’d arrived first that morning were already unloading. I headed their way to help. The sooner we got at least a few loads dropped, the sooner I’d finally get home after a long week of logging on the mountain.
“Abe,” Dori called from the open office window. “Hold up.” The Roaches didn’t need to speak to me often, no one did really. They understood why I kept to myself, and I didn’t complain when people didn’t bother me with small talk.
A cloud of smoke followed the silver-haired woman out the door of the main building onto the covered porch outside, and she shot the butt of her cigarette into the dirt in front of the semi.
“Your mother’s been trying to reach you.”
My phone had died two days earlier, or maybe more for all I’d noticed. Mom was the only person I still spoke with from Lancaster, but it was rare for her to call me, and I only reached out a few times a year.
“Say what she wanted?” I asked and slid my hands into worn leather gloves.
“Honey, I hate to be the one to tell you this, but your brother passed away last night.”
Ted Roach hung back in the doorway, watching. Both of their faces wore sympathy.
“Your brother passed, Abe. You should call her back. Come on in and use the phone.”
I hadn’t spoken to my brother in years, but when I left home with no plans to return, I just assumed things would stay how I left them. They’d cling to their Bibles and bands and keep living in their own, warped version of reality. They’d stay tucked under the strict thumb of the Legacies and God, or at least the way they interpreted him, and I’d live my life in the woods, free of their judgment and rules.
Alone and how I liked it.
They lived how they wanted, and I did the same.
I squinted in the mid-day sun, and the tension in my neck pinched even tighter.
Ted limped to the stoop, tapped a Camel from his pack and lit it. “Son, you wanna come inside for a minute? Call your family?”
I did not want to do that. Calling them was the one of the last things I wanted.
It was almost noon, and I still had more than a half day’s work to finish. The tabaco in the air was thick as I pulled it into my chest. “I’ll call when I get home.”
It was supposed to rain for the next four days in the hills, and there was work that needed done. Calling in the middle of the work day wasn’t going to do anything but put me behind, and my brother would still be dead that evening.
All I could figure was everyone from my past, my family included, lived their lives by their interpretation of The Word, wanted their rings, and then planned to die and go to Heaven. That was their goal. So as much as I could conclude, they’d only be upset because Jacob beat them to it.
And since I wasn’t a man who was burdened by those notions, I did my work, pulled my weight, and when my cell phone was charged to capacity later that evening, I turned it on and returned my mother’s call.
“Catherine, you’ve got a call,” my father said, as if he wasn’t speaking to his only living child, but I’d expected the familiar greeting. In the Hathaway house—his house—he answered the phone unless she was there alone.
“Hello.” She sounded weary and tired, but that was also typical of our calls. Mind you, she’d chosen that life. They all had.
“Mrs. Roach told me that Jacob died.”
I gave her a minute, hearing her quietly sob. If Dad was beside her, listening, I’m sure she was doing her best to hold it together.
“Jacob went to be with Jesus last night.” Again, she sniffled and caught her breath. “He’d been feeling sluggish and ill for some time, but we just thought it was from all the commotion with the wedding.” Another cough to hide her feelings.
So, he’d been banded. Honestly, later than I’d expected.
Jacob and I were close as boys, but as we’d gotten older, I wasn’t able to fall in line like he had. Before I left, we’d barely even spoken, but that was mostly the will of our father who didn’t want me—and my rebellion—influencing his only other child.
“Services are Friday night and Saturday. It would make me feel so much better if you’d come home and say goodbye. You’ve missed so much, and I pray for you daily, Abraham.”
The line was muffled. Then my father cleared his throat and spoke.
“Abraham, it’s time you quit putting your selfish needs before God and your family. It is time you grow up and take care of business. I expect your mother and I will see you Friday or never again.”
The line went dead.
Another empty threat of exile, banishment, but I knew he’d never do it publicly like the Legacy Men did to anyone else who left like I had.
He was the Great Pastor. How would that make him look?
I put the phone down beside me, and I sat there on the fallen log at the end of the road, where I knew I had adequate cell reception, and stared off into the valley wondering what he’d imagined I’d been doing.
I believed in God.
I even prayed.
I had morals and values that felt honorable, and I worked hard for the few things I had.
Why was it that I must have been living like a heathen just because I couldn’t conform? Did having my own opinions really make me all that evil? Truth be told, had I been left to make my own decisions about my life and how I wanted to live it, I may have chosen to stay. But for the preaching, the never-ending shame, the patriarchy, and the guilt that came along with how they fearmongered, I could never get in line with them.
The way I saw it, God gave me eyes and intelligence. He gave me a strong body and mind. Free will in a country full of opportunity. What good were those gifts if I wasn’t allowed to use them? Allowed to explore and find my way instead of following their carbon-copied cult-like lifestyle?
I didn’t live for death, and bands and Heaven weren’t my only goals.
I had one life given to me, and I refused to be imprisoned by my faith and waste my years out of fear of Hell and damnation.
Because that wasn’t living.
To me, that was Hell on Earth.
I wasn’t sure what the afterlife held for me, but I had this one right now. It was mine, and no one was going to tell me what I could or couldn’t do with it.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Please welcome Jacob into your loving arms. Thank you for your mercy, Lord. My grief is eased knowing and believing in your infinite wisdom. It is your will, and I am comforted.
Please forgive my shortcomings and lead me. I’m yours, Lord.
In Jesus’s name, Amen.
The Hathaways were such a blessing. They’d taken care of everything. Made the arrangements. Brought food. Allowed me to stay in the house to reflect and pray, which must have been working on my heart, because I didn’t feel that sad.
Instead, I kept myself busy doing the last of Jacob’s laundry and keeping the house clean, should I have received visitors. Although, no one had come by since my sister-in-law Denise and her children that afternoon, and she hadn’t stayed long, being seven months along with her fifth. Plus, she’d only stopped by to bring me a casserole, and it was almost her family’s dinner time. My brother Michael needed her at home.
Where was I needed?
After only a few weeks of marriage, I was a widow, but I wasn’t sure what that meant, because my Holy Matrimony ring was still on my right hand. We’d been married such a short time. And in those weeks, Jacob had been so ill. We hadn’t had a chance to move our wedding bands together.
Even prayer wasn’t clearing the confusion in my head.
But I’d keep praying.
And doing the laundry.
And tending to the house, until He showed me the way.