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Fiction by Jane (Cohen) Stinson
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Becky could never refuse them. They were fun and this afternoon she needed fun. It was almost 5:30. Joe would be home by 8 or 9. He would probably stop for a break. If he had left Minneapolis at two as he said he would he'd need a break when he got to Duluth. He'd stop for a cup of coffee or a drink at the hotel there he liked so much. She could get them out of the house by 7:30. Becky put her foot down hard on the accelerator. The tires of the Jeep squealed a high complaint as she cut through the parking area and onto the highway. Ten years ago she would have been intoxicated with the camaraderie of the group, knowing that she belonged with these people as she had never belonged to her own family. Ten years ago she gloried in being a part of the Indians who existed here in the northern forest apart from the main thrust of civilization. She had loved the faces and the stories, the myths and legends of the lake and forest. Now they were becoming as apart from her as her family. She no more belonged here than she had ever belonged anywhere. As if he could hear her thoughts, Tommy suddenly crawled from his place next to her to the back seat. In a moment he and Peggy were necking as though Becky were invisible. Becky glanced at them in the rear view mirror and smiled wryly to herself. There were, after all, only two things men cared about – money and sex. For Tommy, the money part wasn't working so he doubled up on the sex end of it. Cold air rushed through the open windows and blew her long brown hair around her face, whipping each strand into a tiny lash to sting her face and open the hidden doors of her mind where memories of her stepfather lived. The terror and horror lay only a few layers deep behind the doors, the sleepless hours wondering whether he would come, when he would come, whether she would be able to keep from screaming when he did. Only when she heard him snoring in the next room could she sleep. She could still feel his coarse skin on hers. She could still smell his breath coming hard and fast over her face and into her nostrils. She pulled off the state highway and onto the long driveway to the house. Ancient pines rose tall and straight into the night sky, filling her head with their overpowering fragrances and dwarfing her ugly memories. The house lay ahead, silhouetted against the sunless sky. Becky was glad she had brought company. “Wow,” Peggy breathed when Becky opened the front door. “I would die for this!” It impressed, Becky had to admit. The wide pine floor boards were partially covered by hand-loomed rugs from Arizona. The mantel of the huge stone fireplace supported ivory carvings from the Arctic. Hand-crafted copper chandeliers hung from the twelve foot ceilings. The tall windows were framed by hand-loomed three-toned golden drapes as heavy as rugs. The open staircase led to a wooden bridge which spanned the living room, connecting the bedrooms on the second floor to her studio and Joe's. For a moment she saw it all through Peggy's eyes. “Come on,” she yelled and ran into the kitchen. The room, even at dusk, glistened from the white formica countertops and the white appliances. Only a black kerosene stove which provided them with cooking facilities and a modicum of heat during power outages jarred the gleam. Large baskets of overflowing green plants hung from between the twin skylights that allowed views of the blue sky or clouds or wonderful combinations of both during the day and of the stars and moon on cloudless nights. In the living room she retrieved a long plastic box from under the stereo and fished through it for some head- banging music. She inserted Van Halen's OU812 and cranked up the volume so that the music almost shattered her

The Witch Tree - page 10