Granny’s eyes bore into Claire’s.
“I do not understand what you mean." Claire whispered.
Time seemed to stand still until Granny released Claire’s hand and sat back. “Clairy I’m sorry.” She sighed. “Bein’ blunt has always been my curse. I say what’s on my mind without thinkin’ it over.”
Claire’s mind was racing. Was it possible this woman sensed something about her relationship with Anna? She fought for the right words but before she could find them Granny spoke again.
“I kin tell I’ve got you in a dander and I’m powerful sorry. Instead of plowin’ right in like I done there’s some things I should tell ya.”
Claire nodded slightly.
Granny smiled and sat back slightly to get more comfortable. “Clairy” she began, “I’ve lived my time on this earth up in the hills of Kentucky. Was born there and when my last breath leaves this old body that’s where I’ll be. Never wanted to stray far from where God put me down 92 years ago.”
“You are 92?” Claire asked in awe. The woman did not look nearly that old.
“Sure am.” Granny answered with a grin. Mae, that’s Bobby's grandma was my youngest. Had her when most folks thought I was beyond child bearn’ years but I knew she’d be born.” She paused, “She was my seventh child.”
“Oh I was told you had four daughters.” Claire said slightly relaxing in Granny presence.
“Bobby tell ya that?”
“Boy don’t know the truth.” Granny said shaking her head sadly. “Mae might not even know.”
Now Claire was confused. “I do not understand.” She admitted.
For a moment Granny seemed lost in thought while Claire waited for her to explain.
“See Clairy I was born to my mama her seventh daughter. You know what that means?”
Claire shook her head, “No, I am sorry but I do not understand.”
Granny sighed, “Didn’t really think ya would. Lot’s of people don’t got no idea. I didn’t rightly understand it until I was ten that’s when mama explained to me.”
Once again Claire sat quietly waiting.
“The seventh daughter of the seventh daughter is special. Some folks say it’s all hogwash but it ain’t, we got special gifts. We see things a bit differently than most folks, we kin sense things.”
“Oh” Claire said softly as light tentacles of fear caressed her spine. Fear not for herself but for Anna who she had vowed to always protect with her silence.
“I was my mama’s seventh daughter just like Mae was mine. I knowed she’d be born just a sure as the sun rises and sets.” Suddenly a look of sadness crossed her face, “But Mae took off, left the hills. Didn’t believe and never had her seventh daughter so it ended.”
Claire wasn’t sure if it was the correct thing to say, “I am sorry.”
Granny gave her a smile, “Now don’t you go a fretin’ about that.”
“But I still do not understand?” Claire said trying to make sense of things, “You had seven children?”
“All girls.” Granny said shaking her head. Her eyes took on a far away look as she continued, “My little Lilly only lasted three days. Dawn only took a few breaths before the good Lord took her.” A tear appeared in the corner of her eyes, “June Bug, as her daddy called her almost made it a year before the cough got down too deep in her chest.”
Tears sprang to Claire’s eyes, “I am so sorry.”
“Oh Lordy.” Granny cried reaching over again and giving Claire’s hand a tight squeeze, “I done made you all upset again and that was not what I was tryin’ to do. This silly old woman still gets teary when I think of my lost babies. Years and years have passed but the pain is still there like the day we put them in the cold earth.”
Absentmindedly Claire’s other hand settled on her abdomen, which did not go unnoticed by Granny.
“Clairy put those bad thoughts right out of yer mind. That baby in there is gonna be born healthy.”
“You know this?” Clair whispered with hope.
Granny nodded but offered not further words.
Claire could not let it go. She poured out her heart, “I hope it is a son. I want to give Bob a son.”
A huge smile appeared on Granny’s face. “You one of those who don’t mind known’ if your babe is gonna have indoor or outdoor plummin” before it’s here?”
A look of confusion covered Claire’s face for a moment until she understood what Granny was asking, “You can tell me if it is a boy or a girl?”
Again Granny simply nodded.
“Is it a son?” Claire asked slowly.
“Bobby would love that babe with his whole heart be it a boy or a girl.” She paused, “But that’s a son you’re carryin’ in there.”
Tears of happiness fell down Claire’s cheeks. “And he will be healthy?” She asked never questioning her belief that Granny could know such things.
“A big, strappin’ boy.” Granny grinned. “Ornery as his daddy but with a heart of gold.”
“Babe, are you really okay with me going?” Ray whispered so that his brother in the other room didn’t hear.
Christa forced herself to smile, “I told you already I want you to go. You and Lou have this trip all planned out. Now get going.” In truth as much as she’d miss Ray she wanted him to leave. Her nerves were stretched tight and she needed time alone to try to sort out her feelings.
“Come on, Ray.” Lou yelled from the other room. “Daylight’s burning.”
Ray gave Christa a quick kiss before grabbing his bag then heading for the door.
Once their car was out of sight Christa went back in the house. She decided to make herself a cup of tea to try to calm her nerves. This feeling that had come over her late last night was only growing worse. What was causing it she couldn’t say but in her heart she knew it had something to do with Anna.
As she set the teakettle on the stove she let her mind replay the conversation she’d had with Claire. It was Claire’s belief that at the moment Anna was with Gerard at her house in Vermont and nothing was amiss. As much as Christa wanted to believe that was true these nagging thoughts would not leave her mind. It was as if she could feel something terrible was about to happen and it tore at her heart and mind she could not stop it.
A few minutes later she placed a tea bag in the cup of hot water then made her way out into the sunshine of the deck. It was her hope that the bright sun would lessen some of the darkness that she felt was growing closer.
After delivering the happy news about the baby Granny had suggested she and Claire go out to the back porch “to sit a spell”.
Taking a seat across from the glider where Granny had settled Claire wanted to know more about this woman. “Granny please tell me about your special gifts.”
Granny studies her face a moment before answering. “Gotta say Clairy while I’m mighty pleased you seem to believe me….” Her voice trailed off.
“You are surprised?” Claire guessed.
“Not a lot of young folks would put much stock in what an old woman from the hills would say.” Granny admitted. “But the minute I saw you I knowed there was something different about you.”
Claire blinked rapidly. Once again she was afraid of how much Granny could sense about her.
Granny saw the nervousness in Claire’s face. “That difference ain’t bad it just is.”
Dropping her eyes Claire sat silently.
“I kin tell you understand there are things in this world that most folks never see.” She paused then added, “Some are blinded by fear to see.”
Claire finally spoke, “I have had darkness in my life. My mother was murdered before my eyes.” Tears gathered in her eyes as she continued, “That darkness is always with me.”
Granny sat back then sighed, “Mighty sorry about that. Bobby the only one you told that too, I’m guessing?”
Claire nodded not wanting to bring Anna into the conversation in any way.
“You was young when it happened?”
“Yes.” Claire whispered.
“You is wrong.” Granny said softly, “Yer mama loved you.”
Claire’s head shot up. “How could you know that?"
“I kin feel the pain you carry about your mama.” She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. “She pushed you away tryin’ to save you, didn’t she?”
“How do you know?’ Claire’s voice trembled.
Slowly Granny opened her eyes and smiled sadly. “It’s all in yer head, Clairy.”
Full blown fear coursed through Claire’s body. If Granny could pick up on her thoughts than Anna wasn’t safe. She quickly got to her feel. “I…” She stuttered, “I will be back in a moment.”
Granny’s words stopped her. “I git it now. She is the one who walks with the darkness.”
Claire racked her brain trying to derail the conversation. “I need to go in a minute." She said turning towards the back door.
“Clairy. I ain’t tryin’ to upset you. I kin tell the love you have for her is good. You don’t wanna talk about her, it’s okay. But I need to tell you something mighty important.”
Slowly Claire sat back down. Suddenly words poured from her lips before she could stop them. “You can not understand. She saved my life. She is good not evil.”
Granny tilted her head a minute before nodding. “Never said she was evil. Said she walks with darkness at her side. Don’t understand how but I can sense she did save your life. I’m just fearin’ that the darkness at her side could become yours.”
Claire tried to process those words but was finding it impossible. Finally she whispered, “She would never let that happen.”
“Then she’s mighty powerful.” Granny answered. “Cause that darkness is strong.”
“She has always protected me.” Claire whispered. “I know she always will.”
Several minutes passed while both women were lost in thought. Finally Granny broke the silence. “What we just talked about ain’t never gonna be heard by no one else’s ears. You gotta trust Granny on that. When I go back home to my hills tomorrow I’ll never leave em’ again.”
Claire gave her a confused look.
Granny smiled, “Clairy my time on this here earth is about over. Back home when I walk by the family graveyard I hear to a callin’ to me. But I’m powerful glad I got to know you. I kin see a lot of love in your eyes for my Bobby and he’s got just as much in his for you. Mebbe I shouldn’t said nothin’ to ya but when I saw ya and knowed you understand Granny ain’t just a crazy old woman well…”
“You are not crazy, Granny.” Claire said softly. “And I will keep your words in my mind. But believe me when I say that I will never let anything hurt Bob or our baby. They are my life now.” She blinked back a tear, “And she would want it that way.”
“Then she is a good woman.” Granny nodded, “She saved your life then gave it back to ya.”
Claire could only nod.
“I love this fukin’ car.” Gerard said smiling over at Anna. The sun was hidden behind a thick bank of clouds so they’d put the top down. Now as the wind whipped through their hair he suddenly felt so alive.
Anna smiled over at him. “Gee you are driving a bit fast.”
“Car was made to be driven fast.” He said feeling confidant that the accelerated speed was safe. This long stretch of road was deserted. Anna had told him that her place and only one other neighbor further down the road traveled this stretch and he knew for a fact the other neighbor was on vacation. He pushed down on the accelerator deciding to take this advantage of the open road before him while he could. Once they hit the main highway he’d back the speed down.
Beside him Anna was shaking her head and laughing at the boyish look of glee on his face. She realized they were traveling at an unsafe speed but there were only two more small hills ahead then they’d reach the main highway.
When he heard the car racing down the road his heart rate picked up, and his palms began to sweat. This was it. From this moment on everything he did had to be precise. He could not fail her. His fingers twitched as they closed around the cold steel.
Gerard has just looked over at Anna as the car reached the hilltop. For a brief moment he didn’t understand the look on her face until she screamed. Whipping his head around he followed her terrified look. Something was in the road.
His foot came down hard on the break and the car shuddered.
It was at that precise moment he pushed the remote in his hand. Almost instantaneously the small device he’d adhered to the front wheel of the car ignited shredding the bands in the tire.
“Fuck” Gerard screamed as the shredded tire forced the car, already hopeless out of control, to careen towards the shoulder. He couldn’t stop it. His hands fought the wheel but it was impossible. He heard Anna scream his name as they sailed off the road down into the heavily wooded ravine. The car continued to plummet until it smashed head first into a massive tree.
Deeper into the woods he traveled until he was able to see the wreckage through the high power binoculars.
“Fuck” he whispered seeing the twisted metal. “Fuckers gotta be dead. Ain’t it a bitch those vintage cars got no airbags?” Suddenly the sneer on his face changed. He could see the woman and she was crying. “Fuck” He whispered in shock. He had never before seen a Healer shed tears.
“Gee” Anna screamed as she tore her leg out from under the dash board that was now crushed down almost to the floorboard. The pain was immense but nothing could stop her.
“Oh God, Gee." Tears blurred her vision as she clawed her away over broken glass and twisted metal to reach him. His eyes were closed, his face bloodied. The steering wheel crushed against his chest. Each breath he took rattled, she cried as that death rattle filled her ears. “No.”
“Anna” His eyes fluttered open briefly, “So sorry…so”
“No” she cried from the depths of despair. Death was moments away. She could feel it.
“No.” Her cries echoed as the darkness descended.
At that precise moment Christa’s teacup slipped from her fingers shattering as it hit the redwood deck.
Granny forced her old body to move faster than she had in years to keep Claire’s body from slipping to the ground.