Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: HOT (08/10/17)
By Leola Ogle
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Youth, fear, sorrow, and impetuousness surrounded what happened that night. Truth was held in secret places of their hearts preserved by a pact.
It was stormy that night. Winds. Pounding rain all day that escalated as evening fell. The darkness was sliced by the beam of Kathy’s flashlight. Rain pummeled their flesh like fists of punishment. Caroline dragged the shovel behind her. Debbie and Judy followed. Someone cried. Maybe they were all crying, but the wind and rain obliterated their sobs and tears. Branches sagged beneath the weight of water, the wind whipping them like gnarled fingers reaching to pluck the lifeless form from their grasp.
The rain-soaked ground made it easy for digging. They all agreed it had to be done. Then life would go on. It was tragic, but it was the only choice they felt they had. Lightning split the sky, followed by the crack of thunder. One voice wailed in agony. “Shush,” the others said, although voices were snatched by the wind, smothered by the storm. The wails became a whimper.
They thought their secret was safe. Perhaps no one would ever have known, but then the cabin in the woods sold forty years later. An excavation crew came to put in a swimming pool. In the brightness of day – one of the hottest on record – the body was unearthed.
It made the news. An investigation started.
The four friends were brought together again, their vow of silence shattered. Perhaps, they whispered, it won’t be traced to us.
But what if it is?
They had been friends since kindergarten. After the burial in the woods, they found it difficult to look at each other. Gazes shifted away as sadness engulfed them. Could they, should they, have done something?
When the news hit, a gathering was planned. The diversity of their lives would merge. Judy, minister’s wife, matriarch of a large family. Kathy, former exotic dancer, now bar owner. Caroline, divorced school teacher, childless. Debbie, wife, mother, grandmother, homemaker.
They met at a restaurant outside the area where the cabin sat. A news crew was in the restaurant eating lunch. The four were careful not to look at them.
They hugged, they exchanged pleasantries. Then silence hung as oppressive as the heat outside. They toyed with the food on their plates. Kathy ordered drinks, then bordered on intoxication. Judy broke the silence by babbling about her family and church work.
Tears dripped off Caroline’s cheeks.
Kathy’s voice quivered, “I heard the crying for years in my dreams.”
Debbie’s trembling fingers touched her lips. “We have to tell.”
“No!” Kathy’s voice was loud. Curious heads turned. Four pairs of eyes shifted and dropped to the table. “Sorry,” Kathy mumbled to the others.
They paid for their meals, then debated on whether to drive to the cabin. They stood in the restaurant parking lot while the sun blazed down on them, sweat running in tiny rivulets from their skin.
A decision was made. They all agreed.
They drove to the cabin. It had been a remote area on that darkened night long ago. Now it was a summer community of cabins. The cabin was surrounded by yellow crime scene tape. They gathered in a cluster. There were a couple news crews. Some law enforcement officers walked the perimeter, taking notes. A policeman eyed them with curiosity.
One of the four choked on sobs and fell to her knees. Three pairs of hands reached out to comfort. Kathy motioned the policeman over.
On this hot summer day, they would confess and beg for mercy. The three pulled Judy to her feet. They told their story.
It was not a new tale. Judy had been violated by her stepfather. She kept silent, her plump frame hid the proof of her violation. It was the four’s senior year of high school. After graduation, they planned a getaway to Caroline’s parents’ cabin in the woods.
A time to discuss college plans, to focus on the future, to decide what Judy should do. Then – shrieks in the night. The unexpected early birth of Judy’s baby. Tiny cries lasting only minutes. They tried breathing life into frail lungs to no avail.
They dug a hole, said a prayer, wept, and swore to silence.
Forty years later, they stood as one, confessing to the policeman, praying for understanding.
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