The Drowning Gull 1 - Page 58

in his life.

“I know I got you wrong, though,” Mother Pearl said, her hand brushing her daughter-in-law's sleeve.” My Tommy, he loves you so much he'd lay down his life. That's something.”

The crack of a rifle shot broke the moment in half, and the two women sat in stone silence. Mother Pearl found Miss Addie's wrist and she held on, gripped it tightly as if she might slide from the chair at any second.

The return shot came like an echo, and in the time that it took Addie to take in her next breath, a barrage of gunfire exploded in the air. Mother Pearl was yelling something, and even when Addie pulled her close, she couldn't make out what she was saying.

Addie let her head drop to the old woman's lap, let her lungs take in the heady scent of lavender and wool. The shots came in sets of three. Three here, three there. There would be a lull, then another set until at last the night fell silent.

The women allowed themselves a moment of stillness in the wake of such horror. Addie felt the violent pounding of her heart against her mother-in-law's knees, and she listened to her own breathing grow ever shallower.

There was the dull sound of movement from upstairs, and the volley of voices from one person to another.

“You boys all right?”

“Yes, Pa.”

“There’s glass all over the floor.”

From off the kitchen, across the yard, the hens were in a commotion.

“That damned banty,” Mother Pearl hissed.

Addie took in a deep breath and let it go, her body shaking in fits as she began to cry.

“There now,” Mother Pearl whispered. “It's all over, dear.” She combed her fingers through Addie's soft mane of hair, letting it fall loosely in her lap, the combed it once again. “It's just a racket, nothing worse than a big hailstorm,” she cooed. “Remember that? It was nothing to cry about then, and it’s nothing now.” She bent over in her chair, as far over as her old body would let her, and she smoothed the hair from Addie's face.

I got peace like a river, I got peace like a river...

She sang so softly, like a brand-new mother shepherding her baby to sleep against her bosom.

I got peace like a river in my soul...

The Drowning Gull