I thought you all might enjoy reading some of the deleted scenes from my debut novel, Whither Shall I Go?. This first one was the original prologue– the day Ellie was born. In the near future, I plan to post more of these deleted scenes, all of them revolving around Ellie’s adventures in Cades Cove before the tragedy. Enjoy!
The bitter cold and thick snow blanketed the mountain, and icicles hung like jagged teeth from the edge of the roof. Trees, bent under the weight of the heavy snow, arched toward the ground. The freezing wind howled and blew around the corner of the cabin, as if searching for a way between the impenetrable, hand hewn, mud packed timbers.
Inside the cabin, the stone hearth burned brightly, driving back the winter chill. The logs crackled and popped. Little red sparks floated in the air, burned out and settled again. Another smaller glow flickered from a homemade candle sitting atop a little wooden table. Nearby a rocking chair creaked back and forth.
A white-haired granny woman stood near the stove and poked at the embers to warm a pot of herbal tea- flowers and herbs dried during the previous summer. A light steam rose from the spout. The herbaceous aroma of lavender, chamomile, and rosehips filled the small room.
A mother looked down into the brown eyes of her new daughter lovingly wrapped in her arms. Wrinkle lines marred her once blemish-less face. Wisps of graying hair rested against wind kissed cheeks. Her hands, though once as smooth as the infant’s skin she touched, had been calloused and worn from years of hard labor. A brown smock and apron hung loosely around a figure once draped in satin and lace. She had survived in these mountains for almost 8 years — 8 long years. Everyday life was difficult in the beginning. She had been raised in elite society; her heritage prestigious and well known. Growing up she’d had servants who took care of everything; never a worry- never a care. Things just appeared; water in a tub, breakfast at the table, as well as tea and dinner. She left her room at morning, later to return to a neatly turned down bed and an emptied chamber pot.
Her love for a country boy from the backwoods of Tennessee and his ache for the mountains of his childhood had brought her from her life of ease and abundance to one where nothing came effortlessly. Her husband meant the world to her. And his love was still the only thing that bound her to this existence of constant hardship. They hunted or harvested the only food available. There were no bakeries or confectionaries, no butcher shops, no millers or seamstresses. Any form of civilization was over an hour away, so they did not go into town often. She’d had to learn how to do even the most simplistic tasks like sewing, cooking, and cleaning. Her poor husband had suffered gracefully and in good humor. She was so thankful for her husband’s grandmother’s help. Grandma Williams was gone, but she left a lasting impression on her, her faith having grown rapidly watching the old woman’s example. Grandma Williams had the kind of relationship with God most only long for. She had truly been a blessing- from helping her learn how to do chores around the house to delivering every one of their baby boys. She could have never done it alone. It saddened her that Grandma Williams was unable to be the one to bring this tiny girl child into the world.
She had prayed for this child. How she had prayed! She had often dreamed of the day when she would hold a little girl in her arms. She sighed with contentment and pulled the baby girl close to her breast. She had born her husband five sons, but now, she could finally raise a little lady. It was the dawning of a new day and a new century. The sound of soft footsteps on the stairs broke into her thoughts.
“Martha?” a husky voice whispered. Her husband ducked to keep from hitting his head on the doorway. He too had graying at the corners of his once jet black hair; his Irish ancestry still showing through in his thick beard, and his freckled skin leathered from sunburn after sunburn, working at the Cable Mill, and his bright blue eyes-the same blue eyes she’d lost herself in the very first time they met.
“I’m here,” she whispered. She didn’t want to wake the sleeping baby.
Marcus, Martha’s husband leaned over and kissed her on the forehead. “How’s she doing?” he asked.
“Fine. Asleep now.”
“She looks so tiny.”
“Yes, she does,” Martha agreed. The boys had all been large babies, the last, Joel, weighed nearly 11 pounds at birth. This new baby weighed no more than five pounds. Her features delicate and doll- like. Thinking of the boys reminded Martha how late the time had gotten. “Are the boys in bed?” she asked.
Marcus nodded, his eyes still focused on the pink face in Martha’s arms. He reached down, gently brushing the strawberry blond wisp of hair. Martha studied the rough hand as it passed. Marcus worked so hard to provide for his ever-growing family. Here was another mouth to feed, but she knew Marcus would never complain. He accepted each new child as a special gift from God, each one as precious as the last. Marcus closed his eyes and began to pray.
“Dear God, thank you for our new baby girl. We give her to you. Please take her and lead her. Be with her no matter what and direct every step she takes. Protect her from evil. We pray that one day she will accept you as her Savior. Please Lord, keep your promise and don’t ever forsake her. Give us wisdom to raise her. Amen.”
Martha looked into her husband’s eyes. The love she saw there was overwhelming. A tear slipped down her cheek. “She’s a blessed child to have a father like you.”
“No, Martha, she’s blessed to have a father like God.”
The granny woman stepped up to the rocking chair, a chipped tea cup in hand. “I brewed up a pot of tea. Drink it regular like for the next few days.”
Martha took the cup in her empty hand. “Thank you.”
“It’s a pleasure. I’ll be by in the morning to check on ye and the wee one.”The granny woman tucked her shawl around her shoulders and leaned over and kissed the infant on her head. “Sleep peacefully, wee child.” The granny woman then moved away and faded into the darkness of the cabin. She lit a lantern, and Marcus and Martha felt a cold breeze. The front door slam shut, pulled tightly against the wind. Heavy boots clomped across the porch, then disappeared into the night.
“Marcus, what will we name her?” Martha asked.
Marcus sat on the edge of their bed before answering, his big hands resting behind him on the tattered quilt. “I think her middle name should be Grace.”
“What about a first name?”
“What would you like?”
“Your Grandmother’s name was Eleanor, and I would like to name the baby after her.”
Marcus chuckled. “Eleanor Grace Williams.” The candlelight twinkled in his eyes.
“I like it,” Martha smiled, “We’ll call her Ellie.”