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: First Chapters

THE BLOOD OF THE LORD
 W.A. Harbinson

Anna Lansing wanted God. 
Tom Beale wanted Anna.
Steve McLean wanted money. 
Jack Lomax was desperate. Then came the miracle!

Chapter One
 
 Anna uncoiled, her naked body sweat-slicked, turning like a wisp of smoke above a light flame.  The stained sheet fell off her, trailing down to the floor.  Anna sighed and raised a long, shapely leg, then opened her eyes.  They were as blue as the sky outside, but slightly troubled, distracted, as if she had lost track of herself and hardly knew where she was.  Her head turned on the pillow, her golden hair a glorious tangle, then she bit her lush lower lip and stared out the window.
She'd just had a dream in which God's light, shining upon her, had made her feel whole.
She had that dream often.

The sun was indeed shining over the flatlands outside, reflecting off the oil pumps of the gas station and beaming in through the window of this rickety old house to illuminate Anna's tanned limbs and return her to life.  She yawned and stretched, a voyeur's vision, seductive, then slid her legs off the bed and stood up to get washed and dressed.

The house didn't have a shower, so Anna used the cracked sink.  She just ran the cold water, rubbed it over her naked body, dried herself with a towel, then put her clothes on.  She didn't use deodorant, but her body had a sweet smell.  Her mother disapproved of perfume and make-up, so Anna, when she had put on her clothes, had only to comb her hair, which fell to above her waist, shining like gold in the sunlight beaming in on her back.

When Anna tightened the belt on her dress, she was something to see.
She thought of her dream, about God's light shining upon her.  In her dream, that light made her feel good, but now it disturbed her.  It always did when she'd wakened.
Shivering, she opened the door and walked out of the bedroom.

Her mother Beth was in the kitchen, frying up ham and eggs, staring down grimly at the frying pan, as if at an enemy.  Her grey hair was pinned up and her skin was brown and wrinkled, making her look older than she was.  Yet when she heard Anna come in, she raised her eyes and broke into a smile that lit up the room. 'Mornin', honey,' she said.
'Mornin', Ma.'
'Did you sleep well?  You didn't have bad dreams?'
'No,' Anna lied.  'I didn't.  I feel really fine, Ma.'
Beth grabbed a plate, flipped the ham and eggs onto it. 'Here,' she said, dragging her clubfoot across the floor and placing the plate on the table, 'eat it all up.  A growin' girl needs her nourishment.'
'I'll get fat,' Anna said, pulling a chair out while Beth sat down at the other side of the table and grabbed her packet of cigarets.  'Fried food is unhealthy.'
'It's a treat,' Beth replied, lighting a cigaret and blowing smoke sideways.  'You don't get fried food that often.  Besides, the Nicholson women aren't fat.  We're all thin as reeds.  It's your family inheritance.'
The radio was playing country & western music that filled Anna with fine feelings as she had her breakfast.  For someone so nervous, she had a surprisingly healthy appetite and always enjoyed the first meal of the day. 
'A real scorcher,' Beth said, gazing sideways, out the window.  'It's gonna be hot as hell out there.  Sun's bin up for a long time.'

Anna glanced out.  She saw the rusty gas pumps and desolate flatlands stretching out to the horizon.  Nothing out there but parched earth and sky.  The sun was a fierce, shimmering orb; the sky looked like sheet metal. 'I like it hot,' Anna observed.  'It makes my body feel whole.'
'Never mind your body,' Beth replied firmly.  'Let others think about that.  You just try to stay sensible.' 
Anna didn't reply.  She didn't know what her mother meant.  She just finished off her eggs and scooped up the gravy with some bread.  The coffee tasted real good, as well.
Beth blew a cloud of smoke, sucked her breath in with a sigh.  'Trinity, Wyoming,' she said.  'The end of the earth!  I haven't had one customer this morning.  They don't even need gas here.'
'It's real early, Ma.'
'Yeah, honey, I know.  I get up too early for my own good, and that makes the day seem long.  Then I look out my window, at that little ol' gas station, and I think the only thing worse than actually living in Trinity is having to live on the edge of town.  You know what I mean, hon'?'
'I like it,' Anna replied, licking her fingers as if wanting to eat them.  'I've always liked being alone.  Some folks just make me nervous.'
Beth didn't reply to that.  She thought it best to skirt the subject.  Sighing again, she gazed out the window, where the sunlight was brightening.  The noise of the flies buzzing in the kitchen blended in with the music. 'Well,' she said, 'at least something excitin' is comin' to town at last.'
'The Reverend Juble Lee revivalist tent?'
'Yeah, honey, that's right.  He's really taken this whole state by storm, so I can't wait to see him.  The Lord be praised, he might do this town some good, and that can't be a bad thing.'
'I've never been to a revivalist meetin'.'
'I'm gonna take you, honey.  They came around a lot when I was a kid, but there aren't many these days.  Reverend Juble Lee... they say he's the best there's bin in years, so it should be excitin'.  Gimme that old time religion, honey.  Get them tambourines rattlin'.'

Anna pushed her plate away, sat back in her chair, then glanced distractedly around the room.  The kitchen and living room were one, untidy but clean, as spartan as Beth's sun-dried face and her piled-up grey hair.  There were photographs on the walls, as old and brown as the curtains, of Beth's mother and father, born and died in this state, though surprisingly there were none of Anna's dad, who'd disappeared a long time ago.  The only photo of her dad was the wedding picture of him and Beth, now resting on the table in Anna's room.  It gave her comfort to see it there.
'We doin' anything today?'
'Yeah,' Beth said, 'we're goin' to town.  We've got to get us some shopping.'  She pushed her chair back, stood up, and dragged her clubfoot across the bare wooden floor to turn off the radio.  A news announcer was talking about the latest drought in Wyoming and how it was devastating the economy.  Beth cut him off in mid-sentence.  'I can't stand the news these days,' she said.  'No news is good news.'
Anna stood up to start clearing the table.  She didn't like the idea of going to town and felt nervous again.  'What about the pumps?' she asked hopefully.  'What if somebody comes by?  Don't you want me to stay here?'
'The hell with 'em,' Beth said.  'No-one from Trinity travels far, so they can come back this afternoon.'
'I'd prefer to stay here,' Anna said, thinking of hungry eyes that turned and stared.  'I think I should look after the pumps while you get the shopping.'
'I need someone to help me carry it,' Beth said, 'so you best come along.  What's the matter?  You suddenly don't feel good?'
'I don't like going to town.'  Anna was almost whispering.  'I don't like the way the boys stare at me.  It makes me uncomfortable.'
'It's because you're so beautiful,' Beth said, ' and boys their age like that.  You'll just have to get used to it.'
'It makes me feel naked.  They also stare as if I'm some kind of freak.  As if...'
She couldn't get the words out, so Beth said it for her.  'It's because you're sick, Anna.  You might as well admit it.  You're beautiful - but you're also sick, which is something they can't forget.  They want you and they're frightened of you as well.  You'll have to always be careful, child.'
'Just let me stay here, Ma.'
Beth came around the table, dragging her clubfoot.  When she stopped in front of Anna, her eyes, which were as blue as her daughter's, narrowed to slits.
'No,' she said.  'You're comin' with me.  You can't hide all the time.  Your beauty is as much a penance as your illness, but you'll have to learn to live with it.  Damn the boys in town!  To hell with their rotten fathers!  You're my daughter and you'll hold your head high for as long as I breathe.  Now is that understood?'
'Yes, Ma,' Anna said.  She nodded, her lovely gaze troubled, then started cleaning the table. The sun shining through the window warmed her face and she saw it as God's light.
 
©  W.A.Harbinson March 2005

I'm an Irish novelist with a long track record in transAtlantic fiction, but this small (60,000-words) novel, THE BLOOD OF THE LORD, is something of a departure from my normal work and was written without a contract for that reason.
www.waharbinson.eu.com 

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