Language: English / Genre:home_sex,

Beyond Redemption

Melissa Macneal

Melissa MacNeal

Beyond Redemption

Chapter 1: A Triple Horned Billy

Early winter, 1910.

As my buggy approached the rise of the road before descending into town, I paused to drink in the beauty of the winter's first snowfall. A closer look, however, made me chuckle, for the double swell of the hillsides ahead resembled a lush young buttocks, with the road a ribbon splitting its velvety cheeks. This placed the town of Redemption in the unenviable position of that body part associated with waste and foul wind-which made me laugh out loud. There was something rotten in Redemption, all right.

These people didn't consider themselves anal, of course-nor did they allow their thoughts to wander farther along that crevice, into the hotbed of sexual excitement. Heaven forbid anyone in this town of tidy white houses would succumb to temptation or adultery! Lord save us all if a wife should lust after her husband unless she wanted to conceive, for the Church had decreed this the only acceptable reason to engage in sex.

As is the case with most people and places, however, appearances can be deceiving. I realized long ago that this picturesque village maintained its saintly reputation more by turning the other cheek-and a blind eye-than by acknowledging its wayward behavior. Rumor had it the confessionals gathered dust, while the magistrate only heard cases about the Thou Shalt Nots of petty thievery and boundary disputes and community concerns. Never sex, nor the wayward, flirtatious behavior that would surely lead to it.

Which is why the Sisters of Samaria ran an orphanage populated mostly by children who only believed their parents were dead, along with the unfortunate few whose families had succumbed to disease or disaster. And in return for this saving of reputations-or perhaps not to ruin such a sweet deal-the citizens of Redemption gave the Sisters the respect and privacy their order required, and donated generously to support those babies they abandoned at the orphanage door. The three paragons who'd established this institution hadn't been seen since anyone could remember, but no one questioned their existence: the orphanage still served its purpose, and the convenience of this illicit situation had served everyone for generations-which was why it thrived.

Ah no, things were not what they seemed in that peaceful little burg below, nor in the wooded hills beyond Redemption. I should know: I grew up in that orphanage, and now served as the liaison between the Sisters who ran it and the town that provided them with innocent children. In my thirty-five years of residence there, however, I had not inquired about my own parents, nor did I ever intend to. Some questions are better left unasked, I had learned. Just as some mysteries are best left unexplained, and some pleasures left untasted.

"Easy, Dory," I crooned to my gray mare. "We don't want you to stumble and fall now."

She stepped carefully down the road, where icy patches hid beneath the snow. Her breath encircled her head like a frosted wreath as she pulled me along, and within minutes we'd arrived at the edge of town. Here, the grassy pastures gave way to humble storefronts of the greengrocer and the blacksmith, the newspaper and the mercantile. No saloons, of course. Just a street of shops sitting back along both sides, as though directing the visitor toward the majestic court house at its end.

Redemption's main distinction was being the seat of this western Pennsylvania county, so it was only fitting that the most notable architecture in town-except for the churches, of course-had been bestowed upon our house of law and local government. Fretwork festooned its cupola, freshened by snow that accented its sills and gables like the frosting on a gingerbread house. It was nearly five o'clock, and dusk was settling in, so Judge Harold Legg would be encouraging his plaintiff and defendant to their conclusions so he could go home to his dinner and his daughter Lucy. Just another day in a quaint little town about to be lulled into winter, where women baked cookies beside cozy hearths while their husbands napped over their newspapers.

This vision of domestic bliss made me draw in a breath to sigh-but then I held it. Was that a sob I heard? The sound of struggling in the alley between the courthouse and St. Mary's? The voice was clearly female, young and troubled, so I fastened my reins and hopped down from my buggy. No one else was around, and the tolling of the church's huge bell would soon drown out any evidence of her distress.