Now my mother is the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen, and that’s the truth. Everybody says so. All the neighbors and the family and the church folks, too. You can hear them whisper when she passes by that they’ve never seen a prettier woman in this town or any other.
Mama is modest and don’t seem to much care if she’s beautiful or not. She don’t wear a face full of makeup or get her hair dyed and that’s Daddy’s preference, too. He says it would be a sin to paint a flower, but I think he just don’t want to pay for such things. Daddy is very frugal. Mama has the reddest hair you’ve ever seen, a cascade of honey and cinnamon that hangs in waves nearly to her waist, and eyes bluer than the Virginia sky. Her frame is thin—not too thin, she has swells of flesh where a woman ought to—but she stands just half a head below Daddy, who is over six feet.
I figure pretty women have it the hardest in life, no matter what people say. The pretty girls are the ones all the men are after, and good Lord, men are hungry creatures. Always after something to eat or to get their fill of a pretty woman. Any woman, really, but it’s the pretty ones they prefer. I learned this early on, and it didn’t take a lot of listening and watching to figure, neither. I pay attention to these things. Always have.
I don’t have much to worry about in that regard. I could be pretty if I wanted to, but it don’t appear to be much fun. Pretty just keeps a girl in trouble, like Mama has been. I’m as tough as any boy on the ridge, and I’ve dealt a few of them a shiner or a pump knot for picking on my brothers or saying bad things about my family, things that are none of their business anyway. Mama didn’t much like that and I got grounded for a month and couldn’t go outdoors except to school. I didn’t care. I’ve got plenty to think about to occupy me these days.
I inherited Mama’s red hair, but Daddy insists I have his eyes. Nicewander blue, he calls it, akin to what a storm brewing over Clinch Mountain looks like at twilight. I never disagreed out loud, but I always figured I look more like Mama’s people, whoever they are. I don’t know them from Adam. My Nicewander blues were more of a cat’s eye green, not really blue at all. I’m just a red headed kid. Not pretty like Mama. Not yet. No swells on me nowhere, except my big head, or so I’ve been told.
You got the big head, Angie, Mama has told me, and then she proceeds to remind me how a young lady is supposed to act. I heard it a blue million times. You’re wilder than ginseng, she’d say, just like your daddy. And I’d cut a shine and run to my room and cry about it loud enough for her to hear. How could she say something like that? Something so mean and cruel? And to her own daughter? But she was right. I knew it all along.
There is something strange about me, I suppose. I sense it. I know something big is coming, maybe not today, but one day for certain. I can’t tell you how I know, but I do. I know it as well as I know my awful name.
I was born with a sense of destiny. Somewhere out there beyond these mountains, beyond these cat eyes that belong to nobody but me, beyond my family name that cursed me before I was even born, there’s something coming, and it knows me already.
Sometimes I’ll go out into the grassy flat above Black Ridge, beyond the woods, through the laurels and ferns and briers, and I’ll listen to that wind up there at the precipice, that wind that never stops, and I’ll hear them. There are voices tangled up in that wind. Old voices, perhaps of people who are dead and gone, or maybe of some dreadful specter, you never know. Maybe they’re the whispers of God Himself. Or maybe they’re just in my head, but I don’t think so. I believe those prophet winds bode things that have not come to pass, things not spoken yet in this world. Today they ain’t got a good thing to say.
Oh Lord yes, something’s coming.
I’ve been busy working and doing my dangdest to finish up my first novel, of which the above is a short fragment. Thank you all for sticking with me through this long process. I appreciate you all!