Alternate Universe "For the Larabees"
Third story in the Beginnings Collection
Mae? Oh dear God, Mae! Elsie Lee cried out as she spotted upon the battered, bloodied form of her friend Mae Wilmington in the mouth of the alleyway she had been passing on her way back to the brothel she called home.
She kneeled by Maes crumpled form, her large eyes filling with tears as she took in the ripped and bloodied dress, the battered swollen face, and wonder if she was already too late. With trembling hands she reached out and pressed a finger underneath Maes bloodied nose and felt relief fill her as air touched her finger. Or was she just imagining things.
Help me! Somebody help me please! My friend is hurt! She called out into the night, over and over again, until finally someone came running to her aide.
Please my friend, shes hurt bad. We need to get her back to her place. Elsie told the two men.
They hesitated for a moment, clearly not wanting to be seen tangling with two of the towns working girls for fear of their wives finding out, but neither could stomach the thought of not helping a woman in distress. So they moved forward, ushering Elsie away and gently lifted Mae off of the ground and carried her through the alleyway toward the brothel.
Ma! Ten-year-old Buck Wilmington cried out as he walked toward his home after spending most of the day and evening over at his best friend, Chris Larabees house, and caught sight of the men carrying his mothers body into the brothel.
It had become a regular routine for him to do in the evenings while his Ma was entertaining callers, ever since Cindy Larabee had befriended Mae Wilmington several months earlier.
What did you do to my Ma? Buck shouted furiously as he came into the little house outside the brothel that he and his Ma called home, and lunged himself at the two men.
We didnt anything kid except help carry your ma here. One of the men exclaimed, while the other hastily beat it out the door.
Youre lying! Buck shouted, even as Elsie moved to grab him by the shoulders to stop him. She nodded for the other man to leave, and he gladly departed.
Buck, stop it! Your Ma needs your help right now! Im going to go for the doc. Stay here! Elsie told him, rushing out the door after the two men.
Buck spun around and rushed to the bed, collapsing onto his knees beside it as he gazed in fear at his Mas battered frame.
He wasnt alone with his Ma long before Elsie returned with the sleepy doctor in tow. The doctor ordered him to wait outside while he tended to Mae, but Buck didnt want to go and the doctor reluctantly consented to allow him to stay as he went to work on Mae.
Elsie stayed too, or for as long as she could before she was called away to work, and then Buck was alone to wonder whether or not the doctor was going to be able to save his mas life.
An hour passed then two before the doctor finished his frantic work on Mae Wilmington and turned to look at her son. Your Mas hurt real bad, son. Its lucky that shes lived this long as it is. Its doubtful that she will last another night. Ive done all I can for her. The rest is on your young shoulders.
Buck nodded. He was going to take real good care of his Ma. With what the doctor had done for her, and him taking care of the rest, he knew that his Ma was going to come out just fine. The doctor left then, leaving him alone with his Ma. He filled up a bowl with some water and found a rag to use to clean her face. He sat down in one of the two chairs they had and carefully dabbed at her bruised and battered face with a wet rag. He winced as a moan escaped from between her cut and swollen lips, knowing that no matter how gentle he was, he still hurt her. Tears welled up in his blue eyes that he rapidly blinked away. He wouldnt give into his tears because his Ma needed him to be strong for her. She needed him to take care of her.
Buck rose from the chair he was sitting on, picking up the bowl of now dirty water he had been using to clean her face with, and carried it over to the open window and dumped its contents out on the ground below. He moved over to the small kitchen area and poured more water into the bowl from the bucket he had filled a short time earlier. He returned to the bed, sat down beside it and resumed his tender ministrations.
His name wasnt more than a whisper, but Buck heard it nonetheless.
Im right here, Ma. He said softly, leaning forward so that the pain filled blue eyes identical to his own wouldnt have to strain to see him.
You be a good boy, Buck. Mind Chris mama; Cindy Larabee will take right good care of you. Work hard, study good, and youll go far. You mind your manners with the ladies when you get older. Treat them all real nice no matter what they are. Mae told him softly, her voice growing fainter as she spoke. I love you.
Buck had to strain to hear her last words. I love you to, Mama. Ill remember what you said.
Fresh tears welled up in his eyes as he watched her chest rise and fall with her last breath. Buck took one of her limp hands in his and lowered his head to rest upon it as he wept.
Chris Larabee, Bucks best friend, slipped quietly into the room and over to Bucks side. He had been standing in the doorway for the past couple of minutes, but hadnt wanted to disturb Buck and Maes last moments together before Mae died. He placed an arm around Bucks shoulder and held his friend as he wept.
4. Chris's Story