Her world began to fall apart on that fateful day on Pioneer Lake when her parents had that big fight with her grandfather. Little did any know that her grandfather would die that day and that within a week the remaining Meadowfords would be burying him. While at Silent Hills, Thora saw him for the first time. The rest of her summer she would be plagued by him. She began running. And even as she ran, he would follow, coralling her to the only possible destination that she could go, to the place where it all began. Readers first met Thora Meadowford in "The Little Boy of the Forest". Now in this next chapter in the Grappling Haven family legacy, follow Thora as she hovers on the brink of madness trying to make sense of a once proud dynasty and the curse that seeks to destroy it.
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Storyteller on the Lake
Storyteller On The Lake
FIASCO AT ST. ANDREW’S
“That lake in Canada is a curse to this family,” Aunt Myra said as she stood amid a throng of mourners on the stately stairs in front of St. Andrew’s Church on that beautiful July 1929 morning. The sun was catching the ivy that climbed along the steeple’s red brick and gave it a resonance that truly made it feel that this was God’s house.
“Mr. Meadowford is not the first to die up there,” a younger lady responded, while nervously clutching to an inappropriate white handbag with her satin gloves and squinting her eyes in the glowing Grappling Haven sunshine. Her nervousness could obviously be attributed to her error in dressing for the weather rather than the occasion.
Aunt Myra laughed, “He’s not the first but I think that he will be the last. My sister Cora told me that just before Mr. Meadowford died there was a big family ruckus and that in her eyes there will be no way that any of them will reconcile with each other.”
“It’s just the two of them left though now, isn’t it?” the younger lady asked. She seemed more composed now. She had not been rebuked for her bright attire. “Just your brother-in-law Langley and that Faye Thurston, right?”
“You’re forgetting that old coot, Thaddeus Meadowford. He’s still a part of the picture. He has not given up the ghost of being the family patriarch. Not that anybody will listen to him.”
“He isn’t here, is he?” the younger lady looked surprised and climbed up onto the toes of her ivory sling back shoes and scanned the crowd of people that had come to pay their final homage to Samuel Angus Meadowford the Second or Sambo as he was known to his friends.
“No,” Aunt Myra responded. “He could not be dragged away from the family holdings in Michigan for his brother’s funeral. There seems to be some form of labor dispute there that demands his attention. Business before family, that is the Meadowford way.”
When her mother’s older sister made the remark, Thora could no longer eavesdrop on the conversation. She turned to her twin sister Rebecca and said, “That’s not going to be my way!”
Rebecca looked at her with a lifted eyebrow. “What are you talking about Thora?”
“Weren’t you listening?” Thora scoffed. “Auntie Myra says that we Meadowfords place business before family!”
The two sisters were standing on their own amid the hundred or more people that had come for the church service. It seemed that none of them wanted to pay their condolences to the two girls dressed in black that had lost their grandfather. They had all been here only a year earlier when services were held for the girls’ cousin, the little boy Jack Thurston. That service was a very sad affair that was made all the more troubling in that the coffin was empty. Little Jack’s body was never recovered from that lake that held a curse upon the family.
Besides Jack and Sambo, Pioneer Lake had also claimed the lives of Sambo’s wife, June Meadowford, and Jack’s older brother Percival. Sambo was the only one that was not a drowning victim. The twin girls, Thora and Rebecca, were too young to remember their paternal grandmother and their cousin Percy. These two had died while the girls were still toddlers in their swaddling clothes.
Many of the people here though would remember June Meadowford and Percival Thurston and would have attended services here at St. Andrew’s for them. They would recall that those services also were more memorials than funerals. Just like Jack, the lake that had taken June and Percy never gave up their bodies. Sambo’s service was the first to actually possess flesh that could be interred into the ground.
“I was thinking of Grandfather lying in that coffin,” Rebecca answered. “He looked so cold. He did not seem like he was at peace.”
“I think that we Meadowfords never can be at peace,” Thora said to her sister. “There is something about us that is restless and refuses to stand still.”
“Do you think that he liked us?” Rebecca suddenly asked. She gave no regard to Thora’s gloomy comment.
“Whatever do you mean?” Thora was shocked by what her sister said.
“I don’t know,” Rebecca smirked. “It seems to me that he at best only tolerated us. I saw him out of the corner of my eyes roll his eyes in the direction of Aunt Faye and Uncle Tom whenever Mother had us playing at the piano upon the lake. It was like he was saying to them, ‘Here we go again with another show by Cora and Langley’s trained monkeys!’”
“I never noticed,” Thora answered, although she had glimpsed the same thing too on many occasions up on Pioneer Lake. It had never been truly comfortable up there for her. She sensed the covert but deep-rooted hostility that existed between her parents and Aunt Faye and Uncle Tom. There was sibling rivalry present with all of its ugly ramifications. She had sworn to herself that she and Rebecca would always keep their relationship loving and warm.
“Do you think he liked us or not?” Rebecca repeated her question.
“In as much as he could show it I think that he did. But more than that, I think that he loved us,” Thora asserted although she felt that her words were empty. Grandfather never gave any clues as to his affections or disaffections with the twin girls. He acknowledged them but never sought to ingratiate them.
“I think that he liked and loved Jack best, if you ask me,” Rebecca said. There were tears forming in her eyes.
Upon seeing these tears, Thora could feel her own vision become clouded by droplets of her own. She knew that Rebecca was right. It was clear that Grandfather’s favorite was Jack. The boy was so full of life and energy and carried a disposition that was most charming and genuine. The day that Jack died was a day that she was sure that she would never forget. It had been such a typical day at first, a day that would have got lost in that fuzzy mire of fond recollections of their times upon the lake. Jack and his father, Uncle Tom, were playing in the water. They were carrying on with that tiresome game of siege engine when the accident happened and Jack was thrown into the rocks where that spike had been lodged. Jack died instantly. How the family mourned that tragedy! It should have been a typical day that should have been lost in the fuzzy mire of fond recollections of their times upon the lake. Instead it was a day for mourning.
Aunt Faye was so distraught over the accident that until this very day the family was under strict instructions from Grandfather that they should not make mention of the boy whatsoever whenever any of them were in her company. Thora had always thought that that was an unwise decree and that it would only foster deeper psychological trauma in the woman.
“Do you think that it was perhaps because Jack was a boy and the only living grandson that Grandfather had?” Rebecca asked while pulling out a handkerchief from her purse to wipe away the tears that had formed.
“Jack did not have the Meadowford name,” Thora said while taking her sister’s cue to fetch a handkerchief of her own to be ready for any deepening tears. “He was a Thurston. And I don’t think that gender played any part in Grandfather’s choices. He liked Aunt Faye much more than he liked Father.”
“The name Meadowford will disappear as soon as you and I are married,” Rebecca said as she rubbed the handkerchief to the corners of her eyes. “It is rather sad, isn’t it? Especially when you think that our great grandfather possessed the dream of a Meadowford dynasty upon Pioneer Lake.”
“Becky, you are forgetting about the line that descends from Uncle Thaddeus. He had several children. Some of them were boys. They are now all old enough to have children of their own and I am willing to bet that there is at least one of them that carries the Meadowford name.”
“But they all moved away to Europe and have disappeared from family memory. We don’t even know their names!” Rebecca protested rather loudly.
“We don’t know whose names?” the girls’ mother, Cora Meadowford, said. She had come out of nowhere and joined her daughters. She was dressed in a dark brown outfit with a floral imprint and was wearing a veil over her face that concealed her eyes and nose but drew accent upon the heavy red lipstick upon her mouth. To Thora her mother was not properly attired for the funeral of her father-in-law. Her clothing did not seem to convey a message of respect for the old man.
“The names of Uncle Thaddeus’ children!” Rebecca said.
“Heavens, why would you concern yourself with a subject such as that!” Cora remarked. From the way that her lips moved, Thora guessed that she must have rolled back her eyes behind the veil. “Really, girls, it makes no difference who they are. None of them have shown the decency to attend their uncle’s funeral or even send flowers or letters of condolence. They are nobody to us and as nobodies they should remain nameless.”
“Maybe they don’t even know Grandfather is dead?” Rebecca put in. “Has anybody thought of sending them a telegram with the news?”
“News as such has a way of finding the ears that it is meant for,” Cora said. “I am sure that your Aunt Faye managed to get the word out to them.”
“Aunt Faye managed to get what out to whom?” Cora’s sister Myra remarked. She had pulled herself away from the group that she had been standing with and slipped into the company of her sister and nieces.
Thora did not like Aunt Myra. She was a busy body and a gossip and was always quick to rebuke anyone that did not meet her standards.
“Get word out to Thaddeus’ …” Cora started.
Myra broke into her sister’s comment. “Did you see what Margaret Whattam is wearing? The dizzy woman must have thought that this was a wedding and not a funeral!”
Thora looked across the stairs to the other group of women. There, standing like a brilliant macaw amid a flock of crows, was Margaret Whattam. Margaret’s husband, James, was the chief legal and business advisor to Thaddeus Meadowford. He was not here at the funeral for he was away in Dearborn, Michigan along with Uncle Thaddeus trying to rescue the family business.
“At least she had the decency to pay her respects to Grandfather!” Rebecca said in a rather terse tongue. “I don’t think that she should be mocked for what she chooses to wear. Grandfather led a happy life. It should be something to be celebrated and not be sad about.”
Thora was still staring at Mrs. Whattam when Rebecca had raised her voice. It was plain that the woman in bright clothing heard what was being said. She turned her head away sheepishly and seemed like she pretended that she did not hear anything.
There was shock on Aunt Myra’s face at the remarks made by the girl.
“Rebecca Meadowford, you mind your manner!” Cora said in defense of her sister. “You apologize to Aunt Myra and pray that she has it in her good heart to forgive you!”
“I won’t do anything of the such!” Rebecca would not back down. “Aunt Myra has poisoned many a thing in our lives with her vile assertions. I am not going to let her poison a day that should belong to the memory of Grandfather with her snobby critiques of the apparel of others!”
“The girl is obviously upset over the loss of her grandfather,” Cora said to her sister. What could be seen of her face had taken the rosy hue of someone in a compromised position. “She doesn’t mean anything that she says.”
“What’s gotten into you, Rebecca?” Thora whispered to her sister. “This is no place to be causing a scene!”
“Don’t worry Cora, I take no offence,” Myra said. “Your girl is 13. She is obviously entering a change of life and hormones are getting the better of her.” With that said, the woman haughtily returned to her other group and was undoubtedly relaying her latest adventure to them, Margaret Whattam included.
“The funeral is over girls. The two of you can go home now, if you like,” Cora said in an icy voice. It was more of a command than a request. The house where they resided was just over a block away down the shaded elm street from the church.
“But what about the burial?” Thora spoke up. “I want to go to the cemetery!”
“And I want to have some words with Aunt Faye,” Rebecca added. “I have not spoken to her since being up at the lake.”
“You are not to speak to that woman ever again!” Cora pulled the veil from her face revealing bulging eyes. “After all those filthy things that she said about your father and I, I consider her dead and you should too!”