Emily Prudhomme is terrified of her stepfather, and for good reason. A man who was raised by an abusive father and uncle, he is convinced that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is talking to him personally through a radio he keeps in his office.
Emily, alienated by her stepfather’s bizarre behavior, is befriended by Glorious, an African-American girl with beautiful amber-colored eyes and the ability to see the thoughts of others. Outcast because of their differences, the girls become fast friends.
When a tragic accident occurs on the banks of the Little Missouri river leaving one girl dead and the other hopelessly maimed for life, rage and revenge creates a firestorm that not only destroys a town but the lives of two families.
Patricia Snodgrass lives in rural North East Texas with her husband of twenty years, their son two dogs and three cats. She holds a Master’s Degree from Texas A&M University, Texarkana. Patricia has published three other works, “Mercer’s Bayou,” “Marilyn” and “Destiny’s Mark.” She also contributed text and research to two comic art books. She has written numerous short stories, essays and book reviews. Glorious is her first Mundania book.
Emily Prudhomme was afraid of God. She was afraid of her stepfather, who was God’s representative on earth. But most of all, she feared the demon that lurked inside her.
The monster forced the right side of her face to twitch, and occasionally, when she was especially frightened, it would utter bizarre yipping noises. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t make it stop. In fact, the harder she tried, the worse it got. For as long as she could remember, people thought she was retarded, her schoolmates shunned her. The doctor told her mother that it was just a twitch that Emily would grow out of. But Stan knew what the real culprit was, and the only way to save her, he said, was to have the demon confronted in church.
Emily sat on the foot of her bed, staring into the mirror, waiting for the time to come when she would have to go to church—to Stan’s church— and not to the little sandstone Episcopalian building in Prescott, Arkansas, where she’d been baptized and spent her childhood.
No, Stan’s house of worship was quite different, and she was afraid of the God that dwelt there.
Emily regarded her reflection in the mirror. At thirteen, she wasn’t quite pretty; and it was just as well as far as her step dad was concerned. Pretty girls were silly, vain, lustful and inattentive in their duty to God. They were a problem because boys sniffed like redbone hounds around them, wanting only one thing, and girls were too weak willed to resist. Or so Stan constantly reminded her.
I don’t think it would matter if I were pretty, really, she thought. Nobody would come near me, not with the way my face jumps.
Stan wasn’t a horrible man Emily chided herself. He hadn’t beaten her, nor had he starved her, nor did any terrible things stepparents were legendary for. He did stare at her chest, but it was always in a thin-lipped, disapproving way that made her feel like she’d done something dirty.
He was strict, and did expect her to live by his rules, which in a way was a relief. Everyone in the small town of Overton knew the evangelical pharmacist, and many tended to steer clear of him. So when the ‘cooler’ kids tried to tempt her, she’d say no because Stan would get mad. They would shiver ever so slightly and nod; then walk away.
Stan’s commandments were simple: No boys. No jewelry, flashy dresses, slacks or pant suits. No cigarettes. No booze or drugs and absolutely no makeup. Come home, do your chores and homework. Read your Bible. Pray. Attend church. Pray.
That was the Gospel According to Stan, the stepfather and God’s representative. Nobody knew more about the Bible than Stan. And he knew there were demons because the Good Book said so.
Emily took her rubber tipped brush and flung it at the mirror, which bounced off with a soft ‘shlack’ as it struck the polished surface.
Of all the men in the world, why did Momma marry him? She wondered. If he were the last man on earth, I wouldn’t go near him.
Deep down, she knew the answer. Laura hadn’t married Stan Gilmer for love, or for companionship or even sex. Emily was certain of that because she could hear her mother weeping between the steady poundings of the headboard against her bedroom wall.
No, Laura had grown weary of subsisting off the laundry room attendant salary at the Renault Nursing home, and when Stan Gilmer, a pharmacist with a flourishing business, took an interest in her, she took a chance.
The quiet knock on the door made her jump. “Em?” her mother called as she opened the door.
Emily winced, then wiped the tears away. Laura Prudhomme Gilmer was beautiful, once. But now her face sagged from beneath the delicate cheekbones, and without makeup, her eyes seemed to have perpetual circles around them. Her hair, a soft golden brown, was stacked and shellacked into a beehive that was much too severe for her thin face. Her oversized calico dress hung to her ankles. Thick white socks protruded from heavy shoes. Laura frowned as she sat down on the bed.
“Better not let Stan catch you primping,” she said.
Emily’s face twitched. Automatically, she covered it. “I’m just putting up my hair, Momma.”
Laura’s frown deepened. “Here, let me help you with that. It’s all wadded up in the back.”
Laura swept the awkwardly placed bobby pins out of her daughter’s hair. “It’s going to be okay,” her mother said as she gave Emily’s wiry wooly hair an expert twist, and then pinned the bun down onto the back of her head. “There’s no need to be afraid. It’s just one of their—” her voice lowered, “—one of their silly ceremonies. Let’s go and get it over with. It’ll make Stan happy, and then you and I can enjoy a pizza while he attends that ridiculous city council meeting.”
“Momma,” she asked, her throat tight, “do I really have a demon inside me?”
“No, of course not,” Laura said, her hands hovering just above her daughter’s head. “That’s just more asinine talk. You have a tic, that’s all. My cousin Adrian had one too. But you know how well Stan listens. And as long as we live in his house, we have to play by the rules.” She smiled, but it was a smile of the soul weary. “For a while, at least, until he mellows out a bit.”
“I suppose so.”
“Well, it’s better than it was before. We’re not living in that old shack, us just scraping by on what I made.”
“But I liked it there, Momma. Prescott was home. And Daddy—”
Laura laid her cheek against Emily’s hair. “I know. I miss him too. But Daddy’s not coming home again and we’re on our own.” Her lips twitched into a smile. “At least we don’t go hungry any more, and I don’t have to worry about getting poisoned again when some stupid nurse leaves a needle in the bedding.”
“If we could wait another year, I could go to work.”
“No. I won’t have you doing that. You’re going to college. Have a career, a real career where you don’t have to rely on anyone but yourself.”
“I don’t think Stan will let me.”
Laura scowled. “That’s not up to him.”
“I just wish he wasn’t such a—” Emily whispered.
Emily giggled. Her face twitched. “Yeah.”
“Well,” Laura whispered, “he’s really more of a sexist piggy. But that’s because he hasn’t been around women much. Stan’s uncle raised him after his father died and you’ve seen how fanatical he is. So we just have to educate the man a bit. And once he relaxes, you’ll see that he’s really a big old teddy bear.”
“He scares me,” Emily whispered.
“He doesn’t mean it,” Laura said. “He’s got a good heart, honest. Stan’s just a lonely and confused man, but he’ll come around soon.” She slipped a tiny necklace over Emily’s head.
“He makes you cry.”
Again, Laura frowned. “I just need to adjust,” she said, her tone vague. She clasped the tiny gold chain around Emily’s slender neck, deftly hiding it beneath Emily’s ugly Peter Pan collar.
“I kept this when Stan went through his gold and costly array rampage. Now I want you to keep it under your dress so he can’t see it. It was your father’s last gift to you before he went—over there—and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have it.”
“You miss Daddy too don’t you, Momma?” Emily asked as she gazed at her mother’s reflection in the mirror.
“More than you’ll ever know,” Laura whispered in her ear.
Both of them jumped when they heard the front door slam. “He’s here,” Laura said, straightening her dress. “Let’s not keep him waiting.” She planted a quick kiss on her daughter’s cheek. “We’ll get through this, I promise. Maybe we’ll found our own liberation front, starting with getting rid of these awful dresses. And remember, after church, pizza and Cokes.”
Emily giggled. Then, holding her cheek, pressing the warm kiss to her face, she followed her mother downstairs.