An excerpt from Holley Cornetto's novel They Are Cursed Like You (the first installment in the Trailer Park Witches series)
When they ran Belladonna Mason out, it was literal. They chased her into the woods wearing nothing but the shift her lover had bought her, so that she could better play the part of the adulteress. And when his cuckolded wife caught them in the act—sinning against her and God in equal measure—he shed his loyalty to her just as easily.
Because “bewitched” sounded so much finer to his ears than “weak.”
But though they’d cast her out and her home was gone and her name was ruined, she pushed on. Living was an awful difficult habit to break.
The woods had no love for her either. Their stones cut her feet and every limb whipped her arms and back and thighs bloody and raw, like the preacher did when he found out. She was angry before, but the cold of the night and the lengthening shadows stole the heat from her. Even rage couldn’t warm her now.
And, when she fell in the mud, the last drop of strength trickled from her. They had bled her dry, this world and all the people in it. She had no more tears to cry.
There, beyond the limits of hope, was a fire burning and the smell of meat cooking to put the edge on her hunger until it sliced across her belly. Slowly, she stood and walked and wanted. The human died there in the mud. The animal took over until she lived again.
Funny how things worked out. She’d fled the fire and fire was all that awaited her. She’d fled a man and there, upon a fallen tree, a man sat.
“Take a seat,” he said. Not a request.
Belladonna’s eyes didn’t leave the meat that had once been rabbits spitted over the flames. Not until she was sat, and the pain of her wounds and the warmth brought her back alive. Then she finally saw the man.
Handsome? Enough, though she’d tired of handsome men somewhere in the woods back there. Lean and muscled, furred with coarse, black hair. Eyes in shadow, reflecting the flickering firelight or maybe just matching it. Stripped to the waist, dressed only in sack cloth. Staring.
Now, the cold had already made Belladonna quite aware of how thin her shift was, and this man was taking pains to remind her that the dangers of the woods weren’t limited to things that howled and hissed.
“Hungry?” he asked.
She nodded and said nothing. Words had betrayed her already, so many times. He didn’t ask her to speak, just lifted a spit from the fire and pressed it into her hands. She tore flesh from bone and sobbed around every mouthful.
“You’re not going to eat?” she asked, because betrayal hadn’t ever taught her a lesson before.
He smiled. “Not yet.”
Belladonna had never been under the presumption that living in the woods was easy, but that smile had an ease to it that it shouldn’t. And it was sharp, not just around the eye-teeth.
“You’re awful far from home.”
Reprinted with permission from Eerie River Publishing. You can find out more about Holley and her work here.