“Girls!” Mariah cried in relief. “I was so worried! How could you just leave in the middle of the night? Never do that to me again!” Although angry with her daughters, the worried mother gathered her girls in a tight embrace.
“I left a note,” Esther defiantly remarked, “and I am thirteen years old. I can take care of myself and Sally.”
“So, you have told my great granddaughters that I am a witch?” scolded Miss Ella. The older woman gazed in disbelief at the granddaughter that she loved and so desperately missed.
“Not exactly,” Mariah skirted her grandmother’s question. “I just never denied it, but I did tell the girls that they should stay away from you.”
“I see you are still angry with me then,” sighed Miss Ella. The older woman turned away from the girls, so they would not see the tears in her eyes.
“She’s our grandmother, and you never told us about her? You made us believe that you thought she was a witch? Mama, what is going on? Esther demanded.
“Gather your things, and I will explain later,” Mariah told her daughter. “Tell Miss Ella goodbye and thank her for taking care of Bug. Wait for me on the porch.”
The girls gathered around Miss Ella and hugged her one last time. “Thank you for saving Bug, and I don’t care if you are really a witch,” the little girl whispered to her grandmother. The grandmother chuckled and hugged the little one tightly. She didn’t know if this would be the last time she held her great-granddaughter.
“Wish I didn’t have to say goodbye.” Esther softly stated as she hugged her grandmother.
“Me, too sweet girl, me too. Be kind to your Mama; she has not had an easy life.” Miss Ella cupped her face and gently kissed her on the forehead.
Miss Ella told the girls that she enjoyed their company and was glad that she had the opportunity to visit with them. She softly patted Bug on the head as the two girls went outside to wait on the porch as their mother had instructed.
As soon as the two women were alone, Mariah turned to her grandmother. “How much do I owe you?” she curtly asked.
“I will not take your money. I am thankful I had the opportunity to meet my great-granddaughters. That was a gift beyond measure,” the grandmother answered.
“Stay away from my girls!” The angry mother commanded.
Miss Ella hung her head for a moment, and then told Mariah, “I will stay away from them as you asked, but if they show up at my door, I will not turn them away. Just as I never turned you away when you would run away from home.”
Gazing into her grandmother’s eyes, Mariah felt torn, for she still loved this woman although she felt betrayed. She forlornly solicited, “Why didn’t you fight for me? Why did I have to live with that hateful man? I loved you, and I needed you. Where were you?”
“I believe it’s time that you know the truth.” Mariah went to a drawer and pulled out a large manila envelope and handed it to her granddaughter. “I believe this will give you the answers that you need.”
Angrily, she just wanted to throw the envelope back at her grandmother and run from this cabin that she had once cherished, but she desired to know the truth. Without saying a word, she took the envelope and left.
Once alone, Miss Ella sat at her kitchen table. Placing her face in her hands, the elderly woman wept for the child she had lost.