Mandy stood there watching the dollmaker with her beautiful creations. Each doll made to look like the children she claimed to despise. She held them close and began rocking them back and forth, as she spoke in a soft soothing voice. “Oh my children, I have missed you so.”
Mandy realized the dollmaker was no longer blocking the door. She didn’t know if she should run for it, or stay with the poor old woman who no longer seemed so threatening.
There was a knock on the door…Mandy looked at the dollmaker who nodded her head to open it. The dollmaker, Aunt Bea, drew a deep breath and closed her eyes tight as if she was trying to prepare herself for whatever would befall her
Abby pulled the sled loaded with wood to the door of the cabin. Andy would be ready to help her stack it. When the work was done, she could warm herself by the fire and eat whatever had been prepared for supper.
In the two years they had lived in the cabin, they had become creative with the limited variety of sustenance they could find. Beau, the coon dog who had come to them early on, kept them supplied with small game and fish. The children picked edible wild berries, onions, and greens. In the warm months, they would dry the fruits and vegetables for use in the winter. The meat could be dried for the days Beau’s hunting expeditions weren’t productive. They learned how to preserve their meager supply of fresh food by following the instructions in a book they discovered in the cabin.
They had been frugal with the supply of flour, sugar, and cornmeal the previous occupant had left behind, but they had used the last of it, a few months before.
It was a cold clear night, and the warmth of the fire felt good. They had 2 small beds in the loft area, but more often than not, all four of them huddled together in the big bed below. Their faithful protector, Beau, would stretch out in front of the door.
On this night as everyone prepared for bed, there was an unspoken fear in the hearts of the children…Beau had not come home.
In the drawing room of the estate, Belle Sanders Jackson, and Andrea Allen, were meeting for the first time. They were first cousins, and the only offspring of the generation before them. Belle was the daughter of Charles,and Andrea the daughter of Audrey, (who was deceased). Beatrice Sanders, the sibling of Charles and Audrey, had no children.
Belle and Andrea were close to the same age. They each had one child. Both girls were named Amanda, although Andrea and her husband Aaron had always called their daughter Mandy.
The cousins had something else in common. Aunt Beatrice had virtually turned their lives upside down. Neither were totally aware of just how much.
As part of Aunt Bea’s grand plan to be rid of all the school children, Amanda was abducted by her father who had managed an early release from prison. He had taken his daughter to Europe, where they had been for the better part of two years. Amanda became despondent, and her health deteriated. She grew thin and weak. Her Father soon tired of dealing with her. He traveled with her back to the states where he placed her in a sanitarium. His plan was to return abroad. He cared about his daughter, but he hated his ex wife more.
Recently, he decided Belle had been punished enough. He sent word to Belle’s father Charles, telling him of Amanda’s whereabouts.
This was the current state of affairs in the lives of the Sander’s family, and the lost school children.
This was the day Mandy found herself in the tower with the dollmaker. No one had known the extent of Aunt Bea’s jelousy and resentment.
Yes, she was with the dollmaker, but her friends the dolls were there too.
Aunt Bea had nodded, so Mandy went to see who was knocking at the door.