When I was a little girl, my Grandma used to tell me all these stories. I could sit there for hours as Grandma brushed my hair, or we peeled vegetables for dinner. The one where the kitten learned to talk, or the egg that sat on a wall. But the one that I remember the most was the one about the girl who went missing in the woods at the edge of town. She used to say after telling it Lorelai, no matter what anyone says to you, don’t go in them woods, you hear? And like the good little girl, I would nod my head and reply yes Grandma before asking for another story.
By the time I started school, I had a small collection of stories at my disposal. I used to sit them other kids down and tell them every single one – except for my favourite. I told so many stories that them kids used to refer to me as the ‘story girl’. Well, I was known as that until my sixteenth name day. Then Alberta demanded another story.
She drawled Lorelai, we’ve heard that story before. Don’t you have any other stories to tell?
I allowed myself a small smile before I replied Sure, Alberta, but it’s not exactly… a nice story.
I’d like to see you try she said with a hand on her narrow hips.
The next day, Alberta gathered as many kids as she could to listen to my ‘not very nice’ story. And told it, I did.
It began with a girl named Merida. Her hair was as soft as snow, yet as dark as a raven. Everyone in town loved her for her smile, which was as wide and bright as the sun. But for all her looks, the girl was not very bright. She worked in her Mothers grocery and was known to give the wrong change and put the green apples with the tomatoes, and the tomatoes with the pears. Which is why some of the local boys decided to play a trick on poor Merida.
They approached her one fine, sunny afternoon with smiles and laughter and told Merida that they had found a lake in the woods that nobody knew about. They told her the water was so warm you could swim all day; the water so clear you could see the bottom of the lake. The flowers so rare, they grew nowhere else.
Merida fell so in love with the description that she followed them boys into them woods. Together they started the journey, and Merida happily chattered on. But slowly, the woods got darker and darker, and the boys began to drift away. At first, Merida thought the boys were just being quiet but when she finally turned around, she saw that she was on her own.
Hello? She called out. You can stop hiding now!
Merida realised that with all the walking, she had paid little attention to what way she had come. She decided that she may as well continue forward rather than get lost going backwards and try to find that lake them boys spoke of. Except nobody ever heard from little Merida again.
Grandma told me never to go into them woods, I concluded.
Alberta snorted. There’s nothing wrong with them woods. I bet she just came out the other side.
I don’t know Alberta, Mama told us not to go in them woods Alberta’s brother, Tommy replied. He gazed up at his sister with a small frown.
I’ll prove it to you! And with a flick of her red hair, Alberta began to march towards the woods. All of us kids followed her, trying to get her to stop. But it was like a match was burning underneath her and she was determined to find out the truth.
When she finally came to the first line of trees, Alberta didn’t even hesitate. We all stopped; afraid to go any further. Then Tommy suddenly yelled into the mouth of darkness I’m telling Mama Allie and raced off home.
With the adults alerted, a search began for Alberta. That first day, the search was halted by night. But by morning it began with more force than before for most of the town had turned up to go into the woods, and nobody wanted to go in alone. They didn’t find Alberta for three whole days and when they finally did, her cold body was lying nearly identical to a pile of bones in the heart of the woods. There the adults found the lake with the water so clear, they could see the bottom. But the flowers that grew had started to wilt. All except for the flowers by Alberta’s body, which stood by proudly in bright reds and purples with small drops of morning dew still on their petals.