Welcome back for the finish to Beauty Chapter Three. Thank you to everyone who has given me feedback. If you’ve missed the previous posts in this story, please find the cliff notes versions below=)
Cliff Notes Ch. 1: Lila Dean’s a young girl who lost her mother in a fire and was horribly scarred, both physically and mentally, as a result. Now people just don’t look at her, so when a stranger approaches and asks her to steal the Roy’s ruby to help him save his daughter, she takes the chance to do something good.
But Billy Roy catches her in the theft. To her surprise, he doesn’t stop her, instead he trusts she’s doing it for a good reason. So when Lila Dean goes to give the ruby to the stranger, Michael, she questions his story and it falls apart. She realizes she’s been taken for a fool and runs away. Now she’s determined to return the ruby and make things right.
Cliff Notes Ch. 2: When Lila Dean tries to return the ruby, she arrives to find the town burning and the people taken captive. With the help of her father’s friend, Sheldon Lea, she helps her father and the Roy’s escape but must give up the ruby to the soldiers in the process. (If you’d like to read these in full, they can be found here: Chapter One and Chapter Two.)
Beginning of Ch. 3: Lila Dean and Billy Roy are watching the town when they realize the soldiers are going to bury the mine with everyone in it. They return to their parents for help but can’t convince them because their parent’s believe the soldiers need the wealth from the mine. So Lila Dean and Billy Roy have headed into the mine by an unstable back entrance in hopes of saving the town’s folk.
Now for the rest. Enjoy=)
Beauty Chapter Three Part Two
She headed forward only to look back to find Roy not moving.
He started. “Right.”
They kept going for another few minutes before other sounds started to reach them. Crying. Lila Dean picked up on the sobs.
“That’s Mary Mae,” she said.
“She hiccups when she cries.”
Roy raised brow. Lila Dean shrugged. What else was she supposed to do when she couldn’t play with the others?
In the light of their lanterns, eyes reflected back, then groups of huddled people tied together.
Billy Roy rushed forward to release the first two miners. Lila Dean moved to the next ones.
Surprise lit their eyes, and then they looked away while she cut their cords. She paused. Still they wouldn’t look at her?
Biting her tongue, she cut their feet free. Her hands shook as she moved on to the next person but whether it was nervousness or fury, she couldn’t tell beyond the flush coloring her face.
“Men!” One miner called out. He was free of his ropes and stood at the edge of the lantern light. Lila Dean recognized him as a shift
supervisor but she couldn’t recall his name.
“Escape tunnel. Let’s go.”
Lila Dean froze.
“Wait. It’s not safe. Use the back entrance,” Roy called over the general noise.
The man scanned everyone but couldn’t place who’d spoken.
“Back entrance is unstable. Escape tunnel’s safer.” He called, and took off, leading ten or so people behind him.
Lila Dean’s shout mixed with Roy’s but the word was lost as those still tied up yelled at those leaving ahead of them.
A touch to the back of her hand pulled Lila Dean’s attention back to the person in front of her. She’d stopped looking at them, just cutting ropes and moving on.
Her eyes met those of Mary Mae. The girl pulled her hand back like she’d been stung.
Lila Dean sliced her feet free and moved on.
“Thank you,” Mary Mae hiccupped.
Lila Dean’s heart skipped. Her throat tightened as she looked back at the girl. Mary Mae was beautiful. She was that girl, the one all the boys had eyes for.
At the moment her blue eyes were lined with red, her cheeks puffy from crying and her hair mussed, sticking up on one side.
She was still beautiful but the mess transformed her into someone approachable.
Lila Dean gave her a nod and pointed to where Billy Roy was explaining to the next miner about the back entrance. Mary Mae smiled, her lips quivering, and moved to join him.
Lila Dean moved down the line of people, her thoughts on those first ten that were now walking straight into the soldier’s explosion.
Her skin pricked, waiting for the concussion to the air of the first charges going off. She’d never been in the mine when explosives were being used and she didn’t want to be now.
Roy went back to cutting people free as the miner took over explaining the escape route to everyone. Lila Dean sighed relief. It was good Roy was with her because she doubted anyone would have listened if she’d tried to explain herself.
What had Roy told them about the escape tunnel? She couldn’t hear the miner’s words but whatever he was saying, no one was arguing.
They only had the two lanterns, so the miners formed groups to lead the town’s people by touch. They instructed the people to hold hands in a line with one miner in front, one in back and then the front man would lead them with his free hand on the left wall.
Lila Dean cut the last person free, marveling at the miner’s courage. The system wasn’t fast but it got everyone moving.
“We’ll take the last group,” Roy informed the miner directing everyone. He nodded and headed out.
Lila Dean joined the last group, wanting to yell at them when they glanced at her and then pointedly looked away.
“They won’t follow me,” she told Roy. She handed him his lantern and moved to the back with her own.
The woman in front of her hesitated to offer her hand. Lila Dean grabbed her right hand with her left, unscarred one.
“I’m not catching,” she muttered. Instead of hearing the woman’s answer, her ears rang and the ground jerked beneath her feet.
“Run!” Roy pulled them forward.
Lila Dean stumbled over rocks and the ground shook again but every one was stumbling, so she doggedly kept on.
They took the tunnel to the back entrance and the walls became less formed. Dirt rained on their heads.
There was a crack and the beam ahead sagged in the middle. They ducked it. Another crack and a whoosh of air and dust caught at Lila Dean’s back as the beam gave behind them. Light appeared ahead through the dust and dirt. They raced from tunnel to open daylight as another explosion shook the ground.
The woman dropped Lila Dean’s hand and turned away.
Roy led them away from the mine, catching up with several other groups along the way.
Lila Dean trailed behind. Their rejection burned at her throat. Before she’d always expected it but somehow she’d thought saving them would earn her some notice, some respect. It made it all the worse instead.
Lila Dean leaned against a tree as her tears escaped. Not even saving them made her acceptable.
I never will be.
Lila Dean’s head pivoted. The cry was faint but then it came again and she was sure she wasn’t mistaken.
Following the sound, she came into view of the escape tunnel—or what was left of it.
She crept closer, bracing herself for blood or amputation or-
Rubble filled the tunnel’s entrance and from it protruded Marcus Roy’s head and torso. His legs disappeared into the mass of rock.
“I heard people down there,” he said, “but the charges blew before I made it to them. The soldiers knew about this tunnel. How could they…” He rambled on, pushing feebly at the rocks on top of him.
Lila Dean didn’t answer. She let him ramble as she pulled rocks away from him.
The other people couldn’t have survived. But Marcus Roy had tried to help even after he’d argued with his son. Lila Dean’s mind rolled almost as much as her stomach.
“Mr. Roy, I need you to push up on this one,” she interrupted him.
His words stopped and he really looked at her.
“Why are you helping?”
Lila Dean frowned. “Push up.” She repeated instead of answering. Did he really think she’d leave him half buried? Did scars somehow make her a monster inside too?
He pushed as she levered under the rock with a stick. It finally rolled free, revealing a broken leg but miraculously nothing worse.
“I think Doc made it,” she said. “Let’s get you to camp.”
Lila Dean settled his arm over her shoulders and groaned as she took his weight to help him stand. He screamed when his broken leg dragged across the ground.
“Why are you helping me?” he repeated through gritted teeth.
It was going to be a long walk back to camp but Lila Dean didn’t know how to answer. She was saved from having to by several men who found them.
“Heard your scream,” one explained as they took over carrying Marcus Roy. He kept his eyes on Lila Dean like he was demanding an answer. When he passed out from pain a few minutes later, she felt a sense of relief she never thought possible when she’d always wanted to be seen.
Lila Dean followed them back to camp where everyone was following Sheldon Lea’s direction. They were moving farther from the town to avoid the soldiers.
She couldn’t place her father among the chaos. Roy passed with the Doc close at his heels. His eyes slid past her like she wasn’t there. She snapped her mouth closed on her question. She’d been about to ask if he’d seen her father.
He’s just worried about his own.
Her heart didn’t believe it.
Moving camp took most of the day with so many people.
Lila Dean huddled against a tree in the dark, listening to people settle behind her.
“How’d they get the ruby?”
Lila Dean cringed, not for the first time. Someone saw the soldiers with the ruby and now the question was going around. The soldiers had been intending to work the mine but with the appearance of the ruby, they’d had enough to buy whatever it was they needed so they changed tactics and buried it instead.
A total of thirteen people were caught in the escape tunnel when it blew. Thirteen dead because of her. Why Billy Roy kept quiet she couldn’t say. She was the monster Marcus Roy expected.
Lila Dean shifted. It was Andre Mel sitting with Billy Roy and Mary Mae. They’d set up their sleeping pads, a collection of long grass collected from the area, off to her left. They hadn’t noticed she sat so close but it wouldn’t have mattered if they had. They’d pointedly ignored her all day, even Billy Roy.
“Don’t know,” Billy Roy admitted.
“Was saving us really her idea?” Mary Mae’s soft voice asked a moment later.
Lila Dean’s chest ached. Why would she care.
“She would’ve tried even if I didn’t help her,” Billy Roy answered.
“Perhaps we’re wrong about her.”
Andre Mel snorted. “Right, because her father would lie.”
No one responded and Lila Dean huddled closer to the tree, glad they couldn’t see her.
What now indeed. What did Andre Mel mean? None of it made sense but after being seen, after interacting normally with Roy, she wasn’t sure she could go back to how it was before.
Something touched her cheek and Lila Dean brushed it away. Her fingers came away smudged black. Ash. The wind had changed. Tilting her head back, Lila Dean watched it rain ash in fine flakes. She never could get away from the fire, it seemed.