Anya was shaking as she sat gripping the water glass, looking as though she might faint. Joe took Sally from the sling, putting her on the floor.
“I ain’t no whore! My stepmother handed me off to that devil to get me out of her man’s way. I had no say than a cow or hog off to slaughter. He tied me up and hauled me off in that damned peddler’s wagon. He beat me and passed me around when he needed a bottle. That last night, he got drunk enough I was able to get to his pistol and fire a shot off at him. I think I missed and finished him off with a shovel. He would have killed me if I hadn’t gotten away, but I’m not a whore.” She was furious now, clinching and unclenching her fists. “I’d kill him again, if I could after all he done to me!”
Joe didn’t speak for a long time. “So that’s how you come to be here.” Pausing, he went on. “Thank God the creek was high and we couldn’t get to Meadow Creek for the revival. If you had showed up there, wanting to make a new start, folks would’a had questions after that peddler turned up with a hole in his head. We got to come up with a plan.”
“I didn’t run off from one man just to get stuck out here bein’ your whore. Just because I got nowhere to go don’t mean I gotta take anything off you.” She was furious to be so near tears.
“I don’t want nuthin’ from you except you earn your keep and help out with Sally while you’re here. You’re gonna have to lay low awhile to keep the sheriff off your tail. The preacher is the only one who saw my wife. If we just keep to the place, you ain’t gonna bump into him. I never was one for goin’ to church an’ it ain’t likely he’ll have business way out here. He might not know the difference anyhow. It was dark an’ the woman was wrapped up when we woke him to marry us.
She stared ahead morosely, feeling a prisoner again.