Susannah had no way of knowing what it was that lay in store for her as the first snow flakes of winter began to fall. It had been a generous spring and summer for her and her father. They were the last survivors of a long journey west that had begun three years ago.
It had taken one year to make it to their homestead from Missouri. On the way, Susannah and her family had lost the youngest member of their family, Jonathan. The trip was a rough one for a two year old and he had succumbed to a severe fever a mere three months into it. The others had lived until last winter. Susannah's mother, younger eighteen year old brother, and her aunt had all been killed when the sleeping room of the house had collapsed under the weight of four feet of snow. It had been soaking up water since November and had been unable to hold out any longer. She and her father had been up early that morning- he was clearing a path to the barn and she had been preparing breakfast. That fact was the sole reason they had survived. If her mother had not been ill, she would have been curled up beneath the fur and homespun blankets ignorant of the impending fate.
Her father had almost died from a flu he had caught while attempting to dig out the family. His efforts had been to no avail and had only succeeding in putting him at risk of death. Susannah had carefully nursed him back to health and taken over all of the household chores. They had almost starved, but spring thaw had been their salvation.
The area they had settled in was generous eight of the twelve months of the year. The temperatures, although cool, were moderate and perfect for raising crops and animals. That past spring had been the first that the crops had truly rewarded the two survivors of the Miller family. Her father had been in grieving for two months and had not been much help. But when the first of the shoots of grain started pushing through the surface of the once frozen ground, he recovered. It was as if the struggle facing them became symbolized in the struggle of his crop.
For the first time since the day of the collapse, she saw him go sun up to sun down without a drink. From that point on he was a whirlwind of activity. He reinforced all the support beams and roofing in the home. He built a stock room immediately adjacent to the main room. He also built a small outhouse that was part of the main shelter. There wasn't enough wood to rebuild the sleeping quarters but he installed beams off of the kitchen that allowed sheets to be hung and permit some sense of privacy for the occupants. For six months, Susannah had believed that maybe things were changing for the better. Perhaps all the promise of the West would prove true.
But then the snow started falling. That first day it was a mere two inch dusting. But the next day it was six inches. The following day and it had not stopped. Susannah watched disconcertedly as her father began to sit in his chair just outside the door, and drink. In the freezing weather he sat for the first week of snowfall, seemingly unmoving outside the door. Eventually, he moved inside. But still he just sat watching the flakes build up on the ground. Soon the snow was beginning to press heavily against the glass panes on the window and some were beginning to crack. Susannah's father reinforced them with boards and then nailed hides over them, to keep moisture out and the heat in. Two weeks past this way. Susannah fixing holes in clothing, cooking venison and bread, and cleaning while her father patched holes, kept the fire burning, and drank. By mid-December they were no longer talking and Susannah had begun to notice her father acting strangely.
At first he would just watch her quietly work. He would prop his rocking chair in the far corner of the room by the fire and stare. His eyes would follow her every movement and rarely blink. It was unnerving to her. The roof creaked, the fire crackled, and her father stared. Initially she thought it was just thoughtless behavior. Perhaps he really was someplace else imagining a happier life with the rest of the family.
That thought would vanish from her head one night a week before Christmas. Susannah had filled the washing basin with boiled water and was excited for the opportunity to bathe after several weeks of soot and animal fat. She had hastily undressed, not wanting the steaming water to cool, and slipped into the water. She scrubbed her skin furiously, after dunking her long tresses repeatedly beneath the water. Then she allowed herself a moments respite and collapsed back against the smooth wooden edges of the basin. For several minutes she closed her eyes and dreamed wearily of spring and the pleasure of the outdoors and work. Realizing she was being selfish, she rose hastily from the water and bent forward, reaching for her night gown. As she picked up the rough cloth from the ground and stepped from the tub she heard a noise from behind her.
Susannah turned towards the room barrier and found her father, the intense gaze on his face. He had a small smirk and his eyes were bloodshot. It took Susannah a moment to realize that he was not looking at her face. His eyes flashed from her breasts to the small thatch of hair over her maidenhood. That smirk remained and Susannah stood frozen. It took her a second to spin back around and dive into the gown. Still he stood watching her, that smirk on his face. The material clung to her wet skin emphasizing the apex of her thighs and the upward thrusting curves of her breasts. Susannah spun from the tub and dove into her bed, and buried herself beneath the hides and blankets.
For several minutes she sobbed, wondering what had possessed her father and what would happen the next time she was forced to be near him. She started to doze off to sleep when she heard his clothes drop to the ground in the small enclosure besides hers. Then she heard him step into the lukewarm water of the basin. For several seconds it was quiet, then she heard her father let loose a long guttural grunt. Routine splashing followed for several minutes and then all was quiet again. Susannah was innocent and did not understand the implications of the auditory clues she had been witness too. About an hour after she heard her father climb into bed she finally welcomed the sweet nothingness of sleep.
The next morning, Susannah woke early and slipped out into the kitchen and began to make breakfast as routine commanded. Her father rose at his usual hour and stoked up the fire and replaced some hides which were soaked from routine exposure to melting snow. These he would hang out to dry by the fire until they were ready to rejoin the battle against the constant white powder. He took his morning toilet and sat at the table as Susannah served bread and venison. They ate quietly, Susannah never looking up from her plate. After breakfast, she went to put away and wash the dishes and repack whatever scraps there were. When she finally finished, she heard her father call out from across the room in a choking voice.
"Susannah. I'm sorry." When she did not answer he continued, "I should not have been looking at you like I was. I just forgot for a moment that you weren't your mother. Can ya forgive me?"
Susannah felt instantly ashamed for her feelings of violation. She did look like her mother after all and this was the first time that he had endured a winter without her. Combined with being trapped in here like they were, he was bound to get a little cabin fever.
"Come sit with me by the fire," he beckoned. Susannah put the last of the dishes up on the shelf on the wall and turned back to her father. She walked across the room and accepted the hand he offered as he pulled her into his lap. She rested her head against his strong shoulder and curled her legs up onto his lap, ignoring the way her skirt gathered behind her knees. She cried softly for a few minutes, still unsettled by her own selfish reaction. They sat there quietly for a quarter of an hour longer before her father changed the nature of their relationship forever.
At first, it was just his arms wrapped around her waist in a familial embrace. But his breathing began to quicken and his head lifted from where it had been resting on top of hers. He cradled her still, his body almost imperceptibly more tense. Susannah did not notice at first. She was back to that happy spring time where things were as they had been. It was not until his hands broke apart and went different directions that she realized that things had changed for the worse.
His right hand went drifting up her side to the side of her breasts and it rested there. His left hand began drifting as far down her leg as it would allow. At first it just rested on her upper thigh. Susannah was very tense now and her mind was frozen. She searched for some excuse to make that would allow her to escape. But until lunch there was nothing. She was trapped beneath four feet of snow in a dark cabin lit only by firelight. After a few minutes Susannah felt his hand begin to gather her gown in between his finger tips and tug it upwards, soon she felt the hot gusts of heat coming from the hearth breezing against her bare upper thighs.
"Pa. Please no. I'm not Ma. Please stop."
.... There is more of this story ...