So I took this down originally because I didn't feel like anyone was really interested (with the exception of ILoveThee and SarcasticEnigma), but I swear the universe keeps throwing it back at me and I've had crazy inspiration for it. So here we go again!
Anyway, I'm trying to remain factual to both real events and the mini-series, though I may have to tweak a few things here and there to make it work with my own story. I'll tell you right now, this story could go anywhere. We'll just have to see what happens!
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Warning: There is a bit of abuse in this chapter. I hate to write about it, but…yeah. Very sorry if I offend anyone.
Edward Holstead grumbled to himself as he fished around in his large cedar chest. A loud ruckus resulted from his search as he waded through the numerous empty whiskey bottles but while the sound didn't affect him, it left Eileen Farmer in a foul mood. She gazed at him with a disapproving expression but the man remained unaware of it. He let out a cry of triumph when he finally located the whiskey he'd been searching for then hauled himself to his feet and uncorked the bottle with his teeth, spitting the wooden cork away carelessly before taking three monstrous gulps.
He grimaced at the sting in his throat but then relaxed at the warm, loose feeling that filled his muscles before casting a look towards Eileen. She was young, barely seventeen, and she had been quite pretty at one point before life's hardships had caught up to her. The copper-haired woman turned her eyes away quickly and continued tending to the small baby in her arms. He had a feeling she wanted to say something about his behavior but knew better then to do so – the black bruise on her eye was proof enough that calling him on his actions usually didn't turn out so well for her. His eyes dropped down to the baby in her arms and he gazed at the infant girl for a moment before turning his back on the sight, slamming his trunk closed, and then heading outside to join Randall out on the porch.
Edward let out a heave as he took the seat next to Randall, ignoring the cries the baby inside made in response to his noisy departure. He scratched his thick beard and tipped the whiskey bottle back again, taking another large swig before handing it over to Randall.
"Evelyn alright?" He asked before drinking the whiskey.
"Fine, I s'pose." Edward answered back sluggishly. "Prob'ly be better off never havin' come into the world at all."
Randall raised his eyebrows at him but said nothing in response, taking another swig of whiskey before passing it over again.
Edward and Randall were much the same. They were both worn and tired looking from the grueling war, had obviously seen a lot of hard days, and were both rough around the edges with their dirty hair, beards, and clothes. They had fought side by side for the South, had endured (and escaped) the prison camps together, and made the trek through wild America to get home. Randall McCoy was just about the only friend Edward Holstead had these days. Well, him and a good bottle of whiskey.
When companionable silence fell between them, the McCoy patriarch narrowed his eyes and glared out at the stretch of trees before them. Edward would have had to be ignorant not to know why – this forest was the only thing that separated his land from that of Devil Anse Hatfield, his former comrade and former friend. "Seen 'im around?" Edward asked.
"Few times." Randall answered, reaching a hand out for the whiskey again. "Damn, Hatfield. Can't stand the sight of 'im." He continued, knocking back more alcohol. "They come 'round here?"
Edward motioned over to the covered basket that Levicy Hatfield had brought a few days previous as a gift for the newborn child inside. It still rested in the same place she had left it and remained untouched under Edward's strict instruction. The family that he had once been friends with was now as much as his enemy now as they were Randall's. Anderson Hatfield had deserted them and left them to suffer. This was not something he would soon forget.
"Hatfield's wife brought that." He explained with a shrug. "Let the crows have it." Edward snatched the whiskey back and chugged back nearly half of it before letting out a grimacing cough. Then he flashed a yellow-toothed grin at his friend. "That's the good stuff."
"Ya drink too much." His friend accused.
"I know." Edward conceded. "Probably gonna be the death o' me."
"Ya got a child now." Randall reminded him sternly.
"Not by choice." He growled back. "Didn't mean'ta get that whore pregnant, nor was my intent'ta ever be a father." He explained. "Who'da known one night with the bitch would leave me with a lifetime sentence?"
The baby cried some more inside and both men paused, listening to the young child's wail. When he'd gotten back from the war, he'd sought out the services of the woman inside purely to try and forget the horrors he'd seen. Then one day she'd shown up on his doorstep with a rounded belly and a pleading look in her eyes. He wasn't a nice man or anything of that sort, but something had made him take the prostitute carrying his bastard child into his home. Maybe it had been hope that there was humanity left within him, maybe it had been pity. There was no love within him for Eileen, but he would admit that a small part of him did harbor a small fondness for the baby girl that had come out of her.
He listened for a moment as Eileen let out a series of harsh sounding coughs and swigged back some more whiskey. The woman was sick, though the doctor had no idea as to what the ailment may be. There really was no telling when death might claim the woman and he knew he was on no path to the fountain of youth. Edward let out a heave, running a hand through his greasy hair, and offered the bottle to Randall again.
"Listen, Randall…" He started, looking over at his friend. "If anythin' ever happens'ta me or that woman, well, I'd hope Evelyn might have a place 'mongst your family."
Randall stared at him with an unreadable expression for a long moment, took a drink, then handed the bottle back over. "We got enough mouths to feed as is." He said slowly. "Besides, I thought ya hated the girl."
"I don't hate my daughter." Edward said sharply, chugging more whiskey and glaring at his friend from the corner of his eye.
Randall held his hands up in defense. "Why us?" He asked.
"Yer the only one I trust, McCoy."
Randall stared at him for a long moment and then sighed before nodding. "I only made it home 'cause of you." He told him. "I'll be her guardian if anythin' happens. I swear it."
Then Randall spit in his hand and stuck it out towards Edward. The bigger of the two men shot him an indebted look and then mimicked the gesture before shaking the McCoy's hand firmly, sealing their deal.
Evelyn Farmer giggled madly as she ran through the thick trees. Mud was caked on her shoes and her dress was an absolute disaster by this point, but the seven year old child didn't bother herself with worries over whatever repercussion may be waiting for her back home. Instead, she came to a halt by a large tree and braced herself against the massive trunk, peaking around it with suspicious eyes. One of her hands clutched to a woven basket tightly but the contents of said basket, plus her original reasoning for coming into these woods to begin with, had been quickly forgotten to the girl.
"Evie…" Echoed a sing-song voice from somewhere nearby.
She whipped around at the sound of her name and let her eyes quickly dart around the surrounding trees, looking for any sign of the familiar blonde hair she was currently searching for. That pesky Hatfield was around here somewhere, and she was going to find him.
"Come out, come out, wherever ya are." Evelyn called back with a small smile, pushing away from the tree and making her leisurely way into the clearing just on the other side of the massive tree. "Or are ya too yellow?"
The taunt served its purpose. There was a beat of silence where Evelyn thought he wouldn't respond but then the sound of thunderous, approaching footsteps reached her ears. She turned just in time to see him running up behind her and barely had the opportunity to dodge away from him when he was yanking the basket out of her hands and running off. Evelyn stared after him in shock then growled, picked up her dirty skirts, and chased after him. He shot a look back at her over his shoulder and laughed triumphantly at seeing her pursuit.
"William Anderson Hatfield!" She hollered, pushing her legs harder to try and catch up with him but failing miserably. Will was a tall and lanky eight year old with much longer legs then hers and was currently widening the gap between them. "Come back here, now!"
"You'll have'ta catch me!" He called back smugly.
Evelyn growled when her skirt snagged on a bush and had to pause in her chase, turning back and yanking it free with a mighty tug. A loud RRRRIP sounded in the air and the girl fell with an "Oof!" onto her rear end and sat dazed for a moment, not sure what had happened. The sound of Will's laughter reached her ears again and she glared at him as she dragged herself back to her feet.
"Ya won't be laughin' when I catch ya!" Evelyn shouted threateningly, wagging her finger.
That was when she realized that Will was not only not paying attention to his surroundings, but that he was also headed straight for a low-hanging tree branch. Her eyes widened and she took off after him again, waving her hands warningly now. "Will! Watch out!"
"Yeah, like I'm fallin' fer – "
Will was cut short as the tree branch caught him right under the chin and sent him flying onto his back. She cringed for a moment, watching as he rolled around on the ground with a groan of pain, and then hurried to his side. As soon as she was close enough she dropped down to his side and helped him into a sitting position. "Will, are you alright?" She asked concernedly.
He shook himself for a moment and then blinked at her. She was moments away from dragging him into town to get him to a doctor, her concern rising over both his lack of response and the blood beginning to drip from his bottom lip, before he began to grin. The boy was clearly fine and with a heave she pushed him roughly back down to the ground and stood to her feet again, hastily yanking her basket back within her possession as he began to chuckle to himself in amusement.
"Where the hell did that come from?" He asked, bringing a hand up to his bloody mouth as he tried to collect himself.
"I tried to warn you, ya mush-head." Evelyn called to him over her shoulder as she stalked away from him.
Will hauled himself back to his feet when he realized his friend was leaving him behind and quickly hurried to catch up to her, wiping his mouth clean on his sleeve. "Yer'a mess." He said, eyeing her ruined dress.
"Yer one'ta talk." Evelyn responded with a shove to his shoulder. Will tried to sneak his hand into the basket that she was protectively clutching but she quickly swatted him away. "No, sir!" She chastised. "This ain't fer you."
"Who for then?" Will asked, managing to fish out a handful of berries from the basket regardless and popping them into his mouth.
"My Pap wants me'ta make a pie fer tomorrow." Evelyn said, pausing by a bush to inspect some of the berries before moving on when she recognized them to be poisonous. "We're dinin' with the McCoys."
Will immediately pulled a face. "Don't know how ya stand 'em." He grumbled.
"They ain't all that bad." Evelyn said with a shrug.
He only 'hmph'ed in response and she rolled her eyes before shaking her head. She knew all too well about the animosity brewing between the Hatfields and the McCoys but to her, the feud seemed tiresome and almost ridiculous. The world was crazy enough as it was – why waste time nitpicking at each other and going out of your way to make another person's life a living hell?
"Look what my Pa gave me." Will said to change the subject as he hurried to position himself in front of her, walking backward and producing a pistol with a proud look on his face. "Like it?"
"I s'pose." She said with a shrug. "Long as ya don't use it no one."
"That's kinda the whole reason fer havin' one." Will said pointedly.
"Yeah, well…yer better'n that is all I'm sayin'."
Though there was still blood on his teeth, Will flashed her an endearing smile in response and ruffled her hair before dropping back to walk side by side with her again.
These were the moments that Evelyn lived for. Whenever she was with Will, she could forget that her father was a drunken monster that lived for his alcohol and frequently reacquainted her with his fist. When Will was around, she didn't think about the mother that had been used and abused by Edward Holstead or of her untimely death some three years ago. Edward had forbidden her from associating with any Hatfield, but it was the one order she'd disobeyed. They had met right here in the woods that separated their homes and, in secret, had formed a close friendship that defied everything that they had ever been taught about one another. He was her best friend and the most important person in her life and no surname would ever change the admiration she had for him.
Sometime later, when the sun was just beginning to tuck itself away for the night, Evelyn's ears perked up when a call sounded through the trees around them. Will was still blabbering away about whatever he and his brother Johnse had managed to get themselves into when she clamped a hand over his mouth to silence him. He grimaced and shoved her hand away, tenderly inspecting his mouth.
"Careful, Evie." He said with a cross look. "Damn near lost my teeth back there, 'member?"
"Hush!" She said before listening out again.
"EVELYN!" A voice echoed through the trees. "Where are ya, girl?!"
With a jolt, she realized that the voice didn't belong to her father like she would have expected. "That's Randall McCoy." She said in a hushed voice, looking up at Will with wide eyes. Evelyn had no idea where her father was, but if Randall was nearby then Edward couldn't be too far behind him. She immediately chastised herself for leading her friend too close to her home – if he was found by Randall or her father, they were both going to be in for a world of hurt.
"Evelyn!" Randall called again.
"I have'ta go!" She said before beginning to hurry in the direction of her house.
"Evie – " Will started to protest, grappling to try and catch a hold of her as concern etched onto his boyish face. He knew how bad her home-life was and often expressed his concerns over it. It wasn't out of the norm for him to try and convince her not to return to her abusive father and, apparently, today was going to be no different
"Go home, Will Hatfield." Evelyn said firmly. "If ya know what's good for ya."
He didn't move to stop her again but continued to watch her with a worried expression. It made her sad to leave her friend behind, just as it always did, but she if she lingered n the forest for any longer then Will might be found and that could mean the end of their friendship. So Evelyn only offered a small smile and then turned to head back home on quick feet and didn't stop until the small cabin she and her father lived in came into view.
A solemn Randall McCoy was there to greet her. The clinking saddlebags full of whiskey bottles that hung from his horse hinted that he had come to deliver some of her father's favorite Kentucky-brewed whiskey, but the expression on his face and tension in his shoulders let her know that he had not gotten the reception he'd expected upon arriving at the home of Edward Holstead. She glanced around curiously, looking for any sign of her father. He wasn't there.
"Mr. McCoy?" She asked unsurely, stepping towards him and trying to calm her breathing as an uneasy feeling filled her. "Where's my Pap?"
Randall took off his hat and fiddled with it for a moment, looking unsure of how to start whatever conversation they were about to have. She glanced at the dark house behind him and couldn't help but notice how eerily still it was inside. Where was her father? Why was he not rummaging around inside like usually? And why was Randall McCoy the one searching for her and not him? She glanced back at the forest and gulped. What if Edward was in the forest somewhere and had found Will? It would look awfully suspicious if a Hatfield was found wandering around the Holstead home.
"About yer father…" Randall said, catching her attention again. He sighed and ran a hand through his greasy hair. "Well…I'm afraid I got bad news, child." He finally said. "Yer gonna need to come with me."
And with those words she knew. Something had happened to Edward Holstead and if Randall McCoy was the one coming to collect her, it could only mean one thing – her father was dead.
There were not many people that attended her father's funeral. The McCoy family was present, as were a few of their kin, but other then that there were only a few smatterings of people that her father associated with whenever he indulged in a night at the saloon there to pay their respects. She stood right next to the preacher, but his words barely registered in her ears as she stared blankly at the freshly covered grave.
As he had ranted about for years, the whiskey he loved so much had finally delivered Edward into an eternal sleep. Truth be told, Evelyn wasn't very sad to see her father go. He may have liked her to some extent, but the alcoholic demon that claimed him had led to years of both verbal and physical abuse. In a way she was glad to finally be free of him, but at the same time there was a strong sense of dread beginning to fill her body. Her living conditions had been poor, but Edward had fed her, clothed her, and kept a shelter over her head. What would become of her once she was living under the McCoy roof?
She had never felt as lost and uncertain as she did right then and not for the first time in the week that she had been an orphan, she wished that Will was there by her side.
A hand came down onto her shoulder and she looked up into the gentle eyes of Sally McCoy. People were beginning to filter out now that the pastor had finished his eulogy and Evelyn shook herself out of her stupor, meeting the older woman's gaze with an unreadable expression. "Evelyn, child, time to leave." Sally said softly.
Evelyn nodded and let the woman lead her away from the grave without another backwards glance. The McCoy clan had already begun loading themselves into their wagon and she eyed them almost warily, wringing her hands together as she approached. She paused at the foot of the wagon and gnawed at her lip, almost feeling as though she were an intruder of some sort barging her way into this family's life. The siblings that filled up the back of the wagon all stared at her in return with varying expressions on their faces. Finally, after a long moment, Calvin McCoy offered her a hand and an encouraging nod in an open gesture for her to join them.
Evelyn had just slipped her hand into his to being hoisting herself up into the wagon when she heard a yell behind her. "Evie! Wait! Let go of me!"
Panic shot through her and she gulped. She knew that voice all too well and was almost afraid to turn around and see the sight that awaited her. But when the McCoy's continued to stare at her with mixed expressions, she finally cast a look behind her.
There was Will, tall and lanky and blonde as ever and he struggling against the firm grasp of his father, Anderson Hatfield. The two were clear on the other side of the cemetery but the air surrounding her and the McCoys filled with tension almost immediately at the sight of the two Hatfields. Just seeing Will made her heart thump hard in her chest, and though she wanted to go running to him as fast as her legs would carry her, her common sense kept her rooted to the spot.
"Evelyn Farmer," Randall said firmly to gain her attention, "do you know that boy?"
Her eyes cast downward for a moment before she finally mustered up the courage to meet his stern gaze again. "He's my friend." She finally admitted quietly.
Randall looked displeased to hear this and set his jaw firmly, eyeing the two Hatfields with open animosity. "Listen here, child." He began to say, turning his attention back to her. "As long as you live under my roof, you'll not be havin' anythin' to do with the likes of them. Understood?"
Evelyn glanced back at Will regretfully. Losing her father was something she could handle, but losing Will? That was an entirely different matter. She could feel the burning gazes of the McCoys on her back but could not tear her eyes away from the friend that meant so much to her. He seemed to know what was happening too, because even from there she could see the panicked look that was on his face as he tried to free himself from his father's grip.
"Evelyn." Randall said sharply again when she took too long to respond.
She felt tears well up in her eyes and closed them tightly before finally nodding her consent. It absolutely crushed her to turn her back on Will, but there were no other options for her. Evelyn was alone in this world and her only chance of survival lay with the McCoys. And if she wanted to keep her place with her new guardians, then she would have to do what they asked of her. Even if it broke her heart to see their requests met.
Will called out for her repeatedly but she did not look at him again or acknowledge that she could hear him. Instead, Evelyn took the seat next to Calvin and kept her eyes downcast, tears rolling silently down her cheeks as the wagon jerked to life and began to lead her away from the one person she cherished above all others.