And she’s got her eye on one man in particular.
Midway Mary is a woman out for revenge. She’s been hurt too many times and bears a heavy load of guilt and pain that does eventually lead to her ruin. But until that tragic event, Mary Prattle, aka Midway Mary, reinvents herself in order to hide behind a lie she hoped would bring her close to the man she hated most on Earth.
Mary Prattle was born to a large, very poor family that lived in a shack just outside Atlanta, Georgia. Her father, Seth Prattle, was an honest man who did odd jobs to try to earn enough to feed his family of 11 children and his loud and rather bawdy wife, Ida. But alas, Seth rarely earned enough money to keep his family fed well enough to stay healthy, and so his children often fell ill from malnutrition.
Ida Prattle claimed to be Hungarian, and said that her grandmother was a well known and much feared gypsy. This story was never proven, but, it gave Ida a bit of a higher social status among their peasant friends, and even earned her a penny or two telling fortunes.
Ida’s eldest daughter, Mary, was a wild one from the start. No matter how strict Ida was, Mary defied her at every turn. When Mary turned 14, Ida announced to Seth that it was time for the girl to marry. Though a bit young, Mary was tall for her age and appeared years older, and, given the financial need of the Prattle family, marrying Mary off would mean one less mouth to feed.
However the man Seth chose did not prove to be an honorable one at all. His name was George Pickens, a prosperous blacksmith, and he was twice Mary’s age. George smiled and said all the right things to both Ida and Seth, and by the time th family announced the bands, Mary did seem quite happy about it.
Life as Mrs. George Pickens started out well. Mary now lived in a newly built two-story farmhouse that boasted four bedrooms, two parlors, a dining room, large attics and a neatly kept cellar full of food and wine. The fireplaces located in every room always burned brightly and the dinner table was set with moderately priced china and crystal. The quality of food prepared by a hired cook was considerably higher than Mary had ever had in her life. And it was, to everyone who observed them, a true love story as well.
George doted on Mary, buying her new dresses, jewelry and flowers. Mary had store bought clothes, sweet treats and even had a collection of fine sewing needles and threads. Ida and Seth could not have been more delighted to not only see their first born daughter so well situated, but, to have aligned themselves with a man who ranked quite a bit higher on the social scale.
When Mary turned 15, and was married for nearly a year, George asked her to go to Atlanta with him for an overnight stay. The young teenager squealed with delight when her husband told her. But it was on that same trip that Seth finally revealed his true nature, giving Mary cause to squeal in agony before the trip was over.
George Pickens, as it turned out, had kept secret his hard-drinking ways, and he turned into a monster when he had enough whiskey in him. From that time on, he would beat Mary savagely, many times rendering her unconscious, and more than once in the five years of their marriage caused her to miscarry.
Not wanting to reveal the truth, Mary told her parents, brothers and sisters, and everyone she knew, that she suffered from dizzy spells that the local doctor could not cure, and would therefore fall down stairs and injure herself – so explaining the bruises and broken bones.
Seth defends Mary.
Everyone seemed to believe Mary’s story about her health problems except for one person – her father. Seth Prattle would nod and show concern for Mary when she told him about her dizzy spells, but on the inside he wasn’t believing a single word. And he felt in his gut that the only reason his daughter was injured was due to her husband’s beatings. Seth was, of course, quite right.
On a cold November day, Mary had just given instructions to her cook about what George wanted for supper, when suddenly the man himself burst onto the scene screaming at them both. The cook started to cry and Seth ordered her to leave. But once alone, he directed all of his rage at Mary.
In between slaps, kicks and being shaken like a rag doll, Mary heard George shout out how offended he was by her menu choices, and how hurt he was by his wife’s obvious lack of affection. At one point, Mary made the mistake of reaching for a kitchen knife to defend herself with, and it was then that George picked up an iron from the fireplace and repeatedly struck Mary on her back. This time, he meant to kill her.
What had been cries and whimpers now changed to primal screams as Mary heard her bones crack and felt her skin tear open. This was the end. She felt it coming. She was to die at only 19 years of age. And then, as if in answer to her prayer, Mary heard the sound of footsteps coming down the hall from the entry foyer, and saw her father standing in the doorway to the kitchen.
In one swift movement, Seth Prattle lunged for his son-in-law, grasping both his hands around George’s throat. The two men struggled, rolling across the floor, knocking over chairs and the large kitchen table, striking each other over and over.
Finally, Seth gained the upper hand on the younger man, and took a knife out of his pocket and used it to slit George’s throat. Bleeding profusely, George crawled out the back door and into the garden outside, where he died an hour later.
A true hero, Seth Prattle thought of his daughter first, and called out to the maids for help. They managed to get Mary upstairs and into bed, with one of them leaving to fetch a doctor.
The story takes a sad turn, though. Seth Pickens did in fact suffer a wound, a nasty blow to the head, and by nightfall fell into a coma from which he would never awaken.
George Pickens had a brother.
Nicholas Pickens heard about the death of his brother and came to exact his revenge on Mary and her entire family. Before he was done, Nicholas would beat, torture and ruin almost the entire Prattle family. And he became, by way of his own evil deeds, Mary’s object of revenge. Lord help him.