Good morning sunshine. Seriously? Avery acknowledged Curtis’ absurd greeting with a nod she hoped was chilly enough to confute the hammering in her ears and the line of sweat that trickled between her shoulder blades.
“You’re not welcome here,” she said flatly.
“Now, is that any way to greet me?” He asked, pushing himself up off the hood of his car. “Your manners have got rusty living out here in the sticks,” he said, as he circled around to his trunk and popped it open, retrieving a pair of suitcases.
“You won’t need those,” Avery said firmly. “You are not staying.”
“Aw, sunshine! Can’t we at least be civil to each other? After all we’ve been through?”
She cocked him a brow. “I’m well aware of all we’ve been through, Curtis. Which is why you need to leave.”
“Oh, I don’t think so!” He paused and looked around, taking in the shiny new steel fence, the stack of hay in her barn and a disgruntled Baby, who was trotting the fence line, snorting loudly. “Hey!” he cried, “You setting yourself up as some kind of cattle farmer here?”
Avery stood in stony silence on the edge of the porch. Curtis tutted and made his way up the steps to face her. “I never would have thought it,” he sneered, “Avery Jackson: A farmgirl! But then, I guess the guys down at the feed lot haven’t seen you in fishnets and a miniskirt yet, have they?” He leered at her now, breathing beer all over her, then added in a conspiratorial whisper, “After all, we both know that’s where your true talents lie!”
Gagging slightly, Avery ignored his disgusting insult. “Get off my porch, Curtis. You’re drunk. And you are trespassing.”
Curtis found this funny. “Trespassing is such a harsh word, Avery. Let’s just call it – visiting, shall we? Or maybe revisiting! We got a lot to talk about. Like – what you’ve spent all my money on besides a cow and some new fencing.”
She flushed. “You’re delusional! I had a job, remember? It was MY money – MY car!”
“Ha!” he barked. “I won that Charger -”
“My name was on the title,” Avery said, refusing to back away, ” Guess that made it mine, now didn’t it?”
His smile was tight and humorless. Curtis shouldered past her and set his suitcases on the porch, but Avery moved to place herself between him and her door. No way was she letting him into her house! She held her hands to his chest and tried to push him back, an effort that only gained her a tired laugh. “Don’t worry, honey,” he said with wolfish amiability, “I’ll sleep on the couch. After all -” his hand shot up and closed on her throat, “- why sleep with the cow when her milk’s gone sour?”
“Curtis, leave. Just… go!” She pleaded. “There’s no money! There’s nothing here for you – nothing!”
His body slammed into hers, pinning her to the door. He was so close she could see the road maps of red on the yellowish white of his eyes and dilated pupils rimmed in cold blue. “Who do you think you are, huh?” he gritted, tightening his hand ever so slightly and grinning as she tried in vain to tear his fingers away. “Standing here like some hayseed cowgirl and looking at me like I’m something you just wiped off your boot – Who do you think you are? I could snap this pretty neck like a twig!”
Avery could feel the blackness beginning to creep in from the corners of her vision and her feet struggled to stay on the floor. “I – I don’t know,” she choked, “I – I’m sorry, Curtis -”
“Think you’re too good for me? Huh? Huh?”
“No!” she cried, absurdly fascinated by the immediate vibrancy of the sky above and the exaggerated bird song piercing her consciousness.
“Nobody knows you like I do, sunshine,” he said, squeezing marginally tighter, heedless of the bloody crescents she was raking into the skin of his hands.
“I know -” Avery thought she heard Baby bellowing. She thought she heard the crack of wood splitting…
“You think you can fool anybody in that big shirt, girlie? Huh?”
“Think I don’t remember what’s under there?”
He pressed his mouth against her cheek and whispered, “Think you’re too good for me now? Huh?”
Tears coursed from her eyes as the blackness closed in. Still, she focused on the sky as it grew smaller, and the sound of barbed wire dragging on the ground. “No – no!”
Pleasure pierced through Curtis with a sharpness that was palpable. He could taste it – the memory of the last time he had placed his hands around Avery’s long, white throat. Her brown eyes, tear filled and bulging from their sockets, and a pattern of veins standing proud on her forehead and temples, a network of blue spidering up from her neck – these images had been the source of fantasy these past six months, the plague of his every moment.
In the face of Avery’s disdain, Curtis wondered why he hadn’t finished the job the first time.
But now, with her clawing and begging for mercy, Curtis knew if he didn’t stop, he would never again have this image to savor, this hot pulse coursing wickedly through him like wildfire.
Avery heard his sharp intake of breath.
And just like that, he released her.
Her feet returned to the floor at last. Gasping and with her vision full of holes and shooting stars, she felt rather than saw Curtis pull away from her slightly. He was quivering violently as his worked his belt.
Frozen with fear, Avery whispered, “Baby! ” She coughed. “Baby -”
“Oh, yeah,” groaned Curtis, “you like it this way, don’t you?”
Avery heard hoof beats and a low rumble, the deepest sound on earth, and felt the perverse urge to smile.
She was not alone. Baby was here.
Avery took a deep breath and brought up her knee.
Pain exploded in Curtis’ groin, radiating outward in a paralyzing ripple that doubled him over and nearly brought him to his knees. “You little – ” He staggered backwards off the porch, laying a stream of curses hanging in the air behind him.
He never hit the ground. Six hundred pounds of solid beef came up under him, hooking his loosened trousers on a horn and tossing him ten feet into the air.
Avery propelled herself forward on the porch and watched the horrible scene unfold. She seemed unable – and perhaps unwilling – to put a stop to it.
Baby was fast, silent and deadly, pummeling with merciless intent. The bull pursued his prey as Curtis’ pants worked their way progressively down his legs with each frenzied blow. He took a horn in his quad and another in his groin, yet still he scrambled, screaming for help, trying in vain to make his way to the corral fence and safety. By the time he made the fence, his feet had become hopelessly tangled in his pants and he was unable to climb.
Still, Baby would not stop. Working at terrifying pace, Baby battered Curtis again and again, pounding him into the fence with blow after furious blow. At last, Baby twisted his head and hooked a horn under Curtis’ rib cage. He shook the limp body loose from his horn with a last toss into the air.
By the time he landed, Curtis had stopped moving, stopped screaming.
He had stopped begging for mercy that would never come.
Through the haze of shock, she vaguely registered the County Sheriff’s car that had raced into her drive and Doc Weber’s pickup that followed closely. She heard voices and responded to questions, but all she could see was Baby with his bloody horns, panting hard in a corner of the yard.
“Baby,” she whispered, “what have we done?”
© motherhendiaries 2015, all rights reserved.