Be My Hero(2)

By: Linda Kage



While I was busy wiping out, Madam LeFrey was equally busy wracking a shell into the chamber. The distinct sound of a loading gun echoed through my ears until that was all I heard. Springing upright, I stumbled away before I'd regained my footing. If I could just make it to the corner of her house, I was sure I could get out of her view long enough to find a nice dark shadow to escape into and be able to evade the mad old woman.

But I never made it to the corner.

I stepped on something solid that made a metallic click before it gave way and sucked my foot down. Sharp, knife-like teeth bit into my ankle and trapped me. I shouted out as I collapsed. The cold, wet earth enveloped me, and I curled into a fetal ball, clutching my shin. Waves of agony screamed up my leg while the ankle trap held me prisoner.

"Pick!"

Panicked and scared, Harvey's voice shot another dose of fear into me. I'd let him follow me here tonight. If anything happened to him, it'd be on me. I glanced past the witch inching toward me, the barrel of her gun aimed between my eyes, and saw him hesitating at the edges of the bushes, wavering as if he didn't want to leave me behind but didn't want to stick around either.

"Go," I choked out, waving him away.

The kid didn't hesitate. He spun around and took off.

With him out of harm's way, I finally looked up at my captor, ready to face my fate. She had to be the ugliest woman I'd ever seen. Her frizzled gray hair stood out in a crisp silhouette with the lights from her porch shining in around her, making her look as if she'd stuck her finger in an outlet and the electrical shock had split out every end in a different direction.

The loose moo-moo she wore only emphasized how wide and stoop-shouldered she was. And her moles looked like pieces of fruit wobbling around in a JELL-O mold. I caught sight of them dotting her second chin as she stepped close enough for me to make out her wrinkled, snarled-tooth sneer.

Blood left a coppery tang in my mouth. I must've bitten my tongue or lip. But my pain receptors fired too strongly in my ankle for me to feel discomfort anywhere else.

Mud and withered leaves clung to me as I panted on the ground in front of her, glaring up with all the defiant bravado I could muster.

Shuffling closer, she pressed the end of the barrel against the center of my forehead firmly enough that it'd no doubt leave a ring-shaped indention for days—if I survived that long.

Knowing this was probably it, I closed my eyes and gritted my teeth, my nostrils flaring because I couldn't stop breathing so hard.

I was going to die. Right here. Right now.

But at least it'd be quick. I probably wouldn't feel a thing. I hoped I wouldn't feel a thing.

The sad part was a sense of relief flooded me. The pathetic excuse that was my life was finally over. I didn't care that I'd die a virgin or that Harvey, who was a year younger than I was at thirteen, had already bagged a girl before I had. After being chained and forced to watch Tristy get raped so often, I was kind of turned off to the whole subject of sex, anyway. Using my hand and sneaking peaks at nudey pictures in magazines suited me just fine.

There were other things I had wanted to try before dying, though. Driving. Getting a tattoo. Growing old enough to finally move out on my own. Or maybe finding a good family to adopt me.

Okay, damn. My life must really be flashing before my eyes, because I hadn't thought up the whole maybe-someone-will-adopt-me-and-love-me dream since I was nine. It was lame and useless to want such a thing.

"Did you throw a brick through my window?" Madam LeFrey asked, her voice thick and guttural, and nearly impossible to understand. She nudged the barrel harder against me as if she thought she didn't already have my undivided attention.

"Yes," I gritted out from between my clenched teeth. "Did you tell Tristy Mahone no one would ever love her, and she'd die a miserable death, young and alone?"

The old bat's shoulders twitched in what I assumed was her version of a shrug. "Like I know the name of some silly girl who came to me for her fortune."

"So you give that reading to everyone who comes to you?" What a complete bitch.

"I say what I see. No more. No less. If your friend got a bad reading, then your friend's a bad girl. She doesn't care for anyone."

"Doesn't care for anyone?" I repeated incredulously. Anger caused me to shove the gun out of my face so I could give her the full intensity of my glare. "Yeah, she didn't care so much that she went home after what you said and tried to kill herself. She cut her wrists open and almost bled out before someone found her. If she didn't care about anyone or anything, do you really think she would've taken your words to heart like that?"

The witch made a gurgling sound in the back of her throat as if she wasn't surprised to learn what Tristy had done, as if she felt no accountability or sympathy at all for Tristy's near-death.

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