FOREVER AFTER - SANDRA SEAMANS
Mandy Jenkins settled the telephone receiver back in its cradle. Her hands moved instinctively to the gentle swell beneath her breasts, seeking a smidgeon of comfort, but she found none.
“That was Sheriff Lockland, Baby Girl. Fool man wants to come riding in here on his big old white horse and rescue me from your daddy. He might better spend his time slaying them nasty dragons. They’re the real problem in this fool world.”
“That’s right, Baby Girl, your daddy’s coming home. Got himself out of jail early for good behavior. My now, ain’t that a laugh and a half. He couldn’t do much else ’cept be good seeing as how there ain’t no guns, women or booze up there in that prison. Only four years out of ten for what he done to us. Don’t seem fair now, does it?”
“You think I ought to let Lockland save me, Baby Girl? Maybe he could get the job done. I know he did his best four years ago. He kept me hidden away from your daddy, helped me get up on that stand and testify to what your daddy did to me that night. He gave me courage, right enough, but once your daddy stepped through those prison gates, he left me to fend for myself. Ain’t it funny how the law believes you’re safe once your shit-for-brains husband is behind bars?”
“Why didn’t I run away? Oh, I tried, right enough, but your daddy’s brothers found me and dragged me back to this house of beatings and death. Told me it was my wifely duty to be here waiting when their brother got home. So here I am. Waiting.”
“Why? Cause there ain’t nothing else left for me. Besides, every marriage needs a settling-up, a time to even out the good and the bad.”
“Am I scared? Course I am, Baby Girl, but once your daddy and me settle accounts you and I will finally have a bit of peace. We’ll be our own little family, tucked away safe from all them fire-breathing dragons. The way I see it, Baby Girl, there ain’t no price too high when your heart aches with the wanting.”
Mandy tipped her head to the side, listening to the crunch of gravel through the screen door. “White knight or dragon, Baby Girl?”
Work boots clomped across the front porch followed by the screech of the screen door.
“No polite knocking at the door, gotta be the dragon.”
Bobby Jenkins’ long legs took all of five strides to cover the length of the hall and enter the kitchen where Mandy sat waiting for him. His face purpled with anger when he caught sight of his wife’s bulging belly.
“Who the hell you been sleeping with, woman?”
“No one, dear.” She smiled sweetly, her hand caressing the front of her maternity blouse. “This is our baby. Sweet Baby Girl. We’ve been waiting for you.”
“You’d best tell me who filled your belly, cause I know for sure it wasn’t me.” Bobby moved in closer until only the table stood between them, his hand balled into a fist. “Don’t make me beat the answer out of you, woman.”
“Like you did last time? Beating me unconscious, pounding on my body until there was nothing left but a cold, dead shell, and all because you came home late and your supper was cold.”
“It didn’t stop you from testifying against me though, did it? ’Sides I had every right to expect my supper to be kept warm no matter what the hell time I showed up. And you? You ain’t got no right complaining about what I did when you were out here humping every pair of jeans that crossed your path while I was cooling my ass in a jail cell.”
“Is that what your brothers told you? Well, you can believe them if you want, but Baby Girl is yours. She always has been and she always will be. Baby Girl is our only and forever child.”
Bobby’s fist slammed into Mandy’s jaw, but she just smiled at him, a chuckle escaping with the blood that dripped down her chin.
“What are you laughing at?”
“I’m imagining the look on the Sheriff’s face when he walks in here and finds me dead.”
“You ain’t dead.”
“Oh, I expect I will be, you’ll make sure of that. You hear that, Baby Girl? Our white knight has all the lights and sirens fired up tonight. Sir Lockland, riding in, sword drawn, to rescue the poor damsel in distress.”
“You been fucking the Sheriff? Setting me up so your boyfriend can kill me?” Bobby yanked the shotgun off the rack on the wall. He slid a pair of shells into the barrels, then placed the gun against Mandy’s chest.
“I know how to take care of both of you. Any last words for your boyfriend before I kill him?”
“Tell him me and Baby Girl are gonna be all right now.”
The Sheriff ran into the house, gun drawn. Mandy’s body lay crumpled and bleeding on the kitchen linoleum, a pink fuzzy pillow peeking out from under her shirt. Bobby was staring down at his wife, a bewildered expression on his face.
“Drop the gun, Bobby.”
“She wasn’t pregnant.”
“Of course she wasn’t. You not only killed your baby girl, but any hope that Mandy could ever have another child when you beat her half to death four years ago. Losing that hope beat the life out of her more than your fists ever could. Now, drop the gun.”
“I didn’t know. None of this makes any sense. Why would she pretend she was pregnant? She knew I’d be pissed off and do something stupid.” The shotgun clattered to the floor. “That Mandy girl set me up right pretty, didn’t she?”
The Sheriff kicked the shotgun off to the side. “No, you set yourself up, Bobby. You were always a mean bastard and that was never going to change. Mandy knew that, better than me. She took the only way out she could.”
BIO: You can find Sandra's stories scattered around the internet in places like Spinetingler, PulpPusher, and The Thrilling Detective. Her scattered thoughts about writing can be found at My Little Corner.
Everybody knows - Leonard Cohen
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