“Yeah, Colby...” Came a voice from behind me as Tucker and Ahote walked down to meet us at the bottom of the cliff. “...What, precisely do you think you’re rattling off about?” Both of their eyes was glowing mighty bright after all this excitement tonight, and no matter how much you try to tell yourself that you ain’t got nothing much to worry about...
...I can’t stand here and tell you that having all three of them beginning to surround and close in on me like that didn’t give me the shivers. And not the good ones I was having when Colby and me was down here kissing.
I think it was pure instinct alone that got me to back up the way I did, trying to keep them all in focus at once. I was scared, alright??? Ain’t never met no other fella claiming to be ‘something else’ before. You’re crazy in the head if you think I’m just gonna accept that as enough proof that I can turn my back on a single one of them and not feel a fool for doing so.
“Tucker...can’t you just leave me and Deke alone to talk for a minute?”
“Not if this is what you’re finna talk about, I can’t.” He said, his brow all wrinkled up as he kept walking closer. “We ain’t got enough problems already, the three of us? We ain’t drawn enough attention to ourselves already, without you trying to take on some kind of newblood on top of it all?”
“I didn’t approach him with all that. I was just asking him a question.” Colby frowned.
“A question that leads to what? Huh? What kinda answer was you looking for?”
“Who says I was looking for any kinda answer. Can’t we just talk it out for a bit? The last thing I need is your meddling right now.”
Colby stepped right up to Colby and pushed his finger right into his chest. “You gonna mess around and get us all turned to ash. You and that soft heart of yours.”
I just took another step back away from them in the dirt, and kept quiet. I heard Ahote say something, and even though it wasn’t like any words of English that I’ve ever heard before, just the way he said it...his facial expression, his gestures, his ton of voice...I could clearly see that he was on Tucker’s side about all of this. They both moved in on Colby at the same time, and while I was still too timid to think for a single moment that I’d be able to take them on if it ever came to that...I didn’t want to leave Colby standing there all alone to fend for himself without me.
My knees was a bit wobbly, but I took a step forward, and I cleared my throat before saying out loud, “I know where I ain’t welcome. You got no cause to take it out on Colby. He didn’t bring me out here, kicking and screaming. I rode out here all on my lonesome. And I can LEAVE here on my lonesome too.” All three of them turned their heads to look at me, and I was nearly struck speechless by the idea that any one of them, or perhaps all three, could pounce right upon me right now and probably ravage me worse than any blasted coyote in these woods would have the stomach for. But I put on a brave face and attempted to puff my chest out somewhat so as to keep them guessing whether or not they needed to keep their distance from me. “I hope I get to talk to you some other time, Colby. Maybe next time without your little ‘friends’ around.”
Tucker gave me a wicked look. “Now you just hold on there, baby boy...don’t get it your mind that it’s alright for you to sass me...”
But Colby stopped him, mid sentence. “...Don’t worry, Deacon. I’m coming with you. Just to make sure you get home safe.”
“I don’t need no guardian angel.”
“I know. I do. Let’s just say that it’s for my peace of mind, alright? Can you do me that kindness?” He said with pleading eyes. “After all I spilled out at your feet tonight, I won’t be able to do nothing but worry until I know you’re back where you can rest easy. Then...maybe I can rest easy too. Deal?”
Stubborn as my mama always said I was, I felt hesitant. I should have known that Colby was too darn perfect to have me be worthy of crossing his path. Stuff like that just don’t happen on a whim. He was supposed to be my angels. Angels don’t lie, do they?
But his beauty was innocence personified. Every last part of him was an addictive song that I wish I knew the words to...if only I was experienced enough to carry the tune. And as a touch of sadness began to flood his once bright aura, expecting me to reject his company and go on about my own business...I found myself falling all over myself for him again, as if laying eyes on him for the first time.
I couldn’t help myself. I was reluctant...but fair. “I reckon that would be alright...” I said under my breath. Any other time, I would have bee overjoyed for such a blessing. But tonight? It felt like I wasn’t even sure who I was talking to anymore.
“Sheriff’s son...Psh...” Tucker grunted. “You’re making a mistake, boy! History or no history...don’t expect me and Ahote to make it with you! Ya hear?” He called out to us as we walked away. I don’t know why it made me feel bad to be draggin’ Colby down like some kind of ball and chain...but, for what it’s worth...I ain’t gonna complain none about being in his presence for a few minutes longer. Especially if I decide that I can’t...ever come back out this way ever again.
I didn’t know what to say to him, and I pulled my hand away from him when he reached for it. Causing him to hurt even more than before. But I wasn’t trying to bring him no pain, you understand? I simply...I didn’t know what to do with what I was I feeling in that moment. Hell...I barely knew what to do with what I was feeling when I first met him by the fire outside my house. And now I’m way out here in the middle of nowhere...in the dark no less...with nobody knowing where I am or who I’m with. I doubt there’s anybody to even hear me scream if Colby decided to change his mind about me.
Poor old Ms. Samson...
“I ain’t gonna bite you, Deke.” Colby muttered softly. “Can we at least get past the part where you think I’m gonna do something awful to you? At least for now...until you had some time to scratch it out in your head?”
I had to hold my breath to keep from answering him too fast, even though I could see him slightly leaning forward and waiting for me to speak. And when I forced myself to respond...the answer came out just the same as it would have had I blurted it out without thinking. “Can’t make you no promises, Colby. I...I want to...but...”
“No promises needed. Not now, not never. Alright?” He said, trying to keep me from shutting him out completely. “Listen...I’m gonna travel out your way tomorrow night. Right by your home. I’ll be looking to see if you left the fire lit for me. If you do? Then maybe I can stop by and we can...’talk’ more about all this mess. Maybe I can get you a better understanding of why I do what I do, and you can decide if that’s good enough to calm your nerves and all.”
Looking up at his eyes...those unnatural, predatory, glowing eyes...I asked him, “And if I don’t?”
I don’t think I’ve ever seen Colby so hurt. It was almost like his heart had stopped and went cold on me. But he took a deep breath, and he looked back at me, despite the misery pounding all offbeat in his chest. “If I come out, and you let the fire go black on me...I reckon I’ll just have to respect that. And I give you my word...you ain’t got to worry about me coming around no more after that.”
It was a rough choice to make. And I didn’t feel as though I had enough time to make it. A dilemma where all I could do was choose between one harsh consequence or another. But what else was I going to do? I can’’t be a part of whatever it is that makes creatures like this do what they do and then simply move on without being held accountable for it. Those townsfolk had lives. Families. Hopes and dreams. Gideon Priest and his crew had the same...
...So did my Mama...at one time.
What would I have said if it was her at the mercy of these parasites? Beautiful as Colby was...I might have found myself riding with Priest instead, looking to make someone pay for taking someone so precious away from me and my daddy. Not to mention all the ones that I didn’t even know about as of yet.
It feels like the answer should be easy...but it ain’t.
I can’t say that I can make heads or tails of this whole situation at all.
We both experienced a rather extended moment of silence as we came walking out of those woods, and we were both startled as Benny raised up on his back legs, his front hooves kicking and him pulling at that rope as if he was willing to yank that whole tree I tied him to right out of the roots if it meant getting away from the likes of this threatening monster in the dark. Animals got a deeper sense about these kinds of things.
“Easy, Benny! Easy now...” I said, trying to calm him down before he went all haywire on me. I turned my head to see Colby backing up into the shadows, apparently frightened that Benny was going to hurt him in some fashion. But I ain’t never seen Benny hurt anybody before. It wasn’t nowhere near normal for him to act like this. Then again, I reckon he’s never seen a real life monster before either.
Once Colby was far enough back and Benny soothed himself a bit more...I unhitched him from the tree and led him a couple of steps further out from the woods. “I’m sorry, Deke. I s’pose some animals don’t like me too much.”
I could have said something about it, but it probably would have sounded meaner than I meant it to. So I just led him away and looked back briefly to see Colby standing there feeling helpless and alone. “I take it this is where we part ways, then?” I said.
“No.” He replied. “You go on ahead. Get home. I’ll see to you as best as I can.” I wasn’t quite sure what he meant by that, but my thoughts were a bit too tangled up to make much sense of anything right at that moment.
“I wouldn’t get too close to Benny right now, Colby. I can’t say that I’ve ever seen him this spooked before. No teling what he might do.”
“Ain’t nothing to worry about.” He said. And for a moment, it looked like he was going to move in to give me one last kiss goodbye before sending me off for the night...but it seemed like Benny wasn’t having no parts of it. I couldn’t tie him back up, but I didn’t want to let him go either, otherwise I was sure to find myself walking back home and barely getting there in time to play sleep for ten minutes before my daddy got me up for my daily chores. So we were forced to keep our distance from one another, Colby lowering his head until his night eyes, I was certain, couldn’t see nothing but the dirt beneath his feet. “Go on, now. I’ll come sniffing around tomorrow night.”
“Tomorrow night...” I repeated...wondering if I was going to feel any different then than I do right now. “Sure thing.” I said. And I took one last look at him, trying to drink up as much of his dreamlike beauty and grace as I could before hoisting myself up on Benny’s saddle...and then I rode off in the direction of home. I didn’t look back this time, though. If I had...I doubt I’d have the strength to keep riding.
The journey home seemed like it was longer than the journey to the outskirts of those woods...but I wasn’t as excited for the ride this time ‘round. I couldn’t quite tell what I was feeling. What kind of devil would feed on people that kinda way? And what did he mean that I could maybe come with him? What in blazes was that supposed to mean? Was he asking me to sell him my soul? To accompany him as some sort of killer while on the run from those who probably deserve to kill us first? Leave my people, my daddy, my uncle Buster? My best friend, Willie? And all at the drop of a hat, huh?
Don’t get me wrong...if ever there was a cherished kiss from another boy that could possibly be worth all that...Colby would come the closest. He sets my whole soul a fire without so much as a single touch, and the best parts of my spirit are willing to thank him for it, each and every time. But this seems a bit much for me to handle. I can’t see myself aligning my daily duties with somebody who’s ok with being like this. Hurting people. Killing people. My mind is going in circles, and I can’t seem to get myself right any longer.
I finally rode up to the house and was thankful to see the windows still black. It means my daddy and Uncle Buster were still conked out and probably snoring up a whirlwind without even knowing that I was gone tonight. Or at least...that’s what I was hoping for. So I hopped down off of Benny’s back and led him back into the barn where I got him from. I hope he wasn’t too sweaty from the run. I might have to spend some extra time tending to him come morning light. I petted him gently, almost as an apology for possibly making him think that I had put him in harm’s way this evening. But it was then that I noticed something off to the side of me.
I had to squint my eyes at first to make sure that I wasn’t looking at something else...but, sure enough...there was Colby, standing right outside of the fence. Eyes radiating a shade of gold like they always did on a night like this. I was sure of it once I saw his hand come up to brush some of his longish hair back and give me a nod.
How in God’s name was that boy able to keep stride with a horse on a run, carrying me back to the stables like this???
He made sure to stay far enough away to not startle any of the other animals, and then...he simply turned around to walk away without saying a single word.
He followed me. He really did keep his word and made sure that I got home safe and sund, even if he didn’t want me to know about it. How can someone so sweet and so special frighten me to the level of having to fight the urge to run away from him whenever he’s near? It hardly makes a lick of sense at all.
I was able to creep into the house without waking anybody up, and I got to my bed to lay down, my face illuminated by whatever moonlight was able to penetrate the glass of my bedroom window. My breath was short, almost as if locked in a panic no matter what I did to calm it down. I thought about the coyotes, and the cliff, and the outlaws appearing in our town to search for Colby and his friends...and it made me feel so uneasy to know that there was nothing that I could do about it. Any of it. I thought about the townsfolk and how they demanded someone get caught and were forced to swing for what they did to Ms. Samson and a bunch of others...and how I agreed with them. All of them. There has to be some sort of law in this town. Some level of justice. How can civilized people survive and move on without it. Am I right?
But when I kissed him...
...When I kissed Colby’s tender lips and felt his gentle hand take a hold of mine...I mean...that ain’t the touch of a monster. I felt wrong, even guilty for laying such an unforgivable set of sins on his shoulders. Am I corrupted, somehow? Am I not seeing straight?
Even now...I can feel myself getting hard and tight under the covers as I think back to what it was like to have him in my mouth. To have my stiffness in his. Feeling the shakes and the spasms that I thought I could only create for myself at that level of intensity. Colby didn’t just please me tonight...he freed me. He made everything that I ever felt strange about or doubted about myself feel ok. It was like a whole new part of my life had been blossomed and opened wide like Spring flower...and I wasn’t ready for it. I don’t regret it...not at all. But I can’t say that I was ready.
The taste of him...mouthwatering. The scent...magical. Skin so smooth that you feel like your hand was going to slide right off of him if you didn’t treat it with care. Almost like it would tear under my rough working hands. And hair that felt like it was reaching out for me to touch it, run my fingers through it...legs that any gal in this town wish she could mimic if given the chance. Already, I wanted to be lost in his arms again. My life was so lonely without his embrace. Was I willing to sacrifice that? And would I hate myself for doing so later...no matter what the cost?
I reckon I could have done without the second part of our romantic evening together. That’s what haunts me more than anything. That’s what separates my rational mind from this achingly hard stalk that I’m now taking a firm grip of under the blankets. Because I feel like this is it. This is the devil, tempting the savior with a city of gold. And I want it.
I don’t think I’ve ever wanted anything more.
I wish I didn’t...but truth is truth. And I simply can’t be set free without it.