The Road Trip
Summary: A story of a young woman traveling on her own across the US, and a troubled soul with whom she is entangled, in an adventure filled with violence, rescue and love.
Meg wiped her eyes again before turning from the sprawling
California ranch nestled in the canyon. The sold sign was so final. She had shipped the few personal items she wanted back east. The house now stood empty, awaiting it’s new occupants. It didn’t seem possible that her parents were dead, this chapter of her life finished. She thought of herself as too young to need to settle her parent’s estate, but as the only child, she had done just that, deciding to sell the property and it’s furnishings and start fresh. The place would only bring sad memories of her missing family, only reinforce the void their death had caused.
Their private plane had crashed in the mountains. A phone call from their lawyer had interrupted finals of her senior year. He encouraged her to finish up, and then come home for the funeral. All arrangements had been made. It was to be a private service for the close friends and family. Now six weeks later, there was no trace of Brenda and George Rowlands, their home or belongings. Just a small cemetery plot and a stone marking, and a very lonely daughter.
Meg had planned on spending the summer in California with them before graduate school. Now she was uncertain of her plans. Money was of no consequence. She had inherited a cool million in stocks and cash, and with the proceeds of the house, even after estate taxes, she could live comfortably on the interest of the estate alone for a long while. But to her, money was never an issue. She regretted the distance she had felt between herself and her parents of late, regretted the lack of support for her goals of writing the great American novel. To her parents, she had always been unconventional and naive. She had fallen short in her parents eyes. Now there would be no opportunity to prove them wrong. And worse,her courage and independence was shaken. She had no one in her life. The weight of the world was heavy on her shoulders as she stood at the front drive on that early June morning. Plans still stood for grad school. She would keep her apartment in Philadelphia. But the summer loomed ahead. She felt lost. Perhaps this was the time to embrace the solitude, find direction and meaning again. She would not make any major life decisions. Rather, she would use the summer to think, to travel, to write. And when fall came, she would know where she would head….
“I hope,” she prayed silently. She found tears again on her cheeks. “Get a grip. You’ve cried enough in the last few weeks for a life time. You always wanted to see the country, find places and things to write about. This is the time, while you are free. Free! Drifting alone. …..What ever.”
She turned and inspected the large motor home that occupied thirty three feet of the winding drive. The Holiday Rambler diesel coach was her father’s mid-life mistake. He had bought the RV to travel with the wife, see the states when he retired. Brenda had hated the ‘sardine can’, as she had called it. And after two months traveling in the pacific northwest, no matter how beautiful the scenery, she had sworn never to set foot in the RV again. She had too much missed her friends, her house, her garden. The RV was stored in the hopes she would reconsider. George had planned on retiring early in another year, and still had hopes for a cross-country road trip. The plane crash had ended everything.
Now Meg was owner of the beast, as she called it. Why not travel across the states this summer, head back east to school in the fall,? Unless she found something else more worthwhile in her travels. She would be a vagabond. She was no stranger to campgrounds and had actually enjoyed the two short trips she took with her father the year before. Not to mentions her exposure to national parks and camping from her college friends. Tents and older van campers had provided an inexpensive vacation or two with a few friends back east. She was not afraid to drive the bus. She was good with the mechanical side of setups, hookups and maintenance . She was brave in her own way, and welcomed the adventure….. a drive across the southwest, a trek into Mexico before returning to Texas and then across the southeast, up the coast to Pennsylvania. Depending on how she did, she might see the northeast and Canada. She had no firm plans except to drive. She had her computer, her e-mail, a phone hookup. There was a built-in TV, radio and every basic housekeeping function was carefully included. The queen size bed, the full bath, the dinette, the sofa,and easy chair….all were roomy for two, let alone one small blond woman.
She was ready,with maps, and campground guides. She just needed to shake the gloom that found her each morning since her parent’s death. The open road might free her. She might find happiness again. She might find companionship somewhere on the empty road. “Travel, the open road, adventure. God, I wish I could convince myself things will get better. If I can put some mileage between me and California, some distance between me and the hurt I feel in my heart. OK. Enough melodrama. Say goodbye, Gracie, and get out of here. ‘Goodbye Gracie’ She looked sadly at her childhood home one last time, before climbing the steps up into the RV, securing the door behind her. She paused to look around what was to be her new home for the next few months.
The motor home looked as she had remembered it…maybe more empty without her parent’s clutter. She still needed to stock up on food. She decided not to load up with water yet, until she was heading out into more undeveloped areas where campgrounds were sparse. She planned on keeping to established campgrounds of better than average quality, picking locations where natural beauty was abundant. Dry camping, setting up in isolated areas,….well , she might work into it. She was after all traveling alone. That might just be pushing it. But, hey, who knew, why not??? Generator, propane, water. Maybe as the summer progressed, she would be ready for that as well. And in Mexico, who knew what campgrounds were there.
She had had the RV serviced, all maintenance done, all appliances checked. The generator only had three hundred hours on it, the motor only six thousand miles, the interior looked new and with two air conditioners, a furnace, plus her modem, laptop, phone…she couldn’t imagine needing anything else. All the comforts of home, and then some.
She smiled as Misha rubbed herself against her leg. “Well, Misha, it’s you and me. How do you like your new home? Ready for adventure, open air and the smell of diesel fumes?” The small gray cat walked past her toward the litter box in the bathroom. Misha was her mother’s cat, and seemed that morning to be the only tie left linking her to her past life. The Persian cat was clean, not unfriendly, and seemed to tolerate her as well as any human.
“So…” she smiled sadly, “some company. And when I talk to myself, I’ll just pretend I’m talking to the cat. Keep my sanity….”
She sat down in the comfortable driver seat, a leather captain’s chair, checked the mirrors one last time, and turned on the motor . The sound of it’s low rumble seemed distant in the well insulated cabin. She settled her shoulders, checking the side pockets by the door for her maps and passport, travelers checks and wallet once again. She was ready for whatever the summer would bring.
The neighbors watched the RV pull out and turn up the canyon road. The Ryan’s had been friends with the Rowlands, and knew Meg was on her own, not likely ever to return to the upscale neighborhood. Mrs. Ryan waved from the front porch, but Meg didn’t see her, her eyes locked on the road ahead, her mind busy adjusting to driving the large RV.
“This will take some getting used to…..Slightly bigger than my VW beetle, eh Misha? Hey, I’m tough. I can do it, if anyone can. Isn’t that what Mom always said?” And with those words of confidence, Meg left El Bianco, heading for the interstate and new adventures.
The next few weeks passed pleasantly enough. By the fifth day, Meg had gained confidence in maneuvering the MH through traffic, in and out of towns, store parking lots, passing and lane changes. Setting up the first few nights was a bit of a chore, but once she reached a nice location, she had stayed a week. Life took on a not uncomfortable pace. She might drive five to eight hours, set up camp and settle in to cook a light meal. She would walk the campground, explore the area, or set up a comfortable lounge outside, reading until it got dark.
The people she met were a little surprised that someone so young would travel alone. She simply explained that she was taking the family MH back east. No one needed to know the truth, that she was the only family she had. Meg was not one to wish other’s sympathy. Rather, she was a good listener, making easy friends wherever she traveled, visiting
around the campfires in the early evenings, moving from one camp ground to the next. She enjoyed the camp icecream socials and occasional dances. She met retired couples and 40’s full timers, even occasional younger families with children. There was however in the lifestyle,always privacy if she sought it, or time to read or write into the early morning hours.
The western states, national parks and wide-open spaces freed her mind. The multitude of RVers, each with a unique story occupied her imagination. She found that the lifestyle, the freedom to pick up and move at the drop of a hat, appealed to her, as did the ever changing scenery.
By mid- July, she was easing into Texas. The rolling hills of the western states and the pervasive winds made her wistful. She could almost imagine the early settlers, the Indians and Mexican raiders battling for dominance. She studied the history and culture of these varied states, with easy access on the internet to more information than she could want. Perhaps the pioneering spirit she felt in the wind made her head south into Mexico. Or it was fate that pointed the RV into the wide open spaces of the dry desert. She had no desire to see the larger cities of Mexico, rather planning then on traveling in the more undeveloped regions and high dessert. She imagined scenes of charros, native indians and silver mines as she traveled toward Chihuahua and south. She speculated she might reach Durango or Matzetlan, or see the Sierra Madre mountains. But as the dry northeast of Mexico stretched around her, she began to question those travel plans.
Four more hours passed with no towns, no campgrounds, no food stops. She made up her mind then to dry camp for the night, to find a place to turn around and head back stateside. The empty land, it seemed, was too desolate, too isolated, and she was suddenly feeling vulnerable,
foolhardy and not a little worried.
“Oh well, just a little too adventurous for my own good. At least the roads aren’t too bad. I still have gas. I have plenty of water. There’s bound to be a town or two near, just off the main road. No need to get spooked. What could happen? ”
People had been friendly enough.. During the few stops she had made, she had enjoyed using her Spanish. It was just the odd looks she got from some of the locals that made her question her own sanity. “Well, dusk soon. Maybe I should just turn around now and drive back today. Texas is only five hours away. I could make El Paso by nine or ten…….stay there for the night, and then head east toward Dallas and then Arkansas. No rush. I can take my time crossing Texas, go east. I’ll head back to more familiar and secure lands….to the good old US. This place gives me the creeps. Too many bandits in the memory of time here, raiders into Texas settlements, maybe modern drug runners, if I remember reading about “the dangerous border”. What possessed me to wander down here anyway?”
Her somber thoughts were interrupted by some dust ahead. “Probably some truck crossing the dessert, off road. ” She nonetheless felt a sudden warning in the pit of her stomach. The cloud of dust seemed to move closer toward her, ever as she traveled south, looking now in earnest for a place to turn around.
“I just need smooth ground and a wide space on both sides of the road. Some not too sandy ground. Then I can back up and swing around. Shouldn’t be too hard. As long as I don’t get the wheels stuck.”
She searched the road ahead for a spot free of vegetation and rocks. Loud engines and swirling dust headed her way. For some reason, she knew she needed to keep her distance from the angry looking cloud . She picked up speed, hoping to bypass the traveling cloud, which now appeared to be a group of motorcycles moving diagonally toward her path
“Great. Now what? Why do I suddenly feel more frightened than I have ever felt before?”
She watched with growing dread as twenty cycles met the highway and spun toward her, oblivious of the potential hazard, as they raced by her, crisscrossing the highway
“What are these idiots doing? I’m going to hit one of them, if they don’t leave me some room. I can’t maneuver this thing quickly, or stop quickly.” She watched as a rider raced parallel with her, yelling and howling, getting dangerously close to her wheels and driver door. She flinched when the long haired man banged on her door, as they traveled parallel so quickly down the highway.
“Christ! What’s wrong with this crowd?”
More riders crisscrossed in front of her, making her brake nervously, and slow her speed, despite her growing need to be away from these maniacs. A loud thud on the passenger side of the RV made her jump again.
“Get away from me! ” She tried to wave them off, trying to keep in control of the situation. Two more riders kept pace with her driver’s door, banging on the door and gesturing crudely. “I don’t like any of this.” she spoke her thoughts out loud, before yelling again toward the bikers.
“Get away from the side. I should just hit the fools….” she continued, murmuring out loud. Then suddenly the bikes were moving in front of her as well, slowing down dangerously,making her brake even more. Meg eyed the riders, taking in their naked chests, dusty hair and bandanas, wild tattoos . She noticed that several of them had riffles slung across their backs. “Why am I the only traveler on this road? Only me and these bikers. I don’t like this…..”
More cycles cut in front of her. She braked wildly to slow down, the RV swerving in protest. “God Damn it!” Meg glanced at the assortment of bandits….” That’s what they are…bandits. And you are the main attraction. What do you have in here that they want? cash? jewelry? how about the whole RV? how about you yourself? Have you ever seen twenty such wild looking men….. oh my God.”
More banging made her jump again. “I won’t stop this RV. As long as I keep moving….” But she braked again even as she had these thoughts. She was suddenly going too slowly to avoid the braking bikers. Then she was stopped, unable to advance past this human roadblock. “Great……. I’ll back up out of here. I can’t even see what’s behind me.”
She shoved the gear into reverse Just then a knife sliced loudly thru the screen of a slightly opened window on the passenger side of the RV. A hand pushed the window open more. A thin woman with blond curls slide in sideways, and then rolled effortlessly to the floor, standing there grinning at her like a child.
“Well, hello there.! Aren’t you a pretty little thing!”
“You have to leave here. You have no right to just come in here and….”
The strange woman could smell and hear Meg’s fear despite her forceful words. “Now don’t get your britches in a bunch, sweetie. Things will work out.” She then walked confidently toward the driver and slapped Meg’s hand as it rested on the gear shift. “Don’t make me use this knife on more than your window screen. Be nice.”
“You had better leave. I already called for help.”
“Sure you did, sweetie.” The blond bandit eyed the cellular phone resting beside the driver’s seat. She grabbed it casually. “Did you call with this little phone? Pity there are no signals this far south. See, no service. Shouldn’t lie to me dear. I might get mad.”
“Please leave.” Meg spoke quietly, struggling to stay calm.
“You look so lonely in this big RV all by yourself. No one else here, is there, dear?”
“My husband is sleeping…”
“Now, I told you not to lie!” The blond screamed at her, her affect swinging wildly from a sick sweetness to a cold menace that sent a chill thru Meg’s heart. “I’ll just have to look. But first….” The woman moved quickly and snatched the keys out of the dash. “I need these little keys, so you won’t run off.” The intruder spun around, to eye more keys hanging by the side entrance door. “I don’t want to forget these, now, do I? Such a nice place you have here. ” She paused to wave causally to some other riders outside as she pocketed the spare keys. “Oh, we’re going to have so much fun. Let’s have a party! Do you like parties?’
“What do you want? Do you want money? I only have travelers checks…”
“You’re not in a hurry, now, are you?”
The blond sauntered back to the drives seat and eyed the nervous young driver. She reached out and gently touched her hair and cheek. Meg pulled away in revulsion at the sudden violation. “Oh, touchy, I see. We can fix that.” She smiled a little girl smile toward the driver. “You are so pretty. And so clean… We’re all so dirty from riding in this heat.:”
“Look. Take what you want…. and just leave, ok?”
“Oh, we will. Don’t worry. You’re so sweet to offer.”
` Meg could feel all the men outside watching this exchange, eyes glittering with cruelty and hunger. The landscape was eerily quiet after the wild chase, loud motors, the shouts and banging.
‘I’m so thirsty. You don’t mind if I have a little drink? I’ll just help myself. Don’t get up.” The woman walked to the refrigerator, unlocking its travel lock, and reached in for a cold beer.” I do so like American beer….nice and cold. Would you like one?”
“Suit yourself. ” She then drank a mouthful or two, and set the can in the sink. “You’re very tidy and clean. And you have a little kitty!” Misha had chosen that moment to appear in the kitchen doorway. The blond suddenly pounced on the cat, and held it up by the neck, the cat piteously howling for release, moving it’s legs wildly to get free. “Nice, kitty,kitty….”
“Let her alone!”
“Don’t tell me what to do!” She yelled,and spun toward Meg, again a wild look on her face. “The cat wants to go outside, to play with the boys. Don’t you kitty?”
“Yes, I know you do….because I’ll kill you if you stay. Outside you have a slight chance, don’t you, kitty?”
“Please, you can’t……..”
“Now, save your begging for latter, dear…..” she smiled pleasantly at Meg while she shoved the cat out the cut window screen, despite Misha’s desperate grab at the drapes and screen. She was pushed thru to drop into the red brown sand. The cat scurried franticly under the RV
“Now, where were we? No phone. And you have a computer. ” She sauntered toward the laptop on the dinette table, pulling the modem and phone hook up out and pocketing them as well. “….and no E-mail. Why dear, you’re just all alone here, with no one to call. Whatever shall we do?” She turned her eyes away from the panic stricken girl, to drain her beer can quietly. “Now, that was tasty. Makes me think of home. Some of us are from the States, just like you. Some of us are Mexicali….. But I can’t go home. The authorities don’t like me. Imagine that. But then I’m having so much fun, south of the border. You see, we govern this stretch of open space. And little girls like you just have no rights here. No rights at all. ” she continued in her singsong voice. “The locals have a problem catching us, and wouldn’t dream of disciplining us anyway. They’re afraid of us. Imagine that! Are you afraid of us dear?”
When Meg didn’t answer, the woman walked close to her again.
“Of course, you are. And you should be. But enough talk. I just love your air conditioner. But its time to get some fresh air. Pardon me.”
She reached over Meg’s shoulder and had unlocked the door before Meg realized what she had planned. Suddenly the driver door was pulled open to the shouts of the waiting bikers, and rough hands were pulling her down and outside. She dropped the three feet to the ground on her knees. The hot dessert air closed around her. She was instantly drenched with sweat, both from the heat, as well as her fear. She looked around , searching for some support or concern in the faces that ringed her. For a long moment, no one moved or spoke. She took the opportunity to stand. If she kept her cool, maybe she could talk her way out of this mess. Maybe they weren’t as bad as they looked……yeah, right.
The blond stood smiling at the crowned of men. “See what I found?” Her words broke the silent pause and the air was filled with victory cries, jeers and taunting words in English and Spanish. “Alrighty. Let’s have a party!” The blond jumped easily down into the sandy soil, and grinned at the younger woman.
A chunky man with long black hair laying in dirty tangles to his neck pushed his way thru the crowd. His skin was dark with dirt and tan. He was bare to the waist, heavily tattooed. Black filthy jeans hung low on his hips. Scuffed black boots and a silver belt completed his outfit. But his eyes were what drew Meg’s attention. They were large, as black as his hair and very cold. They frightened her soul as he casually inspected her, licking his lips and smiling a slow smile. His teeth were surprisingly white and clean, as he grinned, leering at her openly. He spit a wad of tobacco out of his mouth.
“Do you have a name?” He spoke with a slight southern accent.
When the woman didn’t answer, he grabbed her hair, pulling her head up sharply.” Do you have a name?”
“Does it matter?” Meg’s voice was flat. There really was nothing she could do to assure her freedom. While she would fight, she knew she was about to be repeatedly raped, and probably killed. ‘What a place to end my life….. in the desert of northern Mexico, alone…’ She kept her gaze levelly directed at him, however hopeless she felt.
“Well, bitch, I sure want you to know my name. And remember me…McKay….because I’m the man that is going to fuck you so hard, you’ll never be the same. And then all these other bastards can have you. Maybe, we’ll let you live a while, if you’re really good. Keep you around as a little play thing. And Jones here,” he smiled at the blond, “well, she loves to watch. Don’t you, Jones?”
“Let me go first, and you can watch me, McKay. ” She smiled back at him with a wink. “After all, I found her.”
“No. Black’s not here, and I’m fucking sick of taking left overs. This bitch is mine. You can have her when I’m done.”
The apparent leader of the bandits yanked the young woman’s red blond hair again. “Now, ” he smiled cruelly at her again ” say ‘please fuck me’….”
“Go to hell.”
A large hand slapped her face, jarring her roughly. She didn’t fall only because her hair was still in his tight grasp.
“Please fuck me! Say it.” he growled.
“Fuck yourself. Let me go.”
He suddenly grinned at the leering men around him. “Now, she’s just asking for it…. right here and right now.”
He shoved her to the ground violently. She fell backwards, despite her best attempts, but still struggled to stand and run. But then he was on top of her, his face pressed to hers, his cruel mouth crushing hers. She swung wildly at him. He ignored her arms, ripping her blouse open, pushing up her bra to expose her breast to his teeth and hands.
When she screamed out, he slapped her across the face a second time, and growled as he demanded her to be silent. She scratched his face, drawing blood.
“Hold the little bitch!” He hissed to another man who watched with a hungry intensity, fondling himself in anticipation.
“Come on, McKay. We all want a piece of ass. ….before Ricki gets here.”
“Black doesn’t need to know any of this. I’m so sick of Black’s rules, Black’s ways. To hell with Black. I’m going to fuck this little bitch. Hold her arms!”
Another man, darker, smaller, gripped her arms in callused hands, and pulled them harshly over her head, leaning over her face to lick her cheek and mouth. “Oh, baby, you’re going to suck my dick for me, now aren’t you?”
The first man, McKay, moved up to straddle the blonds hips, preventing her from rolling away, even as she struggled harder against her captors. He glare down at her with such coldness and smiled. “Yes, puta, you’ll earn it, if we keep you alive.”
He pulled a large knife from his boot, and played with the blade, rolling it in his hands before moving quickly to slice her bra away and cut her leather belt. He let the blade caress the suddenly still woman’s skin, the cold metal touching her breasts and nipples and then mark a path lower down her abdomen. Meg watched the blade with silent horror.
“Shall I mark you with my knife, or my teeth?” he laughed at her fear, and drove the knife suddenly deep into the dry dirt beside her head. He used his hands then to grope her breasts, pinch her nipples, until the girl groaned in pain. “Yes, baby, I like how you sound. Now how do you taste?”
The men around him egged him on, as he bit and kissed her breasts roughly. He slid lower onto her thighs as he pushed his own pants down. His penis sprang out. “You are mine, puta…” he growled, opening her jeans, jerking them down. Meg tried to roll away, struggled to kick at him, screaming out with terror and frustration. He was oblivious to the sudden quiet as he readied to rape her.
“What a sweet fuck, McKay.”
“Fuck her before Black gets here.”
“Fuck yes!” His hips were moving, buttock clenched. He was going to fill her with his first violent shove when he sensed a face near his own.
“You have an ugly ass, McKay.”
“What the shit….” A cold knife blade was suddenly slide between his cheeks into the hard sand, barely missing his testicles.
“I hope my knife doesn’t slip, McKay.” A tall dusty black haired woman purred at him, as she knelt beside him in the sand. A seething anger in her ice blue eyes, a sneer on her lips, had quieted the gathered men. Her eyes turned momentarily toward the woman on the ground. The empty coldness of her gaze stilled Meg as well. Then those eyes moved to the Indian holding Meg’s arms. He dropped his grip and moved reflexively away to stand a few feet back. Meg didn’t move. The beast attempting to rape her was momentarily stunned before his face became an angry mask. The silence was broken by insane laugher from the wild blond, standing and watching the scene with appreciation. Then McKay snarled.
“I’ll kill you for this, Black.”
“I don’t think you’re in a position to argue, McKay. And you do have an ugly ass. Get up and don’t let me see you again.”
McKay suddenly lunged for his knife and spun around to slash at the tall woman. She had already moved away, and stood smiling a chilling smile at the angry half naked man.
“Come to think of it, McKay, you have an ugly little prick. Matches your ass perfectly.”
The large man stood up, pulling his jeans slowly around himself. His eyes never left the woman’s face. Then he stood across from her with a challenging smile on his face.
“Let’s finish this, Black. I’m sick of you. It’s my turn . I’ll kill you quick. I have a new play thing to break in. And I’m really pissed you interrupted me.”
“Couldn’t keep it up, McKay?”
McKay just growled, his hatred for this woman radiating off him in waves.
“Oh goody. I love a fight,” the wild eyed blond called out to no one in particular. Meg looked at her, mesmerized by the insane gleam in her eyes. Suddenly Meg realized she was free. She pulled her pants up, bunching her shirt together, and crawled a few feet away from McKay. She was still in the middle of the large circle of watchers, but now all eyes were on the two knife fighters, where the tall woman just smiled at the cold look on McKay’s face as he moved around her, his knife griped in his right hand.
“I’m going to slice you up, Black, before I kill you. Cut out those eyes before I cut out your heart.”
“You just keep thinking that.”
“You came in here and took over. These are my men, Black. Isn’t that right?” The men’s grumbles made McKay smile in victory. “Maybe we’ll all get a piece of you too, Black, before I put you down.”
“Now that’s a really frightening thought. You needed help to handle the little blond. How are you going to handle me? But please try, McKay. I’m so god damned bored . Have a go at me. I’m oh so ready for a good fuck.”
Meg watched in shocked silence at the battle before her. Someone would die here in the desert. Maybe more than one. She herself was still a victim, given only a momentary reprieve. The man was obviously stronger, more violent. He towered over the woman. His hatred for her was palpable. Yet there was something about this fearless woman that made her wonder who was the more capable killer, The woman they called Black was a killer, without a doubt, gazing at McKay with disdain and competency. And how would the crowd react to the winner? she wondered, looking nervously around the circle of men, trying to see into their hearts. It was then that she saw a rifle moving to fire, pointing at the woman. She cried out without thinking…”.Behind you!.”
The woman spun around and flung her knife into the chest of another Indian who had held the rifle. The man crumpled to the ground. The rifle fired out into the brush. Before Meg could turn her eyes back to the battle before her, McKay had lunged at the now unarmed woman, slicing her arm before she spun around, kicking him in the throat with
an almost effortless thrust of her booted foot. She flew around, landing easily, to watch him gasp for air. McKay turned red , then purple, unable to move air thru his crushed windpipe. The woman calmly walked close, and knelt before the struggling man as he clutched at his throat. She took the knife out of his hand. With cool detachment she watched him turn a darker blue, his eyes bulging.
“You really shouldn’t have cut me. I’m really annoyed. Now you’ll die slowly. ” She stood up. Blood flowed down her bare arm toward her fingers. She turned her attention to the gathered men. “Now, who else would like to try?” She sensed movement off to the side, near the RV. McKay’s knife was flung toward the MH, into the throat of another man who had begun to move toward her in challenge.
“Oh, you are so good, Ricki!” The blond bandit smiled, clapping her hands. “I just love a good killing. Better than a good rape, don’t you think? Don’t you think so dear?” The insane woman smiled happily at Meg as she hesitantly rose, still clutching her shirt together to cover her naked torso and breasts.
Black ignored them both. She moved to retrieve her blade from the chest of the rifleman. She casually pulled off his kerchief and tied it around her wound to slow the blood. “Get my other knife for me. Leave them for the buzzards. Bring the motor home. We’ll find some use for it.”
Meg hesitantly took a step toward the woman who had saved her.
“Thank you.” she spoke softly, somewhat dazed, still in shock. “I….”
Ricki’s cold blue eyes that were directed at her again effectively silenced her without words.
“You don’t think I killed him to save you, do you little girl ? I killed the idiot because he broke my rules. No one touches you until I’m thru with you.” Black heard the sharp intake of breath the young woman couldn’t silence, and watched her a moment as a look of intense gratitude and relief was replaced by shocked and stunned surprise. Black continued finally. “You see, I always have first rights on what we find. He knew better. And those other two were just stupid to side with a loser. I can’t stand stupid people. They make me want to just kill them. Don’t you be stupid.” Black locked eyes with the young woman, then casually let her eyes move down her slim body in proprietary inspection. “Come with me.”
Ricki turned, walking away from the gang, and straddled a Harley. For a moment, Meg was going to run. But she knew she really had no choice. She had no keys for the RV. She could not outrun the bikers. She was outnumbered, surrounded by violent outlaws. She had been fought over and three men were dead in the desert sand, at the hands of this dark haired woman.
Meg looked up from her thoughts to find the woman watching her silently from the bike. Meg took in the sight of tangled unkempt hair, an angular face of surprising beauty, ice blue eyes, muscled shoulders and arms, tan , dirty and bloody. The woman was the picture of an outlaw, with no friends, with nothing to loose, all anger and power and energy, sitting there in absolute stillness. Only her hair moved in the hot desert wind. Meg couldn’t stop the shiver that moved thru her, despite the heat and blinding glare of the sand. She knew with certainty that this powerful woman controlled her . She wanted to cry, at the injustice of her life, at the hopelessness that claimed her again after a fleeting moment of safety. Her face was swollen from McKay’s violence, her lip bleeding. Her back was scraped from the rocky soil. His bites had hurt her breasts, her nipples tender.
‘But I’m alive. I wasn’t actually raped. Well, practically raped. But he’s dead. She did save me. Maybe I’ll get out of this. Not right now, but I will get out of this. I did want material for the great american novel’…she thought sarcastically…… ‘I can learn from this. She’ll keep me safe. How can I think that? She just told me that she would use me first and then turn me over to the men. She’ll keep me safe. I know it. Go on. She’s waiting’ Meg stood up taller, tieing her shirt around her waist and walked toward Black. Meg thought she saw a flicker of something in those blue eyes as she decided to follow her order. Meg almost imagined a nod of recognition, of acknowledgment, before the bandit turned away.
“Get on behind me. Hold on.”
Meg had barely positioned herself behind the tall woman before the bike shot forward. Meg clutched instinctively at the woman to keep herself from falling off. She couldn’t get a secure grip on her shirt or jeans, and wrapped her arms instead around the woman, pulling herself in the process up against her back. Meg thought she heard a low voice above the engine, a simple “Good.” before the bike surged down the highway, leaving the bandits and her RV rapidly behind
After thirty minutes on the highway, the bike was maneuvered off onto a dirt road, cutting across the desert toward low raising hills. The rough roadway was uneven, sand covered. The bike hardly slowed, sending up billions of sand particles in its wake. Meg watched the world go by in a blur, sheltered as she was behind the taller woman. She tried not to let her thoughts wander, or to remember the violence, the brutality that had crashed down upon her, But she couldn’t stem the silent tears that fell from her eyes, that fell toward her mouth and dampened the bandit’s shirt. She didn’t dare move her arms from around the woman’s waist to wipe them away.
“So she has a damp shirt…..I can’t help it.” Meg licked the tears by her lips. She sniffled, trying to regain a detached mood. Her self-pity was interrupted as the bike slowed, and sandy dirt became rock and gravel. The bike traveled more slowly onto a higher plateau. Then the bike stopped. Meg looked over Black’s shoulder to see a few native houses, a few older trailers, all scattered near by, around a generator and a well. A hungry looking black dog ran over to the bike, and snarled at the young stranger.
“Bastard! Get away!” Black growled at the dog. The dog moved a few feet back to watch the woman, its tail and head lowered.
Ricki swung off the bike, heading without talking toward a small white stucco and stone cottage. She kicked open the brown door and disappeared inside, leaving Meg sitting on the Harley. She wiped her face with the back of her hand, and stood shakily. No one was about. The dog approached her again, more out of curiosity than treat. Meg let the dog near, turning her hands out for the dog’s inspection. Meg finally patted the dog’s head, then rubbed its ears before walking after Black. She passed by the well and paused. She noticed a bucket perched on the wall nearby. It was filled with water that smelled all right. A metal ladle
sat in it. She took the ladle, rinsing her hands. She took more of the water, throwing it on her face and neck. She opened her shirt and tried to wash off the touch of that man. She threw water on her breasts, washing them with her hand. She washed her face once more.
‘God. I need a bathe to wash away the memory. As if…..’
She stood a moment . The hot wind did dry her quickly. She retied her shirt and followed where Black had disappeared into the small house.
Meg stood in its doorway, letting her eyes adjust to the dim interior. She could make out a wooden table, two chairs, a hard dirt floor, a fireplace. There was a wooden rocking chair beside it, and a bed against the far wall. There were no sheets, just a straw filled mattress on it. The single room was dark, as the latticed shutters were closed. The room smelled stale. The fireplace was filled with old ashes. The table was cluttered with soiled dishes, empty tequila bottles, empty cans. A few pants and shirts were hanging on pegs on the wall. There was an unlit bulb hanging from a ceiling rafter, a black wire leading out near the roof toward the generator outside. Flies buzzed around the table where Black stood, sniffing at an opened can. Meg watched her shrug, and dip a spoon into a cold can of beans which she then emptied, dropping it back to the table. She picked up a bottle of tequilas and drank from it. She swirled the 1/3 empty bottle before looking over at the redhead silhouetted in the doorway.
“Welcome to Hell.,” she mumbled, before moving away to sit on the rocker. She sipped the bottle slowly then, staring at the fireplace. The black dog eased around Meg to lay down beside the woman whose hand dropped automatically to the dog’s head and neck which she scratched.
Meg just looked around the small room again. A sudden idea that came to her made her laugh, despite the desperate situation she found herself in. Black turned puzzled eyes to her.
:”What could possible be funny in your life at the moment? ” she asked her in a flat low voice.
“I was just thinking. You don’t need me as a bed warmer. You need me as a maid.”
Black tipped the bottle up and drained it, welcoming the burn of the tequila in her stomach, and the haze it afforded her mind.
“Or as a wife…..” Black sneered at the younger woman, eyebrows raised in challenge.
“Oh….” Meg forgot how to smile for a moment, under the silent and amused scrutiny of the bandit. She paused, swallowing deliberately, before breaking eye contact with Black. She looked around the room again, then back to the bandit. “Well, anyway…… you need to wash that knife wound.” Meg spoke with sudden sincerity. “Do you have any more tequila?”
“There should be some more in one of those bottles. Drink up. I always found it helps put things in perspective.” She watched as Meg approached the table, and fingered the three or four bottles cautiously.
The last bottle she touched had some liquor in it. She smelled it, surprised at the potent aroma that made her eyes water. She looked around for a cloth. Finding none, she approached Black and knelt at her side.
“What are you doing?” Black spoke in a low snarl.
“Looking after your wound.”
“Of course I am.”
Black watched in amazed silence as Meg untied the bandanna, poured tequila on it, and moved to wash the long gash.
“Waste of good tequila. ….” Black mumbled, already feeling dazed from all the alcohol she had consumed. Meg washed the wound, surprised that Black didn’t flinch as the clotted blood and dirt were washed away. When the wound looked reasonably clean, Meg poured a good quarter cup of tequila directly into the wound. That made the woman wince.
Meg looked up at her apologetically. “At least it won’t get infected. You probably need stitches….. And you need a bath.” she added more softly.
Black snorted at the little woman’s audacity.
“You saying I smell?”
“Yes,” Meg smiled almost shyly and apologetically at her.
“Christ. I should have let McKay have you.”
The girl studied the woman’s face and eyes seriously before responding.
“Somehow I think you need me more.” she spoke softly, then stood and walked toward the table again.
“Give me the rest of the tequila.”
“And you drink too much.”
“What is your name?” Black demanded with a snarl.
Meg answered without turning around. “My name is Meg Rowlands. I’m twenty three. I just got a BA in Literature from the University of Pennsylvania. I’m enrolled in a doctorate program for the fall. I just buried my parents. I have a really bad headache. And you still drink too much. If you want the bottle of tequila, you’ll have to get it yourself.” She
paused before continuing, thinking to herself just how much she was really pushing it. “I’m going to get some water and wash these dishes.” She heard the bandit grunt behind her in surprise.
Meg had noticed an enamel pan and soap on a built in shelf below the window. Now she retrieved the pan and went outside to the well. She noticed a can outside as well, filled with garbage, it’s lid half off, attracting a swarm of flies. She at least had a goal right then, something to distract her mind from the insanity that gripped her. She had no idea why she wanted to help this strange woman, but she did. She had watched her kill three men, drink half a bottle of tequila. She smelled. She was a criminal of some sort, surrounded with violent killers, rapists and a blond female that frightened her as much as the men did. And yet she felt strangely safe with this woman. Maybe it was the loneliness she sensed in her eyes as she drank for the tequila that drew her to her. Or just out of gratitude for saving her so effortlessly and ruthlessly. Whatever it was, Meg would help her somehow, then get her RV and go back to the States. She just didn’t know how.
“Well, first things first. Get this dump cleaned up….”
Meg entered the house again with some sort of order to her thoughts. She found Black still sitting in the rocker, still idly petting the black dog, lost in thought. She smiled silently that the tequila bottle still stood on the table. She went on to add soap to the enamel basin, soaking the silverware and mugs . She carried out the empty bottles and cans to the garbage can. She opened two shuttered windows to allow some light in before the day faded, airing out the stale room. She found an chamber pot by the bed, ripe to be emptied. She took that outside as well, walking behind the house into the low brush to dump it. She rinsed it before returning it beside the bed. She found a chest against the wall, and inside a porcelain wash basin and folded linen, towels , castile soap and lower down, sheets and a cotton throw. She filled the basin with clean water. She made up the bed, flipping the mattress and fluffing it She found a corner cupboard into which she placed the remaining bottle of tequila, finding there a few other food stuffs. She opened a can of dog food, and placed it on the floor. The dog came over and quickly began to eat.
‘Well, not hopeless, ‘ she thought and finished the few dishes, stacking them on the shelf. She turned around to find Black watching her with a puzzled and amused expression.
Meg smiled, and shrugged. “Doesn’t it look better?”
Black just nodded silently.
“I….. need to wash…. to get him off me.”
Black nodded again.
“Before the others come back.” Meg added softly, her momentary bravado leaving as quickly as it had come.
“No one comes into this house but me.”
“But still, someone might see me.”
“Close the shutters, if you’re worried. But then, every one has already seen you.”
Meg was stilled by the statement made so coldly. “Is this funny to you?” Meg snapped curtly. “I hope you at least get some enjoyment out of all this. I guess I’m worth a good laugh, eh?”
She couldn’t help the tears that came to her eyes.
“It’s not funny.” Black spoke quietly.
“I….don’t know what will happen to me…”
“You’re going to wash. You smell.”
Meg smiled through her tears, despite herself. “No, he smelled, and so do you.”
“So save me some soap. I forgot I had any.”
“I could tell.”
“You know, Meg Rowlands, I think you like to live dangerously. Don’t get in the habit of insulting me., or disobeying me.” There was a serious undertone to Black’s comments, despite her level voice.
“Well, Ricki Black, don’t get in the habit of expecting me to do the expected. Where’s my RV?”
“You mean my RV.” Black snarled at her. “It will be along.”
“You are a robber.”
“In the oldest tradition.”
“And a gang leader. And a killer.”
“In self defense, this time.”
“I know. And I do thank you.”
“Don’t thank me. At the moment, you are my captive, without your possessions, without the means to escape, stranded in the high desert of northern Mexico.’
“But then again, I’m alive.” Meg spoke with her chin up. “I haven’t been violated. Your house is clean. And my headache feels better. And I think I like you for some reason. And I’ve only been here an hour. I’ll figure something out.”
Black shook her head, surprised again by the girl. “Are you going to stand there and talk? Or are you going to wash?”
“Are you going to watch?”
“Then again, you’ve seen everything.”
“I can do this.” Meg mumbled to herself, making the tall woman laugh suddenly.
“Do you always talk to yourself? Maybe killing those three idiots was worth it after all. I haven’t laughed in a long time.”
“And don’t forget the clean bed,” Meg added, turning stiffly away from Black, removing her blouse. She started to wash quickly.
“Or my chatty companion.” Black deadpanned.
“You just got lucky, I guess.”
“Maybe I did,” she added with a suddenly sultry tone, as Meg stepped out of her jeans to wash her apex and thighs. She rinsed without responding. She didn’t dare say anything…not the way she felt under the woman’s scrutiny. Meg wouldn’t tell her how her heart was racing, how warm she suddenly felt, how uncertain she was about everything, as she stood naked before this strange woman.
“I wish I had a change of clothes. I can still smell him on these.”
“You have clothes in the MH.”
Meg heard Black stand and walk behind her.
“Leave them off until it gets here…… or borrow something of mine. There on the wall.”
Meg could sense the woman standing close behind her. Black moved her blond hair off her bare shoulder. Meg shivered at the unexpected contact.
“Give me the soap.”
“What?” Meg asked in a strained voice.
“The soap. Your back is all sand and dirt and scratches.”
“Oh.” Silently Meg complied. She watched Black wet her hands, felt her lather her back and shoulder gently, careful of the obvious scratches and cuts from the rough soil. Then handfuls of water were dropped across her back, the water cascading down her buttock and thighs. For a long moment, Black didn’t move. Meg felt her breath on her neck, the heat of her body behind her. Then Meg stepped away, to dry herself with a towel she had found. “How’s your arm?”
“I’m going… to borrow a shirt.” She spoke up with more confidence than she felt.
“The one on the end is clean.”
Meg kept her back turned all the while, until she was clothed in the harsh cotton shirt which she buttoned with trembling fingers. ‘Get a grip here, Meg. She won’t hurt you. And how in the world do you know that?’
Meg turned around to find the tall woman watching her still, her expression unreadable. “The soap is all yours, I could get you some fresh water.”
The young blond stepped around the bandit to sit at the table.
“You don’t have any aspirin, do you?”
“No. Just tequila..The universal cure. You know where it is, since you put it away.”
Meg watched her nervously. “I don’t think it will help my headache.”
She spoke more to herself than Black as the woman moved to the basin, removing her soiled T-shirt.
“You never know, until you try it. You might like it.”
Somehow Meg knew the woman was talking about more than the tequila. Meg watched her shed her jeans and boots and stand in the dim light. The silence of the room was broken only by the sound of water moving in the basin, the rubbing of Black’s hands along her own flesh.
Meg was stunned by the beauty before her, however unkempt and wild. Black’s shoulders were wide, her back muscled, her waist slim. A tattoo of oriental design covered one shoulder and part of her back diagonally. Black’s legs were so long and melted smoothly into a firm flat buttock. She knew she should not look, but she could not help but watch her. Meg had never seen such a beautiful body, tall and graceful, with obvious strength. When Black opened her legs to wash, Meg finally turned away, embarrassed at what she had been doing. The dog suddenly seemed an object worthy of her interest.
Black finished, rinsing her legs, drying herself in the same towel Meg had used. She could smell the perfume the young woman had worn on the towel. She turned casually to observe the blond who kept her eyes now demurely turned away. “Not very clean, but it will have to do.”
“There is a shower in the MH. And I have some nice shampoo.”
The silence stretched too long again. Meg knew the woman had walked toward her, and stood near her chair. She was suddenly speechless, tense, her heart pounding in her ears ’Oh God.’, she thought, ‘now what? What does she want with me? Why do I feel like a mouse about to be pounced on by the cat? I need to say something. Act like it’s an everyday thing to have a beautiful woman naked before you, staring at you. Act normally, and she will…..right.’
“How…..how long have you lived here?” Meg glanced up, trying to ignore the expanse of skin before her. She decided to just watch
Black’s face, but realized it was a mistake the instant she met Black’s eyes with her own. The woman’s mouth was turned in a half smile, amused, patient, but her eyes were too intense, riveting, smoldering with hunger and desire.
“How long? Since the former owner died unexpectedly.”
Meg swallowed nervously, her mouth much too dry. “You know.”
Black continued in a sultry voice. “normally by now, I would have drunk tequila until I passed out. And here I am, sober, clean. How are you going to entertain me for the evening?” As she spoke, Black dropped the towel on the nearby table and moved ever close to the young woman, now frozen in her gaze like a deer in headlights. “You’ve cleaned, aired out, washed and tidied this shit hole. You’ve tended my wound, cleaned yourself, changed clothes, fed the dog, even chatted. What else can you possibly do, except…” Black paused to reach out and touch Meg’s bruised check and lips gently, then finger her shirt collar, “except what I brought you here to do.”
Meg took a deep breath, trying to calm herself, to prevent the tears that filled her eyes again. She looked away.
“I …I don’t know what you mean.”
Black touched her cheek again, wiping a tear away. “Yes, you do.”
Black turned her chin up gently, again holding her gaze. She felt the young woman tremble at her touch. “You’re a beautiful, educated woman. Certainly the concept is not unfamiliar to you.”
“Can’t or won’t?”
Meg did not answer.
“Come here.” Black’s voice was husky.
Meg stood up slowly, barely managing to keep her knees locked. She again averted her eyes only to have Black cup her face gently with both hands and turn her face back to look at her own. Meg couldn’t move as Black’s face neared her own. Her lips brushed hers so gently. Meg opened her eyes at the delicate caress, the warmth that flooded her, the comfort she felt as Black’s hand moved to stroke her hair.
“I won’t hurt you, Meg.” she whispered. She bent closer to brush lips again with the young student, letting her tongue taste her soft lips. She felt Meg’s lips open slightly under her gentle assault. Stepping close, Ricki pulled the slim body toward her own, just touching her. Her kiss grew more insistent, as she let her hand touch Meg’s neck and back with feather light caresses before she stepped away. She could see surprise, uncertainly, curiosity, perhaps ever pleasure, in the green eyes that met her own, but no fear.
The moment was interrupted by distant rumbling cycles. Meg suddenly tensed, and the strange emotions she had felt at Black’s nearness were lost in the waves of horror and revulsion that filled her.
“Oh God.” She breathed out involuntarily.
“Hardly.” Black smiled coldly. Meg watched as the almost gentle woman standing before her transformed into the warrior from the desert.
“The children are back.” She sneered at her own attempt at humor. Meg reeled away, backing up toward the fireplace, tripping over the dog that whined and moved away. The mutt sensed the blond’s fear and barked, pacing in front of her.
Black laughed sarcastically. “Seems you have a guard dog.” She turned away to pull on her soiled clothes and boots. She looked up from her position on the kitchen chair, stomping her foot into her boot heal. “Stay here.”
“Like I’m going out there.”
“Don’t think you’re much better off in here with me.” Black added almost bitterly “At least you know what they want with you.”
Meg heard bitterness and self contempt in those few words. She instinctively stepped toward Black as she stood ready to greet the gang. Meg touched her arm hesitantly.
“And what do you want with me, Ricki Black?” Meg asked, troubled by this strange woman to whom she somehow felt drawn.
Black met her open gaze a long moment, before turning away.
“God damned if I know.” She spoke her thoughts out loud, puzzled by her own feelings toward the young woman, surprised that she felt anything at all but her usual sexual yearnings. There was something about this girl, something that made her want to know her, please her. She shook her head in disgust . She walked outside into the darkening daylight to watch riders and cycles circle noisily, then park haphazardly in the clearing. The MH followed more slowly, rocking irregularly on the stony hilly road. Finally Jones emerged smiling from the RV, followed by a young Caucasian, who seemed almost like a teenager with an unshaven face and long brown hair.
Black called out to her with a cold angry edge to her voice.
“Took you fucking long enough.”
“Good to see you too, Ricki. But it’s a long story. We had to drink the beer we found. And then the boys fought over who would get McKay’s bike. That was so much fun. I won. Then Johnny and I
had to try out the bed. You’ll just love it. Some of the boys decided to head into town to find their own women. A rape is so stimulating, don’t you think? Do you like my new clothes? Just a perfect fit.! I haven’t seen designer jeans since New Orleans. And you know what her perfume smells like. I didn’t think you’d mind, Ricki,” she added petulantly, getting no response from Black at her long speech.
“None of her things will fit you anyway. Maybe you just missed me? Or have you been entertaining? Oh, look, Johnny, she even washed her face. Or was her cunt just that wet?” She winked and smiled a saucy smile toward the black haired woman, sauntering casually toward her. “You always did get my juices flowing, Ricki.”
She suddenly leaned into Black,and gave her a sloppily open mouthed kiss on her lips, licking her face. “I just had to see what she tastes like. I can’t wait.” She grinned seductively at Black, putting on a show for the lounging bikers. She whispered into Black’s ear…” Why Ricki, what have you been into, if not her cunt? You disappoint me.” Then she slapped Ricki’s arm, strolling back toward the boy . “Come on, Johnny. I’m so horny. Ricki doesn’t want to share. That little girl’s just too cute, all weepy and battered. Makes me want to have my pussy eaten too. ” She pulled the boy back toward the RV.
“Stay out of the MH,” Black growled after her. Jones turned and stared back, her eyes suddenly dangerous and hard.
“Don’t be greedy, Black. You can’t have all the fun.” She turned away and headed again toward the RV’s open door.
“I don’t like to repeat myself, Rachel.” Black spoke in a low menacing voice. The blond turned around and grinned at Black. “Oh I just love it when you say my name like that. All right, dear. I can play house later. Come on, Johnny. We’ll go to my place. We don’t want to make Ricki mad again. Someone else might get killed.”
“Don’t fuck with me, Jones.”
“Not unless you ask nicely, Ricki. See you…..” Her insane laughter filled the square. The other riders had disappeared as well, vanishing into houses and trailers, half drunk and stumbling as some were.
“Yes Ricki?” The blond turned around to study the tall woman with cold hatred in her brown eyes, so in contrast to the singsong lit of her voice.
“Did you leave any bikes by the bodies?”
“No. We moved them into the hills. We have to retrieve them in the morning. You know I’m not sloppy. We wouldn’t want any one to think we were killers, would we? Or that some of us enjoy killing. Just don’t let yourself forget it, dear. But then we all have our little pasts, don’t we, Ricki?”
She disappeared into another stone and stucco house, pulling the boy after her, laughing conspiratorially with him before kissing him on the mouth, and kicking the door shut.
The square was quiet again. The air was filled with settling dust. Black could hear occasional laughter or talk behind closed doors. The dog came out to stand beside her.
“Fuck!” She cursed to herself. “Like I could forget my pathetic life. I can’t drink enough.” She sensed the student behind her in the doorway. How much had she heard? It didn’t matter. They were all so pathetic. She spun around as the girl touched her arm. “You might get yourself killed doing that.”
Meg studied the woman’s face, filled with anger and self loathing.
“Sorry. Didn’t mean to startle you. Quite a crew . ” She spoke her thoughts out loud, amazed and horrified by the strange assortment of humanity assembled together.
Black had no reply. She shrugged, then added, intending to insult.
“Not like your usual country club set.”
The girt took no offense. “No. And I don’t think I could dream up these characters, if I tried.”
“Just don’t turn your back to any of them.”
“You either.” Meg added softly. “Are you hungry?” she asked in afterthought
“Why are you being so nice?”
“God damn if I know.” Meg added, smiling up at the bewildered bandit, hoping for a smile in return. Her wish was granted, as a half smile appeared on Black’s face, softening her eyes for a moment.
“You must be nuts.”
“Must be. Come on. I have real food in there. And some clean clothes. I’ll give you your shirt back.”
Meg walked hesitantly across to the MH and waited in the doorway until she saw Black follow . She looked around at the odd village, feeling eyes watching her. The blond bandit they called Jones stood in the doorway of her house, dressed only in a long shirt partly open, staring at her with angry malice. Meg looked away, feeling a sudden chill from that hard glare.
She returned her attention to the MH and climbed in. The food would spoil if the propane switch wasn’t set. It wasn’t She moved to the refrigerator which stood partly jar. Some cupboards were open, drawers riffled through. She set about tidying up the kitchen, cooling the refrigerator, putting food stuff back into cabinets. There were a few beer cans around. She could see into the bedroom. The bed had been tossed, her clothes thrown in loose piles.
Black stood and watched her put order back into the mess.
“You’re a tidy little thing.”
Meg smiled over her shoulder at the woman. “It gives me the illusion of control over my life.” Black snorted. It felt food to laugh at the surprising humor of the young woman. “Have a seat.” Meg smiled back.
“Are you hungry?”
“I could eat.” Black spoke in a low rumble.
“I guess anything I cook will be better than cold beans and tequila.”
When Black didn’t comment, Meg looked up to see a sullen glare.
“I was only kidding. Inside joke. I’m a terrible cook.”
“Now you tell me,” Black deadpanned again.
Meg smiled. “That’s better.” she thought. “”She’s trying.”
“How about something American? Like hamburgers and chips, milk and applesauce. And Oreos.”
“You know, little chocolate cookies with white filling. A nice sugar rush. ”
“Sure. Whatever. Haven’t thought about a real meal in a while.”
Black sat on the sofa and looked around almost guiltily at the life of this young woman that had been so disrupted.
“Let me flip the generator on. Wonder where she put the keys?”
Black suddenly tensed. “Don’t get any ideas.” she growled.
“Um… you need the keys to run the generator. I was going to put on the air conditioners, maybe the radio. Pretend you just stopped by for dinner.” Black just glared at her. “Crazy, I guess. Still the air conditioner would be nice. It’s hot in here with no windows open.”
“I’m trying to pretend everything is fine, and maybe everything will be.”
“It won’t help.” Black spoke from her place in the small living room area.
“I do know that….. I…” Meg twirled her hair nervously. “What a mess.
Well, I’m still going to make supper. I’m hungry. Before the food spoils.”
She then busied herself with dishes and pans, cooking the burgers, serving up the fruit. When things were almost done, she spoke up.
“I’m going in the back to get some clothes, pick up in there. Food will be ready in a few minutes.” She looked up to see Black with her head back on the sofa, eyes closed. “Black?” she spoke softly. “She’s sleeping.
She looks almost peaceful sitting there, and …beautiful. I’ll let her rest.”
She turned the burgers to warm and walked to the bathroom, then the small sleeping area. She took in the scattered clothes and shoes, toiletries spread around. ‘Christmas in July….’ she thought. ‘Wonder what’s missing? Does it really matter?’ She folded her clothes away, hanging up some items, rearranging her brush and personal things. ‘They have been on the bed. The bedspread can be washed. The linen’s still clean. I’ll……oh God. I can’t do this anymore.’ She sank down to sit on the bed, holding her head in her hands, closing her eyes. ‘I’m so scared. Terrified.’ She could not stop the tears that came again. ‘Why is this happening to me? Will I ever have my life back? How could my world fall apart so completely?…..first my parents and now this. Hopeless doesn’t describe how I feel right now.’ She gave in to the despair that beckoned her. ‘What did I ever do to warrant this shit? Ugh.’ She just cried.
When she looked up, Black was standing in the hallway, watching her. “The food doesn’t smell that bad.”
“How long have you been standing there? I thought you were sleeping.” Meg wiped her face hurriedly and stood up.
“Come on. I’ll serve.” Black continued as if nothing were wrong, that she had not recognized the familiar desolation the girl’s gentle eyes.
“You don’t have to ….”
“We bandits don’t stand on formality. I want to. So sit down.”
Black growled, but without any real menace.
“Yes, mother.” Meg smirked, feeling better at the kind gesture so unexpectedly offered.
Black laughed again. “I’ve been called a lot of things, but motherly?”
“Maybe I bring out the maternal side of you.”
“You bring out all sorts of things, ” Black bantered playfully, seductively, “but believe me, there is nothing maternal in what I feel toward you.” She let her eyes hold the girl’s a little too long before tuning back to the stove, allowing the young woman to slip past and sit at the dinette table. She served up a plate on which she arranged a burger, chips and handed the girl the bottle of ketchup she had set out. She passed it to the girl with a flourish, imaging she was a waitress in the US, chewing imaginary gum. “Here you go, Hon. Milk comin’ up.”
Meg smiled despite herself again. “You’re funny.”
” Yeah, funny if you like miserable desperadoes who kill casually and fuck women.”
“Sounds like you don’t like yourself very much.” Meg added softly.
Black’s good mood vanished. “I’m going outside.”
“Please…..don’t. Have some supper. Maybe we’ll both feel better.”
“Christ! You act like you want to be my friend.”
“Maybe we both could use a friend.”
Black paused before turning away, and filling her own plate at the stove. She sat heavily down at the dinette table. Her long legs brushed with Meg’s under the table.
Meg smiled at the tall woman who looked so uncomfortable and awkward across from her.” Pays to be short in a place like this… At least if you stay in one for an extended period of time. My mother called it the sardine can.”
“It’s not really bad.” Black admitted absently, before biting into her burger. She found she was actually hungry, and had eaten the burger, chips and applesauce on her plate before she realized the girl had stood to retrieve another burger for her. Black nodded, looking up at Meg. “I guess I was hungry.”
“You must have been, if you like my cooking.”
“I didn’t say I liked it….” she smirked, but then continued. “But maybe there are a lot of things about you to like.”
“Yes?” Ricki just looked at her. “Well, I don’t think you’re half as bad as you seem to think you are, either.”
“Oh babe, you have no idea. ”
“The devil’s spawn? ” Meg gave her a brave smile, her eyes twinkling in mischief.
“Yes, that I am.” Black was suddenly too serious again, distant.
“Want to talk about it?” Meg asked, uncertain how far to go.
“Want another burger?”
“No, too much real food might kill me.”
“Wouldn’t want that to happen. Who would wash my back?”
Black shook her head again, picking up an oreo that had materialized before her. “I don’t get you.”
“I’m not hard to figure out.” Meg spoke. Absently she dissected an oreo herself, eating the icing before nibbling on the cookie. “I’m just one of those sincere, naive people who always try to do the right thing, you know, find something to like in most things. I’m too honest, try to be nice, talk too much, not to mention weepy, annoying at times, or so I’ve been told.”
“Whoever told you that has not met enough ass holes. You’re funny,prettty, sweet. And you end up here. Just another example of how life sucks.”
“You could let me leave?” she asked, half serious.
“Is that what this is all about, to get on my good side? Because I don’t have a good side.” Black’s voice was hard.
“No. Like I said, I’m terrible naive, optimistic. And I had to ask the obvious, being sincere, and all. Could I just leave?” she repeated, now very serious. Meg knew she was begging. But she had to try.
“God damn it.! ” Black stood abruptly in anger, knocking over her glass of milk. She threw a hand towel on the table before pacing away toward the sofa.
“I’m sorry,” Meg spoke softly
“Why the fuck are you sorry ?”
“For upsetting you.”
“Why shouldn’t you upset me?”
“I told you. I like you. And I’m grateful for everything you have already done. I shouldn’t put you in any more of a spot.”
“You’re driving me crazy. Nothing is right about this.”
“Tell me about it….”
“You have to know.”
“This…..this is going to end badly. If you even survive, you’re going to be destroyed.”
“You’ll do what you can. Keep me with you as long as you can.”
“Don’t you see? I’m no better. I’m a sick fuck who doesn’t give a damn about anyone or anything. I can’t be caring for you, caring about you!” Before Meg’s eyes, Black was turning feral, hard. The walls that had been briefly lowered, showing some compassion and kindness, were suddenly very high. Before her stood the violent predator from the desert
“Let’s just cut the bullshit. You’re just a piece of ass, a quick fuck. Your little house here will be money in my pocket, or a way to run drugs. You are just a means to an end. And even better, I get the added rush I love, just in using this power I have. I do any god damn thing I want because I can. I take anything I want!”
Meg watched her silently, a snake coiled to attack. Black seemed to grow taller, more menacing as she clenched her fist repeatedly. Then she felt herself being pulled up roughly by an arm to stand before the angry woman.
“Let’s just play this hand out my way.”
The borrowed cotton shirt was suddenly ripped from her shoulders, leaving her to stand naked before Black. Meg met the angry outburst with a calmness that surprised her. “I’ll give you anything you want.” She spoke levelly at the bandit.
“You’re goddamn right you will. You have no choice.”
“Yes, I do. I won’t fight you, not if you need this.”
“Don’t! Not another word! Stop messing with my head!”
She lifted Meg up easily in her arms, storming back to the bedroom, where she threw the young woman on the bed. Before Meg could move, the naked powerful woman had her pinned down. Black hungrily explored her body with rough kisses and calloused hands, forcing her legs apart with her thigh. Meg felt only sadness in her heart for this woman who could not allow herself to feel, to care… who could only conquer, use. She lay passive under the assault, but felt herself finally drowning in the onslaught of sensations, both pain and pleasure She felt herself responding to the manipulation of her flesh, needing and wanting this woman’s hard touch. Yet at the same time, she found herself wanting to soothe, to calm this tortured soul, to give her comfort and purpose.
She used her hands, then, to touch Black’s hair and face, her back, feeling the soft skin and firm muscles beneath. She stroked the powerful arms, reaching toward the hands that inflamed her. She wanted to get thru to this woman, to show her that things did not have to be this way. She felt Black’s frantic movements against her slow slightly. Her lips and teeth became more teasing. Her actions became directed more toward sending waves of pleasure , not just taking from her. Meg was fast loosing control of her body as Ricki’s hand moved between her legs, and long fingers stroked her center, dipping into the wetness she knew coated her apex and thighs.
Before she surrendered completely, Meg needed to communicate that she felt drawn to Ricki, connected to her, despite her violence, her pain, her desperation. “Ricki….” She tried to guide Black’s head up toward her own, wanting Black’s lips and mouth to breath in everything she felt, knew and understood about life and love, want and need. “Ricki….kiss me…. please,” she spoke between raged breaths.
Her words distracted the bandit. Meg pushed her face and mouth away from her breast where she had been exacting the most powerful responses that almost made the young woman forget what it was she had to do. Black’s face neared her own, and Meg, with the gentlest of pressure, held Ricki’s face, looking into her lust filled eyes with a kindness and acceptance that startled Ricki. Black stopped moving against the girl’s thigh, allowing the girl to bring her lips to her own. The kiss Meg gave her was gentle, warm, healing, as soft full lips met her own.. Then Meg kissed her checks, and eyes, not in passion, but again with tenderness.
“Why….why are you doing this? ” Ricki asked in a strangled voice, looking into the girl’s eyes, so open and vulnerable.
“Can I just hold you a moment?” the girl whispered.
Ricki continued to search her eyes and face for the answer to a question she could not quite formulate. What she saw offered took away her breath and somehow her anger. She let Meg guide her head back down to her shoulder and breast, and cradle her head gently, touching her tangled sweaty hair almost reverently. Black could hear and feel the girl’s heart beating rapidly under her ear. She smelled the delicate
scent of the girls skin, and lost herself in the softness, the beauty, the acceptance and need the girl so unexpectedly revealed to her.
“What… what are you doing to me, Meg Rowlands?”
“Sssh, just for a minute.” Meg whispered, letting her thin fingers caress Black’s temples and face, her hair, her neck, stroking gently the tense back again that still rose rapidly in deep ragged breaths.
It was just so unexpected, the tenderness and affection the girl surrounded her with…. Black was overwhelmed. She could feel years of hatred and cynicism shrink She was overcome with sadness and regret for what she had become. Then she was crying, crying on the girl’s naked chest and breast.
“Sssh……Ricki It’s all right. It’s all right. ” The girl spoke softly, just holding the bandit, encircling her shaking shoulders.
“You’re not real. Meg, I was trying to rape you!”
“Make love to me instead, Ricki.”
The girl guided Black’s face to her own again, gently kissing away her tears, turning to Ricki’s lips and mouth, giving of herself, her affection and concern, feeding Ricki’s haunted soul with kisses, like food to the hungry. Ricki could only respond in kind, tasting the goodness and beauty in wonder. Then there were only two women lost in gentle exploration, sweet surrender. Ricki felt herself being rolled to her back.
Meg lay on her, kissing and stroking her flesh to a different kind of release, as her fingers and lips waved a gentle web around her. Their bodies moved as one, breast to breast, thighs tangled in sweet passion until both women sighed into open mouths, lost in the unexpected peace of this complete pleasure. Long moments passed before Meg rolled off and lay on her side to study this amazing and beautiful woman that had captured her heart and mind so easily.
Ricki opened her eyes, despite the tears which filled them again.
“Hey…..” Meg smiled tenderly at her as Ricki struggled to gain control of her emotions. “Remind me to be careful when and where I give you Oreo cookies.” She unconsciously wiped away the tears on Ricki’s cheek.
“What is going on?” Ricki finally asked in quiet amazement.
“Did I not do it right?” Meg smiled again, her eyebrow raised in question. “Didn’t we just make love?”
“I don’t know.” Ricki smiled thru her tears. “I never made love before.”
“Neither did I. Make love, have sex, the whole thing… I’m glad it was you.”
“Meg, I’m so sorry. For all of this.”
“Don’t be. It was actually kind of amazing. I might need to do it again sometime soon, if you’re willing.:
“You are amazing, Meg Rowlands.”
“Does this mean we’re engaged?” Meg smiled again with a mischievous glint to her eye.
Ricki just looked at her so seriously. “Meg…..”
:”You do know I was just kidding, I hope.” Meg leaned over and kissed her cheek lightly.
“I was going to say, before I was interrupted….”
“Yes?” Meg smiled sweetly.
“Yes….. As long as you never tell anyone you saw me cry.”
“I’ll keep your secrets safe, as long you want ” Meg whispered, closing her eyes. She felt just then so safe, warm and sleepy.
“Tired?” Ricki spoke softly
“Sleep.” Ricki rolled away, and started to rise, planning on moving to the couch.
“Stay….” Meg mumbled in a sleepy voice.
Ricki laid back down. Meg moved into her arms, resting her head on Black’s shoulder and the soft swell of her breast . She slept the first restful sleep since her parents death. Ricki herself stared at the ceiling long into the night. A simple robbery and hijacking by the gang had become so complicated, bringing to the outlaw tangled problems, conflicts but a fleeting glimpse as well of life’s beauty and wonder before denied her. The girl snuggled closer in the night. Black finally let herself sleep, and dreamed of an angel come to rescue her from her special hell.
“Well, isn’t this just too sweet…” Jones singsong voice sounded loud in the RV’s bedroom.
Meg opened her one eye, and closed it with a groan. “Go away….” she mumbled sleepily.
Black opened two very wide awake angry eyes, to stare at Jones.
“Didn’t you hear? Get the hell out of here.”
“I’m jealous, Ricki.. You never slept all night with me.”
“If you ever walk in on me, again, Jones…..”
“Now, now, Ricki. The boys are getting restless. Don’t want another little mutiny, do you?”
“Why do I think you were behind the last one?”
“Who me? Would I want to hurt you, Ricki? Would I resent your authority over our little band? And you’ve known me so long. But I do have a little plan. Shall I share? I’ll share if you’ll share.” Jones took the opportunity to openly leer at Meg, and run a finger up the young student’s bare leg.
“Did I say I was done with her?”
“How about a little threesome?” Jones smiled her little girl smile. “We used to have such a good time, you, me, and any little cunt we could find.”
“You’re wasting my time, Jones. Make it quick.”
“Well…..I thought we could give the girl to the cartel, you know, as a good will gesture. And then offer to move a little more across the border, what with our Little Drug Bus here. Make us all a lot of money, and maybe take a little vacation.”
“You’re in a big hurry to get rid of her.”
“Well, Ricki, I don’t think she’s very good for you. I don’t like what I see. “, she continued petulantly. “You’re so much better when you act like the animal you are. What would the boys do, if they thought you were getting soft?”
“Let me worry about the boys. Now you get out of here before I hurt you.”
“Oooh, promises, promises. And I’m already so excited. Almost makes me just take what I want…..but I’m being patient. I can wait.”
“Careful, Jones. I thought we had an understanding.”
“All things change, Ricki. Well, Toodle Oo. I have some cycles to fetch. I wonder if the coyotes and buzzards have gotten to those bodies. Don’t you just love stark reality? Such a fragile thread holds us all to this world.” Then she was gone.
Meg lay quietly, absorbing all the ramifications of Jones’ comments. Black’s past, drug running, violence, wild sex. And just how fragile, indeed, was her brief hiatus of safety….A large part of her wanted to panic again, to scream at the horrors in the macabre life she glimpsed. Part of her wanted to just stay in Ricki’s arms, and let the whirlwind of violence and evil pass her by. But how long could Ricki protect her? And how long before she tired of her new plaything?
Black had felt the girl tense in her arms as Jones talked. ‘Stark reality’ indeed! Her thoughts raced . ‘How long can I keep the dogs at bay? No point talking about it. I’ll deal with it.’ One thing she did know…she wasn’t done with the girl. ‘I wonder if I will ever be done with her. And just how long will it take, if she stays, before she’s no different than you and Jones? Shit!’
With these thoughts, Ricki rolled off the bed. She left the bedroom without talking to the girl, visited the bathroom and paused in the living room to watch three cycles with double riders head off toward the highway. She turned her eyes to inspect the small living space. ‘Wonder what this MH is worth in cash? Sixty thousand, or so…. new three hundred thousand. Hardly worth selling.’ How many drug runs could they make into Texas, before they ran out of crooked border guards or stupid ones who wouldn’t think twice about numerous border crossings in the RV? Was it worth it to then cross over in New Mexico or Arizona, keep the girl around longer, for the summer? Lots of cash., cash for what? Tequila, drugs and sex? All of that had long since lost any real appeal. She knew she was stuck in limbo, just enjoying the danger, the rush of hijacking, drug running, violence…all just for the thrill it gave her. And the power. Power was intoxicating to her, no one making rules except herself. It all at least made her feel…..feel at least something. Maybe it was time to expand…give the cartels some competition? Or maybe it was time to just pick up and leave, find some peace and pleasure while she could, before the walls came tumbling down. Ricki couldn’t help but wonder if the girl was a way out. Yet even as she thought it, she knew there could be no second chance for her. She was beyond hope, beyond redemption.
Meg watched Black stand by the window lost in thought, tall, beautiful, indifferent to her nakedness, ‘I wish I could know what she’s thinking, what goes on behind those eyes, especially when they are so cold, like now. Why am I drawn to this woman, who is everything I’m not?’ And yet there was something between them. She had felt it the first moment their eyes met, when the wild woman hovered over her in the desert. ‘And why is what happened last night any different from McKay’s brutality?
Because I wanted it. Wanted to feel and know everything this woman could do to me. Was it because it was a woman? Or was it just this woman?’ But whatever it was, she knew she had felt more from Black’s touch that she ever thought possible.
Her thoughts were racing as she rose from bed to use the bathroom. She smelled of sex , sweat, and Black’s skin. And she liked it. Liked how she felt. Liked the sight of this powerful woman. Liked the desire that filled her, oddly familiar and welcome, as if they had been lovers before, had been reunited, reestablishing some powerful bond of mind and body between them.
‘I must be losing my mind….getting off on this hopeless, this dangerous situation, with my life suddenly as uncertain as which way the wind blows across the sand.’ And yet nothing had ever felt more right as she walked toward Black. She touched her shoulder in question. The contact was charged with almost an electric energy, further igniting in her the lust, the want that had been revealed to her from a night in this woman’s arms.
Black turned to her without speaking. Meg could see desire flare in her blue eyes. ….and was sure her own eyes reflected the same. Black moved then to grip her hair, pulling her face up, and at the same time, circled her waist, crushing her against her long torso. The kiss they shared was rough, primal, searing as Black’s tongue sought to conquer her again. She battled back until both women were breathless. Black finally pulled away, looking at her with an intensity that scorched Meg’s soul.
“I still haven’t figured you out.” Ricki spoke in a husky voice.
Meg smiled, almost drunk with the flush in her face, the warmth that filled her. She tried hard to concentrate on Ricki’s words, not the flesh under her hands. She touched Black’s swollen lips softly.
“I answer all questions freely. ”
Black hesitated. “Do you…feel this? This between us? Or have I been drinking too much tequila? Seen too much desert sun?”
“I can tell you what I feel. That every bit of commonsense I have tells me you are nothing but dangerous, that I should run as far and as fast as I can. But I don’t think I want to. I crave your touch. I need to understand you, to help you. That even though I’ve never been closer to death than now, I’ve never felt so alive as I do in your arms. There is something between us. Almost like a tangible connection that we both feel.”
“Why now? And what am I going to do with you?”
“I don’t know about tonight or tomorrow. But I was kind of hoping you’d take me back to bed. Show me again what Jones seems to be so jealous of. ”
Black’s eyebrows rose in feigned surprise. “You know, you’re terrible for a virgin.”
“You started this.” She smiled with note of challenge in her voice.
Black kissed her soundly again, letting her hands roam, gentle but certain, more possessive, sure in her ownership of this woman. Finally Meg took her hand and Black followed her to the bedroom. She paused in the messy kitchen, dishes and pots still in disarray from their meal the night before. “You never did the dishes.” She commented in passing.” I thought you liked things tidy.”
“Oh well, I’ve abandoned the illusion of control over my life. It’s in your hands now. Come to bed.”
It was early afternoon when the two showered and dressed. Ricki flopped down on the sofa.
“I think you wore me out. I must be getting old.”
“You look relaxed.” Meg smiled at her from her position standing in front of the outlaw. Ricki pulled her down onto her lap. Meg snuggled closer, her head on Ricki’s shoulder.
Black moved her cheek to rest on the blond hair. “I am. I haven’t
been able to let my guard down in a long while, living as I do, in a pit of vipers. You smell nice. ” Black mumbled, her eyes closed, absorbing as much of this woman as she could with touch and smell.
“I don’t want to move. ” Meg gave a contented sigh. A few moments passed. Meg could hear Jones outside talking and laughing. Meg moved to sit up.
“Stay.” Ricki murmured into her hair.
“Well, I just thought…maybe Jones wants to reclaim this spot in your arms.”
Ricki laughed in surprise. “Oh, Meg…you are so priceless.”
“I just thought, Jones is acting like ” a woman scorned.”
“Believe me when I say Jones and I do not have a relationship. She just likes rough sex, with anyone. And I have been very good at giving her what she wants. But all that was a long time ago.”
“I don’t think that’s what she feels.”
“We have ….a really twisted past. She has all sorts of claims on me, bu affection isn’t one of the things we’ve shared.”
Meg settled back down after looking a long moment into Ricki’s serious eyes. “Well, good, then.”
“Don’t you be getting any ideas about all this, Meg. About us.”
“I know, Ricki. And I ….hardly expect anything. I don’t know what’s going to happen from one moment to the next. But I do know what I feel. And it’s too late anyway. I already care about you. I’m not going to think about anything. I’m just going to feel. And I’m going to be good for you. You’ll see. For as long as I can.”
Ricki kissed her hair softly. “What am I going to do with you?”
“Well….” Meg looked up,again with a hint of mischief in her eyes.
“I must say, you’ve thought of some really interesting things so far…” She wiggled her eyebrows. “No wonder Jones is jealous.”
“Not jealous. I think she resents me…. maybe having a moment of peace.”
“Glad she resents me?”
“Not. Glad you found some peace. Wish I could do more. She’s a real head case, I think.”
‘Oh yeah. And gets off seeing me suffer.”
‘Why would anyone….”
“She’s right. I do deserve any pain that comes my way. And not everyone is filled with your goodness.”
“Goodness? Have you been drinking tequila again? I’m anything but. ”
“No tequila, but I do feel drunk. You pack quite a punch, little girl.”
“The feeling is mutual. I feel like I’m in a speeding car, out of control half the time you touch me. But I like it.” she added almost shyly.
“So do I, Meg Rowlands.”
“Life is so odd at times.”
Ricki smiled down at her almost sadly. “You do know you have me so messed up.”
“In a good way, I hope?”
“Most of me wants to keep you, the selfish part of me that has ruled me for so long. Just enjoy this pleasure, this comfort. But there’s a part of me I thought was dead, a part of me that wants to get you as far away from here as I can, from all this.”
“See, I did tell you that you were better than you thought.”
“I have no pretense about myself, Meg. Don’t you have.”
A moment passed in silence. “Come on. Let’s go for a ride. Anything in here you couldn’t live without?”
“Maybe my laptop, a few pieces of my mother’s jewelry, my passport, some travelers checks.”
“I can’t guarantee things won’t be taken from in here, once I’m not sitting here.”
“Go get your things. We’ll put your computer in my place.. I’ll show you a pretty canyon and falls. We can swim, cool off?”
“I’d like that. I’m not used to this heat. Must be a hundred plus.”
“You get used to it. And the desert wind. The blood thins, or else all that tequila thins it out.”
“How long have you been down here?”
Meg just looked at her quietly, patiently waiting , hoping she’d explain how or why she had ended here, why she stayed.
“You don’t want to know ” Ricki ended the conversation, reading the question in her eyes. “Go on. Get your stuff, before Jones or somebody else finds it.”
“All right.” Meg moved to the driver’s door and found her wallet and passport. She tossed the wallet to Ricki, and put the passport in her back pocket. The travelers checks were above the driver seat, in the recessed console. She moved quickly to the bedroom area, finding the few pieces of her mother’s jewelry that meant something to her….a filigree gold bracelet, her diamond ring, a necklace that had been her great grandmother’s, a gold and emerald choker. She eyed a heavy gold chain she had bought herself, the graduation present her family couldn’t buy, a sad reminder of an empty graduation ceremony. Still, the chain was heavy 14K gold. She picked it up and walked to Ricki who stood again looking out at the riders and outlaws who lounged around the returned bikes. Meg reached around her tall neck, fastening the gold chain.
“Hey, what are you doing?”
“Looks good on you.”
“A gift. I’d rather you have it than them. It’s not an heirloom or anything. I actually bought it for myself. It does look good on you.” She shrugged, with a questioning smile on her face.
Ricki looked at her a long moment. Meg couldn’t interpret the look: puzzlement, disbelief, or sadness, before Black finally turned away, exiting the MH
“I’ll take the laptop to my place. Be right back. Grab some shades.”
Meg smiled after her. ‘She didn’t take the neckless off.’ She thought happily, watching the black haired outlaw saunter toward her house, and disappear inside. She sat on the sofa thinking.. ‘I don’t know what to make of her asking me to get a few things. Maybe just to protect a few of my things, like I have a some rights in this strange little society. Whatever. But I don’t like being here alone without her. I should maybe follow her. But she did say she’d be right back. And then we’d go for a ride. Just trying to be nice, I think. Swim to cool off in this heat. It would be nice to go swimming. Wash away my troubles.’
Meg was disappointed to see Ricki exit her house, swigging from a bottle of tequila. Jones walked over to her and seemed to chat with her in an almost friendly fashion. The bottle was passed back and forth. She watched Jones finger Ricki’s new necklace, and wasn’t happy to see a smirk on Black’s face. Both women turned to look at the MH and laugh. Meg just sat quietly, feeling then again very lost, foolish and alone. Whatever happiness she had felt with Black vanished just then in light of the grim reality of her situation. She really did not know Black at all.
‘I am really so stupid. I actually thought Ricki cared for me, that the last 24 hours of intimacy were about more than just sex. Stupid, stupid. Whatever. Wonder what will happen. If Jones will have her way and sell me. Or if I’ll be passed around like….a party favor. ‘ She questioned indifferently, detached. ‘Oh well. So much for love and kindness.’ She closed her eyes, letting her head rest back on the sofa, weary, defeated, oddly disappointed. She jumped when Rick knocked of the window, startled out of her reverie. She stood up and observed the woman standing casually outside, a rifle sling over one shoulder, and her Harley leaning beside her. She could see Jones still standing at Ricki’s doorway, awaiting the upcoming exchange with interest, almost like she wasn’t sure what Black was up to. Black drained the bottle she held, then tossed it. It smashed against the water tower with a loud clatter.
Meg squared her shoulders and exited. Black watched her silently, her expression neutral. A few of the gang members yelled and catcalled as she exited the relative safety of the RV. Ricki’s neutral expression transformed into a satisfied sneer. She gestured with a crude finger in the air toward the men. Meg stood uncertainly before the woman, who now acted like a stranger to her, not the tender lover she knew.
Ricki raised an eyebrow. “Coming?”
“Sure, I guess.”
“Rather stay and play with the boys?”
“Not by choice. ”
And suddenly Ricki winked at her, letting her eyes soften into a warm invitation, and watched her patiently until a smile spread to Meg’s face. “Well?” Just then, Meg knew it would all be all right. Ricki turned and mounted her bike. With a scowl, she ordered in a no nonsense growl. “Get on. Time to Ride!”
Meg looked around once at the small village, the varied outlaws, Ricki’s small house where Jones stared, glancing once more over her shoulder at the MH around which a few men now prowled. She wanted to be away from this place, these people. And she wanted her arms and legs wrapped around their leader.
“Let’s ride,” she purred into Ricki’s ear as she folded herself against the tall woman, wrapping her arms firmly around her abdomen.
“Oh yeah!” Ricki smirked, and they disappeared in a cloud of sand and dirt.
The bike flew across dirt roadways. They seemed to be headed in a different direction from what she recalled, avoiding the highways she might have recognized. Meg forced her mind to relax and just enjoy the rush of speed, the wind, and the world flashing by her. She let herself absorb Ricki’s strength and power, losing herself in the sensation of a warm muscled back, and the long black hair pulled into a loose braid resting against her own neck as she leaned into Ricki. It was almost a surreal experience. There was no one else around. No cars or people. They rode in silence westward. Meg watched as the landscape grew more hilly. More vegetation grew in the moister region. They traveled on back roads for what seemed like three hours before the low vegetation became trees, and hills became low mountains. Meg wondered if they were approaching the Sierra Madras mountains. It was a beautiful but harsh land that was revealed to her form her perch behind Ricki.
The biker slowed finally, steering toward an even more narrow dirt road, less traveled, more remote. It was about four, as Meg tried to gauge by the position of the sun. But as the bike slowed, Meg decided the body in front of her was more interesting than the landscape. She had to explore the flesh under her hands, smiling wickedly. After hours of straddling the rumbling bike and Ricki’s hips, her new found passion stirred. She leaned close into Ricki’s neck and kissed the soft skin below her ear, nipping at her earlobe. She could feel, rather than hear, a low growl in response. She leaned closer still, and licked a path down her neck, letting one of her hands move under Black’s tank top….to brush against her breast, and squeeze a hardened nipple.
Meg loved the moan she elicited, sending a jolt to her already engorged sex. She felt wild, alive and crazy, needing this rush of sensation and pleasure, this affirmation of life amidst danger and desolation. She continued to tease Ricki’s soft neck and shoulder, and grew more adventurous. She slipped slim fingers under the edge of Ricki’s jeans. “Oh yeah!” she felt Ricki murmuring, and smiled wickedly again. “Um, let’s see how far I get.”
She moved both hands to Ricki’s belt and snap, holding tighter with her knees, opening the jeans, moving the zipper down just enough to allow passage of her fingers toward Ricki’s black curls. She moaned herself at the wetness and heat she felt. She lost herself in the sensations of this woman, knowing what she did was mad, but oh so pleasant, as her fingers caressed silken heat. Ricki opened her legs in response.
Meg left one hand buried in Ricki’s center, and moved the other slowly up her hard abdomen and chest and cupped a breast. She squeezed her harder, needing the grip for her own stability, yet as well, enjoying the firmer, harder movements of her hands and the accompanying sounds emanating from Ricki. She felt the bandit move against her hand, still managing somehow to control the racing bike.
“Harder! Oh babe, love it!”
Meg bit down on Ricki’s neck as her hand worked moist flesh. She felt Ricki arch back and her strong thighs clamp together, trapping her hand as Ricki reached orgasm. She laughed to hear her finally howl like a wild coyote. The love she felt just then was joyful, wild and so unexpected. She was amazed at the roller coaster of emotions she continued to feel around her outlaw.
It wasn’t long before Ricki slowed the bike beside an unspoiled stream that stretched before them. Mountain runoff ended in falls, emptying into a clear pool,with this creek forming the outflow toward the south. The near silence was loud when Ricki finally shut off the bike. The low gurgle of the water on rocks, the cascading falls in the distance made a peaceful contrast to the machine’s rumble..
“It’s beautiful here.” Meg spoke almost reverently as if she were in a church.
“Nice because not many know about this spot.”
“None of your gang?’
“No. Especially not them. I come here to escape sometimes. But I wanted you to see it. The water is clean, actually not too cold, but still refreshing. By the time the creek travels south, the water gets murky brown and too warm. But here, it’s perfect.”
“But you,” Ricki climbed off the bike, taking in the wind blown, sunburned face and hair of the young woman that pleased her so. She continued in a low menacing voice. “but you are crazier than me.”
Meg smiled sweetly. “Me?”
Ricki inched slowly closer toward the blond who still straddled the bike. “Remember, sweet thing, pay backs are a bitch.”
“Well, you’ll have to catch me first.” Meg scrambled off the bike, and ran toward the sparkling pool. She shed her jeans , sandals and t-shirt as she ran. Ricki just stood smiling, shaking her head as the girl jumped in the water.
“Oh, this is wonderful.” Meg sank into the cool water. It came to the level of her breasts. She dunked under, and rose slowly with her hair slicked back, her skin shinning with cascading water. She wiped her face and opened her eyes. “Yipes!” She jumped back to find Ricki standing mere inches before her, equally wet, her eyes sparkling with a dangerous glint. “You scared me!””
“Really?” Ricki purred back. She advanced slowly. Meg walked backwards, laughing at the playful woman before her.
“What?” Meg continued to back up to deeper water, stumbling occasionally on the rocky gravel.
“Careful now…” Ricki purred again, still advancing on the blond.
Then there was only the rush of water. Meg found herself propelled underwater with Ricki’s strong hands on her waist, until they both broke the surface Ricki lifted her effortlessly to sit on a flat rock on the other shore line. She stood in the waist high water, grinning up at the startled woman. Meg found herself smiling back, wiping the excess water from her face, shaking her hair back off her face. “Whew! That felt great!. After all this heat and dust, this must be paradise.” Meg smiled again, reaching across to lift a strand of black hair off Ricki’s face.
“It is nice.” Ricki floated away on her back, relaxed and cool
“That’s quite a view, there woman.”
Ricki smiled just studying the young woman. “No, I have the view.
You look like a beautiful wood nymph. Makes me want to have my way with you.”
“But I belong to another.”
“I won’t tell.” Ricki spoke in a sultry tone, floating closer.
“My lover is a dangerous outlaw.”
Ricki touched her ankles lightly, stroking her calves as she stood in the water before Meg “I can make you forget everything in your life before I met you.”
Meg closed her eyes as Ricki’s hands touched her lightly, moving up her thighs, caressing her abdomen, teasing her breasts. “You already have.” Meg sighed.
“Look at me.”
Meg opened her eyes at the unexpected request.
“I want you to watch me make love to all of you. And than when I push you beyond what you’ve known with my tongue and teeth and lips, I don’t want you to forget how this felt, how I make you feel. And when you close your eyes at night, I want you to dream of me.”
As she spoke, Ricki pushed Meg’s legs apart and stood between them, her mouth making easy contact with Meg’s breasts. Meg let wave after wave of pleasure overwhelm her as Ricki moved lower, lifting her legs to rest on her shoulders. Ricki lost herself in Meg’s wet center, cradling her cheeks in strong hands, holding her firmly against her exploring mouth.
“Oh God,…. don’t …..stop.” Meg breathed in short gasps as her world became focused only on the sweet attention drowning her in sensation, as multiple orgasms rocked her to a trembling release.
Finally Ricki kissed her way up to Meg’s parted lips and explored this reserve as well with gentle certainly. She smiled down at Meg whose eyes still were locked with her own.
“Move over.” Ricki lifted herself out of the water fully, to recline back against the heated rock. Meg settled herself against her, welcoming the strong arm the cradled her closer, as both women closed their eyes and slept under the hot Mexican sun.
Around seven, Black stirred, inhaling the sweet smell of Meg’s hair, the musky scent of arousal and desire that permeated their bodies.
“Meg. ” She touched her face gently. “Meg. Let’s go. Wake up.:
“Hey…” Meg opened her eyes but did not move, content to just look at Ricki reclining next to her.
“Come on. We have to get some supper, and then I have another stop to make.”
“It feels so good just laying here in the sun, next to you. Naked and sated.”
“You are beautiful, Meg Rowlands. ” Ricki kissed her gently, before untangling their limbs and diving gracefully into the shallow pool. She reached the opposite side and was half dressed, pulling on her jeans, before Meg slid into the water, crossing to climb out and stand a moment, dripping wet. She tried to shake of some of the moisture, and squeezed her hair out.
“Wish we had a towel.”
` “With the heat and the wind, we’ll be dry before long. Come on.”
` Meg struggled into her clothes.
“Ugh, wet jeans. ” she mumbled.
“Well, I’m glad it was me that made you so wet.”
The blond smiled impishly at Black as she waited by the cycle.
“You’re terrible. But thank you, Ricki. This is a beautiful spot. And you continue to surprise me… sensitive, gentle, giving.”
“Only with you, Meg.”
“I’m so glad to have met you, Ricki. To have you in my life. I didn’t really understand how alone I was until you touched me, folded me in your arms.” She smiled almost shyly at Ricki. “So, where are we going? I could eat some dinner.”
“There’s a town not far from here. We’ll get some supper. It will be light for a while yet. But you haven’t lived until you ride a bike with just the moon to light your way.”
“As long as I have you to hold on to.”
Soon they were both dressed and riding further along dusty roads until a small town appeared before them. Meg could see lights and hear a generator’s hum, as Ricki cut the bike off. Soft music could be heard as well coming from a cantina were tables with colorful table clothes were spaced outside, and light bulbs strung along a wire.
The two women walked over to sit at a corner table. A waitress smiled at the two Americans.
“We don’t often have tourists here.”
“Beer or wine?”
“I don’t care. And pick something good to eat as well.”
Meg watched the two women talk in rapid Spanish. The waitress waved and walked toward the kitchen. Before long, the table was filled with a spicy dip and chips, a pitcher of cold beer, an avocado salad for each of them. Meg drank too much, ate too much. She was happy for the first time in a long time, laughing and talking with this woman that completely filled her mind and senses. Finally they munched on sugar and cinnamon coated cakes, sapodillas, and drank a thick sweetened coffee.
“So, ” Ricki looked over at Meg. “Ready to move on?”
“I ate way to much. And I think I’m drunk. Are you all right to drive?”
“As you know, I have a high tolerance to liquor. I’m fine. Pleasantly full and content. You are a special person, Meg. You’ve made me smile and laugh and feel. I thought I’d lost all the nice things in life. But, before you ruin my image completely, let’s vamoose!”
Ricki left pesos on the table and waved to the waitress who smiled back at the two happy American women. “Come again.” She called after them. Meg turned back and waved, and smiled up at Ricki.
“OK. Where to now? It’s almost dark. I can see the moon rising.”
They rode slowly thru the town, heading further away into the hills.
“How can you tell where you’re going? No road signs.”
“I’ve been here before.” And with those words, she sped the bike further along, dowsing the lights. Meg’s eyes adjusted to the silver-gray landscape, holding reflexivelyly tighter to Ricki’s waist. The lights of the small town were long gone. It was hard to judge how much time passed, how much further they rode in the strange landscape. Finally, ahead of them between the hills, Meg could see another town, it’s lights forming a white glow .
Ricki slowed the bike and stopped not far from the small town. She turned halfway around, and surprised Meg with a fierce kiss that left her breathless. Then just as suddenly the bike surged ahead, racing thru narrow streets, lined by shuttered homes and small fenced yards. A few dogs barked, and ran after them, but were soon lost behind the bike . A few pedestrians waved and shouted angrily at the reckless pace of the bike traveled thru the town. Meg was puzzled as to where they were going. ‘Perhaps there’s a hotel here? It is late. We’ll never get back until the early hours of the morning. And I could sleep. I’m sure Ricki’s tired, after all that food and beer. A nice bed in a quiet room would be very welcome. Some privacy, a bath.’
The bike slowed again, and stopped on the outskirts of the town.
“Off.” Black commanded, colder and harsher than Meg had ever heard her speak.
Meg climbed off the bike, standing still, puzzled. She felt uncertainty, regret and danger emanating from Ricki’s dark form. She stood, waiting for Ricki to follow. But the outlaw sat stiffly on the bike, looking ahead at the road and the low hills ahead of them. Meg could not make out much in the distance. Perhaps a few more buildings. There was no one about.
“Where are we?” she spoke finally, uncomfortable with the strained silence that stretched between them.
Ricki turned serious and haunted eyes toward her.
“Hey, are you all right?” Meg asked. When Ricki didn’t answer, she stepped closer, touching her arm that still rested on the bike’s controls.
Ricki’s voice was strained and harsh.
“One hundred yards ahead is the border. Go before I change my mind.”
Meg tightened her grip on Ricki’s arm.
“Take your hands off me.” Meg heard a threat very clearly in her words.
She stepped back, startled, and let her arms drop to her side. Neither spoke for a long while. But after a while, all Meg could feel was gratitude, tinged with sadness and loss..
“Thank you….” Meg felt tears fill her eyes and run down her face unopposed. “Thank you, Ricki. Come with me?” she asked softly.
Ricki turned to look at the woman standing in the shadows.
“I….have enough money for both of us, Ricki. We could…”
Black pulled her roughly to her, kissing her passionately, biting her lower lip until she drew blood, gripping her arms hard enough to bruise. Then she simply shoved her away, making Meg stumble backward to land in the dirt. Ricki tossed her wallet into the dirt after her. The bike roared to life, and the outlaw vanished in a cloud of dust and gravel, taking Meg’s heart with her. Ricki didn’t hear Meg call after her…” Don’t go!” Or the softer hopeless plea.” Please, don’t leave me.”
Meg finally stood, waiting an eternity it seemed, looking down the dark road. She cried silently. When there were no more tears, she turned to look ahead at the low buildings. She patted her pocket, and found her traveler’s checks, passport. She bent to pick up her wallet. She wiped her face to partially dry her tears. She took a few deep breaths, and walked toward the border, leaving Mexico behind her. In the shadows, Black stood quietly, watching her angel walk back to freedom and out of her life, minus a computer and a MH …..’ But at least she’s safe! ‘Black thought, trying to convince herself that this was for the best. She knew what she herself wanted…this woman, more than anything. But if she stayed, Meg would be hurt beyond belief. And Ricki knew if she tried to follow the girl, her own brand of poison would still seep in to her life. She would only ruin the girl, whether in Mexico or the States. Black watched as Meg approached the border guards and spoke with both the Mexican, then the American men.
Meg could hardly focus on what she was saying. The Mexican guards looked at her like at a madwoman. Why would an American girl be walking these roads at night, no luggage, no vehicle? They ushered her thru, smelling beer and seeing her wild eyes and dirty clothes.
The American guard was more understanding, taking in the sight of the tear faced girl, at her red rimmed eyes, the desperate look on her face.
“Miss… Miss Rowlands?”” the young guard asked, looking up from her passport. “Are you all right? Do you need a doctor?”
Meg smiled sadly at the concerned man. “I….I just ran into some trouble. I’m fine. What is the closest town?”
“This is Dos Amos. Cathaway is about twenty miles away.”
“Does either town have an airport?”
“Cathaway does. Just for small planes.”
“Could they get me to Dallas or Tucson?”
“Yes. But not at this time of night.”
“I know. Is there a hotel here? Does a bus run to the airport in Catheway?”
“There’s a bus in the morning. We have a small hotel here. Not far up the road in town. Do you want a taxi?”
“No, I’ll walk. Just straight?”
“You won’t miss the town, less than a mile up the road. But you shouldn’t be walking the road alone.”
“It’s all right. ” Meg smiled kindly. “I’ll be fine. Will you call the hotel and let them know I’m coming? I need a room and a bath, and directions to the bus stop. And what ever flight information there is to get to a larger town where I can catch a plane east.”
“Sure. I know the Evans’ ,a nice older couple that run the hotel. They can get you the information you need.”
` “Thank you. You’ve been very kind.”
“Welcome home.” . Meg took back her passport and walked away with weary determination. It didn’t take long to reach the small town or find the hotel.
Mr. Evans eyed the girl with suspicion, but his wife could see sadness and defeat in the young woman’s face. “Need supper, miss?” she asked kindly.
“No. Just a bath and a bed.”
“I’m sure you have a story to tell. Are you all right?”
“Just a little down on luck. I…..parted with someone unexpectedly. I’m just a little….”
“That’s all right, dear. Don’t need a doctor or sheriff? You look a little…”
“No. No police. And I don’t need a doctor. And I do have funds.”
she smiled at Mr. Evans suspicious face. “Really. I’ll be flying out in the morning. I need a bus or taxi to the airport in the next town.”
“That’s what Frank said. I called the airport for you. There’s a commuter that flies into Dallas, leaves at noon. I’ll run you to the airport in the morning. Get a good night sleep.”
“You don’t have to. I …”
“My pleasure. You look like you could use a friend right about now.”
Meg could feel her eyes tear up again at the woman’s motherly concern. “Well, ” Meg shock her head, ” I’m beat.”
“Yes, of course. Let me show you to your room. #20. No luggage?”
“No, no luggage. Lost everything in an accident. ”
“You poor dear. Sure you don’t want a doctor?”
“No, just a room. I’m fine. ” She smiled more confidently at the woman.
“All right, but let me give you a comb and a toothbrush at least. Soap and shampoo are in the rooms.”
“Thank you for your kindness.” Meg opened the door before her, and smiled again at the woman who escorted her. “Goodnight.”
A small, rather Spartan room greeted her inspection, plaid bedspread on a full size mattress, matching drapes, and older TV, a small upholstered chair, a luggage stand. The place smelled fairly clean, of distant cigarette smoke, disinfectant and laundered sheets. Meg locked the door, closed the drapes and stripped off her clothes. She collapsed down on the bed that squeaked in protest. She lay there, her arm draped across her eyes, trying to make her mind a blank, until the chill of the air conditioner made her get up. She moved automatically to turn off the noisy machine mounted below the window. She ran a shower. She washed carefully with the hotel soap, washing her hair as well. She brushed her teeth, toweled dry her blond hair. She studied the face that greeted her in the mirror. Her eyes were still puffy from crying and seemed sadder, older than the eyes of the college graduate who had departed California a mere month ago.
‘I’m free. I should be happy. I should be grateful to Ricki for protecting me, loving me. I don’t give a damn about the MH. I don’t want to ever see it again. I could have been raped, murdered after such vile degradation. Why am I so sad? Why do I feel like my world just ended? Why do I feel only emptiness, loneliness? How can I care so much for her? Ugh…. I am so confused,’
She pulled back the covers, crawling into the starched sheets, and hugged a pillow, and curled up into a small ball, the pillow folded against her chest. She closed her eyes,willing herself to relax, talking to herself.
‘You’re ok now. You’re safe. Relax. You’re going home. You’ll be fine. Tomorrow you’ll feel better. Just get some sleep. Just close you eyes.’
Her weariness finally granted her some rest in the quiet room. Her last thoughts were of Ricki, speaking those same words to her in her deep soothing voice…..you’re ok. you’re safe now…….
The next few days went by in a blur: a ride to the airport, a commuter flight to a larger airport, then another morning and a jet to Philadelphia. Meg took a cab to her apartment. Her landlord left her in, where she retrieved her spare car and apartment keys. She was home.
She stood inside her apartment, surveying her world: a small student’s retreat with a desk and PC, shelves of college texts, novels and poems, her CD collection, an overstuffed chair and floor lamp beside a worn-out sofa. She had a small eat-in kitchen, a small bedroom with full-sized bed and dresser, prints on the walls and a weekly marked calendar, a colorful area rug. All this had been a piece of her life. And now in all its simple detail, this apartment, her diploma, were the sum of her life. Standing there, between academic programs, torn as she was from her family and her past, spinning from her time with Ricki, she never felt so alone, purposeless, desolate. ‘A small living space in a life in disarray.’ She slumped wearily onto the sofa, staring blankly ahead.
‘Time will help sort everything out,’ she told herself. Time and distance had been her goal leaving California, to ease her pain. Now she only wanted time to wash away memories. She wasn’t ready to seek out new experiences. She had to mend her wounds. She would write and think, and not seek solace from empty tequila bottles, as Ricki had done, to ease her demons. Would the embrace of some other arms ease the hollow emptiness that seemed to have seeped into her soul? But then, she didn’t really want anyone else to hold her, touch her. Instead she would record each emotion, each caress in words, to preserve this aching love she felt for the stranger that had so moved her.
Soon the summer was gone. Fall, and with it, graduate school began. Meg lived a quiet life. Her friends had noticed a difference in the girl, the absence of the usual spark in her eyes, her enthusiasm for life’s quirks.
Meg herself was almost content, as the months went by, immersed in reading, writing, teaching. She could be happy doing this for many years: the community of a university campus, the enthusiasm of the occasional student, the quiet hours to think, to write, the intellectual stimulation of bright associates, the continued source of culture, plays and concerts. She settled into her world, like into an old pair of jeans. It was only her dreams that betrayed her growing sense of belonging and purpose. After she had written prose and poetry, capturing her dark lover, she thought she would move on,. Somehow the intensity of her longing for Ricki was less. But at night, restless and troubled, she dreamt of Ricki and the hot desert wind. And hauntingly intense blue eyes, and she would wake.
Weary after too many sleepless nights, Meg knew some changes were due. She had hoped some closure would come. She had finished mourning for her family. She had ample friends with whom to do anything she chose. Even the theft of the MH had worked out in her favor. Since she had returned, she spoke to the family attorney. He had contacted the insurance company who, despite the absence of police reports, offered a settlement of 60K. That fund ws deposited in her bulging account as well. She could actually almost live on the stipend she received as a graduate assistant. Her professors and other students thought well of her. She published in the university press, and even worked feverishly to submit a novel for publication.
Still unsettled in her heart, she decided a change of address was warranted. Perhaps a new home would provide her some peace and some needed sleep. She embarked on a real-estate analysis, and within a few weeks, was lucky to have found a small house off the Main Line, on a half acre of land that was perfect for her needs. It was a good investment. By Christmas, she had moved in, and had decorated the brick and stone bungalow to her liking. She attended a few faculty parties, holiday gatherings of the other graduate students. Her life should have been gratifying, but still sleep defied her.
It was out of desperation that she finally sought some counseling.
Her friends recommended the university psychologist as a good person to work with. But Meg felt that privacy in the small academic community would be compromised. She instead contacted an independent psychologist, a woman that she had heard about from one of her lesbian friends. She needed outside eyes and a different perspective to try and balance her heart and mind.
January 3, 3 PM was her first appointment. Meg studied the small office with interest. The waiting room was comfortable, tastefully decorated. A middle-aged secretary greeted her pleasantly. At exactly 3 PM the inner door opened and a tall redheaded woman in her 30’s, dressed in black slacks and a silk blouse smiled kindly toward her, ushering her into her office. “Meg Rowlands?”
“I’m Dr. Fields. Please come in and have a seat. Would you like some tea or coffee?”
“A cup of tea would be nice.”
“I’ll buzz out for a cup for us both. While we wait, let’s get started. How can I be of service to you?”
“Well,…..” Meg smiled nervously, “I’m not sure where to start. Or if you can help me.”
“I can try. You have a problem?”
“Yes. I can’t sleep.. Or if I do, my dreams….” Meg didn’t go on.
“When did all this start?”
“Tell me what happened this summer, then.”
The next thirty minutes were filled with Meg’s reciting her experiences. She had no problem detailing her graduation, the loss of her parents, selling the family home, the RV trip across the country. She had much more difficulty with her encounter with the bandits in Mexico…the fear she felt, the brutality of the bikers. She described the attempt to rape her with a shaky voice.
Dr. Fields touched her hand softly. “Meg, have you talked about this to anyone?”
“Not really. I’m a very private person. I thought I would get over it, all in good time.”
“Were you raped by many of the bandits?”
“No. The leader arrived and stopped everything, before it actually came to……well, before i was literally raped.”
Dr. Fields could detect a change in Meg’s voice when she mentioned the leader.
“This leader….” Meg continued hesitantly
“What did the leader do?”
“Well, killed the man attempting to rape me.”
“Killed him?” Dr. Fields could not contain her surprise.
“They fought. The man attacking me had challenged the leader’s authority. Then two other men, his friends, attempted to get in the fight. In the end, the leader was only cut with a knife, on the arm, and three men were dead.”
“No wonder you can’t sleep. To see such violence first hand…. to be a victim of it. You must have been…..”
Meg continued “.as one almost violated, frightened and defeated can’t even convey all the terror of that afternoon in the desert.”
Dr. Fields waited patiently for tale to go on. Meg smiled nervously.
“This is the hard part to talk about.”
“You’re doing fine. Do you want to take a break here, and talk to me next week? We don’t have to do this all today.”
“No, I want to get over all this. I need to get on with my life.”
“Why is what happened next so hard for you to talk about?”
“What happened so far was out of my control. I simply had no choice.”
“And what happened next was your choice?”
“Yes and no.” The blond smiled nervously again, twisting her hair as she talked.
“Were you physically hurt by any of this so far?”
“Not really. Bruised some.”
“Had you other sexual encounters before this rape attempt, Meg?”
“No. Actually not.”
“So the notions of….forced intimacy, loss of control, the near violation, perhaps all have colored your reaction to sex, to relationships?” Meg didn’t answer. “How old are you, Meg?”
“And you were a virgin before the road trip?”
“Yes. One of the last few around. ” Meg joked, trying to feel less uncomfortable.
“Why was it that you were a virgin?”
“That’s an interesting question. I just never found anyone I cared to share myself with, that really excited me.”
“Did you date a lot?”
“Not a lot. I told you that I’m a very private person, quiet, not shy exactly. But I like my solitude. I could have gone out more. I preferred to be alone, or hanging with friends. ”
“Did you have a steady? A suitor you preferred?”
“Seems like I’d date a man for a while, and decline intimacy, preferring friendship.” Meg smiled. “I have a lot of would- be- lovers who have become good friends.”
“You seem like an easy person to like. Do you have anyone in your life since you came back to the States? Are you dating now?”
“No. No one.”
“Is that the problem?”
“Are you afraid of intimacy now? You’ve been through quite a ordeal.”
“No. Just no one here that interests me romantically. I’m feeling very alone these days.”
“You’ve lost your family so suddenly.”
“Well, I have a lot of friends. And a campus full of bright people. You’d think I’d find someone to love, wouldn’t you? ”
“We all spend time and effort trying to find that special someone to love.” Dr . Fields added. “It’s not always easy. And it’s not always logical, who we love or why we’re attracted to someone. One of the great mysteries, why two people are drawn together.”
“Tell me about it.” Meg added, more to herself that for the psychologist.
“Who is it, Meg, that you are drawn to?”
“That’s the problem.”
“This is hard for you to discuss.”
“It is…..too close, too private.”
“And yet you need to talk about it, to come to terms with whatever is bothering you.”
When Meg still didn’t volunteer an answer, Dr. Fields asked her another question. “Meg, who recommended me to you? Or am I just a name out of the yellow pages? There is a good councilor on campus.”
“Too close to home. My privacy issue” Meg smiled in gentle self mockery. “You were recommended to me by someone I know at school.”
“I’m not sure, really. Some one who knew your reputation.”
“Yes. A colleague of mine at school.”
“I have quite a few women patients. And I’m fairly well known with many women’s groups on campus and in town. The lesbian community here is fairly tight knit. We tend to take care of our own.”
Meg looked up, surprised at the psychologist’s words. Dr. Fields waited a few moments, sipping her tea. She studied the young graduate student, who sipped her own tea, lost in thought.
“So, tell me about the leader of the bandits, or bikers.”
“You don’t miss a beat, there Doc.”
“Are you still in contact with this leader?”
“Is that the problem?”
“I guess so.”
“You wish you were still in contact? And you dream about this person, and can’t sleep well?”
Meg nodded silently.
“So, what’s bothering you? That you miss this person? Or that you have feelings for this person and think you should not? Or that you want something you can’t have?”
“All of the above.” Meg smiled sadly, revealing her defeat.
“You are attracted to this person?”
Meg nodded. “But it’s all so pointless, Dr. Fields.
“I can’t be with Ricki.”
“The leader of pack.” Meg laughed, trying to settle her emotions.
“I think I know that song.” Dr. Fields smiled back.
Both women moved their hands to gun imaginary cycles. “Rmmm Rmmm Rmmm” they sounded simultaneously, and laughed.
“Oh, hell. ” Meg finally sighed with frustration.
“So tell me about Ricki, and why it’s pointless. Ricki is the leader of the bikers?”
“The one that saved you from being raped?”
“And killed three men in the process.”
“They weren’t killed just to defend me. Some power struggle in the group, like I said. Not a nice bunch.”
“Violent. Ruthless. Are you attracted to this Ricki because of it or despite it all?”
“I don’t know.”
“What do you feel when you think of Ricki?”
“Compassion. Forgiveness, Loneliness Need …… Desire.” She added almost with an air of challenge.
“How long were you in Mexico?”
“Only two days.”
“Ricki made quite an impact on you. Your dark avenger.”
“You could say that. Makes a good novel, don’t you think?”
“Are you working on it?”
“Actually, I am.”
“Good. Writing is the best catharsis. Or so I’ve always found.”
“What do you write about when you write about Ricki?”
“Everything I felt. Everything I wanted.”
“You were intimate with Ricki?”
“Oh yes.” Meg smiled, her voice suddenly husky.
“Did Ricki rape you?”
“That’s harder to answer. Maybe started to. But rape implies being forced, violated against one’s will.”
Dr. Fields nodded. “And you wanted this intimacy with Ricki? Is that the problem? You feel guilty that you enjoyed it?’
“Maybe. Or puzzled.” Meg continued quietly. “Was it the danger of the situation that made everything so powerful, so earth shattering? Was it the domination? Was that part of the thrill? I’ve really tried to understand myself and all that happened.”
“Many women have rape fantasies, Meg. And sometimes danger does enhance a sexual experience. If you’ve ever looked over the X-rated movie titles…..”
“I’m sure.” Meg smiled, less self-conscious as she talked more.
“So you had a powerful first sexual experience with this Ricki? And you dream about Ricki and wish the connection still existed?”
“In a nut shell, yes. I can’t seem to move on. I don’t know what else to do. I’ve buried myself in work, writing, teaching. I’ve even bought a house , filling up my life.”
“But you’ve not dated.”
“No. I don’t want anyone else.” she spoke simply
“All this happened during a very vulnerable time in your life, Meg. You had just lost your family. And Ricki is part of this very violent robbery, rape attempt. Again at your most vulnerable. The crisis, the danger, the isolation….”
Meg nodded. ” I don’t know how much of my attraction to Ricki , my response, was situational or reflected a powerful connection between us.”
“You think it was the latter.”
“I know what I felt.”
“Well, you can do two things, I think. See if you can find the same feelings with someone else.” Dr Fields smiled almost conspiratorially.
“The rush of danger, the heady thrill of intimacy….” Meg added
“Exactly. Or you can try to pursue your bandit.”
“How realistic is that?” Meg snapped. “I’ve thought about Ricki for the past ten months. I don’t know where Ricki is. And how can I even imagine a life with Ricki? We’re talking about a criminal here, a drug dealer, a killer, a thief. But it’s all I can think about.” she added in a whisper
“How did you get away?”
“The absolute irony of the situation….I didn’t want to go. I think my heart broke watching that cycle pull away. And there I was, standing in the night, alone.” Dr. Fields asked for an explanation with her eyes.
“Ricki spent the day with me, away from everyone. It was wonderful. A beautiful mountain pool and falls. We swam, made love….had dinner in a small Mexican town, laughing and talking. I spent the day with a sweet caring person, who drove me to the US border, pushed me off the bike into the dirt and rode away.”
“Why Meg? Why did Ricki do it?”
“To protect me. Before we left, Ricki told me to get a few things that I wouldn’t want to loose… from the MH. I just thought the others would steal my things while we were away. They had already riffled thru some of them. I took a few pieces of my mother’s jewelry, my papers. I never thought Ricki was going to just let me go. I was shocked, numb. And more alone than ever at the border,on that darkest of nights. ”
“You expected Ricki to keep you?”
“They were still fighting over me…..the other bikers who wanted a turn at me. …or to sell me. Sounds so bizarre to even talk about, really, in this century. Like I was just a piece of property.”
“And no one touched you but Ricki?”
“And Ricki let you go before you were hurt?”
“Because Ricki cared for you?”
“I think so. No, I know so. I know it was done out of goodness, kindness, to protect me from the bikers, the danger, maybe even from Ricki as well.”
` “The outlaw with a good heart.”
“The tragic hero, and the damsel in distress. I know,” Meg continued, smiling good naturally.” It will make a good novel. But God, I’m hurting. How can I love someone so much after two days? How can two people thrown together from such different lives….feel so much?”
“I’m not sure I have answers for you, Meg. Or know how you can separate the bond you feel for this person, from all the rest of it…the vulnerability, the danger, the domination. They’re all part of at the attraction, but how much I don’t know.”
“But I didn’t feel danger or domination with Ricki. I felt warmth and comfort, pleasure and wonder. And I wanted to give of myself….to protect, heal and soothe all Ricki’s doubts And ease the loneliness, the need….I wanted to give pleasure.”
“So, what are you going to do?”
“What can I do? Wait and hope Ricki comes to me? Go blindly searching Mexico for a criminal and expose myself again to the violence and brutality I barely escaped? Or try to replace Ricki in my heart I think if I try the latter, I’ll just go thru the motions. Maybe give myself to someone or many someone’s, trying to find what I’m missing so desperately. And maybe loose a part of myself in the process.”
“You are a bright, strong woman, Meg. This experience hasn’t hurt you. You aren’t afraid of your emotions, of your sexuality, of intimacy. You just need to find the right person again to experience love. We are all looking for that someone to fill a void, with whom we can create a home, and build a life Does it bother you that Ricki is a criminal?”
“Somehow…..not. I don’t know what past, what forces, molded Ricki. But everyone can change. Everyone deserves a second chance.”
“Does it bother you, Meg, that the person who showed you what love can be….is a woman?”
Meg looked at her a long moment without speaking. Finally she smiled, honestly impressed with the woman’s insight. ” Surprised me a little, I have to say. But no, it doesn’t bother me.”
“Must be quite a woman to head up a gang of tough bikers.”
Now Meg smiled a wicked smile. “You could say that again, tall, dark, dangerous.”
“Let me have a copy of your book.”
Meg laughed. “All right, I promise”
“You don’t need a psychologist, Meg. You know what you want. Does Ricki know where you are?’
“I think so. I told her, if she was listening.”
“So, she’ll find you, if it’s meant to be. And in the meantime, don’t be afraid to see what else there is out there. You won‘t give yourself away. You hadn’t before. Especially now that you know what the real thing feels like. Go meet some nice women. See if any of them lights that spark inside, makes you want to bed them and mother them at the same time.”
“You are terrible.” Meg smiled, “but wise and caring. I’m glad I met you. Maybe I’ll see you around.”
“It’s a small town, really. And women in the life tend to hang together, if that’s where you’re headed. You need to get out and see who is out there looking too. Don’t limit yourself. There are some good men and women around. If Ricki doesn’t come for you, you might get lucky again. Lightening can strike the same place twice. As a matter of fact, it tends to do just that more often than we realize.”
“You’re right about one thing. Meeting Ricki was like a lightening bolt.”
“Meg, I don’t intend to suggest anything you don’t want to hear. But there are places in town that do cater to the domination/submission thing, If that’s for you. You just have to know where to look.”
“No thanks. It’s the tenderness and affection I crave. And the pleasure. I don’t desire the act of submission itself. I’m too pigheaded. Even though all intimacy involves some giving away of control.”
“Do some reading about sexuality. And some reading and discussions about homosexuality. The reality of lesbian love was thrust upon you suddenly. Keep an open mind. Be sure it’s the life you want for yourself. ”
“I think its the person, more than the gender that would make the decision for me….who would attract me, who I could love. Although with all the men I’ve dated, no one came close to fueling the desire I felt for Ricki.”
“Exploration and discovery keeps life interesting. You have a bright future ahead of you, Meg. Good luck. And if you need someone to talk to, call me.”
By February, Meg seemed more at peace with herself. She slept. Her dreams were varied, less compelling. She still dreamed of Ricki, but woke rested. She had taken Dr. Fields advise, dating a few interested men. She had visited a few women’s bars, meeting some nice women. She actually went out with a few, or went out on a blind date or two. She enjoyed the companionship with the few she kissed or cuddled with. No one, however, made her burn with passion or need. Still, the loneliness, the urgency to find someone settled down. She felt more like herself, looking forward to a future in academics. She knew she would find her other half someday. She would wait and take her time.
A thousand miles away, Ricki sat watching the sunset from a jagged mountain pass. The summer and fall had changed the woman. And it had all begun when she met the blond student. She had not hesitated to stop the attack of the girl. There was no doubt that the girl was to be defended and protected. Those feelings, so compelling and raw, just like the attraction she had felt for the girl, were undeniable. And then the girls’ beauty and goodness , the tenderness so easily shown her, rocked her more than she imagined. And for the first time in six or seven years, Ricki Black stopped thinking about herself. Oh, she wanted the girl to stay, to please her. And to gratify her pride and superiority over the gang. She got off on taunting the men with her sexual allure, and the string of women who came when she whistled.
But her few days with Meg made the rest of her life seem even more empty and bleak. She let the girl go in the only way she could at the time, before she could have second thoughts, before she sank her claim too deeply into the girl’s flesh. It was hard to drive away from the startled girl, and harder still to watch from the dark roadside as the girl cried at her abandonment…. and not simply rejoice at her unexpected freedom. Meg had cared for her….the first person in so long to accept her, forgive her, love her.
And that night was the beginning. She had forced herself to watch until the girl crossed the US border before walking quietly back to her bike. She had traveled back in the early morning. It was four am when she finally pulled into the village. Her house was dark. She could hear drunken laughter coming from the brightly lit MH, its door ajar. Ricki could see food, pots and pans and clothes strewn in the small living space.
‘ ‘Jones….’ Even as she parked by her place, Jones stumbled to the doorway to observe a solitary Black enter her house.
She erupted from the MH in an angry, drunken rage. “Black! You bastard! Where is she?”
Jones caught up to her inside her doorway. Black shook her hand off in anger.
“Let me alone!.”
Jones grabbed her hair, jerking her head around to look at her.
“Where is the little blond?”
“She heard her mother calling, and had to go home.” Ricki sneered toward the outraged woman.” And what do you care what I did with her?”
“You son of a bitch ! I promised her to someone else.”
“All the more reason you can’t have her. Fuck off.”
“You are going to disappoint someone who will be very upset.”
“I don’t care. The girl is mine. I’ll do with her whatever I want.” Ricki continued to taunt the crazed blond. “You obviously took over her little house, and her clothes. So I did share, after all.” She fingered a new blouse with disgust. “Surely you can find some other little plaything, Jones.”
“Maybe we’ll play with you, Black…me and all the boys. You need to be taught some more humility.”
“I’ll be happy to kill anyone who tries.”
“You have to sleep sometime, sweetie.”
“And so do you, dear. Now leave me alone!”
“You know I want the little bitch because she means something to you, Black. And I will find her. I won’t let you be happy, when I can’t be.”
“Go to sleep, Rachel. You’re drunk. Why do I put up with this shit, for all these years?”
“You know why, Ricki. You know you are a worthless piece of scum, and that you deserve every humiliation I can give you. And I think you like to grovel in self pity as much as I like to make you suffer.”
“I’m not sure how much more of you I can take.”
“Don’t think you can run off, Ricki. You made me. I’ll kill you before I let you leave.”
“You’re not good enough.”
“Oh, I am. Ricki. Because you won’t defend yourself from me…after all, with all that guilt, you’re helpless against me.”
Black slammed the door shut, leaving Jones laughing drunkenly in the gravel square. Ricki sank onto the bed, still freshly made up by Meg.
‘Back to Hell. God, I need a drink.’
Alcohol had always been the best escape she had. If she drank enough, she just didn’t care…..where her life had taken her, that nothing had any meaning, that she was just existing….or that all the alcohol and speed she took were killing her. She fingered the gold necklace which weighed heavily against her neck. Instead of drinking, she let her thoughts drift to the blond student, and what the future might hold for her in the US, as a graduate student and author. She had money, plans, the confidence to take off alone. Black wasn’t jealous. The girl had been a much needed eye-opener to her in many ways,.especially to show her how low she herself had fallen. Her life, before the accident, seemed impossibly distant. She let her mind wander to happier times, when her life had had some worth, when Johnny was still the adoring little brother with a new wife and a bright future.
Ricki was a scholarship student at Washington University, a junior
in the athletics department, a guard for the women’s basketball team. Johnny was a sophomore in fine arts. He had met Rachel his freshman year. She was a talented acting student, the star of the theater department. She was beautiful, vibrant, wild, and in love with the tall serious young man. Johnny and Rachel were all the family Ricki had. Despite the tight finances, life was good. They shared an apartment near the French Quarters. Ricki wasn’t happy with the alcohol and drugs Rachel began to experiment with, or the theater crowd, all a little wild. She was opposed to it all, and her scholarship in athletics depended on a drug free life for herself. Johnny seemed happy, but as drugs became commonplace, grades suffered, attrition to classes became a problem. Too many arguments followed until Ricki sadly left the apartment and returned to the dorms. It was at the height of basketball season. She couldn’t put up with the sleepless nights, wild parties, and still play well. Ricki and Johnny parted with bad feelings. She couldn’t convince him of his errors, or his mistake mixing with Rachel’s friends. Or even that Rachel herself and their marriage had been a big mistake.
Without her constant nagging, things with Johnny and Rachel got worse. Johnny dropped out. Rachel’s performances started to slip. They needed money and Ricki would not provide it, only to be spent on drugs and alcohol. The rift in the family only widened, and seemed irreparable. Ricki questioned her decision to move out, to pull away, putting her own scholarship and sports ahead of family matters. But there did not seem to be any other answer. She needed to finish her senior year. Then she could turn her attention to restoring Johnny’s health and focus.
After the final game, the victory of the season, Ricki got talked into celebrating. They were the champions, after all. She was even surprised to see Johnny and Rachel at the game. They seemed genuinely happy for her. They wanted to come along to the victory party, and celebrate with her. Everyone drank too much. Ricki could see Johnny and Rachel getting stoned together as well, but in her own alcohol induced haze, she didn’t step in and interfere. But by two am, she was too tired to stay. Johnny and Rachel were so wasted, making out in the corner. It was time to go home. She ushered the two out to her car, certain she was sober enough to drive. She’d take them back to the apartment, and crash herself on the spare bed. They all needed to sleep it off.
But no one made it back. The accident happened. Johnny died, Rachel had serious head injuries, herself surprisingly unharmed, with only a concussion, strained neck and back. Johnny’s death had been so painful. And when Rachel woke up, she was never the same. She couldn’t forgive Ricki. That was bad enough, but Ricki couldn’t forgive herself. But that was not all. Rachel’s head injury caused severe frontal lobe damage, loss of inhibition, loss of sexual control, extreme mood swings, erratic behavior, violent outbursts.
Ricki tried to finish school, but there was no one else to care for Rachel. Ricki spent her time trying to control her, getting her out of one jam after another. Violent mood swings became crimes of violence, indecent behavior. Charges of prostitution followed, to support a worsening drug habit. Ricki herself succumbed to a deepening depression and desperation, as her world seemed to revolve around the increasingly bizarre existence of Rachel Jones. Rachel simply would not listen to reason. She only responded finally to equally loud and increasingly violent restraint by Ricki , whom she had grown to both hate and fear.
Recrimination, quilt, physical conflict with Rachel, desperate grief over Johnny’s death, distance from her own friends and schoolmates, increasingly brazen sexual advances from Rachel…….everything seemed to drive Ricki further into becoming a hardened cold dominating woman. She began to treat everyone with callous disregard. Alcohol helped ease her pain, and at the same time, reduced her resistance to Rachel’s sexual advances. Ricki woke one morning in May, hung over, nauseated, and tangled with a naked sister-in-law. There was then nothing left of Ricki’s self esteem. She had, after all, abandoned Johnny, when he was failing. She had managed to kill him and mangle Rachel’s mind. She had become a drunk. And finally, she took advantage of Rachel’s damaged and drugged state, and surrendered to lust, ravaging the woman she had felt a duty to care for. She felt she could not sink any lower. She had been so wrong.
Eventually with increasing criminal charges against Rachel, worsening debt, drunken binges and the abandonment of her own morality as she repeatedly enjoyed Rachel’s body, escape south to Mexico seemed the only option. That or jail for Rachel. Escape in alcohol. Escape from the US, to Mexico where she finally gave up trying to control Rachel’s violence and macabre thrill seeking. Rachel seemed to attract a strange group of followers. Ricki tagged along, and took control when things got too out of hand. Soon she assumed the authority over the violent group of bikers , thieves and drug runners., finally unable, as well, to deny her own satisfaction derived from the power and abandon, the sexual freedom. She embraced hopelessness with her weary soul. She became an outlaw. She had become finally the worthless bitch Rachel envisioned and hated and bedded with wild abandon. Ricki welcomed the fires of Hell in her own lifetime.
But now, she dropped the bottle of tequila in disgust. She wanted more than this existence. She had felt with Meg the beginning of hope, the need to change. She wanted to saver this small beginning, to stay sober and face her life in all its bleakness, and maybe find a way back. She closed her eyes and slept.
The next three days were a nightmare. Rachel accusing, condemning, inciting. Black tried to deal with her and the increasingly aroused bikers. When the local cartel arrived to complete the deal Jones had outlined, cash for the blond girl, a one ton drug run with the RV, in exchange for a larger percentage of profit for greater risk, Black had to deal with more angry threats. In the end, Rachel took off with the MH and the bikers, and Black just left. When Rachel returned, Black’s bike was gone, Meg’s laptop had been smashed against the water tower, and Black’s small house was just ashes and smoldering timber.
Ricki finally had to get away. She was three days without liquor or drugs, and at her weakest, rapidly becoming tremulous, vomiting, feverish, delirious. She had barely managed to ride into the mountains, before she could not stand, let alone ride. She slept in caves and managed to drink spring water. She ate nothing. for two days, but awoke the third day at least clear headed and with more steady hands. She found some food, game from the hills and wild berries. After a week, she was well enough to leave the caves and headed toward the silver mines to work. She lived simply. She got stronger. She stayed away from alcohol and drugs. The other miners kept their distance from the strange and troubled American who worked harder than any man there, and spoke only a few words when necessary in flawless Spanish.
As the months passed, Ricki felt her body healing. She exercised and ran, and with long days and hard work, her athletic body responded, reviving after years of neglect. Her mind cleared. Her emotions mended some as well, even though she would never forgive herself for all that had transpired.
When the new year arrived, Ricki had saved up some money, enough to get to the states. At night, she wondered about Rachel. She dreamed about Meg. She mourned her youth and lost family. Yet she was determined to move on.. There continued to be the weight of guilt on her shoulders. After all, she had abandoned Johnny. She had managed to kill him carelessly, and destroy Rachel’s fragile grip on reality, and even now chose to abandon her . With these failures still came guilt, self- condemnation. But she could not continue to spiral downward with Rachel Her presence at Rachel’s side had stopped nothing, accomplished nothing, except her own corruption and defeat. It was time to save what she could of her own life. Perhaps, she could eventually find help for Rachel, but not as she had attempted before. The task was more than she alone was capable of. Another failure, and more guilt, but there had to be more for her somewhere. She knew where she would look first, if she could find Meg. She would try to start over .
With her only possessions, a few change of clothes and some toilettes, her boots and Meg’s necklace, she packed a backpack and left the silver mines in late February. Crossing the border proved simple. She knew the routes to avoid the guards. Her passport had expired, and had been lost in some drunken binge. Once in Texas, she made her way slowly northward. She worked as a laborer in truck stops, construction sites, earning enough for her keep, enough for gas. April found her in the Carolina’s where it was warm enough to ride north to Pennsylvania in a second hand leather coat. Her skin was bronze, her hands calloused, but her mind was clear, her body strong. Whether Meg was in Philadelphia or even if she would want to see her, were unknowns. But Ricki had a destination, a place to start.
In Greenville, South Carolina she had found a bookstore, and located two books by Meg Rowlands. They kept her company in her travels. A young Meg had written a book of short stories. An older Meg had written a novel of self discovery and unexpected love in a Mexican town. Ricki cried when she read Meg’s admission of terror and hopelessness, and the unexpected description of herself, one tormented but inherently good, awakening in the young traveler a wealth of emotions, pleasures and needs. Only she and Meg knew the novel was autobiographical. She had hope that Meg would at least see her again, and perhaps understand what she wished for with her entire self.
Finally in early May, Black reached Philadelphia. The campus of the University of Pa was vibrant, crowded with students preparing for finals, spring madness, frat parties. Some would graduate and leave the structured world of academics. Others planned summer jobs or summer trips. She wandered thru the students, feeling old and worn. It seemed much longer than six years since she was a college senior. Perhaps this had been the wrong place to come. What would a bright graduate student like Meg want with her? Emotional and sexual awakenings were one thing, but a shared life, shared dreams…. What had she been thinking?
She found herself in the registrar’s office, writing down Meg’s lecture schedule. The girl taught one introduction class in English poetry and did a seminar on writing. The semester would be over in two weeks. Meg’s seminar met Tuesday and Thursday from four to six. Ricki wasn’t ever sure of the day of the week. But she got directions to Chanson Hall, an ivy covered four story building across the grass covered courtyard. It was Tuesday, a little after noon. She found a machine and got a bottled water. She walked across the quad, and lounged in the shade, where other students enjoyed the early summer sun, trying to get their tans for summer break, or read between classes. She sat down, leaning up against a tree, her pack between her knees. She let the spring air warm her. She must have fallen asleep despite the exuberant clatter and activity of the campus at midday She awoke suddenly feeling someone watching her. She remained still, scanning the area around her.
Meg crossed the quad,chatting with a fellow graduate student about final exams, teaching responsibilities, and their upcoming session with their faculty advisors. A year of graduate school was almost behind them. Meg had agreed to stay over the the summer and teach another intro course. She was just explaining how much she enjoyed teaching when she spotted a woman under a shade tree. She froze in her tracts.
“Oh my God.!”
“Meg, what’s the matter?”
“Are you all right? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“I… I just thought I saw someone I haven’t seen in ages. You go on ahead. I’ll be up in a few.”
“Do you want some company? You look like you’re about to faint.”
“No,” Meg smiled weakly to her friend Sally, in reassurance. “No. I’m fine. Just surprised……in a good way.” she added. “I’m sure it’s just a coincidence , a strong resemblance.”
Sally followed Meg’s gaze to the black haired woman resting under a tree, sleeping in the spring air.
“Who is she?’
“Someone important. But I don’t think it’s her, Sally. I’ll wait until she wakes up. I’ll sit here a few minutes. I can read some papers. ”
“OK girl, sit down before you fall down. Don’t let her out of your sight.” Sally kidded her. “I’ll go up. I have to meet Ohara at two, anyway. I have to organize my notes. Are you sure you’re ok?” Sally studied Meg a moment. Her friend hadn’t let her eyes move from the woman under the tree. “Are you sure you don’t need some company?” she asked kindly.
Meg finally gazed back to her friend.,
“Sorry. I’m….. no, I’m fine. Go on up. I could use some sun anyway. My class doesn’t start until four, and I’m already prepared.”
“You’re always prepared. All right, woman. Yell if you need me.”
“Go on with you.” Meg smiled, grateful nonetheless, for the offered support and concern.
Meg sat on a park bench twenty yards away from the black haired woman who still had not stirred. She knew her own heart was racing, her palms moist. The original shock and surprise had passed, leaving her breathless and uncertain.
‘I don’t think it’s Ricki. But God, what a resemblance.’ Meg took the time to study the stranger……not the long windblown hair she remembered, but rather black straight hair cut off at the ears, with long bangs. This woman seemed heavier, maybe by twenty or thirty pounds. And this woman’s arms and shoulders seemed stronger, more muscled. Her face was in peaceful repose, and even in sleep seemed to reflect a healthy glow.
‘If it’s not Ricki, do I want to even meet her? Too close a resemblance. I have chills just looking at her. And if it is Ricki, …..I can hardly breathe.’ She forced herself to calm down, to just watch and wait.
‘If it is her, what does it mean? What would I want?’
Perhaps ten minutes passed, as she watched quietly from her park bench. She thought she saw the woman tense slightly, although she hadn’t moved. There was a sudden alertness to her appearance. Meg could not see her eyes behind dark sunglasses, but she know the woman was awake. And then felt her eyes lock on her own. Meg still wasn’t certain who the woman was. She was staring at her rudely, she knew. If it wasn’t Ricki, what would the woman think, a strange blond woman unable to turn her eyes away?
Meg watched as the woman sat up, and slowly reached for her sunglasses……….and revealed to Meg’s inspection the intense blue eyes of the woman who had changed her life almost a year ago. Meg couldn’t help but take a sharp intake of breath. The intensity of the connection she felt with Ricki startled her even more. There was no doubt in her mind: this was Ricki Black. She sat quietly, unable to move, unable to process the wash of emotions that flooded her. Finally Ricki arched an eyebrow in silent question, and Meg found herself smiling , before she stood up and approached the sitting woman.
“Hey….” Meg spoke softly, sinking on her knees beside her. Meg reached out to hesitantly touch Ricki’s black hair, near her neck. Ricki smiled at the touch. “I…was just checking that you weren’t some kind of hallucination.”
Ricki reached for Meg’s hand, which trembled slightly, pulling it against her cheek. She closed her eyes briefly at the contact. “Hey, yourself.” she finally spoke up, looking at Meg’s face and eyes.
“What are you….. How did you…..” Meg started, but stopped, trying to calm her racing heart.
“Thought I’d take you up on your offer.” Ricki spoke hesitantly, uncertainly, trying to be casual and failing. “if it still stands.”
“What offer?” Meg asked , slightly breathless.
“Well, to come with you, I guess.”
“Not exactly what I had in mind.” Meg spoke in a low voice
“Well, then….” Ricki sat stiffer, more tense, primed again for the rejection she had expected.
Meg grabbed a large hand of the retreating woman. “Where do you think you’re going?”
“No where in particular. ” Ricki stood gracefully, and with as much dignity as she could, pulled her hand gently free of Meg’s grasp. “Just looking to put down roots somewhere north.”
Meg stood as well, and looked up at Ricki, almost crying. “You know, Ricki Black, it’s just a good thing I’m a patient woman.”
“Yes. It took you ten and a half months to get here. Just how long do you think an offer like that stands? And you cut your hair.”
“Meg, I can’t tell if you’re glad to see me or angry. I don’t know if I should take you in my arms, or if I should get back on my bike.’
“You didn’t ask my permission before.”
“Yeah, well, I need to apologize for a lot of things, explain a lot of things. Maybe now isn’t the best time. I know you have a class to go…”
“You rode your bike here?” Meg asked, interrupting her.
“Well, it’s a long walk, back from Hell. It was hard enough on a bike, with just that piece of you that you left behind to guide me.”
“That piece of me?” Meg asked incredulously. She could feel tears filling her eyes.
“You know, that part of you that made me want to run from a horrid six years, and try to start over, despite it all. The part of you that somehow forgave me, despite it all.”
“Well, I couldn’t afford to leave anything else behind. It’s been hard enough this past year without my heart, that you so deftly stole.”
“You knew I was a thief.”
“And cold hearted, selfish until I met you. You reminded me of someone I once was, and thought I could be again, with the right kind of help.”
“I’m a very helpful kind of woman. But you know, I should be very angry with you.”
“To leave me alone, like that, at the border.”
“I came back, and watched until you crossed over.”
“And what you said to me at the falls….that you would make me dream about you when I closed my eyes in the night. You do know that you have haunted my nights all this time. Sleep has been elusive, or teasing me with images of you. Why didn’t you come across with me, Ricki?”
“I wouldn’t have been any good for you then, Meg. I was a drunk with too many ghosts.”
“I’m clean and sober since the day you left. I still have my ghosts I still can’t forgive myself for a lot of things that happened. But maybe I don’t hate myself as much. I have so many things to atone for. But I won’t hide in a bottle, or hide in the desert. I don’t know if you would want someone like me in your life, Meg, when you have the ….freedom to choose whom you spend time with. I…
“Ricki, I don’t want someone like you. I want you. And if you think I have more freedom here, than I had in Mexico, then you’re wrong.”
“Listen to me a moment, Ricki. Last year, there was nothing you made me do. I’ve been so drawn to you, from the first moment I saw you. I had no choice then about how I felt, or how I responded to you. I couldn’t explain it then. I can’t explain it now. But I have been waiting for you to come home to me, Ricki Black.”
“It’s one of the reasons I came back here to work on my graduate degree. Otherwise, how would you have found me?”
“Sure of yourself, aren’t you, lady? But you have been a beacon for me to lead me out of hopelessness.”
“A beacon, huh? You, know, Ricki, I didn’t get a chance to thank you properly for protecting me in Mexico, for giving me my freedom, however hard it was to accept at the time.”
“I guess not.”
“When did you get into town?”
“Have a place to stay?”
“No, I’ve been staying in motels or shelters on the way north.”
“How long have you been traveling?”
“It took me two days to get home.”
“I had a lot further to go, in so many ways.”
“We have a lot of catching up to do. I’d like to get to know this new and improved Ricki Black. It would be a lot easier if you stayed with me.”
“Do you have the room? Because I could stand the company.”
“Oh, I have plenty of room. And I could use the company too. How long are your staying?”
“Well, I guess that depends on a lot of things.”
“Name a few.”
“Well…..Meg Rowlands, and Meg Rowlands, and Meg Rowlands, to name a few.”
Meg smiled,and linked arms with the taller woman. “Have you eaten?”
“What am I going to do with you, Ricki Black?”
“I do have a few ideas.”
“Would you like to grab a bite to eat, or come up to my office and explain what you have in mind? My class doesn’t start until four.”
“I am rather hungry. Let’s go up to your office.”
“You are the terrible tease.”
“I’m your terrible tease, if you want me.”
“Oh, I want you, Ricki Black. I’ve been dreaming of so many ways to have you…..”
“Now, who’s terrible?’
“Well, you started all of this, those many months ago. I hope you’re going to let us finish this.”
“I don’t plan on finishing anything, any time soon.”
“Then, let me show you my office, and welcome you home properly.”
The next weeks were spent in mutual exploration. Black needed to explain her past, who she had been, how she had changed to become the outlaw Meg had met in the desert. She offered no excuses, only facts. She left out no details of the life she had led in Mexico. She needed to explain, as well, how she had been touched by the young student thrown at her mercy. She wanted to offer thanks for all Meg had placed in her hands, even as she had given herself to those same calloused fingers ……..how her acts of acceptance and love had reached into Black’s soul, darkened as it was by years of violence and self condemnation….that Meg was the catalyst for a profound change within her. Ricki apologized so many times to Meg, for how she had been treated by the gang and most of all, by herself. She apologized as well for intruding again in the girl’s life, truly uncertain of her presence there, of her welcome, for having no firm plans but to see her again. She swore she would try to earn any right she might have to sharing Meg’s affection and love again.
Meg took it all in, all the words, both spoken and unspoken. She could see all Ricki’s insecurities, her needs, her desires.. Meg was quite certain that Black did love her, and felt the same powerful attraction and bond between them, just as they both had felt in the desert., as she still did. She had waited so long to see this woman again, who in reality embodied so much more than her dream lover, her avenger. The woman who sat before her, offering herself to be judged, to be accepted or rejected, expecting in her heart to be turned away…… this woman who still made her heart race, and who fueled a desire that seemed to have infused itself in Meg’s very being, this was the woman to whom Meg gave her heart freely again.
They had ridden into the Pocanos between spring and summer sessions, using this free time Meg had to become reacquainted with each other. It was in the heavily treed mountains, near another lake, that they had come that day to camp for the week, free of the distractions of the city, and Meg’s hectic schedule.
Ricki looked over at the blond sunbathing beside her. “What? Can I get you something?”
“I want you to stop judging yourself. I want you to forgive yourself for what happened to Johnny, and Rachel. ”
“I can’t really. Not fully.”
“You do know that I love you.”
“I don’t know why you do.”
“Does there have to be a reason? You make me feel happy. You make me just feel. When we’re together, I find new possibilities everywhere I look, especially within myself. Since you’ve come here, we haven’t made love. You’re afraid to touch me, I think. I won’t bite, you know.”
“I don’t deserve your love, Meg.”
“Then, why did you come ? Just being this close to you, and not to be able to touch you, to not have you take what I so want to give….”
“I’m afraid, Meg.”
“Afraid of what?”
“That I’m still the beast that claimed ownership of you, that wanted to use you in any way I could, that I’ll harm you somehow. And I have nothing to offer you, Meg. The more time I spend with you, the more I clearly see that. I have nothing but a horrible past. I will do better, but compared to what you have…..”
“What do I have?” Meg asked, suddenly angry, tired of Ricki’s hesitation. “Tell me. What do I have?”
“Meg, you have a house, a career, you have wealth, cultured friends, a reputation that I can only ruin for you.”
“And these make me happy? These things you talk about, they make me feel alive, loved, beautiful? They don’t , Ricki. Only you do that for me. Only you make me want to give everything away, and follow you wherever you go. If you don’t like me having these things, I won’t. I don’t have to stay in Philadelphia. I can write anywhere. I want to be with you, Ricki…..with you, in your arms, living in the place only you can take me with your touch and your love. How can I convince you of your worth ?
How can I convince you that I love you more than I thought I ever could love anyone? That I only feel whole here with you? Are you hearing me, Ricki Black, or do I have to shout it out for the whole campground to here? I already put all my emotions, my heart, out there for the entire country to read. Did you read my book?”
“I did. It gave me the courage to keep heading north, to come here to finally see you .”
“Well, I just don’t want to see you. I want to be held and loved and cherished by the woman I care for. Are you up to the job, dark past, guilt, fears and all? Because I’m tired of waiting, Ricki. It’s been a year. A whole year since my parents died, and I took off on my road trip. How much longer are you going to make me wait?”
“Will you be quiet, Meg Rowlands?”
“Is that an order, or a request?”
“What do you want? In your heart, Meg. What do you want, between us, in your future?”
“I want to be by your side, Ricki. Where ever you go, I want to go with you. I want to give myself to you all over again, just as I did in the desert. Because then, as now, I can’t deny what I feel for you. I’d be insane to ignore what I know is possible between us. I want you, Ricki
Black, baggage, ghosts and all. And I want a future with you, not just a past. What do you say?”
“I say you’re wonderful. I say you’re beautiful. I say I’m so crazy in love with you I haven’t been able to think of anything or anyone else since I laid eyes on you a year ago, even though I don’t deserve you. But I want this, with you, Meg. God help us, but I do want this. ”
“Will you shut up and kiss me, already, Ricki Black?”
“Let’s go back to the tent.”
“No, I want you to kiss me, here and now. I’m tired of waiting for what I know is right for us both.”
“Pushy little thing, aren’t you?.”
“Yes. And I intend to get what I want.” She rolled to lean over Black’s body.
“If I didn’t know you better, Meg Rowlands, I would think you were just going to ……..” Her words were muffled by hungry lips, and a kiss that left her quite breathless.
“Now we can go back to our tent.” Meg smiled.
“Good thing I only brought one sleeping bag after all.”
“You made me go through all that, why? If you knew we’d be sleeping together ?”
“I just love to hear you talk.”
Meg swatted her arm. “You are in so much trouble, Ricki Black. ”
“But I’m your trouble, if you want , for as long as you want.”
“Tent. No more doubts. No more hesitation. I love you Meg Rowlands. Now I just need the next few lifetimes to prove it to you, over and over again.”
“You know, I’m not that slow on the uptake. I already got that part. I’m more interested in the rest of the story. Just a good thing for you that I’m a writer. I‘ll think up something worthwhile for the conclusion.”
” I’ve always been more a woman of action than words, myself.”
“And I’m counting on that. The way I see it, we’re a good team. For at least a few lifetimes. ”
“What if Rachel tries to get in the way, tries to hurt you?”
“You won’t let her. We’ll deal with her, together. ”
“Alright, together. Now will you please get back to the tent, so I can show you how much I love you? Hey, wait for me……”