Authors: Shannon Dermott
His chivalry was sweet, but I needed answers. So I went ahead and asked the question despite Turner’s presence. “Vi, is there something you want to tell me?”
She didn’t even pause in her footsteps. “No, why?” she asked sweetly.
I knew my sister, and I heard the undercurrent of nervousness in her statement. “Are you and Mike fighting?” I prodded. Turner remained silent behind us. I almost glanced back, but I kept my gaze on Vi for any signs through body language of what she wasn’t telling me.
“It’s nothing. Just something stupid,” she confessed. Her smile was so sincere, I didn’t press her further.
Instead I couldn’t resist and peppered Turner with questions. Still walking ahead of him, over my shoulder I fired off one. “You said you’re a bachelor. Does that mean you have your own place?” I couldn’t imagine him still living at home.
His response was surprisingly overtly flirtatious. “Why? Do you want to stay with me instead?”
I could hear the smirk in his voice which made me snicker and shake my head.
Vi spoke to him over my mirth. “Father would so kill you.”
“Only if he found out,” Turner quipped. “Would you tell him?”
My laughter quieted when I noticed a hint of seriousness in his last remark. I stopped and faced him. “Father is already going to have a coronary because I didn’t follow his directions and stay with Mary. He’ll probably have a search party looking for me in the morning.”
We all stared at each other with a minute more of seriousness before we started to laugh again.
On the very back edge of town, Vi’s home came into view. It was the last stop before our community ended. It belonged to old man Fisher.
Stopping at the end of the path with the small cottage in front of us, I turned to Vi. “You guys live with Mr. Fisher.”
Vi’s faced morphed into a nauseated expression. “No.” She put a hand to her mouth like she might cry. Instead, she choked out the following words. “He sponsored Mike, and they lived here. He died in his sleep the night before our wedding.”
“Oh,” I said taken aback. I hadn’t known. Mr. Fisher had been a respected elder in our community for as long as I could remember. He was a very nice man and one who never looked down on anyone. He viewed everyone as equals including women.
It wasn’t a shock my family hadn’t sent word. A part of me was saddened by that. But then again, my father most likely assumed I hadn’t cared about this place once I left. Not knowing what else to say, I took in the darkened home.
“Mike’s not home?” My voice was full of concern. The house looked barren. Even though we didn’t have electricity, there should have been light from candles or a fire. I hadn’t seen him back at the town hall. Where was he? There wasn’t night life here. We didn’t have bars. Drinking wasn’t outright outlawed but wasn’t encouraged either outside of special events. And he didn’t appear to have many friends based on the wide berth everyone had given him. I hadn’t seen anyone speak to him all night except us.
My sister faced me with the moonlight spotlighting her face. She looked almost relieved that her husband wasn’t home. And actually, I was kind of grateful because I had more questions. Obviously she was hiding something big.
“I’ll help you start a fire,” Turner said, heading to the side of the house where logs rested against the outside wall.
Vi opened the door without a key. This wasn’t an anomaly. We didn’t lock our houses while we weren’t at home. It just wasn’t common practice. There was really nothing to steal. We didn’t have electronics in our homes. We did however lock ourselves in at night. I always thought that weird. My father had explained that it was a precaution when we were at our most vulnerable. His worry was for outsiders who could breach our borders not from those who resided in the community.
I’d just stepped inside behind Vi when a voice rang out of the night and stopped us dead. “There you are wife. Why don’t you get some wood for the fire?”
My hand landed on my sister’s shoulder to stop myself from running into her back. I tensed at the disembodied voice that came from nowhere and everywhere all at the same time.
When she didn’t respond, he said, “And Violet…”
“Yes,” she whispered. In the seconds that followed, I awaited the ominous voice to return wielded by a man with a meat cleaver or something waiting to chop our heads off. Yet the seconds ticked by as if he knew how on edge he’d put us.
In the dead silence out here away from most of the other cabins, it was easy to hear a breath let alone a whisper. So when he spoke in a murmured calm, we heard. “Tell you pretty sister to come over here and keep me company.”
It was my turn to shutter. As much as I hated to admit my sister had made such a choice for a husband, there was no denying he was bad news.
“I have the wood,” Turner announced, coming up behind us. His chipper voice was indication enough he was unaware of Mike’s presence. Vi and I stood there in the open door not knowing what to do when Turner asked, “What’s wrong?”
My throat had the feeling of a cotton field, and I wasn’t sure how to answer him.
“Ah, Turner,” the voice said. “Figures. I’ve heard enough about your love for Red that I should have known you’d find a way to spend more time with her. Not that I blame you. A fine piece of ass she is.”
A tiny beam of light burst through the darkness and landed on Mike’s face. His eyes squinted in the sudden shock of light. Turner had a flash light? Albeit it must have been a small one because the beam was thin and fine. I filed those thoughts away understanding Turner wasn’t the purist I’d once thought him.
A clatter brought an end to my thoughts. The beam shifted to a bottle of alcohol that rested on the table next to an illuminated hand.
“I think you need to sleep this off,” Turner gritted out.
Mike directly faced the light that moved to focus on him. “I think you need to leave and get the hell out of my house.”
Turner didn’t back down, instead he squared his shoulders. “This house belongs to the community,” he declared. “You just live here.”
The basis of our community was that we all were part owners of everything. Nothing belonged to the individual unless you made it by yourself. Anything made with help from others was considered community property. And most houses were built with help from others.
“You need to leave because I want to fuck
Vi blanched. She looked at me as if she wished she could take this all back.
Turner dumped the handful of wood just inside the door. “Bails, I don’t think you should stay here tonight.”
I agreed with him but I couldn’t go home or to Mary’s. “I have nowhere else to go.”
“You can stay at my house.”
Before I could respond, Mike’s dark chuckle filled the room. “Now you owe me one, Turner boy. Bet you were looking for a way to get her in your bed.”
“Dude, you need to go sleep this off.”
Dude? Had Turner just said dude? This wasn’t the time to make such observations, but I couldn’t help but notice that college life had really changed him.
“Violet, you’re welcome to stay with me as well,” Turner offered.
A scrape of wood against wood signaled Mike was getting out of his chair. That sent our attention back to him. The light illuminated his pants where Mike’s head had been a moment ago, before it highlighted the ground. Footsteps declared Mike was moving in our direction. Involuntarily, I found myself stepping back. Vi seemed frozen in her spot, until Mike stood next to her. I’d stopped moving once my back was pressed against Turner’s chest.
“Violet honey, do you want to stay with me or Turner?” His tone was deadly. For the first time, more than just simply concern, I was truly worried for my sister’s safety.
I knew my sister, and her smile was as fake as his sweetness. “With you.” Her voice was soft and compliant.
“Well, it looks like the two of you can go,” Mike declared. His sneer was all the more evident with the moonlight on his face.
“I’d still like to stay if you don’t mind.” I kept my voice pleasant. All my years with Scott had trained me how to hide my true feelings.
When I glanced at Turner, he didn’t seem at all happy. With a pointed look, he asked, “Can I talk to you for a minute before you turn in for the night?”
I nodded and turned towards my sister. She appeared relieved and moved to pick up the wood from the place where Turner had dropped it. “Your room is on the right,” she directed. “Ours is on the left.” She hesitated, and then said, “I’ll see you in the morning.”
I followed Turner outside. He led me to a tree stump in their yard where we sat.
It felt almost sinful sitting out in the dark with Turner. When I’d lived here, that would have been a big
. And Turner was still one of the most handsome guys I’d ever laid eyes on. So why couldn’t I just be with him. It was obvious he still held feelings for me. Kalen was a dream. Turner was a reality.
A sigh escaped me, and Turner mistook its meaning.
“I don’t like that guy,” he said. “I haven’t since the first time I met him.”
My response was quick. “Then why hasn’t someone done anything?”
He let out a breath. “When I came back, they were already married.” He looked up at the stars and said, “I went to your Father.”
That shocked me. Had he had feelings for my sister?
“He knows, Bails. They all know.”
My shocked expression became stunned speechlessness.
“You father said that if they were to act, Mike threatened to take Violet away.” He paused as I sucked in a breath. “And you saw her.”
I nodded letting him continue.
“They think it’s better to keep the devil among them, than to let her go away with him.”
“They knew all along. Why did they allow him in the community?” My mind was a blur with anger and fury at the council for allowing this to happen.
He held up a hand to stop me. “No, he played his cards right. He had them all fooled until sometime after he married her.”
My fist clenched. Vi deserved better than this. We were brought up to love one another equally, but Vi and I shared a bond that went deeper than I had with my other siblings. We were our parents’ first two children. Father brought a bride from outside and let her name the both of us before he took over that duty. We’d been rebels in our own way. Maybe not outwardly, but in our private conversations we fought against the bonds that held us to the traditions we were expected to live by.
“What can we do?’ I asked. But really I already knew the answer.
“Nothing.” His voice was flat and resigned.
I on the other hand wasn’t reconciled to that. I had to believe that if I could convince Vi to leave this man, the community would stand behind her. Divorce wasn’t something we were brought up to believe in. But Turner’s words had encouraged me.
It was the silence that encased us that fortified me. There weren’t loud voices raging from the house. Hopefully the big bad wolf was tamed for the night.
“You don’t have to stay,” I said. “It looks like things have calmed down.” My relief allowed me not to worry about my sister for the moment.
With my hands in my lap, I faced him. We’d been sitting side by side. When he turned to me, our lips were seconds apart. And before I could stop him, he was kissing me. His lips were softer than I remembered. His kiss was more skilled than the clumsy teens we’d been. His hand cupped the base of my skull as I kissed him back. My mind argued with me. I felt as if I was betraying Kalen, but then I remembered that I’d cleared that air between us a day or so ago.
Time had not changed much. I loved Turner, and it was easy to be with him this way. It felt natural, almost like it was meant to be. And there was love in my heart for this boy, now man. Yet, it wasn’t the fierce passion I felt when Kalen was near.
Comparing two guys probably wasn’t the best idea at a time like this. I should be focused on the man in front of me. He pulled me closer until I landed in his lap. His fingers created a slow trail of goose bumps down my arm. His other hand on my waist sent a cascade of butterflies into flight in my belly.
Separation for just a moment allowed us to breathe. “You don’t know how long I’ve waited for you to come back.” His eyes, dark in the night, were unreadable. “Come back to me,” he added.
And I should’ve stopped him. I should’ve told him that I wasn’t sure I could give him what he wanted. But I was human. And so much had gone wrong in my life over the last few months, being with Turner felt right.
His kiss was slow and languid. He tasted of fresh berries, and I found myself greedy for more. Time took a tumble and so did we. We landed on the soft earth with him astride me. Neither one of us seemed to care if we were caught. He was gentle, everything Kalen wasn’t.
It wasn’t easy, but I pulled back. “We should stop,” I breathed. My heart was unsteady for more than one reason.
“Why?” His voice held calm and not any concern.
With a half-smile, I responded, “We aren’t teenagers anymore. Kissing out on Vi’s front lawn isn’t exactly what I had in mind.”