Authors: Karina Halle
She looked at us…well, at
least in our direction. It felt accusatory.
Sarah, these are strangers
no more. You know Maximus-”
And the other two people
here are Dex and Perry Foray. They’ve come on behalf of your
I don’t give a rat’s ass
why they are here,” she muttered contemptuously, still looking
straight at us. “My husband should know better.”
Bird cleared his throat.
“Well, they’ve come an awful long way to come meet with
She dismissed us with a
faint wave of her hand. “I don’t care. Send them back.”
I know Maximus had just
said to not take it personally but it was too late. I felt
extremely uncomfortable. What if we came here for
Mrs. Lancaster, please,”
Dex spoke up. “My wife and I have not come here to do any harm. We
are here to help you. We implore your Christian hospitality to help
us fight the good fight.”
I looked up at Dex. He
looked the part, brow softened, eyes pleading, voice rich and
sincere. For good measure, even though she couldn’t see it, he put
his arm around me and squeezed.
She frowned. I wished I
could have seen underneath the oversized shades.
Christian hospitality, you
say?” A dusting of amusement came across her face.
Sarah! What are you doing
up?” a voice said from behind her. A stocky man of medium height
and a double-chin came out from the house. Will, I
I was about to turn these
vagrants away but it was brought to my attention that it might be
very ‘un-Christian’ of me.” She laughed and headed back inside, as
able-bodied as anyone.
Will looked away sheepishly
and took an awkward step towards us, hand extended. His handshake
was clammy and quick.
I’m sorry, she’s supposed
to be napping. She hasn’t been too happy with this whole experience
that’s been going on.”
He looked at Maximus, who
nodded knowingly, then at us.
You must be Dex and Perry.
I’ve heard a lot about you two. Really, I am very glad that you are
here. You must forgive Sarah, she’s been dealt a few rough hands
Hadn’t we all?
I smiled anyway. Will
seemed like a decent person.
Thanks for showing them
around, Bird,” Will said to him respectfully.
Bird showed his palm as if
to say it was no bother. He tipped his cowboy hat at us,.“I’ll be
seeing you all soon.”
He walked back to the barn,
leaving us alone with Will.
Ok then,” he clapped his
hands together. “How about we get your stuff and show you to your
rooms? Maximus, are you staying too?”
Dex and I both looked at
him. He gave Will a quick smile, “No, I’m booked in at the hotel.
Wanted to give the happy couple some privacy.”
He locked eyes with me for
a second. Suddenly, I felt like I couldn’t let him go.
But he looked away, walked
over to his truck and gave us a wave.
Give me a call in the
morning Dex,” he drawled before popping in the driver’s seat and
leaving us in the heat. Even with Dex beside me, I now felt
Once Maximus left, Dex and
I settled into the room Will and Sarah had assigned for us. It was
small but homely with a large queen bed and peeling periwinkle
wallpaper. The rabbit-eared TV was on a handmade dresser, the same
as the wardrobe and side tables and matched the gnarled-fence
around the property. Turns out Will was quite the handyman and made
most of the wood furnishings himself.
I’ll call you for supper,”
Will said before closing the door.
I looked at Dex. He was
lying on the bed, arms behind his head, fingers tapping on the top
of his skull. His face was unreadable.
Not going to bother
unpacking?” I asked and started to put my clothes away in the
He didn’t say anything,
just continued tapping. I didn’t like it when Dex was in silent
mode, it made everything more awkward and sharing a room with him
was already going to be awkward to the max.
I finished putting
everything away and fixed myself up in the bathroom. It was quaint
and clean with its claw-foot tub and old sink. This look would
totally be in vogue in any bed and breakfast. I looked at myself in
the mirror, my first look this whole day.
I looked tired, of course.
There was a fine layer of dust on my hair and my lips and the skin
around my nose were cracked beyond belief. I felt chagrined that I
walked around all day looking like this, especially around Maximus.
Not that I was thinking of pursuing him in any way (seriously, I
wasn’t), I just hated to think I looked like crap around tall,
handsome men. Even if they were gingers.
Then there was Dex. He was
acting peculiar. I guess no more than usual, but I’ll admit I was
disappointed that he hadn’t once asked if I was OK or expressed any
interest in my well-being. Maybe it was the medication (and lack
thereof), maybe it was Maximus, or maybe it was something else
After I slipped out of my
sweaty, dirty clothes and plunked on light leggings and a flouncy
jersey dress that I figured was flattering yet demure enough for a
supposedly hardcore Christian couple, I stepped back into the room.
Dex was still on the bed. He hadn’t moved an inch. He was staring
at a blank spot on the wall, still tapping away to an imaginary
What are you drumming to?”
He didn’t look at me, just
kept tapping away on his head. It was annoying, made even more so
by the fact that I was trying to pick out the beat. It definitely
I sighed, loudly, and threw
my dirty clothes across the room. They landed on the rocking chair
in the corner, sending it to and fro with aged wooden squeaks.
Still no response.
My next move was strangely
I leaped onto the bed and
straddled him. My arms took his out from behind his head and pinned
them onto the bed.
Hey!” I yelled in his face.
He looked up at me,
surprised and maybe a bit scared. I felt foolish for a second but
ignored it and plowed on. I pressed his hands further into the
pillow and looked straight into his wavering eyes.
You’re going to pay
attention to me now, OK? Like it or not, and I know we don’t like
it, but I’m your fake wife and we’ve got a fucking job to do so I
would appreciate it if you could at least just acknowledge that I’m
in the room with you. OK partner?”
The fear slowly seeped off
his face until I saw an expression I knew all too well. Sarcastic
smile tugging at his mouth, brow aloof, eyes blasé. Of course, this
regression back to quintessential Dex made the fact that I was just
inches from his face, and physically pinning him down on the bed,
very intriguing. And potentially embarrassing. My face was red hot
in an instant.
I shoved at his hands again
before coming off of him and sat on the far side of the bed. I eyed
his reaction warily.
He sat up slowly and let
out a chuckle. He looked over at me and grinned. “So I guess
there’s no question as to who wears the pants in this relationship,
I shrugged, exasperated.
“Just trying to get your attention.”
He nodded, closing his eyes
briefly. “Sorry if I’m a little spacey. It’s…”
He didn’t finish. He didn’t
need to. But it still didn’t explain everything.
You didn’t seem all that
concerned with what happened to me in the barn,” I couldn’t help
His eyes grew darker, like
a thunder cloud had blocked out all light. He sat up straighter and
leaned forward so he was closer to me. He opened his mouth to say
something but nothing came out, at first. He looked down at his
hands and thought things through.
I’m sorry,” he ended up
That was it?
There’s something else,” I
said, prodding him.
He sighed so lightly that
it barely registered.
I don’t know what to say,”
he said. “You really gave me a fright.”
I couldn’t help but let out
a laugh. “I gave
a fright? Dex, one minute I’m looking into a horse stall, the
next minute I find my own hands around my neck. And meanwhile my
partner just stares at me like I’m the devil.”
I didn’t handle it very
well, I know. I’m sorry. I just…I’m not really sure what’s going on
with me at the moment. I don’t feel like I’m processing things like
It’s cuz you aren’t on the
pills, isn’t it?”
He looked at me sharply. I
thought he was going to say something biting but he hesitated. His
It would seem
How are you
He shook his head. Not good
enough. Why wouldn’t he open up to me?
Talk to me,” I implored.
His lips grew tighter. I leaned in closer.
Please,” I said, trying to
get him to relent. I peered at him hopefully. “I know we don’t know
each other all that well. In fact, when I think I am finally
getting to know you, you do something different and I feel like I
have to start all over again. And that’s cool, I get it. I know I’m
complicated too. But please, you have to start talking to me. Even
if we aren’t friends, we’re at least partners. Business partners.
This project, this show, it means a lot to me and I know it means a
lot to you too and if it’s going to work at all, you’re going to
have to start trusting me. And I’ll start trusting you. And that
starts when we begin, you know, communicating with each
I gestured to the room, the
waning afternoon light leaving long shadows on the walls. “Look
where we are. We’re playing house, with people we don’t know, in
New Mexico. I’m nervous. I’m scared. I have bad vibes about this
place, there’s a woman who doesn’t want us here, some Mexican who
says I won’t last a day, I saw some scary fucking shit in that
barn, you’ve got your so-called ex-friend here who had to warn me
Warn you?” he perked up,
And then I’ve got my
partner, who I’m sharing a bed with, who I don’t actually know all
that well, who is going through all sorts of problems of his own
and not letting me in on any of them. If you can’t talk to me Dex,
then I don’t know who you can talk to. Maybe your girlfriend, but
she’s not here. I’m here. That says a lot, I think. I’m here and I
need you to talk to me because this weekend is only going to get
worse before it gets better. We both know it.”
I gulped in a bunch of air.
It was exhausting saying all of this but I felt relieved. I watched
him carefully, pleading internally for my spiel to work, for him to
just say something to me so I could understand.
He was silent for a while,
mulling things over, staring at the pattern on the duvet. Then he
leaned in slightly, looking me straight in the eyes.
is racing. Constantly. I’ve got a bunch of irrational thoughts
running through my head. I feel agitated. I feel impulsive and I’m
worried I can’t control myself. I don’t know what I want to do
exactly, but I’m afraid to find out. I want to scream, I want to
run around. Everything is rubbing me the wrong way. I, too, have
got a million bad feelings about this place that seem to quadruple
by the minute. I want to get in the car and drive far away. I feel
fucked up. I mean, really fucked up. But I also
. See, I’m not used to that. And
my mind is going a mile a minute but its fucking brilliant at the
same time because I’m getting ideas and these ideas want to make
something out of this hellhole. I love it and I hate it. This is
how I am feeling. I’m fighting it.”
I tried to take that all
in. “Maybe you should just…go with the flow?”
He smiled sarcastically,
more for himself than for me.
I don’t think you’d like
How do you
Just a hunch. I…well, I
don’t think you’re going to want to hear this but since I’ve said
too much already…I’m a bit afraid of you.”
My heart stuttered a bit
and I found my eyes narrowing involuntarily. It wasn’t as insulting
to hear as you might think, though, probably because I was certain
Dex had told me this before, back when we were investigating the
Why is it,” I said calmly,
looking away at the shadows on the wall, “that you always end up
being afraid of me when there are other things to be afraid
I know it doesn’t make
sense, I know you’re not…scary.”
I rolled my eyes. OK, I was
starting to feel a little bit insulted.
Well, Maximus doesn’t seem
afraid of me,” I said haughtily.