- Once Upon A Time
- Preface – The Chata Cometh
- Chapter 1 – Sweet 16
- Chapter 2 – A Storm Brewing
- Chapter 3 – The Fare
- Chapter 4 – Two Worlds Collide
- Chapter 5 – Forsaken
- Chapter 6 – Shades of Gray
- Chapter 7 – Haunted
BJ tried to muster up a smile for Cat, who she spied through the windshield by the girl’s locker room door, but she knew her frustration wouldn’t allow it. She was having a bad morning, because for some crazy reason, her boyfriend seemed determined to drive her insane.
“You’re not gonna park here are you?” AC asked with a delicate raise of his eyebrows. He never took his eyes off his reflection in the mirror in which he was staring in on the back of the visor. He smoothed his freshly plucked eyebrows and fixed the bangs of his golden hair with a careful brush of his well manicure fingers.
“The boy’s locker room door is fifteen feet away. Max.” Knowing how easily he was distracted with shiny things, most especially his own reflection, BJ reached out with a sigh and flipped up the visor with a quick, irritated snap of her hand. “I have faith, though fleeting, that you can manage that without serious, permanent injury.”
“There was a parking spot right of front of the locker room doors.” AC added with a frown, pointing towards the empty space directly in front of the boy’s locker room door a few yards away feet away. “You could have parked there.”
Deep breath, BJ told herself.
“I know there is a parking spot in front of the locker room doors,” BJ said. She point directly in front of the girl locker room door, where she parked instead, by which Cat stood and gave her a wave, eyebrows raised in question. “I got it – Right here.”
“I meant my locker room, not yours. I don’t see why I’m the one that has to walk?” AC whined, carefully placing his Yankee’s ball cap backwards over his artfully arranged hair. “I have football practice after school and if you’re parked here, I’ll have to walk all the additional feet to the truck after a hard workout. I don’t think that’s fair. So you should move.”
“Tough.” BJ rolled her tongue around her teeth, doing her best to ignore him, while she yanked her school books close to her on the red leather bench seat, restacking them.
“Why do you have to be so difficult?”
Apparently her best just wasn’t going to cut it this morning. BJ sighed, praying for patience, not that she believed in God or anything, but at this point, any little bit would help.
“Again, it’s fifteen feet. I’m sure you can make well enough without any lasting damage.” BJ’s voice was aggravation incarnate. She reached for her designer handbag in the floorboard, pulling it up in the seat beside her. She threw the brown leather Coach purse on top of her books and flipped open the silver buckle snap with a hiss.
For a second AC said nothing, but stared at her. Hoping his pout would get his way, as it normally did with his parents, he simply waited. But BJ was ignoring him, rifling through her bag. He hated to be ignored. AC huffed loudly, “God, you are so spoiled.”
“What?” BJ said on a laughing gasp, her eyes darting quickly up to his, so wide her forehead knotted up with cramping facial muscles trying to maintain their wide open position. It actually hurt, but then again so did her head. “I’m spoiled?” Yes, BJ was laughing at his look, as well as his reasoning. The very idea that AC could call her spoiled was ludicrous to the extreme. “Me?”
But apparently AC didn’t think so.
He glowered looking insulted, and for AC to glower, with the corresponding wrinkles that resulted in the forehead region, BJ knew he seriously upset.
Her laughed only deepened at his very put upon look.
“Yeah, you.” AC snapped, whipping his head towards the windshield in insult, not wanting to look at BJ now, she made him so mad.
Seeing Cat standing there smiling at him, almost unable to help herself, his bruised and damaged ego and at the hands of his careless girlfriend, was immediately soothed. With a careful tilt of his head, to maximize his best features, AC tossed a smiling wave to Cat.
She blushed, quickly looking away, but he had gotten the reaction he wanted. Cat obviously wanted him. AC loved the attention.
AC lived for it. “I’m not going to have an argument with you, just because you are being hard to deal with, so whatever. Park wherever you want. I’ll get Cree to drive me home after practice.” Reaching for the door handle of the truck, his eyes cautiously scanned the trees for any sign of wind that might disturb he carefully coiffed appearance and then shoved open the door. “Next time we’ll come to school in my car & we’ll park wherever in the hell I want.”
“First, Cree is a barbarian AC & why you are best friends with him is beyond me. And second, funny,” BJ rolled her eyes at his primadonna attitude. Yeah, she had caught his scanned look out the window for wind that might God forbid, mess up his hair… God, he was such a Metro. “But you say ‘we’ll’ like I’ll be with you, when you drive your crappy little BMW to school? Big mistake there, hun, because I won’t.”
“I will not.”
“As long as you’re my girlfriend, you will.” AC looked over at BJ with beautiful smile in place, his teeth so white, the gleam hurt the eyes. However there was a hardness to his eyes now, which belied the smile. “We are The Fare’s reigning couple. I take pride in that and so should you. King and Queen of the upcoming The Beautiful Feast of The Valley fair, once again, just in case you were wondering. We won – Ya us. Where you go, I go. We have a relationship to be envied, and is, so deal with it & drop the attitude Barbara Jean. We are the epitome example of young love, and by god you will act like it. It’s not required for you to enjoy it. Everyone expects it…The school, our friends, my family…Yours.”
With every word he spoke, her heart dropped further and further into her stomach like a lead weight. AC stated it all so coldly, BJ just had to ask, even though she already knew the answer, just as she knew in the end what would be the result. “Do you even like me anymore, AC?”
“We’ve been together since the seventh grade, we are the perfect couple…We are the bar that everyone else in town tries to reach for, in regards to being the perfect pair, and achieve…They all fail. Everyone envies us.” AC asked as he pulled up on the door handle, opening the door. “What does ‘like’ have to do with it?”
For just a second, BJ allowed herself a moment to mourn all that they had been to each other, for so many years, now seemingly so long ago. Somewhere along the way, whatever it was that they had, had died. Now all that was left was this and this was so easy to walk away from it wasn’t even funny.
Opening her eyes, BJ turned and looked at AC unblinkingly in his beautiful blue eyes, “I don’t think we should see each other anymore.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.” AC shook his head patronizingly at her, turning away from her, he stepped out of the truck.
Ok, she didn’t expect that. “I’m not.” BJ clarified. “I’m breaking up with you.”
“What do you mean, no?” BJ asked stiffly, all but gaping at his back. It wasn’t a freakin’ request! “You can’t say no. It’s over, because I say so.”
“Wrong. It’s only over if I agree.” AC scoffed stubbornly, turning only slightly back towards her, as he adjusted the waistband of his jeans to fall just right so they would show off his perfectly trimmed waist. “And I won’t, not ever. We’re perfect together, everyone knows that and I won’t let anyone ruin it…Not even you.”
“My god, you’re seriously bent, you know that?” BJ gasped at him. “Seriously.”
AC shrugged. “It doesn’t change the facts. I belong to you and you, most definitely belong to me. Forever.”
BJ shook her head. “You’re crazy.”
Standing between the truck and the door, AC looked up and smiled across the expansion of the truck towards her as if she was what everyone, including family & friends, thought she was, the love of his life…Instead of the sharp piercing pain that constantly lanced his brain. “Right back at’cha sweetheart,” AC told her with a wink as he spun around, slamming the pick-up truck door with enough force to make Cat’s teeth rattle, even from her position leaning up against the gym.
Well that was a bad sign, Cat thought, biting her lip as he approached, with BJ left gaping at his back in the truck.
“Hey Cat!” AC said confidently. He swaggered up on the side-walk and passed her heading to the boy’s gym as if nothing extraordinary had happened. “I’m looking good this morning, don’t you think?”
Tight form-fitting black tee-shirt, relaxed fit blue jeans that hung low on is trim waist and his black Ed Hardy tennis shoes seemed to make the perfection of AC almost gleam in the sun, with the shining perfection that was him.
Looking good was an understatement.
It was just sickening.
Cat smiled a little sickly at him. He was absolutely a delight to look at – But why did he always have to speak and ruin it?
The world was totally unfair. Stand still, look pretty and most importantly, don’t speak. That’s all she really wanted him to do…
Was that so hard?
Cat cut her eyes guiltily up to the cab of the truck, to see if her best friend had caught her ogling her boyfriend, only to see BJ collapse down on the steering wheel, her arms bracing lifelessly across the top, as if in defeat.
All thoughts of guilty ogling and mysterious, knife-wielding strangers fell by the wayside.
BJ needed her, Cat thought with a frown. She approached the driver’s side door of BJ’s truck.
Peaking through the window Cat cleared her throat as she took in BJ’s pose. BJ sat hunched over, her head resting on the steering wheel as if she were extremely sad…
Or just very, very tired.
After a few seconds, when BJ gave no response, or even acted like she was on the verge of movement, Cat tapped on the window with the back of her knuckles. BJ didn’t bother to look up, or move her head. She simply reached out and manually began to roll down the window.
The Fare’s old 80’s station, KHEX 96.6, played softly in the background and Robert Palmer growled out the lyrics about the lights being on, but no one was home.
Yeah, Cat surmised, looking at BJ that was an understatement.
“Hey.” Cat re-adjusted her bags on her shoulder. She looked into the truck window at her friend. BJ showed no signs of moving. Life. “Problems?”
AC? Was the unasked question.
“You have no idea.” BJ’s voice was low and gravely and had a tint of smokers unevenness to go along with it even though BJ had never smoked a day in her life.
“I’ve been up since 4:30 this morning.”
“Sucks.” Ok, so they were going to take the long way around. As in the way of good friends, Cat rolled with it. “Why?”
“You know Kip, our lead hand on the ranch? Well, she found the mangled remains of a calf on the western perimeter of our fence line and sounded the alarm. A predator was on the prowl, killing and apparently enjoying it.”
“Predator?” Weird phrasing, Cat thought. “What kind of predator?”
BJ paused noticeably, before she continued. Wishing, if for but just a moment, she could tell Cat the truth, but almost as soon as she had the thought BJ brushed it aside. It was just safer for Cat that way. So instead of the complete truth, BJ went with a hedge, “Wolf. You could say wolf.”
There was some things you just couldn’t tell anyone. Not even best friends.
Especially best friends.
“I could say wolf?” Cat asked with a slight shake of her head. What the heck did that mean? Sometimes BJ said the strangest things. “You say that like there would be another choice.”
“No. No other choice. Just wolf.” If you wanted them to stay safe that is…Not to mention not think you had lost your mind, so yeah, the ‘wolf’ identifier would have to do. “There are just different types. I was oversimplifying.” BJ quickly explained. A cover, “I can go into the taxonomic classification of the genus specie we saw last night, but I thought I might bore you with the semantics, so I skipped it.”
“First off, thank you for sparing me. And second, by all means, please let’s avoid the scientific details, they make me drool.” Cat smiled at BJ through the window. She was not only the prettiest girl in school, but one of the smartest, especially when it can to all things science and biological. It was why BJ was always her lab partner. Leave it to BJ to know a species right down to the correct scientific name. “It was, I could say, a wolf. Check. Carry on with the story. I think you were at, a wolf attacked a calf…”
Attacked? BJ frown in thought. That was putting it lightly. “It ripped the calf open, from skull to stern and ate all of the soft inner organs. Then, it drug off, I guess, a couple of legs for snacking later. We never found them”
“Ok. Overshare.” Cat grimaced, tossing up a hand as her stomach rolled at the visual. “Just…Ew.”
“Darn skippy. After a good hours ride on our Marwari hunting horses, we picked up its trail. My grandmother and I tracked it heading east on the mountainside towards, the old Grainery, out by the caverns in the area of the Dark Entry Forest behind Wormwood…”
“I tell you, even from a distance and through the tress I could see it was freaking huge.” BJ recalled with shiver, In her minds eye she could see how it walked. How its shadow moved so silently through the trees. How it had stopped, a hulking dark black form, how it turned slightly back towards them, then stood, so human-like. How it propped itself in the trees on its front paws, peering at them with glowing red eyes through the thick of the branches.
BJ remembered at the time that a question had immediately popped up in her mind: Were they hunting it, or was it hunting them?
“The wolf was possibly the biggest I’ve ever seen and made me supremely glad I brought along my baby for insurance.”
“And your baby would be?”
“My 1903 Springfield.” BJ explained. “Very clean, customized and all mine.”
“Sorry – Still nothing.” Cat said with raised brows. “Is that supposed to mean something to me?”
“It’s a gun, Cat. A gun.” BJ said patiently. “A very beautiful, awe-inspiring gun. It’s a bolt action .30 – ’06 rifle, which has a muzzle velocity of approximately 2,700 feet per second. It can hold five rounds, can shoot accurately up to 656 yards, in 10 rounds per minute and this amazing gun is wrapped up in a tight little sexy package of 42 inches of polished to the shine classic oak and cold hard, stainless steel.”
“Oooo.” Cat forced a mock shiver of appreciation. “Hotness.”
“To say the least.” BJ was amused, but tried not to show it. Sometimes talking guns with Cat was like trying to speak to her in a different language, with a non-simpatico like connection. Cat just didn’t get it, so there was no point in expounding on it. Again, oversimplification seemed the safest route. “Anyway, trust me. After seeing even a glimpse of the wolf, which I know the sight of sat Grand back, I was glad to have the gun I did. its accuracy is legendary.”
“I bet. Gun is made of awesome. Check.” Cat prodded with a twirl of her finger. “Keep going…”
This was the tough part. BJ cleared her throat, and the hardest to admit, “I shot at it…”
“Well that’s good right?” Not a fan of guns of any kind, Cat wasn’t foolish enough not to understand the importance of them in certain lifestyles, so she tolerated them in regards to BJ. Barely. “It is after all what you do…You shoot at things & kill them, yet I love you anyway.”
“The wolf got away.”
Say it quick, get it said, BJ told herself before she blurted, “I missed.”
BJ felt a pain in her stomach just saying it, remembering the shock in seeing the outline of the beast stumble in the distance through the trees, but not fall down. Grand had actually gasped beside her at the missed shot. Her grandmother had pulled up her 30 Aught and yanked the trigger twice, missing as well.
BJ had wanted to throw up.
Not only did she miss, but her grandmother, the best shot like in the history of the world, did as well?
That never happened.
The beast got away.
“I did nick it, but didn’t take it down.” It had gotten away to kill again another day. What a crappy way to start the day. BJ forced herself to add, “But I say again, it got away.”
“Wait…” Cat rolled her jaw, like she was trying to pop her ears. “What was that?”
“Don’t make me say it one more time.”
BJ never missed.
Knowing how obsessively compulsive she was about that, Cat did her best to be supportive. “Well it happens to the best of us, I suppose.”
BJ was dodging the issue, although missing a target was a huge deal for her, it wasn’t the main cause for her upset, and that was what Cat was trying to figure out right now. Reaching through the window, not knowing what else to do, Cat patted BJ’s head two times.
Pat. Pat. “There, there. You’ll kill the thingie the next time, I’m sure.”
“Is that all you got?” BJ sniffed, wanting a little more support and a lot more pity. Cause darn it, just this minute, considering the fates were conspiring against her to have the worst of all mornings – Today – She needed it!
“If that’s all you have to tell me,” Cat sniffed back. “Then yep, it’s all I gots for you, Pal.”
“Sometimes I really hate you.” BJ killed the engine of her truck with a sigh.
“I know, Pumpkin and yet somehow I survive.” Cat smiled. BJ wasn’t as difficult, as most people thought, to handle. One just needed to know how to do it and not get steamrolled, as she was want to do, in the process. “Now, about AC, fill me in.”
If you couldn’t be embarrassed in front of your best friend, then who could you be embarrassed in front of? BJ reasoned with herself. “I just tried to break-up with AC…”
“Wha—?” Cat sputtered. Talk about sudden! They had been together for like – Ever – She hadn’t expected that in a million years. This was like finding out Malibu Barbie hated Ken. Cat’s world suddenly made no sense. “Why?”
“I can’t stand him.”
Ok. Succinct. That was BJ. And that was why Cat loved her, but still…
“You can’t stand him?” Cat sputtered. “You’ve been with him for years, ever since the seventh grade.”
“Good Lord, don’t remind me how I’ve wasted the very cusp of my youth.”
BJ just rolled her head over on the steering wheel to look at her.
Ouch. Hello, serious face. Well, gee, “You are serious.” Cat didn’t know what to say. “You can’t stand him…Really?”
Rolling her head back forward on the steering wheel, BJ breathed a deep sigh. “Look, I know you think he’s this perfectly built and amazing person, but he’s just not. He’s vain, egotistical and an absolute banal-anal, to the point sometimes I just want to smack him with a hammer because seeing him in pain, would quite frankly, make me happy.”
Cat froze. “You know that I—…”
“Honey, it’s kinda obvious you crush on him. Hard.” BJ reached up blindly to pat her arm. “But it’s never bothered me. Not in the least. He is very pretty, I know that, but trust me, it’s all surface.”
Cat had been working up a tizzy over her guilt for wanting AC and BJ acted like it was no big deal. Wow, that realization was just kind of deflating. “If you are so miserable, why did you stay with him all these years?”
“Envy.” BJ said it quick and without qualification. Why bother? She was shallow, what of it? BJ thought with a mental shrug. “It feeds my ego.”
Sad, isn’t it? It was really just that simple.
“What?” Cat gasped.
Apparently not to Cat. She was just so innocent sometimes, BJ thought. Her little lamb in a world of wolves.
More so than she could ever imagine.
“I did it all for envy.” BJ stated again. But she clarified, “AC is gorgeous…I get that. All the girls wanted him and I could get him, so I did. It’s that simple. Ya, me…Except, not.”
“Wait,” Cat said, holding up a staying hand. “Let me get this straight. You’re only with AC because everyone…”
Cat ignored her, “…Wanted him?”
“Yep.” BJ popped her ‘p’ unabashedly.
“That’s just horrible.”
“I know, but so is a best friend wanting to mack on her best friend’s boyfriend. We’re both horrible, but that’s why were best friends.” BJ sigh, rolling her head back towards Cat again she gave her an unashamed smile. “The only difference between us being, that I’m ok with being horrible…You?” BJ once again patted Cat’s arm. “Not so much. Yet, surprisingly, I love you anyway.”
Cat snorted at her words being tossed back at her in a way oh so BJ, as well as at the truth in that statement.
It was so on the mark, it was hard to argue with BJ’s logic, even as twisted as it was. “When you said you ‘tried’ to break-up with AC, what does that mean?”
“It means that I basically told him I was breaking up with him, but he told me that no, actually I wasn’t.”
Cat frowned, and scratched her chin. “Uh, he can’t do that.”
“That’s what I said.” BJ shook her head in commiseration and rolled it forward, still on the steering wheel. “He said he wouldn’t accept my break-up declaration and that we would be together forever.” BJ clenched her eyes tightly shut, her fingers tightening on the steering wheel in memory. “God, can you believe that?”
“Creepy.” Cat’s frown of consternation turned quickly into one of worry. Because it was just that…Creepy. In fact it had ‘Un-Happy Tidings’ written all over it. “What are you gonna do?”
Since BJ had no idea, no idea short of shooting him, considering her streak just that morning, she changed the subject. “The winners for the The Beautiful Feast of the Valley King and Queen haven’t been announced yet, have they?” BJ asked without bothering to look up.
“I don’t think so.” Again, as was the way of best friends, conversations didn’t necessary have to make sense…They just needed to be followed. The path would always become clear eventually. “But the winner’s, I’m afraid now, are kind of a given.”
“Oh, crap. You mean us?” BJ grimaced. “You didn’t vote for me and AC did you?”
“Well, yeah…Did you think I wouldn’t? I didn’t know you two were having problems, that he was turning into some sort of big fat creeper.” Cat frowned in at BJ, watching absentmindedly as a black Chevy Nova turned from Main onto Sundial, the heading for the gyms parking lot. “I mean everyone votes for you two. It’s just understood that you two are the pair, right? Or ‘were’ I guess would be a better way to phrase it, since you two are on the verge of a break-up.”
“Oh no, we still are, together I mean I guess. At least in his mind…That is until I can get AC to see reason and as much as I hate to think about it. Damn Cat, what am I going to do? I can barely stand the sight of him and now I’m going to be forced to stand beside him, at the only time I am allowed to go to The Feast, at its yearly parade, and be his queen, smiling on a stupid float to all of The Fare like nothing is wrong? How is that fair?” Shaking her head against the steering wheel, BJ moaned the word, “Dammit.”
As mornings went, this one was turning out to be a very revealing one.
First with her whole alleyway confrontation, that she still had to tell BJ about and now finding out that BJ knew of her crush on AC, BJ’s attempted break-up with him and discovering just how creepy AC actually was.
How did one respond to all this upheaval in one single day?
Boggled the mind.
Cat’s system was on overload, and she desperately wanted to help her friend, to tell her her own news but before Cat could form a response to her obviously anguished friend, the brute Cree Feral, whistled at Cat through his rolled down car window as he passed them.
“Is that Cree?” BJ asked with a snarl in her voice, but not looking up. She didn’t need to.
The jerk that was Cree rang loud and clear even through a mere whistle of his lips.
Driving slowly, Cree rolled passed them in his black muscle car, towards the empty parking spot, bobbing his head at Cat standing by BJ’s door and she rolled her lip at him in response.
Seeing her looking, he wagged his tongue out at her in a disgusting fashion and Cat recoiled. Her nose wrinkled in his direction as she simultaneously reached in the window to give her friend a supportive pat on the shoulder. “Yeah, that’s Cree.”
“Why is he here?”
“He goes to school with us, remember?”
“No. I mean why is he here, here…” BJ sneered. “As in on this earth?”
Cat shrugged, offering, “God’s way of showing us that he has that the pesky ‘no relations between siblings’ rule there for a reason?”
BJ chuckled but Cat didn’t.
The hulk that was widely known to the masses as AC’s best friend, Cree Feral, pulled in loudly to the empty parking space before the Boy’s gym doors.
His car’s engine rumbled like ravenous black bear, and the description fit Cree just as well as it fit his car.
After killing the engine, his huge hulking mass muscled his way out of the door. Brown cowboy-booted feet firmly on the ground, he was finally free to stand next to the car. Cree pushed up to his full six foot four height. He seem to tower over the car in both breadth and width, as he turned his big, boxy head, with the Marine jar-head hair cut in Cat’s direction.
All of his features were just as square as his head, the shape of his eyes, his jaw, his chin, his nose. Even the acne scars on his pale face seemed to be in square red, blotchy patches.
His bulbous, laser green eyes with stubby lashes, his worse feature watched her as if with a predatory, appreciative gleam. He winked at her.
Cat sneered with a roll of her own.
Cree Feral was a barbarian pig that had way more confidence than he deserved and way more than Cat could stand.
He wasn’t good looking. Cree sure as heck wasn’t smart. He was as ugly as the first mortal sin, but it was only his size that kept people from pointing all that out to him, to deflate his ego a bit.
Yep, he was that big.
Being that big just wasn’t normal, but few were hesitant to bring it up or suffer Cree’s wrath.
Slamming the door he stepped up on the sidewalk, greeting AC with a low ‘five’, completed with a hand lock and manly shoulder bump.
Why AC was friends with that monster, Cat had no idea?
After a short whispered conversation with AC, Cree threw his head back and laughed obnoxiously. He turned his head in their direction and gave them a measured stare.
“The little Misses giving you grief man?” Cree asked with a snide snicker in his voice, his loud voice carrying easily to all in a 50 yard radius. He meant it too. “Want me to spank her for you?”
AC laughed as if what Cree said was the funniest thing in the world. It wasn’t that funny and seeing the derision AC tossed in BJ’s direction, Cat’s admiration for his looks slipped yet another notch.
Why couldn’t he be mute – Why?!
AC was getting uglier by the minute.
BJ whipped her head up, hearing Cree as was his intent and she stared at him with hatred filling her bright hard, blue eyes.
Catching Cree’s eye, BJ mouthed silently just what he could do with his spanking hand. She did so slowly so that Cree would get the point, the very definition of what she thought he and AC were and she spelled it out in small distinguishable syllables.
Cree narrowed his eyes…The boy was dumb, yet still apparently he got it.
Cat moaned, rolling her eyes heavenward she prayed for divine intervention for the fight she knew was sure to come.
AC was being creepy, Cree was being his normal nasty self and BJ had just lost her temper.
This morning was not going to go well…
Not at all.