By the time Mary awoke and went downstairs, they were already gone. She knew it before she read the note left for her on the kitchen counter. They had taken their coats and hunting gear with them. Mary slid into warm overalls from the dryer and poured some cereal. She chewed side to side the way a sheep might and waited for Analiese to get up.
Mary hated the very thought of the hunting expeditions. Someday, she would have to go along. After last weekend’s expedition, Uncle Terry had told her so. He had handed her a sparkling blue stone dangling from a golden cord and said: “We’re a farmer’s family. And farmers' families pull their weight. We stick together, defend each other.”
“Support one another,” Mary had finished.
Mary remembered that Uncle Terry had seemed pleased and given her a soft nod before carrying a man-sized carcass into Mongry’s shed.
Shoving the memory aside, she pulled the necklace from the utensil drawer. In front of her, the stone reflected blue and purple streams throughout the sun-warmed kitchen.
So glamorous. It was the kind of jewelry Mary imagined a movie star would wear.
If I wore this to school, Sammy Deekes would be sure to notice me. It wasn’t the first time Mary allowed herself to fantasize about the boy. His cool eyes and friendly smile. He was one of the few at school who was nice to her, always polite, always said hello. Mary bided her time, knowing one day she would muster the courage to make her feelings known.
Her thoughts were interrupted when Analiese bounded down the stairs like a leprechaun. Mary stuffed the necklace back into its drawer and reseated herself.
“Good morning,” she offered, shoveling another spoonful of cereal into her mouth.
“Hurmph,” Analiese rubbed her puffy eyes.
Mary was mesmerized as Analiese stumbled around the refrigerator. Everything about her seemed exotic, glamorous, even. All the boys at school talked about her when she arrived nearly a month ago from L.A., probably even the likes of Sammy Deekes, but Mary didn’t want to think about that now. Though fifteen, like Mary, Analiese carried the body of a woman in her mid-twenties: full breasts, shapely hips, and yet her youth kept her slender. She kept her long, brown hair out of her face with a headband most days, including today, and whipped around green piercing eyes that seemed to all but melt members of the opposite sex.
By comparison, Mary looked like an adolescent with her rail thin, boyish frame and stringy blond hair. Ma had bought her training bras a year back to secure Mary’s “little pricks,” she’d said. Uncle Terry had hackled and bawled into Mary’s bedroom when he saw them in the wash, until Mary had flown at him, biting and scratching. No one laughed at Mary Buckley and got away with it. In the end, it had cost her a good whooping with Ma’s belt, but Uncle Terry never laughed at her again.
Analiese snapped the refrigerator door shut, apparently defeated and began primping herself in the kitchen window reflection. Mary burned with jealousy.
“Didn’t you sleep well?” Mary asked.
“How could you with all that racket? Do you keep a dog in the basement or something?”
“I didn’t hear nothing.”
Mary lowered her gaze the empty bowl, allowing her straw-like hair to fall in front of her chin. “Can I try on some?”
Analiese eyed the lipstick in her hand and smirked back at Mary. “Sure.”
When Analiese finished, she drew a handheld mirror from her knapsack and allowed Mary to admire her handiwork.
“There, now isn’t that pretty?” Analiese sparkled.
Mary smiled sheepishly at her own reflection and nodded emphatically.
“I look,” Mary started.
“Like less of a…” Analiese trailed off.
Analiese sighed. “Well, like less of dyke, I guess.”
Mary scoffed. When she glanced back at her reflection, the face staring back at her had somehow morphed. She saw her square jaw and crooked teeth jutting from a crimson open-mouthed expression. Ridiculous. She slapped the mirror out of Analiese’s hand onto the counter, and began furiously wiping her face with her sleeve.
“I ain’t no lesbian!”
Analiese shrugged. “I’m hungry. What do you have?”
“We got cereal and oatmeal,” Mary offered, still calming herself.
“Do you have pancakes?” Analiese lifted her perfect eyebrows hopefully. Her green eyes flickered in a manner Mary imagined was practiced to solicit her every desire, no matter how trite, from any warm-blooded creature in the vicinity.
“Pancakes? I guess so.”
“Make me some.”
While Mary cooked, Analiese typed vigorously on her phone, pausing only to run her fingers through dark tresses. Mary watched from the corner of her eye. It was nice to have someone over, a friend. That Analiese had asked at all to spend the night had surprised Mary. The other kids at school seemed to steer clear of the Buckleys. Mary knew they considered her family odd, but, Analiese was new, and maybe hadn’t yet been acquainted with the gossips.
“Quit looking at me,” Analiese said without looking up. “I mean it.”
“Yeah. Are you sure you’re not… funny?”
“I don’t really care, my aunt has a girlfriend. It happens all the time in California.”
“I ain’t gay!” Mary growled.
“Yeah? Prove it,” Analiese seemed pleased to have gotten a rise.
Mary paused a moment, but ultimately played along. “How?”
“Do you have a boyfriend?”
Mary was silent.
“Have you ever had a boyfriend?”
Mary poked at the pancakes with her spatula.
“Never?!” Analiese giggled.
Mary’s face burned. “I have to!”
Mary searched her mind. “A boy. At... at school.”
“Yes, but who?” Analiese demanded.
“Sammy Deekes,” Mary muttered under her breath.
“Sammy Deekes?! You’re such a liar.” Analiese returned to her cell phone.
Mary set the flapjacks on the table and fumbled in the utensil drawer over a loose wallet and bracelet before pulling out a fork. She hoped Analiese hadn’t noticed.
“Who you texting?” Mary asked.
“None of your beeswax.” Analiese set down her phone and started in on her food.
Mary bit her lip, unsure if she should press the issue. “Can I do one?”
“On your phone.”
Analiese scrunched her face as if tasting something sour. “Don’t you have a cell phone?” Mary wagged her head no, embarrassed.
“Tiffany earrings and no cell phone?” Analiese mused.
Mary brushed her hair self-consciously over her ears.
“Tsk,” Analiese started. “You should hit up your dad. That’s what I do. No offense, but I won’t be stuck in this country bumpkin town for long. I’m only here because of the divorce. My dad was trying to get me into acting, and I know I am going to make it. Yep! I’ll be back in LA and on TV before you know it.”
“I bet you will.” Mary was sincere.
“Darn straight I will!” Analiese took another bite.
Mary fidgeted in her socks. “My Pa run off when I was a baby. It’s just Ma and Uncle Terry raising us now.”
“Us?” Analiese drowned her remaining pancake in a pool of syrup.
“My younger...” Mary stopped. “I mean, just me.”
A scuffle, scuffle, thud wafted up from the basement.
Analiese snapped up, alert, and made her way to the basement door. “Okay. I know you heard that.”
“Don’t!” Mary cried out.
“Why? What’s down there?” Analiese stopped.
“Our dog,” Mary lied.
Analiese folded her arms in front of her. “You have a dog now?”
“Mongry is real rowdy. We keep him in the basement.” Mary nodded rapidly and motioned to the folded note on the counter.
Analiese took the bait. It was a short note. Three words.
FEED MONGRY. –MA
“You Buckleys are weird.”
“Listen, I got chores. You can come if you want.”
“Nah. I better shower and get home.”
“’Course.” Mary tried to hide her disappointment and turned to leave the house.
When Mary returned from tending the hogs, she could hear the water running in the upstairs shower. Analiese’s knapsack, purse and phone were gathered together on a pile on the kitchen counter. Mary started washing her hands. She couldn’t let Analiese see them this way.
The phone chirped and vibrated on the counter. Mary ignored it scrubbing her hands with a soapy towel.
On the third chirp, the temptation proved too much for her to bear. She dried her hands and nervously picked up the phone, now silent. When it vibrated and chirped again, Mary checked over her shoulder. Still hearing the shower water, she began trying buttons.
It didn’t take long for the keyboard to snap out and screen illuminated. Mary jumped. Giggling at her own naïvete, she held the device carefully as if it were a baby chick. She read the large black letters.
Are you back from the Buckleys yet? SAMMY D.
Her heart throbbed in her chest. She swallowed hard and wiped a sweaty palm against her shirt before typing back.
She jammed the Enter key and waited. It took only a few moments for her new shrine to chirp to life again.
Bummer. I miss you already. SAMMY D.
She quickly scanned the room again.
Me too. Hit enter.
I couldn’t stop thinking about you last night. SAMMY D.
She smiled and tried to think of what to write next. There was so much she wanted to tell him. She typed ‘I want to kiss you’ but deleted it, then retyped it again. Minutes passed and the phone chirped again. She grunted in frustration and decided on a single sentence.
You are the most amazing person I have ever met.
The next message took an agonizing few minutes to come. Mary realized she was holding her breath.
You too, Babe. SAMMY D.
The next fifteen minutes passed like wonderful hours. Mary made herself comfortable on the living room couch with her feet up. She told Sammy all the things she wanted to do to a lover and hoped to receive in return. She allowed herself to be rapt in anticipation, hitting the Enter key and awaiting the next message. She imagined Sammy feeling the same way, reclined on his bed, giddy to receive another note, maybe even touching himself. The thought warmed her to her core.
She was surprised how little it mattered that Sammy believed he was talking to Analiese. The truth was that Sammy was talking to her, Mary. And he seemed enthralled by it. By her.
Mary’s euphoria was cut short when she heard a familiar clicking noise from the kitchen. She squinted to recall it.
The basement door lock.
Mary whipped herself off the couch and bulleted to the kitchen.
“What do you think you’re doing, Analiese?”
Analiese spun from the basement door to face Mary. She seemed surprised and dropped her knapsack, which fell at her feet spilling Uncle Terry’s blue-stone necklace, a wallet and a number of trinkets from around the house.
“I... I..” Analiese stammered.
“You’re stealing from us?”
Analiese pulled herself together. “Look. I want to know what’s down these stairs. You Buckley’s have money and I want it!”
“Don’t sass me,” Analiese pointed an accusatory finger. “I know this farm doesn’t make that much. I see you walking into school with your jewelry. I’ve got to get out of here and back to L.A.”
With that, Analiese burst into tears and sunk to the floor.
“I’m sorry, Mary.”
“You didn’t come over because…”
Analiese looked up through swollen eyes.
“I mean, you don’t like me,” Mary was defeated.
“Like you?” Analiese giggled.
Mary fumed, balling her fists. No one made a fool of Mary Buckley. She had Analiese in her sights.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that,” Analiese insisted, with laughter still on her voice.
“No. You’re right. We have money.”
“What?” Analiese sobered.
“We have money. We keep it locked up down there.”
Analiese eyed Mary suspiciously. “What about your dog?”
“It’s not a dog. My little brother is down there. He likes to play games in the basement. Mongry. I lied because I didn’t want you to go down there and find all our treasures.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“Because I love you. I loved you since I first seen you, but I know now that we can’t be together.”
“I knew it!” Analiese stood up.
Mary nodded. “If you go down there, you can take what you want. I won’t tell anybody if...”
“If what? Tell me, tell me!”
“If I can have a kiss when you come back.”
“One little kiss, and then I’ll never bother you again,” Mary was focused. “Just go downstairs. You can take anything you want.”
Analiese eyed the door.
“Just open the door, and go downstairs,” Mary could feel her eyes growing wide.
After Analiese descended into the basement, Mary locked the door behind her. The deadbolt sounded like a hunter’s rifle. Mary’s small body flooded with adrenaline as she pressed it against the door. The added security wasn’t necessary, she knew. If the reinforced wood and locks kept Mongry in, the likes of Analiese surely didn’t have a chance against it.
It took a few minutes for the shrieks to begin, a roar, scuffling, rattling, then bangs on the door. Mary waited for the basement to grow quiet again before returning to Analiese’s phone on the living room couch. There were a number of messages from Sammy, but Mary didn’t know how to retrieve them all. She typed one slowly:
I love you Sammy D.
The phone chirped back at her, but she didn’t pay any attention. In the distance she heard the family truck coming up the road back from a hunting trip for Mongry.