Two riders were approaching. The rumble of their motorcycles throbbed in my aching head as I sat on a milk crate with my toes pitched like a pigeon-toed mule. Miniature dust devils ran over my feet as I swept them together and sat up like a right proper lady.
My daddy stepped out of the hot house we called a general store and eyed me with cruelty. “Get up off your ass. Customer’s comin’.”
I slid my dusty feet firmly into my flip-flops and walked over to the gas pump, muttering under my breath. “Next week, I’ll be eighteen and you won’t be able to hit me then, asshole.” I only whispered because I wasn’t in the mood for another whack.
I brushed off my jean shorts, and with one hand on my hip, I mustered a fake smile as the cycles pulled up. Harleys, both. The riders wore clean black leather and holsters on their hips. When they dismounted and removed their helmets, their young faces shocked me into a real smile.
One stood back, legs wide, appraising the place. I didn’t need to hear him speak to know he saw how rundown our little shithole was. The other rider stepped up to me. I put my hand on the fuel pump, about to do my job, but he nudged my hand away and pumped the gas himself. With the tank full, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a twenty. I took it while he stared at me.
“You have a nice smile,” he said, flashing his own pearly whites. I smiled brighter and whispered an honest thank you. “Is it true what they say?” he asked.
“Is what true?”
“That Earth girls are easy.”
I remembered that being an old 80’s song or movie or something. I laughed out loud for a moment but stopped when I saw his deadpan expression. “That depends,” I said.
“On whether you have room for two on that bike.” I nodded my head over to his hog.
He looked back as if considering, not sure. Then he turned back to me. “Seems I do.”
“Then I’m easy as pie,” I said in my best southern drawl.
He held his hand out to me just as my daddy decided to be proprietary. “Not so fast. She might be easy but she ain’t free.”
The stranger looked confused as his eyes moved over Daddy, walking up all oil stained and dirty. An uncertain anger pinched the stranger’s handsome face into a snarled mass of hard, angry lines. “And what is that supposed to mean?”
“You stupid or somethin’? Look around you. You think I got any money out here in the middle of bum-fuck nowhere? A man’s gotta make the most of his assets.” He reached out and squeezed my asset. “She might not be a virgin,” he said with a knowing sneer, “but for another twenty, she’ll act like one if you want her to. Cry for ya and everthin’.”
“Stop it, Daddy!” I said, mainly to myself, as I dropped my head in familiar shame.
“What did you say to me?”
I looked up wanting to speak, but Daddy hauled off and backhanded me into a dry puddle, slamming me down onto the cracked, desert hardpan. Before I could wipe the blood from my lip, I heard a choked gurgle. I stood, finding my daddy’s face blown up red like a balloon about to pop at the end of the stranger’s long, black leather arm.
“Where I come from, a man is more respectful of his kin.” The stranger’s fingers gripped tighter as he lifted Daddy’s feet off the ground. Daddy flailed his arms around and managed to reach for his switchblade. He pulled it and stuck it into the muscular arm of the stranger.
With a small grunt, the stranger dropped Daddy to the ground and pulled the knife out. Bright green blood dripped off the blade. He looked at the nifty little weapon, wiped it on his leather pants, closed it and slipped it into his pocket. Then he pulled his holstered revolver and aimed it at my daddy’s head.
I gasped. He looked at me. I nodded. He pulled the trigger.
It wasn’t the sound of a bullet that echoed off the tin of our old general store. It was a zap. A sizzle. And just like that, Daddy was gone. Disintegrated.
The stranger reached his hand out to me again and this time I took it. He pulled me close, crushing me to his hard chest. His thick arms wrapped around me and as I pressed my face to his body, I began to cry.
When my tears quieted, my hero pulled away and looked at me with an expression that I hadn’t seen since before my mother died with her face bashed in. He looked at me with compassion and respect. His eyes twinkled and he whispered to me. “I thought you said you were easy?”
“Um…” I looked around confused.
“Seems no matter where I go in the universe, the beautiful ones are always the most complicated.”
I smiled and shrugged stupidly. Then he kissed me. Gentle and soft, his mouth pressed slowly against mine.
“Hey, loverboy!” his companion called out. “We’re gonna miss our portal. Time moves faster around here, remember!”
My hero turned to grin at his friend, then he focused deep, swirling blue eyes on me. “You comin’?”
I nodded, taking his hand. “Just where are you from anyway?”
“It’s a very long ride.”
SMNilsen is a speculative writer of the stay-at-home kind. She lives in Maryland with three silly children, two yappy Jack Russells and one supportive husband. Her forthcoming short story, “That Murderous Thieving Bastard and His Wretched Beanstalk” is slated for publication in Fringework’s anthology series, Grimm and Grimmer Vol 3. She is a current member of the Critters Writers Workshop. She enjoys swimming and yoga and procrastinating by scrolling on Facebook. You can keep up with her on her website, SMNilsen.wordpress.com.