05 June 2010

Brute, Part 3

Hold it. Whoa, yeah, OK, so in case you didn't notice, this is PART 3. That means you may have missed the other two installments of "Brute". I'll give you a few minutes to catch up. You're welcome. -m
Brute, Part 1
Brute, Part 2

Leandra and Jeremiah were in the backyard talking, and I watched them from inside the house with an eyebrow raised . I had left the glass door open so as to avoid any comedic accidents in the event that Jeremiah went berserk again.

The sun was gone now, leaving only a few pinkish remnants of light over the mountains. If I stood on the very edge of the threshold I could see the orange moon rising higher in the sky. Now that Jeremiah was sitting there being all canine-like, I made a face at the moon, feeling ridiculous for thinking it was somehow responsible for all this.

Bouncing on my toes, I watched Leandra pat her new dog on the head, smile, and say something in his ear. I didn't really feel like venturing out there, so I stood on the brink of inside and outside, waiting. The first thing I had done when I'd gone inside was grab my phone out of my bag on the couch. I was flipping it over and over in my hand; it was strangely reassuring to hear the plastic smack against my palm. The time for helping my sister move out was way past; I had already texted her and explained things. Sort of. I hadn't been very specific.

Leandra suddenly stood and came toward me. I moved aside and she brushed past me as she wiped her cheek with her hand. The look I gave her must have been sufficiently quizzical, because she made a face as she got some water from the kitchen.

"He licked me," she said as she wiped her hand on her jeans. I couldn't help it -- I started laughing. She glared at me. "It's not funny."

"No, of course not. I'm sorry," I said. I tossed my head to get my hair out of my eyes and straightened up a little, trying to look the very image of seriousness. But then the thought of Jeremiah slapping a wet doggy kiss on my friend's face made the smile come back.

"Stop it!" Leandra said, whacking me on the arm. She sipped at the cool water and hesitated a moment more before saying, "What are we going to do?"

I shrugged. "I dunno. What do you wanna do?"

"I...I don't know." She looked out to the yard and grimaced when she saw Jeremiah scratching his neck with his back foot.

"Well, what do you want me to do? Should I stay? We could call someone..." I looked at her from the corner of my eye, gauging her reaction. Leandra simply shrugged at everything I said and stayed silent. I leaned back against the door. If she wasn't going to want to call the police or animal control or something, there really wasn't much I could do. I looked at Jeremiah, who was sitting silently outside. "What's he doing?"

"He said the stars were really pretty and told me to go grab some blankets so we could lay out and look at them," Leandra said. She sounded pretty miserable. I hid a smile by focusing on my confusion.

"Oh," was all I said that time. This was followed by an eloquent, "Ummm." Leandra looked me in the eyes and then patted me on the arm.

"You should go home," she said. I raised my eyebrows, thinking she was just trying to be nice.

"You're sure?" She nodded and looked out at Jeremiah, who was still waiting.

"He won't hurt me or anything. We'll just stargaze a while and then I'll go home, too," she said. I pursed my lips, thought for a sec, and then decided to do as she suggested.

"Call if you need me, lady," I said as I walked out the front door. I didn't hear her answer.

Teia was amused my my late arrival, as she proved when she bounded into me when I got home. I barely had time to keep my keys from stabbing her in the stomach.

"You deserted me!" she said dramatically, throwing her head to one side and pretending to be distressed.

"Hardly," I said, struggling to breathe in Teia's death grasp. "Leandra had some problems. Problems worse than you being physically unable to throw away junk." Teia dropped her arms and grinned mischievously.

"Junk you gave me," she said as I moved past her into the kitchen. Natalie , the other little sister, was standing in front of a mixing bowl holding a whisk in one hand and a spatula in the other.

"Because you asked for it!" I yelled. Teia laughed and I heard her thunder up the stairs to her room. It was probably mostly empty by now, and I did feel a slight twinge of guilt as I plopped into a chair by the counter, watching Natalie navigate a recipe. Just as she was leaning past me to grab an egg sitting in the spoon holder by the sink, she made a face.

"You smell weird," she said.

"Gee, thanks."

"And you're covered with black hairs. Stop leaning on the table!" she added suddenly when I put my elbows up. "Out! Out of my kitchen! You're going to get fur in everything!" I stuck my tongue out at her and went to flop on the couch in the living room, but I only made it to the floor.

Laying there on my back, I stared blankly at the vaulted ceiling and decided that stretching would feel really good. I straightened out and lifted both of my feet, keeping my legs straight as long as possible. When my feet were nearly touching the floor behind my head, I held them there and marveled at how wonderful it felt. Teia came pounding down the stairs.

"That looks comfy," she said sarcastically and giggled.

"Shut up and try it yourself before you judge me," I said. "I am comfortable." She shook her head and went into the kitchen for a moment. I heard the fridge door open and close, and then she was back, but moving toward the front door.

"Meeting Isaac," she said. I dropped my legs and rolled over, mouth open to question her, but the door slammed shut and she was gone. I rolled again so I could see Nat and I propped myself up on my elbows.

"Do we know Isaac?" I asked, though I knew the answer. Natalie shrugged and shook her head. "Didn't think so."

I had just made it back down to my room when I heard my phone start to ring. Every happy thought inside of me that had been thinking about reading and then going to bed jumped off a cliff when I glanced at the caller ID. Leandra. I knew I shouldn't be rolling my eyes at a time like this, but hey, I was tired, and, I remembered at that moment, I hadn't eaten dinner.

"Hey," I said as I flipped the phone open. "What's up?"

"Oh, god, Meli, you have to come back," Leandra said. I immediately ran back up the stairs. That was real terror in her voice.

"What? What's wrong? What happened?" I scrambled to find my keys. Where had I put them? The table? No, not on the table. Crap. Maybe in my...no. Shoot. OK, keys, call to me, I thought.

"I...I don't know! One minute we were just lying there, talking, and the next....oh, Meli." I found the keys were they always are -- on the hook in the front closet.

"What?!?" I yelled. Leandra was obviously not thinking very quickly. She was speaking quickly, but only in groups of three or four words at a time. And then she just stopped like that, and everyone knows that when someone stops before telling you something that made them call you with horror haunting their words, well, you just know it's not gonna be good.

"He killed a bunny!" I stopped suddenly on my way out the door, my fingers on the handle. I thought for a few seconds, sure that Leandra had said something else. My phone had to have messed that one up. Either way, I was much calmer and prone to patience, and since I couldn't come up with anything else that she might have said (Killed the money? What? No.), I asked her to repeat what she'd said.

"We were on the grass, and I had my hand on his back, and then...and then....he jumped up and he killed a little baby bunny!" I almost dropped the phone I was laughing so hard. Needless to say, it's a good thing she couldn't see me at that moment, because, oh man, did I lose it. Completely.

"Did he save some for you?" I asked. I heard her gasp.

"Meli! That's disgusting!"

"Hey, now, I'm just sayin'....if the man wants to put food on the table...." I said.

"Could you come over? Please? It's getting worse."

"What do you mean?" I asked, swallowing my laughter as I heard her new, quieter tone. I used her pause to yell at Natalie that I was leaving again and shut the door.

"Can you just come?" I nodded even though she couldn't see or sense it and started my car.

"Ten minutes," I said. Leandra thanked me and I flipped the phone shut and dropped it in my cup holder between the front seats. I don't usually speed too terribly, but I shortened the ten minute drive to Jeremiah's place to about six minutes, which is impressive, I think. Just as I pulled up, I mused that maybe by "come over" Leandra had meant to her place, but I shook my head at that one, because of course she wouldn't have left him yet. I got out of my car and found myself walking very, very slowly up to the door.

Leandra met me there; her hair was running loose and looked a little static-y, and the free strands made her wide open eyes look profoundly stricken. Without a word she led me through the small home and to the back yard where, illuminated gently by the moonlight, I could see tufts of white fur scattered all over the grass. Jeremiah was lounging in doggy form against the step, and he was gnawing on something.

The smell of blood suddenly hit me, and I dry retched a little. When my second grade class had gone on a field trip to the Natural History Museum downtown to watch a lamb's heart dissection, I had swooned -- yes, swooned -- and barely made it out the door before fainting full out on the disgustingly decorated, unpadded carpet of the Hall of Life. Blood and I aren't friends.

Jeremiah heard me (probably smelled me, too) and looked up at me, grinning with teeth covered in baby bunny blood. "Hey, Meli," he said. Weird to hear your name coming from the murderous fangs of your friend's fiance.

"Hi, Jer. Uh... whatcha got there?"

"Dinner. Cooked up some rabbit." I glanced at Leandra with my eyes squinted, hoping for an explanation. She looked at me with a look along the lines of "I told you so" and then motioned for me to pay attention. As if I wanted to miss any of this.

Leandra knelt down near his head, so that he still had to look back at us a little, and said, "Jer? Honey? Is your fur keeping you warm enough?" Jeremiah looked at her with so much confusion brimming in his eyes that my jaw dropped as I began to comprehend.

"Fur? Oh, you mean my jacket? Sure, it's fine. Still pretty warm out." Leandra stood and looked me in the eyes. The light from the kitchen door swathed her face in a slightly yellow glow that almost made her brown eyes look gold. I doubt she could see me very well. I stared at Jeremiah for a second, trying to piece things together, and then I shot my hand out and yanked Leandra inside with me. I pulled her into the kitchen and made a lot of noise by pulling a cup out of the cupboard and turning on the sink for water.

"He doesn't know he's a monstrous, furry brute of a fanged killer thing!" I hissed, trying to get all of my feelings into one sentence. I think I succeeded. I didn't even hesitate before adding, "He killed a baby bunny!" Oh, yes, I said it. And without laughing, too.

"I know!" Leandra said. "What did you think I meant?" I took a few big gulps of water, trying to calm myself by filling my belly. I stared out the window.

"How can you not know that your body popped itself out of human mode and into wolf mode? How? It's not possible, I tell you! It's not!" Leandra put her hand on my arm, and I stuck my nose in my glass again, briefly wishing that Jeremiah believed in liquid stronger than caffeinated coffee.

"SShhhh! He'll hear you!" Leandra said, throwing a glance toward the back door.

"'Oh, you mean my jacket?'" I mumbled, imitating Jeremiah's voice. "Oh, it's very warm. Hi, guys, I'm a black-eyed killer from your nightmares, if you don't mind please would you set the bunnies loose?" I flexed my fingers in front of Leandra's face and made wild hand motions to emphasize key points of my tiny monologue, but she ignored me. At least, she pretended to.

"Shut up! We have to figure out what to do," Leandra said. She pinched my arm and I snapped out of my little reaction just in time to stave of the hyperventilating. I put the glass down and lowered my arms at the same time, as though pressing my irrationality into the nether regions of the house.

"Well," I said, weighing my words. "Do you have any silver bullets?"

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