Welcome back for the last part to the story. I’ve really missed interacting with everyone and it’s great to get back to it. Any feedback would be much appreciated. =)
Beauty Part Three
She couldn’t stand it. Stuffing the ruby into her pocket, she ran. The main door was right there. She smacked into it before remembering to shove the locking bar up. Bolting across the porch, she tripped, stutter stepped down the steps and skidded on her hands and knees at the bottom.
Blood trickled from her palms and stained the knees of her pants but she didn’t notice until she stopped, puffing, at the tree where she was to meet Michael.
Roy’s smile stuck in her mind like the dirt under her father’s nails. He trusted her. Why?
Lila Dean jumped. She wasn’t used to people approaching her. It was unnerving.
She turned, fiddling to pull the ruby from her pocket and be done with it. The rough corners snagged on the fabric.
Michael grinned, holding his hand out. The look froze her. Something lit his eyes with an ugly light.
“What’s your little girl’s name?” she asked.
“What?” He finally met her eyes.
“Your girl’s name?”
His jaw twitched before he controlled it and his expression turned pained.
Is that real? Lila Dean wasn’t sure. The expression didn’t fit with what she’d seen a moment before.
“Laura,” Michael said.
It was just a name. Lila Dean’s fingers closed hard around the ruby still in her pocket.
I’m a fool.
“How old is she?” she asked.
The twitch came back in his jaw. Lila Dean took a step back.
He snatched at Lila Dean’s arm just as she jerked away. The sleeve tore. She ran, leaving the fabric in his hand.
He cursed and his heavy footfalls crashed after her. Lila Dean’s lungs burned. She never ran and now, twice in one night, she pushed her body for speed. Her chest protested with fierce fire and, judging from the crashing behind her, it wasn’t enough.
Giving up on speed, Lila Dean veered left, up the hill and toward the mine. Its dark, gaping mouth appeared before her. Without considering the dangers, she ran inside and rolled herself into one of the carts waiting inside. Her breathing rasped in the darkness, almost loud enough to echo.
She sucked in air and held it for a count of five before letting it out slowly.
“Stupid girl!” Michael’s voice exploded not far from her, amplified by the close space of the mine.
Lila Dean jumped and smacked the side of the cart. The thud echoed off the walls like a bell.
“Can’t hide in there forever,” Michael said.
The silence lengthened. Lila Dean listened. He was still there. If she held her breath, she could just make out the whisper of his breathing.
Peeking over the side of the cart, Lila Dean waited for her eyes to adjust until she could see the faint outline of the mine’s mouth. Michael’s dark shape stood there, leaning against the left side. He didn’t seem inclined to venture farther in.
Lila Dean decided to trust the dark. Unlike Michael, she wasn’t backlit by the faint light from the moon. Pulling herself out of the cart, she reached her hand out for the wall. Its rough, cool texture greeted her like an old friend.
“Had you believing,” Michael said and Lila Dean jumped again. Thankfully there was nothing to hit this time.
She glanced over her shoulder but he still leaned against the entrance.
“Didn’t think you’d care about details or I’d have had a whole picture in my head about little Laura…” he described his imaginary little girl. Lila Dean let his words cover the soft crunch of her steps. He paused and she paused until he started again.
“I do have gambling debts,” he continued. “Owe a lot and they’ll take a lot in payment. Maybe an arm or…”
Lila Dean’s hand hit empty space. She turned into the tunnel and, as she moved into it, Michael’s voice faded. It was a secondary entrance. Only there for if the entrance caved in but Lila Dean knew about it because of Sheldon Lea. The old spinster showed it to her right after the fire. He led her down it to relieve her fears of losing her father too. She wouldn’t lose both parents, he said—most likely. Sheldon Lea tended to be honest.
By the time she reached ground level and made her way home, it was late into the night. She wondered if Michael was still waiting at the entrance of the mine. Would he give up before the workers arrived?
Lila Dean cringed. She didn’t really care but her sleeve was missing, her palms and knees were bloody and her clothes were covered in dust from the mine. What would she tell her father?
She hesitated on the small porch but then squared her shoulders and entered.
A single candle burned on the table and her father sat writing in his ledger.
“Never again,” he said.
“Yes, Sir,” she answered.
He didn’t look up. Lila Dean went to her room to change, for once glad he didn’t look at her.
Pulling the ruby from her pocket, she set it on her nightstand, remembering Billy Roy’s smile. She’d wronged him. She wasn’t sure how yet but she vowed she’d make it right.