Tagged By Life

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Time traveled like a freight train rolling down the tracks always moving forwards and never rolling back. Before I knew it a month had gone past. I had put my tag on each section of the day, like taggers claim freight cars. I followed the sway of direction at the stable adding my own colourful style and the horses thrived. Dick and Tracey came to trust in my abilities. Everything moved along smoothly with no complaining from customers or horses. For a while it seemed I was on the right track, but like everything in life, if you sit there long enough, you’re going to get run over. I couldn’t move fast enough to get out of the way.

About two months into the job, Dick and Tracey’s friends from Tampa drove out for a visit. Joe was a long time friend of Dicks. He was short, with a muscular build like a bulldog. His gleaming black hair reflected everything including the kitchen cabinets. His eyes were so dark, the brown around the pupil was hard to see. He struck me as a used car salesman, or an enforcer for the mob. I never discovered which one he did for a living.

His wife Janine towered over him by a good four inches. She was a stewardess for United Airlines. She was a finished product, like a fondant wrapped cake, all smoothed into place, with colourful decorative accents, brightly painted nails and deep red lips. Her eyes flashed with life, and she flirted with all the ease of breathing.

I kept myself busy at the barns aiming for minimal contact during the alcohol-laden event of old friends.

I was singing along to an overplayed song on the local radio station, my hands were busy on the broom giving the alleyway of the barn one final sweep.

“Debby!” Shouts a person from the other end of the barn. I resist my introverted urge to scurry away.

I turn and squint looking down the long aisle. The sun is shining like the light of heaven at the end, and a silhouette appears in the brilliant glow. It seems almost mystical and appropriate that God would be a woman, tall and lithe clicking down the asphalt aisle in high heel shoes. Right about then I expect to hear angels sing, but all I hear is a lengthy musical fart from a mare lifting her tail in the stall beside me.

The deity walks into the barn and out of the glaring brightness. My shoulders sag. It was Janine.

“Hey Janine.” I finally respond, replying to her original shout.

I look down at the ground muttering to myself over the disruption in my routine. I give the floor a couple more overly aggressive strokes with my broom.

Janine comes closer with her clacking stylish shoes, her badly chosen barn wear.

Salt and Pepper, the corgis bound towards her, barking enthusiastic greetings. Dogs are marvellous.

I reluctantly lean my broom against the cinder brick wall and meet her halfway. I feel the resistance pile up inside me. I don’t want to talk to anyone. Maybe I can smile and nod my way through the conversation?

Her eyes search the barn, “You’re all alone?”

I smile at her and nod.

“Good,” She said smoothening her mini skirt down with a nervous motion. “I was hoping to talk to you for a minute in the office.”

I smile and nod again. All the while wondering what she could want from me? I’m a no-one really.

I follow her into the room. The two tiny fox-like corgis hanging onto my every step. I hope whatever Janine has to say won’t take too long. With my day nearly done, my mind begins to consider the book, which sits at the end of my bed. I can hear it calling my name. ‘Come here my minion, you are under my spell. I shall throw you to the bed and have my way with you.’ I had hoped to finish the book before dark. I needed time to disconnect from the story of the monstrous creatures that fed on human flesh. If I were still mesmerized by the stories vivid enchantment, the monsters from the novel would be joining me on my evening watering detail. My chores tonight would be mingled with self inflicted fear, and borderline heart attacks from the nightly noises in the bush. I push these thoughts aside.

I take a seat on the chair by the door. The dogs hop up on my lap simultaneously filling all the space. “Ok, shoot. What’s up?” I ask bluntly, giving up on the smiling and nodding routine.

Janine paces in front of the trophy case, “I was wondering? Has Dick ever—” She pauses, and then faces me straight on, “Has Dick ever made any inappropriate advances on you?” She blurts out, staring me down with her clear green eyes, “I need to know,” she adds with a troubled look.

The air conditioning kicks in noisily. Dick left it cranked on high.

Janine wraps her arms around herself as goose bumps appear.

I nod without smiling, “Kind of— not advances per say, he wanted to know if I would mess around with him. And when he watches me work, it feels like he’s stripped me down naked with his beady little eyes— But he’s never touched me. Why?” I ask, already sensing the answer.

“She rubs at her forehead with a hand and wrinkles her brow, “When Joe and Tracey went into the house to get drinks today, Dick and I were still in the pool.” Her lips tighten; she hesitates, and then continues, “ Dick kept moving closer to me until he had me trapped in the corner of the pool. Zack was at the far end of the pool. I didn’t want to create a scene in front of Zack. So I stayed quiet. Before I could get away, Dick pressed himself against me, and started squeezing my breasts.” She confesses, her eyes filling with tears.

I feel nauseous. I imagine his grubby hands pawing at splendid Janine. “That’s disgusting.” I said. “I’m so sorry. He’s never forced himself on me. I can’t imagine— I mean, I can — but gross! What did you do?”

“I told him no. And I tried to push his hands away. He just laughed and said I liked it. I told him Joe would be back right away. I told him I would tell Joe what he did.” Janine said sniffling.

“Did he back off?” I asked.

She scrunches up her face, “Yeah, but it was so— so awful. And I can’t tell Joe. Dick is his oldest friend.” She shakes her head and shivers, “I just can’t believe this? Joe talks about him all the time. How wonderful Dick is. How Dick has gotten Joe out of tight spots. Joe practically hero-worships the man. I don’t want Joe having to choose between Dick and myself. ” Janine gets a far away look on her face. “I mean, he knows Dick’s a womanizer, but Joe thinks Dick would never touch me.” She sighs. “I’ll have to be more careful from now on.” She pauses and blinks, sucking in a heavy breath of air, “I don’t know? Maybe it was the booze? We were drinking all afternoon?”

She paces over to the picture window and gazes into the barn. “I don’t want to cause trouble between them—“ She lets the words hang in the air for a moment, and then turns to me with fire in her eyes. “But if he ever touches me again— I will tell Joe, and the hell with their friendship!”

I bob my head in agreement, “You gotta protect yourself.”

She shakes a finger at me, “You have to protect yourself too. That’s why I came down here. It was to warn you. You’re so young, and you’re alone with him a lot of the time.”

I press my lips together and shake, “Such a creep. Thanks for having my back. I appreciate that, ” I said stroking the corgi’s fur. “But I’m careful, I keep my distance. “

She tilts her head and looks at me, “Do you think Tracey knows?” Janine asks.

“Knows about her horny husband?” I question, and then shrug, “Who knows?”

Janine shakes her head and her auburn hair bounces like a model in a shampoo commercial. “He shouldn’t get away with this. Maybe you should talk to Tracey?”

I groan aloud, “No. I’m the hired hand, for all I know that’s standard practice to hit on the help. You should say something. You’re the guest. And he actually touched you!”

She shakes her head, “No, I don’t want to upset things, we are only here for two more nights.”

I set the dogs down on the ground and stand up, “Ok. That’s your choice.” I’m feeling annoyed. Nothing here to see or do. Once a creep always a creep, and nobody is willing to say anything. Me included. “If that’s everything I’m going to finish my chores.”

Janine growls and throws her hands up. “I can’t stand it!” She said with a hard edge to her tone. “He’s getting away with this crap because we are staying silent.”

It’s like she read my mind.

Janine touches me on the arm. “If he puts his hands on me again— I will tell Joe. And then you should say something to Tracey.”

I chew on my bottom lip considering her proposal. I need this job. I can’t rock the boat too much. But then again— I could always go home. I need to do what’s right. “Ok. I’ll say something to Tracey if it happens again. But you need to be more careful. Don’t get caught alone.“

We go our separate ways and the rest of Joe and Janine’s visit is uneventful—until the next time.

In the meantime, the train of life is barrelling down on me. I’m sitting on the tracks playing with the horses. My back is to the oncoming locomotive, it carries all sorts of interesting little packages, all tagged for me.

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