“Leave boy, pack up like the rest of em and go. You’ve got a darkness in you, and we don’t want it here.” Her words were clipped. I glared across the dirt yard at Mrs. Kegley and her perfect little white house, what did she know about darkness? Or whatever else I had in me.
“I want to see her, talk. That’s all.”
Inside the house there was a crash and someone started yelling. I knew the voice, Mr. Kegley. Another crash and another holler carried out to us on the dry wind. The old woman winced even as I took a step forward. “Family matters.” She said, focusing on me not the sounds coming from behind her. “It’s none of your concern. You aren’t good for her; this all is only going make you sorry.”
That cut it. I didn’t say anything back, just left. My boots kicked up angry little storm clouds along the dirt road. Mrs. Kegley, for all her high words and school, wasn’t smart enough to see what was brewing in her own home. I could leave Flora alone, but she was never gonna leave me be. That girl had her hooks tight in my chest.
My tent and horse waited for me, lonesome now that my camp stood alone. The traders, my family of sorts, had left shaking their heads at the foolishness. I’d begged Flora to come along then, and she’d refused. Business she said, ends to tie and hatchets to bury.
I got that, because I got her. It was them who were wrong. I wouldn’t wait in this snobby little town for foolishness, but for Flora I would. I’d wait forever.
Being the considerate sort, Flora didn’t make me. She came that night under the bright June moon. She wore her brother’s clothes, hair sheered short but she was as lovely as ever. Flora didn’t waste time in any lover’s embrace; we needed to run she said.
I didn’t argue, just set about pulling up camp while she peered into the dark down the road. I helped her onto my horse, our modest possessions packed and waiting for our new life together. Flora whispered in my ear, thin arms wrapped around me. I spurred the horse away from the dirt path. She was right, no need to tempt ill fortune, just keep going.
I did look back though. On the horizon, set on the path we quickly left behind, a small house burned. Flames reached far above its roof, illuminating it against the night. I saw it crack, its white walls falling into fire.
Mrs. Kegley had been wrong, same as the rest of them; it wasn’t me who had a darkness in them.
Flora’s delicate hand turned my cheek, returning my eyes to the way ahead. I didn’t look back again.