BLOOD OF THE GODS

BLOOD OF THE GODS tells the story of a mostly mortal girl who stands between the new generation of godchildren and their ultimate goal, the power of creation.


Unbeknownst to nineteen-year-old Julia Jane, she comes from a clandestine line of Theohaima (mortals with a drop of godly blood). Theohaima cannot be controlled by godly influence and thus are the only mortals that can truly choose to love (agape) the gods. The four-thousand-year-old godchildren of light, whom are living on earth attempting to prove their worth to their creators, have no idea why they cannot gain their ultimate goal: ktisis (the power to create new worlds), until they meet Julia, bond with her, and experience the responsibility and vulnerability that truly defines being a god. Julia discovers the unexpected in this journey as well. She finds trust despite her troubled past, love in spite of only believing in lust, and strength to fight her inner demons (and some outer ones too). However, the godchildren of darkness also discover a way of gaining ktisis: by capturing and draining Theohaima of their godly blood. What none of the godchildren know is how much they need one another and the Theohaima in order to transcend into Elder gods capable of creating new worlds.

The following work is Copyrighted by Theresa Pocock 2020


Chapter 1

Julia: The Coffee Hut

A tiny bit of white caramel-infused foam splashes onto my thumb as I snap the lid on bleary-eyed Karen’s daily caramel macchiato. The timing of this daily hand-off is vital, so I leave the foam there, and, gripping the metal frame of the drive-up window, carefully swing the cup into Karen’s greedy hands. As usual, she presses the straw between her lips and sucks so hard one would think we were on Mars and the tiny cup held oxygen.

One side of my mouth slides up and I shake my head indulgently as a pathetic glow of affection for this caffeine addict fills my chest. Karen has been with me the four years I’ve worked the Coffee Hut and my heart gives a little ache knowing I will be leaving her and all this familiarity behind.

I look out to the sparkling morning. The absolutely perfect purples and greens of the Timpanogos Mountains dominate my view and shrink the strip mall before me to comic proportions. The air is cool and there isn’t a hint of a breeze.

I take a deep breath and wait for Karen to suck the life out of the perfectly tempetured drink. I sigh but keep quiet as I wipe my thumb off.

Over the years Karen and I have developed an understanding. If I have her drink ready, and I don’t force her to talk to me, she leaves me a rather large tip.

It does feel a tiny bit like I’ve sold my soul to the green paper god when I do try to say something to her, because she glares and holds up the cash in a threatening manner which makes me shut my mouth. This exchange happens today. I want to tell her I’ll be leaving in just a few weeks, but with my tip on the chopping block, I don’t.

Once she is certain I won’t speak she furtively passes the cash through the window and speeds away.

It’s all rather shady. And I feel pretty terrible about it until I pocket the money that is mine. Once I’ve slipped the rest into the register, I move to the other side of the hut and watch Karen pull onto Federal.

Her Volvo moves from the lot, onto the street in a jerky, swerving motion and she almost t-bones a glossy silver car turning into the strip-mall.

My fingers automatically move to my lips, my body tensing for impact, but Karen narrowly evades the collision. Still feeling a bit uncertain that Karen will make it to the bottom of her coffee without killing someone, I yell out the window; “Hands on the wheel.” She can’t hear me, I know but I feel compelled to do something.

I watch as her car drunkenly jerks to the stop light and from here I can see she still has her mouth plastered to the straw. “Crazy woman.” I mutter.

Taking a few deep breaths, I wipe down the counter all the while shaking my head in disapproval. Chores done, and blood pressure calmed, I sit back on my stool, and examine my nails.

Polish needs an update.

I lean over to dig the bubble-mint polish out of my purse when I hear the tell-tell sound of an engine. I turn to see the posh looking car from the ‘almost accident’. The silver vehicle is shiny and all foreign looking. Way too fancy for this side of the tracks.

Moving to the window, I strain to see who sits behind the illegally tinted glass.

When it stops, the driver’s window descends barely an inch, so all I can see is the top of a blonde head.

“How can I help you?” I ask politely.

The woman is turned away from me, so I glance beyond her and wait. Across the parking lot a very tall woman, with straight black hair to her butt maneuvers around her bright red sports car. She plops herself on the trunk of her car and looks right at me. I narrow my eyes at her, confused by her direct stare.

“You wouldn’t happen to have Yerba Mate tea, would you?” A scratchy bass voice interrupts, as a pair of masculine sunglasses and a bold nose becomes visible through the window slit, which descends another inch.

My eyes snap back to my customer, my male customer. The mistaken gender takes me off guard. I stutter my answer.

“Uh, no, um… I don’t think so… but I’ll check.”

I know that we don’t, yet I feel compelled to turn away from the man and fumble around a bit.

As I do, goose bumps creep over my arms and I stop in the middle of my pretend searching to look at the funny little raised hairs. Swiping my hand down my arm, I open a rarely used cupboard and scan its contents. Goose bumps pop up again followed by a violent shiver running up my back.

I pull my hands away from the door and notice that they are shaking.

I stop and stare at them as if they are someone else’s hands. My mind completely disconnected from what my body is experiencing. Because my brain is still engaged, my internal clock tells me this is taking too long. The customer at the window will be annoyed with me if I don’t say something soon.

As I turn to the customer I feel a wave of dizzy nausea swirl in my middle. I reach for the counter, suddenly needing the support, and take a deep breath. My head dipping down.

When I open my eyes, I notice my purse. The soft pink vinyl splayed open exposing its contents. On top is my keychain with my emergency mace.

Suddenly, a concept from a pamphlet my guidance counselor forced me to read about fear and how human bodies react instinctually in dangerous situations, pops into my head.

I glance again over at the car, just as the male voice says, “Hello?”

I automatically answer. “Yes, uhm we don’t have it, I don’t think.” I call out to him and make an effort to shuffle around some more.

Is this somehow a dangerous situation? It is a weird leap to ask that question. But my somewhat clear mind attempts to remember what I should do if my subconscious is telling me I am in trouble.

However, my thoughts are dulled by a swimming sensation around my peripheral sight, followed by a rattling sound and then a solid movement in the corner of my eye. It catches my attention.

 It is a strange, bright purple canister. I blink at it. Not understanding its existence. I had just looked in that exact spot five seconds ago and not seen it. I know I hadn’t. I pick it up and read, Yerba Mate: tea of the gods, written in orange letters across the front.

A little stunned, I stand and realize with a weird jolt that all signs and symptoms instantly are alleviated. My hand is now steady as it goes to the back of my neck. I take a deep breath, reeling from the physical freak-out and move to the window in a slow, shocked, zombie-like shuffle.

Holding the canister, I look at the man completely uncertain of what is happening to me or around me.

“Well, is that it?” The man’s voice holds serious impatience.

Confusion colors my voice, “Yes, actually, it is.”

The man sits looking forward, as if he expected as much.

Then in the same aggravatingly, gravely, blasé way he says, “The water needs to be 160 degrees, and I’ll take milk and a bit of sugarcane, if you have it.”

With this longer sentence I feel the reoccurrence of the before mentioned unpleasantness. Hands trembling, shivers, goose bumps. It is such a strong reaction that I openly examine him—well, the bit I can see of him.

I wonder if he is dangerous or just—I don’t know—superhumanly annoying. Perhaps his voice is on the exact wrong frequency for my ears—like one of those whistles that torture dogs. In a brief moment, I reanalyze my reactions for fear or warning. I don’t really feel either, though I am still shaking.

He clears his throat and, though he doesn’t look at me, he does look at his watch. And by looking at his watch I mean he holds it up to his face like someone visually impaired would.

I don’t miss it.

I narrow my eyes and cock my head. When his actions don’t cause the desired reaction, he clears his throat again and taps expectantly on what I assume is his steering wheel.

I can’t help it, my foot begins to tap too as I cross my arms and I purse my lips. But the annoyance that is just beginning to gather in my chest is abruptly overshadow by a sudden and crushing throb in my head.

The tea canister hits the floor as my hands go to my head. My eyes close and a slow gathering scream begins in the back of my throat.

Within the space of an exhale I feel like I am outside myself. Blinking my eyes against the pain and light, I find myself moving, mechanically, through the hut.

Then, as suddenly as a faucet turning off, the pain ceases.

I blink and almost drop the cup I hold out the window to the impatient man.

“That will be two fifty,” My mouth moves but again it feels like I am a puppet and some string master is pulling on my lips and jaw, making them work, because I sure as heck am not consciously speaking.

I look at my hand holding the tea and know only two seconds have passed, but there I stand with brewed tea in hand.

The sound of the window descending pulls my head more fully out of the daze and my eyes toward the man. The stranger turns to me, his face unobstructed for the first time and I almost drop the tea—again.

Fumbling, I grip the cup between my now consciously controlled hands spilling a bit. That wakes me up. I look back into the stranger’s face. He isn’t a man man, he is my age perhaps a bit older, and he’s striking; full lips, strong jaw, blunt, angular nose, and of course long blond hair. His sunglasses obscure his eyes and I am glad they do.

However, before I have time to analyze how someone could be so…whatever he is, his money is on the counter, the tea is swept out of my shaky hand, and the silver car is thundering off.

I jerk my hand-off hand back toward me. It feels like an electric pulse just zapped it. I cradle it into my chest as I blink in rapid succession.

 Then out of nowhere, my head pain burst to the point of agony. Sitting down, I try to calm my breaths, which are coming in short, erratic huffs. A ringing starts in my ears and I clamp my hands over them. Agonizing moment after agonizing moment reverberates through me. It hits a peek of sharp and terrible torture but then I am a stone rolling down the summit, the agony stays where it is as I race away from it.

I close my eyes and try to gain some control.

It takes a few minutes, all the while the pain is backing off.

I start to feel a bit calmer. Except for one thing; the sound of that guy’s voice and the planes of his face seem to be seared into my mind.

Everywhere I look, I see him. Sort of like my eyes are scorched, but not by the sun, by him. 

Chapter 2

The Jane Household

After forever, the little clock in the Coffee Hut finally got its hour hand to three.

Quitin’ time. 

I coax my old Chevy the ten blocks to my house and hustle my butt up to my room to start southern belleafying myself for my performance at the Pristine Panorama Dinner Theater. I have been crushing on my co-worker, Sawyer, for months now and with the summer almost over and still no date, I am making special effort to look my best.

Unfortunately, images of Sawyer’s hotness are interrupt by an unwelcome sound from directly below me. My father’s office. Even though my mom, my sister and I are all at home, the slinky melodies of my father’s favorite porno begin to rise through the floor boards.

               I stamp loudly as I run the curling iron up the length of a small strip of dark brown hair.

Nothing.

So, three curls later I stamp again. This time the nasty crap gets louder. I put my iron down and take several deep, flared nostril breaths before turning toward the door.

               As I move, it opens and my little sister Emma marches into my room. Her hair, cut in a severe a-line, gyrates as she tenses up her whole body. Through clinch teeth she begins, “Jules I am going to…” her hands make a violent strangling motion which is perfectly communicative. Then she stomps quite fiercely to my bed and plops down.

               “I know,” I say and exhale deeply. “I’ll go take care of it.” My hand brushes hers as I pass her, and my foot kicks my empty laundry basket as I pass it.

I jog down the stairs, although my vision is still annoyingly blurry. I wonder if I had a stroke while at work today? Weren’t they supposed to impair vision? I decide to research signs and symptoms as soon as I can.  I hope I can find an explanation for the blurred vision and extreme headache.

However, I have another type of headache to deal with right now.

As I reach for the door handle of my father’s office—the groaning from inside reaching the scary point—I see my mom move to the head of the hall.

               I glance over at her. Her long brown hair is in a braid that curls attractively on the end. Her apron is dusty with flour and her hands ring the bottom of it apprehensively. Her thick eyebrows are in knots, weighing down her eyes. 

               My jaw tightens, and I settle my feet to push through the door, but my mother’s alto voice stops me.

“Don’t, Julia. You know what will happen if you stop him right now.”

               My teeth clench, “I don’t care!”

               “Just leave it,” she sighs and leans against the wall.

               My body shrinks an inch away from the door. Relief tingles my limbs as my breath relaxes. Fight mode is crowd out by another familiar feeling; disgust. What I feel for my father cakes me with a sickness that seems like an all-encompassing layer of dry mud. Such emotional filth, I can’t help feeling I will never be clean of. But my mother…I look back over at her and the mud is suddenly ribbon with inky fingerlets of tar, or contempt. 

               I see her defeated expression, her worry lines, and am mad again. “Tell him to stop mom.” But knowing she won’t, I turn to the door and yell at it. “We are right here; we can hear the swanky porno music and you wacking off to it. Have some dignity, save it for the middle of the night… save us all the…” My yelling has petered out knowing that its fruitless, I hear it in the middle of the night too, and…he’s cranked the TV up again.

 I place my head against the door, squeeze my eyes tight and really push my forehead into that door, wishing I could just press all the sounds and all the slime that is my father, out. But I can’t, this is how it has been since he lost his job. This is what he does.

 “You are so pathetic.” I whisper to the door. Then I turn angry eyes towards my mother, “You both are so pathetic.” I shake my head at her. “Why? Why do you put up with this?” I see the way her face crumples as she turns her eyes away from mine. “Just… never mind.” I spit, and I kick the door before spinning away from both of them.

My mother knows what she is. In similar situations as this one, I’ve used every possible descriptor to tell her my opinion and I’m exhausted.

               As I run upstairs, I hear my mother say, “You’re the strong one, Jules. Stay strong.”

               Oh, I will.

But now how am I going to distract Emma? That girl has the potential to take a shotgun to both my parents if I don’t calm her down.

I step into my room and Emma has a pillow held to each ear. She looks up at me and I shake my head. She rolls her eyes and sits up.

“You know I have ear plugs, in my nightstand.”

“No, I didn’t know that.” Pulling open the drawer she yanks two neon pink plugs out.

“He’s almost done.”

“I know, I have this song memorized.”

“Me too.”

“Can you believe this is our life?”

I narrow my eyes and flare my nostrils, choosing not to engage my rage. I also notice the time on the nightstand.

“I need to finish getting ready.”

“I wish I could come with you.”

“Me too. Can you go to Kenzies?”

“Nope they are having family night.”

“What would that be like?”

“I don’t think I’d like it. Unless dad wasn’t…”

“And mom wasn’t…”

She nods and rolls her eyes. “Do you think other kids have screw-up parents too?”

“Absolutely.”

“Really?”

“Ask around. That’s what I did when I was your age, and yep, everyone is eefed up.” I walk to her and slide my hand down her hair and pull her head to my side, hugging her.  We wait there, hugging until the music stops.

Then I clear my throat and ask, “Help me get ready? I wanna look awesome tonight.”

She smiles up at me and nods. “Are you going to get Sawyer to finally ask you out?”

“I’m going to give it my best.” As I head back to my dressing table I think of Sawyer. “Isn’t he fantastic.”

“Fantastically hot.”

“His buttery tenor voice…”

“And those super soft brown eyes.”

“His lips…”

“They are a little out of control…”

“And by that, you mean, should be illegal; deem too dangerous for normal human consumption.” I flip my hair.

“No, I mean they are too big, full, large.” Emma complains with scrunched nose.

“I disagree. They are like perfect pillows. I love kissing him.”

“So, have the kisses been getting longer.”

I smile. “Yes, last week the pianist had to do a little variation so that the singing wasn’t off.”

“Oh. My. heck Jules. Seriously? Doesn’t that embarrass you?”

I chit at her, “No way. You think I’m thinking about the audience’s comfort level when I have the two most perfect lips god ever made pressing against mine? Not a chance.”

She laughs and I am happy that the subject is back to normal stuff. Real stuff.

She picks up my eyeshadow brush and says, “Close ‘em.  I’m gonna make those velvety browns pop.”

I smile and close my eyes.     

  

Chapter 3 Julia: Pristine Panoramic Dinner Theater

After verbally vomiting to my girlfriend Tess about the day’s events; Karen almost getting kill, the weird beautiful guy, how I had basically a panic attack, my dad and his pervert behavior and my mom with her complacent behavior, I feel like I can breathe again. Talking to Tess is always therapeutic.

However other things worry me. My eyesight in thr dark barn and back stage. It’s sketchy. My friends probably think I’ve taken up smoking pot. Walking into walls, tripping all over myself and my lines, not looking people in the face as I speak with them; needless to say, none of these are part of my usual conduct.

I try eye drops someone has, all that does is ruin Emma’s lovely makeup job. I sit between acts with my eyes closed and will them to recover, but all that does is bring the image of that weird guy like a blazing sun to my thoughts.

Again, I wonder if I have had a stroke or something, and aneurism perhaps. The sensations are just way too strange.

Finally, it is time for the patrons to go home and we step out of the dark barn to see them off with a cowboy farewell. It is sunset and the view is all it should be, mountain peaks, the stomping and snorting of horses, and golden prairie grasses. I blink several times rapidly gazing at the glowing ball of red and orange and blue fire as it drops slowly behind the huge Wasatch Mountains and feel the hallo sensation I’ve had since this morning lessen.  I purposely gaze longer than I should praying to replace the image of that guy with that of my familiar sun.

I hear Suz pluck the opening cords for Goodnight My Darling and I quickly loop my own guitars strap over my head. I find that I cannot see really at all after staring at the sun for so long but I don’t need to see Belladonna’s frets to know how to play her.

Ten or so minutes later, I watch puky Trevor help a sweet old lady up onto the hay wagon while we all finish singing Home on the Range. I look away as Trevor smiles with exaggerated sweetness at the wrinkled grandma, thinking how pretentious he is. An actor to his toenails. It’s my turn to sing Country Road. As I turn, something in the distant woods catches my eye. I look closer at a shadowy figure out in the tree line and an unexpected shiver wriggles its way up my back. It causes my voice to waver right as the chorus of my solo begins.

 Thankfully Sawyer puts a hand on my shoulder and sings with me.

I look up at him and just like that, the burn retina sensation miraculously disintegrates, and I am able to admire Sawyer’s honest brown eyes and the shaggy chestnut hair that peeks out from under his cowboy hat. His beautiful features somehow calm my tremoring vocal cords. When he smiles an absolutely delicious smile, I bask in the butterflies that take residence in my stomach, and it moves the anxiety out of the way like magic.

I return the smile and instantly give way to him in the song, which feels fuller as I incorporate a simple harmony beneath his appealing tenor. As calls of ‘goodnight’ come from the theater goers I memorize this moment.

The last wagonload disappears into the trees. I continue to look after them as our song ends. That sensation of fear of the darkened woods returns, and with it comes a buzzing in my head. Suddenly my eyes make the trees into menacing shaped skeletal things which have my butt frozen to my seat, just as the buzzing has my mind frozen with pain. Through it I feel a strange desire to rise and walk out into the forest.

I feel the same as I had this morning. That out-of-body sensation. It is happening again. My muscles and bones begin to move of their own accord. My ability to choose inactivated by the pounding of my head.

An arm slides around my shoulder as I rise, and a whisper breath comes in my ear. “You seem…”

Startled, I jump. Blood shoots into my limbs and the brain paralysis ends. Sawyer and I both grope for my guitar, which jumped so high when I jumped it narrowly misses hitting me in the face.

“Sorry.” Sawyer exclaims with an easy laugh and pats Belladonna. I swing her onto my back and straighten to face him. “You seem distracted, Jules, what’s up?” He pulls me closer to him, concern on his face, his eyes looking deeply into mine.

I knew it. He thought I was high or something and he was checking my pupils. I could not have my crush of three months thinking that of me, so I smile. “Nothing, I’ve had a migraine since I fell at work. Maybe I hit my head. I don’t know it’s been a crappy day…” I pause. “Well it was crappy until I saw you.” After I give this speech I watch as one side of Sawyers mouth cocks up in an embarrassed smile. He looks away.

 I take the distraction to look back to the wood line. The residue of desire lingers in my tissues and my eyes are drawn there. They look creepy still and I shiver but something inside me wants to walk toward them anyhow. It calls me toward the shape I am sure I see there.

My gut twists and I point, “You don’t see a… I mean, those trees don’t look like…” I pause knowing I shouldn’t say anything, it would sound weird and when I look back up at his confused brow, I know I need to just stop talking. “Never mind. Should we go in?”

I let Sawyer pull me toward the door.

“Thanks for singing with me.” I say as we walk. “And for walking me in.” Pushing the guttural sensation of foreboding aside, I force the corners of my mouth up and take the opportunity to flirt with this handsome cowboy. Donning my southern accent, I say, “Your velvety voice must be just what the doctor ordered.”

He smiles back and doffs his hat, “My pleasure, little lady.” But his eyebrows knot up again. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

 The butterflies come back and flit around in my stomach.

“So nice to have a big, strong, handsome man, such as yourself, around… so as to help all us helpless creatures.” I batt my eyelashes and I lean into him.

Sawyer flushes a little and clears his throat just as Tess walks by and slaps my butt—well actually my bustle. “Helpless, my grandma’s saggy arse!”

I feign shock and she smirks and takes my hand. “Come on girl, we gotta get the floor swept up.” She pulls me away from Sawyer, who looks disappointed.

I wave bye to him.

As Tess leads me away, Sawyer calls out, “Can we go for a walk or something after clean up?”

My heart thunders. “Sure.” Even in the not so stellar lighting I can see Sawyer’s grin, a flash of white.

“Great, see ya later then.”

I bite my smiling bottom lip as Tess pulls me into the theater barn. I put my guitar in its case and shake out my tingling hands. “I am telling you Tess. Tonight is the night.”

“You two make me puke.” Tess fakes a gag. “The sexual tension is ridic, but then again, what could I have possibly expected? You are all such huge drama queens.” Tess loves to laugh at herself, which she does now, while shoving a broom at me.

 I think Tess would do very well with Shakespearian plays; she just has that flare.

“Speaking of misery… and puking, has Trevor ask you out yet?” Trevor is not what I would call attractive, thus the puking.

 She pushes ahead of me, “I don’t want to talk about it.” I could hear the disappointment in her voice.

Thus the misery.

 “I am done with him, so whatever.” I am about to pour the sympathy on, when she continues, “I swear, if I have to watch you make-out with Sawyer one more time, I am going to scream.”

“We don’t make-out,” I contradict.

“Oh, yes, you do!” She guffaws, “If your mother were in the audience, she would freak out. Sawyer is so into it and so are you that you don’t realize you hold up the whole show.”

 “Are you serious? It feels like it’s a split second. A short, split second. One that should be repeated in longer duration behind closed doors.”

“Yeah, we all know how you feel about it.” Her words are tainted with a level of censure Tess only uses on rare occasions. She goes on in her pissy tone, “But we’re talking about me here… and what I want is a little of the action. Is that so much to ask?”

I look at her, a little bewilder. Tess is not what anyone would call a supermodel, but she is most definitely pretty and most definitely kissable. She has nice, full lips, wide blue-grey eyes, long strawberry blonde hair and more curves than a chorus girl.  She had no problems getting kissed in high school.

She continues frustrated, “It’s gotta be all these eighteen-year-old church boys. They have such impeccable standards that none of us can get any action out of them. I can’t wait to get to college. A few more weeks.”

“What are you talking about?” I ask completely mystified at her conclusion.

 “Other than on stage, has Sawyer kissed you?” Tess huffs as she vigorously pushes her broom around the floor.

All of my wondering and annoyance colors my voice, “No.”

She grunts, “That’s because he’s a church boy and they try to be all pure and stuff before they go do their godly church service.” Her broom pauses. Her brow’s crunch together; her voice pensive. “Maybe if you’re getting action on stage, it doesn’t count or something.” Her face purses with aggravation. “Does that mean that I will have to get a lead role in order to get some make-out time around here?”

Realization hits me. “So, what you’re saying is that Sawyer probably doesn’t like me, he’s just milking the stage kiss for all it’s worth because that’s the only action he can get?”

“Not exactly,” she says absently. “What I am saying is, for whatever reason, you, standing there like a happy little lump on a log, waiting for him to jump you outside of work ain’t gonna do ya any good.” She huffs through the last bit of her aisle and moves onto the next one.

I’ve only known Sawyer for three-ish months and things are going really slow with him, which has never been okay with me. I like to burn hot and move on because I have no interest in putting down roots. Not in this town.

But this Sawyer thing, his resistance to my charms has forced me to feel something for him. Something I have not looked at until this minute. If I am really honest with myself, I like Sawyer, a lot; he is nice, and talented and good and just about the hottest guy on the planet. With any other person I’d be anti-relationship right before college. But I know I am not. Not with Sawyer. So, I am not just after the kissing.

This explains the lump in my stomach at Tess’ words. Could Sawyer be using me?

I think of the porn my dad watches. I prickle as I think of the thoughtless and unemotional acts. My heart instantly hurts a little.

Tess interrupts my thoughts. “I know what you’re thinking, Jules.” I look over at her. She stops sweeping and is staring at me with those intense eyes of hers. “Your dad is not right about you. He never has been, and he never will be.”

Tess had once heard my dad tell me he didn’t think there was a man on earth that could put up with me for long. Though that isn’t exactly what I am thinking, I always remember that situation when Tess looks at me the way she is right now. She knows. She has seen me cry. I wonder if she will ever forget.

I smile weakly at my friend. “I know.” I squeak. “I just can’t help but hear him in my head.” And as I say it, I do hear him. “Don’t be sad if men don’t find you attractive, Julia; girls that look like you don’t get the guys.” In my mind, I know he is wrong. My father has drilled into me what boys want and how they want me to act and though he doesn’t believe I have the tools to get the job done, I’ve always had success.

But in my heart…

Tess shudders, “Don’t, Julia, just don’t do it.” She starts sweeping again and as she does she mutters, “I hate that bastard, Jules. I hate him.”

Suddenly, it feels like days and years reverse and I am eight with pig tails. Tess and I are playing outside on a hot August Saturday. We decide we need a popsicle. Tess and I bound in to ask for a tasty treat and find my father pleasuring himself to porn.

I sniff. “I know. He is a bastard.” I cannot help but remember the shock and confusion on Tess’s eight-year-old face. It rocked both of our worlds. “I totally hate him.”

Tess stops again. “Don’t you dare go there. You stop it with the sad mopey face. We will not shed one more tear for the slime of the earth.” She comes to me and hugs me then. “Slime is necessary, I’ll grant you—though only God knows why—but it’s not worth crying over.”

I smile a very small smile, but only because I love her and don’t want her to feel bad for bringing up the subject.

She pauses again and I see her face turn serious. “I am sorry for bringing this up. I didn’t mean it to go in this direction. This has nothing to do with Sawyer.” Grinning she teases. “He is totally into you. I can see the lust radiating from his face every time you are in the room.” She fake-vomits, and it finally has the desired effect. I laugh. “All I am saying is that he is stronger than me or you. He has a goal, something to fight for, and I don’t think even the legendary Julia Jane can take him down.”

Fear spikes all the way down to my fingertips. Is it possible that Sawyer doesn’t like me like me? I decide it’s time to consider that possibility. Sawyer’s resistance has really impacted me. Maybe Tess is right, he’s stronger than me.  As I continue to sweep, I feel a little deflated. Sawyer might not like me. The words bound and rebound in my head like a pin-ball and I wonder what will happen on our walk tonight.