He took her home, but it wasn’t without a fight. Borrowed to the Bone. Chapter 16

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Chapter 16

Seeing the young girl standing defiantly before him in a flat bra and cotton panties in the room he shared with Willy filled Ben Tom with horror and a rage toward his younger brother he had never before experienced. Willy recognized the rage but was defiant. “It ain’t what you think. I’m just protecting her from two older brothers who been foolin’ with her.”

The explanation did little to quell Ben Tom’s anger as the enormity of the possible consequences of such a damning act overwhelmed him. Hell could rain down on him and Willy and on Deacon. Willy was going to hell and all of them could go to prison. “Dammit, Willy, you were in bed with her. What the hell are you thinking?”

He turned to the girl. “What’s your name, how old are you, and where do you live?”

She glanced defiantly at Willie. When he nodded his assent, she spit it out like something vile on her tongue. Her name was Colleen, she said she was fourteen but Ben Tom knew she was lying, and she lived about twenty blocks west. Ben Tom knew the neighborhood. When she was dressed, he took her hand and started leading her to his car.

Willy followed, shouting warnings. When Ben Tom did not stop, he drew back his fist and buried it into Ben Tom’s kidney from behind. Not even his brother would be allowed to insult him by taking his woman.

There was a fight, the fiercest and bloodiest the brothers had ever had. Ben Tom finally managed to tie his brother to a post in Deacon’s shop so that he could take the young girl home. She scratched and fought like a wildcat to keep him from taking her away from Willy. He had to hold her wrist with one hand and drive with the other to keep her from jumping out of the car.

Sunset was nearing as he maneuvered the Ford through a neighborhood worse than the ones he had grown up in. He stopped in front of a small hovel with peeling paint and a porch that was turning loose from the main house. The yard was occupied by a ’41 Ford and a ’53 Chevy, both up on blocks. A woman seemed to be on vigil behind the screen door. She brought a flat hand above her eyes to shade them from the setting sun and stared at Ben Tom’s shiny Ford.

Ben Tom pulled a reluctant Colleen up the dirt trail that led to the porch. “This your daughter?”

The woman’s eyes were gun metal gray and cold, as if evil memories lurked behind them. “What’s she doing with you? You been pestering her?”

“No, ma’am. Just bringing her home.”

The woman opened the screen door and Ben Tom pushed the girl inside. The woman hit her on the back of the head. Ben Tom turned to walk away, but turned back. “That girl gonna be safe here? I heard she’s got brothers that bother her.”

Dark was fast approaching, and the woman nodded toward two figures emerging from the shadows created by large shrubs in the side yard. “You mean them boys?”

They were on him before Ben Tom could react. Fortunately, one had a blackjack and Ben Tom managed to get it from him after one lick had split the skin just above one eyebrow. Blood flowed through his eyebrow and onto his lashes. He blinked it away as he took one of the brothers to his knees with a club across his face. He swung the club for protection as he backed to his car.

As he sped away, Ben Tom was upset, but still not angry. The brothers were probably just defending their sister. He tried to chase away the thought that they might really be molesting her. Back at Deacon’s shop, he wiped away blood from the steering wheel and door handle of his car.

***

Ben Tom could not get the girl or the incident out of his mind. The entire episode made him feel a desperate need to cleanse himself, to erase not only the sordid memory, but his entire past and everything associated with it. That night, he braided a necklace with tiny strips of leather for his wooden cross and began wearing it around his neck to ward off evil. Deacon had shown him the short prayer of Jabez in the Bible. He began reciting the prayer each night and several times during the day.

Oh, that You would bless me indeed,

            And enlarge my territory,

            That Your hand would be with me,

            And that You would keep me from evil

            That I may not cause pain

Penny and her family seemed to be the answer to his prayers. The exemplary life her family led and her own innocence filled him with the need to be part of her family and to protect her.

His desperate need gave him the fortitude to visit his renters. The eye that took the hit was partially closed. The blood around his pupil, the scratches and scabbed knuckles from the fight with Willy and Colleen’s brothers frightened his renters and convinced them to move.

It took Ben Tom less than a month to pull enough furniture from his various stashes to make the house livable and suitable for showing to Penny.

Deacon helped him load the last of his clothes and toiletries into his car. “Hate to see you go, Ben Tom. Don’t know if I’ll be able to control Willy. I won’t stand for him bringing girls in here, especially ones barely off the nipple.”

“Think he plans to move in with our daddy. In fact, I’ll make sure that happens. Daddy and Trez got a new place that’s big enough.”

“What about Purcell’s wife?”

“Daddy ran her off when he caught her making a move on Trez. Uncle Clark always said she would, sooner or later.”

“You still gonna come by the shop to build your stuff?”

“If you’ll let me.”

“You’re always welcome at my fire.”

***

Ben Tom had not completely healed from the beating when he knocked on Penny’s door. Her parents refused to let her leave until he explained the scratches and scabs. Ben Tom would not tell them a lie, so Penny made up a story about his being attacked by thieves on his way home from work. It worked.

After a nice meal at El Fenix, Ben Tom took her to his new home. He left the door open and made sure all the lights were on as he showed her each antique piece of furniture, each wall hanging.

Chapters of the serial are published on Friday.

You can learn more about Borrowed to the Bone and other titles by Jim H. Ainsworth on his Amazon Author Page.

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