© By Julie Gray
Milly played by Eliza Scanlen
Ethan played by Boyd Holbrook
AUTHORS NOTE: This is part eight in one of my untitled short stories. You can read part one here.
SHORT STORY TRIGGER WARNING – This short story contains elements of assault, sexual assault, violence and death.
Milly had spent a lot of time learning how to aim and shoot at targets. And Ethan was the best teacher. He never yelled at Milly, not like Milly’s old school teacher did. Boy, did Milly hate that school teacher. But Milly enjoyed learning everything from Ethan because Ethan treated her like an equal. And if Milly was good and learned something quickly, Ethan would reward Milly with things like maybe buying her something new when they were in town.
But Milly was feeling irritable. And this seemed to happen every month around the same time. Milly kinda knew what it was, but she couldn’t tell Ethan about it. It wasn’t really something she could share with Ethan or anyone else because nobody else except maybe another girl would understand.
It was the “growing pain” that happened every month. Milly called it that because she really wasn’t sure what to call it. She got it for the first time when Ethan wasn’t around. And had it the same time ever since. And now that Ethan was back, she kinda made sure she hid it from him every time it paid her a visit.
Ethan being Ethan, he never noticed much of anything when it came to Milly–or so Milly thought. He just went about his business. He left when he had to leave and returned when he wanted. During this time, Milly thanked the Lord above he wasn’t around much. But today, Ethan decided he would hang around and give Milly shooting lessons instead of riding out. This irritated Milly to no end.
“Don’t you have to be some place?” Milly asked.
Ethan took his saddle off his horse. Milly scrunched up her nose the same way she did whenever she was displeased with something. Milly absently started kicking the sand.
Ethan looked down at the small dust cloud that was forming around Milly’s feet. He looked over at Milly.
“You feelin’ alright?” he asked
“I thought you had things to do today is all,” Milly replied
“Nope, we’re gonna be shooting moving targets today,” Ethan said, pulling his horse out of the sun
“What if I ain’t ready to shoot moving targets?” Milly replied, unable to disguise the irritation in her voice.
“Milly… you’re ready. You’re even better with a gun than you are with a knife. Hell, soon, you’ll probably be out shooting me…”
“Now that’s an outright lie…” Milly replied
“Alright… what in tarnation is eatin’ you today?” Ethan asked.
Milly just looked away.
She still wasn’t used to hearing Ethan cuss, but Ethan cussed a lot. And today, Milly decided it was just one more thing she didn’t like.
Ethan was staring at her from under his hat again.
“Well?… You gonna tell me what’s wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong, I’m just… tired” Milly replied, making up any excuse she could
“Well alright then, get up and let’s go shoot something – you won’t be tired for long,” Ethan replied, kicking her heel as he swaggered past
Milly watched as Ethan walked by. She hated everything today, even the way Ethan walked was annoying to her. She didn’t know why it annoyed her, it just did. She hated how his entire body swayed from side to side, real slow like, kinda how someone walks when they think they own the whole goddamn place. That was how Ethan walked. It was deliberate, and it was annoying as hell!
She wished she could just get up and tell him that too. But she wouldn’t. Milly would continue thinking all these god-awful things in her head today, and then she would never think on them again.
Today was just one of those growing pain days that she would forget about soon enough. But the day wasn’t over. No sir, in fact the worst part of the day was about to take hold of Milly by the scruff of her neck and kick her right in the face.
So Milly did what she was told, got herself up, dusted herself off and followed Ethan into the hot, relentless sun that seemed to laugh down at her with every step she took. Her skin didn’t seem to sweat today, it was more like melting off in this god-awful heat. That along with the fact that she had to stand there shooting at a moving target with Ethan watching her every move. Milly couldn’t think on anything worse to be doing right about now.
Ethan swindled some kid from town to help by throwing things in the air for Milly to shoot at. Milly thought this was a terrible idea. For starters, Milly didn’t like the way the boy looked at her. So that made her jittery. The heat made her even more jittery and to top it all off; she was missing every single bottle the boy would throw in the air!
Ethan stared at Milly for a long while before he finally spoke.
“You missin’ these targets on purpose or what?” Ethan asked
Milly felt her face flush red with anger, but she knew better than to say anything. She threw Ethan a heated look and quickly glanced downward before he could see. Then she kicked at the sand once more.
“Do I need to come over there and…”
“No!” Milly snapped
“Well fine then, hit the damn target… ,” Ethan replied
Milly looked up at Ethan again. He was already telling the boy to ready himself for the next throw.
Milly lifted her pistol, which felt like it weighed a hundred pounds in this heat. She pulled down on her hat so that the sun was out of her eyes, and she willed herself to focus on the target.
She peered across at the boy standing over yonder. She watched him closely, as if it was him she was aiming for. She waited for him to release the bottle. But she knew she had to hit it this time or risk Ethan’s wrath.
Milly was so focused on everything else, she didn’t feel the moisture inside her thigh, nor did she feel anything running down her leg. By the time she’d shot all the targets, it was too late.
Ethan walked over to where Milly was standing.
“Just like I said Milly… soon, you’ll be out gunnin’ me,” Ethan said with a grin
Milly holstered her pistol.
Ethan was gesturing to the boy to come back in. He handed him some money and sent him on his way.
Milly felt like she was gonna pass out. The heat was unbearable.
“Milly!… What the hell? Did you stab yourself or something!!?”
Before Milly knew what was happening, Ethan was grabbing onto her and looking into her eyes.
“Milly… your leg – would you look!” Ethan said, raising his voice and pointing down at Milly’s leg
Milly suddenly felt faint.
“No… no, I didn’t cut my… what are you talkin’ about? I didn’t… do… anything! Let go a me!” Milly replied, pulling herself out of Ethan’s grip.
“But… you’re bleedin’… what the hell?”
Milly finally looked down. She could see the huge, dark stain between her legs. She knew straightaway what it was. Milly pulled away from Ethan and ran. She ran as fast as she could all the way back to camp.
Milly grabbed her water canteen so she could wash herself off and clean herself up.
It was a long while before she returned.
Milly looked for Ethan, but he wasn’t around. She couldn’t see his horse anywhere. He must have gone back to visit the gang or to town.
By the time Ethan returned, Milly was already settled in for the night. But she wasn’t asleep. She could hear Ethan walking about. And he was good at keeping quiet.
“Milly… you awake?” Ethan asked in a lowered voice
Milly just lay there, as silent as the grave. Suddenly, everything sounded louder than it was. Her heartbeat was thundering in her ears. She really didn’t want Ethan to know she was awake. Even her own breathing sounded like it was louder than the wind during a storm. So Milly tried to hold her breath. She’d do just about anything to get Ethan to turn around and ignore her.
“Milly?” Ethan asked again
Milly closed her eyes. She didn’t want to speak to Ethan. Not about today. Not about anything.
“You know Milly… this ain’t easy for me either, being a man an all. But ya know… I had a sister once… so I ain’t stupid. Anyway, all I wanted to say was … sorry if I made you feel bad today. I thought you were hurt. Also, your shootin’s comin’ along real good and soon, you’re gonna be ready,”…
Milly laid there without moving. She felt bad about pretending to be asleep when she really wasn’t.
“Night” Ethan murmured.
Milly waited until she could no longer hear him
Milly said goodnight without uttering a single word.
-End of Part VIII-
You can read part IX of this story here