© By Julie Gray
Milly played by Eliza Scanlen
Ethan played by Boyd Holbrook
AUTHORS NOTE: This is part 12 of 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.
The Jackson Brother’s Gang had been raiding trains and the odd wagon or two off and on for months, with Milly taking up Jed’s position permanently. This did not go down well with Jed, who was now demoted to doing minor jobs for the gang.
So it was time for the gang to take a well-earned break, especially since there were rumours about a posse hunting the gang since the Smithtown shooting.
Milly was itching to ask Ethan about it, but she wasn’t really on speaking terms with him since the last time they spoke after the shooting. Whenever Ethan approached Milly, she would just walk away from him. He would always have an odd half-grin on his face, like he wanted to say something but was just too bewildered at the whole situation to even try. Milly would just stare at him and walk away with Ethan walking off in the opposite direction, shaking his head.
One night as Milly was bunking down to sleep, she noticed Ethan just staring across at her from his blanket.
“Gonna be cold tonight… you wanna bunk down over here with me, Milly?” Ethan asked, pulling his blanket back
Milly stared at Ethan with narrowed eyes. If looks could kill, Ethan would be dead five times over. Milly looked around the camp to make sure nobody else heard what Ethan said.
“NO, I don’t!” Milly replied, pulling her blankets up over her body.
Ethan just grinned and pulled his blanket back over his chest. He enjoyed teasing Milly when she was dark on him. He knew exactly how to push Milly’s buttons.
“Psssh… I don’t smell that bad… speakin’ of which, we’ll be headin’ back to the Miller farmhouse tomorrow. The gang needs to lie low and stock up on a few things. Be leavin’ at the crack o’ dawn…”
Milly turned her back towards Ethan. She thought about the Old Miller Farmhouse once more and the bathtub where she and Ethan first met. Memories came flooding back and as she drifted off to sleep, it filled her mind with dreams of angels that wept tears of blood, school children with knives that chased her everywhere and a strange funeral procession with her body lying inside the coffin.
The next day started early, just as Ethan had said. Milly was half asleep as the gang rode out for Milly’s hometown. It had been almost a year since Milly had been back there. But Milly never really had a home now. Her home was wherever the gang decided it would be. And Milly never really knew where that would be from one day to the next, which was kinda how she liked it.
It was the first time Milly had seen the Old Miller farmhouse up close like. It was mostly run-down, just like the school children said it was, but unlike the rest of the tales told by the townsfolk, there were no wandering spirits waiting to curse her.
After the gang had settled in, a few of the members had gone into town to collect supplies. Milly decided she would visit the old bathtub and take a long-needed bath. She wasn’t sure she should tell Ethan, but she had to tell someone where she was going. It was a rule never to leave camp without telling at least one other member of the gang where you were going.
Ethan was unpacking his stuff when Milly found him.
“Ethan… I’m going up to the bathtub…” Milly said.
Ethan turned around to face Milly. He lifted his hat onto his forehead so he could look at her.
“So, we’re… talking again?” he replied
Milly scrunched up her nose, waved her hand in dismissal, and turned to walk away when Ethan grabbed onto her arm.
“Just… be careful, Milly,” Ethan said. Ethan’s eyes carried that same intense stare they had the last time they spoke.
“You’re one of us now… there’s talk of a posse lookin’ for us is all…”
Milly looked down at where Ethan was holding onto her arm. He slowly let go, turned back around and continued unpacking his stuff.
“Sure, Ethan…” Milly replied
Milly turned away and headed across the camp to where her horse was grazing.
Milly’s dog was following close behind as she rode out.
Ethan turned back around to watch Milly leave, and as his eyes passed over the campsite, he noticed Jed also watching Milly. Jed spat out his tobacco. As he turned to leave, Jed noticed Ethan looking his way. Ethan stared him down cold. Ethan couldn’t hide the scowl on his face. Jed nervously turned away, pulled down his hat and headed towards James’ side of the camp as fast as his legs would take him.
When Milly finally arrived at the bathtub, she was relieved to see not a lot had changed. It had been a while since she had been back. It didn’t take long for her to get the water in the tub and once she was done, Milly realised that while she had bathed in other bathtubs since meeting Ethan, the bathtub near the Old Miller farmhouse was by far the best.
Milly drifted off the same way she did the last time she was here, except this time, Milly kept her knife inside the bath with her. A lot had changed since Milly’s last visit to the tub, but some things remained the same. Even though her last visit wasn’t all that pleasant, there was still something calming and familiar about this place that made Milly feel good. She was home. Her hometown was just over the hill. Milly wondered if any of the school kids would still remember her. “Dirty Milly” was what they used to call her. She said the name out loud. It sounded so silly to her now. But the name also reminded Milly of all the bad things that used to come with that name. She shuddered at the thought and opened her eyes, pushing the bad thoughts away.
The sky looked so much bluer up here. It looked almost as blue as… well, as Ethan’s eyes. Milly quickly pushed that thought out of her mind too. Milly watched as her dog chased the butterflies around the grass. Another familiar sight. It was almost as if time itself stood still whenever she returned. Milly liked that but she wasn’t entirely sure why.
Milly finally got out of the tub. She had nowhere to be and nothing to do, so she took her time getting dressed.
“Ain’t no amount of washin’ gonna get rid of the filth on you…”
Milly could feel the rough, hardened hands on her body, pulling her down onto the ground. And she recognised the sound of that voice, too. There was no mistaking–it was Jed.
Somehow, Milly always knew that eventually, Jed would get his revenge.
Milly pushed and thumped and jerked as hard as she could, but Jed was stronger than he looked. Milly still had her knife tucked away under left arm. She knew what she would have to do if she wanted to survive this.
Ethan’s words were ringing out loudly in her head over and over – “it’s you or them Milly and you don’t ever want it to be you in that box” …
She could hear Jed’s disgusting laugh as she felt him trying to pull her over onto her stomach. She knew what would happen if he got on top of her.
Milly twisted the knife upright in her hand and just as Jed was about to pull her over, she shoved the knife upward into his chest as hard as she could.
Jed’s yelling deafened her.
“Jam… es, she went n’… stuck me with a… knife–JAMES, SHE gone stuck me!”
Milly’s panic overcame her.
James? James is here too?
Struggling to get to her feet, Milly pushed Jed’s bleeding body off her.
She could hear James calling out from behind, but Milly was distracted trying to reach for her pistol.
Milly felt someone pulling her legs backward and dragging her along the ground. Her head hit the dirt, hard.
The world turned into a blur. Milly’s face was covered in dust. It was in her eyes, her mouth, everywhere.
Milly could feel James pulling on her. She felt him on top of her, punching her everywhere. The pain in her face made her want to throw up. Milly could taste blood in her mouth. Her eyes rolled shut until she heard a gunshot ringing out somewhere in the distance.
A few moments passed; Milly wasn’t sure how long. Time seemed like a dream in slow motion. The only thing Milly was aware of was pain and a constant stinging. Her eyes were stinging from the mix of dust and tears.
Milly heard Ethan’s voice and felt his hands lifting her, shaking her.
Milly opened her eyes slowly. Ethan was wiping the dust and dirt out of them.
“Milly… “he murmured again
Milly reached up and put her arms around Ethan’s neck
“Are we in heaven, Ethan?” Milly asked
“No, Milly… not yet…” Ethan replied, his voice choking up
“You are an angel, you saved me… you saved me, Ethan,”
Ethan wiped the blood from Milly’s face and pulled her clothes over her to cover her up.
Ethan walked over to James and grabbed him by the scruff of the neck. He leaned into James so he was inches away from his face.
“You don’t know how much I wanna end your miserable life… but I won’t break the gang’s rules. But just so things are clear, you so much as look at that girl again, I’ll finish the job I started…”
Ethan pushed James to the ground and spat on him.
He walked over and helped Milly up and onto her horse.
Ethan rode out, pulling Milly’s horse close behind.
-END OF PART XII-
You can read part XIII of this story here