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A little after midday Boon rolled into town, parking her truck opposite Hurley police station, tooting her horn to announce her arrival as was her habit. Cody went ahead to meet Boon as Tilly flipped over the back soon sign and locked the door behind her. All three crossed the street from the police station and walked into the Hurley Diner.
Boon took a seat at a red leather and aluminium trimmed, arborite banquette. Tilly made to sit opposite but found the way blocked by Doctor Cox.
“Your place is beside Boon Tilly Dixon” Cody discreetly challenged
“Fine.” Tilly replied taking a seat next to Boon.
“Hungry Boo?” Cody asked brightly as she took a seat opposite.
“Don’t know….I guess so.” Boon replied in a slightly far away tone, evidently still greatly upset by the accident. Doctor Cox sought to reassure her.
“I’ve spoken with the hospital in Markham…”
“How is she? Is she alive?” Boon interjected.
“She’s just fine Boo. They got the bullet out without a problem, and the patient is awake and in good health, considering.”
“Considering I shot her, considering I damn near took her life.” Boon responded dejectedly.
“Yes, and also she appears to be special needs of some description. They’re not sure yet, she doesn’t talk.”
Boon let out a deep sigh of relief.
“How are you doing Boon, you’ve been through a hell of a shock?”
“’Bit shaky Cody, truth be known. Accidents like that shouldn’t ever happen, they just shouldn’t. Guess I feel guilty.”
“No, I suppose so….but that doesn’t put you at fault Boon….”
Doctor Cox looked intently at Tilly, raising her eyebrows in expectation and Officer Dixon took the hint.
“….does it Tilly.”
“Yeah. Don’t be so hard on yourself Rebecca, you weren’t at fault. You didn’t mean any harm.”
Boo was more than a little taken aback at her having real name spoken aloud. No one ever called her Rebecca, at least not since her mother died.
When she and Tilly and Cody were all little, someone had come up with the name Boon in lieu of Rebecca, and either Boon or Boo had stuck like molasses ever since. In part it was because she was always trying to get one over on the older girls, trying to scare or confound them, hence Boo. And in part it was for her sense of adventure, for there was no climbing tree tall enough, nor rifle target far enough to challenge Boon Jenner. Just like the Daniel Boon of legend.
Either name fit the woman like a glove, even now. But for Tilly there had always been far more to her than adventuresome tomboy Boo, she was also Rebecca. The Rebecca who set her heart to racing, each and every time she saw her. The girl who made her feel warm and joyous, and whose touch thrilled her to her bones.
The Rebecca that she couldn’t bear to be parted with. And who filled her thoughts and was constantly on the tip of her tongue when they each returned to their respective homes, at the end of each wonderful day of their childhood and adolescence.
Tilly turned in her seat to face Boon and placed her hand on that of her childhood friend, and not so secret lifelong love.
“You never mean anyone any harm Rebecca Jenner. I’ve never met a living soul with such love in their heart for other living creatures.”
Boon’s expression indicated a mixture of gratification and puzzlement. Something was different about Tilly, she could feel it plain as day. There was an honesty in her eyes and a certain unmistakable candid note to her words.
“Don’t you mean to tease me Tilly Dixon, for being a lousy shot or some such?”
Tilly paused before continuing. In that moment she felt as though she had overcome some psychological boundary, maybe Cody’s ceaseless nagging had broken down the barriers of her fear. The truth of her heart was breaking free, weather she was ready or not.
“No” she replied gently. “I don’t mean to tease you, nor to hurt you like I do.”
Confusion filled Tilly’s mind, something had shifted in her. Whatever force of caution or trepidation had held her back all these years appeared to have vanished. She found herself allowing the affection she had always felt for Boo to rise in her heart.
“I don’t mean to tease you ever again, and I’m sorry for every time that I did.”
“Guess I feel guilty, acting like a bitch all these years, scared that….
….that people would see just exactly how much I care for you.”
Vivacity filled Boons large brown eyes, and a smile danced across her lips. She could sense the intensity of emotion rising in Tilly, and she could feel the same emotion buoying her own heart.
In the Clear
Cody Cox for her part was astonished. It had been her intention to shake something loose in Tilly, to compel her to come to terms with who she was and what she wanted in life. But she had expected it to be a gradual process, not the felling of the walls of Jericho that she was apparently witnessing. And she certainly didn’t mean for it all to unfold so publically.
Doctor Cox could see clearly that affairs were libel too spin out of control. Things were moving a little too fast. She decided to throw the brakes for fear that the train would derail.
“What do you guys want?” Cody announced “I’m hungry.”
The waiter approached but still the two sat opposite her, transfixed with one another.
“Boo!” Cody slapped her hand on the table.
“What do you want to eat, Tilly’s buying.”
“Oh” Boon replied in a distracted tone. “Um bacon and eggs, over easy.”
The waiter looked expectantly at Tilly.
“….um….the same please.”
“And I’ll have pancakes” Cody concluded “and do you still have that Stonebriar Farm maple syrup?”
“Then a short stack it is, and coffee all round please”
“So” Cody continued as the waiter left with their order.
“Have you got the statement ready Tilly?”
“Oh, yeah.” Tilly broke from her reverie and opened up a file. She handed two statements to Boo, one to sign and one to keep.
“I wrote it out like we talked about this morning, read it over and sign it Boo. Cody and I have both signed statements of corroboration. And I spoke to the Markham police this morning, they couldn’t care less and there won’t be any investigation outside mine.”
“Yep. You’re in the clear Boo. And so you should be, it was just an accident after all.”
“Well that’s a relief….” Boon sighed.
“….still, it’s kind of hard to feel entirely good about it, what with that poor woman in hospital. But thanks just the same.”
“We always look after each other” Cody added “always have done and always will.”
The waiter brought their food over and the three ate with nary a word passed between them. Despite Cody’s intermittent attempts to prompt conversation, both Tilly and Boon seemed inextricably lost in their own thoughts.
And in truth they were, although little had been said both of them could feel that a truth long held secret had been acknowledged. Both were overwhelmed with that feeling one gets when a soul finds itself standing at a crossroads in life. When nothing would ever be the same, ever again.
Eventually Boon spoke.
“So, big day today. Maybe we could go get a beer tonight?”
“Sure thing” Cody replied “how about you Tilly.”
“No” Officer Dixon replied in a distracted tone. “I have to head over to Markham police to lodge our statements. Then I’m going over to the hospital to see if I can talk to the patient.”
Tilly seemed a little lost, and in truth she was. The shift in her heart had been seismic in magnitude, leaving her more than a little discombobulated. Confounded by the intensity of her own emotions.
“What about after?” Cody prompted. “You have a friend who could use the company.”
“Maybe, depends how late I get back. Paperwork always takes a while.”
Boon just didn’t get Tilly sometimes, she always seemed to run infuriatingly hot and cold. A minute a go she was all over her, baring the truth of her heart without a care about who might see. But now it was like she didn’t want to know. Boo thought maybe Tilly had finally gotten over herself, but seeing her withdraw so abruptly filled Boon with anger and frustration.
“Fine….” Boo announced.
“….well, I have a farm to run.”
She rose from her seat and collected her jacket. “Let me know if you need me to sign anything Officer Dixon.” She commented rather sourly.
The door slammed behind her and after a brief pause Cody kicked Tilly’s shin from under the table.
“What the hell is wrong with you Tilly….?” the doctor hissed under her breath “….are you blind or just dim?”
“Not another lecture please Cody.”
Tilly rose from the table and payed the bill at the counter while Cody remained seated and finished her coffee.
“Hell with you Tilly Dixon.” Cody muttered under her breath.
Boo sat in her truck for some time, her mind in a state of confusion as she watched Tilly cross the road back to the station. Damned if she wasn’t going to have it out with that woman one day.
Here they were a stone’s throw from thirty years old, and Tilly still behaving like a child. And playing such games with her, after what she’d been through this morning. Drawing her close then pushing her away, just like always.
Truth was she’d been in love with Tilly her whole life, she lived for the precious time she could spend with her. And having Cody around always made it feel okay, like it was all normal.
But things were somehow different now. The life or death incident this morning had shaken something loose in Boon. Life was just too damn short to put up with this nonsense. The foolish secrecy and denial.
Boo didn’t think she was queer exactly. She had no good use for men, but nor did she for women either. It was just Tilly she wanted, it had always just been Tilly. And all through the years she had never given up on her hope, that maybe someday Tilly would love her back.
Whatever was scaring her, whatever was making her shy at the hurdle, Boo wished she would get the hell over it. But Boon was fast running out of patience with wishing and hoping.
Tilly dropped hints from time to time, and sometimes her hints were none too subtle. But just as often she would do just the exact opposite, push her away and tease her. Like she wanted to get rid of her.
But today in the diner, something had been different. Tilly had looked at her with such love in her eyes, treated her with such warmth and affection. It was like she had taken off a mask and revealed her true face.
Boon had always thought that Tilly maybe liked her, but not in the same way Boo liked her. But today had been different, it was like Tilly had finally grown up and shown the truth of her feelings.
Boo slammed her hands on the steering wheel in frustration.
“Dammit Tilly Dixon, do you love me or not.”
With anger and confusion coming to the boil in her heart, Boo jumped out of her truck and paced back and forth several times. Pausing once or twice to kick the tires with her steel capped boots.
Finally Boo marched straight over to the police station, and pushing her way through the front door she strode up to the counter to find Tilly at her desk. Wrenching up the counter flap and allowing it to slam back down, she walked straight over to Tilly’s desk.
She snatched off her green John Deer hat and threw it down on the desk, like a declaration of war. She thrust her hands on her hips and took up her battle stance.
“Okay Tilly Dixon, just what the fuck was that?!”
“And since when do you call me Rebecca?”
“And don’t you Boo me either!” Boon scalded.
“Well what the hell do you want me to say?!” Tilly pleaded in desperation.
“Nothing, nothing at all. You just shut up Tilly Dixon. I’m talking now and I have something to say.”
Boon paced back and forth, a storm front of fury boiling at her brow as she processed the maelstrom of emotions whirling wildly in her heart. Tilly timidly remained seated before the force of Boo’s broken frustration.
“I have been in love with you Tilly Dixon, for as long as I can remember. And all these years you’ve been playing games with me….
….holding me close then pushing me away….
….you’ve always been like that, just when I think you like me too, you tease me and you reject me.”
Tears began to form in Tilly’s eyes and her face grew red with overwhelming emotion.
“No! I’m talking.”
“What the fuck Tilly? Do you know how much it hurts to be in love with you? The constant push and pull?
Tears were starting to roll from Boon’s eyes also.
“And then in the diner, it was like you took down a façade, like you showed how you really felt.”
Tilly could offer no reply but tears.
“What’s the truth Tilly, do you love me or not…!”
“What the fuck are you so scared of?”
Tilly remained seated at her desk, making no reply but producing a box of tissues from her desk to dry her tears. She offered the box to Boon who in her righteous fury and frustration, ignored the offer.
“Wow. That was amazing.” The tears fell abundantly from Tilly’s eyes now.
“Did you rehearse it?”
“….a little bit, yes.” Boon replied haughtily with hands still on hips, but feeling somewhat deflated after her outpouring of frustration.
Tilly rose from her seat and fell into Boon’s arms. Holding on as tight as she could Tilly wept into her shoulder, her body convulsing with sobs of emotion.
“I’m sorry!” she wept “I’m so sorry….”
“….I was scared for you, I was scared for me.”
“I didn’t know what I was feeling, and couldn’t control it….”
“….I was just scared.”
“Oh Tilly” Boon soothed, her fury and frustration melting before the honesty and vulnerability of Tilly’s confession.
“….I was scared that you didn’t like me like….”
“Like what….?” Boo prompted.
“….like I loved you….”
“And then I was scared that maybe you did, and I didn’t know what to do. And then I was scared of what folk would say if they found out.”
“I was just plain scared Boo….”
“…..I always was.”
Boo was overwhelmed at the sudden torrent of emotion, and her anger evaporated before it in an instant. All she knew was that the love of her life was in her arms and in pain. She soothed Tilly as she wept out her guilt and grief.
“Oh Boon, I’m so sorry….please, please forgive me.”
“Okay. You’re out of trouble for now. But we have to have a long talk Tilly Dixon.”
Tilly broke from the embrace and began to wipe the tears from her face.
“Okay. But not now, I have police stuff to do. You know, the woman in Markham hospital.”
“Oh yeah, her. Well then, I’m coming with you. It’s an hour and a half to Markham, that’s enough time to begin talking this through.”
“Boo, its police business.”
“Rockin’ horse feathers! I’m coming with, and you can like it or lump it. Oh, and don’t go thinking this is all about you either Tilly Dixon, I want to check up on the woman I shot.”
Tilly surrendered “okay, let’s get cleaned up and we can go.”
“Oh. And another thing” Boo smiled brightly
“I like Rebecca. Nobody’s called me that since mama passed over. Boo was always a friend’s name, but the people who loved me the most always called me Rebecca.”
“Oh. And one more thing.” Rebecca approached Tilly and put her arms around her waist and drew her close.
“Say it for me, just so we both know.”
Rebecca smiled broadly and kissed Tilly properly, without fear or subterfuge for the first time in her life.
“Can’t you guess Tilly Dixon? What’s the one thing you think I might want to hear?”
Tilly smiled and kissed Rebecca back before whispering.
“I love you Rebecca Jenner.”
Before long Tilly and Boon were on their way to Markham, both of them feeling somewhat awkward and self-conscious after their long forestalled but inevitable confrontation. They each knew at the core of their being that they wanted things to change, that they wanted their relationship to evolve into what they had each always secretly hoped for. But after all these years it was going to feel strange, no doubt about that.
But weird as it felt at first blush, it also felt right. This wasn’t the turning over of a new leaf, this was finally daring to read the first page of a chapter that they should have begun long ago. And awkwardness soon gave way to a sense of hopeful optimism, both Tilly and Boo felt that they were finally where they were meant to be. Together at last, without a shadow of a doubt, without any withheld secrets or unspoken fears.
As it turned out, the big discussion Boo had meant to have with Tilly on the way, never really transpired. She’d ended up spending most of the trip curled up on the seat with her head in Tilly’s lap, talking a little but mainly dozing. Holding on to Tilly as though she might vanish, like the whole thing was just a dream.
The truth of the matter was, it was something of a shock to both Tilly and Boo and each were more than a little stunned. Years of secrecy and denial had been burned away in an instant, before the blow torch of Rebecca’s anger and frustration. And with the truth set free at last, there was nothing left to fear but fear itself.
And the mystery of what their future together might look like, not to mention how open they were going to be about it. And of course the problem of how Hurley folk would take to the notion of two of the same suit being together.
But working out the how’s and why’s of whatever was going to happen next could wait, both Tilly and Rebecca were content to abide in peace. They knew that they would eventually have to sort through their past, but each had high hopes for what the future might bring. Either way, they were both greatly contented to simply be in this moment.
But all too soon they were at their destination, the calm isolation of the open road giving way to the bustle of the city of Markham. Tilly made straight for the regional Police headquarters, her first priority was to get the incident report and witness statements taken care of. She needed to make sure that Rebecca was entirely in the clear before she did anything else.
The City of Markham was by no means a metropolis, but it was a damn sight bigger than Hurley. Boon had no interest in big city affairs whatsoever, and was content to sit in the passenger seat of Tilly’s truck outside the Police station. She happily watched the afternoon pedestrian traffic, idly humming some pretty tune or other while Tilly conducted whatever affairs she had to settle.
It had been a long and emotionally intense day and Boon was downright exhausted, she just wanted to get their business in Markham over with. All Boon’s heart desired was to take Tilly home, to curl up with her in bed and never let her go. To fall asleep in her arms and wake the next day to find her still there. To know that what they had been through together was real, and that Tilly was finally ready. That at last they could be together.
Finally Tilly emerged from the station, she climbed back into the driver’s seat of her truck and took Rebecca’s hand with broad smile adorning her face.
“It’s all over….”
“….they didn’t even want to talk to you.”
“Yep. Far as they’re concerned some hayseed farmer, shot some damn fool running around naked in a field. No dead body, no crime to investigate. My report stands and the case is closed.”
“Well that’s a relief.”
“Yep. Well, let’s check in at the hospital, and then we can go home….” Tilly paused before adding
“Yes together…!” Boo scoffed haughtily.
“…don’t think I’m gonna let you get away now, Tilly Dixon. Not after all these years of pussyfooting around, too scared to speak to what was going on. You’re coming home with me, directly after we’re done here.”
Tilly and Boo crossed the street and walked the block and a half to Markham hospital, content to take their time and walk in the pleasant afternoon sunshine rather than drive the short distance. And tempted as Tilly was to take Boo’s hand in hers officer Dixon erred on the side of propriety. Uniformed law officers are seldom seen publicly walking hand in hand with the love of their life, and fortunately Rebecca understood entirely.
Markham hospital was a comparatively small, three storey building. In fact the strange woman who Boon’s bullet had felled, was lucky that she hadn’t been flown to a larger hospital more properly equipped to deal with gunshot wounds. Fortunately the surgeon in attendance was former military, and eminently experienced in ordonnance wounds.
Treating the mystery woman’s injury had been a cakewalk for her, compared to the types of injury she was accustomed to. And following a brief conversation with the surgeon and the attending doctor the two were permitted a brief visit.
Although the general feeling was that the visit would be fruitless, the woman was awake but seemed either disinclined or outright unable to speak yet. But Tilly and Boon both had their heads set on seeing the woman, if only to put a period point at the end of a rather momentous day’s events.
As they followed the sterile passage to the recovery ward, there issued from the far end of the hall the most blood curdling, reality shattering scream. A primal cry of mortal terror that stopped Tilly and Boo dead in their tracks.
Both paused in stunned silence at the mortifying scream, neither one making a move until the ward was once again echoing with screams of terror.
Officer Dixon reacted swiftly, drawing her sidearm in an instant and taking a defensive stance. Keeping her weapon trained on whatever threat might emerge, she grabbed Boo by the collar and manoeuvred her into the shelter of an alcove.
“Stay down! Don’t move until I tell you it’s safe”
“….you’re not going in there?”
“I have to Boo, it’s my job.”
“Tilly…” Boon pleaded.
“I’m a police officer, Boo. Just stay calm and keep your head down. Don’t move until I come to get you.”
But officer Dixon had already started down the hallway, searching for the source of the horrifying scream, door by door. After a few moments another cry of desperate terror rang out.
And then from a doorway just ahead of Tilly, a nurse emerged and fell in a heap on the floor. She was bloody from head to toe, bearing the most gruesome lacerations to face, chest and abdomen.
And the creature that suddenly emerged after her, froze Tilly to her core. The creature leapt into the hall with its hackles up and fangs bared. The beast was a horror utterly beyond comprehension, as much hominoid as it was lupine or canine. The impossible monstrosity was all fur and muscle, snarling fangs, with razor claws and wild feral eyes filled with fear and rage.
The thing paused for a moment, ignoring its victim and apparently seeking some means of escape. Tilly snapped out of her terror and squeezed the trigger of her sidearm, three times in quick succession.
Her first shot missed entirely, whistling past the creatures head. Her second glanced off its skull, but her third shot was true, striking the beasts, face causing its cheek and jaw to explode into a mangled bloody mess.
The creature roared in agony and fury and went charging down the hallway, desperate for escape. It barrelled headlong into Tilly before she could loose another shot, sending her sprawling to the floor winded but uninjured. Its goal appeared to be liberty rather than carnage and it did not pause to deal further injury to its assailant.
Boo screamed in panic as she saw the gore besmirched horror lay Tilly low. She broke cover and ran to her aid, her fear of the beast overridden by her fear that Tilly had been mortally injured.
In its panic and pain, the animal took a swipe at Boo with its wicked claws as it charged past her, and Rebecca Jenner fell, opened up from throat to chest.
Tilly soon recovered, and ignoring the fleeing creature she went straight to Boo. Blood flowed from her wound at a horrifying rate, the blow had opened up her carotid artery and unless help came right quick, she would surely die.
Tilly tore off her uniform shirt and desperately tried to staunch the flow of blood. The existence of the beast entirely forgotten in the face of this new horror. She screamed for help as loudly as her lungs could stand.
As Rebecca Jenner’s lifeblood flowed away and the light in her eyes dimmed, Tilly Dixon screamed.
With horror and grief slashing cruelly at her heart, and desperate grinding panic searing her very soul, Tilly Dixon screamed.
Thank you for reading
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