Bebe watched the others pile into the vehicles and head across the desert. They would be there in less than two minutes. She knew that what the man said was right. She had no skills. She would only be a liability. Especially when it came to her cousin. And Will needed to focus on finding Mercy.
She went back inside the house and rummaged through the bags, finding bandages and a first-aid kit. But what good would it do them here? Sure, if it was just something minor, but it would not be safe to transport anyone if they were seriously wounded. Why hadn’t they taken it with them? Probably time.
She paced the floor for a moment. She knew it was ridiculous, but something told her that she needed to be there. Maybe not in the thick of things, but nearby. Perhaps she could help Mercy and the others. Maybe she could just take the medical supplies. She was probably justifying what she wanted to do with this ‘feeling.’ But dammit, she had spent over three years doing what someone else told her. Hell, her whole life.
Bebe dropped to her knees, finding a backpack and stuffing bandages, the first-aid kit, a couple bottles of water, and a blanket in it. She left the rest of the supplies there, in case someone needed them. Then she took off running towards the lights she saw in the distance.
By the time she got there, things were quieter. The occasional gunshot still broke the dark night, but it was not the almost constant barrage it had been when the others left.
She headed straight for the little house. The door was open. The lights were on. But she saw no sign of Mercy or the others in the front rooms. She opened the door to the bedroom. She had not dared call out earlier for fear that someone would overhear her. But she did now, though not loudly.
The old man was still sleeping. Though how that was possible with all the noise, she had no idea. She called one more time but got no reply. She quickly checked the bathroom, thinking perhaps the women were all hiding in there. But it was empty too.
She knew that they could not have gotten far with the woman, not on foot. She stood just inside the front door, looking out. Lights blazed in almost every room of the main house. She considered going there. But it seemed to be the center of that gunfire. And even if she knew how to fire a gun, she did not have one.
Her eyes took in the desert. Perhaps that is where the women went. It would make sense. But they could not get far. Not on foot. She turned – the barn, of course. The girl loved horses, she remembered from their brief conversation. And if they could get her mother on a horse, they could have gotten away.
Assuming they were not safe with the others. But as bad a shape as the woman was, something told her they would have either posted guards and left them in the house. Or they would have taken them back to the house. She had not seen the truck or any other sign of them.
The barn made sense. She would check it out first. Then head to the main house. Maybe it would be safe by then. She ran the short distance, thankful that there was no moon to reveal her.
She froze in the doorway. The old priest, she had seen him a few times in the village, knelt next to someone. He had those stupid beads that always hung from the rope around his waist clutched tightly in his fingers. His mouth was moving, but she could not hear what he said. His face was white and drawn. Wasn’t this man used to death by now?
Next to him, a woman knelt. She was perhaps the most beautiful woman that Bebe had ever seen. Dark hair and light eyes against porcelain skin. Her hands tenderly caressed the person’s face as tears ran down her cheeks.
Bebe stepped inside the barn. This was likely one of Garcia’s men. The priest would not be so upset if it were one of theirs or Dominguez’s. She had medical supplies. But should she save them? What if one of the other men needed them? But she had not taken them all.
She stepped further into the light. They could see her, but neither looked up. Was the old man crying too? “I have bandages…” Her voice came out a whisper.
But her heart stopped when the injured man turned his head, “Bobby.”
“Bebé,” his face contorted in pain just from the one word.
She dropped to her knees next to the other woman. She had a good idea who she was now. How had she ever thought he would choose her over this woman?
Bobby’s lifted his hands from where it gripped his stomach. She was almost sick right then. She looked away before she was. She felt a hand grip hers. Pain, fear, and guilt assailed her. More potent than anything she had ever felt. She inhaled and fought nausea. When she turned back, Bebe was careful to keep her eyes on his ashen face.
“Lo siento. I’m sorry. I never meant…”
“Shhh, Roberto, be quiet. I will find Papa’s doctor. We’ll get you to the hospital, and everything will be fine.”
Bobby turned to the other woman, and Bebe’s heart shattered into a million pieces at the tender and protective look in his dark eyes. There was no doubt that this man desired her. She had more than enough experience with men these past three years to know when one wanted her. But never once had Bobby looked at her that way.
He shook his head, “No, Constanza. You know the truth.” But despite the pain of that revelation, his next words gutted her as much as they did the other woman. “I’m dying.” Both of them sobbed louder at his words.
“Tio,” the old man lifted his head though he kept those beads clenched tightly in his fingers.
“Take Connie away from this place.”
The other girl shook her head, “No, Roberto. I will stay with you.”
“Listen to me, Connie. This is your chance. You can get away from your father. From this life. Tio can get you to another convent. One where your father will never find you. You can become a nun. Just as you wanted.” He coughed, and the pain on his face was like another knife to her heart.
Bobby closed his eyes, and she feared that she would never again see the light in their dark depths. But after a couple of deep breathes, he forced them open. “Tio, will you do this for me?”
The old man nodded his head, “Of course, my son.”
Bobby nodded, the relief evident on his face. He released her hand and jealously gripped her broken heart as he took the other woman’s instead. “Please, Constanza. Do this for me. Maybe it is your god’s will that all this happened. Perhaps as you once told me, you were meant for the church. All I ask is that you say a prayer for me, occasionally. I never deserved someone like you. I never could. It’s better this way.”
The girl shook her head, crying, but it was the old man to whom he turned. “Go. Now, Tio. Before anyone discovers us. Please, make sure she is safe.”
“I promise, Roberto. I know of a place. She will be safe there.” The man grabbed the girl’s shoulders and lifted her up. Constanza was crying so hard that her whole body shook. She tried to break away from the older man, but he only held her tighter. Pulling her from the barn.
Bebe watched Bobby’s face. Every emotion that played across it. Guilt. Regret. And, worst of all, love and respect. She did not even need to touch this man to know his feelings for the other woman.
When they were finally out of sight, he turned to her and held out his hand. “I am so sorry, Bebé.”
She only shrugged, as if knowing that the man she loved cared for another woman more than he had her did not matter. She reached for the bag, “I have bandages.”
He shook his head, “No, they won’t do any good. Only prolong things.”
She wanted to draw back when he lifted that bloody hand and ran his thumb down her cheek. If she had been stronger, she would have. A strong woman did not beg for crumbs of affection from any man’s table. A strong woman knew her worth.
But that was just it. She did know her worth. Whore. Jezebel. Tainted woman. Harlot. Not even a killer could love someone like her.
“Will you stay with me?” He held out that blood-stained hand. “Please.”
Bebe knew if she took his hand that it would all overwhelm her. Now especially, this man’s memories, pains, and regrets would all bubble to the surface. Just as his blood was boiling from the wound in his abdomen.
But she took it anyway. She could hear her Grandmother’s voice. ‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.’
And despite her father’s hellfire and brimstone, Etta Mae Williams had always told her that love was unconditional. It wasn’t real love if it wasn’t. And her love for this man, as warped and complicated as it was, was her gift to give. As she saw fit.
Maybe other people would judge her for that. She was sure that her father would. Especially when he found out about the baby. Her cousin probably would too. Despite the age difference, Will had once been as close to a best friend as she got. But the years had changed her. Him too. They could not go back.
Hell, she’d probably spend years in therapy. Relive this moment and doubt herself a million times for the rest of her life.
But at this moment, she knew – it was the right thing to do.
She squeezed his fingers tighter. And forced a smile. It was on the tip of her tongue to tell him about the baby. Their child. But he closed his eyes before she could. A smile played at the only lips she had ever kissed. The others had never been interested in such niceties. Not with a whore that they paid for.
The silence. The calm. The complete lack of memories and feelings raped her mind, as others had raped her body. And she knew that he was gone. Where? She had no idea. But he was.
She screamed as she clutched his bloody shirt. Tears mixed with the blood, and she cried. Cried for the little boy that had never understood why his mother hated him so much. Cried for the innocent girl ripped from that bus stop. Cried for dead dreams and dead killers. She sobbed.
Until she felt familiar hands grip her shoulders and drag her away from the shell that growing colder with each tear. “Shh, Bebe, I’ll take you home. Everything will be alright.”
She jerked from her cousin’s embrace. She felt that, too. His hatred for Bobby. Her cousin, one of the few people that she had trusted. But that kind of hate changed a person. She swung her fists, connecting with his shoulder. “No. Nothing will be okay. Ever again.” The darkness overcame her, and she crumpled at Will’s feet.