Megan took Katrina to the hospital the following day, but didn’t go in herself. She used the time to wander around the small town and do some shopping.
Katrina came across a very annoyed Charlie as she was sitting in her hospital bed while the nurse was checking her vitals. When she saw Katrina she smiled.
“So what does Doc David say, are you going to live?” Katrina walked towards the bed and waited for the nurse to complete her check before she sat down on the chair next to it.
“He says I’ll live, but he wants to keep me here for another two days. I’m not sure if I will survive that.” She got a serious look on her face. “So tell me what the damage is.”
“We don’t know for sure right now, but it looks like it’s all the cows.”
Charlie’s face wasn’t giving away anything of how she felt at that moment. She silently reached for the glass of water on the bed stand and took a sip. She placed it back again before she looked at Katrina. “This is just a setback. My plans will take longer, but what’s done is done. It doesn’t help crying over it now.”
“That’s my girl.” Kat leaned over and took hold of Charlie’s hand. “Use the two days to rest. Rubin will look after everything while you are here. With a man like him around, you have no need to worry. That reminds me, all the workers send their love.”
“As long as you keep HER away from everything on the farm I’ll have peace of mind. She is a walking disaster waiting to happen.”
Katrina laughed wholeheartedly. “We can’t actually keep her away from anything. She does own half that farm until the year is over. She really isn’t such a bad person. A bit misguided, but when you look under that hard-ass exterior of hers, I am sure there will be much more to find. Unlike you, she apparently started off as a nice girl and then became a bad-ass.”
“I have no intention of looking under anything. I have enough trouble keeping my hands off that little neck of hers.” Charlie held her hands out as if strangling someone. Kat just laughed again shaking her head.
“The two of you are surely going to make this an interesting year.”
They talked until the visiting time was over, then Katrina met up with Megan in the hospital parking lot.
“I see you’ve been shopping,” Kat said as she got into the car.
“Just a few things I needed.”
“If you forgot anything, you can pick it up tomorrow or the next day. She is still going to be in there for another two days.”
“Is she still upset with me?” Megan asked as she started driving.
“With Charlie you can never be sure.”
“I’ll just buy her some new cows.”
“Has money always solved all your problems?”
“What’s wrong with using it if you’ve got it?”
“Charlie will never allow you to do it.”
“I am not asking for her permission.”
“She’ll see it as a slap in the face. If you think you’ve seen a bad side of her, you have another think coming if you go ahead with your plan.”
“I don’t see why it will be such an issue. It’s just cows!”
It was very quiet in the little car. Katrina took a deep breath before she started speaking. “I think I need to tell you more about Charlie. It might make you understand her more.”
“Why should I need to understand her? She’s the one with the problem.”
Katrina smiled. “Your aunt was right, you are stubborn. I still think you need to hear Charlie’s story.”
“It’s an hour trip to the farm, so I suppose I am trapped and at your mercy until we get there.”
“Charlie believes very strongly that people should face up to their actions, although she wasn’t always like that. You two actually have something in common.”
“That is a scary concept.” Megan snickered.
“Charlie comes from a very rich and powerful family, just like you. She was an only child, and image was everything to her parents. She was spoiled rotten, and never knew the meaning of the word “no”. She got into trouble from a very young age, but her father’s money and influence always made it go away.
“She was sixteen when she realised that she preferred women over men. Unfortunately for her, this was the one thing her parents’ image couldn’t cope with. They gave her an ultimatum which she chose to ignore. She really didn’t believe that they would disown her.
“She was soon disillusioned. She found herself out on the street with nowhere to go. The moment her friends found out what had happened, they all disappeared. She had no idea what to expect on the streets and was completely vulnerable. She tried to speak to her parents, but they refused to acknowledge her existence. It wasn’t long before she was gang raped and beaten half to death.
“This was how Julia found her. She was the owner of the little shop next to the alley Charlie was left in for dead. She took her to the hospital, and afterwards took her under her wing. She helped Charlie deal with all her demons, and eventually became her lover. Julia wasn’t very rich, but they had a decent life.
“On Charlie’s twentieth birthday Julia wanted to spoil her, so she took her out to a rather nice restaurant. On their way back to the car, Julia got hit by a drunken driver and she died on the way to the hospital. Charlie was the only one that saw what happened. The drunken driver was her father. He made the whole thing go away as if Julia never existed.
“Charlie was devastated and she started drinking. She ended up going from place to place doing odd jobs to keep the liquor flowing. Claire came across Charlie while she was half drunk in the bar; in this small town the bar is also the best place to go for lunch. She asked Charlie what she was celebrating, to which she replied that it was her twenty-first birthday. Claire helped her celebrate, and eventually took a passed-out Charlie home with her. She insisted Charlie stay for a few days, but Charlie didn’t want to unless she could work for her stay.
“The few days turned into weeks, and Claire eventually asked Charlie to stay on permanently as her foreman. Charlie didn’t know anything about farming, but she took the chance. Charlie was the biggest reason the farm became so successful, and Claire loved her like the daughter she never had.”
Megan just gave her a sideways look when she finished the story, but didn’t say a word.
When Megan and Katrina got home after the second day, Megan took off looking for Rubin. She found him next to the vegetable garden.
“Hi Rubin, I need your help with something.”
“Sure Miss Callaway, what can I help you with?” Rubin was nervously moving from one foot to the other. Charlie had told him that she would skin him alive if he allowed Megan anywhere near anything.
“I need you to put these signs on the gates.” She held out a parcel in her left hand.
“Sure, just give them to me and I’ll put them up the moment Charlie gets home.”
“No!” Rubin nearly jumped on the spot. “You will come with me now and we will put them up.” The fire in Megan’s eyes and her stance soon convinced Rubin who he should really be afraid of. He knew Charlie wouldn’t really hurt him, but he wasn’t so sure about Megan.
“Yes Miss Callaway. I’ll just go and get some wire and a pair of pliers.” He ran to the shed and was back in five minutes.
Megan wanted them to start with the entrance gate first and work their way back towards the house. When they got to the entrance gate, Megan gave Rubin the first sign. He looked at it and gave a sigh of relief. “This isn’t so bad,” he thought to himself as he walked towards the gate. He attached the medium sized sign to the gate and stepped backward.
“Please close the gate,” Rubin read out loud. “I don’t think anyone will have a problem with that.”
Megan just smiled as she got back into the truck waiting for Rubin to follow her.
“Rubin, tell me a bit about yourself and your family.”
Rubin started fiddling with his pants at the request. He felt that Megan was up to something, but didn’t know what it was. “My wife Kathy and I have been working together on this farm for the last ten years. We have a son named Harry, age 8, and a daughter named Rebecca, age 5.”
“What did you do before you got to the farm?”
“I…I… didn’t…” Rubin was very uncomfortable, but he knew she would be able to find out anyway. “I got into some trouble as a kid, and it followed me wherever I went. It’s not easy to get back onto track when you’ve spent time in jail. My wife was the only person who believed in me until we met Miss Claire.”
Megan looked at him without saying a word. He almost forgot to breathe until he saw a smile form on her face. “Aunt Claire seems to have had a lot of faith,” she said as they stopped in front of the next gate. “Here’s the next sign.” She handed the sign to him with the smile still on her face.
Rubin felt more relaxed until he read the message on the second sign. He turned to Megan. “Maybe we should wait for Charlie before we put this sign up?”
“No Rubin. Like I said before, these signs are going up today.” She now had a huge grin on her face. Rubin just shook his head and did as he was told. He knew Charlie wasn’t going to be impressed.
When Rubin attached the last sign, he couldn’t help smiling himself. He didn’t feel like there was very much else he could do in this situation.
Charlie noticed the sign on the entrance gate when Katrina stopped the truck to open the gate. “Does she really think that is going to fix anything? She was the only idiot who didn’t close the gates. The rest of the world has some common sense.” She looked at Katrina who had a huge smile on her face and frowned. “There’s nothing funny about this, so why the huge smile?”
“Oh, let’s just say you haven’t seen anything yet.”
“I’m not in the mood for surprises Kat, what else has she done that you find so amusing?”
“You’ll see for yourself now… and don’t go getting upset with Rubin. He only did what Megan told him to do. If you ask me, I think he is afraid of her.”
“Let’s just go then if you’re not going to tell me. Today is as good a day as any for a strangling.”
Katrina felt a chill run down her spine at the menacing tone in Charlie’s voice. She wouldn’t want to be Megan today.
They drove to the next gate in silence. When she stopped the truck, Katrina gave Charlie a sideways glance. She wasn’t surprised to find her looking like she was ready to rip the sign right off the gate. If it weren’t for the crutches, and the problem she had getting into the truck with them, Katrina was sure Charlie would have jumped out and done just that. Katrina looked at the sign again and smiled. She actually thought it was funny.
“Beware: The Amazon from hell will make you regret not closing this gate!” Charlie read it out loud. “I’m sure she thinks she’s hilarious, but it won’t be a funny matter when I get my hands on her.”
“Oh come on Charlie, it’s not that bad. It’s just a sign on a gate.”
“You’re right. I’m getting all worked up over a silly sign. There are more important things for me to get upset about, like the fact that I can’t swim at the dam until this cast is taken off. Don’t know how I am going to survive without my afternoon ritual.”
“Megan thinks it’s a filthy habit,” Katrina said as she got back into the truck after closing the gate.
“Luckily I don’t have to worry about what she thinks. She is way too stuck up for her own good.”
“She might surprise you.”
“Not in this lifetime I’m sure.”
Katrina stopped at the last gate and waited for Charlie’s reaction.
“Why that little bitch.” Charlie’s words were no match for the look on her face.
“Watch your language Charlie.”
“Sorry Kat, but she’s the one calling me a dog!”
“She didn’t put your name on the sign.”
Charlie read the sign out loud, “Amazon watchdog on duty. It would be a good idea to close the gate or suffer the consequences!” She gave Katrina a stern look. “Who do you think she is referring to?”
When they stopped in front of the house Megan was standing on the porch with a self satisfied smirk on her face. Charlie got out of the truck and made her way towards the steps. She gave Megan a deadly stare and held her eyes while she was making her way towards her. Megan had to admire the fact that Charlie came up the stairs with crutches without ever looking down. Charlie stopped next to her and Megan’s breath caught in her throat when Charlie moved her head down towards her. It almost looked like she was going to kiss her, but she moved towards Megan’s ear who felt like she was rooted to the spot.
“My bite is worse than my bark. If anyone should be worried, it should be you.”
The whispered words sent a chill down Megan’s spine, but the breath that carried those words caused a different reaction. She felt a tingling warmth covering her body and her nipples awakened to the sensation.
Charlie straightened up and gave Megan a sweet smile before she moved into the house. Megan used trembling fingers to make sure her ear was still a part of her body, because for some reason it felt foreign.
Megan decided to go for a walk to calm her emotions. “If she can do that with her breath, I wonder what else she’s capable of?” Her thoughts kept her busy, but her stomach started complaining. She headed back towards the house feeling a bit anxious about facing Charlie again while her hormones were acting against her will.
When she walked into the house, Charlie and Katrina were already seated at the dining room table.
“Hi Megan, you’re just in time. We only sat down a minute ago.” Katrina smiled while she gestured? for Megan to sit down next to her.
“My stomach won’t let me forget.”
Charlie, who was reading the newspaper she had got in town before they came home, stared at Megan in disbelief. Megan was piling food on her plate like there was no tomorrow, and the look on her face was one of pure delight when she sat down and started eating. It seemed like the whole world was lost to her except for that plate of food in front of her.
She was still staring at Megan when Katrina interrupted her thoughts. “Have you taken your tablets yet Charlie?”
“No, I’m only supposed to take them after I’ve eaten.”
Katrina leaned over and whispered to Charlie, “Then you’d better start eating and stop staring or you’ll never get that far.” Charlie felt a blush rising up from her neck at Katrina’s words. She was thankful that Megan hadn’t heard that comment.
The rest of the meal passed in silence, after which everyone went their own way.
The next morning, Megan changed into her bikini for a swim in the pool. When she walked out the door, she heard laughter coming from that direction. She came across a little boy and girl playing with a ball in the pool. She stood there for a few minutes just watching them. They looked so carefree and full of life.
When she walked closer, she also saw a woman cleaning the pool loungers. The little boy squirted the woman, who jumped jumped in surprise, but laughed. The little girl scooped up some water into her water gun and aimed it at her brother. He was still laughing at the woman he had squirted, when the little girl shot him on the back of the head.
“You little devil,” he laughed as he swam towards her. “Do you want to get dunked, or are you going to apologise?”
The little girl squirmed in her effort to get away from him. “You’ll need to catch me first.” She got out of the pool just as he was about to grab her. She ran to the woman who had gone back to cleaning the loungers and circled her arms around her legs. “Save me Mommy.” She moved around her when she saw the little boy coming closer. He had the water gun in his hands now and was aiming for her.
“That’s enough you two. I told you before that I don’t want you running around the swimming pool. If you don’t behave, there’ll be no more swimming.”
“Sorry Mom, we’re just having fun. We promise not to do it again.” The little boy was very apologetic.
“Yes Mom, we promise.” The little girl backed up her brother.
“I need to go and clean inside, so you two need to get out of the pool now anyway.”
“Aah Mom, we still want to play. I can look after Becca.”
“Harry, you’re way too young for such a responsibility.” The woman brushed the boy’s hair out of his face with her hand.
Megan felt a strange attraction to the two kids, who reminded her of the years before her cousin’s death. She stepped forward to make her presence known. “Hi, my name is Megan.”
The woman turned to her with a smile on her face. “Hi Miss Callaway. I’m Kathy, Rubin’s wife, and these two are our kids Harry and Rebecca.”
“Nice to meet you Kathy, and you can call me Megan. This “Miss Callaway” is starting to make me feel like a complete outsider.”
“What’s an outsider Mom?” Rebecca had a confused look on her face and Megan smiled.
“Someone who isn’t from here,” Megan said while hunching down to face her.
“Then you are an outsider aren’t you?”
Megan laughed. “I sure am. You are a clever one aren’t you?” She straightened up again facing Kathy. “I’ve been here for four days and haven’t seen you guys before. Is the farm that huge?”
“The farm is huge, but we haven’t been on it for the last week. The kids and I have been to my mother’s. It’s school holidays and will be for another two weeks.” Kathy was gathering up the cleaning materials she had been using earlier. “You must excuse us Megan. I still have to catch up on a lot of work.”
“I’m going to have a swim, so why don’t you leave the kids with me,” Megan offered while looking at the kids who jumped with joy at her words.
“It’s very nice of you to offer, but I can’t expect you to do that. They’re a handful.”
“Aaah Mom,” the kids responded in unison.
“It’s not a problem Kathy. I can use all the help I can get to feel less like an outsider.”
“Well, all right then.” Kathy turned to the kids. “You two behave yourselves.” She gave them each a kiss and left.
“Well now,” Megan smiled at the two kids, “Let’s see how much fun we can get up to.”
Charlie was working in the study when Katrina came in with some coffee and a snack on a tray. “Kat, you really don’t need to serve me.”
“Oh yes? How are you going to manage a cup of coffee with a pair of crutches under your arms? You might think you are superwoman, but I know better.” She sat down on the couch with her own cup of tea.
“Thanks Kat, I appreciate it.” She sat back and took a sip of her coffee. “The kids sure sound like they’re having fun in the pool this morning.”
“Megan and the kids have been going at it the whole morning. I am quite amazed at her energy levels.”
“With all the food that she devours, her energy levels must be sky high.”
“There’s nothing wrong with having a good appetite.” Katrina got up. “That reminds me, I have to go and see what there is to make for lunch.”
When Katrina left the study, Charlie got up and moved to the window in the dining room that looked out over the pool. She watched as Megan and the kids were building a human pyramid in the pool. It collapsed a second after it was up. She had to smile as the kids surfaced and tackled Megan, who didn’t put up much of a fight as she got pushed under the water. She surfaced holding her hands up in defeat. It looked like it was the end of their pool party. Megan helped the kids out of the water, and then got ready to get out herself. Charlie had started turning to go back to the study when Megan emerged from the pool, which made her stop in her tracks. She couldn’t help but stare at Megan’s well toned body before it was covered by her robe.
“How desperate can I get?” she whispered to herself. “I really should get out more if that little squirt can get me all worked up more than once.” She had a determined look on her face when she made her way back to the study.
Kat, I need to do some work, but I need to be connected to the internet. Where’s a good place for that?” Megan was coming down the stairs with her notebook and briefcase.
“Charlie is still sleeping from the tablets she’s taking, so the study’s the best place to work without being interrupted.”
“Thanks Kat. It shouldn’t take too long.” Megan walked into the study and placed her notebook and briefcase on the desk before moving some of Charlie’s items out of the way.
“Are you planning to take over my bedroom next?” The icy words made Megan look up in surprise. Charlie was glaring at her from the study door.
Megan let her gaze run over Charlie from top to bottom and back up again. “Not if you were the last woman on this planet.”
The words had Charlie seething. “You are very sure of yourself aren’t you? You know that wasn’t an invitation. I would rather invite a rattlesnake into my bed.”
“Did you get out on the wrong side of the bed, or did you take the wrong medication?”
Charlie glared at her for what seemed like minutes before she spoke again. It looked like she was trying to control her anger. “What are you doing at my desk?”
“I’m tap dancing, what does it look like? This is my farm as well, so I’m sure I have a right to work in the study.”
Charlie turned and started hobbling away. She hadn’t got very far when she stopped and turned to Megan once again. “If we are both going to work in here, we had better bring in another desk.”
Charlie made her way to the kitchen where she found Katrina, who immediately saw that something was wrong. “What’s happened now?” she asked as she poured Charlie some coffee.
“She is infuriating. I don’t know what to do around her. Whenever we are alone, she manages to rub me the wrong way. How am I suppose to handle her for a year?”
Katrina placed the cup of coffee in front of Charlie before she sat down herself. “Maybe you should just try not to handle her.”
“I’ll try, but I don’t know if my patience is going to stretch that far.”
“What about that charm of yours? It normally works on every woman you meet.”
“Don’t even go there Kat; she will take it and twist it into something else. You should have heard what she said to me this morning.”
Katrina couldn’t stop laughing when Charlie told her what had happened in the study. “She does have some sharp wit.”
After telling Katrina the whole story, Charlie also laughed. It did seem quite funny looking back on it.
They were still laughing when Harry came running into the kitchen. “Aunt Kat, Dad says you must come quickly. Uncle Martin had an accident with the tractor.”
Katrina ran after Harry, while Charlie followed on her crutches. Megan was looking through the study window when she saw Harry and Katrina running past it, and a few seconds later a hobbling Charlie. She got up and ran outside to follow them. When she caught up with them, they were already next to the tractor that was lying on its side with Martin trapped underneath it.
“Rubin, get Kevin to bring the other tractor around and some chains so we can try and lift it off him.” Charlie was barking out instructions as she was kneeling next to Martin. She looked at Katrina who was comforting him, and then to Megan who was looking out of place. “Megan, run to the house and call Doc David. The number is next to the phone. Tell him what happened, and let him make the arrangements.” She watched as Megan turned and ran before she looked down again. Martin was trying to smile while Katrina was talking to him.
“Hang in there Martin, we are going to get you out. Can you tell me where it hurts?”
“My leg hurts, and my chest feels like it’s on fire.”
Katrina looked at Charlie with a worried expression on her face, but was smiling again when she looked back at Martin. She continued to talk to him while Charlie got up to help Rubin and Kevin when they got there with the other tractor.
They attached the chains to various points on the tractor. Charlie moved back around to Martin’s side, but knew she wouldn’t be able to pull him out, and neither would Katrina be able to do it on her own. Kevin was driving the other tractor, and Rubin had to keep an eye on the chains to make sure that they didn’t come off. At that point Megan came running back. “Doc David has arranged for the helicopter. He said it should take about ten minutes.”
“Good, by then we should have him out from under the tractor. I need you to help Kat pull him out from under once the tractor is lifted, but you’ve got to keep him straight. We can’t risk trying to lift it off him while there is a possibility something could go wrong and it would fall back on him again, so it will be enough for you to pull him out.” Megan nodded.
Charlie moved to the side of the tractor in order to see Rubin as well. “OK Rubin. On my signal get Kevin to move forward, but very slowly.” She signaled, and the tractor started moving upward inch by inch as the other tractor moved forward. It looked like that tractor’s front wheels were about to lift off the ground. “Slowly Kevin, we don’t need another accident.”
It felt like forever before the tractor was lifted enough for Katrina and Megan to pull Martin out. It was an agonisingly slow process, but they eventually moved him out far enough. It was just in time as they could hear the helicopter approaching. Kevin reversed the tractor to let the other one back down again. He could feel that his tractor didn’t have enough power to pull it up completely.
The paramedics quickly took care of Martin, and had him in the helicopter in a few minutes. They told Charlie that Martin was very lucky. It looked like a broken leg and some broken ribs. After they had left, Rubin suggested that he would take Martin’s wife to the hospital and let them all know how it was going.
Charlie turned to Megan who looked very pale as she was staring at the departing helicopter. “Thank you for your help.”
Megan didn’t respond. She just stood there.
Charlie gave Katrina a puzzled look. They both moved towards Megan and Katrina was the first to reach her. “Megan?” She moved in front of Megan to look into glazed eyes that weren’t looking back at all. “Megan?” She gave her a little shake with her hand on her shoulder. Megan seemed to be coming out of her dazed state. She directed her gaze at Katrina and was shaking her head from side to side then she passed out. Charlie was standing behind her at the time, and caught her before she could fall to the ground.