6. The Accident

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Everyone stopped what they were doing and stared when I walked into the barn for my shift the next day

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Everyone stopped what they were doing and stared when I walked into the barn for my shift the next day. The air pulsated with energy, but it wasn't excitement - it was uncertainty. Maybe even trepidation.

I stopped dead in my tracks and stared back, hoping tht someone - anyone - would come to my aid, give me a warning sign, a smile of reassurance, anything. But they all refused my gaze.

My heart thundered in my chest.

Maria Camilla, the shift manager, entered through the side door. Almost simultaneously, the room returned to their tasks with an exaggerated sense of normalcy. Anxious, I searched the room for signs of Charlotte and her crew but found none.

Once Maria Camilla grabbed her clipboard from the peg and left, the room quieted down again.

Watching.

Waiting.

I swallowed hard, steeled my spine and made my way to my locker. I wiped my sweating hands on the seat of my pants, put my hand on the lock and hesitated. The twenty pairs of eyes on my back made the hairs on my arms stand up.

Click click click.

I dialed. I was so hyper-aware of my surroundings that I felt the tiny vibrations of the turning lock all the way up the length of my arms.

When the lock released, I slowly inched the door open, the creaking of the sticky door deafening in the otherwise silent room. This wasn't my first rodeo. I fully expected a nasty surprise to be in my locker.

When nothing happened, I gingerly eased it open just an inch further. A flurry of paper tumbled out, landing at my feet.

SLUT.

WHORE.

TRAMP.

SKANK.

PROSTITUTE.

Each word had been scrawled in all capital letters on index cards with a thick black sharpie. I didn't bother reading the rest. I didn't have to. Same words, different medium. Tedious. Sighing in relief, my mood lifted. My heart gave a little leap of joy as I'd expected much, much worse.

Kneeling calmly, I gathered the cards and dropped them into the trash bin. Then I set my backpack on the floor and opened the locker door.

A massive jet of warm, wet and gelatinous slime hit me splat on the face, and oozed down onto the front of my shirt.

I screamed in shock and a rancid, bitter taste spread across my tongue. Desperately sputtering and wiping at my face, I fell onto the floor, flat on my ass.

All eyes were on me, but no one laughed.

Squinting, I looked at my hand, but couldn't tell what the substance was. All I knew was that it smelled and tasted absolutely disgusting. I heard a wobble form the top shelf of the locker. Then, something fell out of it, hitting me on the head before landing on the floor beside me.

They'd rigged a cattle semen collection kit to the door to squirt when I opened it.

My stomach rolled. Scrambling to my feet, I ran to the bathroom and vomited into the toilet. Clinging to the cool porcelain, I vomited until I thought I would pass out from the effort, then jumped into the shower stall.

I didn't cry. Instead, my blood boiled in a rage so deep that I struggled to breathe.

Get it together Layla. You're not like her.

The combination of scalding water and several deep breaths got me back to neutral. Wrapping a towel around myself, I stepped out of the shower and was surprised to see that someone had left a clean shirt for me on the bench. On it was a post it that read: They shouldn't have done that to you. I'm sorry.

The handwriting was feminine, careful and precise. Tears stung my eyes. I sniffled, smeared them away with the heel of my hand, and pulled my shorts back on. Then, I carefully folded the note and placed it safely in the back pocket of my pants.

Grateful beyond words, I pulled the clean shirt on. It was too big, but I wasn't about to complain. I balled up my soiled tank and walked it to the trash can but couldn't bring myself to let it go.

Fuck. I simply didn't have the luxury of replacing it. "So pitiful," I told myself softly under my breath. Then I wrapped the shirt in paper towels and carried it out with me.

No one looked at me when I reappeared.

Ignoring the mess on the floor, I pulled my gloves and boots out of the locker, stuffed my backpack in and slammed the door shut. The impact of metal hitting metal echoed like a canon through the high ceilinged barn, causing someone in the crowd actually yelp.

I spun on my heels and turned to leave. Too absorbed in my anger and self pity, I didn't remember to avoid the semen on the floor until it was too late. I went down hard, my ankle twisting sharply sharply beneath me.

That did it.

"Fuck!!!" I shrieked, slamming my boots down hard onto the barn floor. I let out a scream of frustration followed by another string of expletives, all delivered at the top of my lungs. "I'm so fucking sick of this shit!"

Now, people stared wide eyed and open mouthed.

I'd never lost my temper in public before. They wouldn't suspect it existed, but it did. Of course it did. How could it not when she was in my blood? Only I had learned to control over it. Or so I had thought.

I squeezed my eyes shut.

My ankle throbbed.

I forced myself to stand up and walk steadily out of the barn despite the agonizing pain. Because I would rather die than to let them see me hurt. Fueled by rage, I made my way all the way to the sties without stopping.

Only when I was under the cover of the shed did I dare look down to check my ankle. I cringed. It was swollen and throbbing, the dusty beginnings of a angry bruise already visible.

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