CH. 8: This Is Going To Hurt You A Lot More Than This Is Going To Hurt Me

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The worst of it wasn't when Dash Selfridge gut punched Mac Wyatt. The worst wasn't when Dash's twin sister, Darla kicked Mac's knees out from under her and Mac toppled to forest earth. The worst wasn't even when, as Mac lain crumpled on her side, her mouth and nostrils full of dirt, the Selfridge twins began to repeated whack and bash her with their fists and boots. Don't get it wrong, those things sucked like a toothless, old gigolo, but they weren't the worst of it. No, the worst part was, as the Selfridge twins beat the holy hell out of Mac Wyatt, Gregg Selfridge got to stand back and watch.

"You like that?" Darla said, a boot to Mac's thigh.

"Really got off on that," Dash said, striking Mac hard in the back, "Attacking me in that bathroom? I'll show you what going up against Selfridge really means!"

His head was still bandaged and his eyes were black and purple, but thanks to Astrid's healing potion, Dash remained among the living. Still, his aim was kind of shoddy and each connection bore north or south of his intended target. Darla, however, was right on point with every blow. To Mac's way of thinking, she guessed that evened out. All she had to do was keep her mouth shut until they tired themselves out, but it was hard. These fucking brats with their taunts and their jeers. They came at her yesterday and she had handled them but now it was all like "take your lumps for ambushing us." It was bullshit, but she figured she could handle it.

Only she didn't count on Gregg being there, arms crossed, an unlit cigarette dangling from his lips. It was a bunch of them really, all standing in the forest on the edge of Thrun's Bounty. It was as close to the farm as Tracy Wyatt would agree to and Mac was definitely not to go alone. So, as Dash and Darla Selfridge kicked Mac's ass, her step-father, Derek, her aunt Astrid, with a healing potion at the ready, and little sister, Gwenie stood by and watched with Dash and Darla's father Luke, Brandon and Ray and finally Gregg on the other side of the one-way melee.

Dash struck down on Mac's prone form, striking her in the ear with his fist. "You like that?! You want some more?!" And he punched her again, this time on the cheek. Mac tried to rise off the ground, red phlegm leaking from her mouth, but Darla drove in and kicked her in the shoulder.

"Enough!" Gwenie yelled and Derek put a hand on her shoulder holding her back.

Mac looked at her little sister through blurred vision. She saw two Gwenies, then a third before Dash launched a foot into her side. Gwenie buried her head into Derek's chest. He threw an arm around her and grit his teeth as Darla landed a particularly vicious stomp to Mac's lower back.

"My brother!" Darla screamed and hit her again. "You don't fuck with my brother!"

Then, the Selfridge twins went from isolated shots to a continuous wailing barrage on Mac. Blow and blow after blow. Mac looked to find Gwenie crying and Astrid looking away and Derek staring helplessly at her then she turned her attention to Gregg. His face gave away nothing. Just hard and steely and flat. He took the cigarette from his mouth and pressed it to his palm where it came alight. He threw the now lit cigarette between his lips and took a drag. He'd looked so cool smoking back in the day, some guys just had it like that, but it looked strangely unfamiliar to him. Like he hadn't smoked one in a long time. He gave out a quick cough then inhaled again.

Derek cried, "You made your point! Ray, stop this! Enough!"

Mac closed her eyes and when she opened them after some indeterminate amount of time, she found the beating had abated and ultimately, after nose breaking shot from Dash, finally stopped.

"Now, it's enough," Dash said and spit into Mac's hair.

But, apparently Darla disagreed because she advanced, rearing back for another punch. Gregg moved in and took Darla by the shoulders. He directed her away and, after a final pull forward, she stormed off. Mac looked up at Gregg, backlit by the sun. He looked immeasurably tall, beyond his six four stature and his immensity only increased as he knelt down before her. Gregg reached out and put a hand on Mac's head. He stroked her blonde hair, which was now matted with her blood. His gesture was soothing and gentle. Mac closed her eyes and went with it. Then, Gregg snatched her by the hair and pulled her face to face with him.

Gregg blew out smoke and brought Mac's ear inches from his lips. "You should have never come back here, Mac. Selfish asshole."

Then, he threw her head down in the dirt.

As Gregg stepped away to rejoin his family, Derek, Astrid and Gwenie rushed in. Before Mac blacked out into oblivion, she heard two things.

Brandon Selfridge saying, "Now, get that bushwhacker off my property."

And Gwenie saying into Mac's ear, "I'll never forgive them for this. Don't worry, Sis. I'll get them back. You just wait and see."

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