8. Jake, Before Me

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By the time he returned, I sported a giant mud stain on my leg from an over zealous sow on her way back from the mud puddle

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By the time he returned, I sported a giant mud stain on my leg from an over zealous sow on her way back from the mud puddle. Water dripped from my shirt and legs from the back splash she caused when she succeeded in her quest for water.

I had squealed in surprise, and for whatever reason, that had triggered a watering frenzy. So I sat, being shoved and jostled by the pigs, gripping hard to the edge of the water trough to keep my place.

It sucked.

Jake laughed when he saw me, then used his boot to push the animals aside, clearing his path to me. He threw a burlap sack on the ground and plopped down on it. He used his teeth to tear open a few packages of sports wrap and laid everything out beside him. Finally, he slapped his denim covered thigh. "Up."

Reluctantly, I complied.

He worked efficiently, his fingers clever and nimble. "How'd you sprain it anyway?"

"I tripped," I told the top of his head. His hair was so black it was nearly blue.

"That's not what I heard."

"Do you always make sure you stay on top of the latest gossip?"

He shrugged one shoulder. "Can't help what I hear."

There was nothing to say to that.

"They say you went all "Carrie" on them."

I snorted.

His hands stilled, and he looked up at me. "Why do you let them do it?" he asked, his eyes too intense for my comfort.

I didn't pretend not to understand.

"I just want to lay low until I can get out of here. It's only another year."

He made a final loop and tore the tape, tucking the end neatly over my ankle. "Lay Low, Lay-lah," he said to himself, over-enunciating the syllables, lips pursing as he played with the sounds.

I had to work real hard not to smile.

He should have let go of my foot then, but he held onto it. Then he looked up again, pinning me down with his eyes. "But you know you can, right?"

"Can what?"

"Snap your fingers and put those girls where they belong." He smiled slyly. "You know you can."

I lowered my eyelids, shielding my eyes.

"You're bad Layla. I know you are. I don't know why you're putting up this act, but I see you."

He ran the pad of his thumb along the calloused heel of my foot. "Look at me."

I thought about it, then raised my eyelids and looked straight into his eyes.

The eyes of a lioness, my grandmother had called them. "You need to be harder with her," I'd overheard her tell my daddy once. "She's gonna be a wild one, just like her mama. She's got bad blood in her, that one, the Devil's blood."

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