The box, neatly wrapped with a green bow and a red rose, sat on a top of hastily folded clothes in my open suitcase, suggesting it had been a gift from someone at uni. Perhaps one of the guys I had rejected, trying to win me over. I held it for a moment, trying to remember receiving it. Taking off the lid revealed the still warm heart of one of our cows. Not that I would know it was one of ours until later that day.
I picked up the heart, warm blood oozing from it, slowly trickling back into the box as I turned it in my hands. This couldn’t have been given to me at uni. It was far too warm, too fresh. I put it back, returning the lid to the box, and pushing it under my bed.
I scoured my hands in the bathroom before heading into the kitchen, where Mum was already cheerily cooking breakfast. ‘Good morning.’ She smiled. ‘You know you could have slept in today. You’re on holiday. Your brothers are fine with the milking, truly.’
I shook my head. I hadn’t told her yet, but I was planning to quit, to stay here and help out with the farm. I had only felt comfortable going to uni in the first place because Dad had both Sean and Michael to help out. We’d had too many cattle for him to handle on his own, and my brothers were used to his cool, calm help. ‘I wake up before dawn for midday lectures at uni, anyway.’ I said, as she dished me up a plate.
‘You can take the girl out of the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the girl, now, can you?’ Sean ruffled my hair as he came in, sitting next to me as Mum dished up his breakfast. Michael wasn’t far behind him, and a third plate joined the table.
Michael decided I should help Sean with the milking machines, while he herded the cows, and it was when we turned the lights on in the milking shed that we found her. Lying on her side, amidst a pool of blood. Entrails pulled out. Sean swore, as I stepped closer. It was clear that someone with little to no skill at anatomy had been looking for her heart.
The same heart that sat in a box stuffed under my bed.
It wasn’t until I was sitting at the table later, being questioned by cops, that I pulled out the box. We’d postponed the milking for the day, while the cops checked out the milking shed. I told them where I’d found it, and how I’d first thought it was a Christmas present from someone at uni. Sean swore again when the heart was revealed. I was asked more questions then. Why didn’t I say anything earlier? I burst into tears. The cops asked me to leave, and questioned the rest of my family about me while I lingered by the door. They ruled that I was in shock.
‘You should sleep in the spare room tonight, dear.’ Mum said later, as I was brushing my teeth. I heard them talking about Sean staying in my room with a rifle, in case they tried something else. I gave the window in the spare room a quick, experimental tug, but it was locked. With little else to do, I curled up on the unfamiliar bed, with my dog eared copy of Frankenstein until I fell asleep.
I woke up to swearing. Looking out from the door, I saw Sean in the entrance to my room. When he turned, he was as white as a ghost.
I wasn’t the only one woken up, but I was the one they kept away. I wanted to see what had happened, but Mum insisted I sit in the kitchen with a cup of tea.
‘Don’t worry about milking this morning, dear. Your brothers can handle it.’ The cops had come and gone, and the only clue I had as to what happened at this point was Sean and Michael carrying all my sheets and blankets to the laundry.
With no one letting me help out with anything, I set myself up in the lounge, something that used to be a treat. I had to dig through lots of DVDs to find anything good. Finally I slipped Stephen King’s IT into the player, and settled in to watch.
Mum came in around lunchtime, and hastily turned off Jeepers Creepers. She replaced it with one of her own DVDs. Fifty first something or other. Then she decided to take it upon herself to go through the others, and remove anything she deemed scary.
‘Lunch is ready.’ She said, forcing herself to smile. ‘Perhaps a little cold by now, though.’ I hadn’t asked her to change what I was watching. Or remove all my DVDs so I couldn’t watch anything good.
I waited for her to go back to the kitchen before I headed there myself. I paused at the door when I heard Michael turning. Maybe I could find out what had happened.
‘What’s in the urn? How’d this sick freak get his head?’
‘I wanna know how they knew when I was on the bloody shitbox.’ Sean said.
‘Would both of you be quiet? Your sister’s coming. We can’t upset her any more.’
The lunchtime chatter was far too lively as we ate, and no one acknowledged my lack of contribution to it. When I’d finished eating, Mum suggested I go back to watching the movie she’d put on for me. I decided to wait outside the door instead, listening in.
‘She was watching one of those horror movies again. Blood splattering at the screen, and she didn’t even flinch.’ Mum’s voice was high pitched, and I could tell she was close to crying.
‘She’s never flinched before, Mum.’ Sean said. ‘She’s always loved those movies, for some reason. Maybe it’s calming to her.’
‘I’ll not have her watching that stuff when she’s in shock. Not when this… whatever this is, is going on. The cops will be here tonight, to keep an eye on her room, since you are apparently incapable.’ I practically heard Sean flinch.
That night, I waited until everyone was in bed, and slipped out of the spare room. I had to be quiet, tip toeing down the hall to the back door, so I didn’t alert the cops.
I was barefoot, clad in only my nighty, yet I barely noticed the night chill as I stepped outside. Everything was dark. There were no lights on in the house, which left only the moon to illuminate my way. I was heading to my window, intending to wait for whoever was doing this to show up, when I slipped in something, landing hard on my back.
Sitting up, I looked around. There was a lot of the slippery stuff around me. I soon realised it was blood, as I found the source, a policeman with his throat cut.
I stared for a while. I’d never seen a dead human before. Dad had been cremated before I’d come back home. Or, I’d thought he had. Kneeling next to the dead officer, I stroked his neck, feeling along the line of the cut. It was deep. Judging by the lack of screams to alert any other officers, it must have been quick.
I was still fascinated by the body when I was abruptly pulled up. A hand clamped over my mouth, as an arm wrapped around my waist, trapping my arms by my sides. I felt a strong body pressing against my back, but I didn’t try to escape. ‘Am I still too boring for you, Danielle?’ The voice was familiar, though it took me a moment to place it.
Dante. A boy I’d met at uni. Like me, he was studying Film. He’d always been quiet in the classes we’d shared. When he’d asked me out, I’d rejected him, saying he was too boring. After all, he barely contributed to any class discussions, and him asking me out had been the first time we’d even talked.
The hand removed itself from my mouth, and I was spun around to face him. I stared up at him. I’d never seen this glint in his eye before. The satisfied smirk on his lips seemed almost to belong to someone entirely different. How could this person be the same as the quiet boy from uni?
I don’t know who moved first, but our lips met, and our bodies pressed hard against each other. My body filled with a heat I can’t remember encountering before, as I realised he had done this, all of this, for me.
There was a sound from my room, which brought me back to reality. I stepped away, staring up into his face once more. The smirk on his mouth was wider now, and I knew there must be a matching one on my own. ‘You will be if we get caught.’ His face brightened at the challenge, and he gripped my hand tightly in his.
‘I wasn’t planning to get caught.’ We ran then, my heart thudding in my chest. We ran until we reached an unfamiliar car, parked near our neighbours farm.
No cops chased us as we drove off, but my heart was still beating fast long after I’d caught my breath from the run. ‘ know it’s early still, but Merry Christmas.’ He said. ‘Just wait till you see what I’ve got planned for New Years.’ I started laughing then, as Mt Taranaki faded into the background behind us, along with my farm, my family, and my boring life.
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