Lotta fan service in this update…
We all need to have a little fun now and then…even Taurus. ;)
I've made some changes in other chapters BTW.
Sorry for the long time it took to update, but this chapter is huge. Enjoy!
Down on the Farm
In the back room of the New Olympus Security Center…
Talos had the innards of an older wavecatcher (radio) spread out across the desk. New parts were off to his left elbow. Talos managed to construct the materials necessary to hybridize a normal wavecatcher to pick up varying radio signals from the human world. The parts were simple to make, but finding a wavecatcher to manipulate, was another story. The one wavecatcher they did find was too small for the parts as well as being made too recently to contain the necessary tubes. They needed an older, blockier model, since the older models were more capable of picking up transmissions farther away than newer ones. There was on in the janitor's closet, but the janitor refused to sacrifice his wavecatcher (it was the only one he had ever owned that perfectly rested on his mop and bucket and was his favorite color). Ahka said he knew exactly where to find one of that particular description and left on his mission. Two minutes later after Ahka left, Talos sent Rion out, figuring the minotaur would have much better luck than the Cecropian.
Forty-five minutes later Ahka returned with the desired wavecatcher, holding it up like a beacon. Orion returned empty handed. Since everything or most things are recycled in New Olympus, finding an old wavecatcher, even in pawnshops, proved fruitless.
Now, an hour later, Talos refitted the wavecatcher with new innards and a new antenna. With the final screw in place, the wavecatcher began to buzz. There was only static. Talos slowly turned the dial. Voices weakly came in, mingled with static. Both Ahka and Rion had to lean over to pick up the voices.
"I can't understand them," Rion said. "Try another frequency."
The dial was turned.
It's the bottom of the ninth…all bases are loaded
"This sounds boring," Ahka immediately whined.
"I do agree," Rion added. The dial was twisted again.
If you wanna be my lover you gotta get my friends…
"Dear gods, I've never heard anything so horrible in my life," Rion exclaimed. "I don't think I can concentrate and write at the same time with that playing."
"I dunno, that's pretty catchy lyrics," Ahka quickly stated.
"Start singing and I'm gonna cram this down your windpipe," Rion threatened, holding up a thumb size recorder. He recorded a few lines of the lyrics to play back to Boreas later. Talos, somewhat slowly changed the frequency. His AI could not distinguish between good and bad music and the irritation level of pop icons, even of those in his own nation let alone those of another nation.
The music of the next station was so loud, so offensive, so full of bass that wavecatcher nearly tumbled off the table. The lyrics were heavily garbled. Rion thought he heard something about gardening equipment and culinary equipment—hoes and grills. Rion took a sample of the music as he wrote down. Ahka bobbed his head along with the music while all of Talos's processors worked to slow down and translate the lyrics.
"New station," Rion said. Talos turned the dial.
Hit me baby one more time…
"Hey, it's the chick with the enormous forehead!" Ahka exclaimed. "Seriously."
"Hmm," Rion thought and began to take down notes. This music was just a little below his tolerance level…just a little bit.
"It doesn't seem like much without the video," Ahka observed. "Without her up there singing and dancing—the song's kinda annoying and sounds stupid."
"Hmm," Rion said and wrote down that note. They listened to the song in its entirety, then switched the station over after a local commercial came on about a liquidation sell on mattresses.
A dozen songs came and gone in a variety of different languages and beats, and three times the commercials (all spoken with the same amount of passionate emotion as the songs), and at least two sports games spoken by announcers with varying amount of zest.
"Human music is boring!" Ahka said. His entire upper body was stretched out across the table and his head rested in his arms. "Can we watch the screen again? I wanna see Who Wants to Marry the Most Dangerous Rap Star—or something along the lines of that title, they all sounded the same to me."
"Next frequency please, Talos," Rion asked.
Are you gonna take me home tonight?
Ah beside that red firelight,
Are you gonna let it all hang out?
Fat bottom girls you make the rocking world go round.
"Wow!" Ahka exclaimed. "This is pretty good. Catchy lyrics!"
"Don't start singing," Rion warned.
"Oh," Ahka said downtrodden.
"At least the beat is catchy," Rion said tapping his fingers on the table.
The Next Day…
Rachel left again for home early the morning, very early in the morning. Taurus woke early that the day before (though not as early as Rachel) and helped Charlie do the same chores as the day before and build a new, stronger pen for the pigs. The prospect of working with wood and primitive tools appealed to Taurus, though the tools were too small for his hands, and the jig saw was down right imposing in set up and sound. Charlie handled the tools; Taurus handled the heavier, more manual labor, and added his own comments to build a new, more competent pig sty. They made an excellent team, and the result was an excellent pigpen…a damn good pigpen as Charlie put it.
Charlie introduced Taurus to another country tradition, a cold beer from the icebox, after a hard job. Taurus enjoyed the concept, not so much the beer, but after a few moments, even that became palatable, now that the true heat of the sun was becoming apparent.
"So how did you and my granddaughter meet?" Charlie asked.
"Miss Wesley and I met the alleyway behind her place of business. She had a book of great interest to me in her possession. I borrowed it, and upon returning Miss Wesley offered to illustrate the human world for me," Taurus explained.
"Huh, is that so?" Charlie said, looking out into the fields. "You're a good man Taurus. Despite being part cow…you know…that's something I've gotta get use to."
"Um…thank you Charlie," Taurus stated.
"After all those other SOB boyfriends Rachel has had, it's nice she's finally found a good person," Charlie said. Taurus was silent for a moment, and he looked down at the mouth of his beer. His ears flicked.
"I do not mean to rude, Charlie, but if you are suggesting that Miss Wesley and I are lovers, then you are gravely mistaken. We are merely acquaintances," Taurus stated.
"Oh…." Charlie said, looked off to the side, "I just sorta suspected..."
There was an odd silence between the two, born out of embarrassment on both sides. Charlie scratched behind his head, Taurus kicked at the dust.
"You know she just seemed very fond of you," Charlie explained rapidly. "I've never seen her that kinda happy in years. She's sounded very happy on the phone, I just haven't seen it. It's probably college."
"Yes," Taurus stated, "it is college."
Later that day
"Taurus!" Rachel called out from the barn! "I have something you have to see!"
The minotaur, laying out on the porch, immediately pricked up, not exactly picked himself up, but his ears pricked up and he raised his head, looking between his knees at Rachel, who stood at the barn door.
"Hurry up!" she gestured. Groggily, Taurus sat upwards.
"Miss Wesley, can't it wait?" Taurus asked.
"No," Rachel said, "hurry up or you're going to miss it."
"Rachel, just how important is it? I do not feel like doing anything currently," Taurus stated, leaning back onto the deck. He put his hand on his forehead. From the barn, he heard a sniff, and then the doors slid shut. Taurus's mind told him he should not have given Rachel that tone, but his body and the more primitive parts of his mind, begged him to remain lying on the porch. Taurus decided to concede to that desire for now.
There was a lengthy howl from the barn. Immediately Taurus's desires were forgotten, as years of training sent his body into instant preparation for action.
That sent Taurus reeling towards the barn, completely he forgot about his fatigue.
"I need your help!"
That sent a shot of adrenaline into his system.
Taurus slid the barn doors open. "Rachel, what's…wrong?"
Towards the back, Rachel stood, her hands appeared to be shoved up a cow's rear. The cow was panting and foaming, its sides trembled. It was struggling, kicking, trying to get away from Rachel.
"It's a breech Taurus!" Rachel exclaimed.
"Breech?" Taurus said, suddenly becoming aware that Rachel was holding onto a tiny pair of black hooves. The oddity of the scene became heavy with apprehension and a completely new form of confusion.
Taurus attempted to maintain an air of control over his two…correction three…companions. He succeeded almost 90 percent.
"Rachel, what do I need to do?" Taurus asked. There was a hint of nervousness to his voice, about ten percent more.
"I need you to hold her still!" Rachel said. The cow lurched back. Rachel slid, letting go of the calf's legs. "Just hold her head still!"
Uneasily, Taurus approached the distressed cow and quickly tackled her, holding her butting head still. The cow still struggled, however, not nearly as much. She lowed lightly, her head tucked between Taurus's brawny arms. Rachel quickly darted away to a pile of hay and picked up a rope. For several precious seconds she fiddled behind the cow. Carefully, Rachel stepped back, holding a length of the rope in her hands. Gritting her teeth, she pulled. The cow lowed even louder. Taurus startled, loosening his grip on her head.
"Hold her still Taurus!" Rachel commanded. She tugged even harder on the ropes.
There was a splash of fluid on the ground. A pair of hind legs hung out limply. Taking the legs in her hands Rachel proceeded to yank and pull at the calf's hindquarter. Rachel swore under her breath. The cow lowed softly and began to kneel. Rachel swore again.
"Keep her up Taurus! She'll crush the calf!" Rachel ordered.
Taurus tugged upwards. The cow mooed irritably and stood up, giving him a slight butt with her head. Rachel dug her heels into the ground and heaved with all her might. The calf's hips appeared. Rachel repositioned her hands on the calf and with renewed effort began to pull. Soon the calf's abdomen slid out. The cow mooed and kicked back. Rachel reeled out of the way to avoid the strike, landing as usual and with the usual amount of grace on her rear. With a shuttering moo and trembling sides, the cow finished Rachel's job with a thump and splash. Taurus immediately let go of the cow's head and approached the scene with a face half apprehension half disgust. The cow, somewhat relieved, turned, her massive body nearly driving Taurus into the barn wall.
"Taurus, toss me that towel," Rachel gestured. Taurus threw a soft, worn towel over the cow. He could not see what was happening since the cow blocked his view.
Rachel rubbed the fluid from calf's fur in a circular motion, both drying it and easing the shock of being outside of its snug, warm womb. Taurus slowly inched towards the two. The calf stumbled upwards on quaking legs. The mother tentatively licked at its head, nearly flipping the little calf over. Ungainly the calf pawed over to its mother, whose continual cleaning did little more than hamper it. Finally it reached her udder and began to nurse. Taurus towered over the scene for a silent moment.
"It's a boy?" Taurus asked. He paused, looking at something, "Right?"
"That's the umbilical cord," Rachel said, then leaned over. "It is a boy though."
From between the hay bales, Rachel removed a kit. Returning to the calf, she fished out few utensils. Taurus sat down watching Rachel with curiosity. Rachel snatched the calf away from his mother. Forcefully Rachel tilted his head up and suctioned his nostrils, all the while the calf violently struggling. She clamped the umbilical cord, to protect against infection and swabbed the calf's ears. When she was done, the somewhat irritated and slightly traumatized calf clamored back to his mother. Rachel gathered the kit and placed it back in the corner. She sat down beside Taurus.
"I thank for you the experience Rachel," Taurus stated as she rolled the legs of her pants up, "but I find myself very perplexed over why everyone tells me that birth is beautiful. Truth is I find it greatly reminds me of a particularly gory crime scene, or one of those horror movies you always seem have at hand. I have sympathy for all the mothers out there in the world."
Especially my own…
Rachel chuckled, pulling up her other leg. "It's not pretty, but I guess when it's your kid, it is beautiful. And even if its not, you know, life is beautiful."
"Miss Wesley…Rachel…is this why you became a veterinarian?" Taurus asked.
"Sorta, after changing my major three times, I finally realized that this might be the thing for me…oh damn," Rachel swore halfway pulling her pants up to her right knee. "She really nailed me."
"Here, let me see that," Taurus stated climbing off of his seat. He pushed Rachel's hands away. In one hand he supported the heel of her foot in the palm of his right hand. With his middle/pointer finger, he lightly pressed into the flesh of Rachel's shin. He explained to her, "In New Olympus it is mandatory that all security personnel receive training in first aid."
"Taurus, that hurts," Rachel said.
"That means there is a hairline fracture," Taurus stated as he examined the bruise.
"No, no, you're just pressing too hard," Rachel stated. Taurus immediately released her.
"Rachel, I didn't mean to hurt you," Taurus stated. Rachel rolled her pant legs down.
"Hey, that's okay, Taurus," Rachel sat, as she put a hand on his shoulder. She kneeled down beside him. "It's the thought that counts. But I'll be fine; if it turns out I have a hairline fracture, I owe you a Coke."
"Whatever that is," Taurus stated.
"It's just an expression," Rachel chuckled, leaning into him.
"Miss Wesley," Taurus stated, "you're a bit of a mess. Perhaps for your benefit, you may want to clean up."
"Oh," Rachel said, becoming very self conscious of the muck and straw on her pants and shoes. "Yeah, you're right."
Rachel stood up and walked to house. Taurus slowly followed. A part of himself told him that there was something more bruised than just a shin.
"Hi Rae, are you not feelin' too well?" Charlie asked as his granddaughter filled a tall glass at the sink. A box of Alka-Seltzer sat on the counter. He placed two brown paper bags; both the green husks of corn poking pass the serrated edges of the bags. The smell of the fields spread through the kitchen.
"It's for Taurus, he's out on the back porch" Rachel answered, opening a blue packet. "One the cows had a calf today."
"Really? A little boy or a little girl?" he asked.
"A little boy," Rachel said, adding another pack. "It was a breech, but Taurus and I were able to deliver it."
"Weren't you wearing a different outfit earlier?" Charlie observed.
"I had to change. It got sorta messy," Rachel stated before leaving the kitchen. Charlie picked up the bags went out to the porch as well.
Taurus sat on the edge of the porch, elbows on his knees, hands hanging down between his legs, staring off into distance. Rachel rattled the glass beside his head.
"Thank you Rachel," Taurus said, taking the down the contents of the glass in one draught. He grimaced at the taste of the liquid. Rachel plopped down beside him.
Charlie soon came out onto the porch with the two bags of corn. "How do you feel like husking corn for dinner tonight?"
"Sounds great, Grandpa," Rachel said.
"I have never husked corn before, but I am willing to try it," Taurus stated.
"Heh?" Charlie said, before setting both heavy bags and an empty cake pan beside Rachel.
"It's quite easily, Taurus," Rachel said handing him an ear. She took the green leaves in her hand, "you just peel these leaves off...like this…unh…then you break off the stem…ta dah!"
She held up an ear. "See? Now you just have to pick off silk."
"I see," Taurus stated. With no effort, he removed the husks. However, when snapping the stem off, he was in for a nasty surprise. "Eck!"
He snapped the corncob in half and crushed the kernels into creamed corn. Rachel chuckled and leaned over him and pulled a chunk of silk off his palm.
"How about you peel and I snap the steams and pick off the silk?" Rachel offered, pointing to him with an ear of corn.
"I can agree to that," Taurus said.
Taurus peeled faster than Rachel worked, but there was still a significant amount of corn ready for the pot when Charlie came out. By the time the remaining of the ears were cleaned and ready for the pot themselves, Charlie came out with a steaming plate of corn.
With loud crunches Rachel and Charlie bit into their cobs. Taurus bit into his ear with an equally loud crunch. He found corn oddly satisfying, a mixture of crunchy and sweetness, and the butter and sauce perfectly accenting it. Rachel and Charlie easily handled their cobs. Taurus spent a few seconds watching Rachel and Charlie to learn the mannerisms to handling an ear of corn. He still found it a bit unwieldy and several times bit into the hard cob. By his third ear, he mastered the movements and was able to eat without dropping the ear.
"That was quite delicious," Taurus said. He rubbed the butter from his face on his forearm, "Albeit a bit messy."
"That's why it's eaten on the porch," Charlie said, cleaning his face. "The best damn part of summer."
"I fully agree," Taurus stated, licking his lips. "I can get accustomed to these sorts of human customs."
Rachel went to Wal-Mart to do some shopping. She needed computer paper for her report and Charlie need a few items he had forgotten to buy while he was in town earlier.
Taurus and Charlie sat in the living room, with an ottoman in between them as a table, with a baseball game on the television with mute on, and music playing on the radio. Charlie was attempting to teach Taurus how to play poker, with some luck. At first, Taurus was a slow player, but his skills of memory and deduction were incredible, and soon he easily beat Charlie at every game…before asking if there rules about seeing another player's cards. Even sitting down on the love seat (which his massive form nearly covered), Taurus towered over Charlie, and he could easily see his hand. With some slight alterations (i.e. Taurus sitting on the floor) they were on the right track again, and Charlie regained his glory.
"I'm home," Rachel said. The screen door rattled. Rachel tossed the bags on the table. "I'll be upstairs studying."
She strolled past them…quite quickly…and rushed up the stairs.
"Is something wrong, Miss Wesley?" Taurus asked. Rachel paused.
"I'm good, just need to get back to studying," she said. She took two steps up the stairs.
"I'm teaching your friend here how to play cards," Charlie stated.
"That's good, you enjoying it Taurus?" Rachel asked warmly.
"It is…quite fun actually," Taurus stated.
"That's good," Rachel said and disappeared.
"Ready to get your butt kicked again?" Charlie asked Taurus. His eyes remained on the stairs.
"If you say so Charlie," Taurus responded. In a stern tone he said, "Hit me."
It was around one in the morning when Taurus heard the steps of someone down the hallway. It was unmistakable. Sleepily, he opened his eyes and looked out the door. The door was opened just a crack. Taurus saw a figure walked pass the door. It was Rachel. At first, he assumed she was merely walking to the restroom, but she was not wearing her pajamas, but a pair of jeans and an oversized sweatshirt. She had a book tucked under her arm.
She's studying…he mumbled and attempted to doze off.
His body, however, was content with the three hours of heavy sleep he received. After a few foggy moments, his mind as well was content. A very awake Taurus now lay in bed. He heard the crunch of gravel outside, very lightly. He stood up, fearing someone was sneaking towards the house…but then he realized someone was sneaking away from the house. Taurus walked to the window. Looking out he saw the form of Rachel, it could be no one else but her, walking up to the barn with a flashlight illuminating her path. The barn door opened then it closed. The barn was dark. Then hayloft lit up.
Taurus returned to the beds. He put his hands behind his head and just looked at the ceiling. But he couldn't fall asleep…no…he couldn't. He was very, very much awake, so much so that sleep was not an optional. It was simply pointless to lay and still at the ceiling until the wee hours of the mourning…it felt like that anyway. Maybe he could watch some television…infomercials…that should put him to sleep…unless that one involving the double sided pancake flipper was on…than there wasn't a chance he was going to sleep soon. He hadn't the heart to ask Rachel if she knew how to come into possession of one.
Taurus descended down the stairs. He was forced to squint his eyes because of the bluish glow of the television step. Charlie was awake. Taurus paused, used his hand as a shield from the light, and clamored down the steps.
"She's outside," Charie said. "Up in the hayloft most likely."
"Huh?" Taurus murmured.
"She's out in the hayloft," Charlie answered. "Didn't say anything when she came down here, just looked at me, and walked out."
"Oh," Taurus said.
He didn't know honestly what to do. Charlie was scant on his details, and Rachel, for once, was not present. He did not even know why he came downstairs, perhaps, he was sleepier or more sleep muddled than he thought. He didn't realize this until he felt the bite of early-early morning air and the somewhat annoying wet beads of dew on the skin above his hooves. He stumbled up the gravel…it smelt of earth and moisture with each step, with each grind of limestone on limestone. It was unnerving walking the few feet to the barn…the cows were quiet, oddly enough. The sky was pitch black, and the trees even blacker, and only a few stars shined in the sky…and Taurus felt oddly alone and very small. Then he saw the cracks of yellow in the barn door, and felt comfort at the sight of a few specks of orange-yellow light.
He opened the barn door. It almost like entering another world, and it too, despite its clutter, its smoky warmth, its light, and woodiness, appeared empty as well.
"Miss Wesley?" Taurus loudly asked.
"I'm up here Taurus," Rachel answered in her typical tone. She was in the hayloft, just as Charlie said. Taurus walked around to get a better view of her. She was sitting between the spaces of two large piles of bales of hay, right where Charlie stood as he passed bales of hay down to Taurus earlier the day before. She had a fleece blanket wrapped around her shoulders and a bale of hay set up before her like a desk. He could see at least three barn cats stalking around the bales and a fourth one was curled up contentedly on her lap.
Taurus put both his hands on his hips and in an authoritarian tone asked, "Miss Wesley may I ask what are you are doing out here at this hour of the morning?"
"Studying," Rachel answered as did the flicking of pages.
"Studying?" Taurus asked.
"Mmm hmm," Rachel answered busily. Nothing else was said. The wood of the ladder groaned. Then another groan…and another, until finally a grey arm appeared and a very, very nervous Taurus pulled himself up onto the loft…quite quickly. He looked down at the ground.
"That, Miss Wesley…was not enjoyable in the least bit," Taurus stated.
"You didn't have to come up," Rachel responded.
"Your grandfather said you were up here, and you were upset," Taurus finding a spot to sit down. Almost immediately a cat paw reached out of the hay bale and swatted at his hair.
"It would figure he'd say something like that," Rachel answered.
"Why would he say that?" Taurus asked.
"He's my grandpa…duh," Rachel answered. "He cares and gets worried about me. He's family."
"So is something wrong then?" Taurus asked.
"Nope, good," Rachel answered. She flipped through her book. "Good as ever."
"Oh," Taurus said. "Then it was pointless to come up here?"
"No," Rachel answered. "I mean, if you think it was pointless to come up here, than it was. I wouldn't mind if you stayed, we haven't really 'hung out'."
Taurus paused for a moment, glanced over Rachel's shoulder at the rickety, too narrow ladder, and opted for the former. He settled back into the hay bales. "I supposed I could stay for a few moments. I cannot fall asleep anyway."
"Okay," Rachel said.
"So what are you studying for Miss Wesley?" Taurus asked.
"Animal anatomy," Rachel answered. "It's my second time taking the course."
"Oh," Taurus said, glancing over her shoulder at the papers. "I hope you pass."
"Me too," Rachel answered. She looked over to Taurus for the first time that night, "Thanks."
It was quiet again, with the exception of Rachel's pencil scratches. Taurus leaned over to watch her.
"So tell, Rachel," Taurus asked. "Why do you come here?"
"Huh?" Rachel said slightly startled.
"Up here, why is it you came up here?" Taurus asked. "Why do you keep coming here?"
"What are you talking about?" Rachel asked.
Taurus pointed to the wall. The boards here were smooth, worn from use, unlike the other boards…the use was obvious, and they were bright and shiny from fingertips. Crayon, pencil, pen, marker, left scores on the smooth wood. Faded pictures, articles, still hung up. "I can tell Rachel, that this is some sort of hiding place for you."
"It's sorta my secret hiding place," Rachel admitted embarrassedly, shutting her school book. "I never had a tree house or a club house like most kids…this was it for me."
"I had none of that as a child," Taurus answered, crawling over closer to the wall to get a better look. Rachel followed behind him. He traced one of the silly crayon drawings from when Rachel was five years old. "You are very lucky to have such a place to go to."
Taurus sat down at the wall. Rachel sat across from him, and then she moved and sat beside him. She scooted over so that she pressed right into his side. She's cold, Taurus thought. Rachel had opened the doors, where the bales of hay were loaded in during the fall. She should have remembered the blanket. Taurus set his arm on the other side of her.
"So, what was it like when you were a kid?" Rachel asked chewing on her fingernail.
"Not very different from any child out there," Taurus answered, glancing at the wall.
"Oh," Rachel said.
"Huh? Oh…an ex-boyfriend," Rachel answered.
Taurus squinted at the wall. "Kevin…Rocks?"
"My little brother," Rachel answered.
"But isn't your last name Wesley?" Taurus asked. Rachel laughed and punched him in the side. "Oh."
Rachel brought her knees up to the chest. Suddenly Taurus felt her weight against his side. Taurus was very warm to Rachel. "Mmmm."
Taurus rolled his eyes.
"I saw my old boyfriend by the way," she softly stated, "at Wal-Mart today."
"I knew something was up," Taurus stated. Rachel looked at the ladder for a moment.
"Which one?" Taurus asked.
"Rodney," Rachel answered.
"Tell me, what happened, Rachel?" Taurus asked.
"Miss Wesley, for you to be sneaking up here in the middle of the night something had to have happened…"
"Nothing happened recently," Rachel snappishly responded. She turned, allowing her weight to rest on the hay. "How do you think you'll feel if something from your past suddenly snuck up on you?"
Taurus scratched his chin. "I am not sure Miss Wesley. I suppose taking into the atmosphere of the encounter and the history of the affiliation would affect the outcome."
"I have positively no clue what you said…"
"I guess it all depends on how things were then and now," Taurus stated. "Your relationship…with this Rodney…I supposed it did not end on a…good note?"
"Why are you asking?" Rachel grumbled. "It's not something I want to talk about. I was stupid back then."
"Miss Wesley!" Taurus stated. She felt his hand on her shoulder. "Stupid is not an appropriate term to describe yourself."
"You can say that now. You can say that," Rachel stated. She stretched herself out. "You can say that. Everyone else thinks I'm an idiot."
"Miss Wesley, I am not sure of your past activities, but you are a good person and I believe you have had made excellent progress in comparison to what people may think of you," Taurus stated.
"Yeah," Rachel stated. "A lot of people still think I'm the bad girl."
"Bad girl, Miss Wesley?" Taurus asked. "I find that quite difficult to comprehend. Is it something you wish to discuss with me?"
"No, not really," Rachel answered. She pulled herself up. She picked the hay from her hair. She played with a piece between her finger tips, only focusing on that piece. "Rodney was my first boyfriend…the typical tragic first…we met when I was eleven. He was thirteen. In just a few months…boom, everything changes. Lifestyle, ideas, fashion, your family life, what other people think of you. Next thing I know I'm dropping out of ballet class and smoking behind the school. I can't smoke a cigarette, personally, they made me sick to my stomach, but you know, just standing there…holding one. It feels cool for an eleven year old…hanging out with teenagers. I still can't smoke a cigarette, and they're even more sickening than ever. Skipping school was next and basically dropping any outside initiatives I had soon followed. Books, ballet, horse back riding, those things didn't matter anymore. He convinced me those things didn't matter. People began to talk, and I felt that they didn't matter. They just singled me out because I chose to be different and that I thought I was happy and free. Was I wrong."
Rachel sat Indian style, but turned so that her back was towards Taurus. "I did horrible in school. Frankly, I'm surprised I didn't get held back. I used to be really, really good in school prior to that. I won all these awards in grade school…they don't mean much…but I won a lot of them because I was such a good student and learner. Well that didn't matter with Rodney. So I didn't pay attention in class, didn't turn in homework let alone actually do it. I couldn't wait until the day was over so I could go and hang out with Rodney. If the day went to slow, I skipped out and hung out all day with Rodney. I wasn't just missing things at school; I was missing things at home too. I wasn't even home when my grandmother died. I was out with Rodney. I came home, no one was in the house, and I just went to bed. I found out the next morning she passed away. Dammit Taurus, I was stupid!"
"Miss Wesley," Taurus stated. He licked his lips and looked at the window. "You did get common sense eventually."
"Yes," Rachel responded. She changed her position again so that one leg was stretched out and her hand resting on her other leg. "Fifteen I finally realized I need to get back on track. I ditched Rodney and went back into school. It was a hard transition. Things weren't as easy as they were in grade school. I was way behind in a lot of stuff. I had to take summer school and had mentors for every class. By my senior year I was in the top third of the graduation class. Pretty good for someone who was in the bottom of class just a few years before."
"I am glad to hear that Miss Wesley. And this Rodney?"
"Dropped out when he was sixteen," Rachel responded. "I dumped him, and the guy…well, the guy totally flipped. Verbal threats, then angry outbursts, and finally telling me how my life is ruined with out him then how my life is already too screwed for me to handle by myself….the entire shebang."
"And I guess he was proven wrong then, Miss Wesley."
Rachel responded. "The next day he was with some fourteen-year-old. Yeah, I saw both of them. Four kids Taurus…four kids! He saw me first, and actually came out to talk to me. I didn't recognize him at first…he looked…well….older than before. He acted like we were the best of friends, and was very interested in where I was staying, wanted to get back together or just have one more night out, you know what he wanted, wanted to know how college was treating me and what I thought of the town now that I was a 'college student in New York City". I turned him down and managed to get away then I saw him with the girl. She had four kids in her cart and he was talking all sweet to her as if nothing had happened. I overheard him mention about 'a slut' he dated years ago. To make matters worse, Taurus as I walked away down those isles feeling angry, I overheard two old women—two women I don't know—wondering if I'm that 'Wesley Girl'."
Rachel buried her face in her hands. She sniffled loudly. "Oh, I am such a stupid idiot…"
Taurus grumbled and breathed heavily out of his nostrils. Now Rachel felt even worse. She felt a sudden weight across her shoulders. Taurus looked out the window.
"Rachel," Taurus stated. He scratched his chin, and looked at the floor boards, attempting to say something.
"I didn't mean to make an idiot out of myself like that Taurus," Rachel softly stated. Taurus felt both of her arms go around him, and she rested her head against his side. His arm was now stretched along the length of her curled up body. "I was stupid, I got over it. I shouldn't have let that get to me, and even more let that get to you. You know you're my friend."
"Many times I find myself very often aware of that, Miss Wesley…Rachel," Taurus stated, acknowledging the warmth at his side…but not disparaging it.
"You're a very good friend," Rachel stated.
It was quiet. "So are you, Miss Wesley."
"Mmm," Rachel answered. "You've never really told me much about your own history Taurus. I scarcely know anything about you. You could literally write a book on me."
"Well," Taurus stated, scratching at his chin again. "It's something I do not wish to discuss Miss Wesley. I think it's something you…"
"Should not worry about or involve yourself in," Rachel finished as she sat up.
"You nearly took that word for word from my mouth," Taurus stated.
"You could write a book about me, and I can read you like a book," Rachel retorted.
"Then I suppose we are even then," Taurus responded.
Rachel leaned against him, legs stretched to the ladder. "If you want to call it that."
She heard Taurus sigh and his chest heaved.
"I am not sure if I should converse with you on matters such as this, Rachel," Taurus stated suddenly in a very strict tone…though his face spoke of some different.
"Mmm hmm," Rachel responded, pulling his arm across her lap like a blanket. Her fingers ran over his much larger fingers. She softly spoke, "You're very comfy…"
"That is the first time I every heard words such as that, Miss Wesley…Rachel?" Taurus stated, nearly jolting when he realized for the second time the human had easily fallen asleep on him! Her arms were wrapped around his bicep, holding it in place for a pillow. The side her face was snuggled into his fur. Her body was too limp, too settled for her to be faking it. He poked her with his other hand, just to be sure.
She was sound asleep.
One the barn cats from up above in the haystacks crawled down onto his shoulder…and immediately slid off the armor into his lap, and off of his lap onto the ground in between his legs. The cat looked up from between Taurus's knees.
"Make yourself comfortable," Taurus sympathized with the embarrassed cat.
Rachel was woken up by her body that morning; her body naturally revitalized by a night's rest. Taurus was awoken naturally as well—albeit it was the red-orange blaze of the sun in his eye. Rachel was only awake for a few moments and was somewhat ungracefully crawling over on all fours to the ladder, her eyes still somewhat squinted. Taurus was shaking himself from the position he stayed in during the sleep. It was Rachel's grandfather walking up the ladder who fully woke them up from the morning stupor.
"What the hell?"
Rachel nearly fell over the edge.
"Hi Granpa," she said.
"What were you two doing up here?"
"Slee—" Rachel started.
"Miss Wesley fell asleep on me during a discussion about her life on the farm," Taurus answered back. He stood up and brushed the straw from his legs. He did not look like someone who just woke up. "I feel that the excitement of returning home has been too much for her. Would you like me to start tossing the bales of hay down Charlie?"
Charlie did not answer…in fact he looked plain confused. He shrugged and descended back down the ladder. "Sure."
Rachel went home for only an hour that morning and returned with a six inch thick folder—her report. Rachel set the heavy folder on the table. The empty dishes rattled. Taurus looked incredulously at the folder.
"That is your report Rachel?"
"Yep, first draft, second draft, third draft, a double spaced copy, a single spaced copy, a double spaced copy with extra spaces between the paragraphs, a single spaced copy with the spaces between each paragraph and a copy of each copy, my works cited, and photo copies of my resources," Rachel answered.
"You have been very studious," Taurus answered.
"Thanks," Rachel answered and walked to the cupboards to get a glass of water. She sat down beside Taurus. The folder was in between them. Taurus kept noticing Rachel turning her head slightly, perhaps at the folder. She cocked an eyebrow and squinted her face, then her face would twist to normal, then squint again. She glanced over at Taurus then quickly looked over at the cupboards, chewing on her bottom lip.
"Miss Wesley, what do you find so amusing?" Taurus demanded.
"Nothing, I'll be right back," Rachel stated standing up and quickly leaving. Her glass, sweating, sat on the table, she only took a few sips of water.
Charlie entered from the porch.
"Phew! What smells like an overworked mule?" he exclaimed swatting at the air.
In a huff and agitated, uncomfortable state of mind, Rachel leaned over the tub and twisted on the hot spigot. Cold water at first poured out into the bucket, and then steam began to arise. Stupidly, to test the water, Rachel placed her entire hand in the bucket.
"Ah!" she exclaimed yanking her red hand from the steaming water. "Damn! I shouldn't have done that."
She turned on the cold tap. The amount of steam pouring from the bucket greatly subsided. Rachel placed a finger in the water. "Decent."
She carried the bucket down the hallway and out the door, only splashing once when her foot banged into the door frame. Charlie was sitting on the porch swing and watched her struggle with the bucket down the porch steps.
"Scrub him real good now Rae!" he offered with a hearty chuckle.
"Oh ha-ha!" Rachel answered looking over her shoulder and nearly spilled the bucket again when she turned.
"Now don't drop it now honey," Charlie answered with a laugh. Rachel spared him another glance and struggled to the barn.
Taurus sat in the massive tin tub with a foot of cold hose water, his ears flicking the gnats away. The tub was used to apply skin medications to calves to protect them against blowflies and other pests. It smelt heavily of said medication. Charlie insisted the tub would not harm Taurus in any way other than making the bull human hybrid less susceptible to the many predatory creepy crawlies that prowled the farm yard. These creepy crawlies found Taurus, the hybrid of two of their favorite food items, irresistible. Though all three (Charlie, Rachel, and Taurus) were too polite to admit it, Taurus always managed to have the largest swarm of flies around his head. Taurus tried to blame that on his previous condition...though the flies that pestered him currently were proving that hypothesis incorrect.
Rachel's grandfather did not own a shower and the tiny, antique bathtub was out of the question. Taurus could not fit in it if his life depended on it, and his hooves scuffing up the porcelain was another issue. But Charlie was innovative and had other options to offer the Minotaur, albeit it was the price of his dignity.
The barn door slide open, just a crack. Taurus heard no foot steps.
"You could have told me Miss Wesley that my body odor was offensive," Taurus stated not looking back.
"I could have Taurus, but I have a tendency of not pointing out people's personal hygiene," Rachel stated. "Besides, both Granpa and I know you're a fairly clean guy. I didn't know you could possibly smell that bad that fast."
"Miss Wesley I believe I offended your grandfather by not properly grooming myself, if you had given me earlier WARNING! RACHEL!" Taurus exclaimed as a shot of cold water hit him straight in the back.
"Be quiet or I'll do it again," Rachel stated. She was holding the hose like gun; exactly like one of the mobsters in the human movies. Her other hand was weighed down with something, Taurus could not maneuver enough in the tub to see exactly what it was. He could surmise it was heavy her shoulder was tilted downward.
Taurus grumbled and glanced back down into the grey tinged water.
"You smell better," Rachel observed.
"Thanks, it's…Old Spice," Taurus stated, looking his shoulder at her. "Your grandfather was kind enough to lend it to me…in our time of need."
He stated the ending blandly. Rachel laughed and sat down on a hay bale right beside him. "It suits you…even though it is an old person's cologne."
"I appreciate that comment Miss Wesley," Taurus stated dryly. "Do you mind? Aren't you concerned with flesh?"
"A little, but I should not have to be so squeamish about nudity. You're culture isn't, and I should respect that," Rachel answered. "Just don't stand up okay?"
Taurus chuckled. "Well if I want to get you to leave, then I will know what to do."
"You want me to leave?"
"I am fine with whatever you choose to do," he answered. "If you do choose to stay, I have a favor to ask of you, could you scrub my back for me? I can not reach it otherwise I would have done it myself. There is a need to be presentable before your grandfather."
There was a pause.
"Rachel if you are uncomfortable with my request, I fully understand," Taurus stated. "I am sorry I asked such an absurd question."
"Oh would you cut that out!" Rachel retorted. Taurus suddenly felt a pair of hands on his back. "I'm only doing this to show you I can do it! WITHOUT FREAKING OUT!"
Taurus chuckled in response. He felt Rachel's nails prick his skin. She was very unwilling to begin. "Would you like the wash cloth Miss Wesley?"
She snatched it off him. "You owe me Taurus."
"Miss Wesley you just said seconds early you did this at your own accord," Taurus responded.
Taurus's ears flicked when he felt her hands down his back. She worked slowly, deliberately and for a moment Taurus wondered what she was trying to do. His ears flicked back when he heard her voice…
"Rhomboideus major…trapezius…latissimus dorsi…" she recalled in whispers as she traced ever muscle formation visible on his back, her fingers firmly pressing into and tracing the structures. Taurus closed his eyes, listening to her voice. Her fingers gently pressed into the gunshot wound, just a mere shimmer of grey skin.
"It healed well…and fast," she said, tracing the thin patch of wrinkly skin. It felt unbelievably different from his rough fur.
"We…New Olympians heal much faster, I presume, than you humans," Taurus responded. "As well our medical system is much more evolved that yours…but, if it was not for you Rachel, I supposed it would look much worse."
"Thanks," she quietly responded.
Her fingers pressed into his spine. "Cervical vertebrae…" She began to count the vertebrae. "Thoracic vertebrae…" She began to count each individual vertebrae downwards, until the tub, and common decency (though it may have been more along the lines of the embarrassment she felt over the absurdity of the situation, and just how it may be crossing the lines of their friendship) would not allow her to go no more. "Done!"
Taurus snorted and a deluge of water—warm water!—was poured over his head. Taurus began to cough. Rachel chuckled. That made her feel a lot better…
"Miss Wesley! That water was warm!" Taurus exclaimed. The cold water felt even colder. His knees began to knock together and every individual hair was standing up on body.
"Well if you weren't in such a hurry Taurus to get clean I would have filled the tub with hot water," Rachel responded.
"Miss Wesley it was out of respect for me to get cleaned as soon as possible," Taurus stated. "Please hand me the towel so as to end this embarrassing conversation."
"You know if I was feeling like a jerk I could just toss this towel in the rafters and hide your clothes," Rachel stated picking up the massive beach towel. She handed him the towel. "And you'll have to climb up naked or streak into the house."
Rachel turned around and crossed her arms.
"And I supposed that's something else you'll need to explain to your grandfather," Taurus responded straightly, drying off. He pulled his underclothes and pulled on the kilt. He hung the wet towel a post.
Rachel did not respond to his little quip, she remained with her back to him, arms crossed. Taurus strolled over to her and stood beside her. He held up his ponytail and wrung it out…right over her head.
"AHH Taurus!" Rachel exclaimed. Taurus twisted his head and the lengthy ponytail cracked like a whip behind him. "I smell like a wet moldy cow-dog now! Thanks Taurus."
"You are welcome Rachel," Taurus answered as the human began to wring out the perused water from her own hair. Rachel shook her head. Her mass of hair struck her back with a "thwap".
Over their discussion, they both could hear a car pulling up in the driveway. Charlie loudly greeted the visitors and followed by the unmistakable clamor of small children.
Rachel held a finger to pause Taurus and slid open of the barn door just a crack. "Oh great…"
"We have visitors I take it, Miss Wesley?" Taurus stated. "Would you like me to remain here for the duration of the visit?"
"For the time being," Rachel answered she quickly disappeared.
Taurus pulled up a crate and sat down on it by the doorway. Rachel and her family had entered the house, and Taurus could not even hear a scrap of conversation. It was very quiet and dull sitting in the barn…and it began to smell of…moldy cow-dog as Miss Wesley eloquently put it. There was a rap at the door, and cautiously it slid open.
"Hey," Rachel said. She slid into the barn and quickly shut the door behind her. "My niece and nephews are here."
"Oh," Taurus said.
"Remember when I told you about my sister's house burning down? Well they're going house hunting, and my older brother is helping them out," Rachel responded. "And my grandpa got stuck with the kids."
"Oh," Taurus stated. "Do you think your grandfather—Charlie—could handle them by himself?"
"I think so, I'm with in ear shot if he needs me," Rachel responded, sitting down beside him. "It's just my niece Carlie, she's three and my two nephews, Noah age six, and Dillon, age four. If they had left the baby I would have to help my grandfather, but he should be able to handle them with no problem what so ever. And I can't have you sitting in a barn all by yourself."
"It sounds nice, having a large family," Taurus responded. "And you do not have to change your plans around me Rachel. I fully understand this situation, and there will be no resentment on my—"
Rachel pressed a finger against Taurus's lips. She smiled
"It's nice having a large family," Rachel answered.
"I can imagine," Taurus answered, slightly stunned. Rachel seemed prepared to ask Taurus a question—about his own family no doubt.
"You wanna play 'Go Fish'? I brought cards so we have something to do," Rachel said, holding up the deck Charlie and he were playing with earlier. "I'm pretty crummy at poker."
"And I am not any better," Taurus responded. Rachel began to deal out the cards. "I suppose I could learn this 'Go Fish' then."
When children have something on their mind, they have something on their mind, and it is going to stay there and continually be vocalized to the parents and to the children themselves to remind themselves that there is something they want to see or do, and to add to later to a scrapbook of traumatic memories for their teenaged years angst that would be brought up in the same whining tones as they would remind their parents of their childhood disappointments.
Rachel mentioned made the mistake of mentioning the new born calf while at home. Her siblings made the mistake of asking their children if they wanted either A) a sitter or B) a visit to Great Granpap's. Undoubtedly the children chose the latter. After eating their cookies and milk, they quickly demanded seeing the new born calf. Charlie could not fight with his great grandchildren, unfortunately the calf was in the barn, and so were Rachel and Taurus as far as he was concerned…but Dora the Explorer could only provide so much distraction for the young children. As soon as that damn Benny the bull would appear…
"I wanna go see the baby cow!"
"Baby cow baby cow baby cow!"
"BABY COW" in an ear popping screech.
Finally the breaking point happened and Charlie had to leave his grandchildren for a few moments to race up to the barn to warn Rachel and Taurus grandfatherly love won over the crucial concealment of an island…
"I can't believe how hot this barn can get," Rachel complained.
"I find it quite pleasant," Taurus answered from his hand of cards. "Do you have any—"
Taurus pulled a card from his hand and showed her.
"Jacks," Rachel responded then handed him two from her deck.
"Do you have any—ones?" Taurus asked.
"Aces," Rachel responded. "Go fish."
Rachel rolled her sleeves to her elbows, but that only added to the annoyance. Rachel began to pull her college logo embroidered sweatshirt up over her camisole….
"Rae, what on earth are you doing?" Charlie exclaimed. Rachel could not see—having the sweatshirt up over head, and tumbled off of the crate she was sitting on, but not without taking the bale her and Taurus were using as a table. Cards drifted down like feathers. Only Taurus's cards were still in their original place his hand—Taurus, on the other hand was confused whether he should gather the cards, or pull the bale off of Rachel and help her up. Rachel pushed the bale off her and Taurus helped her up. Rachel pulled the sweatshirt down over her camisole. She was even more irritated now…there were at least two dozen straws poking her through her camisole.
"Go fish," Taurus answered matter-of-fact. He looked at the chaos scattered on the ground. "I was winning this particular game."
"I could tell," Charlie spat out. Taurus looked confused. "Nevermind, sorry to frighten you two like that."
"It's all right Grandpa," Rachel said, red faced (those straws were getting very irritating)
"The grandkids want to see the calf, I'm afraid you two are gonna have to leave the barn. They're raising Cain and screaming bloody murder," Charlie answered.
"I understand your obligation to your grandchildren Charles," Taurus stated. Charlie looked started, whether it was from Taurus's dictation or being called "Charles" or a mixture of both, was unknown. "Charles…that is your proper name right?"
"Yes, but don't you go calling me that? Okay?" Charlie said.
Taurus seemed taken back now. Rachel chuckled as she shook the straw from her shirt. She pulled her shirt off and tied it around her waist.
"We better go, Taurus" Rachel stated touching his arm. They left out one side of the barn and cut through the cow pens and strolled up to Clover's field.
"I told you he wouldn't like being called that," Rachel stated.
"I felt it would be appropriate for me to address your grandfather by his proper name, or at least let him know I am thankful for his hospitality," Taurus answered.
"He's a simple guy, Taurus," Rachel responded. "Charlie will do, he appreciates that."
"So is that like…three?" Taurus suddenly stated after a moment of silence.
"Three heart attacks," Taurus answered. "Did he think we were playing some sort of—strip game?"
"WHAT? Uh…NO…I mean…probably…how do you know of those kind of games?" Rachel exclaimed, her face burning the brightest shade of red he had ever seen yet. He noticed her covering her chest with her arms. It made a piece of straw stuck in her strap stand straight up—annoying Taurus.
Taurus's face turned red for a brief second. He coughed. "I assume that in many cultures there a variations of games in which the removal clothing are the bartering chips…"
"Not surprised," Rachel responded straightly, staring ahead.
"If you have no money or some sort of gambling currency at hand, I supposed clothes would be—"
"Taurus, don't get philosophical about strip poker," Rachel quickly stated.
"You can play that that way?" Taurus involuntarily asked—maybe a bit too wholehearted. Rachel was suddenly a few steps ahead of him. "Sorry…"
Rachel and Taurus sat on an old bench watching Clover trot in the field. They did not speak much. Rachel scratched at her head, looked down the path that lead them there, and Taurus, believing he may have offended Rachel in some manner, had his chin in his hand and looked into Clover's field.
"Carlie! Carlie! Rachel!" Charlie screamed. "Is Carlie up there!"
Rachel immediately jumped up and bolted down the pathway. Taurus quickly bolted after her—by instinct and the sense of duty. He nearly tumbled over Rachel and Carlie on the pathway. While the boys saw the calf (or chased one of the many barn cats around), Carlie managed to sneak through the door Rachel and Taurus left open. She succeeded into walking up the path, but became very disoriented close to the shed and began to bawl. She was half sick with stress. Rachel picked up the little girl and hefted her up. The little girl's eyes were large and frozen…staring straight at Taurus.
"Found her!" Rachel exclaimed. She brushed away the terrified toddler's blonde curls. In a gentler, sympathetic tone she said to the little girl, "You were trying to see the horsie, weren't you?"
Carlie was quiet, chewing on her tiny thumbnail. She pointed over Rachel's shoulder then buried her face into Rachel's shoulder.
"You want to see Clover?" Rachel asked and turned, ramming into Taurus.
"I am sorry, but I believe she has seen me," Taurus stated.
"That's okay, she's three," Rachel responded walking passed Taurus. Carlie looked over her shoulder, bug eyed at Taurus. "She won't remember this when she's older. Do you remember your childhood verbatim?"
An early memory of being rushed to the hospital with tiny candies shoved in one nostril and the rainbow colored snot that dribbled down it burst into Taurus's skull. It took both his mother and his father to hold him down as his nostril was suctioned clean. Frankly all Taurus could remember was actually holding the box of candies, his mother's screams and the feeling of pride that erupted in his body as they sped to his father's work to show Asterius what Taurus just did and ask what to do about the problem, and the dizzying feeling of looking up at the doctor's office ceiling. "No."
Rachel called Clover over, and the horse was much more welcoming to the young child than she was to Taurus. Rachel gently soothed the little girl as she clumsily patted the horse's nose. Finally Clover grew bored and trotted away and Carlie pulled herself into Rachel's arm and buried her face into Rachel's shoulder. Rachel rocked the little girl.
"Let's get you back to Granpa," Rachel cooed.
"She had it rough," Taurus added…feeling like an outsider. He felt an alien stirring…desiring to belong to a situation the most him felt that he did not belong in. He reached to stroke the little girl's hair and immediately she began to cry. Taurus fell back. "I believe I have frightened her…"
Rachel paused and began to soothe the little girl again, stroking the back of her head. Carlie buried her face behind Rachel's hair, sobbing lightly. "Shh, shh."
Rachel walked down the pathway, Taurus stood by the horse shed, waiting for her to come back after she dropped Carlie off. About halfway down the path, Rachel turned and waved to Taurus. She gestured for him to follow.
Nervously Taurus strolled down. He did not make contact with the little girl, peeking over Rachel's shoulder. If he even turned his head, Carlie would cry and violently seizure. If he came too close, her reactions would be even more violent. Taurus kept his head focus on the cows in the field and tried to look completely dissatisfied in the little girl who would look at him, chewing on a piece of Rachel's hair. As long as Taurus did not acknowledge her, Carlie did not cry and squirm.
The barn was empty, so Taurus stayed there while Rachel carried her little niece into the house. Inside the house, Charlie was pulling on his coat, the two boys in tow.
"I'm taking the boys out to the feed store and then to the vets to get shots and formula for the new calf, I'll be getting some pizzas and getting some ice cream Rae on the way back, what kind of pizza do you want?" Charlie asked.
"I'm fine with any kind, and something with pineapple on it," Rachel stated setting the little girl down. Carlie gripped her hand.
"What kinda milkshake do you want Carlie?" Charlie asked, kneeling down on the floor. Carlie giggled and smiled.
"Nilla," she softly answered.
"You?" Charlie asked.
"Just grab two vanillas," Rachel responded.
"K," Charlie answered. "See ya Rae."
"Bye RACHEL!" the two boys screamed as loud as possible.
"Dammit you two!" Charlie swore as the screen door clang shut.
The pickup truck started and was gone. Rachel opened the door and stood out on the porch. "TAURUS! IT"S SAFE NOW!"
Taurus cautiously walked down to the house and into the kitchen. Immediately Carlie squealed and stamping her feet in terror, and Taurus stumbled out the door just a millisecond after stepping in.
"Carlie! Carolynn! Don't!" Rachel ordered picking the little girl up. "He's not scary. Shh shh shh. Taurus come back in."
Taurus slowly stepped. "Miss Wesley I fear my presence is frightening to your young niece, perhaps it is best if—I just remain in the barn."
"It's okay Taurus," Rachel said, carrying the little girl into the living room. "She's being fussy."
Rachel turned on the television set on a kid's show and set the little girl down in front of the set. Almost immediately she quieted down.
"You don't have a lot of experience with children, do you?" Rachel asked Taurus, who was standing right beside her…just staring.
Taurus was caught a little of guard. "Well…Rachel…in my line of work…in my lifetime…well I did do…well…no is the answer Rachel."
Rachel chuckled and sat down on the love seat. Taurus sat down on the floor beside her. "It must be ni—comforting to have small children in the family."
"Yeah, I haven't seen them such a long time," Rachel said. "This is my first time actually seeing Carlie, well, I do play with her when I went home to write up my reports, but you know, if it wasn't for you, I would never have been able to see her."
"It was all merely payment Miss Wesley for the kindness you have given me," Taurus answered.
Rachel leaned over and put her arms around his neck. She tugged on his ear. "You can say that all you want, but we both know you just wanted to see the cows."
Taurus rolled his eyes. A commercial came on and Carlie stumbled away from the TV set to dig through a chest of toys. With a paper Burger King crown on her head and a lengthy feathered boa wrapped around her shoulders, she came pushing a little vacuum cleaner across the floor. With her free hand she tried desperately to keep the crown and the boa on as she "swept" the floor.
"What are you doing Carlie?" Rachel asked playfully. "Are you cleaning the living room for us?"
Carlie giggled, blushing, and pulled the crown down over her face. "Heehee."
Taurus noted he could never say question without sounding like he was in a police interrogation.
Carlie pushed the vacuum cleaner back into the corner. She return with a blanket in one hand and began to stretch it out on the floor. Rachel crawled down off the loveseat and helped Carlie out. Carlie left Rachel to fix the blanket, reappearing with an armful of toys. She put a big floppy hat on Rachel's head and began to set animals around the blanket. She disappeared once again only to return with a baby doll brush and several pieces of jewelry. Cautiously she pulled herself up onto the couch and carefully crawled over to Taurus and began to brush (more pull than brush) his hair.
"Rachel—what is she doing?" Taurus asked, slightly startled.
"Trying to brush your hair," Rachel answered. "She's not doing it because your hair is messy, Taurus. Consider it a compliment."
"Oh," Taurus said and felt another tug.
Carlie began to crawl onto Taurus's shoulder. Rachel hurried over and supported the little girl from falling off his shoulder. Carlie placed several plastic bracelets and necklaces on his horn. Taurus, stiff, just looked at his horned, somewhat confused.
"You're all pretty now Taurus," Rachel giggled. "You made him all pretty!"
Carlie began to clap and giggle—proudly. The little girl once again took off and came back with plates and a fake tea kettle. Rachel gestured for Taurus to scoot in. Carlie "served" the two and the many toys "tea". After ten minutes Carlie grew bored and jumped on Rachel attempting to tickle her. Rachel responded by tickling Carlie who screamed—Taurus almost jumped through the roof—with childish delight, kicking her little legs. Taurus did not need to feel ignored—Carlie quickly jumped on Taurus—but found tickling the minotaur completely unsatisfactory. Taurus was too terrified to respond, in fear he may hurt the child, as well the fact he thought he may not be capable of tickling. Carlie was inventive and found climbing over the minotaur made up for his lack of reaction.
Rachel put the toys away and was kind enough to remove the jewelry from Taurus's horns—but not the child, perching on his neck, holding onto his horns.
"Giddyup!" Carlie exclaimed, pulling on his ears.
"Carlie it's not nice to pull on Taurus's ears," Rachel exclaimed.
"Carlie!" Rachel said, "what did I just tell you?"
"Rachel, she is fine," Taurus responded, "as long as she is not screaming in terror, I am fine."
The minotaur stood up, using one hand to hold onto Carlie. Carlie screeched in terror and Taurus sat back down onto the loveseat, Carlie slid off his shoulders.
"I am sorry, Carlie," Taurus said to the little human girl.
"She's won't be to do that again," Rachel added humorously. The little girl was back on her feet and slid off the loveseat.
The phone began to ring. "Taurus could you watch Carlie for me?"
"Of course Rachel," Taurus responded. Rachel ran over to the phone. Taurus looked to where the little girl was playing just seconds before—only to find her gone. He saw the sliver of a little shoe on the steps. Taurus chased after her.
"Miss Carlie! Come back here at once!" Taurus said, knowing that if he sounded too authoritative he would scare the toddler. She was two steps from the top. Taurus quickly clambered up the steps as she pulled herself up onto the hallway. Giggling loudly, she bolted away.
She ran into Rachel's Uncles' room. Taurus saw and heard her. However in the room, she was nowhere to be seen. Taurus, however, knew where she was…the quivering bed duster could not lie. Taurus stalked around the bed.
"Carlie? Miss Carlie? Carolynn? Where did you go?" he said. Quietly he went down on his knees and picked up the duster, he could see Carlie's little feet, but she did not see him. Taurus gently grabbed her little ankles and pulled her out from under the bed. Carlie screeched and started laughing when she was immediately in the light. She grabbed hold of the bedspread and pulled it off the bed as Taurus attempted to carry her back down stairs.
"I want to play!" she ordered.
"It is safer to play downstairs," Taurus said.
"NO! NO NO NO NO NO!" she slammed her tiny fists on his shoulder. Taurus maneuvered her, carrying her under his arm. She began to sob. Taurus set her down on the ground.
"What do you want?" he asked, kneeling down before her.
"So where did you find it? Huh…don't you think single level is too small? How many bedrooms? That's good. Bathrooms? One? Oh come on, you can't live with one bathroom, especially with three kids. Don't you remember when we were growing up? Well you asked for my honest opinion," Rachel said. Taurus stalked into the kitchen, Carlie under one arm, the Burker King crown still on her head. Rachel covered the mouthpiece of the phone. "What are you doing?"
"Getting Miss Carolynn something to drink," Taurus answered. Rachel nodded and returned to her conversation which went into a rant about being locked out a bathroom. Taurus held a jug up. "Milk Miss Carolynn?"
The little shook her head. He picked up a jug, half full, and read the label.
She shook her head again.
The little girl's eyes lit up.
"No Pepsi!" Rachel said. "Give her the apple juice."
Taurus search through the top then second shelves of the fridge and before finding the yellow brown plastic container. He opened the glass cupboard.
"I want a big cup!" Carlie immediately interjected. Taurus took out a medium size plastic cup. He set Carlie down at the table and filled the cup halfway.
Taurus filled the cup up to the top. Carlie, shakily, picked up the cup. Almost immediately Taurus knew he did something wrong…
Carlie started to bawl, Rachel jumped. The little girl was completely soaked in apple juice. The juice dripped off her face, out of her nostrils, soaked her shirt.
"Carlie knocked the apple juice over, I have to go clean it up, I will talk to you later, yes, bye!" Rachel said.
"Miss Wesley I did not mean to!" Taurus immediately said.
"It's okay Taurus, it's okay," Rachel said, picking the little girl up. "I'll clean her up, you clean up the mess okay?"
"Okay," Taurus answered. Rachel carried the dripping little girl off. Somewhat lonely, Taurus cleaned up the mess.
Twenty minutes later, Carlie dressed in Dora the Explorer pajamas (they were in a little backpack, along with the sippy cup Rachel forgot to tell Taurus to get) pranced out of the bathroom. A very soaked and sticky Rachel, and smelling like Mr. Bubbles, followed behind her.
"Thanks for cleaning the mess up Taurus," Rachel said. Taurus was sitting on the loveseat. Rachel sat down beside him.
"You are welcome Miss Wesley," Taurus answered. "I see the two of you had a bath."
"No, just her," Rachel responded, while the toddler rolled around on the floor, picking up dust. Rachel looked at her wet clothes, "Oh! Sorry, I didn't get that at first. Eh, she just splashed a lot, you know kids."
"Unfortunately I do not," Taurus responded dryly. Carlie stumbled over to Rachel and Rachel pulled her up onto the loveseat. Carlie curled up in Rachel's lap. She kicked around a few times then crawled half off Rachel's lap and half onto Taurus's expansive lap, stretched out like a little bridge between the two. She closed her eyes, kicked once, twice, and fell asleep.
"Here Taurus, I'll move her," Rachel said.
"That is all right Miss Wesley, she can stay, she has had a rough day," Taurus stated. "She's not screaming in terror or covered in juice, she is fine."
"All right, if you say so," Rachel said. "So Taurus, do you have any kids of your own?"
"WHAT?" Taurus stated, at the absurdity of the question. "Oh…humor."
"Yeah, looks like you're getting it," Rachel said.
"Yeah," Taurus responded and sat back in the loveseat.
Later that night….
"I kinda guess you'd be up here…I'm a little surprised that I was right," Rachel said as she crawled up into the loft. Taurus just finished spreading out his mat on the floor. He had opened the loft doors.
"I decided I wanted to sleep here tonight, if that is all right with you, Rachel," Taurus stated, semi-unfolding a blanket. He sat down by the window.
"It's fine, it's fine, you don't have to ask," Rachel said sitting down on a hay bale. "You have fun today?"
"Yes," Taurus answered sitting down on his mat, legs crossed, blanket around his shoulders. He leaned against the wall of hay.
"I'll let you sleep, just wanted to know where you are," Rachel said heading towards the ladder. She began to descend down the ladder.
"I am not tired Miss Wesley," Taurus stated. "I would be content if you stayed up here awhile to—chat?"
Rachel's face popped up, perplexed. She pulled herself up, strolled over, and plopped down beside the mat. "So what do you want to chat about?"
"Mmm, I am not good on matters such as this, perhaps you should begin," Taurus stated. Rachel expressed surprise and puzzlement, but knowing Taurus saying anything else would be completely out of character for him, she began to think, what to "chat" over.
"My grandfather named the little bull calf," Rachel said.
"Really, what did he name it?" Taurus asked.
"Mini-Taurus," Rachel responded with a chuckle. "Get it?"
"I guess," Taurus responded, scratching his chin. "He didn't have to name a cow after me…"
"So the farm—is it like anything you have ever seen before?" Rachel dropped another topic.
"No, we do have farming in New Olympus; it is not as primitive as this," Taurus answered. "I expected your equipment and farming procedures to be primitive, and so was prepared—but I found an odd quaintness to this scene, a quaintness I believe no farm in New Olympus could recreate. Despite its simplicity, this farm is in harmony."
Rachel nodded her head—scarcely following him.
"I like my visit so far, Rachel," Taurus stated. "The animals, the people, the work—everything—whiff—except the smell, I may never get used to the smell."
Rachel chuckled. "I'm glad you came. It's nice sharing this stuff with someone else, you know, stuff you've gotten so used to or just forgot about until you see it through someone else's eyes."
Taurus was quiet. "You are very lucky Miss Wesley to have a place such as this."
"No I'm not," Rachel said in a light hearted tone. "We all have our own special place. I'm pretty sure you're lucky yourself; you know have a technologically advanced city. Everything you could ever want is at your fingertips; can you imagine how it would be for me?"
"I could only imagine Miss Wesley," Taurus answered. "But I was not talking about completely talking about this place Miss Wesley, but these people—your family."
"Oh, yeah, sorry, I remember you telling me about that a while ago," Rachel said scratching behind her ear.
"It is okay Rachel," Taurus answered. Rachel was surprised to hear him continue. "My mother passed away when I was young, just a bit younger than you were when your grandmother passed way. My father explained it to me. My mother was a dryad and dryads are ruled by plants, some dryads are perennials others are annuals—strong and everlasting, graceful and fading. That is the thing with dryads, some will age gracefully others…many…will die at their peaks. That is the frailty of the dryad. Flowers cannot bloom forever, my father explained me."
"Oh," Rachel responded, taken. They were actually talking? She blurted out the first thing that came to mind. "I'm sorry to hear that. It must have been tough growing up without a mother."
"I supposed it was; my memories of my early childhood are fleeting. My memories are not sad. My father was there for me. My mother's passing affected him, I knew it did, I saw it in his eyes, but he did not let me suffer. He made sure I did not suffer because of his depression," Taurus responded.
"Your father was chief of security," Rachel said. "Something happened to him, didn't it?"
Rachel regretted what she said. She shouldn't have asked him that.
Taurus looked away for a brief moment, out onto the farm. "He was murdered on the job."
Rachel did not answer. Taurus moved over from the window, sitting across from Rachel now.
"What happened to him?"
Taurus shut his eyes. Word for word, date for date, line by line, pencil marks, mistakes, stains, smudges…every little bit, every little detail of the report formed. Rachel's hand wrapped around one of his fingers.
"I understand if you don't want to talk about it," Rachel whispered.
"Being friends for so long Rachel, I feel it is appropriate we should," Taurus stated. He continued. "There were a series of crimes, same perpetrator each time—a shapeshifter by the name of Proteus. The crime themselves were minor crimes; breaking and entering warehouses, homes, and stores, larceny, both minor and major. His exact purpose was unknown by anyone other than Proteus himself at the time. The crisis was that if any officer that managed to appear at the scene while the crime was occurring was met with a violent response—not shots or a fight to escape—Proteus would literally brutalize them, beat them in unconsciousness—even if they posed no threat, even if other officers were only blocks away—if he could, he would. Then he would escape. He always escaped. Then he would toy with us. The simple crimes, the reaction, they were perplexing, and finally my father realized what Proteus was planning on committing; creating a powerful bomb, enough to destroy half of New Olympus. He hated society, was disgusted by it, and he felt it was his job to end it. It was my father who finally managed to track Proteus to his hideout. My father surprised Proteus, and had the upper hand, but Proteus soon overpowered him. A single punch, right through his chest, into his heart—it was a fatal wound, severe hemorrhaging. My father's last action was to shoot an electrified net at Proteus, capturing him at last."
"I'm sorry to hear that. Your father, he sounds like a good man," Rachel said.
"Yes," Taurus responded, "he was."
"And what about Proteus, what happened to him?" Rachel asked.
"He is currently incarcerated," Taurus responded. "Everyday of my life I have to look at that bastard who murdered my father, who threatened two blow up my city not once, but twice, everyday I have to deal with his sneers, his jokes, his laughter. He mocks me, mocks my father's death, mocks my father, mocks that I am now in my father's place, and mocks my failures, my faults. He torments me. Captivity is nothing to him. How gladly I would be to see his neck wrung."
Rachel said nothing. There was something about her eyes he found unnerving.
"I am sorry Rachel," Taurus said. "I did not mean that…"
Yes you did…Proteus spoke up in his mind.
Once again there was no conversation. Both Taurus and Rachel looked out the window.
"It's a beautiful night," Rachel said. "Are the skies like this in New Olympus?"
"Hmm," Taurus thought. "I believe they are clearer here."
"Definitely clearer than in New York City," Rachel added.
"Yeah," Taurus answered.
It was quiet again.
"I don't think you're a bad cop," Rachel spoke up. She appeared beside him. "Bad cops couldn't do what you do or care as much about justice the way you do—as corny as it sounds. I wouldn't let it get to you."
She's the millionth person who has told you that, Proteus mocked again. And you're not gonna listen! For millionth time, you're not gonna listen…
"You can't let this guy get to you Taurus, that's what he wants. He wants to shake people up, he wants to ruin them. He can't kill you, but he'll try to ruin your life, he'll try to ruin your life even worse than he already has. Don't let him succeed. It seems like he's already taken a lot of your life, don't let him take anymore," Rachel said. "But don't shut yourself off completely from the world because him. Don't let him change you in any way."
"Yeah," Taurus responded. Rachel placed her hand on top of his. Then one arm went around his neck. A part of himself collapsed. With the stars and the barn cats as his only witnesses, both his arms went around her.
Proteus said nothing.
Rachel worked at the home on her papers all the next day. Taurus helped Charlie around the farm with the chores. Charlie prattled the entire time about the farm, peppering it with questions about New Olympus, which Taurus answered as truthfully as possible, since they were all about the agricultural district of New Olympus.
"Genetics huh? Don't things that have that done to them end up eating people—like in movies?"
"Uh…I believe not, Charlie," Taurus answered. "The movies Miss Wesley and I see are not on topics such as that."
"Oh, really?" Charlie said. He laughed to himself and went back to work until another question would pop up.
Rachel did not show up until sunset, laden down with gifts from her family—new clothes, books, cookies, knick knacks and such. Taurus and Charlie were on the back porch. Charlie had a beer in his hand while Taurus sat on the edge of the porch, packed and ready. It was another hour before Rachel was packed and ready to go.
"Charlie I want to thank you for all the experiences and opportunities you have offered me. I am in your debt," Taurus stated, shaking Charlie's hand.
"The pleasure is mine Taurus. It was real nice having you here at the farm, and you're always welcomed back. We could always use the extra help," Charlie responded. Rachel and Charlie hugged. Words were exchanged between the two then another hug. Taurus was immediately struck with the image of Laurel…he should probably go see her before his vacation was over.
Charlie stood at the doorway, blocking the orange light of the kitchen, as they headed to the barn to retrieve Taurus's hoverbike. Rachel kept waving with her freehand, even pausing at the barn door to give one final long wave. Charlie shut the kitchen door, the orange light was gone. Rachel walked into the barn.
"Ready to go Rachel?" Taurus asked.
Taurus drove slowly above the farm, so not to spook the cows. Rachel leaned over his arm so that she could get one last glance of the farm. With a contented sigh she returned to her seat.
"So are you going to spend the night at my house, or return back to your house?" Rachel asked. "My mom gave me some of my movies, we could watch them."
"No thanks Miss Wesley," Taurus responded. "I have other business to attend to when I return home, rather important business. As well, are you not concerned with your studies? I will drop you off and continue on my way."
"Will you be back?" Rachel asked.
"Of course," Taurus answered. "Maybe not as often, but would you like me to set up some sort of…date…as in particular dates I could stop by and learn of your culture."
"That's okay, it's kinda nice just to have you pop up now and then," Rachel responded. "It would be nice if I could learn something about your culture. Maybe next time you could bring the movies."
"We'll see," Taurus answered.
"I look forward to it," Rachel responded.
A few hours later, Taurus dropped Rachel off on the roof of her house. He dismounted the hovercraft and helped her carry her many packages down into the apartment.
"I do not recall you have this much when we left here," Taurus stated.
"Well that's what my family's like," Rachel, stressfully, responded setting bags onto the table. Taurus followed suite.
"Well then Rachel, you are unpacked, I will see you next time," Taurus responded with a slight bow. "Thank you once again."
"No thank you," Rachel said, giving Taurus a quick hug…and was surprised when he responded, though he had to bend over to do it.
"You have a good night," Taurus said…embarrassed.
"Have a safe flight," Rachel said, winded. Taurus smiled right before he left. There was the din of his hoverbike, then the din of the city. Rachel slid open the door to her balcony and stood there for a moment, trying to figure out which light in the distance was him. It was cool outside, but Rachel was very warm.
"Why did you want me to wear this dress again?" Calypso asked tottering behind Taurus. She wore the very same dress she wore on the night of the banquet. A brooch, a present from Taurus, covered a sauce stained from that very night. Taurus had a packaged under his one hand, and was dressed in his better outfits—courtesy of Calypso. She spent two hours fidgeting over his clothes and helping him choose an appropriate outfit. She spent another hour doing his hair, claiming he wasn't using it to its fullest potential—whatever that meant.
"Because you look nice in it," Taurus stated quickly as he strolled up the sidewalk to the villa.
"Really?" Calypso said.
"Yes," Taurus said.
"I haven't been here for years," Calypso said at the doorway. "I think my mother was a member…I can't really remember…they stopped sending me notifications and junk when I was still in school. I had a lot better things to do then go to silly meetings."
Taurus knocked on the door. A young Oread, her skin soft grey speckled with brown, her eyes blue like a spring sky, and long wavy brown hair, answered the door. She nearly jumped out her mountainy skin upon seeing Taurus—probably out of the shock of seeing him there…not in his Security outfit but dressed up with some other purpose than arresting someone. Did some member of the House have a date with him? The Oread looked behind her. Looking under his arm she could see Calypso—who promptly waved.
"Is Laurel here?" Taurus asked. "I am her grandson and I wish to see her and spend some time with my family."
Phew, that was a doozy of a chapter. I hope you liked it. It will be a while until I update again—finals are coming up. But any reviews or requests or thoughts feel free to email me or leave a review, I could always use the help. Thanks.