By Madeline Harvey

That night, I didn’t get out of the diner until after one. The clean up took longer than anticipated. My feet were killing me. But when I stepped out into the warm night, I smelled trouble. Not literally. The air was tense and I couldn’t shake this feeling that something wasn’t right. Jocelyn dropped me off at the end of my street. I walked the dusty road in my bare feet, marveling over how hot the pavement was considering it was the beginning of October. It was these quiet moments when I didn’t despise where I lived.

Rector, or what I fondly called Rectal, was a small shit heap town located in the good Old South. Arkansas was riddled with towns just like it and nothing set it apart except it was where I lived with my Daddy and baby sister, Susannah. Much like the Old South itself, these small towns had a tendency to set their own rules. The citizens dealt with their problems in a more hush-hush kind of way, especially if the troublemakers came from a prominent, rich, white family.

The Boyd family, which I was proud member of, was neither prominent nor rich. Sure, we were white, but that wasn’t enough to appeal to the people of Clay County. Oh, no, our family constantly found ourselves knee deep in town politics and neighborhood bullshit. People didn’t like us, and it wasn’t just because our mama took off with a younger man when we were little girls. The town hated us for so many reasons, too many to really get into here, and trouble sort of followed us around.

That’s why I wasn’t surprised over the uneasy feeling creeping over me. And when I saw our house, I paused. The porch light was on, the front door stood open, only the screen door barring the unwanted from getting in.

My gut flipped.

Daddy worked late most every night, hauling loads into Tennessee and Oklahoma, and I sent Susie out earlier in the day with her friend Beth. They were going to drink apple wine and play board games. At seventeen, Susannah was one year my junior, but tough as nails with her head screwed on tight.

Daddy raised his girls right. We took shit from no one, always swinging first and asking questions after. It was the way things had to be—especially in Rector, where the boys often got handsy, even without your encouragement. I’d found out the hard way.

Call it instinct or premonition or any of that other bullshit, but plain and simple, I knew my sister was in trouble.


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