She couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen the stars.
It must have been the first time her stepfather threw her to ground right outside the barn and pounded the innocence from her little body. She had fixed her eyes on the North Star while he clawed at her young body and ripped away the threadbare linen that was plastered against his sweat-drenched chest. His drunken smell and calloused hands had ruined the beauty of the star-soaked sky and she kept her eyes closed each time after that.
Even tonight, under the Milky Way, rage filled her heart as she plotted. She watched the red horizon crackle with a fiery blaze and knew they had to go before the dogs showed up.
If only the stock market hadn’t crashed and her daddy hadn’t died. If only her mama hadn’t married that man or been passed out when the circus came through town. Millie’s stepfather grabbed her by the hair, dragged her through the kitchen and out the door while her mama slept off the absinthe purchased with a day’s wages.
The manager licked his chops at the curves barely hidden by her best dress and knew that the novelty of one green eye and one blue would bring more sad saps to the after-midnight tent. He thrust two dollars into the stepfather’s hand and took Millie.
She spit at and slapped the men who filled the burlesque show. She didn’t dance and never smiled. It was after Millie grabbed a customer’s knife and held it to his balls that the manager banished her to clean animal pens. She slept on the ground outside the wagons and used the steady sound of the horses’ breathing to block out the noise–invasive, lecherous thoughts of the men who filled the peep-show tent.
One day, she stole away to see the gypsy who she’d seen hiding in the corners of the grounds. Millie was drawn to her bright, blue eyes framed by the colorful scarves that hid her brilliant red hair. She felt a kindred soul in her sad spirit and wanted to know more than what the woman’s veiled thoughts revealed.
Millie sat across from her and offered the two cents she’d earned the day before. The gypsy looked at Millie’s pixie face and pushed the pennies back. Her skin prickled with goose bumps as she took Millie’s palm, “You know the hearts of men. You can hear their thoughts?” It was more a statement than a question.
The gypsy continued to move her fingers along Millie’s palm and bristled at the touch of her skin.
“Hatred ravages your body. What is wrong, little one?”
Millie snatched her hand away, looked the gypsy square in the eye and said, “Nothing! You are full of shit!”
Millie hopped up from the table and knew she needed to run. But, it was too late. Sadness and self-loathing emanated from the gypsy and traveled across the room in crimson threads to tangle with Millie’s thoughts before she had a chance to leave. Millie stopped at the door, turned around and grabbed the gypsy’s face on either side and peered into her lightless eyes.
In that moment, Millie saw every abomination and crime that had been committed against the poor woman. Lost lover and child. The Depression and human slavery. In one vision, she saw the gypsy laying in pig slop looking up to the heavens while the circus manager defiled her over and over again.
“What’s your name?” Millie asked.
“Your real name!” she spat.
“Dorothy, pack a bag.”
Without question, the gypsy filled a satchel and grabbed Millie’s hand as if in a trance. Millie squeezed it warmly and they exited the wagon under the cover of night with one lantern between them.
Millie could hear his dirty thoughts as she sneaked around the perimeter of the manager’s living quarters. She nearly vomited in disgust at his perverted dreams and her body shook as she torched the entrance and set fire to each corner of his tent. Even if he had been able to wake from his drunken stupor, he wouldn’t be able to escape.
After they reached a safe distance, Millie grasped Dorothy’s hand and sent a message of love and kinship. They watched the blaze a moment longer, set their sites on the North Star and wordlessly planned a trip back to visit Millie’s stepfather.
Woo Wee! 748 words of devilish fun. Not one to write much from my dark side, it was a lesson in exploration. All of you flash fiction readers/experts feel free to fire away with suggestions and comments. I cared about these characters, but I have no idea if you did and it seems that the reader caring about the characters is the most important thing…no matter what the plot or circumstances.
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