As before, they turned heads at first. They were not beauties, not in the way people mean when they say someone is beautiful, but there was something ethereal and irresistible about them. Both tall and slender and long-limbed, with angles rather than curves, and small, heart-shaped faces with wide-set eyes that seemed to blink too slowly, or perhaps it was too fast? Their skin was pale, so pale you could imagine you could see the veins running beneath the cool, dry surface. Odd, without a doubt, but strangely compelling.
They introduced themselves to the community on a Sunday, at an ugly brick church of seventies design. The priest, a kindly, Santa-faced man, stepped forward to greet them.
“I’m Cassandra,” the taller of the two replied to his friendly enquiry, “and this is my daughter, Lucinda. We’ve just moved here and we don’t know anyone.”
Up close, it was evident that Lucinda was much younger than her body implied, not much more than a child, really. A toweringly tall child, with high, pert breasts.
The priest invited them to stay for morning tea after the service to meet the other congregants, as Cassandra had hoped. She’d chosen the church for the elderly, avuncular priest. She and Lucinda had agreed: no more young priests whose hormones tested their vows.
The strange pair charmed the congregation: Lucinda by being quiet, and modest, and only speaking when spoken to, Cassandra with her vulnerability and self-effacing candour.
“Maybe some women can do it alone, but I struggle,” she told the other mothers. “I just want her to be safe and grow to fulfil her potential, but it’s so hard. I need the help of a community, and I prayed I could find one like this.” They hung off her every word.
“It’s hard enough with a child but with a teenage girl there are…other dangers…” she let her voice trail off and her big, wide eyes do the talking. The other mothers nodded in understanding. And if Cassandra was vague or evasive when they asked about the past; well, they could forgive that. People’s imaginations filled the gaps and soon it got around they were fleeing an abusive husband. They said nothing to contradict the rumour. Everyone rallied around to help.
Cassandra joined some church committees and Lucinda volunteered at the Sunday School and joined the youth group. They lived quietly: on school days Lucinda went straight home, never persuaded to join her classmates at the shopping mall, or the bike park or the burger joint, although she was never short of invitations. Quite the opposite, boys couldn’t stay away from her. Scraps broke out in the playground over who should carry her bag. The male teachers came down on the fighters the hardest, suppressing their bewildered attraction to the awkward, angular child by punishing the same impulse in the students. The girls would have resented it, except Lucinda made it clear she wanted nothing to do with any of them, politely refusing every advance, and sitting at the front of each class, working industriously. Eventually, the novelty wore off and life returned to normal, with Cassandra and Lucinda just so much of the furniture. For awhile, they were happy.
One Sunday, a new face appeared at the Sunday School. Dan was the much older brother of one of the juniors in the class Lucinda helped with, back home after a stint in the army. He was tall and strong and used to people doing what he told them. When he saw Lucinda, he was smitten. He turned on the charm and she giggled at his jokes, but when he asked her to go out with him she politely declined. It only made him want her more.
The priest warned him off.
“She’s too young for you!”
“High school girls love college kids. I’m the same age as a college kid.”
“She’s only fourteen, Daniel,” the priest cautioned.
“What? No way!” he could see her from where they stood, stuffing herself with cakes from the bake sale. He could see the outline of her long body through her cotton dress, and thought she was all woman, no question.
But what he wanted didn’t matter, because Lucinda no more gave him the time of day than she did the boys at school.
On Valentine’s Day Lucinda left school burdened by a weight of hopeful gifts and cards. She was embarrassed by the volume and had fled the last class as soon as the bell rang, desperate to get away home. She found Dan waiting outside the school in his Toyota.
“Jump in,” he said. “There’s a meeting about the Sunday School. Your Mum asked me to come fetch you.”
She jumped in. He drove, but not to the church.
“The meeting’s at my house,” he said when she commented, “My Dad called it.” Lucinda relaxed. When they pulled up at his house, there were no other cars there, but she didn’t think anything of that until they got inside. He lead her to the dining room, where the table was set for two, with a candle and a posy of roses in a vase.
“Surprise,” he said.
“You lied to me,” she said, trying to back away towards the door.
“A white lie,” he said, showing his teeth. He poured them both a glass of champagne from a bottle in the bucket on the sideboard. “They say you’re too young for me, but we know they’re wrong. Age is just a number, right, baby?”
“I’m not your baby,” Lucinda interjected, but he carried on as though she never spoke.
“In a few years, the age difference won’t matter at all, am I right?”
He thrust a glass in her hand.
“I don’t want wine,” she said. His eyes narrowed.
“Drink it,” he snarled. She just stared at him stubbornly.
“Drink it!” he snapped, shoving it in her face. He was as tall as her and more than twice her weight, and he let her know he wasn’t afraid to use the advantage. She drank, trying desperately to think of an escape. She drained the glass.
“Atta girl,” he said. “Now, wasn’t that good?” She lied and nodded and fluttered those big, wide eyes at him.
“I need to use the toilet.” She put the glass down and started towards the door. Dan showed her his teeth again and stepped in front of her, blocking the path.
“You can hold for a bit.”
He was so close she could smell his lust. It disgusted her. He could smell her, too, and he inhaled her, pressing his nose close to her translucent skin and sucking up the scent of her unripe sexuality. His hand lifted involuntarily and found a small, high breast. He groaned at the touch, even as she shouted “No!” and twisted away from his touch. Her resistance just excited him more. He used his strength to hold her still and helped himself to tastes of her cool, dry skin and her plump lips, telling himself that she wanted him, too. When she struggled, he just picked her up, folding her long angular limbs against themselves and pinning them with his bulging arms.
“Don’t fight me, baby,” he said as he carried her into the next room, “It’ll be better that way.” He dropped her on the couch and straddled her so he could look down on her flushed and frightened face. Those strange wide eyes pleaded with him.
“I know you want me, baby. You girls are all the same. Your mouth says ‘no’ but your body says ‘yes’. And look at your body,” he groaned, as he tore open her blouse and pushed aside her bra. He engulfed a nipple with his mouth. Lucinda couldn’t move.
‘I tried, Mama,’ she said to herself, resigned to what would happen next. She prayed it wouldn’t take too long.
Grunting with pleasure, Dan switched to the other breast, and started undoing his jeans with one hand. After weeks of fantasy, his cock was straining, fit to burst, so he wasted no time forcing her long legs apart and mining for the soft school-girl flesh beneath her cotton knickers. Lucinda wriggled, one last gasp attempt to escape, and he took that as encouragement and thrust himself into her unwilling flesh. The reality of his dreams coming true was too much for him and with one, two, three thrusts he reached his climax.
Lucinda couldn’t have stopped her reaction if she’d wanted to. It was instinct, a primeval drive for survival, a drive she was yet too young to control, a drive that responded to the spasms of his orgasm, to the wet slop of his spunk splashing against her uterus , and clamped her long hard thighs around his hips and wrestled his arms to his sides and pinned them against his torso. She was slighter than him and more slender but he was lost in the mindless throes of orgasm, all the blood drained from his ecstatic brain, and her veins were flooded with adrenalin. She flipped him onto his back before he even knew what was happening, and then she squeezed.
She squeezed him with those long, angular limbs until the air left his lungs, and then she kept squeezing.By the time Dan could process that he was trapped and unable to breathe, his ribs were screaming in pain.
Lucinda was panting from exertion and, at last, desire. Her big wide-set eyes glinted. She tilted her heart-shaped face and show Dan her small, sharp teeth. She smiled ghoulishly at the bewilderment in his eyes. Saliva dripped from her mouth onto his frightened face. He just had time to scream before Lucinda started eating him alive, starting with his throat to silence the cries.
When it was over, Lucinda fled home crying. Despite her distress, she had the mind to stick to the back streets, and she got home without being seen. She told her mother everything.
Cassandra thought about staying. She liked this town, and the church, and the life they’d made for themselves. But it was just wishful thinking, really. Even if they could somehow hide any evidence that Lucinda had been at the house, Dan’s disappearance would cause a fuss. Questions would be asked. Better just to leave, start over. Again.
They packed up that night, and left before dawn, down the long road to the next place where maybe, they prayed, things would be different.