Gary had originally moved to live on the rough side of town because it annoyed his parents. But, the more time he spent with his two roommates as the only white faces in the apartment complex the more he liked the arrangement. The rent was so low that splitting the cost with his two roomies meant his share was only $20 a month, and his job as a framing carpenter yielded $65 a week, so he felt rich. He was both putting money into a savings account and pissing off his parents, a double victory.
One roommate was Bruce who he had known for a long time. Bruce was a little weird but solid and dependable. The other roommate, Randle, was a new acquaintance of Bruce’s. Randle had originally lived in the apartment with others, but they had left him high and dry and unable to afford the rent on his own. Gary wasn’t sure yet what he thought of Randle. The jury was out, so to speak.
Gary was in his bedroom downstairs with Teresa. They had just made love again. Teresa was always trying to get him to open up more and just after sex always seemed to work best.
“So was it as good for you as it was for me?”
“Teresa, I have a question for you. Why do women not leave when guys hit’em? Why do they stick around for that? I don’t get it.”
“You’re asking because of Natalie, right? You been hearing things, too?”
“I wasn’t asking about Natalie in particular. I’m just asking in general. It don’t make no sense.”
“It’s kinda hard to explain.”
“Since it don’t make no sense I bet it is. Give it a shot.”
“Well, one time a school therapist told me I had a bad self image, so I thought I deserved it.”
“You? What? You had a boyfriend that hit you?”
“Not very much.”
“What!! Once is too many!”
“Don’t get all worked up. I eventually left him.”
At that point there was a loud slapping sound from upstairs followed by a cry of pain. Teresa immediately noticed the difference in Gary’s posture. He straightened and seemed very stiff. He was fit and normally rock hard all over, but now the veins on his arms were standing out in stark relief. The pupils of his eyes were pinpoints.
From upstairs came faint voices, “Hold still dammit!”
“I don’t like that. I ain’t never done that and I don’t want to.”
Another slap, this one sounding very meaty, followed by a sharp cry of pain.
“Now see what you did. You’re getting blood on my sheets.”
Gary began to put on his blue jeans
“Gary, it ain’t our business. She’s okay.”
Gary turned to her and said, “What makes you think I’m getting involved?” His mouth was smiling, but his eyes were not, they still looked like dark pinpoints. “I think maybe you need to leave, Teresa.”
“I’ll stay out of it.”
“You might wanna leave.”
“I’m just gonna lay right here and take a nap. I’m already asleep. Sleeping like a rock.”
Gary put on his workboots. They were solid and heavy, designed to protect your toes even if you dropped a board on them. He turned and started toward the stairs. Teresa was amazed at the difference in him, she had never seen him like this. He moved like a cat or something. His solid workboots didn’t even make a sound on the stairs.
When he was about two thirds of the way up the stairs she suddenly ’woke up’ and followed behind him. At the top of the stairs she peaked over the top step to watch.
He opened the door to Randle’s bedroom and walked rapidly toward the bed.
Randle was naked, on his knees behind a kneeling Natalie in the middle of the bed. Randle didn’t even have time to turn his head. Gary kicked him in the temple so hard Randle bounced against the far wall of the bedroom. Randle barely moved, slightly flailing his arms as though they had no purpose.
Gary grabbed the naked man’s long ponytail and walked toward the sliding doors to the balcony. He opened the sliding door and dragged Randle out onto the balcony, picked him up, and threw him into the bushes two stories below.
As he walked back toward the bed and the cowering Natalie, his entire countenance had transformed back into the one Teresa normally saw. He sat down and spoke very softly. Teresa had to strain to hear the conversation between Natalie and Gary.
“Where you from, Natalie?”
“How long you been in Lubbock?”
“Bout two weeks.”
“How old are you?”
“Where’d you meet Randle? No, it’s okay, you can be honest with me. I won’t judge. I think I know.”
“Seein how Randle left the room, right now you seem kinda judgy to me, no offense.”
“That’s fair. Let me guess. You stop me when I’m missing the mark. You met him down on fourth street where the hookers work. You were down there because you ran away from home. How’m I doing?”
“What do you want from me?”
“I’ll make you a deal. Since we just got an opening in our apartment I’ll let you stay here. I’ve got some conditions. One, no drugs other than pot. Two, I’ll loan you the money to get some nice clothes so you can look for real work. Three, I’ll talk to my Dad, who works at the employment commission, to get you some possibilities. Four, I’ll talk Teresa into driving you to interviews and even to a job at first until you can get a car. Five, you’ll pay me back as you can.”
“Why would you do all that?”
“Is that a yes?”
“Why on earth would you do all that?”
“So, that’s a yes then. Teresa, if you’re done snooping, maybe y’all should talk. I think I need to go down and talk to Randle.”