Sometimes life handed Sofia a biscuit and played nice. Rare times for which she was utterly grateful, just as she was during these hours it was taking her and the new guy to clean out the chicken coop.
He wasn’t uttering a single word. Well, he cursed about the stench and muttered other oaths she didn’t quite hear, but not once did he try to start a conversation with her. Even though she caught him a couple of times with his eyes pinned on her. Which should have been reason enough to puncture his innards with her pitchfork.
Except his green eyed gaze got her mind spiraling in on itself, sending it roaming down memory lane and onto side trails. By the time she realized how long she’d been traipsing through her brain, the moments were long passed. The man beside her was no longer watching her, but was diligently heaving cakes of straw-thatched chicken shit out the door.
Then she found herself eyeing him, appreciating the long, thick muscles of his back sliding like serpents under his sweaty shirt. There was something about him, aside from the fact his voice swam through her blood like little fishes. She wasn’t put off by him, and that in itself was enough to worry her.
She didn’t like people.
Which was why the job on the farm was so perfect. She spent a lot of time alone, if she didn’t count the presence of the livestock as company. When the other employees tried engaging her in small talk, she sent them shuffling off with a cold, level stare. Eventually they’d learned to just leave her be with her dog. Yeah, it meant doing much of the heavy work by herself, but in her mind it was a fair trade-off.
Because interacting with people was a real bitch, and she’d never figured out how to do it properly. It seemed every time they opened their mouths to speak, their body language defied the words passing across their lips. People constantly sent Sofia mixed signals.
And that got her in trouble.
Because the confused messages twisted her stomach and sent chills scurrying across her skin like a thousand mouse feet, lifting the fine hairs on her nape. Unless, of course, she challenged them. Which ended badly, too. Fighting made her feel great at the time, but the trouble it caused afterward left her feeling like a tiny, bobbing raft in an ocean of sharks.
How many foster homes had she been in?
“…disgusting way to eat…”
Sofia snipped off her lapse into the past. The new guy was bitching about something, but she didn’t catch what, just the feel of his voice in her body. She watched him stab at the floor, twist his grip on the wooden handle of his pitchfork, and toss.
Well, there was nothing confusing about his current state. The oaths pouring out of his mouth definitely matched the intensity of his attack on the chicken coop. Even the hens sat quiet on their roosts and didn’t squabble like they usually did. Uh-uh. They were silent as nuns.
A reluctant smile tugged at her lips. Yeah. Okay. So this guy German had something going for him she found herself liking. But it would only be a matter of time before she’d catch him acting and speaking the way everyone else did. Eventually, she’d catch him in a lie. Because people always lied.
In the meantime, she didn’t think there was anything wrong with snatching glimpses of him when his back was turned. No harm in spying while he was close. She quit shoveling to rest her chin on the handle of her pitchfork.
The guy was easing his way toward the chickens, who were lined up on their roost like suspects at an inquisition. He sidled close, like a predator sneaking up on its prey. Quiet. Utterly focused, even with his eyes averted to the ground. He was listening, his head tilted just so, his ear trained on the roost. The man moved incrementally closer, his biceps bunching as he lifted his arm ever so slowly.
Sofia watched, just as transfixed as the dumb chickens. She saw when his knees bent to the tiniest degree as he readied his body to lunge. She couldn’t drag her eyes off him. As close as he’d inched, there was no way he was going to miss nabbing a bird.
Her grip tightened around the handle hard enough she noticed herself trembling with anticipation. She wanted him to snag the chicken with an intensity that snapped her back to the situation. What the hell was she doing? Palavering after a man who got his jollies scaring the hens? Nope. Something better. She was enjoying how German’s body moved. At over six feet tall and carrying muscle that was sharply defined but not bulky, the man moved lightly. Quick, yet seemingly conscientious of his every move, as though he was hyper aware of his surroundings.
Yet, just as she was going to turn back to her work, he caught himself. His empty hand fisted as he shot a look over his shoulder at her. As if he’d been caught red-handed. Doing what, exactly? Certainly not something that warranted the spark of worry she saw in those green eyes. As quick as it flashed, it was gone, replaced by a hard glare and subtle lift of his upper lip, like he was snarling some threat at her.
“Get over yourself,” she grumbled. Without waiting for some insulting retort, Sofia turned her back on him and resumed stabbing at the straw-matted chicken shit. The nerve of the guy. She’d plastered that same look on countless others, so she wasn’t cowed by his.
Still, she kept to herself while they went back to work, even as she continued to steal glances the way he did. But not once did they speak to each other. By the time the job was finished and Sofia mounted the tractor to haul off the manure spreader, that damned grin was tugging her lips again.
Shoveling shit hadn’t turned out to be half bad. But again, she should be worried, not masking a smile that wanted to beam out of her big as day. Interactions with people usually didn’t end well, she’d do well to remember that. Pushing her lips into a hard line, Sofia scouted the way clear for Sol before putting the tractor in gear, then chugged off away from the chicken coop with her dog faithfully trotting several paces behind her. Forget about looking back.
She knew who followed her, and she knew who watched her go.
Installment #5 coming next Saturday, November 30, 2013. Or sooner. So stay tuned!