They used to call it the ‘wasting disease’; modern medicine named it cancer. The descendants of African slaves, inhabitants of coastal Georgia’s barrier islands and ‘low country’, steeped in the legends and lore of a forgotten time … they call it, The Hag That Rides You.
A final thrust and Barry Loomis shuddered; letting waves of pleasure engulf him. Ignoring the murmur of protest and clenched muscles from the dark beauty beneath him, Barry rolled over to sprawl, sated and spent, against the damp sheets.
A huff from the flavor of the week brought a smirk to his face but he made neither comment nor move to oblige her unspoken request for fulfillment. He grabbed the remote, tucked his arm beneath his head and settled in to catch the remainder of the Dallas game, hoping his latest pillow partner wasn’t a post coital talker.
“Baby, aren’t you forgetting something?”
Barry nudged the volume up three bars and shifted onto his side. He propped his head on his hand and silently urged Romo to throw the damn ball. Fingernails trailed up his spine; at once tickling and sharp. He stiffened.
Eyes fixed on the TV, Barry scooted toward the edge of the bed and hit mute. “I’ve got an early morning in court, ah …” he searched his memory for the woman’s name while bracing himself for another jab from the talons of hell. “Sugar. Think we’d better call it a night, don’t yo…”
A loud snort interrupted him and the bed dipped. Barry rolled over in time to see a lush, golden brown ass and a damn fine pair of legs round the corner into his bathroom. He settled back against the pillows and turned up the sound; shit! Cowboys were down by seven!
Bored with the half-time show, Barry padded into the kitchen and snagged a beer. As he rooted in the cupboard for something without fuzz, a rustling of paper from behind him grabbed his attention. He turned to see the Nubian princess who’d recently warmed his sheets, fully dressed and furiously scribbling on a Roadies take-out bag.
He choked back a sigh. Thank God there’d be no awkward after tumble dance!
A final flourish and the white bag sailed across the counter.
So much for a mature ending to the evening. Picking up women in bars had its drawbacks. He gritted his teeth and raised his eyes to meet hers, dark brown and angry.
Rage, or frustration, had put a glint in her chocolate eyes and brought a slash of color to her high cheek bones. For a minute, Barry thought about making amends and coaxing her to stay; but then she opened her mouth.
“Here’s my phone number.” A muscle in her jaw twitched as she stared at him. She jerked her purse strap higher onto her shoulder and flounced toward the door. Hand on the knob, she turned and smirked. “And, by the way, my name is Rahm’ia.” She nodded toward the take-out bag. “I’ll expect your call; you owe me.”
Barry scratched his head and grimaced as a wad of hair came out in his hand. He gulped and dropped the graying strands into the waste basket, avoiding his reflection.
Tiredness weighed heavily on his limbs. Lifting the razor exhausted him and the idea of tennis on what promised to be another scorching Savannah day, made him want to curl into the fetal position and moan. Still, life and business, called.
Like a rubber necker at an accident, Barry’s eyes dragged to the mirror. Damn doctor and his ‘professional opinion’; dark circles under his eyes, thinning, rapidly greying hair, sunken cheeks … there had to be something wrong with him, no matter what the tests showed.
He was shoving a sport shirt, slacks, and dress shoes into his gym bag when his cell phone chimed, announcing a text message. His stomach clinched and the acid taste of bile filled his mouth. Please God, not again!
Barry swallowed hard and forced his trembling hand to close around the offending instrument. Fighting nausea, he opened the file.
A whimper escaped his lips as the phone clattered to the floor. Locking his eyes on the phone, he backed out of the room and straight into a warm body.
He jumped and whirled around, fist raised.
“Mr. Barry? Lord child, you as jumpy as a cat in a room full of rockin’ chairs!”
His arm dropped to his side as he slowly exhaled. “Dory! You ought to know better than to sneak up on a person!” He swiped at the drops of sweat beading his forehead and reached for his tennis racket and bag.
“Sneak! Mr. Barry, I been callin’ your name for ten minutes. Your breakfast is ready.”
Muttering, the old black woman shuffled back toward the kitchen. “Don’t know what’s the matter with you these days, I surely don’t.” Without slowing, she shouted. “Get your bag o’bones self in here before it gets cold!”
Barry rolled his eyes and trouped after her. The old woman had worked for his family for forty-odd years and, now that his mother was gone, felt herself to be a surrogate. Arguing was futile.
A steaming plate of biscuits and gravy greeted him in the dining room. The text message and its threatening tone had his stomach in knots and the sweet smell of milk gravy only exacerbated the problem.
Barry glanced at his watch. “Uh, Dory … I, it looks delicious,” he gulped past the lie, “but I have to run. Just put the coffee in a ‘to-go’ cup, okay?”
Dory huffed. “You and that coffee. Body can’t live on nothing but coffee and why you a’drinkin’ it in this weather I’ll never understand! You need to sit down and eat.” She shook her head. “You wastin’ away to nothing, and don’t tell me different because I took your britches to the tailor. You went down two sizes in less than a month!”
“I told you I’ve been working out.” Mendacity rolled off his tongue with practiced ease. “Look, just give me some coffee…”
“Workin’ out? Don’t tell me no lies, son. You’re sick. What’d that doctor say? You keepin’ secrets from old Dory?”
Barry inched toward the door. “No ma’am, the doctor said there is nothing wrong with me.”
“Huh. No account doctors. Why you don’t listen to me?”
His hand closed around the door knob. Escape from the old woman and her badgering was in sight.
“You need to see Doc Turtle. He’ll know what ails you.”
He stiffened. The old argument was back in the open. He grabbed his gym bag and racket and walked out the door. Only love and respect for the aging woman kept his tone civil as he replied, “I told you I have no intention of seeing some quack medicine man.”
“Oooh! Mr. Barry, be careful what you say about the Doc. He ain’t no medicine man; he a root doctor an’ I tell ya, someone done put the root on you an’ there ain’ t no way to get rid of it ‘ceptin’ you see Doc Turtle.”
Barry smiled and tried not to laugh at the woman’s superstitious beliefs. He waved. “I’m gone Dory. Tennis at Forsyth Park, then a full day at the office.” Arm muscles protesting, he stumbled down the front steps, wondering if someone had replaced his clothes with boulders. “Don’t fix anything for dinner. I’ll eat out.”
He ignored her shouted admonitions and remonstrations and set off toward the corner café. A double espresso, sugar, extra cream, hold the harangues would hit the spot and hopefully chase away his jitters.
Steaming cup of strong brew in hand, Barry settled into a wing backed chair a distance from chattering patrons and searched his pocket for his phone. His hand stilled as an image of the black instrument rose in his mind; he’d left it on the bathroom floor.
For once, the prospect of a day without instant communication made Barry smile. He couldn’t reach anyone but the flip side was no one, or rather she, couldn’t reach him. A full day without his stalker; bliss. He reached for a newspaper lying on the table in front of him and prepared to enjoy a quiet and uneventful day.
So much for solitude. Barry sighed and lowered the paper to see his neighbor taking the seat next to his.
“Hey Rick, how you been?”
‘Ah, pretty good.” He took a sip of his smoothie then grinned and winked. “Looks like you’re not complain’ either, aye?”
Barry frowned. Rick’s comment seemed loaded. “Uh, not really, but I’ve been working a lot…”
Rick snorted. “Maybe, but you’re comin’ home to some sweet creature comforts. Damn fine lookin’ woman you got there! Warm sheets and home cookin’, man I envy you.”
Barry narrowed his eyes. He was always careful about the women he dated and his rule was to never bring them home. He’d broken that rule only once, to his everlasting regret. “Not sure what you’re referring to, I’m not seeing anyone at the moment.”
Rick smirked. “Hey man, you want to keep her on the down low, my lips are sealed.”
Barry slapped his palm down on the arm of the chair. “Rick, I’m not keeping anything, low or otherwise.”
Rick held up his hand. “Whoa man, if you say so. Just figured that fine chick I saw carrying grocery bags into your house a few weeks ago was your latest squeeze. My mistake.”
He started to rise from his seat but Barry grabbed his arm. “What woman? When did this happen?”
Rick frowned and looked down at Barry’s hand on his arm. Barry followed his gaze, rattled to see he held Rick’s arm in a death grip. He loosened his hold and forced himself to relax. “Sorry man. Look, tell me what you saw.”
Rick nodded. “Sure. Ah, well, I was coming back from the dog park and, uh, I saw this woman going into your house. She, ah, was carryin’ a couple bags so I figured…”
“What did she look like? When did this happen?” Barry tried to stem the rapid fire questions but his mind was whirling.
Rick shrugged. “Well, she was a real good lookin’ black woman, tall and thin, like a model.” He scratched his head. “I remember thinkin’ you’d moved up in the world ‘cuz she looked, ah professional, not your usual choice, if ya know what I mean?”
Barry knew exactly what Rick meant. His standard defense of ‘bimbo broads are less trouble’, reared in his mind, mocking him for deviating from his norm. His shoulder’s sagged. There could be no doubt whom Rick had seen.
Despite the air conditioning, sweat pooled under his arms. With a mouth as dry as the marsh at low tide he leaped from his chair, bumping the table and sloshing coffee over its surface.
“Hey man!” Rick dabbed at the coffee with a pile of napkins. “You all right? What the hell is the matter with…”
“Sorry Rick.” Barry gathered his things and rushed to the door. “I gotta go.”
He ran the block and a half distance home as if the hounds of hell were on his heels.
Come back tomorrow for the conclusion of The Hag That Rides You!
If you missed any of our previous posts and would like to catch up, you can purchase the Digital Digest Anthology Volume I as an ebook for only $.99.
Suspense … Southern Style!Copyright © 2011 Rachel Lynne
All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, locations, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, or have been used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, locales, or events is entirely coincidental. No portion of this work may be transmitted or reproduced in any form, or by any means, without permission in writing from the author.