The whole house was in uproar. Three of the seven students were upstairs throwing their clothes hastily into their suitcases. The other four: Ralph, Maggie, Zoya and a boy named Jon were sitting on sofas in the living room listening to the shouting voices above them.
Rumors had been flying about deaths in the village. One of the girls had been half awake when the villagers came to see Bokor. She hadn’t registered what she had heard until later. Her reaction, upon realizing exactly what the dream-like voices of the villagers had been saying, was to become hysterical and insist on leaving.
“They said murder, I tell you. We need to leave.”
“Murder,” the other girl, particularly high strung and slightly overweight repeated, “Oh my God. Let’s go. Quickly. We have to get out of here. Oh my God, what’s going on? Why were they saying that?”
“It doesn’t matter, Jane. Let’s just go.” Her boyfriend said, throwing his surfboard on top of his zipped bag.
Downstairs the others continued to listen. “How boring – those guys are panicking over a rumor that Lauren heard when she was sleeping. Ridiculous.”
“How can we be so sure that it’s a rumor?” Maggie asked. She moved closer to Ralph on the shabby blue sofa and tried to grab his hand. He shied away. She looked at him.
“I doubt they’ll get far.” Zoya said.
The other three looked at her.
“What?” Jon said.
Zoya looked at them. Jon and Maggie were giving her puzzled looks. Ralph’s expression held other emotions. Zoya locked eyes with him and her eyes blazed fire. Maggie noticed. She looked at Ralph. His face was flushed and he was breathing hard.
“I mean that they won’t leave because they’ll realize it’s just a rumor.” Zoya said. She got up and left the living room. Her footsteps could be heard going up the stairs.
“Well, I’m going out for a swim, anyone coming?” Jon asked. But the other two were busy in an eye-to-eye power struggle. He shrugged and left the room.
“What was that?” Maggie asked Ralph.
“The look Zoya gave you?”
“How am I supposed to know?”
“And why were you breathing like that when she looked at you? Is something going on between you two?”
Ralph’s handsome face turned purple. “Leave me alone Maggie.”
He got up and left the room in the direction of the stairs. Maggie’s face crumpled. She forced herself not to go after him.
The desire was spent. Zoya washed up in the bathroom. It had been easy. But it was boring. She began yearning for a challenge. She splashed water over her face and as she looked up to grab a towel, she saw Ralph’s face behind her. She spun around, water dripping to the floor. His eyes were narrowed but soft. He looked at the bloody residue in the sink. It didn’t surprise him. He had just passed by the bedrooms. He looked back at her face. It held an expression of defiance and contempt. He couldn’t resist. He stepped forward, crushed his body up to hers, grabbed onto the back of her head, tilting it up to meet his, and kissed her.
She felt it.
Then she pushed him savagely. He fell backwards and growled, but turned and left.
There it was – the challenge. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and looked thoughtful.
Bokor moved slowly through the two bedrooms. The two girls lay on their beds. Each one’s head was so severely angled that it looked like a giant had twisted the head off of rag dolls. Their chests were slashed open and blood obscured the original color of their blouses. What was left of the boy was in all four corners of the smaller bedroom.
“This will be more difficult to cover up.” Bokor thought to herself. Something would have to be done before Maggie and Jon saw it. She glided out and went to stand in Zoya’s bedroom doorway.
Zoya was painting. This time it was a wolf stalking its prey. Zoya had managed to capture the essence of this female elk’s power as it faced its enemy – defiant and alluring. Behind the wolf was the dead carcass of another female elk. This one, although clearly the animal it was supposed to be, also looked vaguely like Maggie…
Next week: Maggie rebels