I am eight years old and already know what hate feels like. It burns like fire, it stiffens me like hard wood, it makes me choke with tears every time I see her.
There she is, kneeling over her pet chicken. A voluptuous, heavy-feathered, white chicken. Her skin is as white as the chicken, her hair dark brown, loose on her back. I hate her and hate her chicken even more.
Mr. Elliot doesn’t let us be together much. He knows how I feel for her. “She is the daughter of the ranch’s owner, so it is as if she owned it too”, he says. I don’t believe that. Children own nothing, I know I own nothing ‘cause my mom told me so.
But Mr. Elliot isn’t here and I’m wearing my black boots, the ones that were my brother Johnny’s and now are mine. Mom pulled my hair into a ponytail this morning, so the wind doesn’t blow it into my face like hers does. It blows it down her shoulders and upwards, floating over the chicken inside her hands. The hem of her dress almost touches the mud under her pretty white shoes. This is my territory, this is my playground, the muddy side of the ranch. She doesn’t belong here.
I think she can’t hear my steps as I’m approaching, because she doesn’t look up from the white blob she is holding. “Josephine”, I call her by her name, like I do to everyone I walk into. Slowly, she turns her head to me.
“Marie”, she says my name, I hate how she says my name. “I want to play with your chicken, Josephine.” I say, her eyebrows come together and her upper lip curves up on the side. “Let me play with your chicken, please.” I ask politely so she understands.
I know she doesn’t want to let me borrow it, and yet, her mother always taught her she has to share her things. She’s my age, but my mom always tells me not to share things with her because she has it all already. Maybe that is why I hate her.
She smiles with her perfect white teeth, her arms shudder as she hands me the chicken. I feel it, measuring it, it is warm, her dark eyes looking up at me, expectantly. I wait to see if she pokes me with her beak, but she doesn’t.
The chicken’s head fits perfectly inside my hand. As I close it on the dark bulging eyes, Josephine squeals. Then, she screams, as the fluttering of wings goes on between us. The chicken’s body turns in perfect circles in front of me, just as my grandfather taught me to. With one hand, I keep Josephine away, with the other, I feel the chicken’s neck breaking, the flesh opening, blood starting to drip.
Josephine drops to the ground when the body of her chicken does. The head still inside my hand, I put it over her head as she cries over her dead chicken. Her dark brown hair is now dabbed in red. Her powder blue dress and her white shoes splashed with mud.
She cries, that I don’t hate. I like to see her cry. Mr. Elliot comes running, he heard Josephine’s cries. “What have you done?” He asks the moment he stands beside me. If Josephine says one word I’ll kill her also. “She killed my chicken!” That is it, you are dead meat, as my brother Johnny would say.
I want to pounce on her but Mr. Elliot pulls me away. He takes me to the stable, where he works, and tells me all about being good and being bad, all I’ve heard before and don’t care. All I wanted was to kill that stupid chicken of hers.
Since that day, I’m not permitted even near her. I’m eighteen now and work with Mr. Elliot. I love horses, I hate Josephine. She rides her stallion, her hair blows like a flag behind her. She is graceful and handsome, she has a boyfriend also. I don’t care for boyfriends.
Today I know she’ll run down to the river, she does it every Friday after riding her horse around the ranch. Evan, her boyfriend comes and they do their devilish escapades. I hasten to take the horse for the cooling off while she giggles some steps away. How I hate those giggles.
I follow them through the trail of trees and bushes. He pushes every branch gently away for her. I watch behind the bushes how they strip naked, and dip into the cold water of the river. He swims, she dances. That same grace she shows while on her horse now riding on the water.
Without a word or a sound, I wait for them to stop playing. Evan carries her around the water, kisses her every inch, takes her up and down and splashes, drawing ripples all around them. She moans, he groans, she screams his name and declares her love. If only anyone knew, if only her dad knew.
She gets out of the water first and goes for her clothes on the bush I’m waiting. “Josephine”, I call her by her name. “Marie?” she looks at me with estranged eyes, “What are you doing here?” “I saw what you did down there.” “How long have you been there?” “Long enough.” “Are you going to tell?”
I take her hand and pull her near. Her whole body covered with cold drops of river water. I caress the soft skin of her face with the back of my hand. She smiles, that smile I hate so much. “I never knew” she whispers. She knows nothing at all. As she leans forward with her lips puckered, as she brushes them gently against mine, I realize this feeling inside me is not to be ignored.
And I take my hands into her hair, holding the back of her head, pulling her face against mine. Evan calls her name from the distance, but she can’t respond to his cries. When her tongue slides into my mouth, I jerk her head back. Like the chicken, only quicker, I break her neck and let her fall.