I put my hand up to my face. This was so embarrassing. On so many levels. I mean, I couldn’t believe that Sarah picked up on the sexual tension. You know, I could always sense that there was this current of something running between us, but I thought it was in my head, like everything else in my life seemed to be. But obviously it wasn’t and I hoped to God it wasn’t only radiating from me. It made me rethink the way I acted around him. Was I always staring at him with a stupid look on my face? I thought it would have been more an angry, confused and annoyed face.
Then the actual thought of being “dynamite in bed” with him made me feel sticky hot and flushed, like I was blushing all over my body. Dirty, inappropriate thoughts were swirling around in my head. Flashing images of our naked, grinding bodies, his sweaty, tattooed chest above me, while those hands of his roamed roughly all over me, that baritone voice snarling animalistic groans in my ear. It would be dynamite. It would be tectonic. I think the world would implode. I think I was about to implode at the dinner table.
I swallowed hard and blinked, shifting my body away from Dex ever so slightly. I gave everyone a sarcastic smile that said ‘boys’ and breathed out air I had been holding onto. I could tell Dex was watching me but I was going to avoid looking in his general direction for the next hour, in case I actually attacked him over our main course.
Fortunately, the conversation after that was turned on to more casual topics and I was able to calm down inside. The food was very pleasant and totally homemade. The mutton we had was unlike any mutton I had before. It wasn’t tough at all and went exceedingly well with the rich gravy which had touches of fennel and mint in it. I told Will he could open his open restaurant here on the ranch if he wanted to.
He laughed appreciatively. “Red Fox needs some better places to dine, that’s for sure.”
“You’ll just have to get rid of the ghosts first,” Sarah crowed. “Or was it a curse? I can’t remember what we had decided on this morning.”
This was the first time tonight anyone brought up what was really going on. It had been the elephant in the room and we had all been avoiding it. Leave it to the matriarch though. We fell silent, heads turning to look at her.
She sensed it and shrugged, not caring one bit. “We can’t ignore the real reason why our guests are here. So let’s talk about.”
Will looked down at his food, chewing slowly for a few moments before saying, “We can leave that for another time. Maybe after dinner, with some coffee and dessert.”
“Oh, how nice,” Sarah said, her voice dripping with venom. “What a lovely after dinner conversation.”
She folded her hands in front of her and ‘looked’ around primly. “Now that Shan and Miguel are here, I think it’s only fair to let them in the conversation we had earlier. Especially since Shan became the subject of that conversation.”
Shan nodded, not looking the least bit surprised or put out.
“Yes,” he said. He played with the rings on his finger, twirling them around in a hypnotic fashion. “I would like to talk about you all think.”
I glanced at Bird, remembering what he had told us upstairs. We were going to have to take the dumb white folk route.
“Well, I’ll tell you I’ve never seen anything like this before,” I confided. I know my voice was taking on a higher tone to match my ‘gee golly’ eyes. “These ghosts sure are a persistent bunch. At home, we call them poltergeists.”
Shan didn’t seem to buy it. “You all came looking for me today because you heard I was a medicine man.”
“True,” I said quickly. “But then we realized how ridiculous that was. I mean, not that you were a medicine man. Not at all. It’s just afterwards we had a talk about it, using all of our ghostly knowledge, ha, we decided it can’t be anything more than your regular old haunting.”
“Or stupid punks from town,” Miguel spoke up.
I looked at him, surprised, and helped. “Yes or it could be stupid punks from town. Throwing rocks, killing your sheep….”
“Getting crows to attack you?” Sarah said.
I wish she could see me glaring at her. “Oh that, well obviously I’m just a bird magnet or something.”
“And a fox magnet,” she added pointedly. At that, Shan gave her a sharp look. The subtle exchange went unnoticed at the table but gave me a weird feeling.
“Yes. And a fox magnet. One thing’s for certain, you have an abundance of curious wildlife here.”
I wasn’t sure how to handle the room. Sarah and Shan seemed almost accusatory as if they wanted us to admit what we really thought was going on. Will wanted to avoid all talk and downplay it, yet he was the only who wanted us there. He was the one with the actual problem but he didn’t want to discuss it in front of anyone else. Then there was Bird who knew a lot more than he was sharing. The only thing he did share was that we had to keep our plans from everyone. Which left me really fucking confused when it came to what we could talk about.
Dex and Maximus looked equally conflicted which would explain why they weren’t saying anything.
“So, all that talk earlier about curses and skinwalkers,” Sarah started. My head snapped up. We never mentioned skinwalkers. I tried to keep my face emotionless but I was freaking out inside. I felt Dex tense up beside me.
“That didn’t mean anything?” she continued. “Wanting to talk to a medicine man to protect you?”
Will pointed his fork at her, looking as angry as I had seen him, his neck growing a vibrant shade of fuchsia along his bulging jugular.
“No one has even mentioned skinwalkers, Sarah. You know we don’t believe in that superstitious nonsense.”
“Then why do you look so afraid?” she countered. “Surely the kids have heard of the yee naaldlooshii? The skinwalker.”
“No,” Dex said, leaning forward. “We haven’t.”
I’m pretty sure her blind eyes rolled underneath her glasses.
“With all the animals, rocks and happenings in the night, I was sure that would be the first conclusion you’d be drawing.”
“Well maybe we think it’s all a bunch of nonsense as you seem to believe it is and don’t want to bother wasting our time with it,” Dex retorted. He flashed his eyes at Maximus. “Isn’t that right, buddy?”
Maximus pursed his lips, nodding. “Yeah, I reckon Mrs. Lancaster, I’m not really equipped to deal with that sort of thing. I still believe there is some kind of haunting here.”
“And no curse?” Shan asked. He sounded disbelieving, as if we couldn’t answer that one to his liking.
“Actually, I told them about Navajo curses,” Bird said, tugging at his shirt collar. “I knew they’d take it with a grain of salt, not being Navajo like I am. And like you are, Shan. But they dismissed the idea pretty quickly.”
Wow. Bird wasn’t kidding when he said he didn’t want anyone to know what we were up to. I really wanted to hear his reasoning behind it. I glanced up at the grandfather clock nearby. It was just after 8PM and the bar was waiting for us. Answers were waiting for us.
Sarah crossed her arms and sat further back in her chair. I had no idea why she seemed to be so put out by our reluctance to talk about anything Navajo related. Everything seemed to be a battle between her and her husband. Maybe she was trying to prove something to him, though I couldn’t be sure what.
And Shan. I observed him casually. He didn’t seem bothered, not that he ever really did. His face was still shining and body language was open. But his eyes were on Sarah. They looked stern, disapproving almost. I had seen that look in my father’s eyes many a times.
Maybe they are having an affair, the thought streaked across my head. I don’t know why I thought that but it kind of made sense. All these untold looks at the table. Her disappearing into the cabin with him, albeit briefly. Perhaps all of this had nothing to do with us but just with them. Sarah and Shan were having an affair, Sarah was reverting back to her old ways and taunting Will with Shan’s beliefs, the very beliefs that Will gave up. As if I couldn’t like her any less.
“They were right too,” Will said, getting out of his chair. “If I thought any of these occurrences had something to do with the Navajo way, I wouldn’t have brought these white folks here. Now, I don’t care if we find out it is punks or if it’s some ghost, I just want the problem fixed. And that’s what these people are here to do.”
Oh…crap. What was I just saying earlier? Oh yes, how we couldn’t just leave Will here with the problem unsolved. And what did the boys say? That’s right, that it wasn’t our problem and we weren’t expected to do anything about it.
I found myself glaring at Dex and Maximus. You morons.
Will started collecting plates and took them into the kitchen.
“It was such a lovely dinner Will,” I called after him brightly, pushing my anger away.
I heard a mumble from the kitchen. I looked at everyone else. Shan was twisting the giant turquoise ring around and around, his face blank. Miguel brought out a pack of toothpicks, which Dex asked for one. Miguel obliged, having warmed up a bit to Dex during the course of the night. Maximus was staring at me. I could see he was sorting through the situation like I was. Sarah was still stewing in her chair. Bird didn’t say anything more. Actually his lips looked sewn shut. He picked up the remainder of the plates and joined Will in the kitchen.
There was no dessert or coffee. I heard Bird veto that in the kitchen by telling Will that we probably wanted to get straight to work, especially after all the dinner chit chat. We must be eager to get things going. Then came our alibi: We were going to go into town and on the highway and shoot some night shots for atmosphere.
Meanwhile, as I was eavesdropping on their kitchen talk, the conversation at the table was now very awkward. So much so that Miguel left without much more than a quick wave.
“You know, if you have any questions about the Navajo way, I would be more than willing to teach you some things,” Shan offered. Sarah perked up a little.
“Like what?” Dex asked. He hid it well, but I could hear the disbelieving, almost suspicious affliction in his voice.
“There’s a lot my friend. And I know you don’t believe in some of our…myths. But I think you would find it all quite educational. And we have a range of natural solutions.”
“Natural solutions?” I repeated.
“Yes,” he smiled directly at me.
“Organics are commercial now, but we have always been living and breathing off the great earth. We have teas, herbs, rituals that can solve anything. Anything you wish. Anything you want. We could try some out. Tonight.”
“Ah, we’re going into town to shoot some footage,” Dex put in, obviously having overheard Bird as well.
Shan steadied his gaze at him. “That’s too bad. I think tonight would be a great night to be a little more open-minded. Nighttime is when the spirits roam and when our hearts are speaking the clearest.”
“Maybe tomorrow?” Maximus offered.