ou go on out to the field,” she told him.
“You want me to send you back to that sorry-ass farm where I found you? Now get.”
She had his number, all of their numbers. She knew how bone-numbing the work could be on a grim silent farm like the one where she plucked him from his bed, and how lost a boy like him would feel without any work to do.
She knew what it was like for the girls, too, the ones who’d been pawed and fingered from the time they were young enough to equate such attentions with love. Love was what they wanted, what they’d work for above money.
And for the Mexicans, those who were here without papers, who couldn’t speak English beyond their big grinning bowing Thank yous. They were out in the fields right now, working under the cover of darkness, building the massive tent that would be sheltered beneath the stand of trees between the fields. She understood them too, how marginalized they felt, how powerless, because that’s what life was like for an uneducated female of any race.
She didn’t need DaShawn. She’d never needed him. That was the old Taryn who’d gone to him, offering a partnership. But he wasn’t capable of partnership, he just wanted to be boss. And that’s what she wanted too. What she was going to have.
“Mercy,” she called to one of the girls from the Go Go. “Get me that pink polka dot dress, that one with the ruffle at the neck. And that big ass white hat.”
This was her ladylike outfit, the one that, like magic, made people give her what she wanted. That’s how she got the retired racehorses for practically nothing, taking a certain satisfaction in knowing George had plowed his sweat into caring for them. How she’d gotten that shithead dentist, Wade, to fix her teeth.
But today she was after something more important than horses or teeth or anything else money could buy.
She’d considered asking the boy from the farm to drive her, liking the feeling of sitting in the back seat in her silk dress while the handsome young hunk maneuvered the curves. But she couldn’t risk attracting any more attention that she already would be. She’d go alone, with her personal backup plan stowed in the trunk.
She’d been keeping tabs on George. She knew he’d moved into the ghetto little house in town, shabby and small as a houseboat docked on concrete. She knew Beth’s school was closed and that he’d been leaving the little girl with some local kid while he worked. She knew that, predictably, George had failed to go to court and institute divorce proceedings against her.
Which was his real mistake.
She drove around until she found them, in the playground where she’d seen them playing once or twice before. She parked as close as she could and arranged the white hat over her slicked-back hair. Then she popped the trunk, just a little, in case she needed to use what was in there. But she hoped it wouldn’t come to that.
The teenager was at the top of the slide with Beth while her pouty-lipped boyfriend, the one who always seemed to be hanging around her, twirled himself around on the swing. Taryn plastered a huge smile on her face and strode toward them.
“Hey!” she called, waving a hand. “George told me you’d be here.”
It wasn’t until she spoke that Beth recognized her.
“Mommy!” the girl squealed, bolting from her babysitter to slide down to the ground and careen into Taryn’s arms.
At the feel of those little arms gripping her torso and the sweaty head pressed against the silk of her dress, Taryn had a moment of doubt. There were so many things about motherhood she hated: the neediness, the relentlessness, the utter inescapability of it all. And she’d escaped. Maybe she should just keep it that way.
Yet she’d found herself dreaming of searching searching searching for the child who could never be found. Waking in a sweat, heart pounding. Feeling that, no matter how much power she had, or how rich she became, that she could never be happy if she left her daughter behind.
“George is stuck at work,” Taryn said, trying to hug Beth and remove those grubby hands and hair from her dress at the same time. “He asked me to come get her.”
The teenager seemed confused, looked to her boyfriend for help.
“He didn’t call me,” the teenager said. “I’m not supposed to….”
“He’s too busy with the festival,” said Taryn. “Come on, Bethie, let’s get in the car.”
“Beth!” the teenager shouted. She slipped down the slide herself and began approaching them. “Beth, remember that game we played….”
Beth’s eyes widened as she looked up at her mother and then at her babysitter.
“I said it’s all right,” said Taryn, starting to pull the child away.
But Beth, unbelievably enough, resisted.
“No,” she said. “Daddy said no.”
All Taryn had to do was walk over to the car. Take one of the guns from the trunk, which would be enough to keep the teenagers at bay until she got Beth in the car and got away. And if that didn’t work, she’d just blow their fucking heads off.
But she felt Beth struggle against her and pull away. Run over to her babysitter and fling her arms around her. And now the kid on the swing was up and coming toward her too.
Taryn forced a smile. “Never mind,” she said. “I’ll have George call you when he has a chance.”
She wouldn’t come alone next time. She wouldn’t come during the day. Whatever happened, she wouldn’t make the same mistake twice.