Stalking Borianna Peep
Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep
and didn't know where to find them
Leave them alone and they'll come home
wagging their tales behind them.
Bo isn't my real name, but my older brother Thomas pinned it to me when I was born. My name is Borianna, but most know me as Bo. With the blonde ringlets and bonnet as a little girl, I got fed up with everyone saying I had a guy name for such a girly girl. I shed the bonnet, straightened the curls, shortened the skirt, lost the gloves and headed to the fields of green. It's not like I started wearing pants or anything.
As daring as a girl might be at this age and time, 1837 was already a hard year on the sheep with the wolves about. My eighteenth birthday was a week away and already I've been itching to find out who my betrothed will be.
You see, in our town of less than three hundred, the people still believe in planning your future with a dowry and married off to the highest bidder. No choice in the matter, but I hoped he would at least be nice and decent looking. Old Man Yardly has a son named Seamus a year older than me that I suddenly noticed for the first time a few years ago, it could be him. He was nice. Good looking too, but shorter than me by an inch last year. Maybe he'd grow more. That kept a damper on my hopes. Tall girls don't win out when your husband is picked for you and expect him to reach up to kiss you. Oh, the passion.
Passion, I know. Passion, I want. I dream of a man sweeping me away to a beautiful place where waterfalls spur over the edge all day and birds eat from your palms.
I headed out to start my daily ritual of feeding, cleaning, and rounding up the herd. Last, I would count them. This previous autumn had proven the largest shortage. A year ago we had two hundred sheep on our land. This year...one a day for weeks now has gone missing. That's too many loses.
Now, a few died from childbirth and unknown, but never in my eighteen years has one disappeared so much, so often like in recent weeks.
The first stop was the barn. I grabbed my Shepherd's hook in anticipation of using it, my secret thrill for the day, and skipped almost like I did when I was a child. Time passed very slowly just the way I liked it. I arrived at the first gate with the early morning sun on my back and no tree in sight. Ahh!
The hour passed as I herded and counted. I rounded the second gate elated that not one sheep had gone missing in the night from gate one. Closing it tight and noting with a look back that it was indeed closed, I headed for the second herd.
All was well when I entered gate number three. I noticed it immediately. There, on the ground behind the small mesquite tree was a fluff of wool. I scurried over watching every direction all the while though nothing would be out there in broad daylight. Surely.
As I bent down to investigate further, a dark, slow "Hello," sounded behind me. I jumped quick as a deer up to standing and raised my hook in the direction I knew the voice had come from.
I gaped at the beautiful man before me. I say man. He was my age, maybe a little older. Not by much though.
His dark waves of hair fell slow and purposeful into one eye and he cocked his crooked grin and seemingly ancient blue green eyes sideways with the rest of his head. His body rocked forward and then backward with his hands neatly held in both front pockets. His choice in clothing was less than normal.
His pants were dark and torn at the bottoms. His dusty boots were worn. The laced up shirt was...unlaced and showing so much muscle-y chest I was staring like a wild woman. I could only utter a small squeaking sound further showing my virgin eyes that I was unaccustomed to seeing a boy undressed.
Which sounds stupid since I have an older brother, but he had never once appealed to me in any way and certainly I had seen him half naked before.
I swallowed and forced my eyes to his face. His face. The chiseled jaw was flexing into a wider grin and a small chuckle emerged from his lips. I glared angry only with myself. Childish. I looked half my age or rather my full age and very ill-mannered.
"What do you want?" I narrowed my eyes and looked around finally gaining some sense. "How...how did you get here?" I cut to the field behind him where he would have walked up from...nothing.
His smile disappeared. "I thought I'd help. I see you're in need." He glanced at the tuft of wool in my hand I didn't even realize I was still holding. "The herd is over by the pond next to the blueberry patch. I just left there counting ninety-six. What count would you need?"
So surprised with his presence and his knowledge of what I would be doing startled me on several levels of my inner alarm bell. I should run, fast. Yet I stood, grounded. "You seem to know a lot about what I'm doing?" My accusation was well deserved that I feared my brain was shouting something insanely stupid about following him wherever he led me. Stupid brain functioning hormones.
"I do. Only because I hold the same job you do two fields over for my uncle."
Oh! "And who is your uncle, pray tell?" I would catch him in a lie now. I knew every family and their own from around here.
Oh! "You know-
"Seamus. Yes. He talks of you often," he rolled his eyes upward and looked away from me to the ground for a second before coming back to my face.
What did that mean?
"Okay. I guess you do know then." I watched him for a good ten seconds and then decided, "Fine then. Ninety seven."
He seemed to read my very thoughts or at least I confirmed he wasn't dim witted since he picked up on my clue right off.
"That must be your one then," he eyed my hand.
"The body. They always disappear. I promise you, we won't find it." We?
"I'll help. And while I do, you can ask me the undying questions that are eating you up right now," his grin was back.
Swoon. He was too good to be true. We started to walk across the grounds. I caught that he had no weapon. "Did you move in with the Yardley's?" That's a natural question, isn't it?
"Several weeks ago," he let his hands free of his pants. One at least. I looked at the one that fell between us. Why? I don't know. I just wanted to see more of him.
"Why aren't you at school?"
"Finished last year."
Oh! Stupid question. I should have figured that. "I guessed you older." Redundant anyone?
"You are in your last year."
"You sure know a lot about me," I accused again.
He didn't look at me as I glanced over. There was foot between us but I saw his cheek redden. Whoa!
"Told ya. Seamus talks."
I was starting to wonder why Seamus Yardley suddenly had a gossipy tongue. As if he could hear my thoughts he said, "Not gossip, just things about you."
"Well, Seamus needs to keep his bloody mouth to himself. I could tell you a few things about his sinful soul," I tightened my lip.
He stopped where we topped the hill and faced me. He tilted his head like before and almost in a whisper, "I like you mad. Your lip curls in hiding."
Pure red blush filled my face. I tried to flatten out my mouth but he just watched it like it was a sideshow. Help me now.
"He said nothing he shouldn't. It was just facts mostly. He thinks a lot of you."
Like the moment was over, he looked over the downside of the hill and surveyed the black, white, and dirty white blobs below. "Here you are."
I followed his eyes and as natural as always, started to count. Patient, he waited till I confirmed his numbers and didn't once mock or make fun of me like my brother always did. Were brothers that much different than other boys?
"Shall we check the next gate?" he asked.
"You don't have too."
He shrugged. "I'm done with my chores. I'm available for your services Borianna Peep."
Gasp. Hearing my name was a shock though it would be crazy to think he wouldn't know it if his cousin was telling him so much. But to hear it before one introduces oneself is just jarring and well...intriguing.
Seeing my surprise he took the opportunity to show he liked my reaction with a nod to my hair. Stealing a little more of my breath, what little I had left, he told me, "Your hair is like the sunshine. Where I come from, ladies have darker hair and put up. You let it flow all around your shoulders."
"Um..." I didn't know what to say to that. Where is he from?
Instead of embarrassing me forward, he walked ahead.
"You know my name, but I do not know yours."
"So you would like to know me," he turned fast and closer than I'd anticipated. Huh!
I decided coy might be a better act for me to play. I was looking overly assertive and needed to back down a little. "Nah! I am fine on my own." I walked on without him. Sure enough, he caught up and kept his stride with me.
"Yeah, true. But you'd like it."
I bounded on him. "Look mister," I pointed my finger into his chest not thinking one second about how close I was to him or that I was touching his skin, "You think you know me. You act like I want to know you. I don't need anyone. You can go back to your side of the fence and keep company with Seamus and his pigs. I.Don't.Need.You."
When I finished my little speech and realized where my hand still sat, only then did I also see the way his eyes had changed. The sun was in front of us now and my back turned the way it was gave witness to the glow in his eyes. The way they darkened. His smile was non-existent. It was something else entirely.
My stomach twisted funny. I reached to pull my hand back and this boy grabbed it, pulled it to him, and held it to his chest. "I've watched you Borianna. I can tell you feel the same kindling I do. I sensed it when I first saw you weeks ago. I would like to get to know you if you will allow me."
I can't say I know why my body or mind didn't refuse the insane words this boy said, but I shook my head and denied with everything in me that he was bad news.
We finished the next gate and shimmied to the road that would split and lead one direction to my house and the other to his. At the fork I gave up my silence as he took a step away from me, "I still don't know your name." I said it too eager. Too loud.
He pivoted one foot to me and took my hand, kissed it with his intense eyes still on mine, "Tristan."
With that, he turned down the road and left. I watched him, noting the way he swaggered his walk. He turned back as if he knew my thoughts again, his smile was all devil. I knew then I was in deep, deep trouble.
The next morning I was dressed and out the door a good twenty minutes earlier than the day before. He wasn't there when I finished with the first gate or the second. At the third, I found him...and a remnant from another of my herd. Dang it.
"Good morning Shepherdess. What are your numbers today?"
"One more down."
His hands in his pockets. "You breed your sheep right?"
"Of course, but that's beside the point." If he considered me rude, he didn't say.
"Seems a solution is all."
Like we shouldn't solve the mystery of them missing or something? I didn't get it. "I won't let something kill my herd."
Still with the pockets, he hid his hands. I didn't know where my obsession with his hands came from, but I wanted to see them again. I pictured them wrapping around my shoulder to hold me in place while he kissed me.
I blinked back those thoughts entirely.
When I resurfaced from fantasyland, he was watching me. "You don't know why they may take them. Survival is a pretty good reason maybe."
"You insinuate a who. Why not a what?"
His face didn't move in any way. He nodded ominously and headed for the next gate.
The next day the same. And the next. Another sheep gone. Another morning with Tristan. He explained that he had morning chores and could only help me after. I was grateful for the help and the company, no complaining. He leaned in one time like he might kiss me on the fourth day, but nada.
On the eve after a week with my mornings with Tristan I ventured to the right of the road and headed to the Yardley's house with a tin of muffins made by my mum at my insistence. She questioned me, but did it anyway. She'd know my aim soon if I knew her gossiping ways.
Steps from the Yardley porch, I heard Seamus and his sister reading inside. I actually peeked first. I didn't see Tristan.
I knocked and the door opened quickly.
"Why young Bo Peep. Come in dear," Seamus' mum shrilled and moved aside for me to step inside the door.
I looked around for any sign of Tristan. He wasn't there. Seamus stood at attention suddenly. Curious as it was, he then bowed in my direction.
Sarah, his younger sister giggled and he hit her on the head. I smiled to help him hide how she continued to giggle.
Seamus spoke to me, "Bo."
That was it. That was all he ever said to me. I smiled sweetly at him and turned to his mum again, "I brought some muffins. I wanted to thank Tristan for all the help in the fields. He has been a blessing to me." I curtsied like I'd been taught.
The puzzled looks on each of their faces made me note them one at a time, but I caught the deceit in their eyes. Sarah looked at me and then up to her brother. Seamus tilted his head a little and rubbed his stubble covered chin. Wow, when did he get old enough for a beard?
His mum was opening her mouth to say something and turned to her husband who was just coming in the door. I joined them in facing him.
"Dear, Bo tells us Tristan has come to visit her. Shed a little light for all of us please." Something in her voice was off. She was telling her husband a hidden meaning in her words. But what?
"Dear Bo. Tristan was lost to us from my brother's family just a month ago. I feel you've erred in judgment."
I looked to Seamus for help. I knew him. He wouldn't lie to me. He said nothing. I thanked them kindly and bid my goodbye, a little miffed at being lied too. Outside, I stood on the road and looked back at the house. Mr. Yardley was watching through the window as I picked up my pace and headed in the direction of home.
At the fork, I heard a noise. A grunt. Footsteps.
Him. Nervous fear gripped me.
"Borianna. This is late for you. What is a young girl doing out alone on a full moon?"
"Same to you Tristan." I wanted to yell at him for deceiving me. Lying to me. I knew he wasn't who he said.
"I was just heading home."
"Ohh!" I dragged it out. Another lie. So why was it so hard to leave his presence? "I was just heading home. Will I see you tomorrow?"
He smiled. "Naturally." He was a sight to see. "Tomorrow then." He motioned with his head in the direction of my home and moved closer. I leaned in a little more. I hinted with every ounce of my body for him to do the same. When he took a step away, I blew out the breath I didn't know I was holding.
I only nodded feeling speechless and a little sad to leave him. I was scared as everything of him in that moment for more than just the lies I think. There was something very dangerous about him. Soon I would find out. Soon.
A week passed with every ounce on my part to leave my time available to catch a glimpse of him. He never came.
At school the following week, I asked Seamus again about him never telling him I saw him that night. He bowed his head at me, took my hand, and asked for me to forget I asked. I questioned his loyalty to me with keeping some secret that could make him so sad, but in that same moment his eyes flickered to mine in a way they never had. He looked at my lips.
It was the same look Tristan had when I touched his chest. Seamus caught on to my same look. When had I overlooked this way he saw me? Thinking back, he'd always turned red in the cheeks when I talked to him. I never knew.
Turns out, he was just the one my father would have chosen for me to marry. We were married the next winter and have four children. All four boys turned out as tall as their six foot three father. I named my oldest son Tristan. Till this day I've never asked Seamus about him. I never saw him again.