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Chapter no 39 – Chase by Chance

Where the Crawdads Sing

1969

A fog was lifting from an August morning in 1969 as Kya motored to a remote peninsula the locals called Cypress Cove,

where she had once seen rare toadstools. August was late for mushrooms, but Cypress Cove was cool and moist, so perhaps she could find the rare species again. More than a month had passed since Tate had left the compass for her on the feather stump, and though she’d seen him in the marsh, she hadn’t ventured close enough to thank him for the gift. Neither had she used the compass, though it was tucked safely in one of the many pockets of her knapsack.

Moss-draped trees hugged the bank, and their low-hanging limbs formed a cave close to the shore through which she glided, searching the thickets for small orange mushrooms on slender stalks. And finally she saw them, bold and brilliant, clinging to the sides of an old stump, and, after beaching her boat, sat cross-legged in the cove, drawing them.

Suddenly she heard footsteps on the duff and then a voice: “Well, look who’s here. My Marsh Girl.” Whirling around, standing at the same time, she stood face-to-face with Chase.

 

 

“Hello, Kya,” he said. She looked around. How had he gotten here? She’d heard no boat. He read her question. “I was fishing, saw ya pass, so landed over yonder on the other side.”

“Please just go,” she said, stuffing her pencils and pad in the knapsack.

But he put his hand on her arm. “C’mon, Kya. I’m sorry about how things turned out.” He leaned in, wisps of breakfast bourbon

on his breath. “Don’t touch me!”

“Hey, I said I’m sorry. Ya knew we couldn’t get married. Ya never coulda lived near town. But I always cared about ya; I stayed by ya.”

“Stayed by me! What does that mean? Leave me alone.” Kya tucked the knapsack under her arm and walked toward the boat, but he grabbed her arm, holding hard.

“Kya, there’ll never be anybody else like ya, never. And I know ya love me.” She ripped her arm from his hands.

“You’re wrong! I’m not sure I ever loved you. But you talked to me about marriage, remember? You talked about building a house for you and me. Instead I found out about your engagement to somebody else in the newspaper. Why’d you do that? Why, Chase!”

“C’mon, Kya. It was impossible. Ya must’ve known it wouldn’t work. What’s wrong with how things were? Let’s go back to what we had.” He reached for her shoulders and pulled her toward him.

“Let go of me!” She twisted, tried to yank away, but he gripped her with both hands, hurting her arms. He put his mouth on hers and kissed her. She threw her arms up, knocking his hands away. She pulled her head back, hissing, “Don’t you dare.”

“There’s my lynx. Wilder than ever.” Grabbing her shoulders, he clipped the back of her knees with one of his legs and pushed her to the ground. Her head bounced hard on the dirt. “I know ya want me,” he said, leering.

“No, stop!” she screamed. Kneeling, he jammed his knee in her stomach, knocking the breath from her, as he unzipped his jeans and pulled them down.

 

 

She reared up, pushing him with both hands. Suddenly he slugged her face with his right fist. A sick popping sound rang out inside her head. Her neck snapped back, and her body was thrown backward onto the ground. Just like Pa hitting Ma. Her mind blanked for seconds against a pounding pain; then she twisted and turned, trying to squirm out from under him, but he was too strong. Holding both her arms over her head with one hand, he unzipped her shorts and ripped down her panties as she kicked at him. She screamed, but there was no one to hear. Kicking at the

ground, she struggled to free herself, but he grabbed her waist and flipped her over onto her stomach. Shoved her throbbing face into the dirt, then reached under her belly and pulled her pelvis up to him as he knelt behind.

“I’m not lettin’ ya go this time. Like it or not, you’re mine.”

Finding strength from somewhere primal, she pushed against the ground with her knees and arms and reared up, at the same time swinging her elbow back across his jaw. As his head swung to the side, she struck him wildly with her fists until he lost his balance and sprawled backward onto the dirt. Then, taking aim, she kicked him in his groin, square and solid.

He bent double and rolled on his side, holding his testicles and writhing. For good measure, she kicked him in the back, knowing exactly where his kidneys lay. Several times. Hard.

Pulling up her shorts, she grabbed the knapsack and ran to her boat. Snapping the starter rope, she looked back as he rose to his hands and knees, moaning. She cussed until the motor cranked.

Expecting him to chase after her any second, she turned the tiller sharply and accelerated away from the bank just as he stood. Her hands shaking, she zipped up her pants and held her body tight with one arm. Wild-eyed, she looked out to sea and saw another fishing rig nearby, two men staring at her.

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