She never asked to be invited in. We never invited her. Instead, we treated her as we would a stray dog. We left food outside for her and would sometimes sit out and talk with her whenever she was in the mood not to bolt. We probably should have called the authorities to take her away, but they would have never caught her in all the fields. We named her Kansas, because thats where we lived and we didnt care to be creative.
After awhile, we noticed that she started looking inside the back door into the kitchen whenever it was open. My son was attracted to her, whether because he thought she was pretty or because she was just that damn fascinating. Whenever he saw her standing by the door, he would open it and tried to soothe her into the house. I disapproved, considering the smell of her, but she never came inside anyway. At least, not for a few weeks.
We judged that Kansas was about as old as our son Judah, who was sixteen at the time. She never gave us any personal information in those rare moments when she spoke. We werent the prying type anyway, and it seemed best that if the police were after her, we could claim ignorance. Besides, it was hard to decipher what she said because she spoke as though she had been raised in a church her whole life. Sometimes she would just spout out scripture, most of which was from revelations.
One day my wife was baking cookies, and the smell wafted outside. This brought Kansas to her usual spot near the screen door, where she would most often just sit and watch. However, this day she was in a different mood. When Judah opened the door, she came in without him even asking, moving sharply as if she knew it was now or never that she would get the nerve. She stood inside the doorway, stunned for a few seconds either by her surroundings or by her own audacity. My wife stared at her quietly, keeping her face emotionless, even though I could tell by her body that she was nervous. I put down the paper I was reading and stared at Kansas sternly.
Sit down, girl. Dont go searching the house, I said, pulling out a chair from the table. She looked at me with dazed brown eyes, and then followed my hand to the seat. She sat down slowly. Judah was not far behind her, his entire body tense with the desire to please her. I could tell the next sentence out of his mouth was going to be dumb.
Isnt it nice inside, Kansas? he asked, smiling at her. She frowned, but nodded her dusty head and looked towards the kitchen area. I coughed irritably and stuck my paper back in my face. The earthy smell of her was overwhelming. I couldnt even smell the cookies anymore. Youve been inside before, right Kansas? I glared over my paper at my son, but couldnt help but take amusement in the annoyed look on the girls face.
Yes. Drink please, Judah, she said, obviously wanting him to stop asking questions. Judah jumped up from the table and went to find a cola for his infatuation. My wife took the cookies out of the oven and set them on the stove. Kansas eyed them hungrily as Judah set the drink down in front of her. Needing some sort of positive response from her, my son smiled brightly and opened it for her, sitting down to watch her intently. She took the drink and ignored him for the cookies. I saw Judahs smile falter.
Mary, take Kansas upstairs to get washed, I said, trying to break up his effort. My wife stared at me rather unsteadily, but nodded. You know how to use a shower, dont you, Kansas?
Kansas nodded unhappily. Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.
Exactly. Go, be cleansed. I shooed her away with a gesture of my hand, and she stood to follow my wife. Judah looked after her longingly, and I felt a cringe of guilt at having made him so socially awkward. Being home-schooled so far from society, he couldnt make any friends save this dirty girl. Now I had to face the consequences for him by letting the mutt inside.
Mary came down the stairs a few minutes later with a disgusted look on her face. She was holding the remains of Kansas clothes, and she promptly threw them into the sink and turned the water on. I saw dust fly up from the basin. What is she going to wear then? I asked.
Ill get her some of my clothes, but she cant wear these, she said, and I shuddered.
Giving her food is one thing, but clothes? Shell think she has rights to everything. We arent keeping her in this house.
Well then, what are we going to do with her? Keep her outside chained to a post? Its not like youve done anything to get rid of her.
Fine. I stood up and went to the phone. Im sure we can keep her distracted enough now to keep her here until someone else can take her.
Judas wailed. How can you be so heartless? he said, scrambling to unplug the phone cord. I grabbed him by his shoulder and yanked him away.
Son, shell be better off.
No, she wont! He ran out of the room and up the stairs. I heard his bedroom door slam as I dialed the police. Mary sighed and watched with disapproving eyes.
Nine-one-one, whats the emergency? the dispatcher asked.
Yes, I have a girl on my property that needs to be taken away.
Is she trespassing sir?
Yes maam, but she doesnt seem to be a threat.
Can you give me a description of the girl?
Shes about fifteen years old and has brown hair and blue eyes. Shes about five and a half feet tall.
Okay sir. Ill send someone right over.
Thank you. I hung up the phone and smiled at Mary. Theyll just take her to an orphanage or something.
Oh yes, shell be much better off there, Mary said, starting to scrape the cookies off of the sheet violently.
Shouldnt you get her some clothes? I asked, sitting back down. Her grip on the spatula tightened, and I wondered if she was going to throw it at me. Instead, she smacked it down and went back upstairs. Its not like they are going to euthanize her, I called up after her.
Mary and Kansas came down the stairs several minutes later. I was surprised at the change in the girl. Freshly scrubbed, she looked like an actual human. She sat down, and my wife handed her several cookies to munch on. Kansas soaked in the smell of them slowly, smiling for once. The first bite seemed to be heaven to her. She looked completely at ease, and suddenly I was ashamed that she was going to be dragged away.
The police pulled into the driveway twenty minutes later. Kansas ears perked up at the sound of cars as Judas came tramping down the stairs to get in the way. He was panicked. Dont let them get her, Dad! Please!
Kansas leapt up from the chair, knocking it down in the process. She ran towards Mary and hid behind her for a few seconds, trapped. Mary turned and put her arms around her tightly. Kansas screamed and tried to squirm away, even though the gesture was meant to be a hug. Someone knocked on the door.
For a few seconds all I could do was stand there. I realized that I had done the wrong thing, and I hated to face the consequences of it. I wasnt even sure what to do. The decision was taken away from me when the doorbell rang, and Kansas finally made it out of Marys arms. She grabbed the nearest thing to her, and before anyone could react, she bashed a bowl into my wifes head. Judas cried out as I stood in shock. Mary crumpled to the floor as the door was broken in.
The blast from the gun was deafening. It echoed inside my head, bouncing off of my senses. It was decisive and deadly, and was the only thing I could hear. By the time I realized what had happened, an entire squad was in my kitchen, looking over the scene. One of them asked me if I was okay, but I couldnt answer him. I could only think that I had caused the death of a human being.