Swan Dive! Ch. 42: Becky Rules!

“I miss Kim,” Sam Bennett said.

Tiny sparkling tears forming in the corners of Sam’s eyes reminded Ruby Arenas of little diamonds unearthed from an underground mine.

“We’ll get her back, Sam,” Ruby said.

“Where did she go?”

“Deep inside herself,” Ruby said.

  “So who is Becky?”

“Becky is a figment of Kim’s imagination who protects Kim from harm,” Ruby said. “Becky goes too far. She doesn’t know when to stop.”

Sam wiped his eyes with the backs of big hands covered in skin dry as sun-baked beach sand.

“Kim is always nice to me,” he said.

Ruby watched a rising black and purple cloud appear on the otherwise bright horizon in the morning sky over Clearwater Beach. Foggy darkness swirled like a waterspout, spinning until Ruby saw the face of her own protector appear in the smoky haze – Santa Muerte, the Mexican death saint who now loomed at the zenith of a pastel sky. Santa Muerte spoke to Ruby in a silky murmur so subtle and sharp her tone could cut your throat without pain, draining you of breath and being before you knew what sliced you.

“How might I help you, child?” Santa Muerte asked.

“Help me bring Kim home,” Ruby said.

“You’ll owe me if I do,” Santa Muerte said.

“I already owe you,” Ruby said. “For guiding me since we first met.”

A tender look passed over Santa Muerte’s normally somber features. Beneath the hood of her scarlet robe her eyes flared like burning coal fire embers on a frosty night. Santa Muerte remained calm. An abrupt haunting wind piped like an organ in a funeral dirge.

“I’ve been with you since before your first breath,” Santa Muerte said. “As I was to your mother and to her mother before her, I am your eternal godmother.”

 “I cherish the lessons you taught me,” Ruby said. “I’m learning control and discipline. I lost it when I killed that college boy. I don’t want to hurt anybody anymore.”

“You helped that boy disappear from a life of cruelty,” Santa Muerte said. “You witnessed him purposely kill a gentle dolphin. You saw him laugh about it. You merely helped Mother Nature even the score. We all die anyway, Ruby. One day. One way or the other.”

Now Sam spoke.

“Who are you whispering to?” he asked.

“My spiritual guide,” Ruby said.

“Is Becky Kim’s spiritual guide?”

“In a way,” Ruby said. “The wrong way.”

Afraid of what might come, Sam trembled.

“Will you talk with Becky?” he asked. “Will you ask her to leave Kim alone?”

“I will,” Ruby said.

“That’s good,” Sam said. “Because here she comes.”

Wearing an orange, green and yellow rhinestone bikini top and matching bottom that looked like fruit-flavored hard candy sparkling in a fragile glass dish, Becky strolled the beach like a model strutting the runway during Fashion Week in Milan. Flaming red framed sunglasses with blood orange-colored lenses glittered. A gold cross flashy and bright enough to make Jesus squint dangled from a thick braided chain around her neck. Gold hoop earrings big enough to tempt a seal to jump swung from tanned earlobes. Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes –really – shimmered like a tropical oasis mirage in sweltering sun.

“She scares me,” said Sam as he fled flapping his arms until he disappeared down the beach.

“Scares me, too,” Ruby said.

“Well, well, well, look who’s here,” Becky said. “Want to get high?”

“I’m already high, Kim,” Ruby said. “High on life.”

“Listen to Miss High and Mighty riding around on her rainbow-colored unicorn like she’s better than the rest of us,” Becky said. “And stop calling me Kim. Kim’s dead. Becky rules.”

“Becky doesn’t exist, Kim,” Ruby said. “Come out, come out wherever you are.”

Becky stepped in with a roundhouse haymaker, swiveling her hips behind the power blow. Leaning back out of range, Ruby easily slipped the punch. Becky went face-forward into the sand. Extending her hand, Ruby said, “Let me help you up.”

Grasping both of Ruby’s wrists, Becky came up with an awkward front kick. Easily turning her torso, Ruby deftly reached across her chest with her right hand and firmly grasped the edge of Becky’s right hand. Turning that hand toward her, Ruby gently controlled Becky’s arm and body. Becky dropped to her knees.

“It’s nice to be nice,” Ruby said.

“Says Little Miss Priss,” Becky said.

“Sticks and stones and all that, Becky,” said Ruby as she turned to leave. Within seconds lightning flashed, striking the empty lifeguard stand beside Becky’s head, splintering wood and scattering embers on Becky’s hair as she screamed.

“I’m burning! I’m burning.”

“You sound like the wicked witch in the movie,” Ruby said. “You remember where meanness got her.”

“Kim is mine,” Becky said.

“And you are mine,” Ruby said, feeling the awesome power of Santa Muerte energize her more than ever.

“By the way, Wonder Woman,” said Becky. “Where’s that he-man who rescued me from that sinking ship of fools?”

“I suggest you leave Sam alone,” Ruby said.

“Not until I personally thank that handsome birdman hunk for saving my life,” Becky said.

Sam Bennett watched from behind a rock a distance up the beach. Again he flapped his arms. For a split second he sensed he might lift off. Progress, he thought, is like peeing in the ocean. Every little bit helps.

Sam Bennett felt ready to fly.