“Tiras, I’d like to go to Hiram’s house, just to make sure that everything is all right,” Hercules suggested.
Tiras squinched up his face uneasily and wrung his hands together nervously as he had earlier that evening. “I don’t know, Hercules. I find this all hard to believe.”
Salmoneus looked at Tiras questioningly, but Hercules quieted him before he could say anything. “Salmoneus has been a friend of mine for a long time, Tiras. I would never doubt his words.”
“I realize that, and I don’t mean to misjudge what he has told us here…it’s just that Hiram is an outstanding member of our village. Everyone knows him. Sure he can be a little gruff at times, but he’s not known to hurt anyone.”
“We’re not looking to judge anyone either, Tiras. Salmoneus and I would simply like to make sure that Kirra is fine. If you could escort us to Hiram’s home I’ll present myself there under a gesture of goodwill just to see that she’s safe.”
The village leader seemed uncomfortable with the idea and squirmed a bit. “Under false pretenses…”
“It would not be under false pretenses,” Hercules told him with a hint of impatience in his voice. “This is a gesture of goodwill, and I’m sure her parents would appreciate our concern for her welfare.”
“Well,” Tiras responded slowly, “I guess it couldn’t hurt.” He pointed at Salmoneus with a stern finger. “I just don’t think you’re friend should come along.”
“Why not?” Salmoneus fought back. “I’m as concerned as he is.”
“Salmoneus, it’s all right,” Hercules said, trying to calm him.
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll handle it. Everything will be okay.” Hercules placed a hand on his shoulder, but it did nothing to comfort Salmoneus. He sighed dejectedly and nodded, crossing his arms across his chest. Hercules, feeling his friend’s pain, turned to Tiras and commanded he lead the way.
She tried to lay curled upon her bed in the fetal position, her back to the wall and her eye on the door, hoping that it would lessen the pain in her abdomen some, but it did little. There were many nights she’d spent like this, holding her stomach against the raging fears inside her. This night was different, though. There was fear there, but this time there was real pain. Hiram had hit her…hard.
She’d been locked in her room for nearly half an hour, praying that her mother was all right. The screaming and hollering had stopped only a short while ago and her mother had gone silent. Kirra didn’t know what happened. She could hear Hiram roaming about the house, but she didn’t know what he was up to. Her terror for whatever else he may have planned for them coursed through her, mixing with the pain in her stomach. Tears slid silently off the side of her face, wetting her pillow and stinging the fresh bruise around her left eye. She still cradled her injured arm, but was thankful that Hiram hadn’t broken it after all.
Along with her feelings of terror, guilt was slowly beginning to creep its way in. This had all been her fault. How could she have been so stupid? Her mother told her she should not go, but Kirra had been stubborn. Now, look who was paying the price for her stubbornness? Hiram had taken nearly all his wrath out on her mother and it was all her own fault. She knew it was. Fresh tears began to flow unabatedly and Kirra hugged herself tighter, feeling like the most horrible person in the world.
A sound of voices outside the house brought her out of her misery for a short moment. Her room was situated closest to the front of their house, her bed nearly next to the front door except for the wall separating her from the kitchen. Knowing exactly who was paying them a visit had never been a difficult task for her. And by the sound of his voice, Kirra knew it was Hercules. She sat up in bed excitedly, her tears and pain temporarily forgotten, as a knock on the door reverberated through the house. As they stood outside, waiting for someone to open the door, Hercules watched Tiras uncomfortably shuffle his feet. He noticed that his hands were once again being wrung in nervousness. Hercules wondered if perhaps Tiras wasn’t afraid of Hiram. By the way he was acting, he could see that Tiras was terrified of him. If he was so scared of him, why would he cover for him?
“You okay, Tiras?” Hercules asked suspiciously.
“I’m fine, Hercules,” Tiras responded with a not too convincing smile. “Thank you.”
Only seconds later, the door opened and a hefty man carrying a lighted lamp stepped out onto the creaking wooden steps. “How can I help you gentleman?” he asked gruffly. He looked Hercules over curiously then he settled on Tiras with a questioning look. “Ah, Tiras…is there a problem?”
There is a slight tremor to his voice as he responds. “Uh, yes—I mean no, Hiram. I’ve come with a friend. This is Hercules.”
Hercules forced the best smile on his face that he could. Salmoneus had been right. Even from this distance, Hercules could smell the liquor on the man so strong, it was as if he’d bathed in ale. “It’s nice to meet you, sir.” Hercules held out a hand in greeting, but it was never returned.
Hiram looked down at Hercules outstretched hand as if it were some loathsome creature reaching out to grab at him. “Hercules, huh?” was his only response.
“Yes, sir,” Hercules said, dropping his hand back to his side. “I’ve come inquiring about your stepdaughter, Kirra—“
“Kirra,” he said disgustedly. “She’s a pain in my ass. Ya want her? I’ll pay you handsomely for her.”
Hercules could feel his resolve being tested the more Hiram opened his mouth and let his filth come out. Though he easily thought of several quick retorts, he decided to just let the man’s words slide off his back. He wanted to make sure Kirra was safe and goading the idiot standing before him would not do him any good. Straining to keep his voice and tone level, Hercules said, “I met your stepdaughter at the festivities this evening. She left before I could say goodbye. I just wanted to make sure that she got home safely.”
Hiram grunted in reply, making it obvious that he didn’t much care for anything Hercules had to say and that standing here talking to him was a big waste of his time. “I wouldn’t worry about the little she-demon. I made sure she got home in one piece.”
“I’m sure you did,” Hercules replied, leaving Hiram to guess at exactly how he meant it. “If you don’t mind, I would like to speak with her. Like I said, I didn’t get the chance to say goodbye.”
Kirra listened intently, her ear pressed to the wall. Her heart was racing in her chest not only from fear, but also at the idea of Hercules coming to her rescue. She imagined him pushing through the door, knocking Hiram’s fat slob of a body to the ground and calling out to her. In fact, she could almost hear him: “Kirra!” He’d come charging into her room, ripping the door off its hinges, mindless of the locks that imprisoned her in her room. He’d come to her, lift her up in his arms and whisk her away from all this madness. So intense was the imagery in her mind that Kirra was poised to scream out his name. But the sound of Hiram’s voice ripped into her wonderful little fairytale.
“Well, you’ll have to come back tomorrow. Right now, she’s fast asleep in her bed.” Craning his head slightly to the left, he raised his voice and added, “At least, she better be.”
Noticing his action, Hercules’ eyes shifted only for a second to the wall of the house. He heard a creaking noise and wondered if Kirra’s bedroom wasn’t right on the other side of that wall. She was probably listening to everything they were saying and Hiram knew she would be. “Well, you see, that’s the problem,” he said to Hiram, but upped his voice just enough that he was sure it would carry. “I’m leaving tonight for Attilas, which is several miles north of here and I won’t be returning for quite some time. That’s why I’d like to see her tonight, if I can.”
“Well, that’s an awful pity, Mr. Hercules, ‘cause she ain’t comin’ out and you ain’t comin’ in. Being Hercules and all, I’m sure you’ll respect me and my family’s privacy.”
Kirra smiled, knowing now that Hercules was going to be the hero she knew him to be and help her. Hiram would soon be a distant memory and she and her mother would be safe.
How easy it would be to shove him aside, enter the man’s house against his will and seek Kirra out. If she was hurt by Hiram’s hand, Hercules would be justified in his actions. Of course, if she was in her room fast asleep like Hiram said, his actions would be considered criminal. Hercules sighed as he realized that he was now in the same predicament as Salmoneus. His instinct told him that things weren’t right here and something should be done about it, but, as Salmoneus had said, it wasn’t his place. He didn’t have much to base his suspicions on besides Salmoneus’ story and Hiram’s attitude toward his own stepdaughter. But, he’d spoken to the village leader and confronted Hiram as best he could without letting accusations fly. There really wasn’t much else he could do. If Kirra was being hurt by this man, there was really only one person who could help her and that was herself.
Hercules hung his head and said, “Of course. I understand.”
Kirra felt her heart sink and her stomach ache in fear. He can’t, she told herself. He can’t just walk away. He has to do something. She shut her eyes and began to pray to the gods, tears spilling out onto her cheeks. Would the gods hear her? Would they even care?
“I would appreciate it if you would do me one favor before I leave, though,” Hercules continued even as Hiram groaned in annoyance. He could only hope that Kirra was listening closely.
“And what would that be?” he griped.
“Remember that although Kirra may not be your flesh-and-blood daughter, she is your stepdaughter,” Hercules said, his face stern and his eyes staring intently into Hiram’s. “She deserves to be treated with respect as such. She is your responsibility, a member of your family, not a piece of merchandise you sell off to the highest bidder.”
“I don’t have to listen to this from you,” he growled, waving his hand at Hercules, dismissing him. “Tiras, is this what you bring people over to my house for —- to insult me?!”
Tiras mumbled some response, but Hercules never let him finish. “From what I’ve seen and heard here tonight, the only one being insulted is your stepdaughter. If you tried, you could make some changes in your life and try to be a better person, someone Kirra could be proud to call father.”
“Tiras!” Hiram yelled, pointing a finger at Hercules. “Get this half-breed off my land!”
“Hercules,” Tiras quickly said. “Perhaps we should leave. I don’t want any trouble.”
Hercules ignored Tiras and raised his voice, making sure that Kirra could hear him if she was listening. “Hiram, do me a favor and tell Kirra I said to be brave, because right now the only hero she has is herself.”
“Don’t worry, Hercules,” Hiram sneered as he turned his back on them, reentering the house. “I can promise you she’ll hear from me.” With that, the door slammed in their faces.
Tiras began to agonize over the events that had just played out. He could see a storm brewing itself up for Endor. Things would no longer be calm and peaceful around the village because of this. “This is not good, Hercules. Do you realize the repercussions of what you…of what just happened?”
Hercules turned to Tiras in anger. Hercules could see that Tiras wasn’t as blind as he’d like people to believe. “You don’t like trouble, Tiras?” Hercules pointed to the closed door and said, “Then why haven’t you done something about the trouble stirring in that house? I may not have enough proof to make any accusations or even to stop what I believe is happening, but you know what’s going on there.”
“Hercules, I don’t—“
“Save it!” the demi-god shouted. “I’m not an idiot, Tiras. I see it in your face. I see it in the way you react to Hiram’s bullying. And that’s just what he is, isn’t he? A bully. He bullies you into keeping your mouth shut.”
Anger was beginning to show through Tiras’ worry. “That’s not the way it is, at all! You are misjudging things here, Hercules. It isn’t your place.”
“No, it’s never anybody’s place, is it?” Hercules stared long and hard at the timid village leader, until he was sure he got his point across. He watched Tiras hang his head low, but never heard what he wanted to hear—an acknowledgement from him that he knew more than he was willing to reveal. “If you are any kind of leader, Tiras, you’ll do something about this before it gets out of hand. For the sake of Kirra and her mother, you’ll do something.” Hercules waited for some kind of reaction from him, but there was nothing. He wasn’t going to give in. His fear of “trouble” kept him in his place, just where Hiram wanted him.
He felt utterly helpless. All the power granted him from Zeus was not enough. The last time he remembered feeling this helpless was when his family died. There was nothing he could do then and there was nothing he could do now. If Hercules prayed, he would have uttered a small prayer for Kirra’s safety, but he knew all the begging in the world wouldn’t force Zeus to lend his hand. Sighing, Hercules turned from Tiras and walked away into the darkness of the night.
The only hero she has is herself. Kirra sat back down on the bed, thinking over what Hercules said. How could she be her own hero? And if she was, how would she stop Hiram from hurting her mother and herself again? As much as she wanted to, she couldn’t blame Hercules for leaving her there. It was always the same situation. Whenever someone realized what was going on inside their house, they wanted to help. But, either Hiram would intimidate them into submission or, in Hercules’ case, he would make sure they had nothing to go on but vague suspicions.
Hiram was a bully. It wasn’t until she’d heard Hercules use the word that she realized it was true. He had bullied his way into their lives, bullied his way between her and her mother and bullied his pathetic way of life on them. Now, on what she considered one of the most important days of her life, he’d bullied his way into that, too and ruined everything. Why did he want to be so cruel?
There was a sound at her bedroom door that startled her. She could hear a key being worked into the lock and her heart began to race. When the door opened, she wasn’t surprised to see Hiram standing there. The look on his face was pure hatred as he closed the door behind him.
“Your little boyfriend was here, but I guess you know that already. Don’t you want to know what he was doing here?” She knew what was coming, but was helpless to stop it. She shook her head ‘no’ knowing it was futile. He would tell her anyway.
“He just wanted to make sure you were okay,” he said with a sarcastic childish whine. Then his tone turned contemptuous. “The sap...and people call him a hero. He makes me want to puke.” He walked closer to Kirra, taking in the wretched look of fear on her face…but wait…there was something else there. It was anger. “Oh, what’s the matter, Kirra, don’t want me talking about your little lover boy like that, huh?”
“Shut up,” she muttered under her breath.
“Is this anything like that other little boy you were interested in? You know, the one I ran off? Haven’t seen his skinny hide since.”
Kirra forced herself to look up at him with angry eyes. “You leave him alone. At least he’s human.” She knew she was going to pay for that one, but she said it anyway. It took less than a second for the back of Hiram’s hand to make contact with her face. Kirra fell back onto the bed, covering the red welt she could feel forming on her left cheek, but she refused to cry.
With rage in his eyes, Hiram reached down and grabbed at her ponytail, yanking her back into a sitting position. Ugly thoughts were coursing through his mind as he imaged some way to get even with her. “What kind of cute little fantasies did you have about that sap? Come on, Kirra, what kind of things did you imagine him doing to you?! Tell me!”
Kirra cried out, the hate she felt for him voicing itself. “Shut up, you bastard!!”
“Did you let him touch you?”
Kirra squirmed, trying to break free of his grasp on her. She scratched at the hand that held onto her hair. “I hate you!”
Hiram’s voice was becoming thick and raspy. The more he talked, the closer he brought his face to hers. She could feel his hot, rancid breath on her cheek, making her nauseous. “Where did he touch you, Kirra? Did he touch your breast?”
In her struggle to get free, she never saw his hand reach out to grab her. The second she felt his hand on her body, she screamed. A sudden, blinding fear raced through her heart. For an instant, she became completely feral, her mind encompassed in fear and rage. She managed to rip herself from his grasp and attack him with all she had. Her nails and teeth became dangerous weapons, and soon Hiram was the one screaming.
But for all the might sudden fear had brought to her, Hiram was still bigger and stronger than she was. Before she knew it, Hiram had picked her up and threw her back onto her bed. The back of her head struck the headboard and a searing pain shot through her skull. Though in pain, Kirra opened her eyes to look for another window of attack, but could barely see Hiram standing over her.
“That’ll teach you to bite me, bitch!” she heard Hiram say as if from a thousand miles away. “I’m going to teach you a lesson you won’t soon forget.” As her vision swam before her eyes, Kirra watched with growing fear as Hiram removed the sash at his waist that held his pants up.
Meriba groped along the floor until she could easily reach the corner of her bed. Using its stability to hold her up, she managed to lift herself to a standing position. She felt a terrible pain in her chest and feared that one of her ribs was broken. But, she didn’t have time to care for it. Her daughter needed her. It was Kirra’s screaming that had roused her.
She walked as fast as she could to the kitchen, the pain keeping her from moving faster than she wanted to. On the kitchen table was a knife—the same knife Hiram had used to threaten her with earlier.
Meriba picked up the knife and turned back around. Kirra’s room was not much farther away. Terrified at the sound in her daughter’s voice, she vowed that Hiram would no longer control them. His reign of terror would end tonight.
Things had gone so wrong. Before she had even awoke from her warm bed, the Fates must have decided how this day would turn out. In the time that she traveled away from her home, sometimes running as fast as her shaky frame would carry her, she thought about all the different ways this day could have changed if only she had stayed home and not gone out. She would probably be fast asleep now in her own bed, not shivering out here in the cold…and not shivering in fear. But, where would she be? Stuck with Hiram, putting up with his ranting and raving at night just because dinner wasn’t right when he wanted it or because it didn’t taste just right. Too much spice…not enough spice…you didn’t pull up the vegetables I want...you didn’t wash my clothes…come here, girl…I’m gonna teach you a lesson you won’t soon forget...’
She shoved the thought and the sound of his voice in her head away with a protesting groan. She hugged herself against the cold air that seemed to keep getting colder, welcoming the feel of the warm tears on her cheeks. It had been a warm day and the night had not been so cold earlier in the evening. Why was it that she was so cold now?
What was she going to do? She was all alone with no place to go, no one to turn to. But, she had to stop thinking about herself. Why should she be worrying about herself when her mother was the one who was really all alone? How was she going to make it? Who was going to take care of her now? She remembered her mother’s words: “Don’t worry about me, Kirra! Leave now! It’s the only way!” Meriba, her face bloodied and bruised, had shoved a sack of Kirra’s things at her and urged her daughter out the door even as Kirra begged her not to. How long ago did she drop that sack in the woods? She couldn’t remember. It had just slipped out of her arms as she ran and she’d had no time to stop and pick it up.
Did you let him touch you...where did he touch you, Kirra...I’m gonna teach you a lesson...
“Shut up!” She screamed in agony, dropping her face into her hands as she cried. She wiped at her face, trying to clear away the tears from her eyes, and wiped her nose on the sleeve of her blouse. Just as her hands became visible in front of her face, the clouds parted, revealing rays of moonlight that filtered through the trees above and showered over her. The moonlight also revealed the blood on her hands.
Her shivering intensified to the point where she felt her entire body begin to shake. She hyperventilated in sheer terror, madly scrambling to the small creek she was lucky enough to have stopped near. Nearly immersing herself into the freezing water, Kirra scrubbed the blood from her hands. She threw water onto her face and through her hair, washing away any trace of the blood that was there.
It was a few minutes before she could force herself back into a standing position and slowly make her way to the bank of the small creek. The freezing water dripped from her hands and face and from her clothes where it had gotten wet. But, she didn’t care. She couldn’t feel anymore. She couldn’t think anymore. Bringing her legs up to her chest, she wrapped herself up in her own arms and just tried to keep warm, rocking her body back and forth to keep moving. Kirra laid her face down onto her knees and stopped crying.
It was a clear, pleasantly cool night. The stars twinkled brightly up above. On any other night, Hercules would have been able to appreciate those things. The cool weather would have been a welcome change after all the recent muggy nights he’d spent. He would have slept like a baby. Tonight, somehow, those things didn’t seem to have any affect on him. He’d sat up for a long while, even as Salmoneus slept, and thought long and hard about the decision he’d made. He still wasn’t sure if it was the right one, but at the time, he didn’t feel he had any other choice. He felt like the pint-sized school kid, never knowing quite what to do or say in the face of the bully who always picked on him. Only when the confrontation between him and the bully was over with did he think of how he should have done or said things. The comparison was lame, considering the difference between himself and Hiram, but as he sat there mulling it over in his head, he wished he had done things differently. Even Salmoneus had thought so.
He remembered that Salmoneus had waited for him right outside the tavern where Hercules had last seen him. He’d stood up immediately, anxiously awaiting to hear from Hercules what had happened. It had occurred to Hercules to stop and turn away from Salmoneus so he wouldn’t have to explain, but he’d forced himself on.
“Well?” Salmoneus anxiously asked.
Hercules stopped in front of him, the look on his face very telling of his emotions. “There wasn’t
much I could do.”
“What do you mean, there was nothing you could do?” he responded angrily, his concern for his
new friend showing clearly on his face. “Hercules...you’re Hercules! Bust down his door—“
“Salmoneus, as simple as that seems...it just isn’t that simple!” He turned himself away from
Salmoneus to hide the anger in his eyes. There was no point in being angry with the salesman. This
was as beyond him as it was Hercules. “I wish I could have busted down his door, forced my way
in...as much as I wanted to, Salmoneus, it wouldn’t have been right.”
Salmoneus shook his head at Hercules, not understanding. “I don’t see where there’s any right or
He turned back to Salmoneus and said, “I had no hard proof to make those kinds of accusations or
to demand anything of her stepfather. If this were all some big misunderstanding—“
“What I saw was no misunderstanding, Hercules,” he said calmly.
Hercules could only stare at him for several seconds, feeling this dizzying sensation of spiraling
downward. He felt lightheaded and his stomach churned. He understood, even though he never
literally spoke the words, that Salmoneus was questioning his judgement. He was telling him, in
effect, that Hercules had made a mistake; he should have done something. Hercules responded
both to what Salmoneus said and to what he meant, “I realize that, Salmoneus. Don’t you think I
feel terrible enough?”
“She needs our help…she needs your help.”
“I did what I could, Salmoneus,” Hercules said with a sigh. “We just have to trust that Kirra is
brave enough and smart enough to handle the situation on her own.”
“And if she can’t?”
“I think she may have been listening in on our conversation. I tried to give her what words of
encouragement I could. I can only hope that she heard me and that she understands.” Hercules
stared off into the distance, back in the direction he’d just come from. “My heart goes out to her.”
Hercules stopped in front of him, the look on his face very telling of his emotions. “There wasn’t much I could do.”
“What do you mean, there was nothing you could do?” he responded angrily, his concern for his new friend showing clearly on his face. “Hercules...you’re Hercules! Bust down his door—“
“Salmoneus, as simple as that seems...it just isn’t that simple!” He turned himself away from Salmoneus to hide the anger in his eyes. There was no point in being angry with the salesman. This was as beyond him as it was Hercules. “I wish I could have busted down his door, forced my way in...as much as I wanted to, Salmoneus, it wouldn’t have been right.”
Salmoneus shook his head at Hercules, not understanding. “I don’t see where there’s any right or wrong here.”
He turned back to Salmoneus and said, “I had no hard proof to make those kinds of accusations or to demand anything of her stepfather. If this were all some big misunderstanding—“
“What I saw was no misunderstanding, Hercules,” he said calmly.
Hercules could only stare at him for several seconds, feeling this dizzying sensation of spiraling downward. He felt lightheaded and his stomach churned. He understood, even though he never literally spoke the words, that Salmoneus was questioning his judgement. He was telling him, in effect, that Hercules had made a mistake; he should have done something. Hercules responded both to what Salmoneus said and to what he meant, “I realize that, Salmoneus. Don’t you think I feel terrible enough?”
“She needs our help…she needs your help.”
“I did what I could, Salmoneus,” Hercules said with a sigh. “We just have to trust that Kirra is brave enough and smart enough to handle the situation on her own.”
“And if she can’t?”
“I think she may have been listening in on our conversation. I tried to give her what words of encouragement I could. I can only hope that she heard me and that she understands.” Hercules stared off into the distance, back in the direction he’d just come from. “My heart goes out to her.”
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