"WHAT JESSE DIDN'T SEE." By S.P.Eider (characters based on and inspired by the comic "Preacher")

Scene: Sam's Bar, Austin, Texas.
Time: A few years ago, or thereabouts.

Gus Wilson sits in the corner, considering whether his cloudy glass is half empty or half full. Ever the optimist, it is three years before the automobile accident that will leave Gus walking with a slight limp and calling everybody Dougal.

Behind the bar, Neville Biddle (who once rightly assumed that 'Neville's Bar' would not pull in the punters) notices that he is low on Smoky Bacon chips and resolves to visit the store tomorrow and stock up. Whilst there, he will meet Mary Harrison. Two years later she will become Mary Biddle and later still will come the pitter-patter of a little Biddle.

A thin man with a bent lip asks Julia Da Vinci for a plate of chips and a Bud'. Julia writes his order on the back of a flyer about religion as her dark Italian eyes glance across the crowded room. They come to rest on Jake Burrows. He sports a jaw so square and so rugged you could cut down trees with it. It is some time before Julia will discover that Jake actually has designs on her brother Antonio.

The man with the bent lip is called Henry. He is not a local man but shares a common trait with those that have been mentioned thus far. Irrelevance. It matters not that Henry will save the lives of four men and a small dashund called Apollo on a cold September morning, three months from now, simply by taking a leak in a police car's fuel tank.

We are in this establishment because of three people. One of them is already here, seated at a table. A young woman, short blond hair and possessed of the kind of beauty not often seen in real life. She's here alone, waiting for somebody. Somebody specific that is. Not a hopeful Mr. Somebody, imbued with the courage of Jack Daniels. Two such gentlemen (to use the term loosely) have already tried. One left with a broken heart. The other, a broken pinkie. Her outfit is like many of the clientele here - simple, with not much up top. Brown ankle length boot, blue denim jeans, a denim jacket and a white T-shirt, torn and tied to contain her ample chest and expose a smooth midriff. A flower in a bed of weeds, the woman's name is Tulip.

Staring intently at her beer bottle, so as to avoid the eye contact of any wannabe gardeners, Tulip does not immediately turn her head when the couple enter the bar. Looking back, she doesn't know what made her turn around that night. He wore no cologne and his footsteps were no more descriptive than any other. Whatever the reason, Tulip glances back and meets the gaze of The Man. A mop of dark hair sits on a handsome, intense face that has clearly seen much. He returns her gaze as he walks towards the bar, his arm around the shoulders of a young lady. Tulip wants him immediately. Her eyes follow The Man until he reaches the bar. For the first time, Tulip acknowledges the woman at his side. Long brown hair touches her bare shoulders, a simple black dress covers her slim frame.

"What," says Tulip to herself, "is he doing with that skinny slut!?" She decides to find out.

As Tulip approaches the pair, she hears his deep, resonant voice for the first time, asking the beanpole for a light.

"Sure baby," oozes the mop on stilts and begins to reach for her lighter.

A light appears and The Man closes his eyes as he gratefully draws on his cigarette. Opening his eyes, he sees two women. His companion, looking surprised. And Tulip, smiling the sweetest smile he has ever seen, the flame of her lighter still burning.

Introductions are made. The Man's name is Jesse. Conversation ensues, notable for the lack of contribution by Zoe, the flyweight, soon to be ex-girlfriend. As Tulip talks with Jesse, she feels something she has never felt before, not unlike an explosion inside her. She knows Jesse can see it. It is an hour before Tulip can drag herself away from the man that will change her life, the beer she consumed earlier will be denied it's liberty no longer. As she walks towards the ladies room, Tulip hears Zoe's voice telling Jesse she'll be right back and stilettoed footsteps that fall in time with her own close behind her.

Tulip smiles and enters the ladies room as two girls exit, clearly too young to be in the bar and clearly not caring. Tulip walks into a cubicle and does what needs to be done. Leaving the pine smelling toilet, she walks across to the large mirror and grins, not at her own reflection but that of Zoe who is standing at the door or the washroom. Zoe gazes back at Tulip in the mirror but does not return the blonde's grin. Instead, she turns a key, the rusty lock clicking shut, leaving the two women alone.

"It occurs to me," says Zoe, walking across the floor towards Tulip, "that there is some confusion regarding my boyfriend at the bar out there. You might have seen him. About so high, black hair, good looking and with me."

He smile on Tulip's face is gone, replaced by one that most would read clearly as saying, 'Don't fuck with me'.

"The only confusion I can see," says Tulip, "is what Jesse sees in a stick insect in a wig and a slightly larger vocabulary than her other invertebrate buddies."

"You bitch!!!" replies Zoe and brings her hand up to Tulip's face, her intentions obvious by the claw-like position of her fingers.

Tulip's hand moves just as fast and is instantly around Zoe's wrist.

"What?" asks Tulip, smiling again. "What was you gonna do, scratch out my eyes??"

Bending Zoe's arm back slightly, Tulip looks the suddenly nervous woman directly in the eyes, "Newsflash. You fight like a girl."

Zoe's face alters in an instant, the change from nervous anticipation to obvious agony is punctuated by a soft thump, the noise of Tulip's knee hitting Zoe right between the thighs. The mousy-brown babe groans as pain spreads like gossip in a small town from her crotch to the pit of her stomach. Tulip shakes her head and releases the girl's wrist, Zoe's free hand joining its left sided counterpart nursing her injured 'pride'.

"I think we're done here," says Tulip and turns to leave.

A smart girl would leave it at that. A smart girl would count her blessings. But Zoe's Ma and Pa never raised no smart girls. Pretty, yes, but smart…? Zoe's older sister, Delilah, had been crowned Miss Alabama on her 17th Birthday. In her acceptance speech, Delilah had thanked, her Ma, her Pa, God and the judges. She had then gone on to inform one of the judges she had left her favorite pink panties in his car and could he return them as soon as possible.

Zoe charges at Tulip's rear and jumps on the blonde like an animated backpack, wrapping her arms around Tulip's neck. Zoe's offensive lasts less time than it takes an earthworm to clean it's shoes as Tulip drives her right elbow back had and fast, drilling it into the soft gut of the unwanted monkey on her back. A sudden "OOOOooooffffff!!!! accompanies the strike, as does a blast of cold breath on Tulip's right ear. The room echoes with the clatter of Zoe's stilettos as they hit the floor, Zoe herself is bent double and breathing heavily, arms across her winded gut.

Tulip turns to face the gasping girl and says, "So, I guess we ain't done after all."

She grabs Zoe around the throat and pushes the spluttering girl across the floor, her stilettos offering no grip on the smooth surface. Zoe gasps as her back hits the wall hard, Tulip's hand still at her throat. Jesse's one-time honey attempts to pull the controlling hand away but Tulip's grip is like a child's around candy.

Bringing her face centimeters away from the wheezing Zoe, Tulip grins, "Here's how it works. If I win, you leave quietly and never cross Jesse's path again. You win, I do the same. Clear."

Zoe's eyes widen, a rare moment of common sense informing her, a little late perhaps, that things are not about to go her way.

"Clear?" repeats Tulip, her face impassive, her voice the first bite of an Popsicle.

Zoe nods as best she can given her position and Tulip's face returns to one of sucrose-coated innocence.

"Great," says the blonde. "Well, we better get started, hadn't we?"

Tulip removes her hand from Zoe's neck and surprises the worried girl by saying, "Tell you what. I'll give you the first shot. It's only fair, I've already had two."

At first, Zoe is uncertain what to do. She looks at Tulip like a mouse offered a ride in the mouth of Tiger. Tulip only smiles back and Zoe soon finds herself infuriated at the blonde woman's smug attitude. She slaps Tulip across the face, open handed, palm hitting cheek with the noise of a lion-tamer's whip. Tulip's head is knocked sideways with the blow and when she returns her gaze to Zoe, a red hand print is as clear on Tulip's left cheek as if she had wandered into a pre-school painting class.

"Not bad," says the blonde. "You're still falling into gender stereotyping though. Now that you've scratched and slapped me, what's left?"

For moment it looks as though Tulip has landed another blow, Zoe's face implies she is in some pain. Actually, the brown-haired girl is just trying to translate Tulip's previous comment into something her cheer-leading mind can comprehend. Noticing the woman's obvious difficulty, Tulip resolves to help Zoe out with a practical demonstration.

Balling her hand into a fist, Tulip delivers a powerful punch deep into Zoe's belly. Zoe grunts and slumps back against the wall, her arms again across her midsection. This leaves her pretty face unguarded, a gold-enveloped invitation to dance addressed to Tulip's fists. A right cross cracks into Zoe's cheek, knocking her head back against the graffiti covered wall. Stunned, Zoe can only gaze forward as Tulip's fist thuds into her nose, one, two, three quick jabs delivered with no more response from Zoe than a series of guttural moans.

"Come on Girl," says Tulip, reaching up with both hands and gripping Zoe's long brown hair. "If you don't start fightin' back, this is liable to turn very nasty."

Without waiting for Zoe to react, Tulip pulls the girl's head forward and down, simultaneously raising her knee up fast. A crunch echoes around the room, the like of which hasn't been heard in this washroom since all 300lbs of Maud Johnson sat down a little too fast back in '79. Releasing Zoe's hair, Tulip lets her stumble away and a stunned Zoe grabs the wall mounted wash basins to steady herself. She lifts her head slowly and gazes through blurred vision into the mirror, hardly recognizing the battered figure who looks back. Blood is flowing from both her lower lip and her nose, which is also leaning a lot more to the left than Zoe can remember.

"Still standing?" asks the unmarked Tulip. "I'm impressed girl! Most would have gone down after that."

Zoe turns to face the superior blonde.

"Bitch," she spits, spraying a mixture of blood and saliva as she does so.

"I don't think there's a need for that kind of language," replies Tulip as she lifts her boot swiftly between Zoe's legs.

Zoe yelps in agony, her hands dropping to her burning crotch. Once more, Tulip takes the fight south, a series of gut churning blows to Zoe's midsection. Each and every strike elicits an "ooooff" from Zoe, whose body jerks like an electric eel at a rave. Zoe's breathing is becoming more labored, any attempt to draw air into her lungs is curtailed by Tulip's fists playing percussion with her stomach muscles. Two successive knee-lifts to Zoe's midsection literally lift the girl off the floor and steal the final vestiges of breath from her.

Zoe drops to her knees, the rasping sound coming from her mouth the closest approximation she can attempt at breathing. Tears run from the corners of her eyes and mix with the blood already marking her face. Dragged to her feet by her hair, Zoe screams in pain as Tulip grabs her left arm and twists it viciously behind her. She screams louder as Tulip does the same with her other arm and charges her into the far wall. The last thing Zoe sees before impact is her own phone number, scrawled in blue ink alongside the promise of a good time.

Zoe's face hits the wall hard, her already misshapen nose taking the brunt of the impact. Unfortunately, it is not enough to knock her out, a state Zoe would almost welcome by now. Instead, she is held against the wall, Tulip forcing her arms further up her back, sending wave after wave of excruciating pain though her shoulders and upper arm muscles. Suddenly, Tulip's knee thumps into Zoe's left side causing the brown-haired girl to howl in helpless anguish. Tulip repeats the move on Zoe's right side to much the same response, soon establishing an almost jazz like rhythm, a hard strike to the kidneys, followed by the screeching cries of her victim.

As Zoe's moans grow weaker, Tulip exerts some self control. She releases the double armlock and completes her rout with a quick sidekick to the Zoe's butt, ensuring the heel of her boot hits just the right spot for maximum effect. Zoe drops to the washroom floor, sobbing and breathing heavily. Looking down, Tulip shakes her head and turns to leave. Approaching the door, a sound behind her causes Tulip to turn. She does so just in time to see the metal waste bin Zoe has thrown, less than a second before it hits her squarely in the face. The rim of the bin connects with the bridge of Tulip's nose and sends the blonde sprawling back for the first time in the fight. Seeing, at last, that Tulip is not indestructible, imbues Zoe with a renewed strength.

Slipping off her stilettos, Zoe walks across the cold floor towards a dazed Tulip. The blonde is shaking her head, aware that Zoe is approaching but unable to focus her thoughts enough to do anything about it. She hears Zoe say something about being head of the cheerleading squad whilst at school. The relevance of this statement is lost on Tulip until Zoe demonstrates the kind of high kick that only the most gymnastic of girl's can achieve. The slim brunette's leg flies upwards, it's only pit stop is the moment Zoe's bare heel thumps into Tulip's chin. Tulip's head snaps back, giving the blonde a quick glimpse of the moths dancing around the single light bulb that illuminates the room.

Lifting her dress above her waist, for ease of movement (and displaying the briefest of black g-strings whilst doing so), Zoe drives her knee into Tulip's gut like a bad driver backing into a garage. Tulip lurches forward, the air driven from her lungs. Looking at the stooped woman before her, Zoe powers both elbows simultaneously into the center of Tulip's back and the blonde finally drops, face first, to the floor.

Zoe is breathing hard, the elation of victory a surprisingly potent feeling. Potent, and all-too-addictive. Placing her bare foot just under the blonde's stomach, Zoe rolls Tulip onto her back, taking enormous pleasure at the look of pain and shock on Tulip's face. Reaching down, Zoe grips Tulip's ankles and lifts them upwards and outwards, one in each hand so as to hold the blonde's legs apart and leave her most sensitive area completely vulnerable. Standing before Tulip's splayed legs, Zoe lifts her right foot, allowing it to hover over the blonde's crotch, just long enough for the prostrate girl to know what is coming. Zoe then drops her foot hard, crushing her heel between Tulip's legs and bringing a groan of anguish from the blonde.

Zoe squeals with delight at the pain she is causing and forces her foot down harder, her bare heel crushing Tulip's sex. Still holding Tulip's legs apart, Zoe steps up onto her victim, lifting her own left leg so her full weight is being supported on Tulip's groin. She then starts to bounce gently, each time eliciting a grunt of torment from the seemingly beaten blonde.
Tulip is in agony and tries desperately to sit up and dislodge the stork-like bird upon her. Instead, Zoe's left foot kicks her full in the face and sends her head back to the floor, where it is then kept by the very same foot that now rests across her features, Zoe's bare sole smothering Tulip's mouth, nose and eyes. Relishing her dominance, Zoe begins to 'see-saw' her weight, alternating her balance equally, applying pressure, first to Tulip's pussy, then her face….and so on.

She keeps this up for a few minutes before suddenly jumping upwards and bringing her feet together, landing dead center in Tulip's exposed stomach.

Tulip jerks bolt upright with an, "OOOOoooooooooffffffff!!!! as the air is expelled instantly from her lungs.

Stepping off Tulip at last, Zoe smiles as the blonde can only curl herself into a ball, arms across her stomach, her breathing not unlike that of Darth Vader

"Now, if you'll excuse me," says Zoe, grinning like a schoolgirl with her first lingerie catalogue, "I'm going back to the bar to see my boyfriend."

"We ain't done yet," says a weak but defiant voice from the floor.

Slowly, like a butterfly emerging a cocoon, Tulip staggers to her feet. Her breathing is still noticeably drawn but her eyes are alight, almost unable to contain the passion that burns behind them. She knows Jesse is meant to be with her. Nothing, but nothing, is getting in her way. Especially not some skinny, lucky-shot punching, shop dummy.

If Zoe has a reaction to the suddenly upright Tulip, she does not have time to form an actual thought concerning it. Her first thought turns out to be, "ouch" as Tulip's boot finds it's way (without the aid of a map) to Zoe's pussy. Zoe is knocked upwards with the blow, such is the power behind it. The strikes that follow are all of equal fortitude, a left to the gut, a right cross into the jaw, an uppercut that knocks her teeth together with a bone snapping click, a knee to the pussy, blows to the breasts, kidneys, ribs. Tulip's attack is like an anatomy lesson, only with fists and feet and not a pointer.

Strike after strike hits home, without a response from Zoe, unless you count a series of grunts, moans, and guttural 'ooooff's. Tulip completes the rout with an efficient headbutt, that impacts like a cricket ball hitting stumps. And like a cricketeer in that very position, Zoe is out.

Tulip allows herself a brief smile, thinking of the dark haired man waiting for her at the bar.

"There's nothing like a bit of violence to work up an appetite," she thinks to herself.

Tulip lifts the unconscious Zoe off the floor by her arms and drags her into one of the cubicles. A weak sobbing noise is enough to indicate Zoe has rejoined the waking, although only just. It is enough for Tulip though.

Allowing Zoe to sink to her knees, in front of the toilet bowl, Tulip sits astride the beaten girl's back and holds her head inches above the water therein.

"Now," says Tulip to her captive audience. "We had a deal. I just want to make sure you remember the terms of that deal."

"Fuck you," gasps Zoe, the fear in her voice amplified by the echo effect of speaking into a toilet.

"I had a feeling you was gonna say that. I was hoping I wouldn't need to refresh your memory… still if refreshing is what it needs, refreshing is what it will get."

Placing one hand between Zoe's shoulders and the other on her neck, Tulip pushes down hard; forcing the squealing brunette's face into the toilet water.

Disinfectant stings Zoe's eyes, which, although she doesn't really appreciate it, is far more pleasant than the alternative. Nonetheless, Zoe quickly concedes to Tulip's demands and the blonde releases the brunette; her face an almost clown-like mess of make-up and blood laced with a distinctly pine-fresh aroma.
Jesse looks at his watch as he asks Tulip, "I wonder what happened to Zoe? She's been gone an hour."

Tulip leans against Jesse and sighs. It's the first time he's mentioned his ex- since she returned.

"She's washing her hair," says Tulip with a grin.