Most Beautiful Girl
MOST BEAUTIFUL GIRL
Dallas G. Releford
I’ll never forget the first time I saw Elizabeth Barber. Somehow the memories of those days sometimes seem dark and clouded but I also have memories and recollections that aren’t so dim and mysterious. The first time I met her is pretty clear now although vague in some ways. I was in the second grade at a local country school and it was recess. I’d decided to stay inside and work at the blackboard because it was mid-January and it was really cold outside. While busy at the blackboard figuring out some math problems that the teacher had left for me to work on, I suddenly became aware of someone behind me long before a soft, warm hand firmly grasped my shoulder.
I turned around slowly to come face to face with a very beautiful girl about my own age with brown hair, brown eyes and light complexion. She had a good figure and I noticed it, even at that young age. I’ll admit that I didn’t know what the attraction was or why I felt that way about her but suddenly I had butterflies in my stomach, ants in my pants and my heart was made of lead.
She seemed excited about meeting me too although I never understood why. I never figured myself to be a very attractive person and I’ve always been very shy, especially around beautiful girls. She didn’t seem to care that I was shy and immediately began talking to me just as if we had known each other forever. I remember that day as if it happened yesterday, even the words that came from her soft, pink, warm lips. That was one of her most noticeable features. I’ve never seen lips like those since I first saw hers and her face was something that has been burned into my memory, perhaps forever. The appeal of her lips was only momentary however as my eyes were soon drawn to those big, brown eyes of hers that seemed almost enchanting. To look into those marvelous globes of mystery was hypnotic. I was immediately taken prisoner never to be released from the hold they had on me.
“Hi, I’m Elizabeth Barber,” she said smiling apparently amused at my shyness and confusion. “I live down the road from you. I just thought I’d introduce myself to you and maybe we can be friends.”
“Uh --- well, I don’t have many friends and your friendship would be welcome,” I stuttered. Considering the fact that she was so close to me that I could feel the heat from her body and taking into account that I couldn’t hold my legs steady, I thought I gave a very intelligent response to her approach. In that respect, I felt very proud of myself. “Oh yeah, you live in the house on the corner by Hafley’s Store,” I observed.
“Yes,” she said, “and I’ll be riding the school bus with you everyday. Won’t that be wonderful?”
I agreed that it would be great to have someone to sit by and talk to. “I heard that you’re moving to Hustonville soon,” she said.
“Why yes,” I answered, “but how did you know that? I just found out the other day.”
“Your father told my mother,” she informed me. So my father had been hanging around her mother huh? Maybe it was an innocent situation but my mother had accused him of such things. At my age and at that time, it was irrelevant. I had things that are more important on my mind. It was common knowledge that her father had left the family and nobody knew where he was.
“Well that might be interesting but I’ll miss seeing you every day,” I replied disgusted. Just my luck that every time I met some cute girl that I liked, we moved away. Of course, this was only the second cute girl that I had met (that I had actually talked very much with) and we had only moved three times but that seemed like a lot to me.
“Oh don’t worry, we’re moving to Hustonville too,” she said smiling. She seemed to smile a lot but I didn’t really mind that too much. “And guess what, I’ll be about a mile from you --- the next house up the road from you, in fact!”
“Great, that’s wonderful,” I finally managed to say with a frog bigger than the one I had put down Jan Short’s dress in my throat. “I hope we can go to the same school and that we’ll always be friends.” I got part of my wish it seems.
Well, we both did become neighbors and we both did go to the same school but our paths seemed to go in different directions. Growing up and performing the task of living got into the way and we didn’t talk to each other very much except when we really had something to say. She rode the same school bus with me every day and we sat in the same classroom with each other. Most of the time, she sat in the seat right in front of me. There was something about the girl that made me continue to like her, and yet there was something about her that made me weary of her.
We grew up together and talked sometimes but the old spark that once was there had cooled down. I found other girls that I found more interesting and gradually lost interest in the brunette that once had held my attention. She started dating when she was about fifteen years old and some said that she was the “most beautiful girl” in the entire school system. I quite agree that she was just that. I have never found a woman that was as beautiful as she was. Some said she was an angel but some of the guys that went out with her thought otherwise. She had a much darker side and the rumors started to circulate about her.
There were a lot of murders in the little community during those years that we were in grade and high school. Some of them were designated as accidents but now that I look back on it, I’m sure that wasn’t the case.
I remember the incident with Gary Bailey, James Turner and Pete Short. They all three had gone out with Elizabeth on a clear spring night and never returned, but she did. According to her, they had all four gone out driving in Gary’s new 1957 Ford that he had gotten for his birthday. The three boys wanted to drive to another county to get some whiskey since the county they lived in prohibited alcohol. Elizabeth had refused to go with them since they were going to be drinking and her mother had to go get her. They had dropped her in another town without a way home. There were rumors that her dress was torn and that she was crying when her mother picked her up but she wouldn’t tell her mother what had happened. The only thing she would say was that they wanted to go out drinking and she refused to go with them.
The next thing that was known about the boys was that they crashed into the side of a concrete bridge on the south side of Hustonville. Everyone wondered why the three boys had crashed since they hadn’t been actually drinking when they had left Elizabeth stranded. Her story was that they had dropped her in Liberty and told her to walk home. That was the last time she said she had seen them. Everyone knew that Gary Bailey was a good driver and didn’t do anything wrong except drink a little when he could get it, which wasn’t very often.
That was what the local coroner was wondering. When he tried to test their blood to see if they had indeed been drinking he found that he had a problem. None of the boys had any blood to test; their bodies had been drained dry. Some speculated that they had lost all the blood in the accident but the police reports showed that there wasn’t any blood at the site of the accident even though the bodies had been cut up and mangled into something that was hardly recognizable as having been human beings. They had supposedly hit the bridge at 87 miles per hour. According to the State Police, the speedometer had stuck at that speed. There was a look of stark terror on all three of the boy’s faces. Everyone wondered just what it was that had terrified them that night and caused them to crash.
In the next few days, the puzzled authorities interviewed Elizabeth extensively trying to come up with an answer but nothing was revealed. And as time went on, the incident was completely forgotten by most, except for me. I still have nightmares about it. Well --- you see, I have reason to remember the occasion. Pete Short was engaged to my sister, but not anymore.
There were other incidents that happened in the county during those years. People, mostly young kids were found with deep puncture marks on their necks and all the blood gone from their bodies. The doctors who examined the bodies claimed that some wild animal had done it. They based this conclusion on the puncture marks that were usually found on the right side of the neck. They said these marks were representative of the attack of some wild animal. What really puzzled them was the lack of blood in the corpses. It was as if something had sucked all of the blood right out of them. What was most puzzling was the similarity of the attacks on all the victims.
I don’t know what made me suspect that Elizabeth was somehow responsible for these incidents but somehow she seemed to always be with the people just before they ended up dead. I was the only one who seemed to connect her to the deaths. She had dated most of the boys and was friends with the girls that were killed. Almost everyone was afraid to leave their homes at night because they suspected some animal was prowling the streets. Maybe they weren’t far from wrong? The only person you could see walking the streets of Hustonville and the back roads was, Elizabeth Barber.
That fall in 1965, just before graduation, eight people had been killed in the little town, most of them teenagers and classmates of ours. Worst of all, there hadn’t been much progress made in finding out who or what had killed them.
I guess you’re wondering just how I fit into all this. Well, I’m getting to that now. My niece was a good friend to Elizabeth and they spent a lot of time together. We all were in the same class. We usually met at the local restaurant to have dinner or lunch together and to discuss current events. The subject of Elizabeth came up and I mentioned that she was guilty of some suspicious activities. My niece told me that Elizabeth couldn’t have committed some of the murders because she was with her on those occasions. She also said she didn’t suspect her of any such things. Maybe she was convinced of that but I just wasn’t completely sure about it.
My niece and myself had been together since we were kids and were even in the same class. I tended to believe her and trusted her judgment. Not only that but she brushed off the accusations that Elizabeth and Jan were just a little more than close friends. “So what,” she demanded, “many girls are very affectionate toward each other. It happens all the time but most people don’t know about it. Besides, the way I figure it, if she wants to be close friends with Jan then it isn’t any of my business. But she is very much in love with you and I think that you should start talking to her. It might get you out of your shyness and make a man out of you.”
So she still liked me? I was willing to forget about the murders since nobody else believed that she was connected to them. I was even willing to go out with her. Why was I so desperate? Mostly because I was too shy to approach any girl that didn’t approach me first and in a town where there were two boys for every female --- well you get the picture. Something deep in my mind told me that she didn’t do it so I was “brainwashed” into asking her out. Most of this was because my niece was constantly prompting and encouraging me to do so.
It never occurred to me to question why Elizabeth was willing to go out with someone like me when she could have any man or woman that she wanted. I just reckoned that she liked me for some reason that I didn’t understand. After all, I didn’t claim to be the world’s expert at understanding women and their motivation. At that time in my life, I hardly knew my own motivations. I was concerned about the “rumors” of her activities with other girls. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to get mixed up with someone like that but I had learned not to believe most rumors that I heard. Something told me to find out the truth for myself and then I’d know what the truth really was.
We went out several times before graduation and one day we were in the little restaurant in Hustonville. We’d both become better friends than we ever had been before. Before I knew it, I was in love with her and thought that she was in love with me too. I guess that I always did love her and that was the real reason for overlooking all the obvious caution signs that I should have been seeing as I sped down the road of love. Unfortunately, I didn’t see them because I was blind to everything but the way that I felt about her. “What do you plan on doing after graduation?” When she asked me the question I was taken by surprise and to tell you the truth, I hadn’t done much thinking about what I was going to do. I had taken the college preparatory tests but I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to afford to go.
“Oh, I guess I’ll go to college. My niece is going to Indiana and going to college in Muncie. I guess I’ll mosey up there too since I passed the entrance exams and everything. I don’t really have much else to do. There aren’t many jobs around here.” I hoped that answer would console her but it didn’t.
“Well things just seem to work out great for us --- guess what, I’m going there also. Your niece convinced me that it’s a good college but there is only one other thing I was hoping for.”
“And just what is that?” I asked beginning to feel like I was being led down the path by a ring in my nose. I mean, what if I didn’t want to go to that college or to the same place where she chose to go.
She pushed her plate aside, took a quick sip from the glass of Coke and took my hands in hers. Those brown eyes. Those damned, bewitching, gorgeous, enticing brown eyes! They got me every time and this time wasn’t any different. I was completely charmed by her eyes the same way I’ve seen a poor little helpless sparrow being charmed by a deadly snake. “I was hoping we might get married and go to college as husband and wife.”
I was taken completely by surprise and for many moments, I couldn’t speak because of the frog or other object that had embedded itself deep in my throat. When I was able to speak, everything came out in a high-pitched, squeaky voice. “Well darling,” I said, “how will we live? I’ll have to get a job and work my way through college. What I earn from such employment won’t pay for all my needs and yours too but I suppose --- Oh well, don’t worry we’ll make it some way. We’ll figure something out.”
Those were the most disgusting words I ever came up with. We were married the following Sunday after graduation from high school in a little church on Green River way down in the valley. All the classmates, at least the ones that were still alive were there. I still remember the doubt. There wasn’t any doubt in my mind or in my fast beating heart that I loved her but there was doubt about our future. How were we going to survive on the wages I would make from waiting on tables?
A few days later, we were settling down, attending classes by day, working after school and making love well into the night. We lived on campus for a few months before we could afford an apartment but after Elizabeth got a job in the college office, we had a little more money to spend. Things seemed to be proceeding according to plan and without incident. She was happy, I was happy and we finally could look forward to a future.
As I soon learned, there weren’t any more murders in Hustonville but I never really connected that to the fact that Elizabeth was gone from there. In fact, I got very little news from home in those days but a friend had written me a couple of times and he did say that the murders had ended. I guess I didn’t give it much thought because there were now murders on the college campus.
We had secured a small affordable and comfortable three-room apartment on the lower side of Muncie. Our lives were pretty much normal; or at least, everything seemed to be normal. We were just another married couple attending college classes during the day and I was working at a local restaurant tending tables. I got pretty good tips too. The extra money helped out.
Elizabeth was studying to be a Veterinarian. She loved animals, especially the smaller animals such as mice, rats and cats. I don’t know if she liked tigers, bears and whales or not but she was a Vet so I guess she had to have at least some respect for them.
I always wondered why we didn’t have any rats, mice or cats in our part of the town even though we lived in the most run down part of the city.
We had a great sex life and I normally expired after about an hour. The long days of classes and work were ended with the most violent lovemaking I’ve ever experienced. She was as wild as a tiger; as formidable as a tank and as energetic as a mountain lion. She never got enough. One night she almost bit my lip off. I didn’t have to worry about my bleeding lip though because she licked the blood from my mouth, smacked her lips and swallowed the stuff with a comment that it tasted good.
I started having violent, unforeseeable nightmares that left me drained the next day. Some nights I dreamed of a huge gray bat that sat on my chest and sucked the blood from my neck. The next day I would go to the mirror with the conclusion that I would surely see two little teeth marks on my neck but I never did. I guess I was just dreaming. I could never explain why I was so tired unless it was the work, studying and the lovemaking.
“Where were you last night dear?” I asked as I heard her in the living room. I was shaving when she came into the bathroom that morning to see what I had said. We were graduating in the next couple of months and had been planning on looking at a new house that we planned to buy someday. I had awakened during the night to find her gone. She wasn’t in the bathroom, nor the kitchen and I couldn’t find her in the house.
“Oh, I just walked down the street to get some milk. I completely forgot to get some yesterday on the way home from class and I know how you like your milk.” I nodded in agreement indicating that I believed her. But I really didn’t. I didn’t find any milk in the refrigerator later because I checked because I wanted some for breakfast. I did find a can of tomato juice. How I hated that damn red stuff.
Well I told you about the nightmares but I didn’t tell you that just last night I awakened to see the bedroom window open at about four in the morning. I didn’t move as the cold air was blowing in through the open window. I kept the covers over me and lay there wondering why it was open. But, before I had time to get fully awake and figure it all out, a strange bat-like figure came in through the open window. It was dark in the room and I couldn’t see very well. At first, I thought I was still having a nightmare and I wasn’t sure if I was even awake or not. I wasn’t sure until the damn thing got into bed with me and pulled the covers up. I can still feel the slick, slimy skin touching mine. What a nightmare!
I lay there not daring to move because I didn’t know what would happen if the creature realized that I was awake. As I lay there the perspiration was running from my body in streams. That creature must have felt my wetness or felt my shivering body because I was shaking like an active volcano. Ever so slowly I felt the creature changing form. In about half-an-hour I could see the form of my wife Elizabeth in the bed beside me. I had a hard time realizing the terrible truth but I finally accepted the fact that I was living with a BAT.
My next problem was figuring out what I was going to do about her. Just what could I do? I loved her, or at least, I loved the woman that I married. I didn’t marry the Bat but since it didn’t seem to have any intentions of harming me I couldn’t see why I couldn’t keep things the same as they had always been?
All that happened more than four years ago. Elizabeth became pregnant in September of that last year. She had a beautiful little girl that we named Jennifer Sue. Jennifer Sue has all the attributes that made Elizabeth so unique except I don’t think she’s able to turn into a bat. She does show some interest in small animals and she loves Tomato juice. That’s one of my worries is that she will be the monster that my wife was.
That’s right, like my wife was. You see, she didn’t come home one night and I haven’t heard from her for a very long time now. How I miss her and I just wish that I could have her back again, bat and all. I mean --- well, I guess the terrible truth is that when you love someone it doesn’t matter what they are as long as you continue to love them. The old saying, “you can’t see the forest for the trees” applies pretty well here. Don’t you think?
I guess the Police did all they could and the welfare people were really being kind when they offered to take Jennifer Sue for a few weeks while I got my life back in order. You see, I almost went crazy with grief when I finally realized that she wasn’t coming back. I guess the folks at the Welfare Department figured that I might not take good care of Jennifer but I wouldn’t ever do anything to harm her. I want her to have a full and normal life.
The kind man that brought Jennifer home was mumbling something about a dead cat. He was in a hurry to leave and Jennifer wouldn’t explain to me what his problem was except that she had blood on her mouth. He sure seemed anxious to get rid of her. Hmm. I wonder?
Anyway, you can see my predicament. I lost my loving wife, gained a daughter and now I have to take care of her all by myself. Jennifer and I have a new hobby now. We go out at night and watch the bats when they come out of their hiding places. I guess as long as there are bats, I’ll always wonder if she changed into one and was unable to change back again. You see, that’s the only hope that I have now of getting her back. There’s only one problem. Murder is on the rise in the city I live in. I’m wondering if she didn’t find someone who was more like her and now she has a new family to be concerned with? Well, now you know my story so please be careful of any bats that might wander into your bedroom and if one is named Elizabeth, please tell her that I still love her and we want her to come home.