July in New Orleans was always a test on Bambi’s perseverance.
“I still don’t understand why you even bother. If there even is a God, he sure as Hell doesn’t care about us,” Bambi groused, adjusting her collar as she followed her father into the small Church. “I could be out puttin’ up my tree blind. Waste of my fuckin’ time.”
“Ya shut yer mouth in the Lord’s house ‘fore I bust you ‘gain!” Carl hissed under his breath, a meaty paw of a hand no doubt leaving bruises on her bicep as he pulled her to the front pew. “Might rip out that whore’s jewelry ya got in yer mouth so you’ll know your pace.”
The old biddies already called her a queer for shaving part of her head and refusing to wear dresses or skirts to Worship. Never mind the fact she was in her mid-twenties and hadn’t settled down with a fella or even had a kid yet. Couldn’t have them knowing he smacked her around, too.
“If ya wouldn’t test me, I wouldn’t have ta raise my hands,” he growled, looking at her in disgust as she slouched in her seat. “And would it kill ya to dress like a proper lady instead of some dyke?”
Bambi kept her gaze forward and ignored him, admiring the delicate stained glass and antique pipe organ of the simple house of worship like she always did. He eventually gave up on getting a reaction and turned his attention to the other parishioners, a mask of false despair on his face as others tried to console him on doing his best for his “troubled” daughter. She rolled her eyes and slid to the opposite end of the pew; the smell of complete and utter bullshit was stifling.
There was nothing wrong with wearing a nice pair of skinny jeans, a pair of sensible ankle boots, and a fitted dress shirt to Church. There was nothing wrong with shaving part of her hair off when it was three feet long and the weather was almost a constant one hundred percent humidity out. There was nothing wrong with a woman hunting gators and deer while her piece of shit sperm donor was passed out drunk at home and the fridge was empty.
I was hoping things would get better once we moved to the Crescent City, she mused, glacier irises meeting the amber gaze of Saint Hubertus in the nearby stained glass. Instead, I’m still stuck with this shithead.
His halo mimicked antlers and, as always, was accompanied by an impressive stag. Patron Saint of Hunters, the only one she kept a token of on herself at all times for. Bambi took out said piece, delicately carved from an antler slice by her own hands, and idly rubbed her thumb on the back. He was the only Saint she bothered with since Carl started dragging her here on her birthday and why not?
Saint Hubertus was the only one that had actually answered her prayers in all of her twenty-five years of life.
Carl had left her stranded in feral hog territory, literally pushing her out of the moving truck and driving off, and she had been stuck up a tree at least twenty feet in the air after a boar charged her almost immediately after she’d regained her feet. To this day, Bambi couldn’t tell anyone how she’d gotten that high without a boost since the tree had no branches she could’ve reached, but the blood on the tree told of a sudden adrenalin high that shredded her hands and feet in the process of survival.
Someone kept coming around and placing fermented corn around the area, bringing back the entire herd of at least thirty pigs. So she stayed stuck up the skinny tree; dehydrated, sunburnt, covered in blood, and filth. As the sun started to set on the third day, she was honestly considering just letting herself fall and giving the hogs something to eat when her Salvation appeared.
A bull Elk appeared, not at all native to Louisiana, right before she lost her balance and fell from the tree.
Before the hogs could get her, the Elk charged into the fray! Bambi had curled up until the dust settled, waiting for a stray hoof to end her life, but it never happened.
When the dust settled and the hogs ran off, the Elk had nudged her until she sat up. Despite still being keyed up from the fight, he had accepted her shaking hand on his velvet muzzle and a chin scratch before huffing over her as if to check if she was alright.
The gore on his antlers and hooves didn’t bother her in her dehydrated state.
Norman, an older gentleman who would hunt with her on occasion and only friend down here, had flown into the field in the darkening twilight. His truck spooked the stag and he disappeared back into the woods. The only thing left behind was a broken piece of his antlers that she pocketed before Norman reached her.
With her friend’s help, Bambi was taken to the hospital and sent back home a week later. Carl had convinced the entire congregation she had run away on a drug bender while she’d been away, but she didn’t care. Norman brought up Saint Hubertus when she divulged the story of the bull Elk and he showed her a few artworks of him.
The stag that often accompanied Saint Hubertus had a striking resemblance to the one that had randomly shown up to save her ass, so she carved his likeness onto the antler fragment and fashioned it into a worry stone pendant of sorts. Never left home without it.
Since then, she’d escaped everything from a stalking cougar to nuisance gators – all events that should’ve ended with just another lost Soul to the Bayou since she usually hunted alone. Bambi liked to think he’d kept her safe all this time in exchange for all the conservation work she did, but it was probably dumb luck.
Seeing Father Jonah finally step up to the podium, Bambi sat up to give him her attention and a genuine smile which he returned. Jonah was good people; the only good person in this damn Church, in her opinion.
He was a good friend of Norman’s and never judged anyone like the sheeple he preached to. Father Jonah was also very accepting of the LGBTQA+ and preached acceptance, which surprised her at first, but he was adamant that God’s word was about love and acceptance rather than hypocrisy and violence against the unknown.
What caught her eye as Father Jonah sorted his papers, though, was the man that entered from the back room and sat at the pipe organ nearly right in front of her. She’d never seen him around the Church in the few years she’d been there, they didn’t get newcomers with it being so small.
Dressed in the stereotypical black robe of a priest, he was quite the lanky fellow albeit classically handsome. All leg and arm from what she could see, but he moved much too smoothly to just be some glorified choir boy. His skin was a warm chestnut color, hair a warm brown with red undertones, freckles dotted the bridge of his nose under his wire frame glasses, gorgeous dark amber eyes crinkled a bit in the corner as his lips twisted into a small smirk –
Jesus, fuck me! He caught me staring!
“Take a picture, darlin’. It lasts longer,” he drawled, making her face bloom into a lovely red.
Bambi was saved from embarrassment as Father Jonah started his sermon, motioning to the man at the keys with a nod. He placed his, curiously, gloved hands on the ivory and Bambi simply watched his hands dance over them with well-practiced ease. He had absolutely lovely hands, from what she could deduce.
She glanced up at his face only to find one eye cracked open and looking at her, face the epitome of smug as the apples of her cheeks burned once again. This was the only part she enjoyed about being forced to come, the singing. She wasn’t going to let him ruin it.
Bambi pushed him from her mind as the congregation stood and raised their voices in worship. She closed her eyes and sang from memory, vibrato voice ringing out beautifully among the small gathering.
It absolutely sucked that the angelic sound was produced by fucking demons masquerading as people…
Father Jonah introduced the stranger after the hymn as Father Alastor, come to help run the place as Jonah was getting on in age. Bambi was not prepared for the transatlantic accent to come out of Father Alastor’s mouth after the drawl he’d hit her with earlier, mouth twisting to hold back the abrupt urge to giggle, but she punched Carl in the arm when he outright guffawed along with a few of the other Boomers in the pews. After a short introduction, he stepped to the side to observe the usual running of things.
Arms behind his back, back straight, stance relaxed; the new Father oozed a calm confidence. Looking like that, it was no wonder! Father Alastor had a classic sort of beauty to him that reminded Bambi of the old sepia photographs of her grandfather.
Bambi caught him watching her a few times and finally raised an eyebrow in question. The new Shepard replied with a smile subtle wink that made her cheeks flush with a tiny frown. Sick of being teased by this intruder, no matter how entertaining, she brought out the big guns.
Waiting until Father Jonah had paced to the other side of the room and being the mature adult she was, Bambi made sure Father Alastor was looking directly at her before making a peace sign and wiggling her tongue between them lasciviously, a smoldering look on her face.
His eyebrows nearly disappeared into his hairline as he choked loudly on air, the sound echoing and gaining Jonah’s attention in the quiet place. By then, Bambi had clasped her hands on her lap and looked the picture of Innocence, complete with a head tilt in concern when Father Jonah asked if he was alright. Once he went back to preaching, she smirked at his beet red face and blew a kiss.
Those venom piercings are paying for themselves, finally!
“Trust you to be soft for a nigger in the south,” Carl grumbled just loud enough for her to hear. “Lettin’ you live with ya mother for so long made you a fuckin’ snow flake.”
Bambi knew Father Alastor heard him when his jaw clenched and he rolled his shoulders as if he was letting the slur roll off him like water off a duck.
“Says the one who tried to fight a high schooler for calling him a Boomer.” Bambi finally looked away from Father Alastor with an exaggerated pout, “What’s wrong? Did he hurt your feewings? Do you need a safe pwace?”
Carl snarled at her and turned his attention back to Father Jonah, likely not even taking in the words of wisdom and thinking tiny bigoted thoughts instead. She turned back to Father Alastor with a solemn look, apologizing with her eyes and a small bow of her head. He bowed his head back in an almost imperceptive move and graced her with a tiny, genuine smile. She returned it before giving Father Jonah her attention once more.
Carl left with one of his drinking buddies, probably to talk shit about the new pastor, and left Bambi at the Church. She spent the time putting Bibles and hymn booklets back in their cubbies while the two pastors made small talk with those in less of a hurry to leave.
“She’s an odd one, isn’t she?” Alastor questioned, unable to stop his eyes from wandering to the young woman every so often. “Not like her father at all. Certainly not from around here, yes?”
“Bambi is odd in her way, but a genuinely good Soul here,” Jonah replied while watching her sweep the floor starting at the back and moving towards them. “Just started coming regularly last year after moving from up North, but her father drags her here like she openly refuses.”
“A new Lamb, then?”
Jonah chuckled and shook a hand at Alastor. “That Lamb will sooner knock your dick in the dirt than tolerate ignorance and hatred, my boy. Treat her with respect and she’ll do the same.”
“Kyle!” Both men jumped at hearing her bark towards them, a young boy stopping abruptly in the doorway like cold water had been tossed on him. “Come here, please!”
The child, Kyle, hesitantly made his way over with his hands in his pockets and looking down sheepishly. He rocked on his feet for a moment before looking up at Bambi who had a hand on her hip and nails tapping on the broom handle.
“Y-yes, Miss Bambi?”
The rest of the conversation was lost to them as Kyle’s mother came back inside to see what was taking so long, sighing in frustration at the sight of him with Bambi. After a few words, Kyle was under the pew and back out with a rather large glob of something in his hands. Bambi marched him to the garbage, then to the bathroom in the back to wash his hands before bringing him up front. Kyle saw his mother and blushed something fierce under her disapproving gaze.
“Sorry for keepin’ him, ma’am. Found more gum again.”
“And how do you know it was Kyle?”
“He’s the only other one in the congregation that like the sour green apple Bubble Tape that I do, ma’am,” Bambi supplied with a shrug. “He always asks me for some before mass starts.”
The woman pinched the bridge of her nose in exasperation while Kyle shrunk in on himself. This was apparently a repeating occurrence and Alastor found his nose wrinkling at the idea of having to scrape old what-have-you off the pews.
“Thank you, Bamba-lamb. I thought we’d curbed that habit weeks ago!” the older woman sighed, nudging Kyle forward. “What do you say young man?”
“Sorry, Father Joe… Miss Bambi…” Bambi cleared her throat and raised an eyebrow. “Huh? Oh! And Father Alastor… I’ll do better, promise!”
“He’ll be over to help ya with preparing bait for the gators during the week, Bambi,” his mother said before leading him off.
“There’s no need, ma’am. Really!” she tried to call after, but they’d already gotten into their vehicle. Bambi deflated a bit. “Last time he helped, he puked on the chicken…”
“I reckon the gators don’t much mind a little extra flavor!”
Bambi’s face turned to one of disgust as she looked to Father Jonah, making him laugh from deep in his belly. She rolled her eyes and went back to sweeping. It wasn’t long until the church was empty and she was walking up to them, sleeves rolled up and wiping a bit of sweat from her brow.
“My, where did that wonderful smile of yours go? You know, you’re –”
“ - Never fully dressed without one. Yea, yea.” Her nose wrinkled as Father Alastor chuckled, white teeth flashing momentarily. She turned to face him, crossing her arms. “Is it a damnable offense to tell a member of the clergy to fuck off?”
“Behave, you two.”
“Yes, Father,” they chorused, the man looking at her in further amusement as she curled her lip at him.
“Good morning, sweetheart. Surprised to see you today,” Jonah said. “You’re usually getting ready for hunting season.”
The question wasn’t said with malice, just genuine curiosity. Filling the fridge was first priority for Bambi this time of year and she had a long list of tasks to complete before the seasons started.
“You’re just wonderin’ when you’ll get some of my jerky,” she said with a smirk.
“Don’t tell me you go after those beasts all by your lonesome, Miss Bambi?” Alastor asked.
“I do. Why?” Her tone was challenging when she answered him, shoulders squared like she was preparing for a fight.
“Prickly thing, aren’t you, dear?”
“Alright!” Father Jonah stepped between the two, seeing Bambi was riled enough already. “Alastor, if you’d wait for me in our office?”
“Of course, Father Jonah.” Alastor bowed his head at him before turning to Bambi. “Until we meet again, ti chat.”
“Who the fuck are you calling ‘Kitten’!?” Jonah had to put a hand on her shoulder or she would’ve launched herself at the departing man’s back.
“Oh, I’m sorry.” She took a deep breath, counted to ten, then, “I’m sorry. Whom the fuck?”
“Sweetheart, no… Let’s go over what we need for the upcoming bake sale – out here!”
Father Jonah shook his head with a deep sigh as Bambi pulled out her phone to open the list of items needed for the fundraiser. These two were either going to get along like a wildfire or like water and oil, there’d be no in-between. He hoped it’d be the former. As soon as he’d been told Alastor was the one being sent, he knew Bambi might finally have a kindred spirit to bond with and visa versa, but their behavior so far predicted mixed results.
“God better give that twink ass bitch the strength to catch these hands or watch his mouth!” Bambi huffed.
“Lord, give me strength to weather this storm…”
With gator season upon the Crescent City, Bambi found herself thanking Kyle for helping her with the bait. With his help, she’d been able to prepare more than fifty percent more than she needed and get some tags early. Poor kid was green in the face every time, but he didn’t vomit this year so that was a plus. She paid for him to get a new bike and set him off on his way.
After their initial meeting, Father Jonah could always count Bambi and Alastor to make mass interesting. Whether it was Alastor riling the blue eyed belle up by playing complicated pieces on the pipe organ (which he knew she couldn’t help but watch) or it was Bambi making inappropriate gestures/noises when Alastor spoke, there was always a good laugh to be had between the two.
They had even teamed up to make everything needed for the bake sale that, mysteriously, most of the congregation had said they couldn’t help with. The three of them had been in Jonah’s house for a good two days straight baking, but – besides a small flour war – there were no casualties. Their joined efforts earned them more than twice the goal the church needed for new pews and siding!
There seemed to be truce between Alastor and Bambi after that, much to Jonah’s relief.
Now Bambi was in Father Jonah’s backyard with him after setting the bait that morning and relaxing with some of his famous lemonade while she performed some maintenance on her .3030 and his own guns. She was checking the sights of her gun when their conversation was cut short by the sound of gravel being kicked up and a car door slamming. Bambi had just slid a small magazine on the .3030 when Alastor vaulted himself over the back fence and collapsed on the ground.
They were stunned to say the least, but Alastor’s state was quick to get them out of their seats.
His glasses were cracked and hanging off one ear, he had a black eye and a split lip, and usually pristine white dress shirt was covered in red splotches. There was a rip in one shoulder and a few buttons were missing, exposing his chest and abdomen, which were also covered in red. His breath was labored like he’d just run from the Devil himself and he couldn’t hold himself up, falling back on his front when his arms quivered and gave out.
Without hesitation, they helped him up and toward the house. Jonah took an arm over his shoulder while Bambi wrapped an arm around his waist. When they sat him on the porch swing, her hand was covered in slick blood when she took it away. Jonah carefully removed the scrap of ruined cloth that was Alastor’s shirt and they inhaled sharply at the bruises and lacerations to his torso. Bambi took off her t-shirt and pushed it against a wound in his side that was bleeding steadily while Jonah went inside to get a First Aid kit.
“They comin’!” Alastor rasped at her, eyes wild, panicked, and a bit of Cajun slipping into his accent. “They followed me, chère!”
Bambi paused in her reply when she heard other doors slam before jumping off the porch towards the table in the yard where the firearms laid. She grabbed her .3030 and cocked it while taking the safety off. She’d just made it back to Alastor’s side when several men rounded the corner of the house, seemingly following the exhausted man’s blood trail.
Bambi kept her gun out of their sight for now, her hand resting on Alastor’s shoulders when she saw him tense. Ready to run, ready to fight, she wasn’t sure. She knew she recognized one of his pursuers, though.
“Well, well, well. You’ve been gone for a few days and now I know why, Daddy,” she snarled. “Back to old tricks again?”
“This is none of your concern, Bee. Hand him over!”
“No, don’t think I will. Y’all best be fixin’ to move along before I get mad.”
“Bambi, don’t -!” Alastor hissed when he tried to move, the pain finally starting to catch up to him. She just rubbed her thumb on his shoulder, hoping he’d forgive her for touching him this one time.
One of the men hopped the fence with a growl. “Listen here, ya bitch! I ain’t lettin’ no little girl tell me what to do!”
“Don’t move.” Bambi brought the rifle up and had the asshole’s head in her sights instantly. “The gun is hot and I’m not afraid to put a bullet in your carcass, Clarence.”
“Ya don’t have the balls ta shoot me, sugar tits!” he laughed, continuing his advance. “Ya ain’t shot ya Daddy for beatin’ ya, yet! Yer all bark ‘n no bite!”
Jonah came out of his home to a thunderous BANG! A .30 cal found its place in Clarence’s calf, shattering his shin into hundreds of pieces. Bambi reloaded the lever-action with practiced ease while the man wailed and screeched in the lawn. She kept her sights on the group as they screamed for their comrade.
“How’s that for bite, you limp dick jackass?” she said in a clear, calm voice. Her gun stayed eye height as she stepped off the porch and towards the group. “Y’all come get yer man and no further, ya hear?”
“You bitch! My Pa’ll see you in prison for this!” Clarence squealed as his lil posse picked him up.
“With the good Father on my side, I’m sure even the most crooked of Sheriffs will take my side, ya Daddy included. Now,” she fired the .3030 at their feet and had another in the chamber before you could blink. “Get the fuck on outta here ‘fore I put a bullet right ‘tween yer fuckin’ eyes!”
“You ain’t welcome at home, ya harlot! Ya hear me!?” Carl yelled. “You can stay with that nigger ya love so much!”
“Fine with me! Sick of takin’ care of your deadbeat ass anyway!” she roared back.
The men scrambled to get over the fence and with a clattering of gravel, they were gone. No one moved for what felt like hours before Bambi tapped the safety on and slumped to the ground, head between her knees. She levelled Alastor with a look when he made like he was going to get off the porch, then focused on steadying her shaking breaths.
She chuckled after a few minutes. “Nothin’ like pissin’ off your sperm donor and his Klan buddies, right Jonah?”
“You damn foolish girl, getcher lily white ass in the house this instant 'fore I tan it myself!”