Well, in 2 days I’ve busted out just under 10k words, which is pretty good for me, and about 30 pages. My goal of hitting the lower end of Novella length won’t be an issue and I’m still enjoying writing it. A few of you have let me know it seems really relatable or real so if you know someone you think COULD relate to it please share and have them or you or whomever offer up some more feedback.
I now had clear goals in my head. I wanted my own place, my own car, my own money that could support my own family which meant a better job.
I also wanted away. Away from my family, away from this town, away from all the depression that everything here had caused me. I wanted to escape and in my head if I left this town and started new I wouldn’t have any of the same issues I did here.
So I had goals but no real way of knowing how to achieve them. My only job having been McDonalds and being a single mom and having no car made all of what I wanted to do very difficult. First things first, I needed a car.
I started pricing different vehicles around town and noticed so many differences in price. The same car from two different places could be vastly different prices. I knew some guys from work that could tell me whether a car would be good or not but I had one other goal in mind, not relying on men for anything.
So I went to the library and started learning everything I could about cars. I read repair manuals which only help if you know what’s wrong with a car and then started looking around for other items. I found my answers in old newspapers. A local columnist answered every one’s questions about what different things could be wrong with a car if it did this or made this sound. HA! I don’t need a man. Ok, the columnist was a man but HE didn’t know I needed him and I wasn’t seeing him physically so in essence I didn’t need him, just his column.
I went as far back as the library had the newspapers stored which was quite a long time and started reading just his column. I made copies of articles that seemed particularly interesting. Even a few relating to getting a used car and what to look for and even one on bargaining for a better deal. (Tip 1 was, if at all possible, let your husband haggle because they are more likely to gouge prices up for women. Figures.)
Now I knew what to look for so I just needed money. My job was sustaining my daughter and not much more so I started looking in the paper again to see if there were other jobs available. Most of the same stuff applied now as before. You must have experience or a degree, experience or a degree. How about willingness to show up every day and work hard?
Finally I took matters into my own hands and started looking for work around the neighborhood. Since most of the citizens in our area were older like my parents I started offering to mow their lawns. It was working out so well I started getting more money from it than from Mickey D’s, and for fewer HOURS too. But I kept both jobs because I needed the money.
One particularly nice couple had me come back twice a week even though their lawn wasn’t growing that fast and was mostly dead to begin with. They insisted on paying double what I asked and soon even offered other work they needed done. ‘Can you change the shower head in our bathroom?’ Yes I can, just give me a few days, back to the library. That turned out to be pretty easy compared to learning what was wrong with and fixing their dishwasher. Actually, I’m still not totally sure I fixed it but it stopped making noise and they seemed pleased.
After a little over a month I had over one thousand dollars saved and started seriously shopping for a car. Most were out of my price range and even though my parents would have helped me with more I looked to stay under budget and again, only rely on myself.
I was able to find a decent Chevy Caprice that looked like it was marked down mostly because of physical damage. (One of the tips of buying used cars, if you see two similar cars next to each other with similarly low prices and one is beat up and the other looks immaculate, something is seriously wrong with the one that looks to be in great shape.)
The guy who ended up selling me the car was nice enough, did everything that the columnist said he would trying to keep the price firm where he had it but I finally threatened to walk out and he went to talk to his manager who, apparently, offered to lower the price of the car.
I now had my very own car and it was all mine. It was beat up and looked like crap with seats that leaned back too far and doors that didn’t like to open and two windows that wouldn’t open as well as a radio that only seemed to ever get three stations but I loved it and I will never forget it.
I kept doing the odd jobs around the neighborhood as well as work at McDonalds and soon saved up another couple thousand dollars. I learned more about cars and fixing things around the house and never asked for any help at work even if it involved lifting something that I probably shouldn’t have been. I shunned off men and their advances and if they kept on I told them where they could go or what they could do with it.
I was finally relying on myself for a lot of things and now was looking forward to the next goal, getting my own place and getting the heck out of dodge.
It came to be that I started looking in the bigger cities of Northwest Arkansas called Fayetteville and Springdale. It was a university town with WAY more people than my rinky dink town had and more opportunities. I started calling various places to find work and though I ran into more of the same, ‘experience or education’ I did find a beauty salon college where they taught you how to cut hair. They had financing available for the tuition and if you proved yourself you could start making money fairly quickly. The lady who ran it, Eleanor, was really sweet and seemed interesting in helping me with my situation. She was the kind of woman who had said everything that needed to be said pertaining to the reason you called within the first 5 minutes but then continued to talk for another hour about anything and everything. We became good friends over this first phone call and I looked forward to meeting her.
It was another couple of months before everything was finalized which meant I had time to make some more money to save and make some plans. I had what little I owned and the world that Kora owned packed and ready to go and my parents gave me extra money over what I’d saved. I tried to deny it but there isn’t any telling my dad no when he goes to help you, it’s one of his better qualities really.
Fayetteville was about three hours from where I was but it seemed like a million miles. I knew I’d see my parents quite often but it felt like the last goodbyes. The day I left I had a job/school waiting for me and a motel room booked as I had yet to secure a place to stay. It was a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon when I left and everything felt like it would be ok. The further I got from my hometown the more the stress seemed to melt away. It wasn’t long before I was singing along to one of those three radio stations and had a smile on my face. Kora and I giggled all the way there.
Inside the city was a million possibilities and all of them seemed positive at the time. Everything looked up and everyone looked happy. I checked into the motel that night ready to stay the entire week and the next morning took Kora to the Daycare I had checked into after getting a tip from Eleanor when she heard I had a daughter. I paid them a full month in advance and went to finish the application process for the beauty college. Eleanor had me start that day and we learned how to shampoo. I didn’t realize I had been doing it wrong all those years or that there were special techniques to it but there were.
Thus my first week was spent finding a place and learning all I could about the human head. Eleanor and the other ladies there tried to help me find a place that would be affordable but not in an area where I would feel the need to constantly be looking over my shoulder. The ladies there were all really nice and better yet, no men except ones that came in to get their haircut.
One lady, Vivian, took me riding around with her too look for places in neighborhoods she thought would be appropriate. She told me about how she had gotten married at a young age and it hadn’t worked out well and she had a daughter just a little older than Kora. I didn’t ask what happened in her marriage at the time but later on found out we had similar stories. The world was smaller than I thought.
The best part about that whole experience was that Vivian and I became friends and I didn’t feel as alone in the world. We soon found a place in a decent area that was within my meager limits for down payment. It was small, very very small but it was again all mine and perfect. Not too far from the beauty college and just a little away from the daycare. I had enough to give them the first 3 months rent but I decided to hold on to it just in case something were to happen and I needed to shift money around. I paid for the place on Friday and would be moving in what little I owned after I checked out of motel the next day.
Vivian and I decided to celebrate and we got our daughters and went out to eat after stopping by the motel so I could change clothes, being a humid end of summer day I was needing to freshen up.
We went to eat at Chili’s and laughed and talked about work and I told her about my home town and a little (it took me awhile to open up) about why I moved. We played with our daughters who got along fabulously giggling with each other. Her daughter, Amy May, at one point spilled her drink all over the table and started crying. Kora kind of tilted her head and looked watched her for a minute and then promptly slammed her drink to the table and started laughing. Well this made us all laugh even though we were both getting soaked and Amy May started laughing too. Kora can always find a way to make you feel better.
At the end of dinner the waiter brought over the check and after arguing with her that I could afford my part we agreed to split it.
I reached in my pants to get my money. “Ok, I know I just argued with you to pay this bill, but I left my money at the motel room.”
“If you didn’t want to pay your part you could have just let me in the first place!” She retorted with a smile.
“Ha ha, no really I’ll pay my part or I’ll buy us dinner Monday just get this now and I’ll get you back.”
“I ain’t worried about it sweet heart. If there’s one thing my ex left me it was a little money to play with.”
I scoffed, “Huh, I wish he’d had money to leave me with. Does the money heal the broken heart and angry soul any faster?”
“Lord no, but the clothes I can buy with it don’t hurt the process none.”
We laughed and joked some more on the way home. It really had been one of the best experiences and best days I had enjoyed since I got the car or drove away from home to this new life a week ago.
“So I told his sister, if you believe half the lies he’s telling you about us then I have a bridge in New York you can buy,” She started to trail off and I had to look up to see why. There were police cars at my motel surrounding the whole place. We couldn’t get past the office parking area. An officer saw us and came up to the window.
“Are you all staying here?”
“I’m not, but she is and her daughter, until tomorrow right girl?” I blushed but rejoiced at the idea that this wouldn’t happen again after that, whatever it was.
“Which room are you staying in ma’am?”
“I’m in 104 just past the office there.”
The officer looked down at his little pad he was carrying and looked back up, “Ma’am I’m going to need you to step into the office so I can ask you some questions.”
Vivian looked at me and then back, “What did this girl do? She’s only been here a week.”
“Yeah, I’ve been looking for houses all day, surely this is a mistake.”
“You didn’t do anything wrong ma’am, and it’s no mistake, please come inside.”
“Hey, I know our rights and my friend doesn’t have to come with you if she isn’t being detained. Now why don’t you go move that little flashing disco light of a car of yours and let us go on about our marry way.” She turned to me smiling, “Why don’t you get your stuff and stay with me tonight?”
I started to nod my head when the officer kept on. “Look, ma’am, there has been a robbery and your room was one of the ones that got broken into. We need to find out what all you had in your room so that if we find who did it we can get your stuff back.”
My face went white. I know it did because I went numb and everything went cold. Everything I had in the world was in that motel room and most of all my money, my entire savings and life line for the next month or two was in there. Surely, it was just a pair of jeans lying on the floor they wouldn’t notice them and just pass over. Surely the money is still there. Outside of my body from somewhere else I saw myself running in slow motion to the room. I saw myself fumbling with the stupid key and jiggling the stupid handle and trying to get the stupid door to open but it was being stupid. Things get stupid when I’m frustrated nervous or scared.
I opened the door and the officer wasn’t far behind, standing there watching me look around. Everything was everywhere and the place was a mess. I searched around and found my jeans under a pile of unused diapers that had been removed from their bag. I reached in every pocket over and over again, but nothing. It was all gone. All the money I had was gone.
I vaguely remember the officer asking me questions about what else was missing and when I had last been in here so they could get a better time frame and I remember him saying Vivian had gone to get the girls something to drink. I tried to put everything back in the suitcase and bags that I had brought them in but I just kept breaking down and crying. Up to this point every major point in my life seems to be dotted by me crying.
When Vivian got back she helped me get everything else into bags and into her car.
“Where are the kids?” I asked after a while when I finally realized they were missing.
“They are with my mom for tonight. Don’t worry she’s great with kids since we all moved out. You can come and spend the night with me, I didn’t think it was necessary for Kora to see you like this if she doesn’t have to. Let her have some fun while we figure things out.”
“There’s nothing to figure out. That was everything, everything I had to live on for the next few months and it’s gone. I worked so hard to save all that I could to be able to move here and start a new life and it’s the same old crap that keeps happening. What am I doing wrong? How can I possibly deserve all that goes wrong in my life?”
“Honey, we don’t deserve half of the crap we get if we did life would get boring or we’d be in jail.”
I broke down crying again on the floor, trying to pick up Kora’s toys. Vivian walked around me and quickly gathered the last of it and held it in one hand, her other hand reaching out to help me up.
“Come on sweetie, I’ve got everything so let’s get out of here and not worry about it again.”
She walked me outside and I broke away, “I will follow you then. Just don’t go too fast, I’ll follow you.”
Vivian grabbed my arm again and pulled me to her car. “Give me your keys, you’re not driving.”
“But my car, I can’t leave it here something else might happen.”
“Already thought of that darling, my brother and his friend are going to meet us up the road and I’m going to give him your keys so they can bring your car over to my place. See I already got this all figured out. Now come on, let’s go.”
Most of the rest of the night is another blur in my life but I do remember one thing very clearly. This song came on the radio called Hurt that was performed by Johnny Cash. I remember the chorus ringing in saying, ‘You can have it all… My empire of dirt… I will let you down… I will make you hurt.’ I started balling again and it still gives me chills and makes me remember that first week I came here.
The next day I woke up so depressed and ready for it all to end. My first thought was getting the money back for the house I had just rented. I figured they’d keep the deposit but maybe I could get the first month back since I never moved in. I would take that money and immediately go back home to my parents where I was obviously supposed to spend the rest of my days.
I went in the living room and curled up on the couch listening to Vivian make something in the kitchen. She came in with coffee for both of us and sat in a large recliner she had next to the couch.
“Right, so what’s the plan then?” like I would already have one. Well, I did go ahead and give her my only thought.
“I guess, get the money back on my place and then go back to my parents.”
“Sweetie, I know what happened was bad but don’t let it scare you into leaving.”
“It’s not SCARY I just don’t have anything. I mean, I don’t even have furniture for the house that I don’t have money to turn the electric on or anything else. Come to my place and tell me you’re hungry and the best I can give you is a jar of baby carrots with a side of baby peas. And I don’t know when I will be good enough to start getting paid or how much that will be.”
“Oh you will be good enough girl. The way you shampooed that head even impressed Miss Eleanor. You were working that plastic training doll.” I looked over at her trying to maintain my sadness and anger towards the world but she gave me this look that she can give me to this day that will just have me cracking up in no time.
“So if you have a better opinion I would LOVE to hear it.”
“Sweetie I got lots of opinions but most of them would just get me in trouble. Now if you’re really thinking of getting your money back, why don’t you and Kora just move in here for a while until you get on your feet.”
“I could never impose on you like that.”
“Oh please, I got plenty of room here and the girls get along so I don’t see why not. And it’s more practical than moving in somewhere that you don’t have furniture. Come on, let’s go get your money, I don’t know why we didn’t think of it before.”
She dragged me to get ready and then helped me talk to the people about my money. She told them what all happened and the wife was really empathizing with me. I guess she had been through a lot too, in her time. So Vivian asked them if we could get the first month and half the deposit back. The ladies husband said sure and started to get the money when his wife slapped him on the chest, “Earl, give the poor girl all of it.” Vivian loved bringing that up anytime we were out. I remember I once held out 3 of my 4 dollar bills for a tip at a restaurant and she slapped my arm and said, “Earl, give the poor girl all of it.” We were rolling not only because of that but the waitress was actually a waiter. He had no clue what was going on.
So, I met her mom, May, who turned out to be an amazingly sweet woman and became like a second mother to me. Amy May was very excited to share her room with Kora as they had bonded VERY quickly and now they could be “Real” sisters. We didn’t correct her on that.
This short stay with Vivian lasted just over 3 years when I finally got a place of my own in the city not too far from Vivian and Amy May. We did eventually get hired on at this big salon and were making pretty good money between us. Kora always had nice new clothes for school and we always made sure they could go on the special field trips.
When Kora was about 5 her and Amy May started going with Vivian’s mother to their church. While Vivian had the same view I did about God she always said, “Amy May should get to make her own choices but I know she would never choose God if she didn’t go and learn about Him. And sweetie you know they ain’t gonna teach her none of that in school.”
So I agreed and let her go. I went with her about once every other month when they would have some special event that required parents and Vivian and I would sit in the back and keep ourselves company during the service. The one thing I liked was the music, it was all up beat and modern sounding, nothing like the choir type music I had grown up with. Kora liked it a lot and her and Amy May made lots of friends there so we let it keep going.
After we moved out we would drive over to Vivian’s house where May would pick up the kids and she and I would have the day to ourselves. I tried to make the trip down to visit my parents each holiday and my mom would come up and visit every now and again.
It was a very uneventful time in my life but then the way my luck went that was a good thing. It all went well and good enough until a few months after moving into my own place that my mother called. Dad was in the hospital.