Authors: Kim Corum
‘Wayne wants me,’ I said and crossed my arms. ‘He said he’d marry me.’
‘Let me ask you a question, Cassandra. What do you want with a boy like that? He’s no good.’
‘He’s good to me.’
‘Now he is. But what about in five years or so when you’re not as pretty as you are now? What about after you have a kid? You think a man who looks as good as he does will be faithful to you? He won’t, honey. He can’t. He’ll always have to be beating women off him, just like your daddy did.’
‘Don’t you dare talk about my daddy.’
She threw her hands up. ‘I can’t talk any sense into you, can I?’
I shook my head.
‘The way I see it, you got two choices. You can either break up with him and go to college or you can marry him and be as miserable as I am.’
‘I’m sorry I’ve made you so miserable.’
She stared at me with this incredible hurt look. ‘You ain’t made me miserable, baby. I just want the best for you, can’t you see that? And you won’t have it with that boy, I can guarantee you, you won’t have it at all.’
‘I’ve got it now. I love him!’
‘Love is for fools. When you learn that, you’ll be happy.’
‘You’re lying! You never felt it, that’s all! You don’t love me and you never loved Daddy!’
‘Like hell I didn’t love him! And look what he did to me!’
‘Maybe you made him do it by being so mean!’
She looked as though I had slapped her. ‘Well, then. It was all my fault. It didn’t have a damn thing to do with him coming home late at night or not coming home at all! It didn’t have a damn thing to do with him stealing your baby formula money to buy liquor! No! He never did that!’
I started to cry. I wished to God she’d never told me that.
‘That man only cares about one thing and that’s drinking. He may have tried to do better a few years ago, Cassandra, but he was a day late and damn dollar short.’
I just wished she’d leave. She always made things worse, never better. She never made anything better. Why couldn’t she come to me and say something like, ‘You made a mistake. Let’s forget about it?’
It just wasn’t in her nature. Some people are born miserable. Some people cultivate misery. Some have it thrown on them and live it because they don’t see anything besides their own misery. That was her. She only saw misery, her own misery. She thought she didn’t have a choice in the matter.
I just wished she could be happy. Some way, some day, I wished she could be happy. She never would be. She would never allow herself to. I understand that now. Then I didn’t have a clue.
She continued, ‘There was no way I would let him back in to hurt us again. And he’d hurt you, honey. He’d have you wrapped right around his little finger like he did me and the next thing you know, he’ll just up and leave. Disappear. Gone. No goodbye. No nothing but a damn broken heart. You can think he’s a saint all you want, but I won’t sit here and let you talk to me like that.’
She got up and went to the door. I stared at her. She stared back. I looked away first.
‘We’re moving. I’ve already taken care of everything. We have to leave this town. There’s nothing here for either of us and you know it as much as I do. That boy you love, you’ll get over him just like I got over your daddy.’
She wasn’t over my daddy. She never got over him. When I told her he’d passed away, she cried more than I did. But she refused to go to the funeral.
I told her, ‘I ain’t going nowhere.’
‘That’s your choice. You can stay here in this shitty little motel room and you might get lucky and some old creep won’t break in and hurt you. And you might not. You might get lucky and that boy might marry you. You’re special, not only to me, but to the rest of the world and if you stay in this God forsaken town, you’ll die. I’ve been dying for years and I’m ready to leave.’
I stared at her.
‘There’s nothing for either of us here, baby. Once you realize that, you’ll be fine.’
And with that, she left.
She was right. There wasn’t anything there. Nothing. Cows and barns and a Frosty Freeze. Nothing else. A place you pass by to get to somewhere else.
I broke down and cried. All I could do was cry. For days, it seemed like years. How could she have done this to me? But I knew deep down that my mother was right. I knew I had to leave.
So when Wayne came to see me that night, I didn’t tell him she’d come. I didn’t tell him I was leaving. I just enjoyed him that last time. I left the next morning, a sick feeling deep in my heart, knowing I had to give up something that made me very happy.”
I sighed and shut the notebook. She’d done it before. No note. No nothing. Just up and left without a word. Of course, she’d been younger and didn’t really have a choice. And she wasn’t running away from anything now. She was just running for the sake of running. She was like her father. I could see that now.
I’m back and I guess that ends the terribly sad chapter on Wayne. Do you know he married Melinda? I always thought he did it to get me back. I almost gagged when I heard. They have, like, five kids or something. He’ll never get away from her. Serves him right. He didn’t try to find me. He—”
He didn’t try to find me.
Did that mean she wanted to be found? I thought about it for a second. Hell, who knew what she wanted? She didn’t even know.
“—just forgot about me. And I forgot about him, too. But I do smile whenever I think about him. He was a good, good guy.
We moved to Atlanta and into a tiny apartment. Mom got a job as a receptionist. Yes, she did. I didn’t even know she could type! She told me proudly, ‘I was number one in my typing class in high school.’
I didn’t even know she had taken a typing class in high school. She had never worked anywhere but factories and in our small town that’s about all she could get. Atlanta was different. It had a job market. She had skills and she could get a better job. So she did. I have to give it to her. My mother tried to do better, she really did. And she wanted the best for me, as hard as it is for me to admit it because she drives me absolutely insane, she wanted the very best for me.
Bless her heart. I think I’ll go buy her a nice blouse or something when I get done here.
Anyway, I cracked up the first time I saw her dressed up for her new job. She was dressed in a very nice cream colored skirt suit. She’d never worn anything but jeans and t-shirts. It’s odd to say, but she looked pretty hot for an old chick.
And that’s one thing I could never understand about her. She was a very pretty woman. Men loved her, even when she got older. But after my father, she never looked at another man. She had the occasional date but that was about it. I asked her why once and she said, ‘After all the shit I went through with your daddy, I am done with men. No thank you.’
Doesn’t make a whole helluva lot of sense to me, but if that’s what floats her boat, so be it.
I went to this huge high school, which had over a thousand students. Back home, the entire school had maybe a couple hundred. That place was scary. It was a huge, two-story sprawling complex. It dwarfed my old school and the first time I laid eyes on it, I wanted to run away back home. It took me forever to learn my way around and I’d have to push and shove and fight my way to each class.
They had security guards and kids were always getting into fights. And I mean fights with knives and baseball bats and all that shit. Blood would be spilled and they would curse the teachers, sometimes even hit the teachers. Drugs were everywhere, too. Someone was always lighting up in the bathroom or taking speed or some other strange concoction. A few kids overdosed. It was rough as hell. I don’t know how anybody learned anything in that place.
I hated it.
It was harder to make friends and I missed Kelsey so bad I would write her letters every day and beg her to move to Atlanta. She did move eventually but that’s another story.
The friends I did make were bad news. I don’t even know if I’d call them friends or not. I hung around them. They seemed to like me, but I never invited them to my apartment and when they’d invite me somewhere, I’d always have an excuse ready so I wouldn’t have to go. I could sense that they were trouble and I’d get in trouble if I hung around them too much.
Thank God I was a senior and only had a few months of school left. As soon as we were settled, I got a job working fast food so I could buy a car and didn’t have much time for anything but that and homework.
I missed Wayne terribly. We wrote to each other a lot at first, but then his letters started getting few and far between. I always thought he would move to Atlanta to be with me. I mean, it’s not that far from Tennessee. I guess I was wrong. But he could have at least visited once. He could have tried to find me.”
So maybe she did want to be found? I considered this. Maybe. Maybe that’s what this whole thing was all about. But then again, it could be because she had turned into a heartless bitch.
“We could have had a tearful hello and a tearful goodbye, like they do in the movies. Of course we all know movies are full of shit and men never act like that in real life. They’re mostly bastards and they never take you to fancy restaurants or leave roses on your pillow. But then again, if a guy leaves a rose on your pillow, he’s probably got a little too much time on his hands.”
I couldn’t help but crack up. She never failed to make me laugh.
“The remainder of high school was a blur. I worked as much as I could because I wanted to move out as soon as I graduated high school. When I did, Mom told me I had to enroll in college. Well, I told her she could kiss my ass, but, obviously, not in those words. I wasn’t going to college.
‘But you need an education,’ she lamented.
‘Why?’ I asked. ‘I’m happy where I am now.’
‘Do you want to work fast food all your life?’
I shrugged. I didn’t know what I wanted except my own place. And I got it soon thereafter. My first apartment was small but I was so proud of it. I’d clean it until it sparkled. I still worked fast food—three different jobs—to make the rent and the payment on my car. I loved that car. It was an old VW Bug. It wasn’t much to look at, but it got me around. I had a nice little life. I loved my life. For the first time ever I looked forward to the future and more freedom. I was even considering moving to LA. I’d always harbored a desire to be an actress (who doesn’t?) and was saving what money I could to move out there.”
I stopped reading. LA? Could she be in LA? I wanted to do something then, but I thought I should keep reading. But it felt right. LA. It just felt right.
“This little life I had went on for a few years. I met guys here and there but none of them lived up to Wayne so I never got close to anyone.
I was about twenty-two or three when I made a career move. One of the girls I worked with had quit and gone to work at this strip club. To say I was shocked would be an understatement. She told me I could make a ton of money stripping but being the good little girl I was, I couldn’t do it. Today, I’d do it in a heartbeat, but back then I couldn’t have done it to save my life.”
I know the club she was talking about! I knew where the story went next! I grinned like a fool.
“Of course, this girl was raking it in. Every day she’d call me and said, ‘I made five-hundred bucks last night. You have got to give it a shot!’
So, I thought, what the hell? I gave it a whirl. I mean, I wasn’t a fool. I didn’t have any education or anything and I wasn’t going to college. The only way for a girl like me to make a decent living was to take off
“I was so nervous my first night I forgot to pick up my tips! But after that, it got easier and after the first month, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I moved into a better apartment and bought myself a kicks-ass sports car, a cherry red Camaro. I loved that car. I bought nice gifts for my mom and when she asked where I got the money, I’d say, ‘They’re letting me have a lot of overtime.’ And then I’d give her my innocent little grin and she’d actually smile back at me and thank me for the gift.
God, if she knew, she’d kill me.
I was having the time of my life. I went on great vacations with the other girls and some of us were considering moving to Florida together and getting a beach house.
Of fucking course, before any of this could happen, I met someone. Oh, that someone. I smile when I think of the first time I met him.”
I stopped reading and patted myself on the back.
“His name was Frank.”
Frank! How many boyfriends did she have? She had only told me about Wayne and then only briefly. She had said, “He was my first. But I wasn’t his.”
God, I was such a fool.
“He was smaller than Wayne but he could charm the pants off a snake. Another odd phrase. Charm the pants off a snake. I didn’t know snakes wore pants.
I met him in the park one day. We had the best romance ever. He was going to move to LA! I was going to move with him! He told me he loved me. I told him, ‘Why? It’s not going to do you any good.’ You know, just to get to him. He gave me an odd look and said, ‘I think it might.’
Of course, Mom hated him. Said he was bum, all that. Blah, blah, blah. She told me I was bum magnet. She was right. He was a bum. But I loved my bum so much!
He told me, ‘You know, one day, I’m going to be a big star.’
I didn’t doubt it. He was so cute, he could have done anything.
I flirted, ‘You are?’
‘Yeah, and I’m going to buy you a big house.’
‘You can’t buy me a beer now, Frank, so how are you going to buy me a house?’
‘I can buy you a beer, Sandy.’
God, I was so in love with that boy. Every time I’d see him, I’d just smile. And he’d smile back.
Of course, it didn’t do me a bit of good. Mom was out to destroy this one, too. ‘He’s a dreamer and he couldn’t act his way out of a paper bag!’