Following your dreams is not always easy, but it's sure better than keeping the status quo
|Another damn invitation landed in my mailbox and I let out a ragged groan. Didn't anyone around here have vision, I thought giving a silent scream behind tightly closed eyes.
"Oh, Lydia is getting married." my mother's sing song voice rippled the air around my head as she read the invitation over my shoulder. "That's so sweet. She and Tom have always made such a lovely couple."
I cracked my eyes open and pasted a pained smile on my face. I waited for the proverbial 'when are you gonna get married', but it never came. Instead my mother had clamped her lips, willing herself to not say it; not to upset me.
It had only been a week since Simon, my high school boyfriend and I had called it quits. I'd broken it off at Angel's wedding, right after he'd popped the question. I still remembered the wall of stares and felt the anguish as I'd said 'no' and heard the community gasp. I'd wanted to apologize, but could not get the words out beyond the anger I felt at having been flung into center stage shortly after the bride and groom's first dance. It was as if he expected me to accept because everyone was watching. And I just couldn't.
The expectation of doing the expected felt too much like a noose around my neck. I couldn't stay here. I needed to get out. There was no way I was sitting through another friend's wedding, especially when everyone would be there. The awkwardness of it felt like salt in a wound.
I handed my mother the invitation and left the room.
Within the week I had purchased a used pink RV, left a note saying goodbye and slipped away, heading southeast towards my dreams. All my worldly possessions thrown into a duffel bag, along with my guitar. I expected to live like a gypsy.
I had no plan, no real destination, just the open road and a hope for something more. I couldn't go back. I wouldn't go back. There was nothing left for me there.
I drove for several days only stopping for necessities and a few meager opportunities to stretch my legs and use the facilities. I wanted to put as much distance between me and that sleepy town as I could.
By the time I reached Tennessee I was road weary and needed to restock my dwindling money supply. A help wanted sign at the local diner drew me in and since I already had ample experience from my parent’s diner, I figured a little time to work and figure out my plan was in order.
Rodney hired me on the spot. He was as greasy as his greasy spoon, but I didn’t care. A pay check was a pay check. The fact that I could start right away also helped. Noon rush was coming up and his ‘usual gal’ hadn’t shown up.
I changed into the tiny uniform and pulled at the hem hoping for a few more inches. Apparently, I got to work in a little bitty skirt that barely covered my butt. I had a feeling I wasn’t going to like the clientele much.
My own hometown didn’t prepare me for the roaming hands or smarmy smiles.
Denise, a girl not much older than myself, showed me how to handle the more insidious boys. Rodney appeared to see it as all good fun, but my skin was crawling by the time I finished my shift.
“How can you put up with this?” I asked her as we cleared tables and wiped down the counters.
She shrugged and whispered back, “What else have I got to do, besides Rodney’s my uncle. He don’t touch me, but watch him. He can be worse than the customers.”
That raised the hairs on my scalp. I didn’t want trouble. Maybe asking to park my RV out back over night was not a good thing. I didn’t want to be alone.
“Hey, whatcha doing tonight?” I asked, hoping for a distraction.
Again she shrugged, before adding, “my friend Stella and I were planning on going to the lake. You should come. We swim and do up a big bonfire. Some of the guys sing...”
She smiled. It was probably the first real easy smile I’d seen from her all day, besides the one she had given me when we had started that morning.
“A couple of us figure we got some talent. You sing?”
I nodded, feeling my gut loosening and that free feeling slipping back over my soul. We walked out of the diner and headed back towards my RV so I could get my swimsuit and my guitar.
“Hey, this is a sweet ride,” she said as she climbed into my living space. Seeing the guitar, she lightened up even more. “You play?”
When I nodded, she asked if I would play her something. I grinned as I told her, “I figure I got some talent, too.”
She laughed as she settled in to listen to me play. I picked something she might know - a Dixie Chicks song - The Long Way Around.
I was partway into the second verse when her voice merged with mine and I had to smile. She did have talent. Miles of it.
When the last strum fell away, Denise was grinning like a fool too. “Man, girl. You got the voice of an angel and some serious talent.”
“Likewise... so why you still hanging around here?”
She gave a sigh and pulled her bottom lip in, nipping at it with a nervous gesture.
“What’s holding you here?”
She was quiet for a time and just when I thought she wouldn’t answer she said, “nothing, really. But going out on my own... that seems too big for me.”
“What if we went out together?”
Before she could answer, there was a rap on the door and our eyes swiveled toward it.
“Hey, Denny. You in there. I heard ya singing.”
“That’s Stella,” Denise said, as we both released a breath. When I nodded, she moved to let the new girl in.
“Oh, sweet digs,” the girl said as she took in the small space. “I heard you guys singing. Fantastic stuff. Can I join?”
Denise introduced her and the three of us sang a few more songs. Our voices harmonized so well.
With a little convincing, I played one of my original tunes and the two of them harmonized in to fill the song.
“Wow,” Stella said shaking her head at us, “we sound so good.”
I had to agree. “you ever think of running off to Nashville and trying for a dream?” I asked not sure what kind of response I’d get.
“Seriously. All The Time,” Stella said with an energy that seemed to lighten us all. “I keep telling Denny, here we should go for it. We’re young. We don’t got a settle for this one hick town. and now here you are, doing what I so want to do. What do you say, Denny. You up for a wild ride?”
Denise did not look convinced.
“We could travel around in our own personal barbie mobile.”
Denise laughed. She seemed to be considering things.
“Well, while she thinks it though, I suggest we hit the lake and have ourselves a swim. I’m sure you want to wash off the grime that is the diner and grab some roasted hot dogs over my brother’s bonfire. It’ll be a blast.”
Stella’s energy was invigorating. I gathered my stuff and after locking up, headed out for the lake.
We met up with a rather large gaggle of teenagers all in pursuit of cooling off in the river. The water was fine and even the muddy bottom seemed to pull the sludge of the day from my skin. I felt lighter, hopeful even.
As the sun dipped itself behind the horizon, we dried off and dressed over our suits before regrouping at the bonfire Stella’s brother had built up. Hot dogs and marshmallows made there way around the group and someone even pulled out graham crackers and chocolate to make the most amazing s’mores.
When the food was eaten, Stella pulled out her fiddle, the one her brother had brought with him for her, and urged me to grab my guitar. Denise joined her voice to ours and we sang into the night. Our voices rising up into the starry night as others hooted and hollered at the songs we played.
It was late into the night and the bonfire had burned down to golden embers when I said, “I should head back to my bed. I told Rodney I’d work again tomorrow.”
“We’ll walk you back,” Stella said as she made sure her brother came with us after pouring water over the last of the glowing embers.
“That’s okay,” I told them, but she insisted.
When we reached the RV my stomach vaulted to my throat. Someone had broken in and left the door gaping open. Light pooled sickly on the gravel just outside the door.
Stella’s brother went in to investigate and found Rodney caught up in a drunken sprawl over my bed. My fancy lingerie wrapped about his head and his pants down around his ankles.
A cold, prickly shaft of air careened down my spine. If I had been here. If I had been alone. Thoughts raced and circled my brain. Stella and Denise wrapped their arms around me as Stella’s brother called the sheriff.
“This ain’t the first time,” the old sheriff said as he carted Rodney off.
“Seems he attacked his other waitress last weekend. That’s why she quit.” Stella told her.
As I looked a little lost and forlorn, she added, “you’ll stay with us tonight. Tomorrow we’ll disinfect and see about getting us a singing gig over at the Hotel.”
“Stella’s always got a plan.” Denise laughed, but seemed to agree it was the right thing to do.
“Who knows we may just make it big!” Stella announced as they walked arm in arm towards the center of town where Stella’s family were only too happy to take her in.
Six weeks later, with new locks on the RV’s door and good wishes from Stella and Denise’s families, we headed out. We had made a killing at the Hotel and decided to try our chances with Nashville. What did we have to lose?
Word Count = 1,742
Author's Notes ▼