The early morning light flitted through the partially open curtains of the motel room I was in, luring me gently from my slumber in time to catch my mother leaving for work.
Perhaps if it was a little darker, if I was a little groggier, or if she had turned away a little faster, I would’ve stayed blissfully unaware for a few moments longer. But as it was, the faint bruise on her skin could’ve had neon lights pointing to it considering the way my eyes automatically zeroed in on it.
I suppressed a flinch as my eyes raked over my mother’s frail form and bruised body. Though it was starting to fade, and her heavily made up skin covered almost all traces of the damage, her injury seemed to be imprinted on my mind, rising to the surface every time she looked at me. It was a painful reminder of a life we had only recently managed to escape.
Sensing my awakening, like only a mother could, she turned to me and offered a gentle smile. That smile spoke volumes. It was an I’m-glad-to-be-here smile, as well as an I’d-do-it-all-over-again smile. And damn if that didn’t cut me the most.
I stretched a hand out to her and she hobbled closer.
“You’re leaving already?” I asked, my voice still filled with remnants of my slumber.
“It’s almost five, Daria,” she replied.
“Oh.” I thought it had been a lot earlier. “Bye Ma. I swear today will be the day.”
“I trust you, Daria. I know you’ll find something.” She leaned in and placed a delicate kiss on my cheek. Knowing perhaps that her bruise would upset me, she kept her right side turned away from me. I hated that I was grateful for it.
Heading out at last, I waited until the flimsy hotel room door closed behind her before I let out a heaving sigh.
I still couldn’t believe that after all these years we had ended up back in Springville, Texas, the place where I’d spent the majority of my childhood. Back then, I was just a carefree kid who had no idea of the struggles I would soon face. It was just me and my mother then, just like it was now, and I knew it would be a long time before we let anyone in our lives again.
As soon as we arrived back in town, my first thought was how eerily unchanged it all was. Same houses, same people, same roads, and with my mother returning to the same diner that she’d worked in over twelve years ago, I felt like I’d taken a step back in time to my early youth. But as I kept looking down the symmetrical streets and familiar storefronts, I couldn’t help but feel that something was starkly different to before, though I couldn’t put my finger on what. It took many moments for me to consciously understand that it was me who had changed, along with my entire outlook on life. Springville no longer represented comfort, or happiness, or a place to call home.
Especially since we were currently housed in a partly dilapidated hotel that I hadn’t even realized was part of the town. It had stained carpets, a lumpy bed that my mother and I had to share, and an acidic smell that I couldn’t quite place. Considering it was a roof over our heads and didn’t have monsters lurking in the shadows, I considered us lucky to be here.
Deciding it was finally time to suppress my self-pity, I rolled out of bed and grabbed the newspaper that my mother had left by the door. I had told her that today would be the day I found a job and I would keep my promise. We’d been here for two weeks and I still hadn’t found a thing, but if we had any chance of starting a new life, I couldn’t just rely on my mother anymore.
I scanned through the job listings; most of them I was entirely uninterested in or completely unqualified for. I tried to rein in my increasing disappointment and frustration when a small advert caught my eye.
It wasn’t only the fact that I’d finally found a job that fit my skills exactly; an admin job was right up my alley and that alone would have perked me up. But the name of the shop was what completely shocked me.
In all my reminiscing about my youth, I had conveniently forgotten the person I’d spent most of my childhood with, mucking around and playing catch. Rocky Weston used to be the sweetest boy I’d ever met, taking a shy and awkward younger girl under his wing and helping her out when the other kids bullied her. I had a vague recollection of our parents knowing each other but as a kid, Rocky Weston was practically family.
He was two years older, but that never seemed to matter when I was running around chasing him everywhere he went. In a way, I was glad I left before he started dating girls and breaking hearts. But now, back in Springville, I’d completely forgotten that he would be in town too.
Rocky Weston Motorcycles.
It had to be a sign, didn’t it? There was no way it could be anything else. I’d already dismissed the possibility that it was another man with the same name, so caught up in my own fantasy that I’d started weaving in my head. After all, how many people named Rocky Weston could there possibly be in Springville?
Grinning foolishly to myself, I decided that I would indeed pay him a visit today. Even if he didn’t hire me for the job, it would be nice to see a familiar face after so many years, a reminder of happier times. I bustled around eagerly, getting dressed and feeling lighter than I had in a long time, perhaps years. If the state of the town was anything to go by, I was sure he hadn’t changed a bit.