The seed was planted back around Valentine’s Day in 2012. My lady friends and I had a girls’ night out. Dinner and drinks at Rubio’s again and then a chick flick. Walking out of The Vow, Irene purred to me, “You know Sue, if I woke up from a coma and Channing Tatum claimed to be my husband, I’d just go with it.” I murmured my agreement. We weren’t the only ones infatuated; months later a meme that said the same thing verbatim kept popping up on Pinterest.
I can’t remember all the details of the movie—it was Patty’s birthday and we had all drunk a little more than usual—mostly because Patty decided to treat us rather than that I felt like celebrating. But the main story is, Channing Tatum’s wife is in a car accident and after she wakes us from a coma, she can’t remember the last five or six years of her life. Too bad for her, these years include her meeting and marrying the man of her dreams. They try to make a go of it, but she reverts back to who she was when her memory stopped and she throws her husband over for a go with her old fiancé. She kind of comes around in the end, but not before dropping Channing and all his muscled goodness cold for a while.
But it got me thinking as I climbed into bed with Jerry that night. I tried to spoon up behind him, but he scrunched farther over to the side, springs squeaking in protest. He also stole most of the blankets with him. I rolled out of the valley that Jerry’s bulk had left in the middle of our tired mattress. Cue an audible sigh here. What had my life disintegrated into these last years? What had I wanted twenty years ago? If I woke up in the morning and discovered this life I was leading was the life I had suddenly been dropped into, would I still want it?
I’d known a couple years into the marriage that Jerry was kind of a bust. The one time he ever really stood up to his mother was when he married me. She still held him under her thumb. He didn’t have many interests beyond channel surfing and mindless eating. Along the way he’d dropped the activities that we used to do together—the bowling league and the home brewing, for example. We’d had two kids, but I liked the idea of them more than the reality. Hermie was 19 and had graduated by the skin of his teeth. There was no way he was going to college on his grades. I’d try to set up an apprenticeship with my brother the construction manager, but Hermie refused to go and now inhabited our basement like a phantom doing who knows what on his computer day and night. Trisha was 17 and we fought constantly. Afterward, she’d turn around and moan about me to all her friends on her Twitter and Facebook accounts. She’d always worn me out, even as a baby. I was her mother, but I had to admit that she wasn’t very likable.
I was not leading a particularly happy existence.
The next day after the movie, I stopped by the library on the way home from work and googled “how to fake amnesia.” It was kind of a lark, but I didn’t want the search to show up on any of my devices just in case I ever decided to go through with it.
If Channing’s wife could brush off her current life (which looked pretty amazing to me) on account of her amnesia, then surely fake amnesia would allow me to withdraw more or less gracefully from my life. Because even though I didn’t really like any of my family currently, I still mostly loved them and didn’t want to hurt them. Amnesia seemed a pretty good excuse to start over without explicitly saying, “I hate my life and you. I want to start over.” Who knows—if I did fake amnesia—maybe I could even have a fake breakthrough and come back to my life after an extended breath of fresh air.
The fake amnesia idea remained just a seed for over a year until my family decided to fertilize it with a whole bunch of their crap last spring.
The latent seed sprouted its first leaf in March (ironically on the first day of spring) when my lovely Trisha introduced me to Axel. The new “love” of her life. What a tool. He was as old as my baby brother, and as smart as a doorknob.
He stood there, hands in his skin tight, ripped to the crotch jeans, expressionless. Trisha beamed as she told me about his wanna-be band….and that she was planning on touring with them when she turned 18 in a couple months.
Uh….no. My daughter is not going to be a groupie.
I fought the urge to smack them both alongside the head, but I sat there, fake smile in place, as Axel sung the cover song from their debut album. The one hit wonder that would carry him to stardom was AWFUL.
A few days later, just as Axel’s screeching was finally fading from memory, a call from Hermie in the middle of the night pushed me further over the edge.
“Hey mom. I need your help.”
“Where are you? It’s two in the morning! I thought you were in bed.”
“Ya…about that. I snuck out.”
“You’re 19 years old. You don’t need to sneak out. Where the heck are you?”
“Waiting for a tow truck off I-17.” There was a long pause. “I totaled your car mom…. but it wasn’t my fault.”
At this point in the conversation I stopped listening and just beat the phone into the mattress repeatedly. He had his own dang car! Why did he take mine?!
Jerry stirred and mumbled “Everything okay?”
I tossed him the phone and said “It’s for you” and walked out of the room.
The next day I visited the remains of my car. As I stood there looking at the mangled metal it began to rain. I laughed a little and thought, When it rains it pours, right?
Alone, I think I might even have bounced back from that experience, but combined with Trisha’s shenanigans and the rest of the week’s events, Jerry’s anniversary gift a couple weeks later acted like miracle grow for that tiny sapling.
For our twenty-second anniversary Mr. Romantic sauntered in carrying half dead daisies and expecting his token holiday relations. I insisted on dinner first, so we drove across town to nice little Mexican place….. Taco Bell.
Over a crunch wrap supreme and diet Pepsi, Jerry looked into my eyes and said. “Mother is having a hard time on her own. I told her she could move in with us for a while. What do you think, Sue?”
And that was all it took.
Even though I had read someone else’s ideas about how to fake amnesia, I was not thinking straight enough when we got home from Taco Bell to even remember the plan. I just knew that I needed to have amnesia. Immediately. I took the $60 in cash I had in a tin on top of the refrigerator and made sure I had a well-stocked purse (including tooth brush—I wasn’t going to “forget” everything) and I fled. I took Jerry’s truck to the bus station. I parked it illegally (perhaps that was immature but I had had enough) and went inside and bought a ticket. I scanned the possible destinations. I wanted to find a place where I had never been. I wanted to go somewhere where I knew no one. I wanted to start over. My only requirement was that the place had to have a café that was hiring. I fantasized about being a waitress. I would call people “Hon” and refill coffee cups and the only thing I’d have to worry about would be if they wanted their eggs over easy or scrambled. Also, I had to pay cash for the ticket. I didn’t want to leave too much of a trace.
I found $17.82 in my wallet so together with the $60, I bought a one way ticket for $76. That’s how I ended up in Wenatchee, Washington.
It was 2:00 AM when I staggered off the bus. I was exhausted and needed a place to sleep and plan. I had tried to come up with a plan on the bus but I was too angry to get past all the ways my family had been making me crazy. Now I had a problem. To get a hotel room, I needed to use my credit card. To have amnesia, I couldn’t use my credit card, because presumably, I wouldn’t know who the person listed on the card was.
Clearly I hadn’t thought this through.
I decided I needed some sleep. Tonight I would still be me. I would use my credit card. If my family cared enough to try to track me down, I may be traceable. Oh well, it couldn’t be helped. Tomorrow I would have amnesia.
The next morning I started feeling guilty and worrying about my family. They must be beside themselves, wondering where I was. Then I remembered everything, all the hassles they caused me. It was easier to forget them all. I couldn’t go back. In the hotel room, there was a small card advertising The Wild Huckleberry. It was, according to their ads, the place to go for brunch. It sounded perfect. I would see if they were hiring. I needed a new name. My best friend in high school had been named Kathy. I would become Kathleen. Kathleen…Jones. That was me. I was from…Ohio. As far as anyone knew (including me) that was the truth.
I had “forgotten” everything else.
I marched myself out of the hotel, my hand tightly gripping the small card advertising The Wild Huckleberry. I followed the small map on the backside of the card hoping the stars were in my favor and that they needed a waitress. The closer I got, the more nervous I became. Now I could see the sign for The Wild Huckleberry about three blocks away. What would I do if they didn't need a waitress? Where would I stay tonight? Could I use my credit card again without being found? Was anyone even looking for me? Perhaps, Jerry was too busy with his mother and Trisha was too busy with Axel and Hermie was too busy with his computer to notice I was gone and not coming back. It would be just like my family to not miss me when I ran away from home. At least then I could truly start this life over.
I looked up and The Wild Huckleberry was right in front of me. All my musings had distracted me. I hadn't planned what I was going to do or what I was going to say and then I saw the sign. HELP WANTED in big bold letters on the far right side of the window. The stars were in alignment! I walked into The Wild Huckleberry and my new life.
I loved the cafe immediately. It had mismatched tables and chairs. None of them were the same size or color or shape. It was my kind of place -- a place where no one matched and everyone belonged. There were curtains, linoleum floors and an eating counter, just like the movies from the fifties. It was perfect.
"I'll be with you in just a moment, dear," said the only waitress in the cafe. "Go ahead and find a seat.” She went back to taking an order from a cute young couple with a little baby. I sat on the opposite side of the cafe. There were only a few people in the cafe but it was almost 10:00 on a weekday morning. Most people would be at work.
"Here's a menu, dear," I heard as the waitress thrust the menu in my face. "I'll be back in a few minutes to take your order."
"Oh, thanks, but I'm actually here about the HELP WANTED sign in the window. I was wondering if I could talk to whoever is in charge of hiring," I said.
"Well, that would be me, dearie. I'm the lucky owner of this wonderful, rundown establishment. My name's Roxanne," said the waitress. "What's your name?"
The moment of truth was here. This would be the first time I would truly have "forgotten" myself. "I'm Kathleen Jones but everyone calls me Kathy. I never answer to Kathleen. That's my grandmother," I said. I didn't bother to add that I'd never answered to Kathy either. I would just get used to the name.
"Nice to meet you, Kathy. I need a waitress to work the second shift. It's from two until ten. We actually close at nine but it will take you an hour to get rid of stragglers, clean up and set up for the next morning. Do you have any experience?" asked Roxanne.
"I do not, but I am a fast learner and a hard worker and I really need a job," I said. I figured the truth was the way to go since if she hired me she'd know pretty soon that I had no experience.
"You're in luck. I'm desperate. I'm tired of working 16 hour days so you're hired on a trial basis. I'll give you seven days to get up to speed and then we'll chat again. You're new in town, right? You got a place to stay?" asked Roxanne.
"Actually, no I don't. I just got off the bus."
"Well, there's a little apartment above the cafe you can live in if you want. It's not much and I'll totally understand if you don't want it after you see it but it is cheap and I'll wait to collect your rent until after your first paycheck," said Roxanne.
"I'll take it!"
"But you haven't even seen it."
"Doesn't matter. Your terms are exactly what I need," I replied. It was exactly what I needed, since I knew I couldn't go back to the hotel again.
"I thought that might be the case. You aren't running from the law, are you?" asked Roxanne.
"No, nothing like that," I said.
"Well, everything else I can deal with so let's go get you settled. Carol Jean, come on out and take over. I'm taking Kathy upstairs to get her settled into the apartment."
Carol Jean came out through the double doors that must have led to the kitchen. With a name like Carol Jean, I expected an older lady with lots of wrinkles and maybe a beehive, but instead a young girl with long, straight hair down to her waist came out of the door. Poor girl. How does a teenager in today's world go by a name of Carol Jean.
"Roxanne, I told you my name is Caro," said Carol Jean defiantly.
"Honey, you've been Carol Jean since your mama brought you into the world and you'll be Carol Jean to me until either you or I leave this world. Just be glad you got Caro on your nametag. It was only because it was cheaper that way. Now watch the cafe while I take Kathy up to the apartment."
"Is she another stray?" asked Carol Jean.
"What do you think?" said Roxanne.
"Okay, I'll keep watch while you fix the world, one stray at a time."
I was beginning to not feel so sorry for Carol Jean. For just a minute I thought I'd call her Carol Jean too just to spite her but then realized my big act of defiance for my life had been running away and I was all out of spunk for the minute.
I followed Roxanne through the double doors which did indeed lead to the kitchen. We passed through the kitchen where I was introduced to Bill, the cook. Out the back door there were some stairs we climbed up to the apartment. Roxanne unlocked the door and handed me the keys.
"You can still change your mind about the apartment. It's not a condition of employment," said Roxanne.
"It'll be fine," I assured her.
"Where's your stuff?"
"This is all I have."
Roxanne opened the door to the apartment. It was sparsely furnished and all one room -- kitchen, dining room, living room and bedroom. It was cozy and more than enough for just me.
Roxanne turned to me, "You are quite the mystery. Does this meet with your approval?"
I nodded. It was more than I could have hoped for. I really needed to plan my amnesia better next time!
Roxanne handed me the keys and then continued, "Well, we provide the uniform and we have them in almost every size imaginable so once you're settled, come down to the cafe and we'll get you set up for the night. The shoes you have on should be fine as long as they're comfortable. I'll be here tonight and for the next couple of nights to help out. You'll be working with Shirley. She's a great waitress and been with us for awhile. Between her and me, you'll learn the ropes quickly. Why don't you get a little rest and come down for lunch. We feed the help daily. See you in a few."
She was out the door before I could even say thank-you.
I stood there for a minute after Roxanne left, unsure of what to do. What had I just done?! I had lied to this poor woman about who I was, but somehow ended up with a job anyway. What would happen if she found out that I wasn’t who I claimed? Could I go to jail? What will happen if my family actually does come looking for me?
I wanted to call Patty and tell her all about this crazy farce. Would she turn me in?
No, Patty was my best friend. She would never get me into trouble. I decided to call her.
From the moment I heard her chipper “Hello?” from the other end of the line, I felt instantaneously better. Patty had been my friend for over twenty years. We have always been able to gripe about our lives and our kids together. The shared dysfunctionality in her own family bonded us together like sisters.
“Patty!” I almost cried. “You are never going to believe where I am!”
I proceeded to tell her the entire story, starting with the idea which sprang from watching the Channing Tatum movie, through the ridiculous craziness of Trisha’s new boyfriend and Hermie wrecking my car, down to the final insult of my mother-in-law coming to live with us. I found as I was talking through it, I began to get more and more angry at my family for putting me over the edge.
Like a true best friend should, Patty mirrored my anger and frustration in my behalf. Then after a brief pause, she asked hesitatingly, “Sue, I know they were rotten to you and you totally deserve a break from your life, but, when are you coming home? How long are you going to stay up in Washington?”
“I don’t know,” I said quietly. “I don’t know yet what I am going to do, but I’m not coming home. Not for a while, anyway.”
We both sat quiet on the phone, each unsure of what to say next. Finally, I broke the silence, “Hey, Patty, what can you tell me about waitressing?”
Patty had waitressed for several years in college at a local bar and grill. She filled me in on as many tips as she could think of. An hour later I was back downstairs in the cafe, sifting through the assortment of used uniforms for the staff. They were simple red dresses with a ruffled white apron, perfect for a little cafe in small town Washington. I tried one on in the tiny staff bathroom, fluffing my short brown curls and wishing that I had thought to bring some hairspray with me from up in my apartment.
From up in my apartment. It sounded so single and free. I gave myself a little grin in the dingy mirror. “You ready for this?” I asked the new woman smiling back at me from the other side of the glass. I answered my own question, “You bet, Kathy!” Then I left the room, ready to start my shift.
I found my way back into the kitchen, where Bill told me about the days’ specials. He slid a plate with a hearty slice of meatloaf on an open-faced sandwich over in my direction and instructed me to eat up. I readily agreed, and devoured the special of the day. I realized that I hadn’t eaten since yesterday and I was starving. The food was delicious, and I was sure that Bill’s cooking was easy to sell.
After I ate my lunch, Roxanne gave me a brief run-down of what my duties were, how to take orders, and where to pick up the food. “Don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it soon enough,” she said, patting me on the arm. “Shirley will be here for her shift in a few minutes. Just do what she does, and you’ll be alright.”
It was hard to miss Shirley. She breezed into the cafe like an orange-topped tornado, her brightly colored curls piled high on her head. I tried not to notice how she seemed to have the wrong sized uniform, since the buttons on her top were furiously fighting to contain her voluptuousness. I didn’t know how she was able to pull off the loud turquoise-colored running shoes with her ensemble, but somehow it worked.
Roxanne introduced us and Shirley beamed at me. “Nice to meet you, Kathy! You’re gonna love it here!” I gave her a hesitant smile and she proceeded to take me under her wing.
I shadowed Shirley around for the first several hours, until I felt comfortable with talking to customers on my own. Really, I didn’t think that my first day went too badly, other than the slight mishaps of bringing the wrong order to table four, or spilling ice water on the checkered tablecloth when I was trying to top the customers’ glasses.
By the time nine o’clock rolled around, however, I was exhausted. I wasn’t used to being on my feet all day and they were throbbing dully. I also wasn’t used to the constant movement and commotion of working in a café. I found it all exhilarating. I was doing something different, new, and exciting. I could be something different, new, and exciting! There were people in and out all day, each one different, with some sort of story to tell. Shirley was amazing at small talk, and all the customers seemed to know her by name. I wondered how long it would take me to fit in to a place like this.
Why couldn’t this be my new place to start? What if I just stayed, and everyone would know me by name…well, sort of, my fake name at least. I began to wonder if it was possible to truly start over again. Don’t like the life you have? Hit the eject button, put in a new cassette, and push Play all over again.
Just as Roxanne predicted, we turned the latch on the last straggling customer at around 9:45. Wes, the night cook, was already out on the dining room floor stacking chairs up on tables. Under Shirley’s direction, I started gathering all the salt and pepper shakers from the dining tables to refill them, while she was going through receipts at the cash register, preparing to close out the till.
“You did real good tonight, Honey,” she said, in between a few smacks of her gum. “I would never have guessed that you’ve never waited tables before. You’re a natural!”
I blushed a little. “Thanks,” I said, trying not to spill the salt on the counter as I was refilling the shaker. I didn’t need any more bad luck.
A few more gum smacks.
“So, Kathy,” she said, in a way which made me think she didn’t really believe it was my real name. “What’s your story? How did you end up at The Wild Huckleberry?”
“Oh, you know, I just needed a job,” I said in a noncommittal tone, not looking up.
“Um hmm….Where you from?”
“Reno.” It came out before I even thought about it. I didn’t really want to tell her where I came from, but I hadn’t planned out my new story yet, so I didn’t have time to fabricate a new life for myself. Why didn’t I think of this before? Of course people would ask these kinds of questions!
I decided to switch the conversation to focus on Shirley instead. It seemed safer.
“What about you?” I asked. “What’s your story?”
“Oh, it’s just the typical Lost Girl Tale,” she said, shrugging. I looked up with a questioning look, encouraging her to continue.
“Well, I married my man real young, on account of I couldn’t stand to be in my father’s house one more day. I was seventeen and pregnant, thought I would be able to start this exciting new life. But then I lost the baby, and he started coming home drunk more often than not, smelling like booze and cigarettes. Finally I’d had enough of being his punching bag, so I stole his wallet in the middle of the night and hitched myself a ride. I didn’t know or care which direction I was headed.”
Shirley paused from her story, and I noticed that Wes, who was mopping up the dining room floor, had also paused in his work to listen.
Shirley cleared her throat. “Anyway, I ended up here, at The Wild Huckleberry. Roxanne took me in, no questions asked. Gave me a job on the spot, and even let me rent out the apartment you’re living in now. Best thing that ever happened to me. It’s going on fifteen years now, I’d say.”
I didn’t know what to say. Compared to her story, my complaints sounded pathetic.
Twenty minutes later I was turning the lock to my new apartment. Shirley’s old apartment, I thought to myself. I leaned heavily on the door and looked around the room. It was dark, except for some flashing blue neon lights from across the street coming through the single window.
I decided that I needed to talk to Patty again.
“Hey, Sue!” she said cheerfully upon answering. “How’d your first shift go?”
“Oh, it was fine, no major disasters anyway,” I said, then paused. I couldn’t explain this heavy feeling in my chest which had crept up on me since I asked Shirley about her past.
“What’s wrong, Sue?” Patty asked.
“I was just wondering…” I struggled to get the question out. Finally I decided to just spit it out. “I was just wondering, has Jerry or the kids asked about me?” For some reason, I felt embarrassed to have to ask. And I was even more embarrassed at my anxiety over what her answer would be.
There was a long pause on the other side of the phone. Finally she answered quietly.
“Yes…of course they have, Sue.”
“What did you tell them?” I asked eagerly.
“Oh, that I hadn’t heard from you, of course. I didn’t tell them anything, Sue.”
I didn’t know if that was what I wanted Patty to tell my family or not. Did I really want to disappear, or did I secretly want them to come frantically searching for me, begging me to come back home? I allowed myself a brief fantasy of Jerry, on bended knee pleading for my forgiveness and the kids standing close by, tears running down their faces in contrition.
I let out a heavy sigh.
“Sue, are you okay? Maybe I should come up and stay with you. You know, we can have some good old fashioned girl time, watch a marathon of chick flicks and eat a gallon of ice cream every night.”
It was tempting. But also not.
“No, thanks Patty. I think that I need to figure this one out on my own.”
After we said our good-bys, and Patty made me promise to call her the next day, I hit the End button on my cell phone. I crossed the dark room, and pulled my one and only chair over to the window. I looked out at the quiet, black night, lit up periodically with the neon blue flash of the sign across the street. I wondered if it was the same scene that Shirley had looked out over fifteen years ago. “Barb’s Bar” flashed on, off, on, off. I closed my eyes and could still see the color emblazoned on the inside of my eyelids.
I had never felt so alone.
My flight into the night and yesterday’s shift must have worn me out because I slept through most of the morning, oblivious to the delicious smells rising up from the café below. Thankfully, I woke before my afternoon shift started.
As I took a shower, I rued the fact that I hadn’t thought to pack more with me when I decided to abandon my old life—specifically a change of clothes—maybe some shampoo and a towel. What was I going to do until I got a paycheck? I had taken our savings and Jerry’s paycheck for granted. I was feeling pretty chagrined about my impulsiveness. Landing the job was a minor miracle, but was this what I really wanted?
I donned yesterday’s uniform and headed downstairs to the café. As I came in the backdoor, Roxanne pointed to the front. “Looks like you might have a visitor. He came in here a few minutes ago asking for someone with your description. I didn’t give anything away, but he decided to stay. Ordered the corned beef on rye and a Pepsi.”
I peeked through the door. Even though I was staring at the back of his head, the lank hair and narrow shoulders obviously belonged to Hermie. Really? Hermie?
My family had found me. I didn’t know whether I should be elated or despondent. Bill put Hermie’s sandwich up on the counter. I squared my shoulders, thanked Roxanne, pushed the swinging door open with my rear end and delivered Hermie’s order. I plopped down on the bench across from him. We silently stared at each other for a minute.
“You found me,” I finally stated matter-of-factly.
“Mom, you weren’t too tough to track down. You left Dad’s car at the bus station. You used your credit card for a motel and you’ve been using your cell phone. If you were trying to run away, you didn’t try too hard to cover your tracks. Of course you were easy to find. Anyone with half a brain and a few pirated access codes could locate you. What do you think I’m doing on my computer all day?”
I had been surprised to see Hermie, but hearing him speak, I suddenly remembered how his recent idiocy had been one of the catalysts to my running away. “I wouldn’t have had to take the bus if you hadn’t annihilated my car.”
“About that. I’m going to buy you a new one.”
His response was so absurd I busted out laughing even though I was still furious with him.
I patted his hand. “Oh Hermie, is this before or after you move out of my basement and get a life?”
“No really, Mom. I’ve been busy. I created an app that I just sold. To Apple. For a lot of money.” Hermie leaned back with a confident grin I hadn’t seen in years. “I’ll replace the car. And I guess I can move out too, but I thought you liked me living there. You never said anything.”
“You’re always tucked away in your dungeon of a basement. You hardly ever come out to talk to anyone.”
“Well, yeah. I’ve been kinda busy.”
“How do you even know how to create an app?”
“I took that computer programming class in ninth grade and I just taught myself after that. I knew what I wanted to do. The rest of school was mostly a waste.”
“Hmmm.” I was trying to reconcile this new view of Hermie with the recluse I had become used to over the years. “I guess we’re not always what we seem.”
“Speaking of which,” Hermie said, gesturing to my uniform and my makeshift nametag, “It’s nice to meet you Kathy. You wanna help your son understand what you’re doing in a waitress uniform in small town USA? Did you witness a murder? You better not be in the witness protection program or something, ‘cause if so, the feds really suck at keeping you safe.”
“No, no, nothing like that.” How do you tell your son you wanted to forget your life of which he was a major part? I guess you just come out and tell him. “I didn’t like where my life was. I thought I’d run away for a bit. Pretend I had amnesia maybe.”
Surprisingly, Hermie nodded like it made perfect sense. Maybe Hermie and I were closer than I thought we were. “Can’t really blame you there, Mom.” Great, even my son thought my life was worth abandoning. “Yeah, living with Dad and Trisha can be kinda rough.”
And you too! I thought, but held my tongue. I just pulled back my curly hair and looked sideways at him.
“How is your dad taking my disappearance?” I asked gingerly, a little afraid of the answer.
Hermie shifted uncomfortably. “Dad’s doing okay,” he said cryptically. “He let Grandma take your bedroom. He moved into Trisha’s room.”
“What?! I’ve been gone two days! Where’s Trisha? Did your dad kick her out? She’s only 17.”
Hermie handed me his phone. “Maybe you should just check Trisha’s Facebook. She posted the whole ugly mess on there.”
I scrolled through Hermie’s phone, discovering that Trisha had decided to jump the gun on her eighteenth birthday and had followed Axel to his out of town gig—where he had promptly abandoned her for some buxom brunette with a vintage Guns N’ Roses t-shirt. She was currently consoling herself at her friend Lois’s house while she posted inflammatory updates about Axel every hour or so. I felt bad for Trisha. I really did. But at least Axel was out of her life. And I sure didn’t want to get involved in this fiasco. Maybe Jerry would have to man up and help his daughter for once instead of me being the one who tried to save her. At least Trisha had someone else to complain about this time. It was usually me who was getting crucified in her updates. She hadn’t mentioned me once since I had disappeared. Not being the old Sue for now was looking pretty good.
I handed the phone back to Hermie. “And your Dad? Has he even mentioned I’m gone? Do you think he’s even noticed?”
“Dad’s Dad you know. He seems mostly concerned about himself and Grandma.”
Part of me hated that Hermie could see how things stood and part of me was glad someone else knew what Jerry was really like.
“Do you think he’ll take care of Trisha okay?” I was worried about how he had taken over her room.
“Trisha can take care of herself. When she licks her wounds and comes back home, I’m sure she’ll have no trouble taking her room back by force.” Hermie sat for several seconds with a contemplative look on his face. “Now that I have some cash, maybe I’ll think about getting my own place. Maybe Dad can take the basement.” Hermie grinned at the thought of his possible independence.
Maybe I had been justified in running away and forgetting my old life. Maybe it was okay to take care of just me for now. Maybe I could take some time and figure it out.
I took a deep breath, resolved. “And maybe I’ll just be Kathy for a while.”
“Well, keep in touch, Mom. I don’t know how long I can handle Grandma living with us.” Hermie reached into his pocket. “Here’s a little something to get you through the next few weeks. You probably want to lay off the credit card for a bit. Even Dad might be able to figure out where you are if he decides to try.” Hermie handed me a folded pack of twenties and squeezed my hand.
I accepted the money from this son I thought I had known. Maybe not everything about my old life was was worth forgetting.
Hermie strolled out the door, his shoulders squared. I watched him go with mixed feelings.
Roxanne slid into the booth Hermie had just vacated. Her eyes searched my face. “How you doin’ Hon?”
I smiled at her. “I’m okay. Let’s get to work.”
Thanks for reading the story!