TITLE: The Road to Nowhere - prologue
By Christine Long
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I apologize. I can't seem to get it to format correctly. Any help would be appreciated.
I had had enough. Everyone reaches that point in his or her life – the point when you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you can't possibly handle any more. I knew exactly when that was for me. It was Tuesday, March 10, 10:19 p.m. Eastern Time. I stood staring into the broken bathroom mirror. I didn't recognize myself. Gray hair streaked through what had once been rich brown with a hint of auburn. Now it was limp, lifeless, pulled back severely into a hair clip. Strands had escaped during this last confrontation, a confrontation that had culminated with the can of shaving cream splintering the bathroom mirror. The wrong can of shaving cream. The reason for this evening's tirade. I looked again at the shattered image staring back at me. My green eyes met those in the mirror and that's when it hit me. Those eyes stared back at me as if there was no soul behind them, just ovals that let in images and light. I knew then that it was time.
Hands shaking, I picked up the pieces of mirror in the sink and tossed them into the wastebasket. Splashing cold water in my face helped hold up my resolve. It was now or never. I reached behind the toilet tank and grasped a plastic baggie. Unzipping it, I unfolded the bills and quickly counted them. Nearly a hundred dollars in ones, fives, and two tens. Opening the cabinet under the sink, I reached far back behind the bottles of cleaning supplies and removed a hair spray can. I stumbled upon it in a second hand shop. The bottom unscrewed and out fell more bills, this stash was all twenties. Two hundred twenty dollars. Before I could lose my nerve, I gathered the other stashes from throughout the house. It was a pitiful amount to show for nearly fifteen years of sneaking and saving. I took it all to the bedroom and threw it on the bed. There was time. I had at least another hour and that was all I needed. The final count encouraged me – nearly five thousand dollars. Again my hands shook as I sorted it into piles, rolled it and placed rubber bands around each roll. I stared at the rolls lined up on my bed. I felt nothing. I really had no thought in my head. I felt empty, lifeless; but I knew what I needed to do.
Reaching under the bed, I pulled out an old suitcase. I struggled just a little as I hoisted it onto the bed. I flipped it open and removed a canvas money belt. This too was from my forage into a second hand shop. Unsnapping each pocket, I placed a roll of bills in each of the eight compartments. Shedding my current outfit, I Velcroed the money belt to my waist, running my hand over it. It was more than a belt it was my lifeline. I replaced my outfit with a loose fitting dress of an unknown fashion date. It was old and faded, but one that had come from the same second hand store. This was going to be my new wardrobe. A new wardrobe for a new life. But what kind of life?
I didn't have time to plan that out now. Glancing at the clock, I started to shiver, not from cold, but from the knowledge of what would happen if I were discovered. Trembling hands thrust unfamiliar clothing items into a worn duffle bag. A quick survey of the bedroom told me there was nothing there I could take with me. As I passed the oversized, ugly dresser I caught my reflection again. Hair! I almost forgot the stupid wig! Dropping the bag, I raced to the closet, tugging on the chain under the light bulb. It swung from its wire, casting moving shadows over the clothes and boxes. Sifting through the back of the stack, I grasped the balled up plastic grocery bag that held my headpiece. Switching the light off again with a click, I stood in front of the mirror, sweeping up my own mess of hair and fitting the wig snuggly on my head. Prepared as I was for the transformation, I had to pause for a moment to adjust to my reflection. The straight blonde hair rested on my shoulders. Bangs like those of a young girl hung to just above my eyes, covering my darker eyebrows. The green of my eyes seemed brighter, more intense. But there was no way anyone who saw me would recognize me for Aileen Praiger, mousey wife of Phil Praiger.
Snapping out of my daze, I grabbed my supply bag and raced for the back door. The screen door screeched like it was warning someone of my departure. I winced as it repeated the sound slamming behind me. It was the sound of finality to a part of my life I never wanted to face again. Looking ahead not behind was my new motto.
My beat-up little car welcomed me. Though nearly ten years old, she ran well. As I turned the key, I smiled ever so slightly. Due to Phil’s DUI tickets and a fender-bender or two, the car and insurance were in my name. A fact that Phil hated with a passion since he paid for everything. Good thing he hated paying the higher insurance premium more, so it had been switched over to me just last year. At least he couldn't accuse me of stealing the car.
As I backed onto the street, a soft rain splashed the windshield. I liked the rain and now it felt as if the skies themselves blessed my escape. It wasn't over yet, not until I drove clear across the country to the West Coast. More than anything other than escaping my husband, I wanted to see all the places I read and heard about. Or at least as many as my five thousand dollars could take me to.
The rain picked up its pace as I sped up the mountain road. I glanced at the four year old atlas on the seat beside me. Phil laughed at me when I picked it up at a yard sale a few months ago.
"Whadda need maps for? You never go anywhere." The scorn in his voice made me shrivel inside. I almost put it down. From somewhere inside of me a bit of stubborn courage that hadn't been buried yet showed itself. I dug the fifty cents out of my purse and smacked it into the woman's hand. Now it was my guide to the Promised Land.
I turned the windshield wipers up a notch as the raindrops thudded the glass. Dusk came early under the rain clouds and cars on-coming headlights glared through the water before it was swished away. The dread of being discovered slowly fell away. He wouldn't find me. He couldn't find me. The phrase kept time with the wipers.
Driving through the pouring rain for two hours was boring, but I didn't care. It meant two less hours with Phil. I tried not to think about what he was doing because I was sure he discovered my escape by now. The surge of adrenaline that had pushed me out the door and down the road was fading. I considered pulling over for a few hours of sleep. I didn't want to spend any more than I had to, especially at the beginning. Money was too important.
Before I could think, a deer flashed onto the dark road. I hit the brakes and swerved. I don't really know what happened next except that I was plunging off the side of the road, the car slashing through branches, bumping and pounding for what seemed like an eternity. The jolt that slammed through my body when the car hit something whipped my head into the steering wheel. My very last thought was pain.
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