Deena stepped onto the platform and, for a moment, was glad to be in her hometown. She inhaled the pine scented air and felt it force the bus’s dankness out of her lungs. But the moment passed quickly and she wondered what to do next. “I guess I should call them,” she muttered, digging in her duffle for some change.
After the third ring, she was greeted by her parent’s answering machine. “Howdy,” said her mother’s voice. “Buy our farm fresh eggs Monday through Thursday. Two dollars a dozen. Just leave your money in the jar.” Deena groaned. Her parents managed to be considered hicks in a community of hicks. Her father prided himself on building things from recycled goods like old tires. In high school, she tried to stay with friends as much as possible. Leroy had understood. “They’re holdin’ you back, baby,” he‘d whisper.
After the beep, she began the first acting she’d done in months and said, quite cheerfully, “Mom, pick up. It’s Deena… Mom… I guess you’re really not there. I’m at the bus depot. Can you pick me up?” Why would she, Deena wondered, after the things I said.
She sat next to her duffle and worked on her story. “Just wanted to see y’all, it’s been awhile,” she said over and over until it felt like the truth. “Auditions every time I turn around. I even got visited by an agent.” That part did happen. The agent had been very interested in signing her. Leroy’d kept her from doing it. “I don’t like the way he looks at you,” he’d said. She’d probably be working now, if… Well, ‘if doesn’t pay the bills’ her mom used to say.
Deena sighed, surveying the small town. New York had been Leroy’s idea. “Let’s blow this place, baby. You’re a star. You should be in New York. I have it all planned out. I’ll take care of everything.”
That was two years ago. She and her parents had fought about New York. “Where are you going to live? How will you make money?” they’d asked. And Leroy. “Something about him worries us.”
Deena had opened her mouth and Leroy’s words fell out, “You’re just trying to hold me back. You’re jealous because I’ll be a star. You don’t love me like he does.” More accusations had flown and she’d stormed out of the house screaming that she’d never be back. And she hadn’t been, until now.
How did Leroy make my family the enemy? She wondered. Her parents were right with those questions. When they got to New York, Leroy and she had ended up staying in a shelter for a month. He couldn’t … wouldn’t find work. There were jobs, but he had a million reasons why those jobs weren’t right for him. The plan turned into her working and him doing nothing. Time for auditions dried up.
Yesterday, when he’d taken the last of her tips to buy beer, she snapped. She had thought about leaving before, but he would remind her that she had nowhere to go. “Nobody back home wants you. It’s just me, baby, I’m the only one that loves you.” The argument ended with him throwing her clothes out of the window. “If you want to leave, fine, I’ll help you pack. But you’ll be back, baby, because no one else is going to want you.”
After he left, she fished the rent money out its hiding place and went outside. She salvaged what was left of her wardrobe off the sidewalk and went to the bus station.
Now here she was, waiting. A battered red F150 pulled up to the curb. Her mother leapt out before it reached full stop. Deena was lost in a hug so tight she could barely breathe. “Honey, I’m so glad to see you. How long are you staying?” her mom said.
Story gone, Deena cried, “I don’t know. Leroy…” she stopped.
Her mother’s eyes brimmed with understanding. “I have some clothes piled on your bed, but we can get those cleared out in no time.”
Deena’s dad, ever stoic, picked up her duffle and threw it in the bed of the truck alongside at least two dozen old tires. “Makin’ somethin’?” she asked him.
“Mom wants a pottin’ bench.”
“Can I help?”
“I can always use help,” he said as they climbed into the truck’s cab and drove home.
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