The stench of her reflection made her shudder as she clutched the sides of a sink, filthy from neglect. Acid reflux burned in her throat. The sigh that filled the tiny room was heard only by ants crawling on a wall caked with dust.
She closed her eyes to erase the image standing before her – the image of hopelessness – the image of no return. The night enslaved her, the day put to death any of its light. The only living things in her life at that moment were roaches trying to escape the heavy scent of mothballs emanating from the toilet. She’d reek of it when she left. Preferable to the car she just…no…no…she shook her head to forget.
The once grey t-shirt clung to her chest in patches of sweat. She snatched at some paper towels and turned the crusted faucet. Wet towels felt cool on her face and neck – only seconds of allusive relief. Tinged lighting stripped bare a face burdened by forbidden acts against the innocence of the child she once was.
She lifted the top of a battered dispenser and pulled out a plastic bag containing sample toiletries she pocketed from time to time. The owners at the gas station didn’t care anymore.
A quick routine and she tossed the dirty towels in the basket overflowing with debris when a corner of an envelope caught her eye. She had thrown it away a few days ago. Ignoring it, she started to leave, but words printed on the envelope kept her standing at the door. She turned and rummaged through the garbage to pull out the crumpled paper. That crazy lady, she thought. Who tosses 50 bucks out the window?
The only place to sit in the 5x6 room was the toilet. Light flickered on fading walls of filmy green. She smoothed out the envelope against her thigh and propped her arm on the side of the chipped sink.
‘A gift from God just for you.’
Ashley clenched the envelope in her fist and threw it against the wall. Let it rot there for all I care.
She stepped on it as she left the bathroom.
The “crazy lady” had been wondering when God was going to work out another encounter. She was ready with her next envelope. But her feeble attempt at conversation while coasting alongside the girl was a disaster to say the least, limited by the girl’s constant reply of, “Nope, don’t want it.”
Promises of no religious material or invites to church made no difference. Next time, she was going to pull up a few feet ahead of the girl and just toss the envelope out the window.
God be with the envelope, please.
The quick respite did nothing to ease the heat for Ashley, but walk the road she must. Looking over her shoulder, looking across the road…looking…watching…looking…watching…as each car passed in any direction; she waited and walked. Asphalt breeze blew hot in her face.
Ashley saw a car pull off the road ahead of her. Oh no, there’s that lady again. But the car didn’t stop. Neither did Ashley. So what? Like I really care? She saw the envelope flutter in the wake of the car pulling away. Ashley walked on knowing exactly where it lay. She kept walking until the car disappeared. A few steps on her way back, and as she bent to pick up the envelope, a breeze kicked up from the direction of some bushes she hadn’t noticed before. Perfume? Or…what was that?
She followed the scent.
Delicate flowers of white and amber bloomed profusely on their vine growing throughout shrubs of green. Ashley unconsciously filled her lungs with the sweet fragrance of Honeysuckle, filtering out all the asphalt and mothball stench of the day. I don’t remember the last time I…I don’t remember ever seeing…
Then she spotted, ‘A gift from God just for you.’ on the envelope in her hand.
“That lady is crazy stupid.” muttered Ashley.
She squatted under the shade of the Honeysuckle to see how much money there was this time – nothing about church just like the lady had said.
Ashley squeezed the envelope in her fist intending to toss it on the road. The God-words the lady wrote getting smashed by passing cars gave her a measure of pleasure.
But, she shrugged her shoulders and tossed it over where it got stuck in the flowers.
Leaning against the shrubs infused with its fragrant host, she shook her head.
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