The puddle-jumper rose shakily from the Austin airstrip. My gaze froze on the window. I could see Mama standing by the metal rail that separated the airport walk from the runway. Her mouth shaped into “Bye, Cassie Mae” and I saw her wave. Then I couldn’t make her out from the others standing near her. My heart thumped like a scared rabbit’s as the burnt July grass at the edge of the strip fell away and cloud puffs drifted amazingly close to the tiny windows of the plane.

The straps of the sky-blue pinafore Granny Dobbs had made for my wedding wardrobe cut into my bare shoulders. Why in the world had I worn my honeymoon dress the day I left my marriage and my life, as I knew it?

Leaving Texas

Well, I could forgive myself that. I did want to look my best for my old friends, Bobby Jo and Max. After all, I hadn’t seen them in years and this dress was the nicest thing I owned. In less than an hour I would land at Love Field in Dallas, where I would switch planes and head for Ohio. Ohio, where hope for a new life sat shining in the fields of rich farmland. In Ohio, Bobby Jo and Max waited for me on their farm with their two kids and the big barn I had only seen in pictures. They waited with the letter from me that said they were one of the best parts of my growing up, and by the way, could I come stay with them because I really needed to get out of Texas for awhile?

I was eighteen and I had never been in an airplane before. Hell, I had never been away from Texas before. The shaky little plane wracked my nerves. I could feel every wind current and cloud we passed through. I hoped the big plane out of Dallas was an easier ride than this. At first, the excitement of flying and seeing Bobby Jo and Max kept my mind too busy to think about everybody I was leaving behind: Lonnie Mac, Mama, Dave, my brothers and sisters, friends. But when that wore off I remembered Lonnie Mac and how he stooped outside my car door when I finally agreed to see him. He cried like a baby, saying how sorry he was, and all. I just sat in the driver’s seat, stone-faced, staring straight out at the limestone rock wall at the front of Richmond’s General Store. My answer to his pleas to give him another chance was a slow shake of my head, back and forth. No. Not now. Not ever. Where did I get such gumption?

Now, inside this little squirt of a plane, I played back all the events that brought me to this moment. I fingered the raw scar on my thigh, beneath my nylon stockings. Then my hand flew to my mouth, still a little swollen. At least the cut on my thigh was my own stupid doing.

Already a month had passed since Lonnie Mac and I were married. And six days and six hell-nights after the wedding, the shit hit the fan. That sixth night, my best friend, Dawn, took me to over to her cousin Edna’s house trailer and the two of them fixed me up the best they could, considering the shape my face was in.

I heard that Lonnie Mac hunted for me for three days before I agreed to see him. Edna and her husband, Jerry, were good enough not to tell him where I was. But I think he knew I was right there in their trailer all along, even though I hid in a back room each time he pulled up in his Ranchero. And we had hid my gold ’68 Chevy Impala way out at Edna’s mama’s ranch. I prayed Edna would not let the cat out of the bag. She never did. I could hear Lonnie Mac saying, “I know she’s here. Tell her just to come on out. I want to talk to her, goddamit!” I held my breath inside my busted mouth.

After three days with Edna and Jerry, I figured I ought not to make them keep lying for me. So I decided it was time to face the music. I had Edna arrange for Lonnie Mac to meet me at Richmond’s so we could talk. She brought back my Chevy from the ranch. Just the thought of being able to drive off helped me feel less like a prisoner. As soon as Edna pulled up in front of the trailer, I ran out and around to the driver’s side. Ended up catching my left thigh on a piece of jagged fender chrome. I didn’t even care. I jumped behind the wheel and took off like a bat out of hell, up the road toward Richmond’s.

I still had not told Mama and Dave what was going on. I didn’t go back home right away when I left. Lonnie Mac always said, “Yeah, you ever leave me, you’ll go runnin’ back to your mama.” I was bound and determined to prove him wrong.  Besides, I didn’t want Mama to see my face all busted up.

It seemed impossible that our wedding had been less than two weeks earlier. Why, all my clothes and our wedding presents were still at Lonnie Mac’s mama’s house, where he and I were living until we could get our own place. We had enough money to put a rent deposit on a little red house south of Dexter. But Lonnie Mac was out of work—his Union had gone on strike just before we got married. I had quit college out in east Texas to come home to Dexter and marry Lonnie Mac. And though I’d been on at least six interviews I hadn’t yet landed a job.

After our one-night honeymoon at the Holiday Inn in Austin, we moved in with Lonnie Mac’s parents. Lonnie Mac was up and away at the crack of dawn every morning. He rode out on old Numskull, his swayback stallion. He said riding cleared his head. Too bad he didn’t get paid for riding that horse. I was never quite sure where he went. All he said he was that he rode with a buddy from over Dripping Springs way.

Let me say right here and now that it had become clear to me before we even married, at least a month before the wedding, that I did not love Lonnie Mac. I discovered that fact one night while we fought for the umpteenth time about whether the wedding was on or off. We had been out drinking with his buddies over at a beer-joint off Interstate 35. We left the place fighting, and fought the whole way back to Lonnie Mac’s house. The fight started out like they always did, about sex. Lonnie Mac thought there was no reason on God’s green earth that I should not be sleeping with him on a regular basis. “Hell, I don’t know why you want to be my wife if you don’t even want to do a little diddlin’ now and again. You don’t love me. You just want to get married,” Lonnie Mac declared. Now, mind you, we had only done the deed once before and it was not an experience I wanted to repeat. But I was torn, like I always was, between guilt and propriety and some long-instilled notion that it was my duty as the woman he loved to make him happy at whatever cost. And, I realized that Lonnie Mac had hit the nerve of truth: I did not love him. I felt real guilty about that. Still, I was wishing more than anything that I was back in east Texas at school. Or maybe up in Ohio with Bobby Jo and Max, the couple who had been like family to me since I was nine. After they finished graduate school at UT in Austin, they took teaching jobs at the University of Ohio. Why, even my stepdaddy, Dave (a man who could turn a perfectly good supper hour into a prison mealtime, under the watchful eye of the warden) advised me against marrying Lonnie Mac. Dave even offered to help me get up to Ohio, so I could make a new start. Mama too, she didn’t want me to marry Lonnie. She sure as hell never liked him. He was a cocky cowboy who loved to brag about anything he figured would impress a woman. And he drank too much. But there was something about his cocky stride and the way his white Stetson sat over his blond hair and shadowed his blue eyes that drew me to him like a magnet. But even with all that powerful chemistry that was fast losing its mystery, the truth is I would have been glad to be anywhere in the world right then instead of sitting in the heavy silence and smoke in the cab of that Ranchero. But that Ranchero, in that smoky silence with Lonnie Mac looking like a hurt puppy-dog, was where I was.

Maybe the guilt that I didn’t love him is what gave me the strength in that moment to pull the little white-gold, diamond-chip engagement ring off my finger and hand it to him. And as I did that single, mighty act, he said, “You already got yourself on a plane to O-hi-o, don’t you.” I said nothing. Sometimes his astuteness just caught me right off-guard. He surprised me again by saying, “I ain’t gonna call it off. If you want, you tell everybody.”

I think, all told, it was our Texas pride that made the pair of us keep going, headlong, cast into our fate like a badly thrown boomerang that was sure to end up snagged around some tree and never find its way back. He was right; the wedding plans were already made. And, no, I could not tell everybody the wedding was off. Anyway, another big thought crossed my mind. I had a job to do. I had to save Lonnie Mac. This thought got bigger the more I thought it. And, somehow all the other thoughts about leaving, about going to Ohio, all got taken over and swept away by this one big salvation thought.

He must’ve seen those thoughts tumbling away, leaving me open and willing. We sat quiet for a few minutes, then Lonnie reached over and took me in his arms. I held my hand steady as he put the ring back on my finger. Then he turned the ignition, shifted the Ranchero into reverse, and drove out over to a cow pasture a few miles away. He drove down a dirt road, into the pasture, and there among prickly pear cactus and mesquite, he turned the car off and looked over at me. He didn’t say a word at first. Just took my hand and put it on his swollen crotch and rubbed. Then he moaned, “Baby, I need you.” He took his hat off and placed it carefully on the gun rack hanging on the back window. He pushed the seat back as far as it could go and stretched his legs out and open. That was my cue to unzip his jeans and take out his dick. I fought the familiar flip of my stomach and pumped him as hard and fast as I could. He groaned and took in deep gulps of air for awhile, then suddenly, yelped. “Ow! Godammit. Look-it, you done made me all sore!” He knocked my hand away. “Shit. This is worse than if we just got into bed and did it.”

He zipped up his pants, adjusted the car seat and started the engine. I didn’t say a word. Just leaned against the car door, wanting to be apart from him. He brooded all the way back to his house. Maybe I ought to just sleep with him again. Could it be any worse than this? But I couldn’t help remembering the pain I felt that first time, or of Lonnie’s accusations. I quickly shoved the memory back, banished it to a deep back seat in my head.

In early June, at the First Baptist Church, Dave gave me away as Pastor McCleary went on and on about the holiness and sanctity of marriage. Then, that memory from the backseat crept right up front with me. Some memories are just too stubborn to banish. All I could think was, “He has no idea, that Pastor McCleary. Here he is in his Baptist finery and he thinks Lonnie Mac and all his family are just as devout as all get out.” No, I thought, as the back-seat-now-in-the-front-seat memory scootched on over into the driver’s seat in my head, that pastor has no idea how Lonnie Mac made me sleep with him in the hotel room when he came out to visit me in east Texas a few months earlier. How, as I was leaving his hotel room in Lufkin to go back to my aunt and uncle’s, where I lived, he pulled me to him on the bed and whispered, “Just stay here with me for awhile. We won’t do nothin’. I just you need to lay here with me.” I lay down with him on the bed. He put the T.V. on. I felt a small amount of romance, beneath the fear that we’d end up having sex. But I didn’t want my first time to be in some piney woods motel room. Yet each time I protested, Lonnie Mac shook my shoulders and said that if I loved him, I would just let him get on top of me for a bit. At the time, I did think I loved him. So I let him. Soon enough the fondling and touching turned into him taking off his jeans, pulling off my pants, and pushing himself inside me. It hurt like hell and I bled, scared and not knowing what to do about it. I asked Lonnie, “Is this supposed to happen?” He glanced at the little bit of blood on the sheet and said, “Hell, that ain’t nothin’. I think you been ruined before I got to you.” He rolled off the bed, took a shower, came out and said, “C’mon. I’ll take you back.”

I spent weeks after that trying to recall some obscure time I must’ve had sex and not realized it. But down deep I knew better. I knew I had been a virgin and Lonnie Mac was just being mean. But we had done the deed, which made me more his than ever.

So, standing at that altar in my white, faux-pearl-trimmed wedding dress, I decided to push away that driving memory and I remembered that big thought I had that night in the Ranchero, when I tried to give Lonnie his ring back. The one about saving him. And I decided that was my sole reason for going through with this ceremony where the pastor talked like he knew all about our lives and how decent we were but really, he had no idea who we were. I decided that even though Lonnie Mac drank too much, was a smartass, and had hurt me more than I cared to think about, I could help him change. Hadn’t he told me how good I was for him? And that I was the first girl he ever brought home to meet his mama? I was the one dab of hope in a world gone all wrong for him, he told me.

Lonnie Mac looked scared standing there in his rented white tuxedo. His slicked-back blond hair shone beneath the stained glass and his head seemed small without his hat. I didn’t even hear his vows; I was so focused on how I was going to save him. When it came my turn to say my vows, I looked long into Lonnie Mac’s blue eyes. “I promise to love and obey.” Then, at last I whispered, “I do.”

Lonnie Mac’s mama and daddy left for vacation right after the wedding, so we had their house to ourselves. We slept in the bed in the room Lonnie Mac had slept in for most of his life. We were to move into our house in Dexter in July but we still didn’t have jobs. I knew Lonnie would wait out his Union strike. He wasn’t about to be a scab. I also knew his mama had already loaned him money. She even bailed him out of jail that spring when he got picked up in San Marcos for driving drunk. I was home from college on spring break. I remember he came by my house straight from Hayes County Jail, took me in arms happy as a clam and said, “Baby, I’m so glad we’re gettin’ married.” Him holding me like that, I felt like I was snuggled up against a sweet soft blanket laid over a land mine.

Problem was, I never could stay mad at Lonnie Mac. He’d drive up in his Ranchero, with that silly grin, all the trappings of the untamed cowboy expecting his girl to be there for him, no matter what, no questions asked. I played the waiting girl part real well. I let him sweep me off my feet, kiss me hard, then tell me how I flirted too much, and I better watch myself. I thought, “He’s right, I better watch myself.” But I missed the nerve of truth in my thought.

Those first six nights sort of all blended together into one gathering storm. Every night, Lonnie crawled into bed, his breath heavy with beer smell and tobacco, and he pulled off my nightgown, pushed open my legs, and went at it. And he kept at it even when I cried from pain and told him it hurt me too much. There was no talk, not anything remotely romantic. Sometimes he turned me over, doggie-style and kept on, till he came. Then he rolled off me and fell asleep.  Each morning for those six days, after Lonnie Mac silently dressed and went out to mount his horse, I hobbled to the bathroom to check out the swollen red skin between my legs. There were cuts from being rubbed raw but I couldn’t put anything on myself, like iodine or calamine lotion: my flesh burned at the slightest touch. And I didn’t dare tell anyone.

In small-town Texas, even in 1972, I was a wife. That meant my husband was my legal guardian. And here’s the thing; he didn’t actually hit me. I remembered how my sister looked after her husband hit her. It wasn’t like that for me. Lonnie Mac would not hit me, I said to myself.

I took aspirin for my daily headaches. Each morning, after Lonnie Mac left for his ride, and after I’d try to ease the pain between my legs with cool washcloths, I got dressed, opened the paper to the employment section, and got on the phone to call for jobs.

Each evening Lonnie Mac called me up from Big Earl’s beer joint over in Torresville, a town in the wet county. Dexter was in a dry county, so you had to cross the county line to buy beer and liquor. Lonnie called me and told me to come on down and meet him. Each time, I said, “Okay, be there in a few.” If I was going to save him from drinking, I had to be where he was. I put myself together as best I could, slid into my Chevy, and took off to the beer joint.

On the sixth night of our marriage, I drove into Torresville, pulled open the screen door of Big Earl’s and took my seat next to Lonnie Mac as usual. He put his arm around my neck and pulled me to him. Earl’s wife, Wynetta, came over to our table and I ordered a beer. Lonnie Mac was halfway through the longneck bottle he had wrapped in his fingers. From the way his words tumbled out of his thick lips, I knew he’d already had a few. The men at the table swapped stories. My friend Dawn came in and sat down at a different table with some truckers she knew. They waved hello, asked us how we were. “Things is great,” said Lonnie Mac. I just waved.

Soon, I got up and put some quarters in the jukebox. A domino game of Forty-Two was in full swing; the fans turned overhead. It was still early summer and sundown, but the Texas heat snuck in through the screen door and mixed with cigarette smoke in the crowded room. My eyes burned and my head felt like it was being chewed on by a starving squirrel. I tried to keep my legs from rubbing together as I walked back to the table.

“Please, mister, please, don’t play B-17,” Olivia Newton-John’s sweet voice flowed over clinking bottles and the smack of dominoes on wooden tables. I pulled out my chair by Lonnie Mac and started to sit down. His hand fisted in my hair.

“Wait, go get me another beer,” he slurred as he pulled my head toward him.

“Lonnie Mac, I think you’ve had enough,” I said quietly.

“What’d you say?” His fist tightened in my hair.

“Lonnie Mac, that hurts. Quit. I said, you’ve had enough. Let’s go home.” I hissed at him, surprising the hell out of myself at my audacity.

“I said, get me a beer. Now, goddammit!” He looked into my eyes, punctuating his words with a bloodshot blue stare. I tried to pull away, but my long hair was caught tight in his hand. I closed my eyes; my head angled like it was caught in a trap. I just knew the roots of my hair were going to give any second.

Then, another big thought rose to my mind, made its way to my mouth. A huge thought. A thought bigger than any saving thought I ever had about Lonnie Mac. A thought that told me in one single instant that I could not save him. Not only that, I was in deep shit. I dared to speak the unspeakable: “You want a beer, get it yourself. Let me go.”

By now, the other men at the table sat slacked-jawed, watching us. Not one hand moved to even take a drink. A nervous dust settled over all of us. There was an unwritten law that neither man nor woman interfered with a man keeping his wife in place. And not one man there was about to violate that code. Lonnie Mac pulled harder, his fist at the base of my neck. He brought my face closer to his and gritted his teeth, “You’re my wife and you’ll do as I say. Now you walk to that bar over there and bring me back a nice, cold beer.”

My hands shook. I was about ready to give in. To hell with my big thought. I better go back to the thought that I needed to save him. I felt Wynetta behind me. She made a frail attempt to lighten things up, “Whaddya want, Lon? Lonestar?”

But Lonnie Mac was not about to be humiliated. “She’s my wife, I told her to get my beer. She’ll do it,” he stated matter-of-factly.

I couldn’t hide the pain anymore and at this point I didn’t give a rat’s ass about these men and their pride. There was no going back now anyway. My voice was near a scream, “Let me goooOOOO!”

Wynetta was behind us faster than a bobcat, her hands on her hips. “Take it outside, you two. I don’t want no trouble in here.”

“That’s just what we’ll do.” Lonnie Mac jumped up, pulling my head and me with him. His chair thumped over. He kicked it out of his way and dragged me right out the screen door. I swung my arms at him, trying to grab his hands and free my hair, but he was a foot taller and outweighed me by at least a hundred and twenty pounds. I kept yelling. He just pulled harder. About ten feet outside the doorway was a phone booth. He threw me up against it and finally let go of my hair. But before I could duck he had his hand firmly around my neck. He leaned in, his voice so calm I was more scared than if he had hollered at me, “Cassie, stop it. Ain’t no point to yellin.”

He didn’t have to worry. No way could I work up a scream with his hand around my throat like that. I saw his arm swing back and I closed my eyes against the first blow.

It seemed at least half an hour before Wynetta came out and tried to pull Lonnie Mac off me. But it may have been only a few minutes. I like to give Wynetta the benefit of the doubt. She pulled at the back of his shirt and hollered at him, “Lonnie, stop it now! You get in that car and go home or I’ll call the cops.”

“This ain’t none of your business,” he told her. He let go of my neck and said to me, “Come on, get in the car.”

My mouth was full of blood and my cheeks stung. I could feel the slit inside my mouth where my teeth had cut into my lip on impact. But I held on to the side of that phone booth with a mighty hold I didn’t know was in me. “No.”

“What the hell do you mean NO? I said, get in the car!” He started to swing again. Neither of us could believe I was pissing him off so bad. Wynetta took her stance next to him. Brave woman.

I looked from Lonnie to Wynetta, and blubbered, “I’m not going home with him.” Wynetta managed to get between Lonnie Mac and me just as Dawn came out. She assessed the situation, grabbed me and pulled me toward her car.

“You wanna go with him or you want me to take you to your mama’s?” Cool as a cucumber, Dawn. Lonnie Mac just stood there, dumbfounded. He mumbled, “Goddamn women, sticking together like a pack of thieves.”

“I’m not going with him. And I don’t want to go to Mama’s,” I whispered so Lonnie wouldn’t hear me.

“Well, let’s get you somewhere where we can fix you up. Hell’s bell’s, girl, you look like worse than shit on a shingle.” Dawn opened her car door for me and I crawled into the passenger’s side. She went over and said something to Wynetta and Lonnie Mac. Then, Lonnie Mac got in his car, screeched out of the gravel drive, and tore off down the road. Wynetta disappeared inside the screen door. I sat there waiting in Dawn’s red pickup truck while my body shook like there was no tomorrow. For all I knew, there might not be.

Dawn got behind the wheel and pulled out of the drive. We ended up at Edna’s trailer house. We pounded on the tin door till Jerry jumped up off the couch where he was watching T.V. Edna was right behind him. After the shock of seeing me wore off, Edna ran to get peroxide and washcloths. Finally, Dawn recounted the evening’s events. Jerry came over and put his arms around me, “Hell, you can stay here long as you like.” Edna agreed, then added nervously, “You think he’ll come here looking for you?”

“No, he’ll think I went to Mama’s,” I said, and added, “He won’t bother to go there.”

Dawn left and Edna fixed up the spare bedroom for me. I carefully lay down in the small bed, my body a battlefield in a war I had naively not counted on. But lying there alone, I felt that I had won an important skirmish.

Three days later I agreed to meet to Lonnie Mac. I had no idea what I would say or do. I didn’t know what he might do. I wanted to meet him in front of Richmond’s, out in broad daylight. He thought that was pretty stupid. Why couldn’t I just come to his house?

When I pulled up in front of the store in my Chevy, Lonnie Mac was already there. He got out of his car, strode over, and reached out a hand to open my door. I had locked it.

“What the . . . ?” He was surprised. “Dammit, Cassie, come on out here and talk to me!”

“No, Lonnie Mac. I’ll talk to you from right where I’m sitting.”

He stooped down beside my car door. The toes of his boots were dusty. He pushed his hat back on his head and fixed his blue eyes on the train track across the road. He shook his head as he pulled a Winston out of its box and lit up. He took a deep draw and cocked his head toward me. “I love you. Can’t we just go on home and forget about this, Cassie?” You’d-a thought he had the weight of the world on him, the way he said that.

“No, Lonnie Mac. I cannot just forget about all this. You never hit me before. What got into you?” I really wanted to know. Funny thing was I didn’t even factor in, at that moment, what he had done to me in bed. Yet, because I had just had three nights of sleeping alone, my body untouched; because for three nights I could fall asleep, maybe with some fear, yes, but also without my body being slammed against the mattress, because of that, my dignity and pride got a shot in the arm. Hell, hadn’t I made the decision to not go home with him? That was something. But if he could just give me a reason why I should stay and try to keep saving him, I might listen.

“Come on now. Hell, I didn’t hurt you. I didn’t even hit you!  Anyway, you made me mad!” He flicked his cigarette across the pale yellow dusty drive. And with that motion, that flick of his fingers, I saw it. Saw how he really felt about this whole deal: no big thing. Let’s forget about it, go on, just flick it away. Be done with it, till time to light up a new one. If there was ever a minute that I thought I could get past what happened and go home with him, it was gone. Flicked across the dirt with his cigarette butt.

“Lonnie Mac! Shit! If you didn’t hit me, then how-the-hell-come I’m sitting with a face looking like something the cat dragged in? You can’t just sit here and tell me you didn’t hit me!”

He back-pedaled. Just a tiny bit. “Aw, Cassie, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. You know how I get. I just don’t want you thinking you’re gonna run my life, like my mama does my daddy.”

There it was. I should have seen it. His mama, the grand matriarch. Lonnie’s daddy barely said two words whenever I was at the house. I mean he was polite and all, but real quiet. He just sat and read his paper and smiled good-naturedly. Lonnie Mac’s mama, as far as I could tell, made all the family decisions. It just hadn’t occurred to me that Lonnie took it so personal.

Still, it wasn’t just that simple to go and blame his mama and daddy. But I didn’t bother saying that to Lonnie. All I could think about was his fist tangled in my hair, pulling my head back; the sound and the feel of that fist against my mouth.

I stared at the double screen doors that opened into Richmond’s General Store, the red-and-white metal Dr Pepper sign hanging off one door. Lonnie Mac’s voice droned like a bee beside my car door.

“Well, you think so? I mean, we can just start again, okay?” he was saying as he peered into the car and started to light another cigarette.

“What?” I hadn’t heard him.

“Let’s just start over, Cassie. Okay? I mean, you come on home and we’ll get ready to move to our own place. Everything’ll be just fine.”

I looked at him, but I might as well have been looking at a T.V. bad guy. He wasn’t real, none of this was real. I wasn’t sitting here in my Chevy, the sweat between my legs making me burn like hell all over again, my lips and gums throbbing even after three days. I let the thought of living with Lonnie Mac in the little red house out near the field come up to the front of my eyes. The closest neighbor was at least a mile down the road. I looked at him again, trying to see something, I don’t know what. Tears ran down his cheeks. He looked like a small, hurt boy trying to be a big, strong cowboy. His hat and boots seemed to swallow him up. My heart trembled and I tried, I really did try, to fish out one memory that was bigger than all the rest. Forgot about big salvation thoughts. All I needed was one good memory and I might open the car door and let him take me in his arms. Then suddenly, the huge, looming thought of being in that house with Lonnie Mac every night poured over me like dust and I began to choke. And in my choking, I remembered his hands on my neck, and knew whatever I decided right now meant my winning or losing this battle. For good.

I thought of my big sister, Sissy, and how she did not leave her husband. She stayed and took the blows and told us it was all her fault. But this was not my fault. I let that thought grow: Not my fault. I don’t know how I knew it was good and right for me to think that thought. Nobody had told me I could turn on my man. No one had given me permission to betray him. I had no knowledge of any woman who ever had.

I looked again at Lonnie Mac’s sad face, then turned away. I twisted the key in the ignition, shifted into reverse, and backed out of Richmond’s drive and onto the main street of Dexter, Texas. I don’t know what Lonnie Mac did. I never looked back.

At the one blinking light in town, I turned onto Farm to Market 1690 and headed for Mama’s. I hoped Dave’s offer was still good.

*   *   *


The pilot’s voice announced we’d land in twenty minutes. A stewardess came by and gathered up soda cans and napkins. She reached for my napkin, but I held onto it. In all my reminiscing, I must’ve clenched my lip where the cut still was tender. I dabbed the napkin to my mouth to wipe away some blood. My stockings pinched the inside of my thighs and I lifted my butt off the seat to adjust the stockings and pull down the back of my dress. Stupid idea, wearing this dress. At least my body did hurt less now. I still walked with a bit of a limp and I didn’t know when my lip would be right again, but it is amazing how much the flesh can heal in a few weeks. I knew it would keep healing.

Big thoughts of small wounds being worth the price of freedom; of how I saved myself if not Lonnie Mac, and how I had won the war after all, floated over my eyes. I dismissed them. Big thoughts are a dime a dozen, truly. So, I let a couple of small ones in for awhile—small thoughts about leaving Texas, starting over someplace new. They didn’t seem so small, all said and done. But they did seem a little safer.