Authors: Amy Sparling
Copyright © 2016 Amy Sparling
All rights reserved.
First Edition April 2016
Cover image from BigStockPhoto.com
Typography from FontSquirrel.com
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems -except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews-without permission in writing from the author at [email protected]
This book is a work of fiction. The characters, events, and places portrayed in this book are products of the author’s imagination and are either fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
Thank you for encouraging me to write better stories.
Another small town and another craft fair. This time Mom and I are in Texas, somewhere called Lawson. It’s dry and hot, but not the scorching, make-you-want-to-strip-in-the-middle-of-the-street heat that was in Phoenix a few days ago. Texas is humid. Hot. Those rumors about Texas having cowboys everywhere are true.
I’m staring at one right now. He’s middle-aged, overweight, and wearing a pair of dark Wrangler jeans and cowboy boots. His cowboy hat is black and, goofy as it looks, it seems to be doing a good job of keeping his eyes shielded from the blinding sun. I can sympathize with this man even though we have about nothing in common. He’s stuck here just like I am, at a craft fair set up in some church parking lot in the middle of a tiny ass town. His wife is peddling her wares: scented candles in mason jars.
My mother is peddling hers, wind chimes and jewelry made of broken glass. Not that I’d ever tell anyone, but it’s mostly beer bottles that she roughs up in a rock tumbler then claims she found the pieces of blue, green, and brown littered on beautiful beaches all over the country.
Dawn is a free spirit. She really has traveled the country, but she’s also got to make a living somehow and beaches aren’t as rife with sea glass as you might think. I would know, I’ve spent my entire life trailing along behind her, in matching boho dresses from thrift stores, scouting the sands for that buried treasure. Dawn’s ultimate goal is to travel the world but world-traveling is expensive and having another mouth to feed—me—makes
Dawn is my mom. She doesn’t like to be called Mom. I call her that in my head though, because as natural as it is for her to pack up our suitcases overnight and shove us into a bus to relocate to a new town every few months, it’s also natural for me to call my mother Mom.
I can’t say it to her face, though.
I am seventeen. Dawn just turned thirty-three a few weeks ago.
Don’t want to do the math . . . it’s a little sad.
Dawn never wanted to be a mother but she also didn’t want to give me to someone who didn’t deserve me, or so that’s what she always says when we’re at a restaurant, getting a free meal from an attractive guy with gaga eyes for her. She always manages to tell this tale to every man she dates. She’d wanted to give me up for adoption but never got the guts to do it. She reminds me all the time, like I should be proud that she has such high standards for me or something.
I am aware that my life is weird. Every school I’ve ever gone to has had at least one kid there who made sure to point it out.
There are certain things that non-weird people my age consider normal. Like, having a massive closet full of various articles of clothing that you can mix and match to make a new outfit for each day.
Dawn and I never have more than we can fit into one suitcase each. That leads to a lot of wearing the same thing over and over again. People call it weird. I call it my life.
I look down at my jeans, faded and ripped along the thighs. Cuffs rolled up to look like they’re fashionably short and not just high waters because I got too tall for them ages ago. They’re too baggy because I can’t keep weight on my bones because we hardly ever eat. Luckily for me, these old jeans are in style right now. They call them the “boyfriend cut” at American Eagle. Also lucky for me, so is being thin as hell.
Guess I should be happy, right?
Dawn’s thumb and forefinger snap me right out of my daydreaming. “Look alive, kid. Make yourself look desirable. You never know when your prince charming will run into you.”
Her eyes are crystal blue, almost completely colorless as she stares at me with that look on her face like she’s giving me invaluable advice. My eyes are dark, deep voids, almost like I have no color in them at all, just two big pupils. They’re a genetic gift from whichever man decided to knock up a fifteen-year-old. Dawn won’t tell me who he is, but I think it’s because she doesn’t exactly know, not that she’s trying to keep it a secret from me. We’re pretty open with each other.
I’ve seen enough TV to know that most parents wouldn’t frequently tell their kids how badly they wished they’d adopted them out instead of keeping them.
“I’m not sure why a prince charming would show up here,” I say, looking around at the crowd of craft fair goers, mostly older women and a few children walking from booth to booth.
“I’m sure that’s what every spinster has said about every place they’ve ever gone,” she says, holding her chin up high as she adjusts one of the wind chimes on our retractable canvas tent that serves as our temporary storefront.
“I’m seventeen you know. I’m not close to being a spinster yet.”
Mom flashes me a smile, her small, pouty lips leaving absolutely no question to why so many men find her drop dead gorgeous. “That’s also what every spinster said when
I snort and gaze back out at the craft fair. It’s a small one this weekend, with only about fifty booths set up around us. There’s a little walkway between them all and we’re set up between the candle lady and another woman selling knitted baby clothes.
A woman and her husband walk up hand-in-hand, cooing over Mom’s wind chimes. I watch as Mom saunters over to them, somehow seeming like an old friend instead of a salesman. She has this charm about her that always ends up getting her exactly what she wants.
In this case, it’s three wind chimes sold. The woman buys one for herself and two for her sisters and I ring them up with a credit card swiper attached to my cell phone. At fifty dollars each, we just made enough money to score another week in the motel on the outskirts of town.
It’s also enough for bus tickets, should Mom decide to pack us up again. Summer just started, like literally three days go, so who knows how often we’ll be moving around now.
After a few run-ins with the police for truancy, my mother had to agree not to move me from school to school for at least four months in between. The last four months were spent in Phoenix, Arizona. But now that it’s summer, who the hell knows how many places we’ll stay.
Mom is a wanderer and I’m stuck along for the ride.
Part of me can’t wait until I turn eighteen so I can extract myself from all of this traveling and settle down somewhere to start a real life of my own.
The other part of me is terrified of being without Dawn. There is no house in this world that I would call home. There’s only Mom and me, and that makes her my home.
Around four-forty-five, Mom extracts herself from the group of people she’d been chatting with and wraps an arm around my shoulders. The dozen fake-gold bangles around her wrist clack against my back.
“Take one of my fabric totes from under the table,” she whispers, her breath smelling the like mint gum she’d bummed off of the cowboy earlier. “Go see if there’s any leftover food in the church and grab as much of it as you can.”
I nod. This church craft fair had provided finger foods for the patrons and craft sellers for lunch. I’d had four mini sandwiches filled with some kind of meat and mayo and two bags of chips. It was the biggest lunch I’ve had in a while and my stomach still aches from being so full. If they have any leftovers . . . this will be an awesome day.
The church’s rec room is empty when I walk inside, well except for the Jesus hanging from a cross on the wall. He’s nearly as tall as I am, his expression a little painful to look at. I open the cloth tote bag and make my way to the food table, grabbing a napkin and loading it with the remaining sandwiches. The only chip bags left are of the gross flavors and the healthy low calorie snacks, but I take them anyway.
Footsteps sound behind me and I jump, trying to look casual. A church wouldn’t, like, get me arrested for stealing, right?
“What’s taking so long?” Mom says, rushing over to me. I let out the breath I’d been holding, relieved as hell that the intruder was just my mom, and show her the inside of the bag.
“We got a lot of stuff,” I say with a grin.
Mom frowns. The tip of her drawn-on eyebrow is starting to smudge off from the heat of the day. “Keanna, do you want to eat for the rest of the week or just for tonight?” She gestures to the meat and cheese tray on the end of the table. “Get the rest of this damn food, girl.”
“I didn’t want to take everything,” I say, feeling a rush of warmth spread into my cheeks. Maybe it’s because Jesus is over there dying on a cross and I’m stealing food right from under Him.
“Look around, kid,” Mom says, rolling up a stack of sliced turkey and shoving it into a napkin. “This food is free, so take it. Churches like to feed the poor and all of that, and honey, we’re poor.”
I let out a huff of air and grab the last two bottles of water, shoving them into my bag.
As we turn to leave, a woman steps into the room. Mom keeps walking but I accidentally stop. The shock of seeing someone who totally was close enough to hear our conversation makes me temporarily paralyzed.
“Oh, hello there,” the woman says. She seems pleasant enough, maybe about my mom’s age. She glances at the empty food table and then offers us a polite smile. Mom hisses my name, wanting me to hurry up, and my legs finally start moving.
“Wait!” the woman says. My heart leaps up into my throat.
Mom turns around, her multi-colored sundress swaying around her legs. “Can I help you?” she asks.
The lady nods. “You’re the woman with the wind chimes, right?” She puts a hand to her chest. “They are absolutely beautiful. I know the craft fair is closing down soon but are you still open by chance? I was hoping to stop by and get one.”
Mom beams, her attitude going from defensive to cordial in half a second. “Of course, of course. Come with me. My name is Dawn Byrd and I’m the artist.”
“Becca Park,” the woman says, shaking Mom’s hand. “I run this craft fair and I remembered seeing your entry online when you registered. I’ve been wanting to come get a wind chime all day but,” she shakes her head and lets out a breath. “This has been a busy ass day. I had no idea running this thing would be so hard.”
“Well you did a fantastic job,” Mom says, leading her back into the parking lot toward our booth.
As they keep talking, I start to wonder if the lady heard our conversation or not. If so, she’s being nice by not saying anything. But I guess once people are grown up, they don’t dive at every chance to make fun of you for being poor like the kids at my old high school did.
Becca Park and Mom talk for fifteen minutes, and Mom works her charm on the woman. Pretty soon, they’re laughing and joking as if they’re old friends. I envy Mom’s innate skill to bond with just about anyone. That’s another thing I never inherited from her.
“Listen,” Becca Park says, clasping her hands together in front of her chest. I notice the massive diamond wedding ring on her finger and wonder what she did to make sure she didn’t end up as a spinster. “I know we just met and this might be a little forward of me, but I just love your art, Dawn. And well, I’d like to invite you and your daughter over for dinner tonight.” She smiles wide and bites on her lower lip. “I live just down the road and my husband is making burgers. There’s plenty to go around and I’d love to hear more about your wire-wrapping process. What do you say?”
Mom looks at me and I shrug. But I should have nodded because burgers and leftover food in one day just never happens. They say everything is bigger in Texas, and from what I’ve seen, the amount of free food certainly is.
“Absolutely, Becca,” Mom says, reaching forward and grabbing Becca’s hands in hers. “We would love to, isn’t that right, Keanna?”
I nod, the thought of getting a few hours away from our smelly motel room making me happier than I’ve been in weeks. “Yeah, I’d love a burger.”
“Wonderful!” Becca says. “Come on, I’ll help you pack up your booth.”