Home > All Rhodes Lead Here(6)

All Rhodes Lead Here(6)
Author: Mariana Zapata

“And this isn’t over. We’ll talk about it later.” I didn’t miss the boy’s wince, but I was too busy watching the man turn to me and stare. He lifted a hand and scratched at the top of his head with long, blunt fingers. The man I was pretty sure might be a game warden at this point based on the patches I’d zeroed in on when they had hit the light perfectly, watched me.

I thought about waving but didn’t. Instead, I just said, “Pretty please can I stay for triple the rate?”

I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t purposely make sure to turn both my arms out so he could see that there weren’t track marks on them. I didn’t want him to think I was hiding anything. Well, the only thing I was hiding were details, but they really weren’t any of his business or anyone else’s. They wouldn’t hurt him, his son, or anyone else other than me. So I tipped my chin up and didn’t try to hide my desperation. It was the only thing possibly working in my favor.

I wasn’t too proud for that.

“You’re here on vacation?” the man asked slowly, still basically growling but testing the weight of every word out of his mouth as it came out.

“Not really. I’m thinking about living here permanently. I just want to make sure, but there are other things I want to do while I’m here.” A lot of them but one day at a time.

“What?”

I shrugged and told him the truth. “Hikes.”

A thick eyebrow went up, but his pissed-off face went nowhere. I was on thin ice. “Hikes?” he asked like I’d said orgies.

“Yes. I can give you a list of the ones I want to do.” I’d memorized the names of the trails based off my mom’s journal, but I could write out the names of them if he wanted. “I don’t have a job yet, but I’m going to get one, and I have money. It was my… divorce settlement.” I might as well give him details so he didn’t have to ask or think I was lying about being able to pay.

The man just kept looking at me coolly. The fingers of his free hand flexed open and closed. Even the nostrils of his strong nose flared. He didn’t say anything for so long that even his son glanced at me over his shoulder again, eyes wide.

The boy just wanted my money, and that was fine. I actually thought it was pretty funny and smart of him. I remembered what it was like to be a kid without a job and want things.

Finally, the man tipped his chin up a little higher, and his nostrils flared again. “You’ll pay triple?” he asked in a voice that told me he still wasn’t totally convinced about this.

“Check, card, PayPal, or money transfer right now.” I swallowed and, before I could stop myself, added with a smile I’d used plenty of times to try and diffuse difficult situations, “Do you offer cash discounts, because I can get you cash if that’s the case.” I stopped right before I winked, only just barely stopping myself. This man was probably married after all, and he was still pissed. Rightfully so to be fair.

“A money transfer is faster,” the teenage boy volunteered in his quiet, whispering voice.

I couldn’t hold back; I snorted and slapped my hand over my mouth when I snorted again.

The man glanced at his son with an expression on his face confirming he was still upset with him and didn’t think his suggestion was funny, but to give him credit, he focused back on me and might have even rolled his eyes like he couldn’t believe what he was about to say. “Cash. Tomorrow or you’re out.”

Was he…?

“I don’t want to see you. I don’t want to remember you’re here unless it’s seeing your car,” he stated, still sounding and looking pissed but…

But agreeing! He was agreeing! Maybe!

“You got the month, but you’re out after that,” he stated, holding my gaze the entire time, trying to get his point across that there wasn’t going to be any talking him into staying longer, that I should be grateful he’d agreed to this much.

I nodded. I would take a month if that’s all I had and not cry or pout about it. If it came down to it, it would give me more time to figure out living arrangements. More permanent ones depending on how things went.

I wasn’t getting any younger, and sometimes you just had to choose a path in life and go with it. That was what I wanted. To go and go.

So… I could start worrying about that tomorrow.

I nodded, and then I waited to see if he said something else, but all he did was turn toward the teenager and point him at the stairs. They started to head down in silence, leaving me in the studio apartment.

And maybe I shouldn’t bring more attention to myself, but I couldn’t help it. Just as the only thing visible about the man was the silvery back of his head, I called out, “Thank you! You won’t know I’m here!”

Andddd he stopped walking.

I knew because I could still see just the top part of his head. He didn’t turn around, but he was there, and I almost expected him not to say a word before he exhaled loudly—maybe it was a grunt actually—seemed to shake his head, then called out in what I knew was an annoyed voice because that was something my sort of mother-in-law had mastered, “I better not.”

Rude. But at least he didn’t change his mind! That got tense there for a second.

Finally letting myself exhale, parts of my body I hadn’t known were tensed, relaxed.

I had a month. Maybe I would end up staying longer and maybe I wouldn’t. But I was going to make the fucking best out of it.

Mom, I’m back.

 

 

Chapter 2

 

 

I checked my phone for about the twentieth time the next day and did what I’d done the other nineteen times after I’d done the same thing.

I set it back down.

There was nothing new—not that I got a whole lot of texts or emails in the first place anymore, but regardless…. There was nothing to check in the first place.

As I’d learned last night, the only place I got cell phone reception was standing right by the window beside the table and chairs. I’d figured that out when I’d wandered away and lost the call I’d been in the middle of. It was an adjustment, but no big deal. A few of the smaller towns I’d stayed in had been the same way. My phone picked up one router, with two little bars, but it was password protected. I’d bet it was the family’s home one and figured there was zero chance in hell of me getting that password. But it was all right. Part of me I guess had hoped that it had been a fluke and maybe a cell tower had been down, but that didn’t seem to be the case.

There was nothing I really needed to check. I wanted to look at my phone less anyway. Live my life instead of watching other people live theirs online.

The only message that had come through this morning had been from my aunt. We’d talked for an hour last night. Her text had made me grin.

Aunt Carolina: Go buy bear spray this morning PLEASE

Just in case I’d forgotten the five other times she’d insisted on the same thing during our phone call. She’d gone on and on about bears for at least ten minutes, apparently assuming that they randomly killed people just because. But I tried to take it as she was scared for me and had been nonstop for the last year. She had seen me when I’d moved back in with them, brokenhearted and feeling so lost that no compass in the world could redirect me.

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