Short Story – Finding the End of 143

Finding the End of 143

     Route 143. The past 2 hours and 38 minutes have been endlessly filled with the seemingly unending pavement of Route 143. The roar of my engine keeps me sane, the truck itself being the only thing keeping me grounded. And, well, the new Set the Skyline album on my iPod doesn’t hurt anything either. There’s a settling feeling of accomplishment when you’re driving, even when you’re simply driving to return another late copy of your sixth Will Smith movie this month to the Blockbuster. Although it’s just a tap of the right foot, a twitch to the side with your hands, the movement forward to get to some kind of destination can feel like a vast accomplishment.

     Each day getting to school, even on my way home from work or to my dad’s house, I passed by your everyday highway exit reading ‘Route 143’ leading south to Boston. Not too long after I turned 18 my dad and his new girlfriend got married and moved into our house. As much as they both insisted they wanted me there, I knew they were ready to start living on their own, just the two of them, without an eighteen year old to look after. I got emancipated 2 and half weeks after my 18th birthday and moved into the apartments across the street from my dad’s house in Augusta, Maine. In all honesty, I’m a senior in high school, what did 143 matter to me? It didn’t. Then again I suppose I didn’t really pay attention to it until yesterday morning when I passed it one last time on the way home from a work.

     It had been another frantic day at work at Weddings Once for Jae Warner and me. She was my mentor and VP of the company when I signed on a year and half ago to be a wedding planner, well the right hand to the actual planner: Jae. I went with her to meet once again with Carrie, this month’s bride-to-be. She was a tense crazy looking chick with frizzy blonde hair and heels so tall I couldn’t believe her ankles weren’t breaking with every step. I guess they all kind of develop that eccentric look just about two and half to three weeks before their wedding. The grooms-to-be on the other hand are the wise ones, they learn that the first time they catch their fiancé on a David’s Bridal website at 2 in the morning making sure their dress is absolutely, undoubtedly, positiviely the one they’ve always dreamed of, they know to stay out of the plans and go on about their business. There are physical signs too, it’s the bags under the eyes, the slouch in the way she sits, the sluggishness of her pace as you’re trying to explain where the bridesmaids are supposed to line up on the altar.

“There’s not gonna be enough room for the flowers on the tables. My guests won’t be able to see each other over those massive things. Anyway we can downsize the lily centerpieces?” Carrie ranted on and on. And on. “Let me see what I can do,” Jae said attempting to calm her down. “Annie!” she furiously whispered while Carrie went on about the tables cloths being too long for the size of the tables. Hearing my name, I was suddenly broken out of my reverie. I looked over to see a focused Jae with a questioning look on her face, I rushed to her side. “You were supposed to be gone 45 minutes ago, what are you still doing here?” Looking at my phone I realized how easily the time got away from me, and that I had one missed call from dad. This whole time I had become entranced by the structural design the old Carlston building Carrie was having her reception in. “Sorry, consider me gone. And have fun with Carrie. Anymore stress and her hair is going in to a full blown afro.” Jae gave me a pointed look, I just winked and headed out to the parking lot that currently held my ‘87 Mazda truck. Making my way on to the highway, I find my dad’s old Hootie and the Blowfish CD under the seat and, very carefully I might add, picked it up and stuck it in the player. Let Her Cry blared through my speakers as my old truck raced up past 65 mph. The familiar tune was hard to forget and I immediately began to sing along until that same old sign passed my vision again, Route 143 South. The familiarity of the numbers, the letters, and the green background all seemed to stand out this day. Enough to where somewhere, deep in the back of mind, the smallest part of me wanted to take the turn and see where it would take me. How far I could go before I ran out of gas, or my sensible thoughts kicked in, which ever happened first.

     I guess that’s in a nutshell how I ended up here; I took the exit and haven’t stopped since. The sensible thoughts are nowhere to be found, and to my luck, I filled up before I left. My job isn’t as boring as it sounds, it’s a really good learning experience even though a life as a wedding planner has never been exactly where my heads at. It’s been Jae’s dream 27 years in the making, and she’s extraordinary at it. My sister did it when she was still in high school like I do now, but after heading off to college in Nebraska two years ago, the massive distance became a bit of an issue. It was never really her thing either; she only stayed on for about 5 months. We both started working there as soon as we were 16, Jae being an old friend of the family and all. Guess I’m not sure what happens now, considering I don’t know when or if I’m going back. The only reason for me staying with Jae for so long was the incredible buildings the women held their extravagant weddings in. Whether it be an old cathedral church or just a simple antique building with a picturesque backyard perfect for an outdoor wedding always made my mind reel. Architecture has been a craze of mine since my mom and dad took Michelle and I to Disney World when I was 7 and I insisted on knowing how they made Cinderella’s castle looking so incredible.

     I graduate next May with the class of ’08, still 6 months away, and from then I head off to the University of Colorado in Boulder to study construction designs. It’s a pretty colossal distance from home but I think it’s what I really want. I love my life, and my home, but I’m more than ready to start over somewhere different. I guess there another reason to add to the list of why I took that fateful turn.

I waved it off as just déjà vu and kept driving. I figured Dad would be home about the same time I was; maybe we would just pop in a frozen pizza for this week’s Wednesday night family dinner. My dad and I had a dinner at his house every Wednesday since Elle left, and Wednesday were the days his girlfriend Rachel always worked late. Pulling into the driveway my dad’s car was already sitting in the garage. I opened the door from the garage into the house to find my dad sitting on a bar stool at the kitchen counter, head in his hands, and a familiar voice sounding more piercing than usual through the cell phone sitting on the counter in front of him. He looked up when I walked in the door, the first I thought of when I saw his expression was the phrase “Please help me . . .” The voice coming from the phone had stopped, and was now waiting for a response. We both just stared at each other for a moment, knowing from several previous experiences that the woman on the end of the other line wasn’t even close to finished, even if she seemed more blaring than usual. He cautiously picked up the phone, took it off speakerphone and held it up to his ear. “Look, I don’t know what to tell you, Lesa. You can’t keep blaming them for something you caused, they are handling it the best they can. Elle is off in college so there’s not much I have control of there and Cheyanne has school and work. She’s busy. She’s trying to understand why you did what you did but you have to give it time.” There was a pause on the other end, so my dad just kept going. “Are you even listening to me? Lesa?” Her excessive volume helped me hear her all too perfectly. “Theys are my girls al-l-lso. And don’d git me st-t-tarted on Annie, she’s haved enoup time. She can git ober it ‘cause I’m her mom.” My father had never been so dumbfounded. It wasn’t what she said, or what little sense it made, that startled the both of us; it was how she said it. She’d been sober for almost 6 years.

     Or so we thought. When I was 11, Michelle was 13, my mom and dad sat us down to speak with us about something important. We all gathered around the family room in our old 3 story farm house out in the countryside near Portland, Maine.

     Elle knew what was going on, I could tell that much and I figured they had her there to make it so I didn’t have to hear whatever it was alone. She could always tell when something was different, and she and mom had never seen eye to eye. I figured it was just a teenage thing. I could tell things were different too, but I figured it was normal, just a phase mom would blow through and we would soon be our tight knit happy family once more.

      The solemn looks on both their faces shattered that thought. I just wish I had noticed then, and maybe it would have been such a shock. I had a D.A.R.E. program at school a couple years ago, but the only thing we learned from the program was about how teenagers shouldn’t drink, teenagers shouldn’t do drugs, and teenagers should learn to just say NO, When adults drank I never thought anything of it, I believe I have my big southern family to thank for that. At families reunions, everyone drank like there was no tomorrow. The idea just got imprinted into my mind that adults drank as much as they want, whenever they want, for whatever reason.

     The drinking, the secrecy, the fact that I didn’t even know my mom anymore because she kept herself locked up in the office wasn’t what they had decided to talk to us about. It was their divorce. That was the furthest thing from my mind at that point, I was shocked and devastated. Two houses? Two Christmas’s? ‘We can fix this, just give it more time’ was my only coherent thought through the entirety of their speeches.

     After wards I went back my room and bawled my eyes out all over my science fair project. I hated science anyways.

____________

    I do believe I just heard The Fortunate by Cartel for the fourth time in the last hour. I mean, okay, it’s a good song, but not so repeatedly. My iPod had almost run out of decent songs and I was due to stop soon anyways, it must have been almost three and half hours. I pulled over to a Conoco out in the country in the middle of nowhere and got out to use the restroom. I went to the clerk, some punk named Todd who looked like he was in his mid-40s and a little too excited to see me, and asked where the bathrooms were. Apparently this really was hick country because the gas station was one of those really old ones where you had to walk outside to get to it and had to be opened with a key, courtesy of Todd.

     The back of the place had an eerie smell to it, as can only be expected. I stuck the key in to its place and turned it, but no changed. So I jimmied it best I could, but no luck there either. There was only one key on the key ring, along with a giant red and white “Conoco – the Best 2 for 1 hotdogs around!” key chain and a little plush lobster that looked like it had had better days. I heard a small whimper coming from around the corner. It wasn’t quite dark yet but considering the late time that I left, it wasn’t exactly bright enough for me to feel comfortable with some unknown animal closer to me than I would prefer. I tried the infuriating key again and even began slamming myself into the door, sure to leave a bruise on my right shoulder tomorrow.

     Unexpectedly the door swung open and I scampered in, only to my disgust once I smelled the rancid odor of the room. Right before the door had opened, my eyes landed upon a little furry creature with bright blue eyes. The kind that stuck in your mind; thinking back the animal couldn’t have been much bigger than a rabbit or small cat. I gradually opened the door again to see if it was still there; and there were those blue eyes again. The aqua-colored orbs were staring right up at me this time, and attached to them was the black, brown, and white fur of a miniature Australian shepherd dog.

     I knew the breed right away because of the eyes, only a handful of dogs have those color eyes; you’d be surprised to know how many dogs you would find attending a wedding reception. It’s a much larger number than you think, and I knew I had seen a dog like this before. She just sat there and watched me intently. I presumed she had a home to go to so I shut the door once more.

     When I was done I opened the door to find her gone, and I assumed, mostly prayed, that she had a home she was going to. I came back around the front and gave Todd back his keys. Despite the disturbing looks he was giving me, I had to ask about her. “Did you know there was a dog out there? It’s a small Australian shepherd. Do you know of it or who its owner is?” A flash of disgust covered his feature for a moment as he looked away to think, but he regained composure as he looked back at me. “Yeah, I know it. Stupid thing. It’s always hanging around here, trying to pick up scraps. It has no owner, I know that much. If it did, they kicked that scoundrel out about a year ago. That’s when it started showing up at my back door.” He stated in an aggravated tone.

     I thought about this for a moment, and seriously thought about just storming out of the ghastly convenient store. “Oh, well thanks anyways.” He looked like he had something else to say but I subtly dismissed it. I started towards the door and began to pull my keys out of my jean pockets as my feet hit the pavement. That is, until the whimpering hit my ears again. I couldn’t turn around, if I did I knew with certainty I would have to go get her. These were unlike any blue eyes I had seen before, and I had to fight it with any chance of getting out of here myself.

     What I couldn’t understand about the situation was how a dog so beautiful got kicked to the curb, and worse, how she ended up practically living outside of a gas station somewhere in the middle of New Hampshire. The smell of gasoline was pretty potent in itself, that couldn’t be appealing. Maybe it was food scraps she was looking for.

     I was at my truck and ready to reach for the door when I heard paws patting their way towards me on the pavement. With my back still to her, I fought a battle in my head. If I turned around, I was a goner, if I just got in my truck I could crank my iPod and just keeping driving onto wherever it was I ended it up at.

     The cool silver of the handle was at my finger tips when my hand fell back to my side. “Ugh, this is going to be a bad idea.” Slowly, I pivoted back around. The eyes seemed to seer into my skin, I had to get her out of here. Making sure Todd wasn’t as attentive about my departure as he was about my arrival; I snatched her up and plopped down in my seat, her in my lap. Holding her in my arms I got a glimpse of silver around her neck. The silver tag dangled from a plain black collar that fit too loosely around her neck. She had obviously not been eating as much as when she had a steady family. The tag gave outline of her medical records and at the top it read in all capitols letters a simple seven letter word: JASMINE.

_______________

     “Jas, seriously – chill. This was supposed to be a trip of discovery … and independence … and other stuff like that; away from my family and their insanity. You’ve got to relax!” She hadn’t stopped moving and barking since she realized she didn’t have to go back to that place ever again. I didn’t know what I was going to do with her to be honest, for now it was just nice to have someone else in the car to keep me company. Maybe when I get where I’m going I can find a home for her there, or maybe she can even come stay with me.

     My mom had a dog, Sugar. It was a huge golden retriever that could pretty much kill her with its massiveness. I could never really take that dog seriously, not with my mom in the room. Elle and my mom had a way at being at each other’s throats every time they were in the same room, before and after the divorce. My mom and I were actually pretty close before her and dad dropped the bomb. From then she found a way to always make things difficult, to always say things that made her sound like a child desperate for attention only I could, and was apparently supposed to give her.

“Is that Annie!? I wanna tawlk to her!” I had inadvertently set my bag down on the counter when I went to sit next to dad so I could hear the conversation better. Well being as my bag was heavy; Mom heard it hit the countertop and therefore knew I was nearby. Dad immediately had a sympathetic look overtake his face, but at this point there was nothing either of us could do. It had been a while, but I didn’t forget to talk to her when she was like this. “Hi mom…” my voice was greatly lacking enthusiasm.

“Hey Cheyanne, how ares ya?”

“I’m good Mom, just got off work. How are you?”

“I’m good too . . . well, I just wish . . . nevermind.

“Okay?”

“Ya know I’ve been patient with you girls and I think it’s has been long enoup for the both of ya. Its been a long time now and I think it’s time for you to start forgivin me. You’re 18 and livin on your own, it’s time to grow up and let me back into your life. You won’t even ack- k-knoledge me when we see each other and you wond answer the phones when I call…” I didn’t matter how she worded it this time, I’d heard it all before. She lacked the gene that humans possessed with the purpose of understanding that people reacted to situations differently. She believed forgiveness was on a timeline and with it the perfect amount of space and time, I would be running back into her open arms and we could be a happy family again. She didn’t realize that each phone call like this set us back deeper in the black hole we call a mother-daughter relationship. I couldn’t handle her like this; it was the same when she was sober too. She wasn’t my mom anymore; I didn’t know who she was. The living on my own, the job, upcoming college; she knew these were all signs that I didn’t need her anymore. What she didn’t understand was the reality of that fateful moment when she stepped out that door six years ago. I didn’t need her then, I don’t need her now.

     Pondering my mother, and driving, wasn’t the greatest combination. I was unexpectedly in tears within seconds and had to pull over. I looked at Jasmine all curled up in the passenger seat like she had been for the last 20 minutes or so. She just stared up at me once she realized the car had stopped with her black and brown ears perked up and her bright blues full of confusion.

     My mom never could understand people, and somehow it was always worse for the people she cared about. She couldn’t comprehend that when she left, everything changed. It wasn’t just something that would blow over. She’s not the same mom I knew all those years ago, and I’m not that girl she left crying in the driveway. She would have to square with that someday.

     That conversation I guess you could say was my breaking point. I had heard that speech a million times before and each time was more difficult than before. How do you react to someone you don’t even know, who pretends like they know you. It did hurt to watch her slowly realize she was losing me, just as much as it hurt the day I realized I would never get my mother back.

     I hated that she still had this affect on me; she ripped my unsuspecting family apart and is now harassing us for not being her warm and fuzzy best friends. I’m not supposed to feel guilty for this because it wasn’t my fault. It was hers.

“I love you, Annie. I just wisht you would say it back. Why can’t you say it back?” There was that familiar desperation in her voice, trying to win me over. “It’s not that I can’t, it’s that I choose not to. I hardly know who you are anymore.” Dad had walked out of the kitchen at this point, he couldn’t listen. I didn’t blame him. “I’m your mom, I’ll always be your mom and its time you started treatin me like it.”

“Mom, I need to go . . .”

     So I did. I told my dad I needed to head back to my place clear my head and be alone and he wasn’t surprised. I grabbed whatever I could find out of my apartment and stuffed it into the truck, which actually wasn’t much. I sat in the driver’s seat, turned the key, pulled onto the highway and just kept going. My mom’s voice surrounded my thoughts and it was like I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t think. She wouldn’t leave me alone. I had to get out.

     I had always wondered what would happen if I could just keep driving. Could it erase my bad memories and only leave the good? Could I just start over? Who knows? All I knew was that in the last few hours Route 143 had become my home; it held my memories, my fears, even my new best friend. And I wasn’t ready to leave just yet.

     On the side of the road I saw a sign for ‘Velvet Rose Lounge and Bar’ and decided to check it out. I pulled the truck into the parking lot and cut the engine, leaving the window cracked for Jas. Stepping into the building a wall of smoke hit my face, once I adjusted to that I found myself a table in the corner and sat down. It felt good for once to be somewhere outside of my car. I ordered a water, and looked around while I waited. It was an old looking place, the structure kind of like an antique western saloon but with a certain grunge factor that made it a little bit more modern. In the corner there was stage with a poorly hung banner across the top reading THURSDAY KARAOKE NIGHT. Lucky me. It was Thursday.

     I hadn’t sung or written anything in years but here I was with a borrowed guitar in my lap and an all too bright spotlight on my face. I knew exactly what song I was going sing too, it was the one I had written exactly two months after my mom had left, and three days after I had found out she had been an alcoholic.

     “Hi everyone, I’m not really from around here but my name is Cheyanne and I’ve got a song for you tonight. It’s called ‘Where Does It Hurt?’ … and a I hope you enjoy it.” I strummed the guitar like I had played this song ever day of my life. This song was the only thing that used to help me make it through the day back then, and it would the only thing that could give me enough peace of mind to return home again.

“Where does it hurt… Tell me ‘cause I can’t understand

The words of a heart Beating like wings in my head

We cannot hide

We’ll never lie I’ll always see into you

There’s nothing wrong With coming up empty and cold

Staying too long

And trying to change rocks into gold

I’ve been there too

I’ve wasted myself

And you weren’t there for me

So whenever you crash

Where ever you land

That’s where I’ll be

And for every endless midnight

There’s a sky full of broken stars

And there’ll always be a place for you inside my arms

Where does it hurt?

When you open your heart

There’s always so much to lose

So far to fall

And nowhere to go when it’s through

But I let you in

And you let me down I believed in you

Cause whenever you crash

Where ever you land

That’s where I’ll be

And for every endless midnight

There’s a sky full of broken stars

And there’ll always be a place for you inside my arms

And there’s a billion streets to walk down

In this city of broken hearts

But there’ll always be a place for you inside my arms

Where does it hurt?

Where does it hurt?

And for every endless midnight

There’s a sky full of broken stars

And there’ll always be a place for you inside my arms

And there’s a billion streets to walk down

In this city of broken hearts

But there’ll always be a place for you inside my arms

Where does it hurt?

Oooh where does it hurt?

Where does it hurt?”

     I didn’t know where it hurt, but she was right, she was my mom and I did love her. All I knew now was that I was done hurting, and I didn’t want to anymore. I would find that place where it didn’t hurt. I had to keep driving, just had to keep moving forward.

(Featured song: Where Does It Hurt by Alexz Johnson)

Published on May 15, 2009 at 6:04 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. this was really good. it really made you think and relate to the charaters in the story. good job


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