The week was filled with the usual stuff of urban medocrity: work, dealing with my mother, and more work.
I had signed on with a couple of temporary agencies and was working at Battelle for the foreseeable future. My supervisor at Battelle liked my work and wanted to keep me, but whether or not I would be hired full time was down to two things, whether I could pass a background check and budgets. I had no control over either, so I continued to do my job and buried myself in learning a new job and keeping a low profile.
There were a few things in my background that wouldn't pass muster, like the trouble down in New Orleans, but I had been cleared of those charges and set free -- minus six weeks of my life and a whole lot of up close and personal with the inside of a parish jail and women from the lower rungs of the societal ladder. Prostitutes, vagrants, the mentally ill, thieves, drug dealers and users, and the occasional murderer or three. I got through it with more experience that I needed and a new sense of what I could and could not tolerate. It was life as usual.
I was in the working groove and would more than likely stay in Columbus for a while, so a steady job with benefits and decent pay weren't to be sneered at, and I was far from sneering. Staying with my parents was a whole different kind of torutre, but I would deal with that as I always had, keeping my head down and my tongue firmly clamped between my teeth, doing my best not to bite down too hard.
I worked, had lunch alone, and drove back to Hilliard from the near short north area of town all that week. Battelle is just down the road from Ohio State University where Nick worked, but that thought didn't cross my mind once that week. I was a few blocks from Club 3, which also failed to make an impression. I was more concerned with spending time with my son and not losing my temper with my mother. It was a very long week.
On Friday, I went back to my parents' home and was handed an envelope with the previous half week's pay, excused myself and drove down the road to cash the check and set up an account. In for a penny, in over my head. Not at the bank, at the idea of once again being in Columbus with no way out. The last time I left, I swore I wouldn't come back, but I really could not stay away as long as my grandmother was ill.
Gram was in the hospital with cervical cancer and would finish her last treatment the following week. I had to stick around for that. I was tired of being a nomad and wanted to settle down, but I didn't expect to settle down in Columbus -- or Hilliard. I'd get away somehow, but I didn't know just how. First things first. I had to find an apartment for my son and I, one that I could afford, and one that was near a good school. The west side of town was a good area, but I'd have to wait until after school ended to move. That was not a thought worth contemplating, so back to keeping my head down and my tongue clamped between my teeth. Fists clenched in my pockets until my nails dug semi-permanent grooves in the palms of my hand. The price of living with my mother. Jail was almost preferable. At least in jail I knew the rules and how to navigate the water.
Things came to a head on Friday when I told my mother I was meeting a friend for drinks. Acromony and recrimination followed hot on the heels of that revelation. You would have thought I had told her I was off for a night of raping, pillaging, and debauchery, which is exactly what she thought I was up to.
"You have no business going out and whoring around."
I bit back my first reply, silently counting to ten. Then twenty. Then fifty while Mom went on and on about the responsibilities of a mother and daughter and how I had no right to go around like some trailer tramp instead of staying home with my son.
I had heard this speech thousands of times growing up -- minus the son -- and how I was on the road to prostitution and worse. Maybe I shouldn't have been so open about the past two years, but I found it easier than making up stories I'd either have to embellish or embroider with more lies.
Mom harangued and I listened while putting on my coat. "David is staying with friends tonight. He's already done his homework and won't be home until Monday. I will be back long before then."
I urged my son through the door and down the back steps to the car, nodding my head while sidling out the door to the cadence of Mom's nonstop harangue.
I didn't have a date, but I was not about to stick around there all weekend either. I'd go for a drive and call my best friend to see if she was free to meet me for dinner and a movie. Or I'd go to a movie alone. Anywhere but there with Mom. I had had enough of tirades and accusations for one week and June seemed light years away by slow space freighter.
After dropping off my son and spending a few minutes getting to know his friend's parents, going over rules and making sure they knew how to reach my parents or me in an emergency, I drove around not realizing where I was heading until I passed Fifth and Olentangy a block from Club 3. I saw Daryl's car and decided to stop in for a few minutes -- or an hour or two. A white Russian and some dancing would help me unwind.
Daryl and I danced but mostly we talked about his kids and my kids andhow good it was to see each other again. I got that old familiar feeling of low down aching warmth that I always got when Daryl and I were together. Too bad the timing was off.
I spent most of the next hour or so ignoring the laser beams on the back of my neck coming from the area of the bar where Nick was sitting. I hadn't told him I would see him Friday, but he obviously felt we had a date and was not pleased seeing me with someone else. That low down aching warmth was dissipating as my irritation increased. I got up and went to the restroom only to bump into Nick when I came out of the door.
"Nice to see you again." Nonchalance was not his long suit. "Sorry I was late."
"I didn't realize we had set a time." I brushed past him. He stepped in front of me. "Or a date. Now, if you don't mind," I said, hands on hips. My cheeks were hot and I knew they were probably red. My ears were hot too, and not from drinking too much. I had had only one white Russian and had spent the rest of the past hour drinking ice water to cool off from vigorous dancing with Daryl.
Nick wilted. "I thought. . . . "
I ignored the urge to tell him that he shouldn't think since thinking was obviously not his strong suit.
"Look, Nick, I don't want to be rude, but I am with someone else."
"I saw that."
Master of the Obvious.
"Would you like to dance?"
A heavy sigh escaped my lips, along with a soupcon of exasperation. He was persistent. "Maybe some other time." I patted him on the shoulder and went back to the table.
"Do I need to have a talk with that guy?" Daryl asked.
"I doubt it."
"Then how about another dance?"
I wasn't feeling much like dancing. I shook my head and sipped some water.
"How about a little trip down the road?"
I knew exactly what he had in mind and the low down ache was back. I squirmed in my seat, my lips stretching to a secretive smile. "What did you have in mind? A late dinner? A walk along the river?"
Now Daryl was smiling and there was nothing secretive about the hot gleam in his eyes. I knew that gleam from before.
"I'll wait for you down the street."
Since I'd brought my car, it would be foolish to leave my car here to go down the street. I followed him outside and he ushered me to my car.
"I brought an extra pillow," he said, chuckling.
I blushed and he smiled.
Daryl knew how to make me blush, but we did have a history.
Daryl was off and down the road before I got my car started. It fired and ran for a few seconds, coughed, and stalled. Three times. I was getting frustrated. This was not the time for the car to go belly up. Not now. Not with sweet release so close.
Someone tapped on the window. It was Nick.
"Need a little help?"
"No, thanks." I turned the key on and the car click, click, clicked. Great! Dead battery. It wasn't like I could call Daryl and let him know why I was detained. That deep down ache went right to my head and I felt like exploding. Frustrated and angry, I hit the steering wheel as if that would change things.
"I'll go get my jumper cables."
Before I could say anything, Nick was off. I got out of the car, resisting the urge to kick the tire, and raised the hood. Nick pulled his truck into the slot opposite facing my car. He jumped out of the cab and had the cables hooked up before I could say anything. "Try to start it now," he said.
The engine cranked and cranked and nothing happened. "Must be the alternator," I yelled out the window. I turned the ignition off. I'd have to call my Dad and ask him to come get me and tow the car home. That brought old memories to mind that failed to fill me with anything but cold and fear.
The last time Dad had to tow me home, I was working in Worthington. He had the old truck then and hooked a big metal hook to my bumper, towing me all the way down I-270 and losing me just past the Olentangy River Road overpass where I sat in my car in the freezing December weather until my legs were like blocks of ice.
I had worn a skirt to work that day for the Christmas party, which was a huge mistake. The temperature was in the 20s and my mortification wasn't hot enough to keep me warm until he figured out I wasn't behind him any more, get to a turnoff, and come back around to pick me up. I don't know how long I waited for him to realize I wasn't behind him, but it felt like weeks. I nearly got frostbite and Dad got a brand new story to tell people about how funny it was to be dragging an empty chain down the freeway while I sat just beyond the Olentangy River Road bridge on the freeway.
"I'll drive you home," Nick offered.
All I could think was, where was Daryl? Without another option, I had no choice but to accept Nick's offer and have Dad drive me back in the morning to get my car.
"Thank you," I said with as much grateful thanks as I could muster. My plans were ruined. I might as well tuck my tail between my legs and go home.
So much for relieving my stress.