To me, it’s still seems like Friday night because I haven’t been to sleep yet, but technically, it’s Saturday morning. Which means: it’s time for the second installment to Kharma’s Way. My schedule is so messed up after being on vacation, I might miss an actual morning post, so this week is an early edition… back to normal next week 🙂
If you missed the first installment, you can find it under the Saturday AM Serial tab.
POST #2 – The Slip
“Excusez-moi! Je suis désolé,” I blurted out with a French accent, surprising myself. I sent a quick prayer to my college French teacher, Ms. Guiles, for drilling ‘excuse me’ and ‘I’m sorry’ into my head. This was another shocker, because I don’t pray.
He tilted his head to the side and removed his sweaty palms from my shoulders. His gaze took a three-second stroll up and down my body.
Instinctively, I pulled my denim jacket tighter around me. I felt like I should say something else before running off, but my severely limited French vocabulary left me in a lurch. Giving him time to study my face simply wasn’t an option.
“Où se trouvent les toilettes? Au revoir!” I turned and headed down the sidewalk, eager to blend into the crowd, mentally kicking myself for asking him where I could find a bathroom. I tried to console myself that since the dimwit barely had a grasp on the English language, he probably didn’t know French anyway. But still, I cursed the fact that I didn’t choose a more manageable Southern accent instead.
“The bathrooms are at the end of the plaza on the left!” he yelled.
“Quoi? Je ne parle pas anglais,” I called back apologetically and headed straight for the nearest group of people. Only being five feet, two inches tall gave me an advantage. Within seconds, I surrounded myself with taller people, which allowed me to make my way out of the plaza without bumping into him again. Around the corner, I ducked into a small cantina packed with Happy Hour customers and made a beeline for the bathroom. Safe behind the locked door, I covered my hair with the scarf; I couldn’t take a chance on my neighbors seeing the new me. I wasn’t beer or a half-price appetizer, so no one paid me any attention as I strolled out the front door.
I closed and bolted my apartment door behind me. Out of breath from the three blocks of speed walking, I made a commitment to get in shape. Minutes later, I broke the vow and grabbed a package of Zingers and a Diet Coke to refuel. Apparently, my commitment issues affected every aspect of my life.
The phone rang just as I started on my second Zinger. The caller ID revealed my mom. For two more rings, I mentally debated, Zinger…Mom…Zinger…Mom. My conscience prevailed and I picked up just before voice mail answered.
“Hi, mom!” I tried to sound more cheerful than I felt because I fielded fewer questions that way.
“Hi, dear. You sound better than you have for a long time.”
“I guess so.”
“I just wanted to check in with you before you left on your trip.” After a short pause, she commented, “I wish you wouldn’t travel alone.”
I looked up at the ceiling and sighed. I wondered if she’d feel better knowing I didn’t intend to leave Santa Fe, but instead, planned to spy on Gill in my new dark-haired French girl disguise. Probably not.
“I worry about you,” she added. Mostly to fill the heavy silence, I think.
“Mom, you’ve been on my case to have fun and move on with my life and then you try to talk me out of going. I don’t get it.”
“It’s just that Albuquerque is a big city and a dangerous place for a single girl travelling alone.”
“I’m old enough to not draw extra attention, but maybe I should ask Michelle to go with me. Oh wait, she’s dead, remember?” I immediately felt guilty for snapping. “Sorry mom. Can you just let it go?”
I inwardly groaned. Fine was never fine. It would take days of her brooding to get past it.
“I’m glad you’ve decided to leave Gill alone.”
I said nothing.
“You know, Jaime, sometimes it’s more admirable to back down than fight the battle.”
“Is that what the fortune cookie said?”
She ignored my snide comment. “It’s been hard on Gill, too. Why, I talked to his mom today and he’s leaving for Phoenix tomorrow to get away from the bad vibes.”
I knew “bad vibes” meant me.
“Good for him,” I said with a smile, so my words might come off happy. “Is he staying with friends?” I asked casually.
“Oh, his cousin, Arthur Jansen, just bought a nice house in Glendale. Why, it even has a guest house and a swimming pool. Can you imagine?” She paused just long enough to take a breath. “You remember Arthur, don’t you? He’s Gill’s cousin on his mom’s side.”
I scribbled the name on the back of my credit card bill envelope. “No, I don’t remember him.”
“Sure you do. He used to stay at Margaret’s house for three weeks every summer.”
“Still don’t know him, mom.”
“Anyway, it’ll be good for him to get away. I feel terrible that he’s had to endure your public accusations and ranting like a lunatic–even after the police found no evidence of wrong doing.”
I clenched my jaw. Of course she’s easily swayed because Gill always gushed about how she didn’t look old enough to have a grown daughter. Ugh. “Glad to have your support,” I said sarcastically. “I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one.”
A long, awkward silence followed; the sound created when two immovable forces meet.
“Look Mom, I’ve got to go pack.”
“Drive carefully. I love you.”
“Sure. I love you too.”
I dragged my rolling duffle bag out from under my bed, beat some of the dust off and started stuffing it with clothes the new me would wear. As soon as I heard Gill was going to Phoenix, I knew I had to go. The only problem was figuring out what to do after I followed him to Arizona. It’s not like he would confess to me. On second thought, I guess I knew what I had to do, but couldn’t fully admit it to myself.
Mom’s words kept interrupting my thoughts: “Sometimes it’s more admirable to back down than to fight the battle.” If I were more spiritual, I would’ve seen it as an omen.
Continued Next Week…