Suitcases on the Road by Connie Cockrell using Suitcases by Frost_Stock via www.DeviantArt.com and Road picture by Randy Cockrell
Zara cleaned off the end of the shelf where the waitresses kept their personal stuff. Nothing extravagant— her coffee mug, a baggie with spare hair elastics and ties, and her purse. The mug and baggie went into the last. The two other girls sent sympathetic looks in her direction but in the middle of the lunch rush, they couldn’t stop to give a proper goodbye.
Fine by her. She slung the purse strap over her shoulder and made sure to slam the back door as she left. The owner, the nasty little man, had felt her up for the last time. Zara marched out of the alley like a soldier. Head up, shoulders back, eyes forward but her mind was roiling.
She didn’t know what to do. Rent was due in two weeks. Zara expected she’d have to fight to get her final paycheck and it would be short, being fired mid-pay period. She sighed as she stopped at the corner to wait for the light. Running to the big city wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Halfway down the block, hookers, no older than her, were talking to men in passing cars. At least I didn’t get caught up in that. The walk light glowed, and she crossed the street.
She pulled out her phone and called her sister. “Anna, it’s me,” she said when her sister picked up. “I was just fired.”
“Oh no, Zara. How awful.”
“Yep.” Zara stepped into a doorway to get out of the flow of pedestrians and to cut the street noise a little. “I don’t know how I’m going to make the rent, but at least I don’t have to put up with that grabby owner anymore.”
“Come stay with us.”
Zara shook her head. “I can’t do that. You have Bill and the kids to take care of. You don’t need me there.”
“Well, then, what about going home to mom and dad. I talked to mom. She said she’s asked you back over and over. Talk to her, talk to dad.”
“You know I haven’t talked to him since I left.” Zara watched the people going by, everyone with a look of determination on their faces. They knew what they were doing with their lives.
“It was a silly argument, Zara. Make up with him.”
“He told me if I didn’t like it to get out. So I did.” She wasn’t miffed about it anymore. Now it was more a matter of pride.
“You stayed out all night. He was trying to lay some ground rules for your own good.”
“How’d that work for him?”
“You and Dad are too much alike.”
Zara sighed. “Probably. Mom told me he’s still holding my college account open. He won’t touch the money, even when the whole roof had to be replaced.”
“See,” her sister said. “He still loves you. Come home. If you turn your apartment back to the owner clean, you’ll get your deposits back. That’ll give you the cash to find a new job or something.”
It was eighty-five today in Phoenix. It would be cold back in New York. She’d have to get winter clothes. “I’ve got nothing to wear. I left all my coats and stuff behind when I tossed my stuff in the car and left.”
“Mom still has it all,” Anna encouraged her. “Do you need me to buy a bus ticket for you?”
Zara chewed her bottom lip. What did she want to do? Go home? Go to college, at last? She realized she was ready to make up with her father. “No, I have some money set aside. I wanted to use it to buy the kids Christmas presents.”
“Forget that. You’re the best present they could get. Please come home, Zara.”
Zara felt her throat ache and tears form. She sniffed them back. “Then I guess I’m coming home. It’ll take me a couple of days to tie things up here. The car still works. I’ll drive.”
“Hoo, hoo!” Anna cheered. “You’ll be home in time for Thanksgiving. Fantastic. Are you going to call mom?”
“I’m going to call dad.” Zara wiped her eyes. “It’s time.”
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