Road Runner

By Tee Tyson

Tee Tyson makes things up and writes them down. Her story Road Runner will be featured in the forthcoming Pankhearst book Cars And Girls. Here’s the first chapter.

Today is the day I get my freedom. And there is nothing I can do about it. I’ve done my time. Now I walk the line out of here. Am I ready? It’s hard to say. I’d like to think so. I’ve been over the plan about a hundred thousand times.  Except, really, how can you plan for this?

I still have an hour to wait. Technically, I’m a free girl, but all I can do is stay stretched out on my bed and wait until the guard shows up to take me down to checkout. Six years of sweatpants, laundry duty, and over-cooked vegetables are almost behind me. It’s hard to believe after such a long haul there actually is fresh air on the other side.

The funny thing is, I’m not thinking about the first breath I’m going to take when I step outside. No, I’m wondering if Liam is going to show up. He said he would, and he is a man of his word, but my insides are all twisted up. Freedom is messing with my head.

It’s easy to get the wrong idea about Liam and me. The girls in my unit always did whenever he visited. Even back when I was fifteen and he was hanging around Well’s Reformatory trying to show me I had so much more to offer the world than petty crime and a bad attitude. I remember how he showed up the same day a bunch of bitches jumped me in the shower and beat the shit out of me. As I kissed the cold tiled floor and the girls delivered their punches, Free Bird played on the radio—it’s strange what has stuck with me after all the years, all the beatings, and all the drugs.

Like, I distinctly remember Liam limping into my hospital room wearing aviator sunglasses and carrying a file thicker than the bible. My file. The smell of alcohol hung in the air and I swear to God he wore patchouli oil back then. He plunked himself down in the chair by the bed and stared at me, not saying a word. All I kept thinking was how creepy he seemed. Turned out he was my caseworker assigned to me from the state.

The thing is, he pissed me off from the get go by calling me Lucy and asking me stupid questions. Everyone knew I went by Holly Hellbound and hated my birth name. Not to mention, I hurt from my eyelashes to the bottoms of my feet from the fight in the shower. Pleasantries weren’t at the top of my to-do list and I greeted him with a fuck you.

The story makes me smile now. It pretty much sums us up. I’m just a mess-up from a shitty family who will never amount to anything and he’s one determined mother fucker who wants to save me. The thing is, there isn’t much to save. Not anymore. And not after what’s coming down the pipe. But he is still hanging around, pissing me off, even though the state told him his stint with me was up. Sometimes I think he’s morally obligated to lend me a hand because he’s in love with me. He fell hard the day he met me ten years ago. Of course, he’d never do anything about it except let me drag him to hell and back all for a wink and smile.

The clang of my cell door snaps me into a sitting position.

“Today’s the day,” says Dot, one of the nicer guards, says.

I follow her into the hall. With each step, the air gets harder to draw. I’m not sure how being free is going to go over with me. A few girls call out to me as I pass their cells. Some say goodbye. Others promise to see me on the other side to get even. I’m not scared. Most of them won’t ever walk out of this place anyway and, even if they do, they’ll never find me.

At the front desk, Officer Sanderson begins the paperwork for my release.

After several minutes of me staring out the glass doors at the shining sun and streaked windows, the guard asks if I have a ride.

“I think so.”

Twelve feet of scuffed grey linoleum stand between me and the outside word. It’s surreal and messed up. For some reason I never thought I’d make it here.

“Sign here,” the guard says and points to a line along the bottom of the page, “and here.”

After I finish scrawling my barely readable name, another guard hands me a bag with my belongings. They are meager. I have almost nothing to show for my twenty-five years on this earth. Unless you count the scars.

“Is that it?”

They both nod.

And, with a simple bob of their heads, I’m free again. I don’t extend my stay at Barlow Penitentiary by saying my goodbyes. There are two sets of doors and, as I push through the second one, I see a gold El Camino parked at the curb. The door opens when the sun hits my face. I squint, holding my hand up to shield my eyes and watch Liam unfold from the driver’s seat. He doesn’t smile, because my release from prison isn’t a joyous occasion. It’s business, not pleasure. I’ve got shit to do.

He watches me strut across the street, golden hair bouncing in time with my unrestrained breasts, and smiles. He’s forty now, but looks exactly the same. Limping over, he takes my bag. It’s an old war wound. He entered the army practically right out of school and got blown up in the Vietnam War. They said he’d never walk again, but miracles happen every day, or so he tries to tell me every chance he gets. He opens his arms for a hug.

Shaking my head, I round the car to the passenger side. “None of that bullshit.”

“Whatever you say, Holly.”

Before I get in, I catch a glance from Liam across the top of the El Camino. There’s affection in his face. My throat closes. I ignore his feelings for me along with the guilt tickling the nape of my neck. I need the help. And it’s not like I have a lot of friends.

Oh, but enemies, I have plenty of those.

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