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Third Time's a Charm
The sun was beginning to rise over the mountainous horizon when Jamie got her second wind. She had been driving countless hours from Texas to New Mexico, and the road seemed to grow farther as she drove, so she was relieved to see the sun come up. Maybe the sunlight, she thought, would awaken her long enough to reach her destination. That was something else to think about as well - her destination. It had been over a decade since she had seen her father, and she felt a mixture of excitement and fear. But with that feeling of dread also came a strong sense of determination; she no longer wanted to hold a grudge against a man she once loved.
Every now and then when Jamie wasn’t staring blankly at the road, which stretched on in an ominous pattern, she was admiring her charm bracelet. The sunrise made it glisten like it was on fire and Jamie was amused at how the light danced off the metal. This made her think back to her childhood when her father first gave her the bracelet. Jamie was seven and her father had her sit in front of the fire place with her eyes closed on Christmas day. Jamie smiled defiantly when she remembered how deflated her mood became once she opened her eyes only to see a silver chain rather than the “Susie Sings -A- Lot” doll she so badly craved. What stands out the most of that memory in her mind was what her father said to boost her spirit.
“Now just listen real quick Jamie, before you get all mad that it’s not that doll you’ve been goin’ on about, I just want to tell you that this bracelet right here is special. It’s somethin’ you can keep forever to know just how much your daddy loves you. And tell ya’ what darlin’, every year till I’m an old man I’ll get you a pretty charm to put on it.”
Jamie then took her hand off of the steering wheel in one fluid movement. She no longer wanted to see the bracelet that only carried two charms.
The sun was overhead when Jamie pulled to the side of the road, so she figured it was around noontime. She had been driving for much too long and needed to take a break to close her eyes. Although she desired nothing more than silence and darkness, she couldn’t help but think back to the years spent with her father. She thought about how she lived under the same roof with a man who kept a dark, second life that existed undetected. She recalled the time in her life right before the truth came out when Jamie was eight years old. Her father took her camping up near Agawam Lake. He had told her that he wanted to get a way for a while and be in touch with nature. Jamie remembers how she was reluctant to go, as most little girls would be when sleeping on dirt is a factor. Her father was adamant about staying away from people, and to make Jamie comply with his request for isolation, he gave her a charm for her bracelet. It was a little silver fish that dangled from its tail. Jamie was so fascinated with its fine detail that she didn’t even mind that her father gave her a charm that resembled trout.
“I chose this one because I’m takin’ you fishin’ out here baby girl.” He said as he handed it to her.
Jamie cringed in her car as she remembered the rest of that trip. She remembered how they never went fishing because her father was too nervous to leave his spot. She remembered the look on his face when the ambush of police officers came and swarmed the campfire. She also remembered the face of the elderly sheriff that took her and drove her off to child services; he had a compassionate expression that seemed slightly marred by his reasons for being there. When she was older, Jamie was told the gruesome truth that revealed her father was a wanted criminal. He had beaten and robbed several unsuspecting people in his day and it all came back to haunt him. He was immediately put in prison, and Jamie was put into foster care. With tears in her eyes, Jamie turned the key to start the engine and drove on; she couldn’t lose her nerve now.
She kept on driving until she stumbled upon a roadside diner. She knew where she was now and realized that there was no place to stop for miles, so she pulled in to have a meal. The outside of the diner was covered in dirt and desolate, with only several cars in the lot. But Jamie’s judgment subsided once she entered only to find a clean and quaint eatery. Plastic booths lined the front wall. So she decided to sit in the corner booth that had no windows- she was worn-out and tired of looking at the New Mexico landscape.
Besides herself and the owner of the diner who just took her order, there were only two other people in the building. They were two young men who sat quietly on the barstools as they ate their meals. Being so alone, Jamie’s mind was free to regress back to the last memory she had of her father. She was eighteen, and legally an adult. A few months after child services set her out on her own, Jamie mustered up the courage to go visit her father in the penitentiary. At this point she was well aware of all her father’s appalling crimes. She had nightmares every night where she envisioned the desperate faces of people he robbed, and people he left bleeding and broken. She could not restrain the guilt that coursed through every vein in her body when she thought about how she lived with a monster with no suspicion whatsoever. When she was finally reunited with her father in the visiting room of the prison, she had nothing to say to him. She said nothing as he sobbed for her forgiveness and tried to explain himself. She said nothing as he promised to make things better once he got out, once they could have a relationship again. She even said nothing as he gave her a wooden charm of a heart he carved for her while in his cell. She just took it, stared into his eyes with a look she knew would haunt him for the rest of his stay there, and walked out.
Now with a fresh wave of guilt growing in the pit of her stomach, Jamie lost her appetite and decided to pay and leave. Although her father just got out of prison, she was unsure of how long he would stay in town, so she wanted to get there in time. She was finally coming to terms with her father and needed to see him again, needed to tell him she still loved him. Jamie was ready to reignite the relationship she once had with her father, maybe even add a third charm to her almost bare bracelet. As she was walking to her car she looked at the mountains one last time. The sunset had the mountain tops glow like fireflies in the darkest of nights, and she realized that there was indeed beauty in the landscape that reminded her of her past. With a new sense of optimism, Jamie strode to her car. Then she was on the ground. It all happened very fast.
Jamie was not aware of her surroundings as the two men kicked her in her rib cage with undeniable force. She was dragged to the back of the diner and she didn’t seem to notice. She was completely in shock. She felt that this was the world getting retribution from her, for she lived with someone who did terrible things that she never stopped, never wanted to believe. They left her in the back of the diner, curled up and bleeding.
The two men got into their car casually. They drove west for an hour until they reached a bar on the outskirts of town. Once they got inside, they found him sitting at the far end of the bar.
“Hey Sam,” the bolder of the two men said,” Sorry to tell ya’ but there was slim pickin’ today.” Sam was staring down his shot of whiskey and finally gulped it down once the young man was done talking.
“Whatever Jerry,” Sam began, “I just need enough money to get the hell outta’ here”
Jerry handed him the brown paper bag filled with goods; and while Sam spilled it out on the bar to inspect, Jerry spoke.
“Yeah there was only one person who came by the whole time; she didn’t have much money but her jewelry might be worth sumthin’. Ya’ think it’ll be enough for you to make it to Texas, Sam?”
Sam sat there, white as a ghost and speechless.
“Sam? You okay there?”
Sam just froze there wide eyed while staring at the little silver charm bracelet he gripped so tightly in his hand. And then his eyes rolled to the back of his head and he blacked out from the wrenching agony that enveloped him.