Chris stood in the living room of her parents’ trailer in Pine Acres Park. The place unchanged from when Chris moved out ten years ago. The wind whipped, rattling the plastic panes of the windows. Chris’s parents sat where they always had—her father reclined in a green LaZboy chair, her mother upright on the couch. Chris stood in front of the TV, which her mother had just turned off when Chris said she had something to tell them.
“Well,” her mother said, “Go on.”
“I’m moving to Arizona,” she told them, “to open up a candle shop.”
Her parents just stared at her.
“That’s awfully far away,” her mother said.
“We hope you don’t expect us to come visit you way out there,” her father said, scratching his nose.
Her mother nodded toward the kitchen and said, “There’s a box of crackers in the cabinet your father hasn’t touched, if you want to take those.”
Chris went to the pantry, pulled out a box of Saltines. Her mother turned the TV back on, and the eyes of her parents lit up. With the cracker box in one hand, Chris bent and hugged her mother and then her father, who leaned forward in his chair, but did not get up.
“Call us,” her mother said.
Before walking out, Chris looked at a framed picture of herself as a toddler in a blue bouffant dress with curled hair, makeup, and a satin sash that read Jimmy Buffet’s Pageant Doll. Then she left, the spring loaded door slamming behind her.
From the gravel driveway, she watched as the small diamond-shaped window on the door flashed colors of television: white, yellow, blue, blue, blue.
Chris banged her hand on the steering wheel in a fuck yes kind of way, as she left behind all the things she did not want, had not ever wanted: a trailer; a job at a Christian book store; a mean cat named Lex; deer in the streets; deer on the walls; deep fried fish; Baptist churches; people who called dinner supper; people who ruined their tea with too much sugar; men in overalls, men in camo, men in blue jeans, men; four-wheelers, dirt-bikes, golf carts, boats; stickers on the backs of windshields of a urinating boy, or of text that reads “Southern Girls Rule the World;” fridges full of Diet Mountain Dew; pantries of Little Debbie snack cakes, ding dongs, hoho’s, cosmic brownies or anything these folks considered food. She didn’t want vise-grips as knobs on the oven, in the shower, and on the back door; she didn’t want her Aunt Vickie, Uncle Dick, or Cousin Brian, all who, at one time or another, had called her fat. And she didn’t want a next-door neighbor named Ralph who told her “you should come over like this more often” the time she retrieved a frisbee in her bathing suit when she was fourteen. She didn’t want racist rednecks, or confederate flags, or the flaming bags of dogshit she found on her doorstep the day before senior prom.
What Chris wanted was the hell out of here.
She wanted to buy a big house, or rent one, or stay in one for a while. A house with an upstairs balcony, where she could look down at a Christmas tree with presents stacked beneath it; she wanted nice things, like socks made of wool and soft hand-sewn underwear. She wanted kind people and neighbors who brought over seran-wrapped plates of cookies because they made too many. She wanted to look out of windows at mountain peaks, or the desert, or trees with hanging moss. She wanted a pink Cadillac, like the one she tried to win by selling Mary Kay makeup, going door to door with a box full of creams and lipsticks, hosting makeovers with tiny mirrors for the trailer park people—all too poor to buy anything, which meant she was left with bags of foundation for skin “light-to medium” or “medium to dark” neither of which, for whatever reason, matched her face. Add that to what she did not want.
She wanted a sweet old dog. A dog she could name George or Wallace or Eleanor. A dog with a kind face and a sturdy body. Not a dog named Rebel, like the one owned by the only man she’d ever slept with, who she met at a bar called Your Place when she was twenty-one. He said he liked her freckles and her laugh, so she went home with him and they fucked on his couch. He kept his hat on and she didn’t come; the former because he had a bald spot; the latter because she was gay, both of which were kept secret at the time.
Chris wanted women. A woman. The woman she met two weeks ago at a Makers’ Market in Jackson, Mississippi where Chris sold her handmade candles. She wanted the woman with the confident stride, armpit hair, and beautiful gray eyes, who came up to her booth and smelled her candles, closing her eyes as she inhaled. They talked about the glow of a candle and the satisfaction of dipping your finger in the melted wax, peeling it off like a mask. She handed her a crystal from her pocket and asked Chris out to dinner, where they sat at table for two in a Mexican restaurant, eating chips and drinking margaritas. She wanted this woman who laughed when she told her about Mary Kay and said I’m sorry when she told her about the bald man. The woman with whom she felt like she belonged, a feeling she hadn’t had since she was twelve, when she sat in the woods behind her house near a small pond watching the evening come on, as the fireflies swarmed, and the sun set into water. A snake had slithered by in the grass, and at the same time a coyote had howled. That day when she felt she was at the absolute center of the earth, right where she was supposed to be. Before the mosquitoes started biting and she ran back home.
But this time, Chris wasn’t running. This time, shit was going to be alright.
So at the end of the night, when Ferris tried to kiss her, Chris leaned in.
Add that to what she did want.
Heather Hasselle is a writer from Mississippi, living in Austin, Texas, where she performs improvised theatre and teaches creative writing to kids, teens and adults through Badgerdog Literary Publishing and an all women’s arts collective called HIVE. She also reads submissions over at American Short Fiction.