Before Reggie could ask me to head over to the storage unit to lock up, I offered to do it. It wasn’t like I could have slept, even if I’d wanted to. The short walk would help me work off some of the energy that was still humming through me.
“It’s no problem, Reggie. I’ll head over there now and get it all locked up for you.”
“You’re my lifesaver, Abby. The sea tow is going to take forever and cost a fortune, so we won’t be back until morning. Thank God it’s only Sunday. See you at the office Monday. Thanks again.” The line went dead. I grabbed the spare keys off the hook by the fridge, shoving them in my shorts pocket before I left the apartment and started off down the road on foot.
The storage unit was only a half a mile up the road, so I didn’t bother putting on a shirt to cover my scars.
I was testing myself.
The full moon seemed even brighter than it had been the night before, and for once, the wet thickness of the air didn’t feel like it was going to choke me out. Even the smell of butchered fish, a stench that usually stuck to the inside of my nostrils, didn’t bother me as much as it usually did.
The lights from the construction on the bridge hummed in the distance, the generator running them sounded like it was powering up for lift-off, drowning out the sound of the river crashing gently against the seawall. In the distance I heard the waves of music and laughter as people went in and out of the ever-revolving door at Bubba’s Bar.
I thought about Nan as I walked, up in whatever heaven may or may not have existed for her. I hoped it was the one she whole-heartedly believed in, and convinced myself that in some way she was the one who’d sent Jake to me. She would have liked him so much, regardless of his flaws—and maybe even because of them. I imagined if she were still alive she would demand I bring him home to meet her properly. She would probably make him dinner, insisting he take a second helping of her famous mustard greens potato salad and forcing him to take all the leftovers home. She seemed to believe that no one in town ate unless she fed them. I chuckled aloud thinking about Jake trying to answer the barrage of questions Nan would’ve surely had for him. We would leave out the part about him being a contract killer.
I don’t think that would go over big.
I could taste the salt in the air on my tongue as I walked across the bridge, swinging my arms and whistling.
Who was this girl?
I knew one thing: the new me was almost happy... and that was okay with her. For once, I wasn’t going to stand in my own way.
Once I was clear of the blinding lights hanging from the construction cranes, I relaxed under the comfort of the thousands of stars occupying the sky, reminding me of a thousand winking eyes. The moon hovered like an old friend wanting to know the news of the day.
I knew for sure Nan was up there watching me, rooting for me to have the life I never thought I could. I was so close. In less than a month, Jake would be back and a new chapter would officially start for both of us. Together. I was going to go with him. I could be normal with him. I could have a life with him. As soon as he got back, we would start planning where we would go first. I was thinking New Orleans, but New York was on the list, too. I’d never been anywhere besides Georgia and Florida.
My life finally had possibility.
I was grateful for the first time since Nan took me in. “Thank you, Nan,” I whispered, hoping my message would reach her somehow. The very first happy tear I’ve ever cried in my almost eighteen years on this earth slid down my cheek.
“Nan don’t need no thanks from a fucking whore.” A deep, slow, slurred voice growled from somewhere in the dark, startling me.
“Where are you?” I asked. “Who are you?” My heart thumped out an uneven warning like Morse code.
“Aw, baby.” Owen stepped out from the shadows under the overhang of the bait shack and into the moonlight. “What’s the matter? You don’t recognize my voice no more? Tsk tsk tsk. Now, that hurts my feelings.” He took a swig from an almost-empty glass bottle, wiping the dark brown dribble from his chin with the backside of his grease-stained hand.
“What the hell do you want, Owen?” I crossed my arms over my chest and tried to push out the little voice in the back of my head telling me I should freak the fuck out.
He motioned his bottle to my exposed arms. “Looky here. Someone decided to come out of hiding. It’s about time you showed off those fat tits.” I remained silent. I didn’t want to make more trouble with him. I just needed to get the fuck away.
“What do you think your Nan would say if she knew you’d taken up with a junkyard dog like Jake Dunn? You really think she’d be proud of you for fucking that loser?” Owen took another slow menacing step toward me. “You lied to me.” There was an edge to his voice I’d never heard before. His white tank top was stained brown and red with what I could only guess was a mixture of bait and fish guts. Even from a few feet away, I could smell the liquor wafting off him.