She Ran: The Betrayed (Short Story)

“Slow tonight huh?” I said to the woman behind the bar.

“Just wait. No trip home this year?” Mary asked. Mary had been running the only bar in town since her father passed away 10 years ago, but I have always suspected she been running since the day she was born. Mary is a force to be reckoned with and her time in the service did nothing to dampen it.

“Here sweety a triple shot of H2O for you.” Mary whispered as she put down a bowl of water for my faithful furry companion and partner in crime Winchester. Before standing up Mary made sure to get her fair share of petting and doggie kisses.

“And what will it be for you? The usual?” she asked taking her place back behind the bar and pulling out a pint glass.

“Doesn’t seem like the day to change things so sure.” I laughed and spun my bar stool to face the bar.

The beauty of small town life is that health codes don’t stand a chance so dogs in a bar were par for the course. A fact that I was grateful for and one of the reason I choose this small town to be my temporary permanent home.

“Hey Tom!” I heard Mary yell as she pulled my beer from the tap. I had missed the cool breeze coming from the back door opening. Winchester had not missed it and was making his way over to Tom with a quickness. Tom always carried treats in his pocket for the many he dogs he ran into on his postal route. Tom was Mary’s one true love — gag — as she would tell you and she would say it just like that.

They met while she was in the service, I can’t quite remember where, but I am not sure it even really matters. When Mary’s dad died it was a break up or get married and move back home to run the bar kind of situation. My theory is Mary’s dad dying was the kick in the pants Mary needed to give into her fear of commitment and commit her life to Tom. I sharing the same fear understood this and their relationship was the only hope I held out that I too would find my one true love — gag — and settle down. Currently I was only committed to Winchester and more because he committed to me and wouldn’t leave and I am quite content with this level of commitment for the time being.

“If y’all are looking to close up early, I can finish up and bugger home. I bought some adult beverages before Luann closed up the shop today.

“No need we do our big Christmas thing tomorrow in the morning in an hour we will get a few more people escaping the in-laws, grandkids, and out of town friends.”

Threebridge is a small beach town that everyone loves to visit for a few days but doesn’t want to stay. This leads to a small tight knit group of locals that are never fully embracing of strangers, but hide it well so the tourist dollars keep coming. I wasn’t looking to stay, but my three day stayed turned into a permanent stay. I only made it into the small circle thanks to Tom and I sharing some time spent living the city of Boston and the amount of time he sees me as I ship out a lot of stuff my small part-time business. Once you are in with Tom and Mary the rest of the town just falls in line. I guess the reality is once you are in with Mary you are in, but I suspect Mary saw a bit of herself in me making fitting into this small group easier than it should have been.

Tom, Mary, and I chatted about local events and the holiday festivities for about an hour when right on cue the first “runaway’ ,as Mary liked to call them, shuffled in, gave Winchester a pat on the head and bellied up to the bar. By the time the hour was out the bar was almost to a typical Friday night crowd.

The jukebox was belting out Santa Baby sung by Eartha Kitt but it didn’t completely drown out the sounds of complaints about too many people in my house, the grandkids are spoiled, and how a bossy mother-in-law will drive you to drink faster than anything on the planet.

“Is that your dog?” a stranger asked me as he sat next to me at the only open seat at the bar.

“Yea that is WInchester, he is really only here for Tom’s treats and the fries the regulars give him from their plates.” I responded.

“Hey Mike” Mary yelled, “Long time no see. How is life in the big city going?”

“Good, can’t complain in town for the usual holiday reasons. How have you been?” the stranger asked

“Good, what can I get you?” Mary asked as she poured another beer for a different patron.

“Bud please and keep em coming.” he answered with a big smile.

“Coming right up. I see you have met Winchester, she is our resident permanent outsider, but we tolerate her because Tom has a crush on her.” Mary said smiling at me referring to the town’s inside joke and went off to dance with Tom to the last few bars of Santa Baby. This PDA was proof that Mary had been drinking along with the rest of us “runaways” something rarely done, but it was Christmas so I guess all bets are off.

“So permanent outsider that sounds intriguing.” Mike said and spun to face me taking a sip of his beer.

“Yea not really. “ I mumbled into my beer. Mike was an attractive human being and that always put me ill at ease. I never understood why, but it was a fact and I was just hoping we could talk about the weather, football, anything but my story.

“ I doubt that, so spill.”

“Not until you tell me yours, MIke” I countered the beer increasing my level of sass.

Mike went on to explain he was Sue’s, the owner of the town’s General Store, grandson and he had spent his summers working in the store. He comes to town from CITY to visit his grandma and extended family on Christmas. It is really the only time his parents come back to town he admitted.

He went onto explain that he would love to live near the shore but he couldn’t envision living a town the size of Threebridge.

“Your turn!” he egged on after he was done.

“”I guess that is fair” I replied, “Do you want the long or the short version?”

“The long version, of course, it will give me a reason to stay a bit longer and avoid all the bickering at my grandma’s house.” Mike took a huge swing of his beer placed the empty glass on the edge to indicate he was ready for another and then focused his attention on me.

“Guess the best way is to jump right.” I sighed, took a sip of my beer,and tried to figure out how to frame my story without getting too deep.

“I guess the short long story is, “ I began

My mother died and as her only child it was my responsibility to deal with her estate and bs that is involved when someone dies. I loved my mother, but we had a unique relationship so I mourned her loss, but I wasn’t overly surprised or alarmed by it. I guess listening to her tell me how much she was ready to die numb me to actually being shocked it happened. Don’t get wrong my mother didn’t want to kill herself, but with each year she grew older she hoped it would be her last, if only for the vanity of not having to get old and look old.

I went to Texas sorted out her estate, which thankfully because of her desire to die before she got old was handled well and life was easy for those she left behind. The hardest part for me was finding a home for her remaining cat, selling her condo, and deciding if I wanted to keep her car. Needless to say all of this took some time and I left my finace in Boston dealing with our life back there.

After a few weeks I headed back home for a bit to talk to work about what my options were, see my fiance, and just try and get back to my normal life. I caught an earlier flight than expected and was going to try and beat my finace home as a little surprise, I, however, was the one who got the surprise when I walked in on him and I guess we can call her his new girlfriend. I shut the front door took myself and my suitcase to my soon to be sister in laws who was my only friend/family in the Boston area and told her my sob story. Oddly I never cried while spilling my guts.

Long story short our relationship was on the outs anyway just that neither one of us wanted to say it out loud as I had only moved to Boston unending my entire life less than a year ago. Walking in on the act was just physical confirmation that both of us were unhappy and forced us to deal with it. NOt saying I wasn’t pissed or hurt by the action, but I was still pretty numb from my mother’s death I just let it go.

My mom left me a little bit of money so I quit my job they were so gracious as to grant me a leave of absence for the last month of service, I packed up a rental car with what little I owned and I drove back to Texas to sell mom’s house and figure out my next move. Since I was in no hurry and no one was waiting for me I took the long way checking out some sights along the way. I made a two day trip into almost two full weeks. Only really coming back because the real estate agent called and said that we had a buyer for the condo and I needed to get there to finish cleaning it out and find a home for the cats.

One day after dropping my third load to the donation station I headed to the bar for a beer and to see other human beings. It had been a few days since I had seen more than the face of the gentleman who kindly took my mother’s castoffs. While at the bar I started talking a couple of guys who were just getting back from a three month long road trip out west. The lived in a van and just roamed around no strings attached. They were in town to make some more money so they could hit the road again.

I told them of my mini road trip down from Boston and they and few beers convinced me I should trade in my mom’s Prius for something a little bigger and just hit the road. They gave me some advice on things I would need, but told me the lighter I left the better and I could pick up things along the way as I needed them.

The next day I was at the dealership trading in the Prius for a used 4runner and heading off to get some camping gear. By the time my mom’s stuff was out of the house and it was time for me to deflate the air mattress I had been sleeping on,my new car was all ready to hit the road and those few items I just couldn’t part with were stored safely in a small storage unit pick up date unknown.

The cat disappeared the day before I was to sign the papers at the real estates office almost like he knew it was time to go and he sure as heck didn’t want me deciding where he would live out his days. I have often suspected the neighbor took him in, but I didn’t bother to ask as I am sure he wouldn’t have liked living in my car.

I drove off the real estate agents parking lot and just kept going. I drove and drove until I was so tired I was seeing things. I pulled off and found a hotel figuring out I could figure out all this camping stuff the next stop. I stayed in that hotel room for two nights the first night crying all night long and the second figuring out my next move.

What I told myself would only last three months ended up lasting a full year. After the first few months I was a bit bored of just being on the road so like a lot of other van dwellers and nomads I took to writing about my experiences on a blog and created an instagram account. Not long afterwards I realized that my old life was what not for me, it was a life I had so a)I wouldn’t become my mother and b) so my mother would be proud of me. I wasn’t sure what I wanted but I figured with some more time on the road I would stumble across the answer soon enough.

One day I was heading down Hwy 20 in Wyoming to Boysen State park for a bit of hiking a dog started chasing after my car. I ignored it at first assuming it was a nearby farmers and was just chasing cars for fun. But after a while it was still running so I stopped and hopped out, probably not my smartest move, but it was just a puppy and it seemed pretty friendly. He was awful skinny and had no tags so I threw him in the truck and headed off figuring I would find a vet along the way. He laid his head in my lap and fell asleep.

I found a vet in the next town and was told he was fine just malnourished and not being microchipped she assumed that he had been dropped off by someone who didn’t want him. She volunteered to keep him at the office and try and find a new home for him, but by this point i was hooked and he was mine and I was his. I named him Winchester for the town I found him and from that day on he has ridden shotgun for all my adventures.

A little over a year on the road I decided it was time to stop for a bit and see how it felt not to be moving around. After spending some time in Threebridge during tourist season I decided it was the perfect place to stop for a while and see what it was like to be stationary. Plus it fit the bill of being a small town near the ocean with access to the highway when the road calls again. I really only planned to be here a few months, but I ended up renting a small beach house and I haven’t felt the need to hit the road yet.”

“WOW that is some story” Mike, no longer a stranger exclaimed.

“Yea sorry didn’t mean to blurt it all out like that. Must be the holidays or the beers that caused that. You were a good sport listening to me.” I spoke into my beer mug.

“Ha ha, yea beer makes all us share a bit too much. I will have to look up your blog and see all of your adventures.” he said waving Mary down for another beer.

“Put his last three on my tab.” I told Mary when she brought the full beer. Mary nodded and headed off. “It is the least I can do for you for listening to me for so long.” I said before Mike could protest me buying him a few beers.

“Thanks, but it was pleasure, to be honest it was bit refreshing that you were so blunt and honest. Been on few Tinder dates lately and I swear it was starting to seem like women are getting dumber and more shallow with each passing day.”

“I would take offense, but with Tinder as your source I would almost agree.” I giggled.

“Last CALL” Mary yelled, “Don’t grumble at me, y’all know you need to be home.”

“I guess she is right.” Mike agreed, “My family is a bit crazy, but if you feel the need to have a big Christmas dinner you should head over to my grandmother’s tomorrow. Bring Winchester my grandmother and cousins would love it.”

“Thank, but I think I might die of embarrassment tonight for sharing so much.” I giggled again, gag.

“Well if you change your mind dinner’s at 6 at my grandmother’s. This being a small town I am guessing you know where the house is.”

“Ha, yea I do believe it or not your grandmother has had us over for dinner a few times.” I confessed.

“Good, well I am off. I hope you don’t die tonight and decided to join us.” Mike quipped as he jumped off the bar stool and headed for the door.

Not two seconds after Mike’s departure Mary was standing in front of me with a quizzical look. “Well what just happened?” she asked.

All I could do was grin and shrug in answer to her question.

“You best go to dinner over there or I will personally beat you in the back alley.” Mary stated matter of factly grabbed my cash for my tab and walked away.

“I spun around found Winchester staring at me as well. “Sounds like we might have a real Christmas dinner after all.” I confessed with a bit of excitement in my voice and we headed back to our home.