I left this morning before Jimmy woke up and drove with the top down, the way I did before Emily was born. I used to get on some country road and drive until I almost ran out of gas and had no idea where I was. Then I’d stop at a gas station and get directions to the nearest town to find some guy to hook up with. Sometimes, I never left the station. I sure had me some adventures.

One time, I had to be towed because I let the tank run dry. This tattooed guy with three teeth hooked me to his wrecker and told me to get in the front with him. I thought he’d make me do him right there in that smelly tow truck. But he turned out to be real nice. After I filled up my tank, he hung around to see if I needed any more help. His eyes damn near popped out when I asked if there was a private place where I could show him my appreciation.

I sure haven’t had a time like that lately. Now it’s all changing diapers and making dinner and cleaning dishes. Sure, I like playing with Emily. She coos like a pigeon when I kiss her tummy. Come to think of it, Jimmy does the same thing.

They both ask so much of me. I need time, too, you know?

Jimmy sure has surprised me. I thought when I told him I was knocked up, he’d be gone faster than it takes a room to go dark after flicking the light switch. But he stayed.

Sometimes, I wish he didn’t. I ain’t ready to settle down. I’m only twenty, and I still got life ahead of me. But if he had left me, I probably wouldn’t a kept Emily. Sometimes when she gets to crying, I cry right along with her, wondering if I should give her to someone who’d know what to do.

So that’s why I got in the Mustang this morning and drove until I found a truck stop where I saw a guy in tight jeans and a cowboy hat talking on his cellphone. He looked at me and I looked at him, and we both knew what was coming next.

I went to the washroom to clean up and brush my hair. But something happened I didn’t understand. I must have stayed there for a good ten minutes, sitting on the commode with my head in my hands. I might have even fallen asleep because I had this dream that a cowboy in tight jeans would take me away on his white horse. But then I thought about Emily. What would happen to her if I rode off with a stranger?

When I got out, he was still there.

“Howdy, sweetcakes,” he said, tipping his hat like in the movies. “My rig’s out back.”

I tried not to laugh. I mean, who says, Sweetcakes? A trucker who wasn’t going to take me anywhere but the cab of his truck, that’s who.

I took it as a sign I should go back home. I’m a mother now. I can’t be picking up men whenever I want. So I said, “I got to go home to my baby.”

He just stood there, letting me see how good he looked.

I felt proud, like I did the right thing for once in my life.

But when I got home Jimmy was all in my face for leaving and Emily was crying. I changed her diaper and gave her a bottle until she fell asleep. Jimmy was easier to quiet down. All he needed was a blow job.

But all the time I was going down on him, I kept seeing the guy at the truck stop. It wasn’t that I wanted him, it’s just that I got to thinking how if I don’t make a change pretty soon, I’ll start believing Jimmy is good enough for me and then there’ll be another baby and another. Soon I’ll be just like my mama. Fat and sad with kids who hate her.

I don’t know what to do.; Jimmy ain’t a bad guy. But he must know I don’t love him, even if I say I do. One day he’ll get off his lazy butt and find someone who does. So shouldn’t I leave him before he leaves me? If Ma wasn’t the way she is I’d leave Emily with her and never come back.

Maybe I can take Emily with me? Find a town somewhere, get a job and start a life, just her and me. Like in the movies. But the truth is, I can’t do nothing but fuck. That’s what Mama told me after I got pregnant the first time and she made me go to the clinic and get rid of it. I still think of my baby. She’d be four now.

I guess I could wait tables or clean houses, but I’d just be doing that until I found some guy like Jimmy to help with the bills. So I’d be right back where I started. And like I said before, Jimmy ain’t that bad. He works when he can and takes good care of Emily. Too bad his Mama is dead. I bet she was a good one, to hear him talk. Maybe she coulda gave me lessons on how to be a real mother.

Can’t I learn to love Jimmy? For Emily’s sake. So I tell him I’m sorry I drove off and I love him. He says he loves me, too.

Maybe that’s all there is to love? You say it enough times, it becomes real.

Wayne Scheer has been locked in a room with his computer and turtle since his retirement. (Wayne’s, not the turtle’s.) To keep from going back to work, he’s published hundreds of short stories, essays and poems, including Revealing Moments, a collection of twenty-four flash stories, available at http://www.pearnoir.com/thumbscrews.htm. He’s been nominated for four Pushcart Prizes and a Best of the Net. Wayne can be contacted at wvscheer@aol.com.

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Every Day Fiction