The Quotable


When people run away for good, they don’t stop halfway on a dirt road somewhere between Galveston and Houston. But that was where I always found her. I sighed and turned the wheel. Car tires ground over the gravel. I slammed the front door shut behind me and kicked my shoes against the car door. The sound echoed across the barren road, followed by the sky’s self-conscious silence.

If she’d heard me, she didn’t show it. Her blonde hair whipped across her face and she kept walking.

“Mary Kate,” I called out. She didn’t look over. Her knuckles clenched around the handle of her baggage; the diamond on her ring finger glinted in the sun.

I’d asked her to marry me over three year ago, but any time she saw a marriage magazine or talked to one of her friends about it or passed a wedding dress boutique, she’d do this. Pack a suitcase while I was asleep and run away. The first couple of times she left, she scared me half to death. I’d wake up in the morning and turn to look for her blonde hair splayed across her pillow but all I’d see was empty air. Even though I’d screech through the house calling her name, I already knew she was gone. Now though, it was nearly routine. Annoyed, I kicked up dust as I walked toward her.

I shoved my hands into the pockets of my jeans. Usually when she heard the car pull up, she’d walk over, put her suitcase in the trunk, and we’d drive back home without a word. But she gazed out down the road, her feet momentarily glued to the ground.

“Mary Kate,” I whispered.

The name made her flinch. She swallowed and wiped her nose on the sleeve of her dress.

I never asked her questions. It just didn’t feel right. But this time was different because she seemed stuck. It was my fault this time I guess, I should have known not to ask her to set a date. But I was tired of it all, of not knowing if she was coming back or not.

“Why do you keep doing this?” My voice stuck in my throat.

Her thumb rubbed at the ring on her finger. Her sandals scraped against the gravel and kicked up dirt around her ankles as she moved away from me.  My heart stuttered inside my chest. It was just like it seemed in my nightmares. I’d come to this spot and she’d already be gone. I ran in front of her, blocking her path, my baseball cap cutting off the sun and casting shadows across her face.

“Where the hell are you going?” I yelled. Where do you keep running off to when it seems like you’ve got nowhere else to go? I hadn’t meant to raise my voice. My hands fell to my sides.

She squinted up at me, her eyes puffy. The luggage changed from her right hand to her left, the edges scraping the rocks beneath her feet. Her lips pursed together.

“Do you remember when we met?” Her voice was soft. I wiped the sweat off my brow.

“Of course I do,” I said. Her gaze was level as she held my eyes. No smile illuminated her face like when she talked about us to our friends.

“It was here, you know. Right in this exact spot.”

“I know.”

“I was walking by myself, with my suitcase, after my parents had kicked me out, and you stopped and asked me if I needed a ride. And you asked me that same question.”

I said nothing. Pebbles jumped as a truck rattled past us.

“Why’d you stop that day?” She moved closer. I could feel her breath on my face. Reminded me of the way her body fit perfectly against mine. I swallowed and cleared my throat.

“I don’t know,” I whispered.

I could see it now, even the red skirt she wore and those funky white plastic sunglasses. I had no idea what to do with a girl who jumped into the car without telling me where to take her. I only knew how to drive back to where I’d come from and on the way, she’d told me she had nowhere to go. She scared me into love in a wild, reckless, reasonless way. I’d grown up in the same town with the same people for so long that she felt like a fresh drink of water, this girl who didn’t belong anywhere. And for some reason, I needed to make her stay. I needed her to find that thing she was constantly looking for in this place, my home. Her home.

“I didn’t know where to go until you found me. But I can’t help thinking that I should’ve just stayed here in the road. Tried to figure out where it was that I was headed.” She closed her eyes, her lips inches from mine.

I never forced you to do anything, I wanted to tell her. I never forced you to pretend you loved me, that you loved this place.

She took my hand. My body shook just like the rocks beneath my feet.

“Mary Kate. I’m here. You don’t need to go anywhere,” I said. Dust made the grey sky hazy.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered. Something cold pressed into my hand, her fingers closing my own into a fist. Slowly, she turned from me. I would’ve given anything to have each of her footsteps imprinted in the dirt, proof she’d stood there and walked away. But the grains blew away.

“What are you so afraid of?” I called after her, the diamond ring in my hand.

She turned back toward me, yelled something I couldn’t hear. But I knew. It was that damned Texas sky, this damn road, her parents, something I couldn’t feel or articulate or had believed so long that it didn’t actually exist.

I stood there, in the same spot she always stood, until I couldn’t see her anymore. And even as I stood there, stuck halfway, I knew I couldn’t go back. I needed her to show me how to move forward. Because I knew I couldn’t go back to that house, those empty curtains, the hollowness behind the kitchen wall, without her.



Salena Casha’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Silver Blade, Infective Ink, The Waterhouse Review, Foundling Review, The Shine Journal, and others. She enjoys drinking coffee while rewriting the future. Follow her on twitter @salaylay_c.

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The Quotable - Issue 5 "Place"