The Prompt for this story comes from storyaday.org, by Julie Duffy.
Trigger warnings: harassment, reference to former abuse, and a murder.
They call my hometown Paradise. No, that’s not its actual name; but it truly is a paradise, in many ways. Beautiful pristine lakes, tall shade trees, temperate climate. The crime rate is low and prosperity high.
I can’t wait to leave it behind.
Did I say the crime rate is non-existent? No. I said it’s low. That’s good news, for most people. But not if you’re one of the victims.
Did I say everyone here prospers? No. I said most people do. That’s good news, too, if you’re one of the “most people.” But not if you live on Sequoia Road.
That’s where those of us live whom the rest of “Paradise” would rather forget.
I wish I could forget it, too. Kind of hard to forget you live in a slum, though, when you step outside your door in the morning and are immediately assaulted by the aroma of stale urine and alcohol and rotting fast food (or worse). Kind of hard to imagine you live somewhere safe, when every step you take your eyes are constantly shifting, watching, feet nimble and heart rate elevated, body ready to sprint at a moment’s notice.
The only relief I get is when I take the bus; I can almost sleep in the safety of my seat, as long as I keep my bag hugged close. The bus takes me to my job at the other end of town. There I work waiting tables and putting up with the nightly harassment from some “gentleman” or other. They never touch me; they know where I come from. But they don’t have to touch me to hurt me. The women aren’t any better; they enjoy complaining about my service, and watching me falter as I struggle to please them.
Breathe, Maya. It’s just a job; it doesn’t define you. Sixty more dollars saved up and you’re out of here.
But sixty might as well be six hundred. It’s not really the money holding me back; it’s my dad. Every morning I pray for this day to be his last, so that I can be free of the burden of caring for my former abuser. My friends have told me I should just leave him anyway, but I can’t make myself be that vengeful.
I must be frowning; a man waves me over to his table. “Smile, Pretty Girl. Fill me up, will you?”
I put on my second-best smile and pour the man’s water; I might accidentally dribble a bit onto his bread plate. I am that vengeful.
One day. One day. One day.
Sooner than I dared to dream, that “one day” arrives. It arrives in the form of a pair of thugs, who break into the house while I’m away. I can’t say for certain, but a part of me suspects I’m not the only person in this town angered by my dad’s former ways. Why they waited until this day to get even, though, I can’t guess. Maybe I’m wrong. Some people are just thugs for no obvious reason.
Whatever their reason, they’ve taken care of one obstacle for me. Is it wrong of me to be secretly grateful?
I don’t cry over the loss. I already lost my dad a long, long time ago, and I did enough crying then. Now, I simply pack a couple bags, retrieve my saved-up cash from the loose floorboard under the bed, and take one last sweeping glance over the house I grew up in, now devoid of all the life that once filled it. Few people came to Dad’s funeral, and I had his body cremated; he won’t be traveling with me. And I hope and pray he won’t be joining Mom in heaven, either– she doesn’t deserve that.
As my plane rises up to mingle among the clouds, I take one last look down at the wide plain below. “Goodbye, Paradise,” I murmur. “I don’t care if my next destination is called Hell– it’ll still be preferable to you.”