2 – Allyson
L’Tasha Allyson Mosley trudged along SR50 toward the truck stop. Her arm still hurt from where her stepfather had nearly yanked it out of its socket. The sting from her mother slapping her face had faded twenty minutes ago, but the emotional sting was still raw and painful. Her mother never listened, never took her side. All she cared about was Steve, her stepfather. Steve was the most important person on the planet. Steve paid the bills. Steve was a good man and Allyson was an ungrateful little bitch. Steve was God and Allyson was shit. Lower than shit.
She kicked an empty beer can as hard as she could. The can plinked and bonked off the rocks in the barrow pit lining the road, but there was no satisfaction for her. Kicking a can didn’t fix the problems in her life. My problems are soon to be solved, she thought. Her eyes wanted to release tears again, but Allyson clenched her jaw as hard as she could and willed them away. She was done crying. That time was over.
Her feet led her off the highway and into the parking lot of the Snake Flats Oasis & Rest. She wondered if there was a more redneck place on earth than a truck stop saddling the freeway in a barren stretch of a conservative, religious state like Idaho. Her feet kicked a few pebbles and a stray plastic bottle cap as she made her way around the massive storefront. Allyson kept her head down as she approached the convenience store doors. The looks that followed her everywhere were old hat by now, but they always hurt, and she didn’t feel like dealing with it today. Her mother had warned her when she’d moved them both to Borah from Orlando that there was going to be a bit of culture shock. “A bit” was possibly the biggest understatement that Allyson had ever heard.
She was ten when they had packed up and moved in the middle of the night, escaping her real father and his fists. Maralyn, her mother, had met some guy on the internet, and he must have convinced her to bail without warning and head all the way to Idaho. Allyson had only heard of Idaho a couple times during school. It might as well have been Sweden. Except in Sweden she wouldn’t be stared at, teased, insulted, and even bullied like she had been since the day she set foot in what she called “Hillbilly North.”
The stares made her skin crawl, and even the teasing was tolerable. But being called nigger, or any variant of it, at the drop of a hat by half the kids in her class and a large number of adults in Borah, had been devastating. When she’d cried to her mother about it on the third day of school, her mom had held her tight for a while, then tried to explain that the people around here were just afraid of something different than they were used to. They would eventually get used to her, her mom promised. Soon she’d be friends with them when they found out she wasn’t any different other than the color of her skin.
That had been five years ago. She’d made a total of two real friends in five years, and one of them had turned into more than a friend. Janelle Peterson, a creamy, tall, beautiful brunette had stolen her heart from the day they’d first started hanging out in 8th grade. By 9th grade, they were secretly dating. It wouldn’t do to let the locals know there might be some deviant sexuality going on in their God-fearing neighborhoods.
It didn’t help that Janelle’s father was the minister at Borah Baptist, nor did it help that he was the type of racist who had to qualify every racial epithet or racially insensitive statement with “no offense” or “I’m not a racist, but…” or the “not you, Allyson” afterthought. Allyson could sense the distrust, the distaste from not just Pastor Peterson, but Mrs. Peterson as well. Janelle’s younger brother Jeremy was well on his way to following in his father’s footsteps, no matter how much Janelle threatened or beat him. The day Jeremy learned how deep the N-word cut Allyson, he became ruthless with it when no one else but Janelle and Allyson could hear.
When the rumor started that she and Janelle were lovers, box-munchers, muff-divers, dykes, lesbians, Janelle broke up with her. Allyson had been (and still was) completely devastated. It hurt more that Janelle didn’t even seem to care, or that she cared more about her reputation and the rumors that threatened to sully it. Not a single person actually knew that they had been dating for almost a year, but Janelle wouldn’t listen to Allyson’s reasoning. She left without even kissing Allyson goodbye. By the next day, Janelle was going out with Martin Sellars.
That had been six months ago. Allyson’s life had spiraled out of control since then. She’d dated Eric Berry, even gave her virginity to him in an attempt to rid herself of her lingering feelings for Janelle. She’d thought she was falling in love with him, and had confided to him how badly she’d taken her breakup with Janelle. The surprise on Eric’s face had been almost comical, but the next day, he told at least five of his friends, who, of course, each told five of their friends. By seventh period, with at least three-quarters of the school having heard the rumors, Janelle, Tina Masters, and Floria Vanderwaal cornered her in the gym.
Janelle had cursed her out, called her a liar, swore that nothing had ever happened between them, and then proceeded to kick and punch her until she was bloody. Tina and Floria had helped hold Allyson down whenever they weren’t delivering kicks to her head and stomach. When Mr. Turitto found her heaped in the corner by the fold-out bleachers, he demanded to know who had done it to her. Allyson had refused to name her attackers, which had earned her a three day suspension.
That was three months ago. The harassment had started soon after Janelle had broken up with her, and intensified by what felt like a factor of a hundred when Eric had run around telling everyone he could that it was all true, Allyson and Janelle were dykes. Eric had also decided to add to that little bit of information relay that he’d only went out with her to see what having monkey sex felt like. She had to deal with verbal and sometimes physical bullying all day during school. The instant school let out, the bullying crossed over to the internet. It had followed her on her mobile phone as well, until she had finally thrown the damn thing as hard as she could into a pile of rocks. When the glass and plastic shattered, so had her emotional control.
Allyson thought about going inside for a drink again, but decided to stop at the edge of The Rest and have a cigarette. She’d picked up the habit a year before, right after she’d picked up the habit of shaving half of her hair, straightening the other, then accentuating the look with piercings in her eyebrow, nose, and bottom lip. The only friend she had left, Rosie Trejo, had befriended her in 9th grade. Rosie was a bit of an outcast herself, with her crazy multi-colored hair, dark eye liner and lipstick, and her love of heavy metal. She lived with her mom, but her extended family stretched from Burley in the east, to Borah, all the way out to Gooding in the west. They loved Rosie, but a lot of them seemed to avoid her and her strange, non-Mexican ways.
While Allyson was still dating Janelle, she kept her hair and clothes “normal” unless she was hanging out with Rosie. Three months before Janelle dumped her, Allyson finally let Rosie talk her into her current hairstyle, except instead of pink, Rosie had dyed Allyson’s hair a purple that started bright at the roots and darkened almost to black by the ends. She was terrified that Janelle would freak out, or worse, think she was cheating on her with Rosie, but there was something liberating about being even more different than she already was.
Janelle’s eyes had grown wide with surprise when she first saw Allyson’s new look, but within minutes, the two were engaged in a fierce make-out session. Janelle’s hands had been unable to stay away from both the shaved side, as well as the purple side. However, when the rumors started, Janelle was the first to profess there was no way, even if she was gay, that she’d date ugly, freaky, black, Allyson Mosley. Janelle’s insults had crushed Allyson, but she’d refrained from using that word. For three months, anyway, until Eric let the cat out of the bag about the two girls. Other girls, and especially the boys, were skilled at finding inventive ways to use the word, but no one tore her heart to shreds like when Janelle spewed it at her.
Allyson caught some white guy, probably a lawyer or an accountant, trying not to stare at her while staring at her. Allyson kept her eyes straight ahead and drew smoke into her lungs. She figured the asshole had probably never looked upon a real African-American before other than the television. Maybe he had if he was a lawyer, since he’d have to gone to a big enough college that had racial diversity. Maybe.
She exhaled and stabbed the butt into the sand-filled top of the trash receptacle. Without looking back, she let her legs lead her away from the building and out onto the paved sidewalk that paralleled the highway as it wound around and slightly down to the canyon. Allyson pulled the hood of her jacket up over her head and thrust her hands into its pockets. She was almost at the end. She didn’t want some bug-eyed local staring at her as he drove past to be her last memory.