Margaret came back with water and an offer for dinner. It was late and there was nothing to be done at the house but wait for a report. As far as I was concerned, anyway, Margaret acted like nothing surprising was on the horizon. In fact, she seemed in a pretty good mood. I could not figure her out.
“I’ll drop you at your car, “Margaret said on the way to the library after one very quiet meal and a quick stop at the gas station for supplies, “but promise me you’ll follow me back. I can’t handle anymore scares today.”
“Fine. To the motel we go. I guess we’ll be staying there indefinitely now.”
“Actually no,” She shook her head. “I spoke with insurance. They’re putting us in a house.”
“Really? They do that?”
“Ours does. It will take a while to rebuild our house and we must live somewhere.”
“It’s probably not perfect, but it’s furnished. I expect with more than just beds and a TV too.”
“Sounds like heaven.”
“Aw, it’s so nice to hear joy in your voice again.” She said deadpan.
I didn’t think to be sarcastic but it came out that way, so maybe I meant it. Having a home was one of the few normal things in my life. Now that it was gone, what did it mean for me?
Whatever. I didn’t want to talk about it anymore so I let it lie and silence fell over us once more.
“Vi are you sure you’re alright with all this?” Margaret asked when enough time had passed that I foolishly thought conversation had been killed.
“You’re awfully quiet. Are you thinking about your dad?”
I swear sometimes I don’t know where Margaret get’s these ideas. My dad died in the middle of that portion of my youth I had trouble remembering. All I knew about him was what Margaret told me and that was mostly fluffy happy stuff, like my dad was a first cousin to the Easter Bunny or something. I knew even less about my mom. She left about ten seconds after I was born. Margaret’s been the only permanent human in my life for a long time.
A long time. And she’s never left.
“No. I’m not thinking about my dad,” I said. “And my car’s not out of gas.” Even if she was keeping secrets Margaret’s always been on my side. It couldn’t hurt to trust her a little.
“Oh?” She pulled into the library lot and parked behind my car.
“Yeah, promise you won’t laugh or blow me off?” I said.
“I think someone was following me. I ditched my car to lose them.”
“Oh.” Margaret’s face was blank. I couldn’t tell what she was thinking. “This person, what did they look like?”
“I don’t know. They were in a car. A dark car.”
“Did you get a license number?”
I shook my head.
“Anything we can give the police to help find this person?”
I shook again. “I know. Pretty stupid right? Why would someone be following me.” Margaret thought it over.
“No,” she said. “That wasn’t what I was thinking at all.”
“This world is full of crazies.” She shrugged. “Young girls go missing all the time.” I stared at her. Margaret looked at the floor. Then my step mother did something unbelievable. She started to cry. Or at least a single tear rolled down her cheek and that was more emotion than I had ever been witness to before. I thought my heart would stop.
“I’m, OK.” I whispered. “It’s all OK. No one is going to make me disappear.”
“No, not you.” Margaret wiped her eyes and smiled. “Because you lost them. You got away like only you can. You did the right thing.”
I stared at her, amazed and relieved.
“You mean it?”
“Yes I mean it.” She said. “I wish you would have called me, and if it happens again – but lets hope it doesn’t – I want you to call me but Violet know this, I am proud of you.”
“Thanks” I said, “and I will call. Promise.”
I put my hand on the door, ready to go. Margaret reached over and took my arm.
“Wait,” She said. “There’s something I wanted to talk to you about. Now seems like a good time.”
“OK.” I sat back and she let go. “It’s nothing bad is it?”
“I’m not sure I want to hear anymore bad today.”
“It isn’t bad,” she paused, “but it’s serious. There’s something we need to consider and today was a glaring reminder of it.”
“OK, that sounds bad. You said no bad.”
“It’s not bad, would you relax?”
“Alright. What is it?”
“I won’t always be here for you…”
“Oh my God stop. Are you dying?”
“What?” She stared at me, bewildered. Then with a shake of her head, continued. “No, I am not dying.”
“You’re almost a grown woman Violet. Soon you’ll be out on your own and the world is not always a safe happy place.” She took a deep breath.
“I’m alright Margaret.” I said softly.
“This time you are,” she said back. “What about tomorrow? I don’t want to start an argument but I think you need to learn how to take care of yourself.”
“You mean like learn to cook?”
“I mean like self defense.”
“Oh.” There was thought. One I liked the second I heard it.
“There’s a new Dojo in town.” Margaret went on, not realizing I didn’t need convincing. “The owner is some competition fighter. A medal winner.”
“Yes, but they teach self defense.” She added quickly. “Don’t get mad, but I called them. They give private lessons. I know you don’t like the group thing.”
I stared at her, speechless. Margaret was suggesting exactly what I needed, a little control over my life.
“Look, I know it sounds scary but if you would just give it a chance. For me? I would feel so much better about you…”
Margaret went on, pleading. She thought she had to talk me into it and I sat there too shocked and happy to set her straight.