We are finally free.
This place is so different from home. No, scratch that. It wasn’t home, not even close. Jackson was a big city in comparison to this town further down south in the east coast. Hood River is upper north, close to west coast. The town is surrounded by mountains and the river and even the scent it’s different. As if the air is way cleaner here, I can almost smell the mountain’s fresh air, the pines and the oaks.
The more I look around, the more I think I made a good choice. This is completely different and different is everything we need right now. We need a fresh new start, a new life without looking back. I just hope we can do it for the rest of our lives. At least until we have the money and the age to leave this country properly and get far, far away from him.
Looking at Charlotte – shit, Charlie now - made the corner of my lips turn up. I wish I could smile like that, at least a genuine one. She is smiling, brightly looking around at everything with a strong sparkle in her eyes. This was my goal, to be free, have her happy and finally living a normal life.
I still had a few things to take care of but the main were arranged: enrolled into the school and a roof over our heads.
"Mi, this place looks really amazing.” Charlie’s soft voice makes me look at her.
She smiles at me and I give her one back the best that I can so it doesn’t look like a grimace. Even her smiles have been rare lately but it is enough to put me in a good mood.
“Yes, it does. I just hope it continues that way Charlie. We need our fresh new start. Let’s go, the landlord is already waiting for us.”
I’ve been planning the arrival in this small town for the entire summer now and it feels good to be finally here. It’s as if a weight has been lifted off of me, my chest doesn’t tighten every time I breathe with fear and for that I am already grateful. My twin sister and I needed this new start and we both dedicated ourselves to it for the past year. We found part-time jobs and saved as much money as we could. During summer we went into full-time to make even more money while secretly I was searching for a town that would be as far away as possible from that shitty city.
I was able to find someone to make us reliable fake ID’s – My name is no longer Maya but Miriam, Charlotte is now Charlie, which was useful since I always called her Charlie and she called me Mi growing up. Then I found us a decent apartment what we could afford and saved enough money to get us through a couple months while we settled. I also enrolled us into a new high school with our new ID’s. They asked me for records but since our school had a fire recently – ups, if you know what I mean - it was easy to make them believe that the records had been lost.
Then right before the beginning of school I bought bus tickets to get us here. It took three days and twelve hours, passing through cities like Dallas, Denver and Salt Lake City. Charlie wanted to go to Los Angeles, she loved that city since we moved to the USA with our mom, it was her dream to live there; but we couldn’t. That would be much too obvious and we wanted a place that wouldn’t be our obvious choice.
So, instead I decided on Hood River. It’s far away enough, small and somehow away from spotlights. I didn’t even know it existed before.
“There’s a taxi over there, come on.” I tell her.
We get in the taxi and tell the driver to take us to Montello Park, the area where our apartment is. It’s already furnished, which saves me money and time. It is also useful in case we need to leave suddenly we don’t have to lose time in getting rid of things or selling them. It’s just for a year though, after we finish high school, we are free to do whatever we want and go wherever we want.
The taxi drive is not long, 10 minutes but it was necessary because of our duffel bags, 10-minute car our be around 30 to 40 minutes walking. Add a duffel bag to it and it’s exhausting. When we get there, I pay for the taxi in cash and then we head for the apartment.
There, at the entrance awaits our Landlord. From the e-mails and calls I know his name is William Jones. He’s short with dark brown hair and a moustache. Dressed in black pants and white button up he waits for us at the doorway of the building with the brightest smile I’ve ever seen.
Ugh, sweet people make me want to throw up.
“Hi. Miriam, right?” Yep, my fake name. I hate it but well, it is what it is.
“Yes. Hi.” I say flatly. I know Charlie won’t talk much she’s shy like that until she’s comfortable. If he doesn’t try to touch me, we’re good.
“Ok so you’ve read the rules through the e-mail, right?” I nod and let him continue. “Good, I’ve received your deposit to have the rent paid for the next three months, meaning September, October and November are paid up. You can pay the rent in advance if you’d like but my advice would be to pay December’s rent in the previous month.” He smiles, again and I fight the urge to roll my eyes. People are so happy it makes my stomach churn...
“Good, thank you.” I try my best to smile back but I guess it comes out as a grimace, especially after Charlie stifles a giggle, covering her mouth with her hand.
I side glance at her, giving her a glare but I know I don’t intimidate her. Our internal communication doesn’t last long when I see movement from the corner of my eye and my body sets into fight or flight mode; since I don’t know what’s going on flight mode steps up and I jump back. When I turn to look at Mr Jones again, he has his hand extended at where my arm used to be, his smile turns into hesitation when he sees my reaction.
I want to apologize; say I was caught off guard and try and hide this aversion to touch but my body is frozen in shock due to anticipation of touch and thankfully sweet Charlie pipes in taking the man’s hand and shaking it shyly.
“Well, sorry. I just wanted to welcome you girls. You’ll love this beautiful town.”
“Thank you.” I say curtly before bending to catch our duffel bags.
I head to the apartment building and am about to grab the handle of the entrance when I hear a strong and incessant bark from across the street. I turn my head to see whose dog is barking and see a guy standing on the other side of the road. He looks frozen in place looking back at us and I feel a sudden need to lash at him and ask what does he want or why is he looking at us but this is supposed to be a new start and people have the right to be curious.
He looks good, I can’t really see the detail of his features but he has a caramel brown hair and dark eyes. Dressed in swimming shorts and a grey t-shirt I can see his arms covered in tattoos.
Despite his good looks I narrow my eyes at him to try and make him understand that he’s not welcomed here – at least not creeping around watching us - but when I lock my gaze with him all is forgotten.
I’ve never seen him yet he emanates something somewhat familiar to me. I decide if it’s a good decision to try and dig up my emotions now but quickly realize it’s not a good idea. New place, new life new emotions. The ones that stayed in Jackson shall stay buried. So, without further due I turn back to the apartment and enter without giving another glance.
Charlie follows me and entering our new humble apartment we start a new chapter of our life. Here’s to finally having a good life.