By Leslie Jill Patterson
They knew you stuffed your suitcase in a hurry and surely didn’t come to Colorado for camping in the mountains—because it was fifty degrees outside and dropping, and, even so, you wore a sleeveless dress and city-girl sandals with leather daisies arching over your feet. You avoided eye contact, propping a book around your plate and pretending to read when they took the bar stools next to yours. You ordered off the kid’s menu and packed half of it out in a to-go box, so you were clearly guarding every dime. They probably even knew you tucked your wedding ring inside your purse before you walked through The Grit’s door. And when Billy Scales invited you to his equine program—where women caught in hazardous marriages learned to tug a rein resolutely, steering their lives away from vows they should have never spoken—your story was so obvious, he pitched his invitation in the same pragmatic vein that he mentioned where you could find a low-rent apartment and which local bank offered free checking.
Now, a mere month later, you’d like to think you’re cocking the walk. Maybe it’s your financial independence—your job as cashier at the local mercantile as well as a part-time gig shoveling stalls for Billy at Eagle Hill Ranch, the bank account with only your name on it—that’s boosted your nerve. Maybe it’s the little apartment you’ve rented, the bottom floor of an old Victorian, the driveway hidden from the street, two vague tire trails in the grass veering off your neighbor’s drive, behind the oak bushes in their front yard. Or maybe it’s simply the fact that your husband hasn’t followed on your heels, galloping into this wilderness town, armed and ready for a showdown. Whatever the reason, your bravery defies logic.
About the Author
Leslie Jill Patterson’s prose has appeared in The Rumpus, Prime Number Magazine, Creative Nonfiction, and other journals. She has received the Southwest Literary Award and Prime Number Magazine’s 2017 Fiction Award. She teaches in the creative writing program at Texas Tech University, serves as editor of Iron Horse Literary Review, and works as the narrative strategist for defense teams representing indigent men and women charged with capital murder and facing execution in Texas.
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