She froze at the sight of a familiar face. Was that Becky Lawson from high school? No, it couldn’t be. What would she be doing all the way out here? Their eyes locked, and she broke into a heavy sweat. Wow, the years hadn’t been at all kind to her. She’d gone completely gray, and she wore every year of her age in the heavy lines drawn across her tired face. She wore a sundress not at all unlike those she’d sported back in the day, although it was nowhere near as flattering as it had been when she’d been forty or fifty pounds thinner. “I’ll be damned,” Jane breathed before spinning a one-eighty and hurrying in the opposite direction.
“Hey!” Becky yelled. “Wait up!”
Just go away--nothing to see here, Becky.
Jane continued at her quick pace, refraining from running only to keep from making a spectacle of herself.
Play it cool; you don’t know this woman … as far as she has to know.
She turned a corner, praying the woman would fail to continue her pursuit. Her thoughts too jumbled to keep propelling her forward, Jane stopped and leaned her back against the cool bricks of a tall commercial building. Damn, she needed a smoke….
She suppressed a gasp when Becky rounded the corner and their eyes met once more.
“It’s uncanny,” Becky said, nearly breathless.
“What’s that?” Jane asked, wide-eyed.
“You look just like one of my best friends back from high school. By chance, are you related to a woman named Jane Henderson?”
Too frazzled to think the question through, she allowed the first answer that came to mind to pop through her mouth: “That was my mother’s name.” She fought the urge to cringe.
Damn, damn, damn!
Becky smiled. “Your mother and I were really good friends. She just fell off the face of the
earth one day. What happened to her?”
Jane licked her dry lips. “Well … she ran away from home and joined a commune just outside of Bonanza, Oregon.” Her chest went excruciatingly tight, and she had to remind herself to breathe.
“Where is she now?”
Jane’s mind went blank, and she stared at the woman for a moment, unable to respond. Her jaw went agape, and she shook her head in a series of unintentional twitches. What had she asked…? The question suddenly eluded her.
Becky brought a hand over her mouth, her eyebrows drawing tightly together. “She’s passed on?” she asked, although the question came out as more of an affirmation than anything else.
Jane nodded. “Yeah. She died … several years ago.”
Becky looked down. “Oh. I’m so sorry.”
“Yeah,” was all Jane could think to add.
Becky’s face went pained, tears pooling in her somber, blue eyes. “I don’t mean to pry but … what happened?”
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph….
“Well.…” Jane took a deep breath. “She was murdered. There was this guy, and he kidnapped her, kept her in his basement. I … I really don’t know much more than that.” It felt so bittersweet to see someone so closely connected to her past. Becky had been a good friend. They’d gotten into a lot of mischief together, had some really good times. It had been hard to leave her and so many others uncertain of what had become of her. There was no going back to her old life, though, not after all that had happened and all she’d become. It was best they thought her dead. Her kind had no place beyond the shadows.
Becky took a moment to ground herself, taking the news much harder than Jane had expected she might, and then did her best to offer a warm smile. “So, you live around here?”
Jane shook her head. “Just passing through.”
“You staying anywhere nearby?”
“Just got into town, actually. I hadn’t given much thought to staying.” Damn, damn, triple damn….
“It’ll be dark soon. I have a couch you can sleep on if you need a place for the night.”
“I couldn’t possibly—”
“I insist. Jane—your mother—had a good heart. I can’t imagine anyone who came from her being any lesser of a person. It would be nice to reconnect, even if just through her daughter. I’m sorry … I didn’t catch your name. I’m Becky.”
Jane smiled sheepishly. “Jamie,” was the first name to come to mind.
“Well, Jamie, I only live a few blocks away, and you look like you could use a good meal.
I’d like it very much if you’d join my family and me for dinner.”
Wow, Badass Becky ended up having a family after all….
Her gut told her to decline, but the offer was too great to pass up. She’d often wondered what had become of all the friends she’d left behind. She could play the part of her own daughter for one night. How hard could it be? Such a ruse was definitely not the kindest act she’d performed in decades past, but she’d missed Becky, missed so many friends from her old life and longed to know how she and the others were doing. A short visit with a long-lost friend wouldn’t be too harmful … hopefully.
Becky pulled a cigarette case and a Zippo from her purse, and the lovely fragrance of the open lighter was like sangria to the soul. The smell of Becky’s first lit puff was even more alluring.
“Could I bum one of those off you?”
With a hesitant shrug, Becky offered her one then lit the Zippo for her.
The taste of tobacco, along with the slight burn of smoke hitting her lungs, was sublime. It had been far too long.
“I hate to see someone your age smoking,” Becky said with a frown. “You know these things will kill you….”
You should worry about yourself, she thought to say. She held her tongue, though, responding instead with an appreciative nod. The woman meant well. Who was she to shoot her down?
Becky shook her head. “I just can’t get over how much you look like her. Really, you could be her fifty years ago. It’s just uncanny.”