Chapter 1; Flight
Mélanie was crying. She was at wit’s end but things could not continue as they were. Where she came from, it was hell and there was no question that she’d spend another day there, not even a minute.
The last argument had been the straw that broke the camel’s back ... Butch had always seemed to be on top of things and she had found him to her liking when they had been in the same class in ninth grade. She, herself, was nowhere as confident; ever since her parents had died in that fire when she was eight, she lived with her aunt in a dirty walk-up in the slums of the St. Henry district of Montreal. It would not have been her first choice but nobody had bothered asking for her opinion.
For a while, things were not that bad, even though her aunt seemed to find a new boyfriend every time the welfare cheque ran out but, two years ago, the last one settled in for good. Ever since that time, her aunt seemed to spend much more time out on the streets, while the boyfriend stayed home with her. He never went out to work but he always seemed to have lots of green in his pocket. Instead, he loafed in the flat, drank beer and watched TV. Sometimes, in the evening, he would go out for a while, never for a long time, leaving Mélanie by herself. However, when she started wearing bras, things changed. Her aunt started coming in later and later and, during the day, she seemed only half there while he started getting real snuggly with her. Finally, she couldn’t take it any more and she had gone to see Butch.
Butch, in the meanwhile, had dropped out of school and had found himself a job at the corner gas station. He lived in a room the gas station owner was letting him have in exchange for half his salary. When Mélanie had told him what was happening, Butch had started swearing, had called Aunt Berthe’s boyfriend a pimp and had suggested that she move in with him. She had gotten pregnant almost immediately.
At the beginning, Butch had been all excited and was walking around like a barnyard rooster but after Sonny was born, it hadn’t lasted ... diapers were expensive ... and so were the baby clothes ... and all the accessories like the crib and stuff ... It was lucky that Sonny took his meals at the source otherwise he would have been yelling at her for that, as well. Butch started staying out late, hanging with his pals. For a while already, he was coming home totally sloshed. Butch was a mean drunk. The night before, not only had he yelled at her like he had never done before, he had hit her.
That morning, early, while Butch was still stewing in his booze, she had gotten up, packed her bag, taken Sonny and, on the way out, had swiped the keys to the gas station. Parked next to the garage were two beat-up heaps that the owner was trying to pass off on some patsy too stupid to see that the wrecks were worthless. She unlocked the garage, killed the alarm and searched the counter.
Taking the keys of the better-looking of the two wrecks and the thirty dollars left in the cash, she filled the tank, locked up the garage and left the keys in the mail slot. Right now, she was driving around on the back roads somewhere in the Eastern Townships, not knowing where to go nor what she was going to do.
Suddenly, she let go of the gas and stomped on the brakes...
... Shit! The border! She didn’t even have a driver’s licence, not to mention a passport. There was no way she was going there. Right! Let’s back up and get the hell out of here!
She looked around and spotted a driveway behind her. She put the car into reverse, or, at least tried to. It took three tries before the blasted heap would shift. Slowly, she backed into the driveway and had to fight with the shift lever again to get the car back into drive. Coming back out of the driveway, she went back the other way and, at the first crossroad, turned left. Why... ? Well, why not?
Not even a mile further, the car started to slow down. She gave more gas and the engine raced but the car itself continued to slow. Damn! Now what? Luckily, she spotted a barn on the side of the road, pulled the car off the road in front of it, near another car already parked there and killed the engine.
She must have sat there a good five minutes without moving. Finally, with a deep sigh, she opened the door, grabbed her large baby-carrying scarf which she tied around her neck, went around to the back of the car to pick Sonny up from the haphazard baby crib she had concocted out some empty boxes she had found at the garage and had jammed into place with the baby blanket and her suitcase, and continued on foot.
She had been walking for a half-hour already when Sonny started getting agitated. He was no doubt getting hungry ... and he needed a change of diapers. She should eat something as well, if only to keep up her milk production. She looked around ... a little further up, just beyond a small bridge, there was an orchard. Excellent.
Chapter 2; Discovery
Straightening her shoulders, she crossed the bridge and crossed the ditch into the orchard. The water under the bridge looked clean; she could see the bottom of the stream clearly. Good. She followed the stream a bit to be out of sight of the road and spread her blanket. Laying Sonny down on the blanket, she went to the stream and dampened her washcloth. Now the diaper. It was lucky that Sonny was not yet into solid food. Karine had told her that when that time came, the diapers REALLY started to stink. That done, she looked around. She had gotten up early that morning and she hadn’t stopped since. She was now God knew where in the middle of an orchard, far from everybody. She stretched out her arm, picked an apple out of the tree and, after wiping it against her blouse, bit into it. She was feeling tired. She looked around again ... it was hot and there was no one. Well, why not? She undid her blouse, took off her bra and stretched next to Sonny. A-a-a-ah ... a feeling of utter contentment came over her; this was why she was a woman. It was at times like these that she wished to have twins, one for each breast. Karine was full of shit; this was much better than making love. With Butch, things were barely starting to get interesting and he was already finished. Afterwards, she was all sticky and he was snoring. It was really not worth yelling out over the rooftops.
“ ... Hello ... Bonne jiourre...”
“Er... ? What... ? Eh ... Oh. Hello.”
Mélanie was feeling even more taken aback, if that were possible. She looked around rapidly for her blouse, feeling rather naked in front of this woman, but she had used it to prop up Sonny. Getting up, she lifted Sonny up at the same time, holding him in front of her so that her breasts were at least partly hidden. The woman seemed to notice her unease.
“Don’t worry... ce n’est ... rien? C’est pas grave. It is nothing. My name is Heather – these apple trees are mine. The car, the one in front of the barn ... it is yours?”
“Er ... yes, in a manner of speaking. My name is Mélanie.”
“My neighbour ... He saw you leave on foot and he called me. Is everything all right?”
“Er ... not really, no. I have just left home. I couldn’t stay there any longer.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.” She saw the small suitcase on the ground next to the baby blanket. “Where’s your stuff?”
“That’s all there is. I left in a hurry.”
“Have you eaten?”
Mélanie didn’t say anything but her face was eloquent.
“Come with me!” When she saw Mélanie hesitate, she insisted “Come!”
Subdued, Mélanie laid Sonny back onto the blanket and turned her back to put her bra and blouse back on and then stuffed all her gear back into the suitcase. Holding the dirty diaper in her hand, looking about to see where to put it, Heather told her “Give that to me ... Come along, give it over.”
When Mélanie had picked Sonny back up, Heather came close to take the suitcase out of Mélanie’s hand and turned about to go towards the road. Having lost all resistance, Mélanie followed. At the car, a recent dual energy Camry, Heather tossed the suitcase onto the back seat, signed Mélanie to get into the passenger side and, starting the engine, sprayed gravel every which way and did a quick ‘U’ turn across the road, totally ignoring the two-foot deep ditches literally inches from her wheels.
About a half of a kilometer past where Mélanie had abandoned her car, Heather pulled into a long driveway with an elaborate gate and stopped in front of a large farmhouse that in no way resembled one.
“Come!” said she, again as she climbed out of the car. She headed to the kitchen door and, walking ahead, signaled Mélanie to have a seat at the table while she pulled out bowl, plate and a spoon and served her a large bowl of vegetable soup so thick that the spoon almost stood up straight.
While Mélanie, still hesitant, approached her bowl, still with Sonny in one arm, Heather continued and pulled out a plate of butter, cheese, sliced ham and home-made bread. Finally, she pulled out a jug of milk and served her a large glass.
When everything was on the table and Mélanie started to relax, Heather pulled out a cup, placed it under an espresso machine and pushed a button. Coffee in hand, she sat down in front of Mélanie and said “All right. Now, tell me everything. How is it that you’re all alone with a baby in a car I would not even dare to take out of my driveway, without any baggage or anything else.”
.... There is more of this story ...