A girl decides to go into the family business: torture. Despite being raised for the job, she tries to remember her life before cheap motels and meaningless existence.
I've never had a home, not in my whole life. I'm not saying I had nowhere to live, because I did, but I never really had a home. I remember living in a little white house on the corner of some shady street, but I don't remember where that house was, and I don't really know if it counts as a home either, seeing that I don't remember it all that much. That was before Ma died. I don't really remember much about her either, which suits me just fine, since you can't miss something you've never really had.
Sometimes when Dad was in a good mood, he would take out some old pictures of Ma and me and the little white house and he would talk about them. He would say things like "This is the time that Jolene dressed you up as a princess for Halloween, don't you remember?" or "You used to love to play in the garden with your mother. Remember the time you helped her plant all of those petunias?" and I would say "Yes, I remember that," even though I really didn't. Sometimes I think Dad would ask me if I remembered just to make sure that all of it was real, to make sure that life really had once been his, even though he wasn't there for much of it.
After Ma died, Dad took me with him on business. Another night, another cheap motel. Every morning we would check out around nine and then go to the nearest diner for breakfast and cheap coffee. My childhood was a blur of motels, diners, and highways that always looked the same. Somewhere different every day, but somehow I was still in the same place over, and over, and over again.
When I turned eleven and Dad was sure I wouldn't starve if he left me by myself, I started going to school here and there. He would prepay the rent and utilities for some sleazy apartment and give me a few hundred dollars for food. Every few months I would have to move, but staying in the same place for even that long was better than being on the road every day. Dad had taught me how to read and do math so that I wasn't too far behind when I finally did start going to school. Just as I began to start fitting in, wasn't the new kid anymore, it would be time to move.
New town, new school, new name. I've gone through so many by now that I can't even begin to remember them all. I've been Kimberly, Carla, Samantha, Mary, and so many others that I can't even begin to list them. It wasn't until I was older that I realized Dad didn't want me to follow in his footsteps. He sent me away to school so that I would be able to get out.
For a while I tried, pretended to be normal, filled my days with meaningless tasks and a plethora of boyfriends. I tried to imagine settling down with one of them, starting a family and staying in one place for the rest of my life. It was hard to picture, even after a bout of passionate sex with one of them. Still in bed, the sweat drying on my bare skin, I would find myself thinking of the cheap motels and the bad diner food, my life before halfhearted attachments.
By the time Dad died, I knew I had to follow behind him. He had tried to give me a choice between a normal life and the life that was mine through inheritance. I respect him for that, but I have a feeling that he already knew what I would choose.
In December of 1998 I left school for the last time. My things were already packed into the trunk of Dad's Lincoln Continental. The sticky note he had left on the dashboard of the car gave me my purpose.
An address in California where there was work to be done.