Jessica Wiler stared at her reflection in the hallway mirror of her mother’s house. She was pale. Eerily pale. Her deep blue eyes stood out against her light brown hair. Her hair that was stringy and always pulled into a pony tail. Sure she could do something about her average appearance. Maybe she would when they got to California. They. She walked her way to the back bedroom and watched as Delilah packed up the last of her things. Delilah heaved a backpack over her shoulder before turning around.
“Ready?” Jessica asked, a smile spreading across her face. It was a smile to convince Delilah that they would be happy in California.
Delilah shrugged which forced Jessica to kneel down in front of her. “We’re going to be okay sweetie.”
The little 8-year-old looked into the eyes of her mother. “But grandma.” Delilah protested.
Jessica smiled her biggest smile. “Grandma is going to be just fine. She wants us to go. We’ll be back for Christmas. I promise.”
It seemed to satisfy her a little, and Jessica placed her arms around her daughter.
Christmas was only a few months away. Not that long at all. It was September so they had plenty of time to settle down in their new home before making a trip back to Texas.
“You make sure to hand out your phone number to every available bachelor.”
Jessica jumped when she heard her mother’s voice. “That could be dangerous.” She stated, throwing some things into the back of the SUV.
Jessica sighed. She hated when her mother called her that. It didn’t feel right not coming from Matt’s mouth. How she would give anything to have him in front of her. To hear his voice once more. She shut the door after making sure Delilah was strapped in tight.
“Mother. Do we really have to go through this again?” Her mother was much more tan than herself. Her eyes were a deep blue, about the only resemblance that told everyone Jessica was her daughter. Her hair was a faded blond color and visible strands of white stuck out when the wind blew.
“I just want to make sure you know how I feel about this.”
Jessica walked around to the other side of the vehicle in hopes Delilah wouldn’t be able to hear their conversation. “I know how you feel about this. You’ve been telling me for three weeks, ever since I took this job.”
“Jessa, sweetie, think of Delilah. She needs a father figure. You can’t play mommy and daddy.”
Jessica glared at her mother. “Watch me.”
Jessica noticed the hurt in her mother’s eyes. She was serious about this. The only positive reaction she had gotten from her mother was the hopes Jessica would find someone and settle down with him. It had been way too long in her mother’s opinion. In the entire town’s opinion.
Jessica chuckled to herself upon realization that just about every mother in this small town had tried to set her up with their son and some even tried to push their grandsons onto her. She would occasionally humor them and go on a date and then claim there was no chemistry. It wasn’t like she was lying. There wasn’t. And there would never be. Not without Matt.
“Your Uncle Randy and his wife are having Thanksgiving and Christmas at their place this year. They have both expressed their acceptance of you bringing a date.”
Jessica rolled her eyes slightly. Of course they were okay with her bringing a date. Randy’s wife Isabella had done nothing but push her older son onto Jessica. It was just weird. The weirder part about it was that no one else seemed to think it was weird. Jessica figured if they got her to date anybody, regardless of who it was, that was a step up from her current status of single. She’d been single for 6 years now. She shuddered when she thought about the fact she hadn’t had sex for 6 years either.
“Mom, I already told you I’m not going to be here for Thanksgiving. I’m not sure I will have the money for it.” Jessica opened the driver side door and scooted across the seat.
“Did you blow all of that money already?”
Jessica shut her door, leaving the window rolled down. “You know it’s not all gone. I thought you would give yourself more credit in knowing you raised a decently financial responsible child.” Jessica paused, checking her reflection in the mirror again. She really needed a make over. She wasn’t sure anyone in California was going to take her seriously. “Of course there is some left.” Considering she had just bought a house and a new SUV that was still a good chunk of money.
“Okay.” Jessica’s mother reluctantly stepped away from the vehicle. “I’ll let you get on the road. Call me when you stop for the night.”
Jessica gave her mother a hug when she reach inside the SUV. She would be in California in approximately three days, and she was not looking forward to driving five hundred miles a day.
Delilah had her head stuck in a children’s book. She lowered it and gave Jessica a smile. “You already asked me that mom.”
Jessica turned back around and nodded. “I know. Just double checking.”
She hated to think that she had taken Delilah out of school for the move. This job was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up though. It would possibly help her move on with her life. The one she had been stalling for 6 years.
One hundred miles down and Delilah had to use the restroom. Jessica pulled into a rest stop and fished out some change from her wallet. They hadn’t even made it out of Texas yet.
She unbuckled Delilah and watched her prance to the restrooms.
“Ewww..” She heard Delilah say when she shut the door to the stall.
Jessica laughed. “Just try not to let your bottom touch the seat.” She didn’t even have to ask what was so gross to make Delilah comment.
“Okay I’m done. Change?”
Jessica shook her head, holding the change firmly in her hand and pointed to the faucet. “You know better.”
Delilah huffed and turned on the faucet.
“Better.” Jessica said as Delilah wiped her hands on a paper towel. “Are you thirsty?”
Delilah nodded and held out her hand again.
Jessica gave her more than half the change. It had been a while since she’d let her daughter indulge in any treats so she thought now would be a time to let her. She was sure her mother had still snuck a treat here and there.
“Are we leaving now?” Delilah asked once she had gotten a Coke out of the machine and a package of Cheeze Its.
Jessica looked down at her daughter and shook her head. “I think you need to run around for a minute. We aren’t stopping again until we get to the hotel.” It was a threat, not a promise. Jessica knew they would stop the second Delilah said she needed a break.
“How old is she?” Jessica heard a man’s voice behind her. Startled she jumped and then turned around to meet his gaze. He was handsome and his voice was soft. Sincere.
“Eight.” Jessica felt uneasy standing by the stranger. He stood close to her, his elbow almost touching the middle of her shoulder. His arms were crossed over his chest.
“She’s a very pretty little girl. Mine is six.” The man flipped out his wallet and showed her a picture. “I’m actually going to pick her up today.”
Jessica assumed he was divorced.
“I’m Greg by the way.” He offered his hand to her.
Jessica took it and smiled up at him. He had to be over six feet tall. Jessica was only a petite five foot three. The strain of her neck told her that he was definitely over six-foot. His skin was darker and his hair was a raven black color. He had it whipped up in different angles. Jessica couldn’t tell whether his eyes were an actual brown or closer to black.
Greg folded his arms back across his chest. “Do you live around here?”
Jessica shook her head. “No, we’re actually on our way out of here. We’re moving.” She didn’t look away and instead kept her eyes on Delilah. She watched as her daughter skipped around the benches.
“I see. I would get out of here if I could. I’ll probably keep moving if my ex keeps up with her charades.”
Jessica guessed correctly. Either divorced or separated and his daughter was living with her mother.
“Well,” He ran a hand through his dark hair. “if we weren’t complete strangers I would see if you and your daughter would want to get some breakfast.” He laughed.
Jessica joined in with him. It would be very awkward if he would ask them to breakfast, and she would politely have to turn him down. Though it would be very hard to.
“It was nice meeting you. I guess I’ll be going. Have a safe trip.” With that he was walking to his car and Jessica couldn’t stop staring.
If they weren’t strangers. If she knew more than just his name and the fact he had a daughter two years younger than her own. If she wasn’t headed to California. If she could allow herself to let him be more than just a bedtime fantasy. Jessica sighed.
“Deli, let’s go.” She cringed at her own voice. Delilah’s nickname. The one that Matt had given her at birth. The one she swore she’d never let cross her lips again. Why did he have to leave?
Delilah payed no attention and followed Jessica to the car. “Who was that momma?”
“Just a guy stopping to take a break from driving like us.”
“Is he going where we are?”
Jessica chuckled to herself. “No sweetie.” Jessica loaded Delilah into the backseat once again. She wasn’t about to tell her that the man was going to pick up his daughter. She couldn’t remind her own daughter that she didn’t have her father around.
Delilah buckled herself in and jammed two ear buds into the edge of her ear canals. Jessica could hear her singing even over the radio station. It didn’t matter. For an 8-year-old Delilah could carry a tune. She could be singing nursery rhymes and Jessica still would find enjoyment in listening to her. She was sure she had gotten that from her father.
Her mind drifted to Greg. She forced Greg into her mind. Anything to get her thoughts of Matt to go away. If she started now she would keep thinking until a waterfall erupted.
Placed the car in drive Jessica pulled back onto the interstate. As she drove she continued to think of Greg. Why couldn’t she let anyone in? Why did they immediately go into her memory for future reference when she needed a fix? Because. Matt. That’s why. Not just any guy would do to replace him. And it was hard to remind herself that he left them.
He wasn’t there when Delilah screamed. He wasn’t there when she fell into a coma. Every time she carried a stuffed animal or lilies into Delilah’s hospital room Matt was never sitting there. Jessica watched over her for nearly a year every day and night. As soon as she got off work she rushed to the hospital to see if Delilah had made any progress. The doctors continued to tell her that Delilah wouldn’t make it and she would never wake up.
She had finally given up. Defeated and crying herself to sleep, Jessica had made the decision to take Delilah off life support and let her go. When she arrived at the hospital she was greeted with big blue eyes and hope that she wouldn’t have to live without her daughter too.
It was going to be a long trip. One that she would spend half the time thinking about Greg and the other half wondering if she would take her mother’s advice and find someone to start a relationship with.