Yes, SPRING BREAK usually means sun & fun. But some teens aren’t that lucky. Winnemucca, a small-town fairy tale, opens with the beginning of Virginia Mae’s enchanted road trip to her true self. It’s SPRING BREAK and Ginny takes a walk to the prison outside of town where she awakens to her own intuition. She listens to it for the very first time and her intuition will take her to very unexpected places. Imagine you’re walking on the side of a desolate desert highway in the heart of central California, doubting your future. With nowhere to go. Every step seems to ask you questions you don’t want to hear. While most kids hit the beach, Ginny hits the asphalt.
When fear’s as blind as love, how far would you go to find your own happily ever after? One mistake will change Ginny’s life forever. One answer will set her free. Once upon a time Ginny’s road blood ripened, the day she got wise to love.
An almond orchard’s branches tangled against the tie-dyed sky. Once upon a time, when I was a little girl, I played in the orchard next to our house and turned its creature-like trees into royal knights. Back then, when I dreamed of my Prince Charming, he built owl houses to help control pests, brought me persimmon presents, and knew the best secret hiding places and how to surprise me. I never dreamed of a fairy godmother though. Not one time. Fairy godmothers don’t visit desert princesses, especially ones who fall for uncharming princes. They prefer wiser girls who live in kingdoms with rolling green hillsides, and the opportunity for their ball-gown-wearing-shoe-losing daughters to dance and fall in love.
One foot in front of the other.
How could I escape my happily ever after gone-bad?
“No idea,” I said, fanning the fingers on my engaged hand, flicking them. One. Two. Three weeks until the wedding.
Bobby-approved friends? Bobby-approved food? Bobby-approved clothes?
The dusty truth seeped in with every step and made me shiver. My whole life was managed––first by my parents, then by my fiancé Bobby, even by my idiot ex-boss Charlie. I didn’t need my feet chiming in. I stopped walking. Fear’s as blind as love. But an asphalt heat rose through my rubber soles and seared my skin. The ripening made me move. Again. So I dug in my heels, did a one-eighty and headed for home, double-time, to make my date, the date, with Bobby. But my know-it all feet spun me back around. I covered my ears to drown out their trouble-making questions, but all I heard were my own.
What happened to Bobby and me? Why was I listening to my feet? Had I lost my mind?
A dirt devil twisted over a fallow field in the tired sun and spun my thoughts backwards to the second in Tar Canyon when Bobby’s eyes met mine and I knew only death would separate us. My Big, Fat, Lie-of-a-Life churned in my gut like the dirt devil. I doubled over, more alone than ever before, and I tied myself into a knot so tight I could hardly breathe. I’d been wrong about Bobby. Wrong about a lot of things.
When I caught my breath and lifted my head, the sun ricocheted into my eyes. Devil’s Rope twisted around the top of the chain-link fences that secured Avenal State Prison. I had no idea why my feet marched me there. It didn’t look like the kind of place a practically married, straight-A student would find the answers her feet demanded. But the ripening liked to surprise me.
I gripped the steel bars of the roadside prison sign and dangled underneath, swinging my feet, like I used to do once upon a time on the monkey bars. Somewhere between dangles, I stopped being me. Through silver links, in between long buildings with long windows, my eyes settled on what they’d only seen from afar, through the windows of Daddy’s car. Orange jumpsuits walking the yard. Some nights I’d walk like that–convict-style, in circles in my room before bed.
My stretched-out arms ached under the weight of my heart, hanging heavy in my chest. I swayed my feet from side-to-side, imagining our break-up. Saying the words that made me tremble, I can’t marry you. Saying the words that made me tremble more, I do. I’d walk down the aisle toward Bobby at The First Baptist Church of Avenal, where I’d been baptized as a baby by his father, and make the biggest mistake of my life in front of the entire congregation, everyone I’ve ever known. And my gut tensed like it does in the split-second before a person’s about to do the wrong thing.
A convict paused inside the chain-link with his hands on his hips. I let go of the prison sign, dropped to my feet and stood ramrod straight, as different from the wimpy oats as possible. We stared at each other. Him in his prison. Me in mine. We both knew what kept us walking in circles.
Standing there all eyeball-to-eyeball I felt closer to the convict, heck, the whole Errant Brotherhood than I did to anyone. It wasn’t in our nature to be free. Staring down that wimpy fact for the very first time gave me a clarity. The kind that takes hold when a person peels back their lies.
When the convict slipped back into the circular crowd, I grabbed a handful of San Joaquin soil and swirled the fingers of my free hand in the little mound of dirt in my palm. I touched my soil-stained fingers to my heart and became a Child of The Road. My hair let loose in the same sundowner breeze that caressed every inch of my skin and every people-pleasing part of me blew toward The Sierras and up over The Great Divide. Some take to the road to tame a squirrelly nature, or take to it as a tonic, but for me the ripening was more than a simple call to the road.
Which way? Left? Or, right?
I held tight to my dirt. Sweat beaded up under my bangs. I eyed Highway 33 in both directions. To the left was home––Bobby’s enchanting smile should be enough. But I’d never find my answers as Mrs. Bobby Jennings. To the right, God only knew. There was no guarantee I’d find my answers on the road. The wild oats bowed to the left. I turned right. Into the wind. Tiny rocks worked into burst blisters under the plastic between my toes. Quail flushed out of the pistachio orchard beside me.
A police siren wailed, coming up from behind. Uncle Earl slowed his patrol car to a creep and yelled over the siren before he switched it off. “Virginia Mae? Where in the hell are you going?”
“Didn’t know walking’s a crime Earl,” I said, my eyes fixed on the white line under my feet.
“That’s Uncle Earl, Virginia Mae…and look at me when I’m talking to you…”
But I didn’t hear the rest of what Earl said because the white line brought me back home in my mind to when the horrible-wonderful ripening first buzzed through me after school. I had pulled my bangs back and stroked my next-to-invisible lashes with brown-black mascara when my feet twitched, unsteadying my hand. A prickly heat tickled my toes and crawled up my thighs. It made me move when I most wanted to sit still. So I bunched my white sundress up, unhitched my strapless, boob-crushing, employee-discounted leopard bra and scooted out of its matching thong. I wadded up my sex-wear and buried that perfumed ball of lace and silk in my wastebasket between unwrapped Slimfast pills, crushed wedding-present boxes and crinkled Snickers wrappers.
My heart leapfrogged me back to the road when a gust of wind just about blew the whistle on my commando-self, right in front of Earl. I tripped on some weeds at the side of the highway as I patted down every inch of my churned up skirt, my face hotter than the asphalt under my feet.
“Your momma called two hours ago,” Earl said, leaning out of his patrol car, his face as red as the pomegranates Momma grew in the backyard. “Bobby took you for dead.”
I’d done the worst thing possible by standing Bobby up. Because doing that one true thing meant the rest of the truth wasn’t far behind. I’d have to tell Bobby I didn’t love him and that buzzed the heebie-jeebies through me. The kind I’d get when I’d rush to kill a black widow before it killed me. I had no idea what Bobby would do when I told him. I had no idea what he was capable of. But, in the end, nothing would frighten me more than myself.
Don’t forget to have your own fun this SPRING BREAK at the YA SCAVENGER HUNT this weekend!
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