That is what they called it, The Tourist Trap. It was some flea speck motel in the middle of Missouri. The area consisted of a gas station and a motel of some 10 rooms next to it about 10 miles southwest of Springfield Missouri, immediately off Interstate 44. For Shenandoah, Hope and Darrel this was the last stop on the road to nowhere.
Shenandoah was a beautiful woman of 29, with chestnut hair, which flowed in curls down to the small of her back. She had the benefit of a good life, but now times were hard for herself and her family. She had been born in Mount Vernon just to the southeast of here. Darrel had been her high school sweetheart but they didn’t marry. She did follow him to Springfield and went to college with him and both graduated with Business majors. They both went to St. Louis and got jobs. Somehow, they always seemed to end up together. They would always go to the same church, have the same kind of jobs. They felt like a pair. Something dictated that they would eventually marry. They did.
However, their upbringing dictated that Darrel would make the money, and Shenandoah would run the home. Since Darryl made quite a bit of money, such a thing was prudent. So she quit her job, and then the madness started. The honeymoon night was the worst. Since Shenandoah was a virgin, sex was something extremely new. Darrel practically raped her that first time. In that first year, she was expected to have no friends and play the dutiful wife. She was a virtual prisoner in her own home. Horrors piled on top of horrors, and then she discovered she was pregnant. Her strict religious upbringing dictated that the child would be brought into the world despite all the problems in her marriage, and Hope was born.
Thus things had continued for several years and Hope had grown up watching the battles and arguments. Darrel had continued to make money until the inevitable happened and one day the money stopped. Darrel had kited his way throughout his business career and had been found out. He had lived way beyond his means and thought that he deserved better. But better had never came. First the luxuries went, and the cars disappeared one by one, then the house. Then they were living in their car on the last of the savings. Now they were on the way home with their tails between their legs, because Darrel wanted just that specific job and that was gone and he was too stubborn to change. Now they were here in the middle of Missouri, stuck at The Tourist Trap.
She looked out at the rain soaked window at the billboard that hovered over the Gas Station. An overweight man and woman, dressed in Hawaiian shirts and waving looked over the parking lot. The sign bore the legend “THE TOURIST TRAP” and told of good rates and the fact that it was American owned. Darrel liked that. The sign had been a fixture on the interstate since Shenandoah was a child. She had seen the sign and thought it quaint. Now it was just a depressing reminder that they were stuck and had no real place to go.
What was she doing here, she thought. This wasn’t the place for her. What was Darrel going to do back home that he couldn’t do in St. Louis? Going to live with his parents was his last solution to his problems. She had lived with his promises and vows, but they never were kept. She had even suspected him of cheating on her, but because she had been so kept from the world, she couldn’t prove it. Like so many women she realized that she had to get away, but didn’t know how, or what to do when she did get away.
Hope sat in the corner reading a book. Hope was a quiet child; her dark straight hair her inheritance from her father. She had learned to be quiet, lest Daddy fly into a rage and find an excuse to lash out at her. That had happened a lot lately, since they had moved from place to place. Things had gotten bad, and as a child she had to learn to cope because she knew no other existence.
Shenandoah looked at her and wondered. The child should not be condemned to an existence like this. She had to make a decision before Darrel lashed out again. Shenandoah sported some bruised from that last time a couple of days ago. They were stuck here till Darrel’s parents wired money from Mount Vernon. They couldn’t even afford this motel room they were in, but were here anyway. That was what Darrel was doing, checking at the Gas Station across the gravel lot on their ticket to salvation. Or was it? She had led a Godly existence, but always seemed to be punished for it.
She had to make a decision, and make it soon, for when they got home, there would be no way out. She knew that. Darrel’s parents would put up with him for as long as it took, maybe they would even find him some sort of make-work. Darrel would never be what he thought he would be. Not the suave businessman in search of the deal. His ego could never accommodate himself as anything less. He took out his inadequacies on his wife and child, and they could never tell anyone.
She could see Darrel in the gas station there, alternating between pacing and sitting at the table in the space the Gas Station provided for one to eat sandwiches. There was nothing on the TV to satisfy him. The rain had become so intense that it washed out the signal for the digital cable setup, so he had lit across the parking lot to the station to check.
Shenandoah knew the sky behind was brighter, but her window looked off to the east in the gray skies of what had passed. She knew more weather was on the way. She smiled at the irony in that, for that was her life until now. An endless series of storms, she prayed to God to give her the strength to weather. But it seamed like it never ended, it never did. She prayed that God would let her make the right decision. She had worked herself up to leaving Darrel several times only to loose her nerve at the last moment. This time it was going to be different.
She saw Darrel coming back from the gas station. He had a smile on his face. She knew that the money had come. Now they could leave and head to his home.
He knocked on the door, and she opened it. Darrel came in and thoughtlessly shook his wet hair and clothing all over everything. Hope looked up with a childish contempt on her face and then looked back at her book.
“WOOOOHHH WEEE, wet out there. Well, honeybunch,” he said. “Daddy sent the money. I got it here. Gonna cover the motel room and some eating money and Gas to get us there.”
“That’s nice dear,” Shenandoah responded.
“Daddy is really happy I am commin down,” Darrel said. “And he can’t wait to see us I think.”
Shenandoah said nothing.
“Well, Darlin, I am gonna go over to the office and cover the motel. Be back in a few minutes.”
Darrel left. She looked at the room. Water was everywhere. He had no thought for anyone but himself. This settles it.
She went over to the phone. She dialed a number to set up a collect call. She had to find out something. She had to know if Susan would help.
Night had come. Shenandoah sported some more bruises. Darrel was sleeping. Shenandoah got up carefully. She had to be careful so she would not wake up Darrel. Darrel had thoughtfully left the money on the desk. She had checked and took her share, leaving Darrel enough to have bus fare to get home. She dressed carefully, and had already packed since they were leaving in the morning. Fortune had smiled upon her there. She took her suitcases to the car. It was her car anyway, in her name so it wasn’t like she was stealing anything. She got Hope who murmured sleepily. She took her to the car. Her suitcases and toys were next. Darrel stirred slightly so she had to hurry. She closed the door silently. She got into the car. Hope was fully awake now.
“Where are we going Mommie?” she asked.
“We are leaving, honey,” Shenandoah replied.
She started the engine and backed up. She put the car in drive and left the lot. She had done it. She had escaped. She didn’t look back. It was already too late.
She got to the exit. There were two choices. One way represented the future, to the east. The other represented the past, to the west. She looked to the west. There was storm and lightning to the west. For some reason, the east was clear and full of stars.
She turned east. She slammed on the accelerator and the car pulled onto Interstate 44. The past was behind her now. She would meet Susan and she would help. Shenandoah had no idea where she would go, and she didn’t know what she would do when she got there.
She knew one thing though. She was free now.
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