This story first appeared in the June 2012 issue of the ezine The Feathered Flounder.

“The last time I saw Raylene she left skid marks in the drive, she was leavin in a hurry no time to explain why…” That’s All She Wrote by Jim Gaudet and the Railroad Boys

I came home late that night, wasn’t feeling well. As I approached our place I saw Raylene backing out of the driveway and her tires squealed as she sped past me. She gave me a wave, but I saw something in her eyes I never saw before. I pulled in the driveway, got out and watched her taillights getting smaller and smaller, wondering where she was headed. When I looked toward our place I noticed the front door was wide open, like she left in a hurry. Feeling poorly already and poorer now, I dragged myself inside.
The breeze from the open door had blown some papers all over the kitchen floor. Fifteen pages in all, I’d count them later, I must have counted them a hundred times since. At first they didn’t make much sense but once I put it together I realized, it took Raylene fifteen pages, but that’s all she wrote was goodbye.
The way she waved at me that night was just like the wave she gave me the first time we met. It was at a bar, a dive really. I was having a few beers when I caught her eye. She was with some guy, but that didn’t stop her from looking. I watched as she went to the juke box, put her coins in and selected a slow tune. She swayed for a moment as the music began, then turned and locked her eyes on mine. She sauntered over, her blue eyes not breaking contact as her red hair swayed from side to side.
“How about a dance?” she said seductively.
“Sure thing,” I said, putting my beer on the bar as I took her in my arms.
We danced slowly and close and she didn’t object as I let my hand wonder down her back. She didn’t say a word, just kept nudging closer. Just as I was getting lost in the smell of her hair, the feel of her body, I was spun around and away from her by a huge hand on my shoulder.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” came his twangy voice.
“Dancin with this lady,” I said defiantly.
“That’s my lady,” he said as his fists clenched.
“Johnny stop,” she said.
“Shut up Raylene, I saw you eyeing him, shut up and get in the car we’re leaving.”
“I don’t think the lady wants to leave,” I said.
“Well you don’t get a say,” Johnny said as he moved closer to me, his face inches away from mine.
“Get your ugly face away from me, and go get a mint, your breath smells like something died inside you.” I could hear Raylene chuckle.
Johnny turned as if to walk away, but quickly stopped and reared back to throw a punch. I anticipated the move and struck first before he could let loose. Nailed him right in the nose and he dropped in a heap.
“You broke my nose you asshole,” he said as blood gushed from his crooked hook.
Raylene came over and helped him up just as the bartender was coming around the bar holding a bat ready to break things up.
“C’mon Johnny,” she said, “we got to get you to the clinic.” She looked at me and smiled as the bartender ushered all of us out of the place.
Raylene put Johnny in their car, got behind the wheel and gave me a wave before pulling out. I think it was that wave that clinched it for me; I knew right then I had to have her. I had one more run in with Johnny, and he got in a few good shots, but I got the best of him. It wasn’t long before Raylene and I moved in together and shortly after that Johnny joined the Army. He claimed he wanted to see the world, but I suspect it was because he couldn’t stand to be in the same place as Raylene and not be with her. She had that affect on men.
She sure had that affect on me. I fell hard, couldn’t imagine being without her. She was a free spirit, always looking for adventure, a good time, something to get the juices going. She got me into the con game.
“C’mon Denny,” she said, “it’s easy money, and wait ‘til you feel the thrill of pulling it off. It’s like watching your horse cross the finish line first, hitting that jackpot at the slots.”
“I don’t know, it doesn’t feel right,” I said trying to maintain a shred of decency
“Making money feels right don’t it?” she said flashing that irresistible smile.
So I gave in and we’d start scamming seniors. We’d drive around and when we saw one out, especially alone, we’d offer to seal their driveway. Thing is I’d use little more than black paint, cheap stuff, but we’d charge them anywhere from five hundred to a thousand bucks. Cash only of course. Sometimes Raylene would ask to use the mark’s bathroom while I was negotiating with them. They’d give that sweet face one look and give the go ahead. Once inside she’d look for cash or pieces of jewelry to pawn. We’d never go back to those houses, but collected a down payment first of course. After those times Raylene would be on a high, like she just smoked something. But it was the thrill of the game she felt, and we’d enjoy the feeling as long as it lasted.
Yeah, I fell hard alright; I would do anything for her, as I’m sure most men would. I wanted to be with her forever, even proposed a few times. She’d laugh, a nervous laugh, but then she’d see the look on my face and cry a little.
“Poor Denny,” she’d say, “I’m just not the marrying kind, but I think you really know that.”
“Hey, you’re the one who came on to me, remember?” I reminded her of our first meeting.
“Yeah, but I have to be honest, I really just wanted to dump Johnny.”
“But I love you,” I’d say, “and I want us to be together always.”
“I know you do, and I thought maybe I loved you too, but I guess I’m not the loving kind. We’re having a good time aren’t we; let’s just leave it at that okay?”
Maybe if I was a stronger man, not so much taken with her I would have reacted differently, would have told her to take off or something. Fact is she was in my system, a part of me I didn’t want to give up no matter how she felt. I wanted to hold onto her as long as I could hoping some day my feelings would be returned.
Today the county sheriff came asking about Raylene.
“She’s not here,” I said.
“I know,” he said, “she’s in some jail in Idaho.”
“What,” I said surprised, “what’s she in for?”
“Don’t know for sure,” he said, although I don’t think he was being honest with me right there. “All I know is she’s been wanted for some time now.”
“Well there’s nothing of hers here now,” I said.
“No mail or nothing? Mind if I come in and look around?” he asked trying to look over my shoulder.
“You got a warrant?”
“I can get one.”
“Well, you come back with a warrant and I’ll let you in,” I said.
“Look son,” the sheriff said taking off his hat and wiping is brow with his handkerchief, “your Raylene is in some trouble in Idaho. I’m just doing my job trying to track things down is all.” He tried his best to come up with a friendly smile.
“Well, you ain’t getting in without a warrant,” I repeated not returning his smile.
Now I knew what that look in her eye was the last time I saw her, it was fear. I never saw that in her before, but she must have known they were closing in on her. I watched him drive away then went to the bedroom and started packing. I recalled Raylene talking about some guy who used to treat her ill, slap her around and such. I thought she mentioned Idaho, but couldn’t be sure. When I’d ask her if she was scared of this guy, if she was worried he’d track her down, she’d say she didn’t have to worry about him anymore.
Maybe they just caught up with her about some scam she was involved in out there, but I suspected much worse. It could be she did that guy in and that’s why she didn’t have to worry about him and now they wanted her to pay. I imagine she’s alone in that jail cell, not contacting me because she thinks I’m mad at her Deep down I guess I always knew we’d end up in goodbye. And really, that’s all she wrote in those fifteen pages. But I’m not ready for goodbye, she’d need me, and I meant to go help her.

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