Home > Honored The Mountain Man's Babies

Honored The Mountain Man's Babies
Author: Frankie Love

1

 

 

I keep one hand on the wheel as I wipe my eyes unsuccessfully. My minivan barrels down the highway as I leave the only life I’ve ever known behind. Tears streak my cheeks, my heart races, and even though there are three crying babies in the backseat of the beat-up van, I’ve never felt so alone in my life.

Which isn’t saying much, considering I’m a sister-wife.

People are always around. Always watching.

Always judging.

But no one sees me as I escape.

My flip phone—the one I bought at Wal-Mart last week—buzzes. As it rings, milk seeps from my engorged breasts. Having a twelve-week-old baby will do that to a woman, especially when her infant is screaming from his car seat.

I can’t pull over to answer the phone or nurse Titus because I have to keep driving. I must keep driving and never come back. With the windows down, the summer sun warms me up to the idea of a new forever. A forever I never considered for myself.

Freedom.

An hour later the babies are asleep and I pull over to fill the tank at a gas station. My stomach growls, but I don’t know if it’s from nerves or the fact I haven’t eaten in hours. I grab forty dollars from my wallet, debating taking another five for caffeine, but I don’t have that much to spare. Not now. The $112 I scrimped to save is for this escape, not to spend on frivolities. I packed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and carrot sticks. I can have one of those while I drive.

I hand the cash to the cashier, my eyes on the van.

“You okay, sweetie?” she asks, pointing at the milk stains on my blouse. But I don’t have time to be embarrassed. You can’t afford to be when your children’s lives are at stake.

“I’m fine,” I say, eying the Snickers bars on the counter.

“Are you traveling alone?” she asks. I look up at her then, her gray hair clipped back, revealing pale blue eyes. I lower mine, not wanting to be noticed. Just wanting to get far away.

“Yeah, it’s just my kids and me,” I say softly, knowing I have no man to protect me, take care of me—here or anywhere. Knowing I’ve never had a real man in my life. The father of my children is nothing but a cheat.

She clucks her tongue, picking up the Snickers and handing it over. “Listen, mama, the chocolate’s on me, and grab yourself a coffee on your way out, okay?”

My eyes fill with tears again. I need this more than she knows. I blink away the memory of leaving my sister-wives, without telling them I was going for good.

But I needed more... and not just for me. For my children.

For my sons.

“Thank you,” I manage, wiping my eyes with the cuff of my hand-sewn blouse. “I don’t know why I’m crying.”

“It’s the hormones. I remember. It’s been a long time, but you never forget.” She smiles warmly, then wags her finger at me, telling me to get a coffee to-go. I do as she insists.

“Thank you,” I tell her, with 16-ounce cup of steaming coffee in one hand, pushing open the door with the other.

“And remember to take care of yourself, honey,” she says as I leave.

Pumping gas, I look at myself through the van window, seeing my sleeping babies all in a row, and I think that the cashier has no idea what my life has been like.

Taking care of myself has never been an option. I haven’t slept a full night in years, but even through the haze of restless nights with a newborn cradled against my chest, I know that being a twenty-two-year-old with three children under three is not the reason I’m always tired.

I screw the gas cap on and slide open the van door, unbuckling Titus, and as I reach over him his one-year-old brother Thomas stirs. I kiss his forehead, willing him to stay asleep. His two-year-old brother, Timothy, opens his eyes. They meet mine.

“Shush, now, sleepy head,” I whisper, brushing a tendril of his blond hair away from his sweaty forehead. His head falls back, giving in to the sleep his tiny body craves as if he knows how badly I need him to stay quiet.

With Titus in my arm, I sit in the driver’s seat, pushing the seat back so I can nurse him. He latches onto my nipple, my swollen breast releasing milk, and my entire body seems to relax for the first time in weeks.

My babies are safe. I am sound. We can do this. We are doing this.

I reach for the phone, seeing the missed call was from Harper. I press call back and listen to it ring, only once, before she’s on the line.

“Honor? Are you okay? Is the plan still in place?”

My eyes scan the empty parking lot, knowing that Luke won’t even notice I’m missing until tonight, when he looks around the supper table, at his other two wives, and realizes I’m not there. That three of his sons aren’t either.

It’s my sister-wives, Kind and True that I have to worry about. They think I’ve left to do the grocery shopping... but eventually, they will realize I haven’t returned.

“Yes,” I tell her, the only person I could think of calling when I got the courage to leave. After all, she was engaged to Luke four years ago, before he started a cult and everything changed. “I’m about ninety minutes away. It’s still okay, isn’t it... you haven’t changed your mind?” I sniffle, my emotions bubbling up again.

“Of course, I haven’t changed my mind. You’re my cousin. Just focus on getting here.” Then, softening her tone, she adds, “That’s all you need to worry about now.”

“Okay,” I tell her. “I’ll get back on the road. See you soon.”

“I should have come and gotten you,” Harper says.

“No. I needed to do this on my own. I needed to do this for my sons.”

“You’re being really brave,” she adds her words a comfort I need more than she knows.

Not wanting to cry, I tell her good-bye. Not feeling very brave. I just feel desperate. Desperate for my life to be more than it is now.

I buckle Titus back in his seat, turn on the van, and put it in drive.

Taking a bite of my chocolate bar, I look back at the gas station, thinking of the attendant. How sweet she was with me.

She was right about needing to take care of myself.

And I know that getting away from Luke is the first step in the right direction.

It’s the best way I take care of my children. Of me, too.

I needed to get them away from their father, away from his cult.

I needed to run away in order to start over.

 

 

2

 

 

I’ve made a lot of shitty decisions leading up to tonight, but damn, even as it was happening I knew it was an all-time low.

It wasn’t the first time I’d been locked in the slammer. And not the first time I took the fall for my friends.

After hours of sitting on a hard bench in a holding cell, Officer Bailey tells me bail was posted.

My eyes narrow. I have friends, sure, but they’re about as likely to get a bond to bust me out as winning the goddamned lottery.

“Lucky man,” Officer Bailey says as I follow him to a desk where I sign out and get my shit. Not that there’s much for me. This town is feeling much too small these days. Can’t get a fucking drink without someone wanting to start something.

I run my hand through my hair, listening as the officer explains I have to show up for my hearing next week.

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