I Will Follow You in West Branch 72

I have a story in West Branch 72. It is called “I Will Follow You.” It is very long.   A subscription to West Branch only costs $10, so I warmly encourage you to check out this fine magazine.

Here is the beginning of my story, that isn’t about what this beginning implies:

My sister decided we had to go see her estranged husband in Reno. When she told me, I was in a mood. I said, “What does that have to do with me?”

Carolina married when she was nineteen. Darryl, her husband, was a decade older but he had a full head of hair and she thought that meant something. They lived with us for the first year. My mom called it getting on their feet but they spent most of their time in bed so I assumed getting on their feet was a euphemism for sex. When they finally moved out, Carolina and Darryl lived in a crappy apartment with pea green wallpaper and a balcony where the railing was loose like a rotting tooth. I’d visit them after my classes at the local university. Carolina usually wasn’t home from her volunteer job yet so I’d wait for her and watch television and drink warm beer while Darryl, who couldn’t seem to find work stared at me, telling me I was a pretty girl. When I told my sister she laughed and shook her head. She said, “There’s not much you can do with men but he won’t mess with you, I promise.” She was right.

Darryl decided to move to Nevada, better prospects he said, and told Carolina she was his wife, had to go with him. He didn’t need to work being married to my sister but he was inconsistently old-fashioned about the strangest things. Carolina doesn’t like to be told what to do and she wasn’t going to leave me. I didn’t want to go to Nevada so she stayed and they remained married but lived completely apart.

I was asleep, my boyfriend Spencer’s arm heavy and hot across my chest when Carolina knocked. My relationship with Spencer left a lot to be desired for many reasons, not the least of which is that he only spoke in movie lines. He shook me but I groaned and rolled away. When we didn’t answer, Carolina let herself in, barged into our bedroom, and crawled in next to me. Her skin was damp and cool, like she had been running. She smelled like hairspray and perfume.

Carolina kissed the back of my neck. “It’s time to go, Savvie,” she whispered.

“I really do not want to go.”

Spencer covered his face with a pillow and mumbled something we couldn’t understand.

“Don’t make me go alone,” Carolina said, her voice breaking. “Don’t make me stay here, not again.”

An hour later, we were on the interstate, heading east. I curled into the door, pressing my cheek against the glass. As we crossed the California border, I sat up and said, “I really hate you,” but I held on to my sister’s arm, too.