Six o’clock on a Saturday morning, while most of the South enjoyed
the warm spring day with the morning paper and a cup of coffee on the
patio, Dani found herself staring at the departure board at the Huntsville
International Airport, deciding the rest of her life. The sooner she left this
state the better. If she could just escape, maybe she had a sliver of a chance
at a normal future. Normal. She couldn’t help but think, What exactly
is normal? While trying to determine the best destination, she caught
glimpses of other travelers. Did they live “normal” lives?
Nearby, a thirty-something mother of three struggled to keep her
brood wrangled. Was that what normal looked like? Dani stared at the
scene for a moment as the lady smiled at her toddlers while trying to
entertain them. She looked exhausted. Yet, she was calm and patient. Dani
wondered if that was how the lady really was when no one was looking,
or if she was a good mother all the time. Maybe normal was the elderly
gentleman looking sad as he sat in the hard, gray chairs, staring at the ring
finger of his left hand. There was a visible white line where a wedding
band obviously once resided. The crumbled look upon his face made Dani
wonder if his wife had recently passed away or if maybe, even at such an
advanced age, the couple had chosen divorce.
As the April sun dawned through the enormous glass windows, Dani
also took notice of airport security both near and far. Since 9/11 airports
had gone to extremes with security checks and surveillance. At least that
was what the nightly news said often and the newspapers screamed every
other day. Personally, Dani wouldn’t know. She’d never stepped foot in an
airport before today. This was not the first time she’d felt the desire to run,
but it was the first time she felt she actually had a chance to get away.
As she pondered the least suspicious destination, it felt as if the security
guards had zeroed in on her. Did they know how she spent the past
twenty-four hours? Was it possible her crimes were discovered so quickly?
She tried to reassure herself that she was being paranoid. The reality
was, she tended to draw attention most places she went in the conservative
At twenty-two, she was a tiny whisper of a woman. Her small frame
barely reached more than five feet. As old folks like to say, she barely
weighed a hundred pounds soaking wet. Her stature gave her an appearance
of being soft and vulnerable. The remainder of her appearance was in
direct contrast. Her once pale-blond, shoulder-length hair was now a stark
black. Her makeup was ashen, even in comparison to her complexion,
accented with black eye shadow, thick eyeliner, and heavy mascara. Her
lips were colored a deep burgundy. Baggy, black cargo pants and hoodie
hid not only her tiny frame, but the scars that lined her torso as well. Many
casually regarded her as a child rebelling in a gothic way. In truth, her
appearance from the clothing, to the makeup, to the multiple piercings in
her ears, lips, nose, and eyebrow had nothing to do with following some
ridiculous teenage trend. Her attire was an attempt to shield her from
the world. She tried to appear as unapproachable as humanly possible.
She didn’t want contact with other people. She’d had more than enough
“contact” with people to last a lifetime. The drastic change in her appearance
was why Maria and Everett hadn’t recognized her last night when she
appeared on their doorstep.
She was fighting her mind’s torturous journey down the path to her
past when the lady at the ticket counter startled her back to the present.
“Ma’am? Did you hear me?” asked the lady with slightly graying hair.
She was desperately trying to retreat back into the ‘80s with her big, Auqa
“Miss, are you all right?” she asked again. Her nametag read Marge.
Dani just stared at Marge momentarily before saying she wanted to buy
a ticket. She noticed Marge looking at the nearest security guard and then
back at her. She knew she better get her shit together, and quick, or the
only trip she would be taking would be to death row at Tutwiler Women’s
Prison in Wetumpka.
As the burly black security guard started walking in her direction, Dani
murmured, “I need to buy a ticket.”
“Where to?” asked the big-haired lady.
Good question, thought Dani. She knew she needed to leave the state
as soon as possible, so that left her with a choice of Washington, D.C., or
Denver, Colorado. While Dani was quickly going over the pros and cons of
each, the security guard came to stand beside her.
“Is there a problem, miss?” Dani looked up at the giant of a man.
Tears began to flood her crystal-blue eyes. She became painfully aware
that destiny, once again, was going to manage to drag her back down into
the depths of her own personal hell. And for her, no matter how hard she
fought, there seemed no way to escape its clutches.