Liz stepped from the trailer onto the brittle, scorched ground. All around her was dry land, barbed wire, wind turbines, and those fucking cactus, as common here as evergreens at home. Her parakeet, Twilight (named after her favorite movie) ululated from his cage.
"Come back inside, sunshine," Norma called, comforting as a slow, lapping wave.
Scowling, Liz let the door bang shut behind her and strode past the truck that had towed their Airstream more than a thousand miles so far. She needed to pee. And the only bathroom in that particular faux RV "resort" was of the portable variety.
Just one other trailer sat in the campground, like a baking lump of gila dung. All because she and Norma had been stupid enough to come south in August. That week, though, during the last official days of summer, was the only time Norma had been able to take off from her job at the licorice factory. So, she'd planned, she'd printed maps off the internet, and she'd convinced Liz to tag along.
Liz stomped back into the trailer, feeling it sway under her slight 108 pounds. Twilight was still chirruping. Liz pulled the scarf from her hair and sat on a bench that, when it was time to cook, folded open to reveal a tiny counter. Liz ran her hands over her stubbly shins. "God, it's hot," she said.
"Quit your bellyaching and come back to bed," Norma said, a lilt in her voice. She held the sheet up as if to tempt Liz.
"Auch, no. A damn swimming pool is what I need."
"The place in Santa Fe is supposed to have a swimming pool."
"How many days are we from New Mexico?"
Liz fanned herself with a Glamour magazine she'd read at least three times by then. "Five days too long," she muttered.
Norma, whose name was only one letter removed from Normal, should've cussed Liz out, but Norma was not what her abridged name might suggest. She laughed throatily. "You're cute when you're overheated."
Norma walked on her knees to the end of the thin mattress."Tell me you're glad you came."
Liz rooted around their mini fridge and pulled out a can of Pabst. She didn't care that it was 9:35 am.
"Come on, say it," Norma demanded, smiling. Her impressive cheekbones bulged. Her huge gray t-shirt did little to hide the girth that had been gained from eating too much of the very product she manufactured. "You're glad you came."
Liz couldn't help it. A lopsided grin overtook her. "Sheesh, not right this minute I'm not." She sat next to Norma and held the cold can to her girlfriend's naked thigh. She said, "I'll get used to it." Her face turned serious. She took a long gulp of beer, then said, "I'd better, because I can't go back."
"What are you talking about? Your students need you."
"It's a community college, Norm. No one will even miss me." She bit at a fingernail, then held out her hand and scrutinized her manicure. She wished there were a cheap Asian salon around where she could get it fixed. But no. Not here, in godforsaken cactus country.
Norma finally swallowed her smile. "Is there something you need to tell me, L?"
Liz picked at her fingernails until it was obvious she was stalling. "Do you remember Linus? In my Math 202?"
"The little squirt in the baggy jeans and tight tank tops?"
"Yeah, him. He was...bothering me again. I ran into him outside Dairy Queen Tuesday night, you know, the day before we left." Liz had been sitting at a picnic table, licking her vanilla butterscotch ice cream cone when he'd sauntered over, sat on the bench next to her and slung an arm around her shoulder. He'd whispered dirty things into her ear and, when she'd gotten up to walk home, had followed her, trying to grab and touch her. "I beat the shit out of him and left him for dead on the shoulder of Clemson." It felt good to say it. But she knew it would not feel good to be punished for it.
Norma didn't seem as surprised as Liz had expected her to. She knew of Liz's physical fearlessness. Liz suspected that was why Norma put up with all her girly affectations.
"We're Thelma and Louise!" Norma said, her face shining.
"Except they were straight."
"Well, that's debatable. Do you think you killed him?" Norma stood, brow furrowed, and paced the narrow hallway running down the middle of the trailer. It rocked as if it were in a wind storm.
"I don't know," Liz finished off her beer and grabbed another. "Maybe."
Yanking a pair of shorts over her ample ass, Norma said, "This is going to be so much better than going back to Red Vine."
The bird let out a piercing shriek. Liz snapped, "Shut up, Twilight." Then, to Norma, "What? You're on the lam with me, then?"
"Of course, sunshine. I wouldn't let you do it alone. But I don't think we should go to Santa Fe now. We should head farther south."
Liz sighed dramatically. "Oh, where it's a hundred and twenty-five degrees instead of a hundred and fifteen."
"We'll drive toward the coast. Cabo or something."
Twilight wouldn't stop chittering. Undone by heat, Linus, and her so-called pet, Liz snatched her bird's cage from the ceiling and raced outside. She pried open the cage's door, grabbed Twilight and threw him into the air where, without even a shocked hesitation, he flew through the mean blue sky.
She slammed the cage to the dusty ground and kicked it once. Then, sticking her head into the trailer, she said, "Get me the hell out of here," and jumped into the cab of their truck where's she'd wait for Norma to take her away.