Her name isn’t really Tara. Or Jenny, which is what she tells guys—gentlemen—who want to know her real name.
At the bus stop, she checks her prepaid dumb-phone, still in her hand, and deletes out the agency number (always ready until she’s out), dials star-six-seven and the familiar ten digits that calculate home. She listens to the machine—they still have a plastic machine on the kitchen counter, with a blinking light—and hangs up right before the beep so they won’t come home to the flashing green light of false hope, you have messages.
“Got an extra smoke?” the same-as-always homeless guy asks, and she same-as-always shakes a second one out of the pack for him, lights them both with her Cartier lighter, a “little gift” from her Thursday gentleman, monogrammed with a J but she likes it anyway.
She wonders if tonight her mother will be sewing patchwork, or braiding one of the rag rugs that kept their stocking feet off the flagged floors all winter, the rugs that got rolled up every April after she had draped them over the fence and beaten out the dust and dog hair. Even in sticky August Toronto, when Caribana is lurching down the street in a haze of ganja and the low metallic ring of conga drums, it’s always November at the farm. Her mother is always cutting out pieces from old aprons. Her father is putting on his boots for evening ride-out and asking if she wants to come. And she herself is watching his grey head bowed as he steps out the door, her words un-take-back-able, her love for him and the farm and the sky and her own little room packed away as carefully as she’d packed her single bag.
The bus came slowly then, lumping through the early snowfall turned to early slush, the field she’d cut across bare gold-brown stubble against big grey sky.
She looks up now as it lumbers to a halt, the corner of Queen and John as far from the prairie as she’d been able to get with the money she’d saved from babysitting and winter beans and selling her pig, money that was for college but withdrawable all the same.
She tells herself it’s always better not to leave a message, that knowing her now, the her that is Tara-Jenny, would be worse than not knowing at all. But still, she lets the bus go by into the hazy heat and steps back to drag twice more on her cigarette, pull out the smarter of her two phones and press “send”.
“You have reached 780-525-7588. Gina, if this is you, please come home. We are not mad and we love you. Please, come home. Just tell us where to pick you up and we will come and get you, no matter where. We love you. Please leave a message.”
Tara first showed up for the "Three Little Words" prompt back in Week Two.