The first Burning Season she’d spent in Bravo she’d spent starving, enslaved. She wore the manacles still, to remember.
As the second approached she had joined her family on the road, watching the ash and flame rise behind them as Bravo burned and they drove their caravans around the craters Mustang’s mortars had left in the roads. She wore the Lux symbol still, to remember.
The third summer she’d raced the flames north, nestled between two Irons on the seat of a well-worn Pick-me-up-Truk. They hadn’t known where they were going, their companionship newly forged, but there was something right and final about their presence. She twisted her fingers in the strands of their hair, to remember.
There was something disconcerting about once again heading south with the plumes of smoke from a demolished town behind her. Soon the trees would crackle with heat, and great gouts of fire would rise from the ground soaked with Texas Tea.
She sat on the Rosie’s tailgate beneath a crooked cedar, watching the columns of people trickle past. Here and there, familiar faces. Some she’d known three years now. Three years of freedom on the heels of five years she tried not to think about.
In that time she’d been Whore, Madame, Councilwoman, Father, Deputy Mayor, and Crew Boss. In that time she’d been called Traitor, Liar, Slaver, Heartless, Selfish, Vegasian.
Somewhere behind her lay the ashes of a Yucca flower her husband had once tucked in her hair when they’d still thought they were in love. Love had drained them of their passion. Drained him of his color. He wandered shade-like, searching for himself now.
Somewhere behind her there was a rock, ground to rubble, where she’d sat under the massive Lone Star moon and confessed her secrets. She’d learned her lesson. Love never entered her vocabulary anymore.
Somewhere behind her was a building filled with charred, burned bodies. She heard their screams every time Tes bolted awake in her arms and sobbed into the night.
If she died here, where would she emerge? The thought rose like cream through tea, clouding her unfocused gaze.
Would she see him again? Last she’d heard he’d been put down like a dog. Snarling with madness. Would they dance again through the darkness while her bones creaked and snapped? Did he wait for her, even now, in the tunnels of earthen madness?
She hopped onto the worn leather seat. Turned the key in the ignition. Eased the pickup back onto the road. Left the memories in the dust.
Somewhere behind her…