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By Laura Moncur in The Disappearance of Glen and Bessie Hyde

“My name’s Georgie White. This here’s Rosie. You got any work?” The ruddy skin of the woman considered the two of us. “You look like one’a Cameron’s girls. Don’t want no trouble from ‘im.” She closed the back door of the small hotel that housed tired and hungry tourists.

I had no money and no identification, other than the wedding certificate that Glen had handed me with his last breath. My name and photo was all over the papers. Our boat had been found, but everyone was searching for young honeymooners, not a mother and child. All I had was the name of a dead woman to appropriate as my own.

“My name’s Georgie White. This here’s Rosie. You got any work?” I tried to sound like one of the locals instead of the daughter of a Naval officer. The hulking man was dripping with sweat. He looked as if he needed help getting the bolt off the engine mount. “Don’t need a wife. Don’t need a nurse maid.” He reminded me of my gruff and strong father. “Do you need someone who can rebuild a carburetor?”

Engine Repair by LauraMoncur from FlickrThe man stopped straining against the bolt. He didn’t look at me. He just stopped exerting his sinewy muscles against the machinery. “You don’t know what you’re talkin’ ’bout.” Within me, the young sister of Navy brothers giggled with excitement at the challenge. “Maybe not, but I sure know that you ain’t gonna git that bolt off with a wrench. Looks like the nut on the other side got welded shut.”

The modern day smithy twisted his head to the other side of the bolt and examined the nut that was in my view. A smile spread across his face. “Sure is.” He looked at me with new eyes. They paused uncomfortably on my unendowed chest, but he quickly recovered his senses. “You really can rebuild a carburetor?” Rosie squirmed uncomfortably behind me, unwilling to be seen by the large man. “You got one for me to rebuild?”

The man’s eyes crinkled in joy. “No, but I gotta shitloada tires that need patched.” I could see our escape within my grasp. “How much you pay me for each?” He named his price and I could see our passage out of the Grand Canyon and safe from Cameron’s grasp within my own.

Something about my voice, or maybe it was my appearance made the women reject me for work in the kitchens. It was probably the same thing that convinced the mechanics and farm hands to let me fix their machines. Whatever it was that made me able to do man’s work was the same thing that made me unable to obtain women’s work.

During the day, I coaxed life back into rusting and extinct engines while Rosie hovered near me like a fearful dog. At night, I taught Rosie to read and do figures. While we slept, however, is when Rupert would return to haunt both of our dreams.

My nightmares were just a replay of that fateful day. Rupert was choking the life out of my beloved husband. I came at him with Cameron’s knife, but this time, I was unsuccessful. The blade didn’t sink between his ribs and along his throat. It bounced off him harmlessly. He dropped Glen, dead and lifeless with a bullet hole in his gut, leaking excrement, and turned to swat me away. Rosie’s nightmares, however, were far more disturbing.

“Get ‘im off me!” Her eyes were open wide, but it was clear to me that she was still trapped within her nightmare. I tried to wake her. “Rosie, it’s me. Wake up. He can’t hurt you anymore.” We were in a small boarding house on the way to New York. It was the last place Rosie had known family and we headed there in the hopes of finding her grandparents or other family who could take care of her. I longed to return to the Ohio River and it’s safe waters. She looked into my eyes. “Mommy, is he hurting you?” She was having a conversation with a ghost. I did my best to rouse her. “Don’t let ‘im hurt me too.”

All the guilt that I had for killing Rupert washed away from me after I decoded the meaning of Georgie’s admonishment that he was sweet on the girls. I couldn’t feel anger at Georgie for whoring her daughter out to him. The beatings and the hard labor would have been just as damaging to poor Rosie’s body, except the scars would have been far more visible.

There was a knock on our door. It was the woman in charge of the boarding house. “This is yer last night here. I tol’ you that we couldn’t be dealin’ with a noisy kid at night. These men are hard workin’ and need their sleep.” I looked at the woman and the fact that I worked just as hard as those men every day did not occur to her. All she knew was that Rosie’s nightmares were bothering the men on the other side of the house. “We’ll be out tomorrow.”

I returned to Rosie’s bedside. “Mommy?” Was she still dreaming? “No, it’s me.” She looked at me with clear eyes and grabbed my face in her hands. “It was time to leave anyway, Mommy.” The sound of her calling me her mother filled the empty spot where my heart used to be.