Only in Vernon would a woman like Damey marry an explosive man like Philip. He grew up middleclass. She was from a successful family that ran the town’s meatpacking plant.
Damey had a simple dream of modeling. With her radiant beauty, swanlike physique, legs long and smooth as a peach—she was perfect for the job. Makeup magazines would beg her for photos of her luscious lips alone if she only lived in Los Angeles rather than miles away.
She walked around her apartment wearing seven-inch heels, daydreaming, with a dictionary balanced on her head. As she swaggered confidently across the living room, Damey thought of the time a scout approached her. “You’re a natural. If you ever come to LA, I’ll get you a gig straight away.”
Her husband’s door slam ended her wonderful memory.
Damey and Philip could have moved to the City of Angeles, at least for a short time. Her father would have helped. He always encouraged her to dream big and never limit herself. Philip wouldn’t have it.
He didn’t have possess goals beyond settling down with her. Her husband started talking kids and was pressuring Damey daily.
She wanted more. Being a faithful woman, she also wanted her husband by her side through her successes, or nearby at least.
Love became the biggest jerk she ever met. She was trapped here with the man who carried her heart in his jacket pocket to match his gaudy striped tie. Damey fell for the wrong man, a different man than he was in high school; now a man without goals; a man without dignity; a man stressed over small matters such as paying the light bill on time.
“Would ya look at what they’re saying we owe? Thirty-five dollars! How’m I gonna pay this with just my nine-to-five? I’m gonna have to get a night job.”
“Father would help.”
“I’m not askin’ him for zilch.”
“Stop with the wanderin’ around like you’re some kind of stewardess.”
“Father also said, ‘Why pay the electric bill when you can dedicate yourself to owning the company that ran the power? Don’t settle!’ He’s right, and I want you on my side about this. Or else.”
“Bah! Like you’d do anything. That’s a ridiculous analogy too. Even the owner of a light company has to pay a bill. Don’t quote that man to me. I told you to stop walkin’ like some kind of woodland creature. Is that a book on your head? When are we gonna start ’paring for kid? You said we would.”
The book fell from her head. She leaned her weight to one side. “It’s a runway walk. I already told you, I’m not ready to bear children. Can’t you let me be a model first?”
“Damey, face it, there’s no modeling agencies in Vernon. You won’t be able to travel when you’re pregnant neither. Can’t I make you understand, first?”
“I want to live a little before we have kids. I agreed to marry you because I love you. I thought you’d let me live my dream before all this—”
“Live your dream?” Philip removed his fedora. “What about my dream? I wanted to be a provider, to be a father, to be your husband.”
Damey touched her cubic zirconia. Her father would have given Philip enough money to buy a real diamond.
She grimaced down at the golden shackle around her ring finger. “You have my hand. I’m just asking you for time. Let me live in LA for a few months. Explore the modeling industry. That’s all I ask.”
“Why, so some macho-actor can sweep you off your feet and blamo, bim, bam we’re done? No! Wait. Freeze that. It’ll be a big-shot producer. He’ll offer you an acting gig in some huge noir film. Bet you’d be the star.”
“You really think I could be a star?”
“Not the point.” Philip mashed his hat onto his head. “I don’t what you goin’ nowhere I can’t sees you.” He balled his fists. “I can’t handle this. I’ll be at the bar.”
“Wait.” Damey presented a letter she had hidden in her drawer. “Remember the scout I met senior year? He mailed me this the other day. It says—”
Philip snatched the paper, skimmed the words, and crumpled up her dreams. “You can’t go. That’s final.”
He hurried for the front door.
In haste, Damey realized there was but one option. She pulled something else out of her drawer. “This was Grandmother’s.”
There was a small pistol cradled in Damey’s hand.
“A smart, strong woman, my grandmother. Her genius inspired Father’s business. She was always there for us especially after Mother died. ‘This gun has a single bullet. Someday, somehow I know you’ll need it,’ she said.” Damey pointed the barrel at her temple.
“No, Damey! No!” Philip edged closer to his wife. “You’re not thinking straight.”
“Can I go to LA?” Her thumb pulled back the hammer.
“This is my house. You’ll do what I say. Put it down. Now. Obey!” Philip lifted his hand. “Do I need to smack some sense into you?”
Damey’s tears removed eye shadow, revealing a reoccurring shiner. She pointed the gun at Philip’s face. “You might be my husband, but you don’t own me. I’m not your punching bag!”
His voice became high-pitched. “Damey, sweetie, what cha doing? Don’t you love me, baby?”
“I hate it when you use that infantile tone and call me baby. I’m not a child. I’m a grown woman.”
Her heart ached. Her arms wavered. Her index finger suddenly fondled the trigger’s luscious curves, possessed. “Can I go?”
“What are you going to do, shoot me over this? That’d be murder.”
“Father owns the town. I’ll tell him you attacked me for the last time.”