I changed my name as soon I was legally able to. After all the years of the horrible guilt that my asshole father put me through, I decided that “Kayla” was dead. I chose the name January, because that was the month my mother’s birthday was in.

I ran away from home one night while the local carnival was in town. I was only 16 at the time. I never finished high school, I didn’t get my GED, and basically, I never amounted to anything. I guess you could call me a gypsy. I hitchhike from state to state, and I never ever go to my home state, North Dakota. That’s where mom is. I may one day, go back and visit the lake. But I’m not ready for that yet.

So where am I now? Hell if I know. All I know, is there is a man lying next to me in bed and I’m at some kind of cheap motel. I met him a few days ago while I was out along the highway lookin’ for a ride. He picked me up and I figured, since he seemed pretty interesting enough, I’d stick around for awhile. I do get lonely. So why not take advantage of what’s given to you.

I crawled out of bed and went into the bathroom and decided to take a shower. It’s not too often I get that simple pleasure. I know Mom wouldn’t be happy with the way I am now. Or rather, the way I’ve been all my life. You can blame that on the man that killed her and brought me along for the ride. Sometimes I wake up at night from a dream about that night. That night that I can’t forget no matter how hard I try. Nothing works. Drugs don’t make the pain go away. Neither does sleeping around with strangers or running from town to town. I know I should do something with myself. I just don’t have the ambition to live a normal life. Look what a normal life did to my mother.

I got up off the toilet, flushed and began stripping out of my wife-beater shirt and panties. I looked in the mirror at myself. All the body piercings and tattoos couldn’t hide who I saw. I saw my mother. Her face, her eyes, even her nose. I didn’t have any features from my father, thankfully. My body was covered with bruises. I bet that’s what her body looked like. My black eyeliner and mascara were smeared from sweat and sleep and my short black hair was tangled and messy. I turned away from the mirror and turned on the hot water in the tub. I never use cold water. What’s the point...you don’t get clean enough unless you scald yourself. I hopped into the bathtub. closed the smelly mildew shower curtain, and turned the nozzle to run the shower.

I stood there and tried so hard not to think about my life. Maybe if I just pretended to be someone else, I could make it. I should go to California and see if I could get into acting.

The water felt good running down my face and body. I picked up the washcloth and complimentary soap and began scrubbing my face, then shampooed my hair and hopped out. I wondered what today was going to bring. What would be the next place I’d stay at. I thought about maybe ditching the guy who picked me up and just go. Of course, I’d help myself to any money he had. Can’t get very far without that stuff. Money, the root of all evil! Everything in the world, like water and food and housing should be free. Oh well, guess that won’t ever happen.

I threw my shirt and panties back on and quietly went out into the bedroom area. He was still sleeping. Should I? Should I stay or should I go? God, I’m so confused. I should just stay. Take advantage of the free meals and shelter. This guy isn’t all that bad. Actually, he’s pretty cute and just a little older than me. Mom? What would you do? Where would you go? I wish you were here. I wish I could talk to you. I wish for too much. I’m too selfish.

I crawled back into the bed and snuggled up against his warm body. Damon...that’s what he told me his name was. January and Damon. Has a nice ring to it.

He stirred and turned and looked over at me. “Hi,” he said.

“Hi,” I said back.

“You smell good,” he told me.

“I needed to wash the stench off of me. I just finished taking a shower.”

He wrapped his arm around me and held me closer. It made my heart ache.

“I like you a lot, January. I want you to stay, please. There’s just something in your eyes that tells me you need to feel love. I may not be rich. But I can be there for you.”

Yeah, I like you too, I thought, but the words wouldn’t come out of my mouth. Instead, something different happened. Something that I hadn’t been able to do for years. I cried.

“Shhhh...” Damon said.

I wrapped both my arms around him and sobbed. I’m so tired of moving. Maybe it’s time to stay put. No, not maybe...yes.

“Don’t worry,” I cried. “I’m done traveling. I’m staying right here. Here with you.”