Chapter 1 – Before Everything That Came After

My name is Elle.  That’s all I know for sure.  I’m retracing my steps to see how I came to be living in Oklahoma, married to the hottest guy I’ve ever seen in real life, and raising two little girls at home.  I’m not sure I know how it all happened.  You see, I had planned to be a gypsy, trotting the globe, working at little ma and pop bakeries, or giving tours to English-speakers just enough to save the money to trot off somewhere new:  Paris, Bangkok, Vienna, Buenos Aires, everywhere.  Things didn’t go down as I planned.  Somewhere, I took a detour.

I’ll start at my point of origin.  I had just graduated high school in a lovely little beach town north of San Diego.  I was working three part-time jobs:  one at a clothing store in the mall, another as a grocery store bagger, and another doing my own house-keeping business, saving money to do something big (though I had NO idea what).  In the meantime, as my bank account grew, I was fortunate enough to be living in a continental paradise, something I took FULL advantage of.

Most of my family was in Texas, but my parents and I had moved to California when I was six.  We had lived in smog-laden San Bernardino County until one fateful job opportunity for my parents took us to the coast when I was twelve.  It was the first time since we’d left Texas that I felt home.  As soon as I had gotten my own car, I spent the hours between school and my parents coming home, driving Coast Highway with friends (or alone), sipping coffee in other beach villages, tasting my first squid on Coronado Island or driving to the local mountains for some fresh apple-boysenberry pie.  Sometimes, I’d just buy a box of Lemonheads at 7-11 and sit on the sea wall by myself and imagine the vastness of the globe.  I had everything I wanted at seventeen.  And I had no idea what to do next.

The summer after graduation, my parents separated, and seeing me clearly directionless, my mom told me that I needed to either enroll in community college in the fall or start paying rent.  I opted for school.  But as soon as I arrived on campus to enroll, my stomach lurched and everything in me began to feel sick.  I knew something was telling me that this was the wrong choice.  Rent it was!  In October, my church began a 40-day fast, and I decided to give it a shot and eliminate meats, sweets and lunch for 40 days.  Working at a grocery store during this time was absolute torture, but I was determined.  During that time, I began to get the distinct impression that I was to move back to Texas, move in with my sister and her family beginning in January and stay for five months.  Looking back, that “impression” was pretty darn specific.

So after hugging my mom and kissing my best-friend-recently-turned-boyfriend goodbye, and purchasing a $400 cell phone in the early days of cell phones just so I could talk to him, and one Greyhound bus ride later, I was back where I started:  Deep in the heart of Texas.

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