“McQuestion writes with a sharp eye and a sure voice, and as a reader, I was willing to go wherever she wanted to take me.”—Carolyn Parkhurst, author ofThe Dogs of Babel
Free-spirit Skyla Plinka has found the love and stability she always wanted in her reliable husband, Thomas. Settling into her new family and roles as wife and mother, Skyla finds life in rural Wisconsin satisfying, but she can’t seem to quell her growing sense of restlessness.
Much to the dismay of her intrusive mother-in-law, Audrey, Skyla takes a part-time job at the local bookstore and slowly begins to rediscover her voice, independence, and confidence. Throughout one pivotal year in the life of Skyla, Audrey, and Roxanne, all three very different women will learn what it means to love unconditionally.
Skyla’s earliest memory of Thomas was linked with the smell of
beer and the taste of blood. She was waitressing at a Mexican restaurant
that semester, the one over on Brewer Street with the red
tiled roof and the neon sombrero in the window. Enchiladas and
fajitas were a novelty in small-town Wisconsin, where the traditional
cuisine leaned toward grilled bratwurst, Friday fish fries,
and coleslaw. The restaurant did a brisk trade, even if some of the
locals did pronounce the J in fajita and said pollo as if it were a
NASA mission. Skyla worked five shift s a week, five more than
she wanted to.
Every day she intended to quit, but by closing time she’d
change her mind. For weeks she carried a handwritten note in the
pocket of her rust-colored, flouncy skirt. It said, “I, Skyla Medley,
give Las Tejas restaurant two weeks’ notice of my termination of
employment.” The note stayed the same except for the date, which
she crossed off and changed from time to time.
It was the latest in a long series of jobs. Actually, a long series
of everything—new schools, new jobs, new places to live. She was
only twenty, but she’d always been on the move. Staying in one
spot didn’t have many advantages as far as she could tell, but the
constant motion was wearing.
Getting a new job was never a problem. Neither was giving
notice. Skyla wasn’t quite sure what held her back this time.
Somehow she’d misplaced her momentum. For the first time she
wondered what it would be like to build a history in one place.
Still, the thought of quitting Las Tejas never left her mind.
The boss, big Bruno, who wasn’t even Mexican, barked orders
constantly. She hated the yelling almost as much as she hated the
hot plates and the sticky margarita glasses, which were top-heavy.
She found it difficult to hoist the food trays very high and wound
up resting them on her shoulders. The fajita meat was served on
hot skillets that sizzled and spit next to her ear.
The wait staff sat at the tiled tables after hours, drinking sodas
secretly spiked with rum and swapping stories of rude customers
and messy children. They were mostly college students, half of
them young men. The only thing that kept them coming back night
after night was the tips—big wads of bills and handfuls of change.
Skyla was one of the younger ones, and she was so petite that
most of her coworkers initially guessed she was in high school.
And because she was quiet, they assumed she was shy. But neither
was true. She was an observer of life and a college student majoring
in art. The cooks and busboys joked with her, commenting
on her reddish hair and pale skin (“Seen the sun lately, Skyla?”)
but couldn’t get more than a smile out of her. more >>