I could, however, get a new attorney.
The one I'd had was expensive and we'd gone over things before I had to let him go. It was clear he was concerned about his ability to defend me considering the firepower at Aaron's back.
But when I begged (and okay, cried), my attorney had told me I could pay installments.
However, they just racked up (I was still paying them off). I couldn't afford more. I needed a new car. Eventually, I'd need more than a one-bedroom apartment and preferably one that was in a much better neighborhood. I needed to find time and money to go to beauty school so I could learn how to do hair. I was good at hair. I had a natural talent. I'd spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I was good at, what I could do, and that was the only thing.
And stylists at nice salons made huge tips.
I needed huge tips.
I pretty much needed everything.
So I'd tried to find a less expensive attorney.
Not many were willing to take me on (this, I feared, was Aaron and his father's doing too), but I'd found one. And he'd be really less expensive, if, in his words with that oily smile on his face, I got down on my knees (repeatedly) while he battled Aaron for me.
I didn't need him to explain what getting down on my knees meant. I also didn't need to explain verbally why I got up from my chair in his office and walked out.
So I could get a new attorney, I just didn't like the way he wanted me to pay fees.
But right then, what I needed most was to change my tire, get back on the road, get my son to his father before it was too late and Aaron logged that on the list of things to use to make his ex-wife lose custody of her son and hopefully go away for good. After that, I needed to figure out how to get my tire fixed, or how to pay for a new one, and finally, get to my evening shift at the store.
I was just going to have to put my baby in the car and hope to God no one hit me or my vehicle.
I didn't have good thoughts about this. I hadn't had a lot of luck in my life.
Some of my bad luck was out of my control.
That was on me.
That was my fail.
And it was a biggie.
I looked into Travis's little baby face with his big pudgy cheeks and his dancing eyes that had turned brown, like mine, like his granddad's, and he gurgled up at me, his little red lips wet and curved up, his little fist banging my shoulder.
Okay, so Aaron wasn't a total fail. He gave me Travis.
"We'll be fine," I told my boy on a squeeze.
"Goo," he replied.
I smiled. "Mommy can do this."
"Goo, goo, gah." Fist bump and twist on my necklace, pulling it hard against my neck.
I smiled bigger even though I still wanted to cry and started toward the car.
Then I heard a loud noise getting louder because it was getting closer.
I stopped and turned my head to the side.
That was when I froze.
I froze because I saw one of those bikers on his big, loud motorcycle riding down the shoulder my way.
And he wasn't one of those recreational bikers. I knew this at a glance. His black hair was very long, too long, and wild. He had a full black beard on his face. It was trimmed but not trimmed enough (as in, the beard being nonexistent). He had black wraparound sunglasses covering his eyes, glasses that made him look sinister (as bikers, in my mind, were wont to be). He was also wearing a black leather jacket that looked both beat up and kind of new, faded jeans, and those clunky black motorcycle boots.
He stopped as I held my breath. He turned off the motorcycle and put down the stand before he swung a long leg with its heavy thigh and clunky boot off the bike
Letting go of my necklace, he twisted in my arms and was pumping his fists excitedly.
I started breathing, feeling my heart beat fast, as the biker walked toward me, his sunglasses aimed my way, then he abruptly stopped with a strange jerk.
He studied me, his face impassive, standing like he was caught in suspended animation, and I studied him right back.
I didn't know bikers. I'd never met a biker. Bikers scared me. They did this because they looked scary. They also did this because I'd heard they were scary. They had girlfriends who wore tube tops and they had knives on their belts and they drove too fast and too dangerously and got in bar brawls and held grudges against other bikers and did things to be put in jail and all sorts of stuff that was scary.
As these thoughts tumbled through my head, he came unstuck, started moving my way, and in a deep, biker voice, he called, "You got a problem?"
Travis squealed again, pumping his arms, then he giggled as the big biker guy continued coming our way.
And as he did, slowly, my eyes moved to the traffic. It was bumper to bumper, crawling along at what couldn't be over twenty miles an hour. Looking at it, I knew I'd stood there for at least ten minutes, on the phone, then not, baby on my hip, car with a flat.
And not one single person stopped to help.
I turned my head back to the biker who was now standing three feet away, his eyes downcast, his sunglasses aimed at my baby boy.
He'd stopped to help.
"I... have a flat," I forced out.
The sunglasses came to me and I felt my head tip to the side when they did because I got a look at him up close.
And what I saw made me feel strange.
Did I know him?
It felt like I knew him.
I screwed up my eyes to look closer at him.
He was a biker. I didn't know any bikers, so I didn't know him. I couldn't.
"You got Triple A?" he asked.
"No," I answered.
He lifted a black leather gloved hand. "Give me the keys, stand back from the road. I'll take care of it."
He'd take care of it?
Just like that?
Should I let a biker change my tire?
Better question: Did I have any choice?
Since the answer to the better question was definite, I said, "I... well, that's very kind."
At this point, Travis made a lunge toward the biker. I struggled to keep him close but my boy was strong and he tended to get what he wanted, and not only because he was strong.
Just then, he got what he wanted.
The biker came forward, gloved hands up, caught Travis at his sides and pulled him gently from my arm.
He settled him with ease and a natural confidence that made my breath go funny against his black T-shirt and leather jacket clad chest and looked to me.
Taking them in, biker and baby, for some reason, that vision filed itself into my memory banks. The ones I kept unlocked. The ones I liked to open and sift through. The ones that included making cookies with my mom. The ones that included dad teaching me how to ride a bike and how he'd looked at me when I'd peddled away without training wheels, so proud, so happy. The ones that included the Easter before my sister Althea died when she won the Easter egg hunt and Dad got that awesome picture of us in our frilly, pastel Easter dresses, wearing our Easter bonnets, holding our beribboned Easter baskets, hugging each other and giggling little girl giggles.