Matthew, chapter 4, verse 1: Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. Terry Watts walked down that dark road alone. Her feet ached from carrying her excess weight, but soon, Terry thought, soon it would be over, and the baby would be born. For now, she would just have to live with the inconvenience. She wished she had accepted the ride home from her friends, but the beer had tasted too good for her to leave so early. The tree-lined road swam around her as she tried to walk without falling.
Her drinking always upset her. She knew it wasn't good for the baby, but she couldn't stop herself, and it looked as though both of them would be in a bad way, for the night at least. Tomorrow, she would start again, she told herself. Tomorrow she wouldn't drink a drop, no matter how much she thought she needed it. That would be the first step to changing her life.
And what a miserable life it had turned out to be. Terry was only twenty‑seven, but everything seemed to weigh her down, her job, her boyfriend, and now the baby. She had given up on everything she ever wanted, ignored all her dreams, but for what? she wondered. She barely had enough to live on, and she certainly couldn't live the way she wished.
Every morning when she woke up, the day looked too long. Her job only added to her dissatisfaction. The cafe would soon close up for good, would leave her more desperate than before, but she had no control over any of it, not even over herself anymore. Even so, she wouldn't miss her job because now, with the baby growing inside her, standing on her feet all day had become so uncomfortable she couldn't remember anything the customers said to her.
Aside from work, she had nothing. Every day, she went home to her empty trailer, trying not to see all the little things Billy left behind when he took off, his used razors, the books of matches from his favorite bar. They reminded her of everything she didn't want to think about, and so did the baby, but Terry couldn't bring herself to get rid of any of it. She needed it to remind herself of the pain. Her anger fed her in some strange way, making her want to change her life and escape from the inescapable position she found herself in. But wanting it wasn't enough because she didn't know how to begin.
At first, she thought the baby would be a new beginning, purging her of Billy and everything that had gone before, but she finally saw it for what it was, a trap. She couldn't escape any easier with a baby than if she was alone. She thought of her mother, who had left Terry when she was almost too young to remember, and the betrayal filled her with fresh bitterness. That was when the trouble began. Since then, Terry had chosen the most destructive path, and it seemed to be too late to choose another.
Turning her mind away from her disappointments, Terry whistled to herself to lift her spirits and forget her aching feet. She looked up on either side of her at the dark, unbroken lines of trees swaying in unison with the wind, leaning away then closing in on her at intervals, like something in a funhouse mirror. Terry didn't see any houses as she passed, though the branches of the trees could have easily hidden houses set farther back from the road within their protective shadows. Since she had grown up in this rural community and often walked these roads at night, she usually enjoyed the solitude the dark lane provided.
But tonight was different. Even through her distorted senses, she felt something was wrong when two beams of light and the dim shadow of a car came into view, creeping along the road behind her. On this deserted road at that late hour, passing cars were rare. The ones that did come through never paused along the way. The car crept closer, seeming to move only inches, its headlights shooting long white columns of sparkling dust into the darkness beside her.
The beams showed her plainly against the backdrop of the trees, Terry was certain, and her mind filled with images of stories she had seen on the news, stories of rape and murder. Her heart beat faster though she told herself to stay calm. She picked up her pace, stumbling a little on the uneven ground. Forcing herself to face forward, away from the lights, she stared at the road ahead of her.
The car moved up until it was right beside her, matching her pace, its headlights spreading their wide arcs before her. Terry didn't turn her head to look at the car but thought she heard the soft rumbling of a window rolling down. When the noise stopped, Terry couldn't hold her eyes straight ahead any longer. She turned to the car, but all was dark inside.
"Could you tell us how to get to the Tophet estate?" said a woman's voice, smooth and soothing. "I'm afraid we've gotten lost. We're not from around here."
"What was the name?" Terry asked, forgetting her fear.
"Tophet. Are you familiar with it?"
"I've never heard of it. Are you sure it's nearby?"
"Maybe we've gone a little too far off track," a man's voice whispered. "It's probably not even in this district."
"Are you all right, miss?" the woman asked Terry, ignoring her companion.
Terry didn't know what to say.
"I'm fine," Terry said at last, though her tongue felt too thick to form the words. "There's a gas station on the main road that's open late. Maybe someone there can help you find what you're looking for."
"Thank you. We'll try that," said the woman. Terry expected the window to go up and the car to move past her, but the car remained where it was, crawling along beside her.
"Take this, love," the woman said, holding a dark object out to her. Terry reached for it. It was heavy and wrapped in velvety cloth. "Take it for your trouble, and for your baby."
The woman's hand brushed lightly against hers, leaving a tingling line that ran up and down her skin. Again Terry couldn't speak. The car sped off. Holding the gift close to her chest, she continued on her way home.
Excerpted from "The Weary City" by Wendelin Gray. Copyright © 2014 by Wendelin Gray. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.