She’s not eighteen and scared anymore

I’m back at Lil’s, slurping on another old-fashioned chocolate milkshake. There’s a family in the next booth talking to a young woman at a table. Her back is to me.

I’m busy trying to think of a place to rent The Man Who Knew Too Much. It’s my

turn to pick a film for movie night. I really like Hitchcock.

So I ask the group. “Anyone know where that movie rental place is — the one with the quirky, older films?”

The young woman turns around and points to her name tag. “Would you mean … this place?” She winks.

It read Rebecca, The Adult Warehouse.

I choke. “Uh, no. No.”

“We do sell quirky, older films,” she says, all salesperson now. She smiles, obviously delighted by my reaction.

“I was looking for Hitchcock,” I say, realizing too late how that sounds.

I am The Man Who Said Too Much.

She laughs. She is enjoying this! She scoops out a spoonful of her milkshake, Cherry Cheesecake. She works the later shift at the Warehouse.

“Yeah, there are people who come in with their heads down, don’t want to be talked to, but most people greet you, get what they need and are pretty open about it. Get in, get out, get off.”

She admires Whitehorse’s openness. “Whitehorse is full of artists, freaks and government workers,” she laughs. “If you’re not one, you’re the other.” She’s a true resident. She knows she can say these things.

Rebecca Ross grew up in Hay River, NWT, but moved here when she was 12 and stayed until she was 18, when she moved to Lethbridge. “Ninety-thousand people is way too big.”

When she thinks of Hay River, she says, “I sometimes miss the small town. Whitehorse is getting big for me as it is. I mean, we have two Starbucks. People will start thinking we’ve arrived.”

She returned to Whitehorse after staying in Lethbridge one year. It was a bad year, she said. She had no money. She lived on the streets.

I ask her why she left Whitehorse. “I’d been dating someone who was part of a pretty notorious family up here. They started spreading abuse rumours.” At 18, she had been a fairly open person, a bit naïve. But she received death threats. She ran to Lethbridge.

After death threats, I wondered why she would come back here.

She looks at me, her eyes narrowing. “I’m not 18 and scared anymore.”

She lived with her parents for a bit. She’s worked for some time at the Warehouse, and at one point she made jewelry. Beads by Becca, she called it. “But not now. I had a baby.” Her husband works at Lil’s.

He comes over and checks out the scars on her hand from their psychotic cat. She laughs it off.

“It’s my birthday,” she says, smiling.

She likes the scenery here, the way nature is used to inspire our artists.

She wants to raise her daughter here.

“I’d rather raise her here than in the big city,” she says of her daughter. There are a lot of educational opportunities, too. Graduating from high school guarantees her daughter funding to go to Yukon College.

She has good hopes for the future, and she loves her job. She’s not shy about telling you anything you want to know about the Warehouse.

“We do have good movies. It’s a nice place. Working there I get 30-per-cent discount on merchandise and all the free movie rentals I want. Woo-hoo.”

But you can tell, when she smiles and talks about her family and her future, that she’s not going to leave Whitehorse anytime soon, and no one’s going to push her out again.

Maybe it’s because she’s worked at the Warehouse so long. She’s developed a wink that says, no fear.

Jerome Stueart chose this city on purpose. Maybe you did, too. He’d like to hear from you. Write to him at [email protected]

PHOTO: RICK MASSIE [email protected]

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