Wednesday, October 12, 2011

After the Storm - Chapter 2

Chapter 1

The days passed as I went about my life.  The storm, both of them, had left a good deal of damage and debris behind.  The yard needed picking up, the barn needed boards nailed back into place, the house needed patching.  The work was good and kept me busy during the day, and that was needed.  It kept me from thinking too much about the work that needed to be done inside my heart and hurt.

The evenings weren't too bad.  I spent a lot of time avoiding my mother, but a good bit of time over a bottle of wine (or two or four) with Megan.  A lot of talk, a lot of laughter.  A lot of jabbing at Zach's little flaws which, I guess, is supposed to make you feel better when someone leaves you.  But, it didn't much. I didn't hate him, I didn't even dislike him. It was never that he was so much the jerk, or that I was impossible to live with.  It was just us.  "Us" just couldn't find a way to work out.

But, I missed "us," if I was honest.  So the nights were hard. I missed someone to whisper with in the dark of night. I missed someone to poke fun at me when I dropped eggshells in the pancake batter yet again. I missed the feel of his skin before he'd shaved, and the smell of his neck after he had. I missed his breath on my cheek, his hand at my back, and the way he held me when we danced.

I missed my smile, and I missed him.  The work and the wine were little match for that.

But, tomorrow was a new day, and tomorrow, I was determined to find my smile.  If only for a moment.


The morning light trickled through the curtains onto my pillow, slowly pulling me from the dream filling my subconscious.  Something about elves, probably just as well that it was morning.  I stretched lazily under the blankets and opened my eyes to peer at the clock.

9:00.  Way past time to be up.  I picked my cell up off the bedside table and checked for my email.  There was a text from Megan. Mom's here for breakfast. Help.

I grinned at the karma there.  Sorry, going for a drive. Try some wine. Will call later.  Course now that I said I was going for a drive, I guess I'd have to actually do it.  I pulled myself out of bed and went to get ready.  I showered and threw my hair into a ponytail.  Jeans, comfy T-shirt, boots.  On a whim, I threw a change of clothes, a swimsuit, and my favorite book into a bag to throw in the back of the car.  You never knew when a river would beckon for some swimming.

I threw the bag in the back of the car, checked my phone one more time (not enough wine in the world) and turned to the open road.  I wasn't really sure where I was going.  I don't think it even mattered.  I just needed time to think, to be by myself without anyone trying to cheer me up. I needed to figure out what to do next, how to move on, how to heal.  I wasn't even sure I could find the answers... but avoiding them with a hammer and nails wasn't doing me any good.

So, I cranked up the radio and I drove.  Far from the city, far from town, far from everything I knew.  If I came across a road I'd never been on before, I channeled my dad and thought "Well, let's see where this goes."  Actually, those were fond memories from childhood.  "Let's see where this goes," Daddy would always say, and we would find out.  Sometimes they went nowhere. Sometimes they happened upon fields of daises, abandoned swatches of riverbank, ghost towns that had been long forgotten.  Sometimes we'd end up in towns I'd never heard of and sampled their diner food.  I thought I'd like to remember him today.

I went up this mountain, down that hill.  I drove through farmland and across rivers.  I didn't have a clue where I was, but it was beautiful.  My radio was cranked, and I found myself singing along to "Landslide."  Beautiful song, but oh it made me cry.

Then, it happened.

BANG!  And then... smoke.  Crap.  That couldn't be good.

I pulled over to the side of the road, and ran out to pop the hood.  Smoke billowed everywhere.  It wasn't on fire at least, I was pretty sure that was a good sign?  My phone had one bar on it... maybe I could get signal.  As it turned out, it was just enough to call AAA and have them send a tow truck to Hwy 238 "somewhere east of Caster City."  I kicked back in the car with my book waiting for them to show.  Two hours can get you through quite a lot of book.

Finally, a tow truck did arrive.  It came at me from the other direction, passed by, then turned around to park in front of my car.  I jumped out of my car as the driver hopped down from his cab, his cowboy hat shielding his face from the sun.

I smiled my winningest smile as I walked forward with my hand out to shake his.  "I'm so glad you're finally here!"  At this, he looked up to answer back and I stopped in my tracks, smile frozen to my lips.

Good lord, he was handsome.  I hated handsome men.

Don't get me wrong. Sure, I liked gazing at them... from a few tables away. Who didn't? I was more than happy to admire a good-looking guy from across the room over a nice glass of wine. But talking to them outright? Ugh, I hated it. I can never understand why the right cheekbones and a couple biceps can reduce me to such a stammering mess. I'm perfectly capable of carrying on a coherent conversation with normal people. But around a handsome man? I always feel like Baby in Dirty Dancing-- "I carried a watermelon." What, really??

Worse, this one was a car guy. There's nothing more patronizing than the look auto mechanics give you when you try to explain what's wrong with your car. "It's making this cluck-cluck-cluck sound when you turn the wheel--" and then, of course, it never does when THEY try it. So basically, I was screwed. A hot car guy. In a cowboy hat. And boots. And beautiful eyes.  Zach what?

Perhaps I stared a little too long. Mr Cowboy Man tipped his hat in greeting, and raised one eyebrow questioningly, a smile just tweaking his lips. "Miss? Is there something wrong?"

"Umm, no... I have a car." I winced inwardly. At least it wasn't a watermelon?

His eyes crinkled up at the corners. Deep brown gorgeous eyes. "Well, I did happen to notice that. I have a truck."

Melissa, what is wrong with you? I thought to myself. Get it together! He thinks you're an idiot. I shook myself and straightened up. "So you do," I smiled back at him. "I bet yours actually moves, though. Mine appears to be a bit dead."

"Let's take a look at it, then." He stopped and extended his hand to shake the one I had dropped. "I'm Kyle, by the way."

"I put mine in his much larger palm and tried to shake it firmly. "Melissa.  It's nice to meet you, Kyle." And please stop smiling at me.

"So what appears to be wrong with it, Melissa? Any ideas?"

Did I look like I knew anything about cars?  No way I was saying "cluck-cluck" to this pretty cowboy. "I was just driving along, and there was a big bang and smoke and--  I did look under the hood.  I think it might be--" I searched for a car-sounding word... "--the flux capacitor."  That sounded good.

Slowly, he repeated, "The flux..."

"Capacitor, right," I confirmed.

He looked at me strangely for a few seconds and suddenly turned to my car. "Right, well that's certainly... possible," he finally finished.  Kyle poked around under the hood a bit, looking closely at what I thought was the engine... or the carburetor... or... something.

"Anything?" I asked, hoping it would be cheap.

He removed his hat to wipe an arm across his brow.  "Well, Melissa... I'm going to need to tow you into town. I think you're might need a new timing belt.  And I'm probably going to want to take a look at your... flux capacitor." There was something about the way he said that which gave me pause, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it.

I guess we were going to town-- wherever that was.

Chapter 3

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