Bethany Canton stepped off the train and stood motionless on the platform. Her eyes and ears tried adjusting to her new surroundings as strangers of all ages and types jostled by her; while here and there, a few leaned against the wall or rested on their luggage staring deeply into their various electronics. Still others- lucky enough to not be alone- chatted over lattes. All the while tinted music lilted in the background interrupted only by the occasional announcement over the loudspeaker.
She knew there would be no one to meet her. But for some reason, she dazedly stood there, glancing around as if there would magically appear a familiar face. But that, of course, would be impossible. Still, she remained there for at least two minutes as if unable to budge before she finally, slowly began making her way into the main part of the station. Her stomach now starting to protest her lack of lunch, she plodded on with one hand pulling her large luggage piece on wheels, the other clutching her purse and carry-on – both which hung over her shoulder and threatened to slip off to the ground- or drag her down with them, she wasn’t sure which.
She soon found herself heading straight to the snack bar.
It seemed as if hours passed before the slow-moving line finally line moved her to the front – where she promptly ordered a large bottled water and a muffin, plunked down at the one remaining empty table, and finally felt herself almost beginning to relax. She knew she needed this “pick-me-up” before beginning the last leg of my journey, even though she assumed the rest would be relatively easy. Call a cab and ride to the home that I would be staying for the next six months. Simple enough. But as she nibbled at my blueberry muffin, she wondered…
Was she really making the right decision? Here she was in a strange town and not knowing a soul. Quitting her no-where, nine to five and staying at her aunt and uncle’s empty house while they sailed around the globe for a half a year… just so she- a wannabe writer- could devote some uninterrupted time attempting to finish her first novel. Not exactly a practical move, she conceded dismally as she took another swallow of her water.
Okay, maybe the “coming here just to write a novel” bit wasn’t completely all there was to this if she were to be truly honest. Wasn’t it also to escape a bit of the recent heartache and hopefully start a new life- away from the constant memories everywhere she looked? She blinked….her mind just refused to go back and mull over the two year relationship that took a nose dive and crashed a few months back, leaving her world suddenly stark. She had been down that road over and over until there were tread marks and it did nothing to help. She had to move on.
So now here she sat- twenty-three years old and half way across the country in bustling Omaha, Nebraska. Well, maybe not exactly bustling, but compared to her tiny little hometown where she had spent most of her life, nearly any city seemed like a metropolis. She had only visited here once before, years ago with her family. But back then, her glimpse of the city had been confined to the airport and her relatives’ home- a home which was sold just few years later after Uncle John passed away.
Yes, for a girl who had never really been on her own, this was certainly a long way from Collins, Idaho. Far away from her family, her friends and acquaintances – from everybody she knew. But by everybody, this also meant not running into that one familiar face that could cause her heart to turn inside out. And not running into him was definitely a good thing.
Bethany had paid the cab fare and the taxi was now pulling away, leaving her alone, as she trudged up the elegant walkway toward her aunt and uncle’s front door. She found herself staring at the prestigious looking house looming before her. No…”house” wasn’t exactly the right word. Estate fit the description a little more accurately. Or castle la grandeur, she thought, gazing at the newly-built home before her.
Though she had assumed that her mother’s sister and her new husband must be doing okay to be trotting the globe almost constantly, she somehow never pictured their home as looking so grand. Nor had she pictured herself house-sitting in the lap of luxury! Not that it was really a mansion…in fact; the whole street had equally expensive-looking homes. But she was so accustomed to her parents’ small, simple, no-nonsense three-bedroom house and modest surroundings that were the norm of Collins.
Her first impression was confirmed when she retrieved the spare house key she’d been given and unlocked the front door.
She stepped into the foyer and immediately her eyes were drawn up…high vaulted ceilings above her majestically housed a large, glittering chandelier; at the end of the vast entry way on either side, white pillars stood regally keeping guard. As her gaze swept around, she noticed the elegant sitting room to the right. She made note of the matching floral patterned loveseat and Queen Anne chair, the rich cherry wood coffee table and large bookcase with glass doors and the delicate porcelain figures which adorned the fireplace mantle.
She took a deep intake of breath. And then the thought struck her- how different the two worlds between that of her mom and her mother's sister’s had become, at least in a material sense. Surely, her mom didn’t fully fathom just how different.
For as long as she could remember, though Aunt Louise had always been just a step above their family financially it had seemed only a step. When she was growing up and her family visited Aunt Louise’s family- which consisted then of her first husband and their four children- their home always seemed just a bit larger, just a bit fancier, and their gadgets just a bit newer.
Three years ago, after her first husband passed away, Aunt Louise re-married. Unable to fly out from Idaho for their small wedding, they had hosted them for an overnight stay on their way to catch a flight for their Alaskan cruise.
Her new husband was an oral surgeon in his last year before retirement. In the brief time they spent with them, he had seemed amiable but sophisticated, and almost dashing with his full head of snow white hair. Aunt Louise had looked over the moon happy as she hung on his arm and proclaimed that they “planned on doing a lot of traveling.”
For the next three years, Bethany supposed they did just that. Newsletters at Christmastime would announce all their various destinations. But other than these and an occasional email, no one heard from them often.
So it still felt unbelievable to find herself standing here, entrusted with their home- this home- for the next six months. It’s not as though they had ever been close. It had all just come about as quickly as plans were made, and everything just seemed to fall into place.
So now here she stood. In a different city, a different state and an elegant home all to herself where at the end of six months, she would either end up feeling completely lost and defeated -or come away feeling rejuvenated, successful... and with a finished novel under her belt. She was really hoping it was going to be the second option.
Bethany set down her luggage, gently closing the door behind her. Finding her way to the closest comfortable-looking chair, she sank into it and closed her eyes. She hadn’t realized just how exhausted she was until that moment. Shutting off all uncertainty of her new little adventure, she felt my muscles begin to finally unwind. Before she had even realized it, she had actually drifted off to sleep.
She wasn’t sure how long she remained there on the cushiony chair, deep in dreamless sleep. But after a while, there came a sudden knock on the door that made her leap into mid-air. Well, perhaps not leap exactly, but she bolted upright, her heart beating like a jack-hammer, and looked around, blinking. The realization of where she was slowly came into focus.
Rubbing the sleep out of her eyes, Bethany got up and made an automatic motion to smooth out her wrinkled clothes, though she knew it was probably a lost cause. She cautiously opened the front door and found herself squinting in the bright sunlight at a silhouetted figure that seemed to smile as he held out several envelopes.
“Hi,” came the voice. “I’m your neighbor from a few houses down and it looks like they sent me your mail by mistake.”
She blinked a few times to adjust my eyes and observed this apparent neighbor of her aunt’s to be a man- perhaps in his early thirties, wearing long denim shorts and a sky-blue t-shirt. His friendly eyes were smiling at her, while next to him stood an equally friendly golden retriever, panting slightly and wagging its tail as if it completely expected her to start a game of fetch. They both seemed to be eyeing her as if they were all old friends, and instinctively she felt her guard relax just a tad.
Bethany reached out and took the mail being offered her way. “Thank you,” she said, glancing down at it absently but managing to indeed catch her aunt and uncle’s names on one of the pieces of mail.
“I don’t think we’ve met yet,” he said, extending his hand once more. “I’m David Bridleson. I don’t know if you noticed the moving truck a few weeks ago…”
“I…uh, no,” she seemed to stammer. Why was she stammering? It must have been the grogginess. “I mean, I’m only visiting. House-sitting, actually. This is my aunt and uncle’s place.”
“Oh, I see. Nice…well, it seems we both just arrived, then?”
She tried not to pay attention to the fact that this stranger in front of her was the nicest looking guy she had had a conversation with in months. Not to mention, he looked kind of sweet. His light brown hair had a bit of a natural curl to it and his eyes- what shade of blue would you call that, ocean blue?- seemed to convey a genuineness. She suddenly realized, self-consciously, that she must look a mess after dozing on the arm chair for who knows how long.
“Yes, only today, in fact. I’m Bethany,” she added, remembering she hadn’t yet actually officially introduced herself. She started to say more, but then caught herself. Okay, so he was kind of cute and his dog was adorable, too… but she probably shouldn’t divulge all sorts of information to this complete and total stranger at her door- kindly, ocean-blue eyes notwithstanding.
(TO BE CONTINUED...)
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