Authors: Ava Catori
Copyright 2013, Ava Catori
This book is a work of fiction.
Kristin parked in front of the small office, her dog by her side. This was it, the start of her new life. She hoped this year was better than last. Her mother called it running away, but how could her mother understand what she’d been through? Widowed on her honeymoon, her entire world came crashing down. She was still in shock, some days it took her down to her knees, and crying into her hands, begging for mercy. Other days she was simply numb. Either way, life would never be the same.
He’d wanted to try the zip line, but she was too nervous, and when it snapped, taking him down from the tree tops to the ground in one quick succession, she knew he’d fallen too far to survive. She’d heard the snapping of the twigs from above, but nobody knew what was happening until it was too late. Medics, tears, the heartache, and horror of the day rushed through her mind over and over, though at least most of the nightmares had finally stopped.
Greg’s life was over, and she had to find some way to pick up the pieces of her life and start over.
They were about to buy a house, about to settle down and start a family
, but those dreams had been crushed and were gone.
“I’ll be right back, Molly,” she
patted her yellow lab on the head. Climbing out of her truck, she turned around to see Molly’s head out the passenger side window, sniffing the new atmosphere.
The small real estate office was clustered with a few other shops and retailers on the narrow street. She’d found the place on the map, throwing a dart at the atlas hanging on the wall. She didn’t care where it landed, it was better than staying at home. She’d quit her job, packed up her things, and found a place to rent. She’d stay for a year, working on some writing she’d wanted to do, maybe some painting, and then decide where life would take her after that. It didn’t really matter, she felt empty without Greg.
A brass bell clanged as she opened the door, alerting the agent she was there. Calling out from another room, “I’ll be there in a second,” she shouted. On coming back into the room, she apologized. “Sorry about that, I’m also the town notary, next door. I just go between the two places, so if you need something notarized you can come to either of the places.”
.” Kristin looked at the stocky woman. She waddled as she walked, and had short tight curls bobbing on her head. She was easily over fifty and had a smoker’s smile, with fine lines forming crevices around her lips. “Now what can I do for you.”
Kristin Shaw, we spoke on the phone. I’m renting the Jenkins’s place.”
Oh right, the keys are here,” she said digging under a counter. “You owe us a check, and watch for wildlife if you’re not used to those things back where you’re from. Especially trash or food, you want to seal that up really tight. There’s a list of things that will help you with basics around here, but basically, any essentials you need you’ll find in town. If you can’t find them here, you don’t need them. The post office will take delivery of packages for you, but you’ll need to come in to town to collect your mail. You might want to check in with Sadie at the post office, and let her know you’ve arrived. Nobody’s lived at the Jenkins’s place for a bit, so tell her you’ll be staying there.”
listened as the woman spoke; hoping she’d remember the details she was spitting out like it was common knowledge. This was the most remote she’d ever been, back home everything was nearby. She’d have another forty minute drive to get to the property, and while most of it was paved, she’d be hitting gravel and dirt roads the closer she got to her cabin in the woods. She’d rented it for a year, almost on a whim, not sure what to do with herself. Solitude felt right – and thoughts of renewing her creative soul.
Realizing she’d better stock up, since running into town wouldn’t be a daily encounter and more like a weekly one, she made a mental list while finishing with the realtor.
Thanking the woman for her time, she took her keys and headed out to her truck.
She found a tall man,
somewhere near his late thirties, petting Molly’s head, which was still happily out the window.
“Hey,” she said, walking around.
“Howdy,” he smiled, “Ty Addison,” he offered his hand.
Kristin Shaw, it’s nice to meet you.”
“What brings you to Chester Hills?”
“Change of pace,” she said. “Would you be so kind as to point me to the post office?”
“Just two doors down that way,” he said pointing. “Where are you from?” He wasn’t sure he wanted her to leave just yet. She was a pretty girl, her eyes
were blue like the sky, her hair lightened from the sun, a soft blonde with streaks.
“Oh,” his voice went flat.
“Not a fan?”
“Not especially, most east coasters that come out this way don’t respect the land and nature. They come out here, take what they want, tramp around like some tourist looking for a ghost town, and…” he stopped himself. “Yeah, let’s just say we haven’t had the best experience with you folk.”
“So we’re all the same, no benefit of the doubt?”
“Haven’t met many Easterner’s I’ve been fond of. Most want to buy up the land and turn this place into something it’s not. This is my home, not some amusement park. Your type should just stick to your crowded cities and highways.”
My type? I apologize to have inconvenienced your life by coming out west. I thought we all lived in the same free country,” she said, hoping the rest of the town wasn’t so narrow minded. “Anyway, I need to get to the post office.”
he excused herself and headed to the post office to talk to Sadie. Shame he was so shallow. On first glance, he was an attractive man, but it was obvious by his personality that this attractiveness was only skin deep.
After stopping in the post office,
Kristin went over to the market, stocking up on some supplies, and then rejoined Molly. “I got you some treats,” she smiled, and patted the dog on her head. “Why don’t we find a place for you to relieve yourself, and then we’ll head to our new home, girl.” The thump, thump, thump of her dog’s otter-like tail hit the seat of the truck.
She was grateful to have Molly. She would have been lost without her. She patiently listened to her ramble on, cry, and s
at with her through it all. She was getting old and her stride was a little slower, but she was healthy and strong. Molly was just over ten years old, and the best friend she ever had.
’s twenty-seventh birthday had just passed, but there was no celebration, just a quiet night at home with Molly, and a dart thrown at a wall to determine her new location. Chester Hills, Wyoming won.
There weren’t any traffic lights in town, which brought home just how small of a place this was. Just a four way stop and old brick and stick built buildings that were older than she was. Pulling out the map that the realtor had given her, she double checked her directions, and then started her truck.
Everything she wanted was with her – she left everything else behind. Things held no value anymore, and except for a few trinkets and her computer, she’d only packed clothes and odds and ends that make life easier. The cabin came fully furnished, so she didn’t need to worry about kitchenware, she simply needed food.
Backing up, she pulled her truck out into the road. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the shallow Ty Addison coming out of a small shop. That man was a menace to society with his narrow-minded ways. How dare he assume just because I’m from New Jersey, that I’d be a certain way.
, she huffed.
Kristin’s truck move down the road. Glancing down, he noticed her license plate, another east coaster, coming to use up his land and then go on their way. They didn’t need more of her kind around here, especially after what happened down in Lawrence last year.
Ty shook his head, thinking of the mess the company had left behind, tearing down trees, paving up an area, and then bailing on the amusement park they wanted to put in. All that was left were steel beams, half bui
lt amusements, all fenced up with barbed wire surrounding it, making it look like some junkyard. They decided it would be a financial loss before finishing, and then left it for everyone to look at. They had no intention of cleaning it up. They’d snapped up huge portions of land at a good price, and they could do what they pleased with it at this point. Only the town people that had to see it when they passed through were reminded once again what east coasters thought of their home – a cheap place to build and use up space, taking nature down, and destroying the beauty of Wyoming.
turned off of the main road onto a gravel one. Dust kicked up behind her as she traveled the next portion of her trip. One last turn onto a dirt road without a name, this was going to be tricky. The realtor said there’s a sign, a small painted one – but there weren’t a lot of roads jutting out, so that would help narrow it down.
saw a wooden handmade sign with white paint on it, offering a rural route number. That must be it, she squinted, reading the sign, and then turned left. She saw the cabin’s driveway not far up the road. A big rock was painted white to signify the path, just as the realtor had mentioned. Turning into the driveway, she slowed down, taking it all in. She’d seen pictures of it online, but in person, the reality of what she was doing kicked in.
Her heart beat loudly in her chest, and gripping the steering wheel, her palms
grew sweaty. She hoped this wasn’t a mistake – it was such a random, last minute decision.
The wooden cabin sat tucked under a cove of trees. Parking her truck, she let Molly out and checked the grounds before going inside. The fence needed some work, and the gate didn’t close properly.
Kristin frowned, realizing she’d have to fix the gate somehow, so Molly didn’t wander off.
“Come on, girl,” she said, jiggling the keys for the front door.
Climbing two small steps, she was on a small covered porch with a swing. She pictured sitting outside in the morning, drinking her coffee, and a tingle of excitement rushed through her. Opening the door, she was met with a combined living room, dining room space, and the kitchen area. It wasn’t large, but it was more than enough space for her and Molly. Turning down the small hallway, she found a washer and dryer in a closet, and then the bathroom and one bedroom. This was perfect for what she needed, and would become home for the next year. The solitude was exactly what she needed.
Lugging her things in from the back of her truck, she realized she’d have to be careful to watch her gas tank, being that far away from town. She’d be stuck in the middle of nowhere if she ran out of gas. There weren’t gas stations on every other corner like back at home.
After bringing her stuff in and unpacking, Kristin settled onto the porch swing. Molly followed her and curled up nearby. It was peaceful, serene, and absolutely beautiful. She’d never seen so much open space. Back east it was so congested, a shopping complex around every corner, and cars everywhere. The silence was so different. She listened to nature, birds, leaves gently rustling, and knew she’d made the right decision to come out here.
Climbing out of bed, Kristin stretched. She’d slept more soundly than she had in ages, exhausted from her trip. It felt funny being somewhere completely different, realizing this was home for the next year. At first she had trouble falling asleep, listening to new noises she wasn’t used to, but soon it became white noise, and it lulled her to sleep.
Molly stood and stretched. Only
as she walked she stumbled, her legs not wanting to hold her up.
“What’s going on, girl? Are you okay?”
Molly walked toward her, looking as if she was drunk. What happened to her legs? Kristin backed up and called Molly over. She was stumbling again, almost clumsy, tilting toward the side.
In a panic, she threw open cabinets and drawers looking for a phonebook. She was too far away from town – and didn’t know where the vet
’s office was.
Finally finding the phonebook on top of the fridge, she scrambled, flying through the pages in a panic.
There were two listings for veterinarians. She saw that one did house calls, called Country Vets.
Grabbing her phone, she called, her eyes never leaving Molly.
“Country Vets,” the girl answered.
explained what was happening, and tried to keep the panic out of her voice. Molly was everything to her, and help was so far away…
The girl took her information, and told her the doctor would be heading out shortly, and should be there within the hour.
Kristin watched the clock and Molly with intensity, willing the clock to move faster, and praying that Molly would be okay.
When she heard the
truck door close, she ran out to greet the doctor. Caught by surprise, she recognized his face.
“What’s going on,” Dr. Ty Addison asked on arrival.
Kristin let her previous feelings go, and brought him to Molly. “She can barely walk; she stumbles and keeps falling over.” She was holding back the tears that wanted to spill out, fear of losing her dog and best friend.
“Okay,” he said squatting in front of her. “Hey girl, how are you doing today?” He spoke softly, and looked her over. Talking over his shoulder, “Do you see how her eye here is going back and forth quickly? It’s enough to make you dizzy, and that’s what she’s feeling.”
“Wow, yeah,” she noticed Molly’s pupils sliding left to right and back in rapid succession.
“It looks like Vestibular Disorder,” he said, “but I’m going to check her over. It happens in older dogs at times.” Almost reading her mind, he answered, “She may get worse before she gets better, and it usually clears up on its own. It’s going to take a couple of weeks, but she should be okay. I’ve got some medication; it will help her with the dizziness. She may throw up, but it’s related to the off-center feeling she’s having.”
He was direct, in control, and gave Kristin a sense of calm. He knew what he was talking about.
Exhaling deeply, “She’s going to be okay? I wouldn’t know what to do if…”
“She’ll be fine. She’s going to be wobbly for a bit, but most dogs pull through.” Pulling out a card from his pocket, he handed it to Kristin. “This is my direct line. Signal out here is spotty, so you can also reach the line you called. If you’re concerned at all, give me a shout, and I’ll come out and check her again. I’m just going to go out to the truck and grab some medication. If this doesn’t help her, let me know, and we’ll try something else, but you’d have to go into town to get it filled. Hopefully what I have with me will help her out. She’s going to be okay.”
“Thank you so much,” she sighed, but was now visibly shaking, her adrenalin still in high gear.
Ty put his hand on Kristin’s shoulder, and looked into her eyes. “She’s going to be okay. I know she means a lot to you.”
She nodded, suddenly realizing how alone she was, and how far away she was from help if she needed it. Maybe this wasn’t a good idea after all. It was silly to think she could just take off into the middle of no man’s land and
figure things out.
Of all the people in the world to show up, she hadn’t expected it to be the man from the day before, and yet today he was a completely different person. He was reassuring, made her feel safe, and was able to help comfort her.
Ty hadn’t expected to see the new girl in town when he got the call, but on seeing her face again, he was reminded what a natural beauty she was. She wasn’t made up, in fact she looked like she’d just climbed out of bed, and still the way her hair framed her face…and when she looked up at him, scared for her dog, those gorgeous eyes – he didn’t want to look away.
“I’m going to grab that medication for you,” he said, heading out to his truck.
Kristin watched him walk out, realizing she wanted him to stay a little bit longer. She suddenly felt very alone. Sitting on the floor with Molly, she soothed her. Her otter tail wagged at Kristin in a small movement.
When the doctor walked back in with the tablets, he instructed
Kristin how to use them, how often to give her a dose, and reminded her to call him if she got much worse.
“Yesterday,” she finally said quietly. “I think we got off on the wrong footing. And thank you for your time today.”
He nodded, “I apologize; I came off harshly. It’s nice to meet you,” his voice softening.
“While you’re here, can I ask you if you know where I can get some hardware goods?”
“What do you need it for?”
“I need to fix the gate out back,” she said.
“Do you want me to look at it for you?”
“I don’t want to bother you.”
“It’s no bother. You have to be handy to live in the outskirts of town, and I’ve gotten good at finding easy fixes for most things over time.”
She led him to the gate, Molly stumbling behind them, and then falling.
“Molly,” Kristin ran over, “are you okay?”
“It’s hard to watch, but just know she’s stumbling from the dizziness. It will get better.”
She started to tear up, “I thought I might lose her.”
“I understand, but she should make a full recovery,” he said, trying to offer some optimism.
“Let me go look at that gate for you,” he said, going over and checking the fencing. “It looks like it’s out of alignment. I can bring some stuff over and have this fixed for you in no time. I don’t have tools in this truck, but I’ll get this repaired for you this week.”
“Really? Thank you so much, let me know how much I owe you.”
“Out here you help your
neighbors; it’s how we all get by. It’s what we do.”
“At least let me offer you something to eat, maybe a drink,” she said, amazed by his kindness. It was unexpected after yesterday’s meeting.
“A sandwich would be nice, thanks,” he said, heading back inside with her.
“Oh good, I’m starving too.” Thankfully she’d grabbed some supplies and food before leaving town yesterday.
Sitting at the table, they made small talk. She thought she wanted solitude, but realizing he’d be leaving soon – Kristin realized how lonely she was. This last year she’d isolated herself after losing Greg, but sitting here talking, it felt nice, and made her realize that while she wanted quiet, company was nice too.
She looked across the table at the doctor. He spoke with passion about the animals he treated, and shared
some of his experiences with her. When he spoke, he drew you in, his voice warm and deep. There was something soothing in his tone, and it lulled her into a sense of security. He was an attractive man, something that was hard to notice yesterday when they got off on the wrong foot.
She noticed small crinkles at the corners of his eyes when he smiled, and his tanned skin said he worked outside as often as he worked inside. His smile was genuine, and made her want to smile back.
As Ty spoke, he looked at the girl across from him. She couldn’t be more than thirty, and had the softest skin. He wanted to reach out and touch her cheek, which took him by surprise. Sitting across from the girl he realized that he was attracted to the woman from New Jersey, whether he wanted to admit it or not.
Finishing up, Ty needed to head out. He had appointments later this afternoon to attend to. Thanking him for his time, and writing a check for the house visit and medication, they parted ways.
The truck backed out of her driveway, and Kristin turned to check on Molly. “I know girl, very weird. I wasn’t expecting him.” She had a small smile on her face thinking about the handsome man that had just left. This is wrong – she hadn’t thought about a man since she lost her husband. Pushing away the feelings, she brushed it off.
“Let’s clean up, and get you your medication started,” she said to her buddy who sat looking at her.