Hello, and thank you for inviting me to join you on Tuesday Tales. For those who follow my blog, here’s a quick explanation. Each week, a group of very talented authors blog and write a story or a scene based on the word of the week. They identify the genre and heat level for you and the first few lines are entered on the main website where you’re invited to read the entries of any and all that interest you.
So, shall we begin? I’m starting a brand new story just for this. I’ve titled it, Hello Again. I hope you enjoy meeting Charley! This week, the word prompt is “stiff.”
Charley, aka Charlotte, Winters forced the last box into the backseat, wiped her brow with the back of her hand, and stretched her stiff back. The hot, early summer sun beat down mercilessly on her beat-up, compact car loaded to the roof and beyond with everything she owned. There was no coming back. She hoped Matilda would make it to Drumheller, Alberta. The last thing she needed was for her rust bucket to up and die along the way. It wouldn’t be the first time the car needed CPR, but it would probably be the last, and then where would she be?—stuck up shit creek without a paddle.
She’d made the decision to look for a new teaching position last spring, one that would let her use the skills and knowledge she loved. Teaching English could be fun, but not anywhere near as exciting as stripping down an engine and rebuilding it. She loved working with cars, and few places appreciated the fact a woman could be every bit as good as a man in that department. Mike had understood that, and if there were just an ounce of justice in this world, she’d be running her own garage now, with him by her side, encouraging her and facing the future together. Instead, she was alone, teaching English to year after year of bored rich kids, while most of her dreams were still on hold, others lost forever.
“I wished you’d sprung for a new ride,” said Miri coming up to stand beside her and handing her a sweating bottle of water. “I know you have magic hands when it comes to engines, but this thing’s nearly thirty years old. She’s ready for the automobile graveyard. You almost had enough, and I’d have come up with the difference.”
Charley chuckled. “Yes, but then I’d have nothing left in the bank for a rainy day. I don’t have a monthly trust fund to draw from like your fiancé does, and my widow’s benefit won’t pay for a cheap hotel room, let alone food and necessities.”
Miri made a face. “Well if you weren’t so damn determined to do this on your own …”
The tall, willowy brunette looked nothing like a math teacher, but she’d be leaving White Pines Academy in the spring and if Charley had stayed, she’d have been more alone than ever. There were 6,000 souls who made Claymore, a small town on the Quebec-Ontario border, home, and few of the single men were brave enough to make friends with the staff at the exclusive girl’s school—call it what it was—boot camp for disobedient young ladies whose parents had enough money to try and fix them. Sometimes it worked, but too often it didn’t.
“Matilda may have seen better days, but I’ve got that engine purring like a pussy cat, and the AC has a brand new condenser. She’ll make it. Don’t worry. I’m booked into bed and breakfasts each night, and I’m spending extra time in a number of cities. I’ll be off the highway by nightfall, I promise. I’m travelling the Trans-Canada, not isolated dirt roads. It’ll take me two weeks to get there, but it’ll be worth it. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, item twenty-six on my bucket list.”
“I still don’t understand why you have to go so far away,” Miri complained. “I know you wanted to get away and make a new life for yourself, but do you have to go over 2,000 miles to do it? Couldn’t you have found a teaching job in Toronto or Ottawa?”
Charley put her arm around her friend’s shoulder. “You know why I couldn’t go to Toronto. The place is full of memories. No matter where I went, what I did, I’d remember something Mike and I had done or planned to do together. It would be like rubbing salt in a wound. I’ve done that long enough. I can’t do it anymore. Miri, I’m thirty years old. I can’t live the rest of my life what if-ing, wishing things had been different. They aren’t, and I have to accept that. As far as Ottawa goes, we met at school there. Any time I went near Carleton University, the past would drown me again. I know Alberta’s far away, but you can come to visit, and we can Skype. The Internet has made the world a much smaller place. There aren’t too many places willing to hire a woman to teach auto mechanics and technology. If I wanted to teach English, I could have my pick, but …”
“I know, you want to prove you’re the best, but I’ll miss you.”
“I’m going to miss this place and you, too, but you and Jim are getting married in six months. You won’t need me hanging around. That Mayan Riviera wedding you have planned is my beacon, my life line. If I hate being the round peg in a square hole, I promise to reconsider and come back next fall.”
Charley turned to greet the other staff members who’d come to say goodbye. The private girls’ school/reform school had been her home for the past five years. Had it really been only five years? At times, she’d have sworn she’d been here, alone, forever.
“We’ll miss you, Ms. Winters,” Abigail Connors, the principal smiled at her and held out her hand, “but I think this move is a good one for you. We’ll have to find someone else to maintain our vehicles, but you deserve to find your niche in the world. As much as White Pines has benefited from your expertise, you haven’t been living, you’ve existing, and that’s not good for anyone.”
Charley looked into the woman’s kind, blue eyes. Six years ago, this job offer, complete with a home, had been a godsend. Now, once more Abigail had come to her aid, contacting the school board out west and praising her abilities. She’d helped her secure the job at the local high school, arranged for an apartment in the small town of Drumheller, and helped her with her travel plans. Who said she didn’t have a fairy godmother? Abigail had helped her as much as she did the wayward girls who gave her the opportunity to do so. Maybe she was just another lost child looking to find herself. She’d certainly been adrift since Mike had died.
Tears brimmed Charley’s eyes. “I’ll miss all of you, this place, and the students, but you’re right. I need to spread my wings.”
She hugged each of the teachers in turn, bid a final tearful goodbye to Miri promising to call as soon as she got settled, and climbed into the front seat of her red Pontiac. The car had tuned into a miniature oven while it sat awaiting her. She turned the key and the engine started. Cranking down the window and cranking up the AC, she checked the traffic and eased away for the curb waving to those who watched her go. She pushed the button to turn on the radio and smiled when Born To Be Wild blared in the car.
This is it. No backing down, no going back. Alberta, here I come.
She swallowed and wiped away the last of her tears. She needed to be in Peterborough by nightfall.
That’s it for this week. Don’t forget to check out all the other great story starts at Tuesday Tales