Oh, this is so exciting! I have absolutely no idea where this book is going to take me. It could wind up a work of art or a complete failure! It could come together well or make no sense at all. Whatever happens, it's okay. Sometimes when you're writing a series or a new book you need to walk away and have some fun just...creating. So here it goes! No editing, no redo parts, just good old fashion fingers to keyboard. I hope you enjoy and remember sign up to www.sarahgai.com and every time there is a new update, you will know xoxo
The town looked as good as any, I decided as I pulled the car into the only diner it contained. Willow brook, population 215 the sign read, as I had driven past it and into the town centre. From what I could see, it consisted of one general store, a post office, gas station, bar and the diner I was parked in front of. I figured no one would look for me here. That's what I wanted. A place to hide, where no one knew me, my past or the sins I had committed.
Turning my rust bucket of a car off, an old VW beetle I had picked up for two hundred dollars cash, I opened up the stiff, creaky drivers side door and stepped out. Stretching every tired and achy muscle in my body, I raised my hands towards the sky, twisting my neck in circular motions. It felt good. For weeks all I had been doing was driving. The times I had stopped, it was just me and a sleeping bag in the back seat. I had no destination in mind or direction that particularly took my interest. After passing through more towns than I could count and taking more roads, leading to somewhere yet no where, I was tired. This was why I had made the decision that the last stop of the day would be my last stop for quite a while.
As the sun was setting I had driven into this one horse town, called Willow brook. It sounded sweet and whimsical. With the Alaskan mountains as a back drop, the dreary weather matching the way the I felt, I figured what more could I ask for? Reaching back in through the driver side door, I grabbed my purse, before slamming the rusty hinges shut.
The gravel beneath my boots crunched, as I made my way towards the diners entrance. It was a well kept place, you could tell the owners cared for it. The windows were clean and the sign above the building didn't flicker. Mary- Jeans diner shined and glowed, letting passersby know that she was open for business. Opening the front door I walked on through, the warm air hitting me immediately and I sighed. It was the middle of August and the weather was severe. It was only by some miracle that I managed to keep my car on the road, without tyre chains.
I looked around as I pulled the beanie from my head, and spotted an empty booth right near the door. Looked like everyone in town was piled into the eating hole and taking up nearly every available space. It also seemed like they had never seen a stranger before as every eye was zoned in on me. I tried not to let it get to me. The last thing I wanted was everyones attention.
I slid into the booth, my hands reaching for the menu as I kept my head down. People began to talk again, obviously over their assessment of me and I settled deeper into the seat feeling relieved. For a moment there I almost hightailed it back to the car and set off again
"What can I get ya hun?" a sweet high pitched voice asked. I looked up and smiled. The lady was maybe mid thirties, blonde hair pulled back in a severe bun, bright pink lipstick and a smile that for some reason made me feel...safe?. I shook my head. No that's not right, why would a smile make me feel anything? Especially from a complete stranger I met just ten seconds ago. All the same it did. I looked at the name tag on her dress. Gabby.
"Sweetie, you okay?" she asked, one eyebrow raised in concern.
"Oh sorry, yes. Just tired from the drive is all" I waved off her worry. "I'll just grab a coffee and a large fries and gravy thanks" I placed my order. Gabby scribbled on her notepad and smiled down at me again.
"Sure thing, won't be too long" she turned on her heels and sauntered off. As I waited for my order to come, I looked through the diner's window and stared at my car. I didn't think that old girl had much left in her and was thankful I had decided to stop in Willow Brook for a few months at least. But now what?, I thought. As I pondered my next move, I heard the plate being placed down on the table in front of me.
"There you go. Your fries and coffee," Gabby sang. Her voice so happy and light.
"Thank you" I managed to smile back up at her. It felt foreign and something I hadn't done in a long while. Before she could turn and walk away I quickly spoke again, "Can I ask you a question?".
"Sure thing, what can I help ya with?"
"Is there a hotel around here? Or somewhere I could lodge for a while?". I watched as Gabby tapped her index finger against her chin, contemplating what to tell me. Honestly, I didn't think it was that hard of a question.
"That depends. I could direct you towards Franks hotel, about five minutes down the road, it's nice and all. Or...What's your name sweetie?". I sipped at my coffee, contemplating myself, just as Gabby had about whether to give her my real name or not. But like before I felt...safe. It was a weird feeling, yet my gut was never wrong about people. So I told her the truth.
"It's Sarah and you're Gabby", I held out my hand. She grinned even wider. "Yep, that's me. Nice to meet you Sarah", she held out her hand and we shook.
"So, what was the or?. You said you could send me to Frank's or?" I questioned.
"Ah, yes. Well, I mean if you're just staying a few days that would be the place to go. But, if you're planning on hanging around a little longer, my Aunt Thea has a cabin for rent about two miles from town, real cheap". My eyes lit up, like a child on Christmas morning. She didn't need to say another word.
"Yes what?" she frowned.
"Yes, I'll take the cabin. I'm hoping to...holiday here for a few months,". Gabby's eyebrow peaked as she gave me a one sided smile.
"Holiday huh?". I nodded around a mouth full of fries.
"Whatever you say, sweetie". Seriously, who is this girl?, I thought to myself. I had literally met her two minutes ago, yet it felt as if she was peering into my mind. As if even the simple lies I was trying to tell her didn't work. For a moment I questioned whether staying in the town was the right decision. No one could know who I was. I hadn't run only to be discovered. Sarah, you're just being paranoid, I chastised.
"I get off my shift at 6:30, so if you can hang around for another half an hour, you can follow me in your car and i'll take you to meet Thea?". I nodded my head in thanks and Gabby walked off and back to work. The tension I had been carrying in me shoulders eased as I thought about the night ahead. No more driving. Finally a place to call home.
I was on my second cup of coffee, blankly staring out into the night sky through the window once again waiting for Gabby to finish her shift, when I heard the sweet melodic sound of her voice.
“Okay, shift’s finished, ready to go?” she sauntered over to me. I scooted out of the booth and stood at full height. I just reached to Gabby’s shoulders, which wasn’t surprising. At 5’2 most people were taller than I was. I wondered for a second what on earth kept Gabby in such a tiny town. She was beautiful, with her long legs and slim build. She really could have made it in New York as a model. I could even see her as some high powered business woman, in a pencil skirt and suit jacket. Not the waitress uniform and orthopaedic shoes she was sporting. Then again who was I to judge. Maybe she was hiding like I was, Maybe she loved her job, Maybe she had a tragic story of her own.
“You seem to zone out a lot. Do you know that?” she giggled and I instantly blushed with embarrassment.
“Yeah, sorry about that, I really am exhausted and I just need to find a bed to crash in” I explained. “So yes, I’m ready to go if you are." Gabby walked past me and opened the diners front door waving for me to follow. She started almost skipping to the large red truck parked at the end of the lot. “Just follow behind me,” she shouted over her shoulder as she unlocked the cars door and hoisted her self up. I nodded even though she couldn’t see me. Quickly I hopped into the drivers seat and cranked the engine, pulling out of the car park.
It was only a mere five minute drive, when Gabby pulled her truck into the driveway of her Aunts house. I parked the car on the side of the street and jumped out. Gabby was waiting for me at the front porch stairs to a little weatherboard cottage, nestled amongst similar houses. In the daylight I was sure it would have been a house to be admired. As the cold wind whipped around me, I really didn’t want to stand and appreciate anything, so I climbed the steps to follow Gabby inside the front door and out of the chill.
“Aunt Thea, you’ve got company,” Gabby shouted down the hallways entrance. Turning to me, “She’s probably in the kitchen. She can’t hear all too well these days,” she explained. With that statement she turned again and made her way down the hall, making a right into the quaint country style kitchen.
A small woman about my height, had her back to me, humming a tune as she stirred a pot at the stove. Short grey hair, with tight curls crowned her scalp. I stood at the entry way as I watched Gabby walk towards her and gently place her hands on the woman’s shoulders.
“Miss me?” Gabby asked. There was no fright from the intrusion as I watched the older lady raise a hand and pat her nieces.
“Oh dear sweet girl, I had a feeling you would pop on over tonight. Which is why I’m making a pot of stew. Are you staying for dinner?”. Gabby let go of her and walked to a cupboard and began to pull out some plates.
“Of course! How could I say no to your cooking” she stated matter of factly.
“Good, good and who’s your friend dearie?” she asked, just as she began to turn. Thea looked at me, bringing her hands to her hips. She had the same smile as her niece. A welcoming one, that held no malice. I raised my arm and gave her a small shy wave. “Hi there, I’m Sarah. It’s nice to meet you,” I said and began to make my way forward, arm extended in invitation. Thea looked down at it and then back up to me, her hazel eyes peering into mine as if she could see me. Like truly see me. Damage and all. Before I had time to think, Thea leaned forward and wrapped me within her fragile arms. I stiffened.
“Well, it’s nice to meet you Sarah,” she patted my back, before pulling away to look at me once again. “I have the strangest feeling we are going to be seeing a lot more of each other, No?”.
“Actually that’s what I came here to talk to you about. Sarah is looking to hang around in Willow Brook for a few months, so I was thinking that she may be able to rent the cabin from you. What do you think?”. Thea grinned at her niece as she watched her set out three spots for dinner around the dining table.
“I think that sounds perfect. How about we sit down to eat and discuss the finer details over dinner?” Thea didn’t wait for a reply as she walked back over to the stove and grabbed the pot off the burner.
“Actually, I’ve already eaten at the diner,” I interjected not wanting to impose anymore on these kind strangers. It had been a long time since anyone had been so generous. And here I was being welcomed by two ladies, who didn’t know anything about me. Within a few short hours they had offered me a home and a seat at the dinner table. It was a lot to take in.
“Nonsense, I’m sure you can go some more. Looks like you need a good home cooked meal if you ask me”.
Gabby laughed “I don’t think she was asking Aunty”. Thea grabbed the dish towel hanging over her shoulder and flicked Gabby with it, “Hush child” she smiled as her niece tried to jump away from the playful banter.
“Regardless come and eat what you can” Thea waved me over.
We sat down, said grace, another thing I had not done in longer than I could remember. Even then I may have only said it a handful of times. As we sat there eating, we discussed the terms of rent. I almost choked on my stew as she told me the weekly price. It was ridiculously low and I wondered if I had heard her right.
“It’s just sitting there, unloved. I mean, I have Jonah, help with the maintenance and he checks on it regularly, Gabby here goes in and cleans the dust from time to time, besides that beauty is just sitting all alone without any occupants,” she sighed.
“Beauty?” I questioned. Thea’s eyes lit up.
“Oh yes, my Arnold built it with his own two hands, right after we had become newlyweds. Sitting a mere hundred metres from the lake our little cabin was a thing of beauty. So that’s what we called her. When he passed away a few years ago, I couldn’t bear to stay there without him, so I moved here, into town to be near my friends.”. I nodded, now understanding the story. Thea rose slowly from her chair and made her way towards the the kitchen counter. Sets of keys hanging on the wall. She picked a butterfly keychain down and walked back over to me.
Holding out her hand, “There’s two keys. One for the gate and one that fits the front and back lock. The cabins all yours dearie.” I plucked the keys from her outstretched palm and couldn’t help the smile that rose to my lips, my eyes involuntarily welling, “I don’t know how to thank you, really.”. Thea waved me off.
“Nonsense, you’re doing me a favour. Beauty deserves to be appreciated. Now you’re more than welcome to stay here the night, there’s no fire lit there so it will be mighty cold,” she offered.
“No, no you’ve already done too much”
“Don’t worry Aunt, I’ll guide her out there and start the fire, it will be warm in no time” Gabby offered.
“Fair enough, but remember our deal. You have to visit me at least once a week,” she reminded. Oh, I could do that. Thea was a dear sweet lady and I had a feeling our weekly catch up was going to bring me much more joy than they would her.