Writing Prompt: Unexpected New Beginnings
Write a piece in which a character experiences a new beginning.
Hailey stood on his front steps in disbelief. There he was, Jameson Hughes, the man she fell so deeply in love with. And there behind him stood his wife holding his young daughter in her arms–the wife and daughter he failed to mention in between the “I love you’s” he’d whispered to her during the summer they’d spent together.
Only a few weeks ago.
His face dropped, stunned to see her standing at his door.
Her gaze darted to his wife before they dropped to her feet. “Sorry. I must have the wrong address,” she said quickly before he spoke, fighting back the tears threatening to fall. She met his eyes one last time before turning to leave.
Yanking open the door of her late father’s pickup truck--old but reliable--she threw her bags into the passenger side before sliding in and driving off in some unknown direction. All Hailey knew was that any road leading from that house was the right one to take.
She stopped at a red light and beat the wheel with her palms. The horn blared through the quiet roads. “Love makes you stupid! Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!” she screamed into the cab while she continued her assault on the truck.
“Love is the most precious gift life has to offer. To only do it halfway is rejecting some of the best experiences you’ll ever have.” The memory of her mother’s voice swirled through her head, breaking through the blinding rage coursing through her. It was something she’d said time and time again while Hailey was growing up. At the start of new relationships, after heartbreaks, and during the times Hailey had sworn off men altogether, her mother always reminded her to never give up on love.
A lot of good that did. That’s the kind of advice that got her into this mess. After Jameson got out of the Marines and left Camp Lejeune to get on with his new life as a civilian, she thought it was best to let their relationship go. Long distance never worked, and neither of them were in any situation to have the funds to travel back and forth across the country. As much as it broke her heart to see him leave, it seemed like the only logical thing to do.
And then her mother’s voice whispered in her head with that same “advice,” compelling her to chase after her damn heart with reckless abandon.
Two weeks after he’d left, Hailey could hardly stand it. She didn’t need much to convince herself that she’d made a mistake. She packed a bag, hopped into her trusty truck, and drove nearly two-thousand miles from Wilmington, North Carolina, to a small town on the outskirts of Estes Park, Colorado. Her heart pounded when she finally reached his house and knocked on his door, only to be crushed a moment later.
What was worse was that she used the last of her savings to trek across the country and had no idea how she would get back. All her life savings had gone toward her mother’s cancer treatment. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to save her, and even though she had passed on a year ago, the medical bills still showed up like clockwork every month.
Hailey leaned over and grabbed her purse from the cab floor. She pulled out her wallet and inspected the contents. Frowning, she took stock of the measly couple hundred dollars and nearly maxed out credit card. It should get her a night or two at a sketchy motel, but then what? She didn’t get paid for another week and wouldn’t have enough money for gas to get across the country again. She had no one to call to wire her funds and knew no one in this part of the country to see if she could crash with them. She was shit out of luck.
All alone in this world.
Headlights flashed in her rearview mirror, nearly blinding her and bringing her back to the present. She’d been so lost in thought that she hadn’t noticed the light had changed green. She put the car in gear while fumbling with her phone for directions.
“Shit,” she said when she realized she wasn’t getting a signal in the mountains. No signal meant no GPS. She was lost.
After the sun had disappeared, the temperatures plummeted. Even the heat blasting from the vents wasn’t enough to warm her. Hailey wasn’t used to temperatures dipping this low in the Carolinas, and never had the need for a heavy jacket. She sure regretted that now.
The heat fogged the windshield, making it impossible to see. She tried to wipe it down with her thin shirt sleeve, but it was no use. She was driving blind on unfamiliar, windy roads with no shoulder to pull off on.
A curve in the road surprised her, causing her to overcorrect into the opposite lane. An oncoming car blared its horn. She spun the wheel to the right, but wasn’t fast enough. The back of her truck was clipped by the other car, and they both spun out before the guardrails brought them to a stop.
Hailey sat there for a second, trying to catch her breath. She seemed to be all in one piece, minus a potential case of whiplash. Jumping out of the car, she checked on the other person involved.
“Are you okay?” she asked when she approached an older woman–probably in her late fifties–inspecting her car.
“A little bumped up, but I’ll be fine. My car’s a wreck though," the woman replied with a thick country accent. She looked over at the truck and shook her head with regret. "I don’t reckon you fared much better."
"I–I–I’m s-so sorry.” Hailey couldn’t stop her teeth from chattering. Once the initial adrenaline wore off, all she could feel was the freezing air.
“My word, you’re going to catch hypothermia dressed like that.” The woman retrieved a blanket from her trunk. “Here.”
Hailey took the blanket and wrapped it around her. “Thank you.” She bit her lip. “I have insurance to help pay for the damages,” she supplied, her heart sinking to her stomach.
“It doesn’t take a detective to see somethin’s on your mind.”
“I don’t have the money to pay the deductible, and most likely won’t have enough to cover motel costs while we wait for our cars to be fixed,” she started, wrapping the blanket tighter around her. “I drove out here for a man and found out he had a whole other life he never told me about. I have almost no money, no way to get home, and no place to stay,” she rattled off, unable to prevent the word vomit. “My life is a mess.” She let out a breath. “I didn’t mean to unload on you. You’re probably wishing someone else hit you right about now, huh?”
The woman’s lips lifted in a small, welcoming smile. “Well, to be honest, I was hoping I wouldn’t get hit at all today,” she answered, trying to make light of the situation. “But maybe this is destiny.”
“What do you mean?”
“I own the bed-and-breakfast up the mountain, ‘bout fifteen minutes away. My assistant manager had her baby 'bout a month too early. Now I’m shorthanded during the busy season. Do you have any customer service experience?”
“Yes. I run a small café where I’m from.”
“Maybe we can strike a deal. You cover my assistant manager’s shifts for the two weeks and I’ll give you a free room and a week advance on your paycheck to put toward our car repairs. How’s that sound?”
Hailey thought about it for a second and realized she really had no other options. “Deal.”
It was two weeks. Only two weeks in a place that was completely foreign to her and where she knew no one. Two weeks living in the mountains instead of on the coast. Two weeks of cold air, snow, and animals she’s never seen before. Two weeks working with a complete stranger.
Two weeks couldn’t completely change her life. Or could it?
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