Chapter Three

Lauren hated her life. She was running out of the money that was left for her in her parents will, the cabin was running low on wood and she had no friends or family to talk to. She was alone in the world. There was a moment that she had thought about letting Ben inside because she was so desperately lonely, but she knew it wasn’t worth it. And he had only solidified that thought when he had made that comment about her parent’s accident.

The same went for Zoey. She had thought of calling her but in the end, it wasn’t worth it. She didn’t need a friend like that in her life.

Lauren thought maybe she’d get really drunk and call Zoey later and tell her how much of a bitch she was. That might help her get the gross feelings she felt out. That might be therapeutic. She wouldn’t know for sure if that was a type of therapy because she had given up on counseling. Well technically it was a support group for grieving held at the community center every third Saturday of the month. It had been such a waste of her time. She’d sit there listening to everyone’s poor me stories and then she’d leave before everyone else. She had only ever shared why she was there. She didn’t share her current state of grieving or her feelings at any of the other group meetings. To her, it was pointless.

She drove the winding road back into town, passing the spot with a marker set out as a painful reminder that, that was where her parents had died. She didn’t put that marker up. Lauren detested that sign. It was a painful reminder she had to endure every single time she wanted to go into town. The people who had put it up hadn’t asked her if she wanted that up there. They didn’t think about how it might have made her feel to see it every day. None of them lived close to it like she did. And she found it unfair.

Lauren pulled into the parking lot of the Liquor’s Quicker liquor store and cut the engine to her Durango. She loved the SUV when she’d first bought it. But she hated it now. She’d thought of trading it in, but it just seemed like too much work. Even making this trip felt exhausting but Ben had pushed her to do it. Just like he had drove her to do almost everything that was self-destructive in the years they were together. She had bought the stupid vehicle in hopes that maybe one day they would have kids together. He wanted four, she wanted three. They’d decide on the fourth when they got to that point. But guess what? That wasn’t happening anymore. Those dreams had gone up in smoke when she’d gone through his phone and found the text conversations and the pictures. At least he had the balls to tell her the truth when she confronted him.

There was a strong vodka smell coming from somewhere in the store and as she walked toward the wine section she saw where it was coming from. Down the vodka aisle, the manager, Ruth, was standing with a mop and cleaning up what looked like several shattered bottles of vodka on the floor.

“Hey Lauren.” She said when she saw Lauren standing at the end of the aisle.

“Hey Ruth. Do you need any help?” Lauren had looked around but saw no other employees.

“I’ve got it, thanks though. God damn, Willard. Came in drunk and when I told him I wasn’t going to sell no more to him he said that he had the money and he’d make it quick. Damn bastard fell into this shelf.”

Lauren knew Willard well. He was the town drunk. He had caused a lot of problems. He was what the police referred to as a “Habitual Offender”. It was always the same charges and part of her suspected he would do things on purpose just to get three hots and a cot. She couldn’t blame him for that though. It had to have been hard being homeless in a small mountain town.

“I’m sorry. Is anyone else here?” Lauren asked.

“Stacey is on her lunch break. I told her I’d handle this mess. You go ahead and get your wine. I’ll ring you up when you’re ready.” She said.

Lauren nodded her head and walked the few aisles over to the shelves of white wine. Barefoot was her favorite. It tasted good, not like she was a wine connoisseur, but she could taste the difference between cheap wine and cheap wine. She liked the price point of Barefoot and there was a sticker on the bottle that indicated they’d won some sort of award.

She stared at the bottle of white zinfandel she had picked up and then placed it back on the shelf. She walked back over to the vodka aisle.

“Ready?” Ruth asked.

“Uh…” She said and scanned the shelves. She found a bottle of Absolut Juice. It was different but looked good. “Yes.” She held the bottle up.

“Going for the hard stuff?” Ruth asked.

“Yep. It’s been one of those days.” Lauren said.

Ruth laughed, “It’s only 12:30.”

“Exactly.” She said.

Ruth swept the pile of broken glass onto the dust pan and dumped it into the trashcan that was in the aisle and then leaned the broom against the trash can, double checking that it would stay, and followed Lauren to the front of the store.

“How are you doing, darling?” Again, Lauren had been expecting the question and again she had the answer.

“I’m good.” She lied. It was starting to get easier to smile as she said this and if she would have been a different person, she might have even begun to believe that she was doing good.

“You’re all alone up there in that cabin. Don’t you get lonely?” Ruth asked as Lauren stuck her blue debit card into the machine. She hated the chip readers and still didn’t understand why everyone switched to them. She’d read that people could now scan the info through your wallet unless you had a specific type of wallet. It made no sense to make things easier for criminals.

“Nope. I’ve got Daisy.” She said.

“But that’s not a human.” Ruth handed her the receipt that printed out.

“I’ve found I don’t like human’s much.” Lauren said.

Ruth nodded as if she understood but Lauren was sure she didn’t understand. Ruth was a people person. She liked having long conversations about so and so’s garden or Miss Tyson’s latest tizzy, as she called them. Lauren wasn’t much for conversation these days. She just wanted to get her alcohol and get back home to her dog. She wanted to be away from humanity.

For being so lonely, she sure was craving being alone again.

“Have a good day, Lauren. And if you need anything at all. You just call. I know my number is probably up in that cabin somewhere.” Ruth said.

“It’s in my phone.” Lauren said. Ruth smiled and Lauren held back on telling her that the real reason why was in case she needed to call ahead for a bigger amount of alcohol. “Have a good day.” She added and grabbed the bottle with light pinky liquid and walked out of the store.

Standing next to her vehicle, at his own, was a man studying a map. As she approached her vehicle, she could see how his brow furrowed as he studied it. He seemed to be lost and while she knew she probably should have asked if he needed help, she just wanted to get home. She unlocked the SUV and went to open the door.

“Excuse me, ma’am, but do you happen to live here?” He asked.

She wanted to be rude and just get in her car and drive away but something told her not to. Something, somewhere deep inside of her told her to be nice.

“I do. Are you lost?” She asked even though she clearly knew the answer was yes.

“I am. Can you tell me where Pine Trail Road is?” He asked.

Their eyes met and she felt the breath leave her. He had the most beautiful green eyes she had ever seen, and his gaze was intense, as if he was seeing her. The real her. The deep down inside of her, her. She tore her eyes from his gaze and looked at the map. “I sure do. It’s right here.” She pointed it out on the map to him.

“Thank you.” He said.

“I live off it, in fact.” She added. “Is there something you are looking for up there?”

“Just a good fishin’ spot.” He said.

“If you want, you can follow me, and I can show you where the best spot is.” She offered. She found herself wondering who the hell had taken over her body.

“That’d be great. Thank you.” He said and their eyes locked once again. She felt something in her belly that she hadn’t felt since her first date with Ben.

“You’re welcome.” She said and smiled and suddenly wished she had taken the time to do her hair or makeup before she left her house.

She got into her SUV and started it. She waited for him to do the same in his Chevy Denali and then pulled out slowly. As she drove toward the fishing spot, just twenty yards from where her parents died, she found herself constantly checking in her rearview mirror to make sure he was still behind her. When they got to the spot, she pulled in and shut the engine off.

He got out and approached her and she felt the breath leave her once again.

“If you just follow this path down there, there’s some great fishing right in that area. If you don’t catch anything then you can come find me and I’ll owe you.” She said.

He laughed. His smile was infectious. He didn’t have dimples like Ben did, but his bright-toothed smile made her swoon just as much.

What the hell is wrong with me? She asked herself.

“I’ll keep that in mind. You live off this road?”

“Yes.” She said.

“Well expect a visit if I don’t catch anything.” He said. “I’m sure I can figure out where you’re at.”

She smiled at him and he held his hand out, she put her hand in his and upon doing so, felt an intense spark. They shook and let go. They said goodbye and she got back into her car and drove around the bend to her house. She found herself wondering about the man. What his life was like. Where he was from. If he was single. If he still had friends and parents. The gloom returned once again as she walked into her house.

Daisy greeted her eagerly and she gave her a few small pets. Then she pulled out a shot glass and opened the bottle of vodka. She wasted no time and was soon in three shots. She felt lightheaded. It was much stronger than the wine. She knew this but it had been a while since she had drunk the hard stuff.

She made herself a sandwich and filled Daisy’s dog bowl, turned on her favorite show and ate half of her sandwich. She found herself wanting another shot, so she got up off the couch and went back over to the little kitchen. She got down a second shot glass and poured some in.

“Cheers.” She said, clinking the two shot glasses together and taking them one after another. The burn wasn’t as intense anymore.

She was getting drunk fast and once again she felt that old bitterness and she thought about the idea she had when she had been driving to the liquor store. She pulled out her phone and had to concentrate to find Zoey’s name and when she found it, she hit the call button before she could think twice. It rang and the more the shrill sound filled in her ear the bolder she felt.

“Hello? Lauren? Are you okay?” She sounded nervous. But that didn’t make Lauren hold back any.

“You suck.” She slurred.

“Are you drunk?” Zoey asked.

“You are a bitch, Zoey. You know that. You’re just such a bitch.” She heard the way she was slurring into the phone, but she didn’t care. She was drunk. How could she care? All the fuck she gave before had been numbed by the vodka.

“You’re definitely drunk. Do you need me to come up there and check on you? Are you okay?” Zoey asked.

“Like you care.” Lauren said and slid to the floor. The emotions of being on the phone with her oldest friend were overwhelming and she couldn’t help the tears as they started.

“You know I care about you. Are you crying, Lo? Are you okay?” She asked, the nervousness that had been in her voice at first had gave way to worrying concern.

Lauren faded into a mess of sobs. She hung the phone up, too drunk to turn her phone off and Zoey automatically called her back. Lauren hit the red button, ending the call before it even started, but her phone rang again. This time she answered it.

“I’m fine. Leave me alone!” She yelled.

“But you called – ”

Lauren hung the phone up. She was far more drunk then she had intended to be. Oops. She got up off the floor and Daisy was looking at her funny. Though by then she had to have realized her mom was nuts. Lauren made her way over to the couch where she laid down. She tried to take a nap to make herself sober up some, but she couldn’t fall asleep so instead she went back to watching her show.

After three episodes there was a knock on her door. It was an hour and a half later and she still felt drunk. She stumbled her way over to the door and opened it, regretting it immediately.

Chapter One

Chapter Two

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