Still, I needed a plan for today. I should go to work, or look for a new apartment, or… The road to the right beckoned. Blooming Bud, three miles. I checked the odometer on my grey Volvo, three miles through a dark forest seemed pretty creepy, but. I swallowed hard and turned right toward my big adventure.
The road wound along a leafless tree tunnel. Dense patches of fog covered the highway. Numerous twists and turns made it impossible to see more than a few feet in any direction. A large knot in my stomach now joined the one in my neck. What on earth was I thinking? No one knew where I was. The office wouldn’t be looking for me until Monday. My heart beat faster. Stories about people who disappeared without a trace paraded through my brain. At 2.9 miles the trees crisscrossed the road as thickly as ever. My eyes searched the roadside for a place to turn around. Suddenly the forest gave way to a broad valley. The sun peeped over a hill and bathed the copper bell tower at the center of a small community in a rosy glow.
Relieved, I gazed at its beauty for a moment and then drove toward the town. The road ended at a parking lot. A large blue and yellow sign greeted visitors. “Welcome to Blooming Bud. Motor Vehicles are NOT Allowed Beyond This Point.” I got out and looked around. At that early hour, only the Lady Bug diner showed signs of life.
The late October wind whipped my tweed wool coat as I hurried from the car. Only the clacking of my black high heeled pumps broke the early morning stillness. I reached for the restaurant’s carved mahogany door just as a howling gust tried to wrench it from my grasp. I yanked it open and then dragged it closed.
Red and white vinyl booths and stools stood in sharp contrast to the paneled entryway. “I’ll be right with you,” a woman’s voice called from the back. “Make yourself comfortable.” Moving toward the counter I caught a glimpse of myself in an antique wall mirror. Eyes puffy, mouth tightly drawn, old and tired; a steady work load of 50+ hours a week over the past few years had taken its toll. No wonder Richard…I smoothed my short brown curls, and walked over to the counter.
A plump blond woman, wearing a flowered blouse, walked out of the kitchen and handed me a menu.
“Well, hi there. I don’t remember seeing you here before. Name’s Elvira. Welcome to the Lady Bug.”
“Thanks, I’m Emy. This is my first visit.”