A 24 hour contest entry about an Indiana trip bringing someone to an unknown hometown.
| Elizabeth Forrester’s knuckles turned white from her death grip upon the steering|
wheel. “Must things always happen at the worst possible time?”
Nature had painted a beautiful picture. A canvas of spreading oaks and graceful
maples. Brisk October breezes rattled burgundy and burnt umber leaves. Patting the black
Canon camera bag beside her for reassurance, she could hardly believe her luck. Roxy, her
magazine editor, had chosen her for the feature pictorial article on Southern Indiana
back roads – Time for a Seasonal Change.
She had cut her steering wheel sharply, avoiding the just noticed possum waddling across her path. She managed to slide into a leaf-covered pothole. Attempting to straighten out her car, she had slapped the wheel hard to the right. Fishtailing across slippery leaves, the tires rattled across loose rock. Shaking to a stop, the car pointed in the wrong direction.
Elizabeth sucked in gulps of air to calm her thundering blood. Backing up to turn round, the car rattled and shook like the tires were falling off.
Creeping down the road to the next town, foot diligently checking the brake, Elizabeth worried her first assignment might also be her last. Chugging into the Rineyville Shell station, a grey-suited mechanic looked up and ran outside. Waving frantically for her to stop, he pointed to her front tire. Peering out her window, Elizabeth noticed one dedicated lug nut valiantly holding the tire on.
Inside the office, an older, second mechanic scribbled down numbers while flipping
through a greasy automotive parts price guide.
“It’s gonna take a couple…’ The man looked up, sputtered and continued. “of days to get your car fixed. Your last lug nut nearly sheared off the wheel, and I’ll have to order one. We need a name on your ticket, Ma’am.”
“Sorry, I guess I forgot. It’s Elizabeth Forrester.”
The man’s eyes widened his jaw dropping. Recovering, he shook his head and muttered, “Knew it was bound to happen one day.”
Elizabeth looked up from rummaging in her purse. ”Excuse me?”
“Oh, nothing. You might to see about a room tonight. Try Sullivan’s, next block over.
Ask for Maggie. Tell her Charlie sent you.”
Luckily, she packed light. That next block over turned into three blocks. What a quaint little town. White fronted stores proclaimed, “Big Sale Inside”. A hardware store boasted, “Best Selection in County”. Pedestrians cast surprised glances her direction. Arriving in front of Sullivan’s Bed & Breakfast, she gazed up at three stories of red brick and dark wood. A hint of one time elegance still shown through.
The heavy mahogany front door swung open as Elizabeth raised her hand to knock. A small gray haired lady in blue velour running suit greeted her from the door way. Eyebrows lifted in surprise, the host quickly recovered.
“I am Mrs. Sullivan. You must be the young lady Charlie called about. He said you might need to stay a couple of nights. What was your name again? I didn’t quite catch what Charlie said on that blasted cordless phone of his.”
Shock or surprise, Elizabeth couldn’t be sure which, flitted across the old woman’s face again.
“Well Elizabeth, come right in. I have just the room for you, B3. It’s often a guest favorite. Breakfast is sharply at 7:00. I’m an early riser. Keeping a B&B clean takes a lot of work, and time you know.”
Following Mrs. Sullivan’s lead up the stairs, Elizabeth noticed photographs of a little girl hanging along the stair wall. Something seemed strangely familiar about the girl in the pictures.
Pausing, Mrs. Sullivan looked over her shoulder. “That young girl was a neighbor that often played at my house.” Sighing, she turned. “That was many years ago.”
After a light dinner with Mr. Sullivan at “6:30 PM sharp”, Elizabeth returned to her room. Sleep washed over her quickly. A jumble of possums, car slides, and for some odd reason the little girl in the pictures raced through her dreams through the night.
Snow dusted the area during the early morning. A chill hung in the air frosting breath and windows alike. Over breakfast, Elizabeth asked about the girl in the pictures. Her dreams haunting her still.
Mrs. Sullivan stood up, and pushed in her chair. “Maybe it would be best if I showed you Elizabeth.”
Bundled warmly in Mrs. Sullivan’s late model car, the two spoke little. Elizabeth began to worry. ‘What if this town has dark secrets, and she is trying to get rid of me?’
Mrs. Sullivan pulled off the road near an open field. “On that hill, beneath the oak tree is the answer to your questions. Tell me what you find and I will explain the rest.”
Only the bright orange and red leaves that had fallen in the night marred the pristine snow on the hill. She couldn’t dwell on the beauty around her, something pulled her forward. She had to know, had to find out, about this girl.
A lonely granite gravestone thrust from the snow. Leaning closer Elizabeth read her own name. A chill deeper than the biting snowy wind ran down her spine. Was this some cruel joke? Reading further, the inscription stated, “Beloved daughter, you are truly unique among all others”.
Stumbling back to the warm waiting car, Elizabeth turned with a question written upon her lips.
Mrs. Sullivan smiled. “Elizabeth Forrester on the hill was my godchild. When she passed away, her father took it very hard. He felt guilty for the hours spent at work instead of with his daughter. Mr. Forrester realized he could never make up for lost time with his daughter.”
Elizabeth sighed. “How horrible”
“Yes, he was devastated. He could have built a statue, or a shrine. A scientist, he expressed his love in a different way.”
Elizabeth leaned closer.
“You see my dear; you are Elizabeth Forrester’s clone.”