Short Story Novel, Early Draft This is only the start.
Chapter 1 - The Start of a New Life
After my wife died, it was just my daughter and myself left to fight the pain of the loss and try to make our way thru life. The three of us were on a vacation getaway in South Texas. I was driving us to the coastal city of South Padre Island. It was our favorite getaway spot. The accident was caused by a drunk driver that T-Boned our car on the passenger side. My wife was the only fatality of that horrid night as she was hit with almost the full force of a 4x4 Truck on our SUV.
The only reason that my daughter and I survived was because of the fact that both of us were on the driver's side with my daughter in a special restraining seat in the back, directly behind me. My daughter was only three years old at the time. But watching her mother die in front of her, even at three was extremely traumatic, for her and me both.
That was two years ago, today. After two years of struggling with the loss, and of course, trying to figure out how to raise my daughter on my own, while still trying to maintain a steady income, I made a decision to make a move. As an author, I was in the best possible position to make a move, without impacting my work. The move was more for myself. However, I decided to make the move at that time, because my daughter was still in pre-school and I wanted to get into a more permanent situation before she entered first grade.
My daughter was slowly starting to adjust to the loss. However, I was not as quick to adjust. I woke up nearly every night screaming my wife's name. I could still see her blood streaked face and blood soaked blouse as if it was just happening. My daughters crying in the backseat was still fresh in my mind, and it would haunt me for years to come I imagine. My decision to move was more about getting away from the place that reminded me of my wife. Her perfume was still present in our house. The scent of the perfume had subsided significantly. But I could swear I still picked up the scent every time I would step into the house.
I decided to relocate to a small city in Colorado. Pueblo, Colorado. I had family there, and my sister had offered on many occasions to help me with Stephanie, my daughter, when I was working. After two years, making this trip I believed was the only way I could maintain my sanity and get back to some normalcy with my novels and raising my daughter.
When we arrived in what would become our new hometown, I had to find the realtor, who I had only talked with by phone. I only knew her by her voice and by name. Cynthia Sanchez had been working with my sister to help me find a place in Pueblo. They had found the location late last month and we made the deal early this month. We had an extremely quick settlement date per my request. So we planned on moving into the house on March 31, 2013. I was meeting the realtor to finish signing the paperwork and get the keys to our new place.
When we met, I had hoped the whole process would be quick. I did not want to waste a lot of time getting into our new place as well, I wanted to meet my sister and her family to let them know we made it. It took us a little under two hours to complete the paperwork and get everything settled before finally going over to the house and stepping into it for the first time.
It was a nice house to be honest. Victorian style cottage near a small lake with plenty of land for Stephanie to play on and give me ample space to pull out my telescope and be an observer of the night skies. Plenty of room inside the house as well, with 3 bedrooms, a large living room and kitchen, plenty of floor space, and of course, two bathrooms, one of which had a very nice hot tub.
We wasted no time moving our stuff in after we got there. My sister had chosen to meet the two of us at the new place rather than wait for me to come see her. Stephanie recognized her aunt as soon as she pulled up in the driveway.
"Aunt Marie!" Stephanie said as she ran out to meet her aunt in the driveway. "There's my favorite niece." My sister picked up Stephanie and came up to meet with me as she was accustomed to doing every time we would get together. "Charles! Are you finding everything okay?" I respond as I give her a hug and a kiss on the cheek, "Hey sis, yes I think everything is in order." Marie: "How was the drive up from Texas?" "It was okay, I suppose" I replied. Marie: "Good, guess what munchkin" as Marie turned to her niece. "What?" Stephanie asked. "I have a surprise in the back for you sweetheart."
My sister knew I wasn't big on surprises. But Stephanie was her only niece and she had no problem spoiling her in the absence of our mother and father. When we got to the back of the house, there was a little playground with a merry go round and a swing set. Stephanie immediately headed to the swing and began playing. Marie looked back at me to which I mouthed the words "Thank you". Mrs. Sanchez handed me the keys to the house, and prepared to head out. Mrs. Sanchez: "Thank you! I hope you enjoy your new home. You have my number, so if you have any questions feel free to call me." I replied, "Thank you again Mrs. Sanchez"
Chapter 2 - Meeting the Neighbors
When I awoke the next morning, Stephanie was already in the kitchen pouring her making her breakfast. Stephanie was only five, but she was skilled and getting her raisin bran and milk on her own. I once told her, that if she doesn't watch out, she was going to be a better cook than dad. It was a joke of course, but Stephanie loved it and it obviously made her feel special. She was of course, the most important part of my wife I had left. So Stephanie was so very special to me.
Later that morning after I showered, I took Stephanie around town to figure out where a grocery store was. We needed a few supplies and of course, I wanted to get a lay of the land. When we finally found a Safeway, Stephanie and I made our way into the store and grabbed a basket. Stephanie didn't like riding in the basket anymore. "I'm a big girl now daddy. I don't need to ride in the basket."
As we made our way to the cereal aisle, I told Stephanie to pick out something she wanted and toss it in the basket. At that moment a young lady, of 23 or 24 walked up and was apparently picking out her own breakfast foods as well. I caught a glimpse of her as she walked by. I smiled as she did and she returned the smile as she continued on her way. Right after she passed me she stopped to pick out one of the boxes that was a little higher than she could reach. She tried desperately to climb up and pull down the box of cereal to no avail. "Let me", I offered. "Which one do you want?" She replied, "The Bran Flakes." I pulled down the box of cereal and handed it to her. "Here!" I said, to which she replied, "Thank you. Anna by the way." "I'm sorry", I replied. "My name is Anna.", "Oh, right, I'm Charles." Stephanie walks up and hands me a box of cereal. "Nice to meet you Charles, and who is this?" as she looks down at Stephanie. "Stephanie!!", my daughter proudly replies. I responded, "Stephanie is my daughter." Anna: "Oh I didn't realize you were married."
Charles: "I'm widowed actually. My wife was killed in a car accident a couple of years ago."
Anna: "I'm sorry. I
didn't mean to bring up bad memories."
Anna: "Well you picked an amazing place to start a fresh."
Charles: "Thank you."
Anna: "Listen, I'm free this evening. Do you want to maybe join me for supper. Both of you of course are invited. I'm a very good cook."
Charles: "Oh! Well that's not really necessary. I'm not a bad cook myself. To be honest, I had promised Stephanie that I would make her favorite Lasagna tonight."
Anna: "Oh really! I'm a big fan of homemade lasagna and what a coincidence, I was planning on making that tonight. Why don't you come on over and you can help me prepare it."
I stood there for a minute contemplating. I really didn't believe it was appropriate for us to be imposing after having just met.
Anna: "Please, it really is no trouble. Besides, I am going to have all these leftovers if you don't come over and help me take care of the excess."
I thought about it for another minute and then looked down at Stephanie.
Charles: "Well Steph, what do you think? Do you think we should give her a chance?"
Stephanie: "She seems like a nice lady. I think we can trust her."
Anna laughed and thanked Stephanie.
Anna: "Kids are amazing aren't they."
Charles: "Yes indeed they are."
Anna: "So what do you think? Did I meet your seal of approval?"
Charles: "Well Stephanie approves. I won't hear the end of it, if I don't take you up on your offer. Besides, Stephanie would not be happy if I didn't give her a sample of someone else's Lasagna besides my own."
Anna: "Great, here's the address, it's about a half mile down the road on your left. White picket fence. You really can't miss it."
Charles: "Okay. We will see
Charles: "Five it is. I'll bring the wine. It's the least I can do since you are bringing the food and doing most of the cooking."
Anna: "Oh, don't think you are getting out of cooking that easy."
Chapter 3 - Dinner With Anna
We arrived a few minutes early at Anna's place. White picket fence, just like she had indicated. The house was rustic in design and very nice, which seemed a little odd with the white picket fence. The house was far larger than you would have expected just looking at it from the front. When I got to the front door with Stephanie in tow, I stood there for a minute. Stephanie looked up at me and I looked down at her. I was hesitant to ring the doorbell as I really wasn't sure I was ready to start a new relationship. Assuming that was what Anna was trying to initiate of course.
Still looking at Stephanie, I declared, "Oh stop looking at me like that." Stephanie replied, "What daddy? Are you going to ring the doorbell?" "Yes, Steph, I'm just trying to find my nerve." "Would you like me to do it daddy?" "No munchkin, I've got it." At that moment, Anna opened the door. Surprised that we were standing their, she asked, "How long have the two of you been standing at the door?" Before I had a chance to say anything, Stephanie replied "A couple of minutes.", as she looked up with a big grin on her face.
Charles: "Yep, kids are great alright."
Anna laughed and said, "Come on in. Stephanie, the TV is in the living room to your right and there is a few toys and some nice books you can take a look at while your dad and I get dinner ready."
Stephanie ran off into the direction of the living room shouting like kids do when they get excited about whatever kids get excited about.
Charles: "Stephanie! What do you say young lady?"
Stephanie: "Thank you?"
Charles: "That right. Tell that to Anna though, we are her guests."
Stephanie looked up at Anna, and proclaimed.
Stephanie: "Thank you Mrs. Anna"
Anna: "You are welcome. And you can just call me Anna sweetie."
Charles: "Thank you! Here's the wine I promised."
Anna: "Perfect, now we have the perfect Italian dinner setup."
Over the next hour and a half, Anna and I prepared the dinner we had planned and all the while drank wine to pass time as we got thru the preparations. At some point, when the lasagna was in the oven and baking, the two of us sat down to give us both time to relax a bit and talk. We could see Stephanie from where we were sitting. She was clearly engrossed in a book. Steph was always into reading more than anything else. I encouraged it, because it was the easiest way I could distract her from the evils of the world.
Anna: "Stephanie seems to be having fun. Seems like an awfully big book for a five year old though."
Charles: "Steph is an excellent reader and very intelligent. We had her tested a few years ago. She was way above average for children her age. Her I.Q. was extremely high."
Anna: "Really, how high?"
Charles: "Well, not to brag, but her I.Q. registered at 185."
Anna: "Oh my. I'm out of my league. So much higher than mine."
Charles: "Much higher than mine. I sometimes can't believe how much more intelligent she is by comparison. It's really difficult sometimes keeping up with her."
Anna: "Are you doing it all alone?"
Charles: "Well yes, and no. I said we moved here to get a fresh new start. However, we also had my sister nearby here. That was another incentive for us to move here.. My sister had offered many times to help with raising my daughter."
Anna: "That is nice. She's able to help. What about Steph's grandparent's?"
Charles: "Stephanie's grandparents on her mother's side passed away a few years ago. My parents are still alive. They love seeing Steph and have her around to play and spoil her. They are getting to the point though, that leaving Steph with them for anything more than a night would not be convenient. Although, they have offered."
Anna: "Still it must not be easy to let Steph be in someone else's care after having lost her mother, your wife."
Charles: "That's it exactly. When Dolores was laying there in the seat moments before her death, I made her a promise, I would never let anything happen to Stephanie."
Anna: "Dolores must have been a very special woman."
I stopped for a moment before I finished my thought.
Charles: "Dolores was the most amazing woman I have ever known, and Stephanie is all that I have left from her."
The timer went off on the stove for the lasagna. I had apparently lost track of time. Anna excused herself as she walked over to the oven to pull the lasagna out.
Charles: "The lasagna smells great. I think we should collaborate more often."