The Broken Road

By: Melissa Huie

Chapter 1


I should have stayed in bed. I really should have just stayed in bed.

In my rearview mirror, I watched the police officer approach my car. I was on my way home from work on a crappy day and this is the last thing I wanted to deal with. I rolled down the window of my one-year-old Volvo and waited.

“Ma’am, I clocked you at 66 in a 55 mile per hour zone. License and registration please.”

I smiled and dove into the black messenger bag that I used for work. I flipped open my pink leather wallet and realized that the space where my driver’s license should be is empty. I froze; my mind retraced what I had done with it. Could I have left it at home? At the office? I scrambled through the contents of my bag; tossing makeup, tissues, change, and other items onto the passenger seat.

“Excuse me, Miss. Is there a problem?” He asked, peering at me. I knew he’d rather be sitting in his warm car, instead of standing on the side of the parkway in the bone-chilling temperature. I gave him my most brilliant “I’m cute, please don’t be mad at me” smile and said, “I’m sorry. I’m not normally this disorganized. I have it here somewhere.”

Apparently, my smile didn’t work because he just sighed and looked away. The panic hit when all I found at the bottom of the bag was a crinkled receipt and a lint covered mint. At my wits end, I finally felt around the pocket of my pea coat and gave a sigh of relief when my fingers wrapped around the hard plastic. I handed over my paperwork and with a huff, the officer headed to the warmth of his car.

I heaved a heavy sigh. The only place I wanted to be was on my couch, in my sweats, with a glass of Riesling. This day had been the pits. Doomed before I even woke up. I didn’t hear my alarm clock. I woke up to my lab mix, Penny, practically licking my hand off before I raised my head off the pillow and realized I was supposed to be on the road. In jumping out of bed, I barely missed Penny’s brown paw, and ended up crashing into my dresser. That’s going to leave a nice mark; I winced as I rubbed my arm. After showering, I realized I forgot my towel, which meant I had to navigate to the linen closet soaking wet, trying not to slip on the hardwood floors. After I was finally ready, I ended up spilling coffee on my hand and I left my lunch sitting on the kitchen counter.

Going to work wasn’t the best idea either. I tore a nail, spilled even more coffee on my brand-new shirt, and got yelled at by a junior partner because he forgot to put back his file in its proper place. And to top it all off, I started my period two days early. Hungry, tired and mentally drained, all I wanted is for this day to end. A knock on my window interrupted my pity party.

“Ms. Connors, here is your paperwork. You have the right to protest this ticket by appearing in court on March third. Please watch your speed.” He handed me my documents and returned to his car. I glanced at the ticket. One hundred dollars. Great, one more thing to subtract from my meager budget.

It took longer than usual to get home, thanks to going the speed limit. Two tickets in one day might just send me beyond my breaking point I pulled onto Hazelnut Court and into the carport of my half of a 1980’s red brick duplex in the town of Crofton, Maryland. It was small; with a backyard barely big enough for Penny, but it suited us just fine. I unlocked the door to the mudroom and forced my way in as Penny tried to rush out. I threw down my bags and grabbed her collar.

“Whoa Penny! Whoa!” I cried, pulling her back. I led her to the back door a few feet away and out to the fenced-in back yard.

Sighing, I put my things on the wooden bench. I normally take Penny on a nice long walk after work, but with the chill in the air and the crappy day I had, that’s the last thing I wanted to do. Penny ran around for a while I added food to her bowl and checked the contents of the fridge for myself. My New Year’s resolution was the same as everyone's - to eat healthier and get into better shape. The workouts stopped before they even started, so I’ve had to really make an effort with the eating part. Everything I have in the fridge would require actual cooking. Heck no, I’m hungry now and I don’t feel like standing next to the stove. I opened up the back door and whistled for Penny. She bounded over, a slobbery ball in her mouth.

“Aw, Penny. It’s too cold out. Get inside. Come on baby girl! Where’s your woobie? Let’s get your woobie!” The fake enthusiasm worked. Penny dropped her ball and barreled inside. I headed upstairs while she scrounged around in her toy box for her favorite toy. As the old water pipes heated up, I studied myself in the mirror.

I haven’t gone on a date since I first met my ex-fiancé, Tommy Greene, three years ago. I haven’t changed too much. At twenty-six, I’m a size twelve with curves. Not overweight, but I’m not going to win any fitness contest, that’s for sure. I can look good when I want to, but lately, I haven’t made much of an effort. Up until recently, I’ve been so busy at work; there hasn’t been the time to meet anyone new. And, well, nor did I really want to. I’ve only been in love twice and both relationships ended with being “just friends.”