Where We Meet Again (Arrow Creek 1)

Page 31

I snort. “I’m not sure I’m going to meet anyone with potential at the bar in this tiny town. Pretty sure I’ve met them all.”
“They don’t have to have potential. You just need to be open to meeting someone. After that, you can graduate to proper dates where you worry about potential and shit.”
“Basically, you want me to get laid. Am I reading you, right?”
“Yes. You are hearing me loud and clear.”
“Great. That’s settled. Now, can I go finish raking my yard or do you have more questions?”
She hums teasingly. “Nah, I’m good. You get back to adulting.”
“Aren’t you at work?” I scoop the last of the leaves into the pile that now stands about knee high. I only have one leafy tree in my front yard, and I’m grateful it’s not bigger. The screens on the windows need changing and the gutters need emptying before winter comes.
“Nope. Mark brought in a new trainee and gave me the choice of a slow day or a day off.”
“Lucky,” I grumble.
“Says the woman who only works seven days a pay period.”
“Says the woman who works twelve-hour shifts.” While I talk, I return the rake to the garage and swap it out for a disposable green yard waste bag. “Well, go enjoy your day off.”
“Thanks, babe. Later.”
Before long, the packed leaves wait by the curb for pickup, and I return my dirty work gloves to the garage. Something about the late fall air appeals to me. The rest of the work can wait until tomorrow. It feels like the perfect day to get in one of my last runs of the year through Arrow Creek Park.
The best part of Arrow Creek is the old Swinging Bridge that spans across the river. The bridge doesn’t swing, but the original did back in the 1950s. The area flooded during a torrential rainstorm twenty years later and it washed away. They rebuilt it into the rickety old bridge that stands today, but the name stuck.
Evelyn and I took many walks down here when she was just a toddler. She’d gather a handful of rocks from the river’s edge and carry them up to the ledge so she could throw them off. The sound of her giggles would fill the air, and even at a time in my life where I didn’t have stability, she made me feel as if we were exactly where we were supposed to be.
I slow to a jog as I near the entrance to the bridge and stroll across the middle of the old planks. I trace the weathered wood grains of the railing with my finger absently as my mind drifts off.
The cloudy, pale-gray sky makes the rushing river below appear nearly black. The tall brittle grass sways in the faint breeze. Now-bare trees stand tall, and the gold and orange leaves coat the ground below them.
A lot of towns across the country experience the full season of fall. I’d put money on Arrow Creek being the prettiest one.
Years went by before I felt comfortable enough to call Arrow Creek home, but that’s exactly what it is now. More than Logansville ever was, even though I lived there almost exactly as long. The only things tying me to my hometown are Ritchie and Law, and I brought my brother with me as soon as I could. Law remains a lost cause.
Unlike Ritchie, I left my parents buried in our hometown. It sucked to have their last resting place so far away. I’ve also learned to move on. I’ve lived without them both more years than I had with them alive. The reality is I haven’t had parents since I was eleven and a car accident stole their lives away. My heart contains the memories I need to get by.
After stretching my quads, I stroll in the direction I came. I need to head home in time to make dinner. Evelyn is usually independent, but she still isn’t feeling great. With the crazy hours my job demands, I make a point to have family dinners as often as we can.
The dense lower branches of a tree hover over the side of the trail. I step around the big pine and directly into the path of an oncoming cyclist.
“Look out!” He swerves around me, close enough his speed blows the hair out of my face.
Adrenaline courses through my system, and I leap back out of his way. My right foot lands on a large rock and stumbles over the smooth, rounded side. My ankle rolls beneath me. The hill isn’t steep, but the angle provides enough momentum. My uninjured leg doesn’t have enough traction to stop me as I skid down the embankment. I scrabble for purchase, tearing my hands over pebbles and sticks.
Something sharp scrapes up my back. The skin flames hot and painful beneath my shirt. I give up trying to stop and protect my face with my arms. Seconds later, I halt on the pebbled edge of the river.
“Ow. Shit. Shit, shit, shit.” My face contorts in a grimace to keep from screaming out. Panic mixes with the adrenaline. I have to stay calm. Nobody can think rationally while freaking the hell out, and I’m dangerously close. I might be used to emergency situations, but I’m better when they don’t involve me.
Deep breath in. Deep breath out.
“Hello?” I hope the guy who ran me off the trail stuck around to check on me. The only sounds are rushing water and the rustling of leaves. “Is anyone up there? Can you hear me?”
I wait.