by C. E. Sawyer
What happens when the ties that bind lives together start to unravel, threatening to tear down everything Penelope once knew and loved? Can a passion stronger than Penelope ever felt before be enough to help her let go of her past, and believe once again in the power of love?
Dealing with the pressures from a divorce and a pushy mother, Penelope crosses the country in search of a happier place. What she didn’t expect to find between the open roads and desert hills, is a path to rediscovery...and two men that are completely different, but equally complicated. She wanted a summer to escape from her past, but what she didn’t expect is that her past would find her — challenging everything she believes, everyone she cares for, and everything she wants. Forcing her to face the toughest question of all — what is she willing to risk to take a chance on love?
Easton and Ford were not looking for anything more, cowboy hats and motorcycles always felt like freedom for the two brothers, until a new girl came into town. What are they willing to lose to fight for a girl who won’t stay out of trouble, with a vulnerability to her smile that they can’t seem to ignore? With more than her safety at stake, Penelope will have to learn to trust, but will one of the brothers be able to tame her wild heart in time?
~ A White Satin Romance ~
“Yippee, solid is my color, boys,” I said as I felt the menacing glare of the group of leather clad bikers standing around the pool table. I drew out the words, a smirk turning up the corners of my mouth before I remembered to put my poker face back on. I slowly and methodically started sinking balls on the table. The only noise was a slow hum of bar music in the background, while puffs of smoke evaporated under the dangling bar lights. As I reached across the table to sink another shot, excited murmurs erupted behind me. The room was filled with burly men with every square inch of their exposed skin covered in tattoos. They were clothed in black gear that proudly proclaimed they were hog men, and observed the game with beady-eyed interest as I fastidiously weaved my way through each shot. I was on a high run when I played a jump ball, expertly shooting my solid over his stripes, causing another ball to swoosh into the corner pocket. I was cleaning up against the toughest guy in the joint, who towered over me with his straggly Handlebar mustache, while his buddies looked on uneasily as I hustled him at his own game.
He couldn’t have known by looking at me that I grew up near a bar in a small, no-name town in the Midwest, where entertainment included chasing fireflies or playing billiards. I could play pool in the dark, I could play pool hammered, and I sure as hell could play pool in Arizona. Handlebars was fuming, licking his lips and cracking his knuckles, as if with each lick and crack he thought he would be closer to some sort of conclusion regarding how he should deal with me.
“Black ball, corner pocket.” I pointed with my cue, and the table went silent. As the ball sank in, I heard a loud snap. Handlebars broke his cue over his knee, which left him holding two splintered ends in each hand while he stared down at me.
“You played me,” he roared as I grabbed the wads of cash and shoved them in my bra. I couldn’t waste the few extra seconds needed to shove the bills into my too tight, practically painted on jeans, so the bra worked in a pinch.
“What? You agreed to a game, so we played. Thanks for the fun, boys, but I think it is time I called it quits.” I started to back away, eyeing the weathered faces around the table. None of them seemed to appreciate my little joke, each with a unique grimace on their face, and their jaws set in a jagged hard line as they inched toward me.
“Oh no, toots. We’re not done with you, yet.” Handlebars sneered as his boots edged toward me, a half-crazed look in his eye.
I bumped into another pool table and was about ready to turn and run when I noticed the clean cut, gorgeous guy who was observing me earlier, jump up from his black leather bar stool. He put a strong hand on Handlebars’ leather-vested chest. A cigarette dangled from the side of his mouth. He peered up at Handlebars over the top of his dark sunglasses.
“I think the lady said she was done playing, man,” he said in a cool and even tone.
My breath caught. Did he really just jump in to defend me, and possibly save my ass from the trouble I just got myself into? Why would he do that for me?
“Oh yeah? Well I’m not done playing yet. I want to have some fun with the little lady, since she just had some fun with me. You going to try to stop me?” He arched a menacing brow, and I saw my chivalrous hero take a big breath as he puffed out his chest.
“Look, I don’t want any trouble. The lady said she is done playing, so let’s just call it a day. Just walk away, man.”
I was amazed at his calm and confident demeanor, especially since Handlebars was twice his size. He spoke with a confidence that would only come from being the leader of the biker gang, which was not the case since he wore a simple cotton t-shirt, had ruffled blond hair, and relaxed jeans that hung just right off his climber’s build. He was a regular guy in the presence of giants. He took a long drag of his cigarette and waited to see what Handlebars would do next.
I inched my way along one of the sides of the pool tables, trying to figure out if there was a back exit. Handlebars shoved the stranger out of his way, hard, which left no barrier between me and Handlebars’ angry glare. He eyed me, and a slow grin crept across his dark features.
“You and I are going to dance, Toots, because I need to get my money out of you somehow, and I am willing to trade other services for repayment.”
I could feel the chunks starting to rise in my throat. I was in big trouble with a man as big as a gorilla who didn’t like to lose. I didn’t know why trouble followed me like a shadow. In Arizona, it was no different. Hurricane Penelope strikes again.
Looking around, I tried to strategize a logical plan based on the closest path to an exit. Unfortunately, the most convenient route was blocked by the wall of leather-clad men, and I would still have to weave my way through the tables to get to the back door. If I ran past him to the door, he could easily grab me, or one of his buddies could step in. I had to think of another plan, and quick.
Recovering from the hard shove over the pool table, I noticed the chivalrous bystander regained his footing. He stepped behind Handlebars and tapped him on his shoulder. The sweaty grin disappeared from Handlebars’ face as he sighed and slowly turned around to deal with the unwanted distraction. As he turned, the stranger pulled his other fist back and rammed it square into Handlebars’ jaw. He went flying backwards onto the pool table as the force of the upward right fist took him off his feet.
I stood, paralyzed and wide eyed at the spectacle with the rest of the crowd. The stranger ran past me, grabbed my hand, and dragged me outside the bar.
“Come on, we got to get out of here,” he said in a low growl, his southern drawl coming out through the words. He yanked me forward with his hand until we were running out the door and down the wooden steps at the entrance of Tumblers bar. Pulling me around the side of the bar to the back, he jumped on the fastest looking motorcycle I had ever laid eyes on.
The curves of the bike screamed speed. We had run past a bunch of typical hogs, black and steel with no pizazz, but this one looked futuristic. I almost swallowed my tongue at the prospect of jumping onto such a machine.
“What are you waiting for? Hop on.”
“I can’t get on this thing. Are you crazy? How fast does it go anyway?”
“It runs a hundred and eighty-six miles per hour if I need it to, but you’re telling me you would rather wait for your friend with the mustache to find you instead? Let’s go, pool shark.”
I let my instincts take over and forced my body to sit on the fancy pile of metal behind a guy I didn’t know from anybody, even though my brain was screaming at me to stop. I knew he made a good point. I certainly didn’t make any friends inside, and he didn’t make any friends sticking up for me. I had a better chance jumping on a two-wheel vehicle of death than relying on the good nature of a biker gang. Especially with their money stuffed in my bra.
We peeled out of the parking lot and away from Tumblers bar down a dirt path, weaving in and out of trails. My arms hurt from gripping his waist like a spider monkey. He yelled back to me to lean into him with the movement of the bike. He made it sound so easy. The thought of leaning into him on a bike moving faster than I ever drive, with no helmet, and taking low turns as if the goal was to pick up stones on the side of the road made my stomach do backflips.
I closed my eyes as we zipped through the open spaces heading toward the mountains. I could hear the roar of angry motorcycles behind us, the loud rumbling and revving chasing us as we sped along the highway. I worried the road was too exposed to effectively lose anyone.
I looked back, and the biker’s faces confirmed what I feared most. They were not interested in solving our differences over polite conversation, they were out for blood... my blood. Their lips twitched with anticipation like hounds released for the hunt. The men sat with their shoulders curled forward on their roaring bikes like they were ready to yank me from my seat by my hair. I swallowed hard, trying to not think about getting dragged behind their bikes through the swirling tire dust if they caught me. They wanted to make me pay, and they knew they could. They wanted to teach me a lesson I would never forget, and they were closing in on us, fast.
Twelve Hours Earlier
I dragged my less than fabulous self through the airport terminal. I caught a glimpse of my reflection in one of the airport store windows and gasped. My long, typically flowing and shiny auburn locks were knotted and tangled in a nasty beehive piled on the top of my head. I was followed by a pungent cloud of scents, stale whiskey and scotch from the night before, mixed with a careless application of spray deodorant. Half of my lips still held the lipstick stain from the previous night, while the other half was dried and cracked from dehydration. Only a hint of my eye makeup remained, light raccoon circles rested under my emerald eyes, which I tried to hide under dark shades. I noticed people were clearing a path for me, steering clear as if I had the plague. I pulled my carry-on behind me, occasionally bumping it against my heels as I mumbled profanity under my breath. My phone vibrated. It was the last person I wanted to talk to in that moment, my mother.
“How’s my baby?” My mother’s voice rang through the end of my phone, her nauseating and forced cheeriness like nails on a chalk board for my hungover brain.
“Mom, I’m thirty years old,” I grumbled, a string of profanity escaping my lips.
“Language, Penelope! I just wanted to call to see when your flight is boarding for Arizona, and to see if you are excited. I think this is going to be so good for you, especially after... everything that has been going on.”
“Mom, you can say the words. I am going through a divorce. You can say it, you can say I am being forced to sell all of my stuff, my life has forever changed, I am almost single again, my husband left me, and so I’m basically afailure at life. You can say it out loud. I won’t break.”
There was silence on the other end of the phone.
“I think Arizona is going to be so lovely. You could use some nice clean air, and getting away from all the concerns of the city will be so good for you, honey. I’m worried about your light complexion though, and you’re getting so skinny. I don’t want you to wither away out there.”
I didn’t respond.
“Drink lots of water and wear sunblock whenever you go out. I want to come and visit once you get settled. It was so wonderful of the university to let you take a teaching sabbatical as you work though … the divorce. They said you could still come back and be a professor for their biology department again next year? Maybe you can bring a cactus back for the students. Wouldn’t that be neat?” Her sickly sweet voice bordered on childish. She was being delicate with me. I could picture her in my mind’s eye sitting at her kitchen table with a mug of home brewed ginger tea, tapping the edge of the mug as she waited for my response.
“Yes. I told you a hundred times. I still have my old job whenever I return. I just have to sign the contract for the next three years. That is what a sabbatical is, Mom. We’ve gone through this. If you want to visit I am sure we can work something out, but I’ll be fine out here. I just need to get away from Chicago for a while, I need a change of scenery. I can’t continue this lifestyle, drinking myself into a stupor each night, so I’m hoping this will help me re-set my brain so I can go back to living a normal life.” I wondered to myself, what is normal anyway? It’s probably overrated.
I found a seat in front of my gate and plopped my bags down with a sigh. The people sitting around me eyed me warily.
“I know this will be so good for you. It sounds like such a relaxing place. It’s a spa, right? Are you nervous about giving tours?” I could hear her tapping a coffee mug in the background.
“They are not really tours, more like educational hikes where I tell everyone about the native vegetation and other botany related facts. I will end up doing a lot of odd jobs. I told you I won’t know all of my duties until I get there and have the orientation. Desert Hills Resort and Spa is more than just a spa, so don’t go telling people that I’m going to a spa for my sabbatical.”
“Why, what’s wrong with that?”
“It is an adventure resort and wellness center. A lot of people training for triathlons go there because the all-inclusive menu is tailored for healthy eating. Telling your friends I’m going to a spa for months on end makes it sound like a padded mental hospital for crazy divorcees.
“I’ve got to let you go.”
“I just put my bags down, my head is beating like a conga drum, and I just don’t feel like talking right now, okay? I will let you know how it is once I get settled in.” I held my breath, hoping she would release me from the call. Her conversations lately bordered on the intolerable, as if she felt she had to talk to me for an hour each day so I didn’t go off and slit my wrists. I was sick of being handled like an emotional wreck, even if I wasone.
“Okay, honey, I will let you go then. Have a safe flight, make sure to make friends when you get there, and call me anytime. I can’t wait to hear how everything is going, and don’t even think about Brian and the divorce. Can’t wait to hear more, and have fun. Toodles, and buh-bye.”
I didn’t even hear what she was saying, except for have fun. That was exactly what I intended to do once I touched down in Arizona. Yes, I technically found a job to keep myself occupied while I was out there, but I didn’t put as much effort or forethought into my decision as my mother would like to believe. Desert Hills Resort and Spa was the first place to respond to my resume. Having someone respond was the first and only criteria I used when I decided to accept the offer. I would never tell her that though. I would take that little nugget of information to my grave, and my mom could continue to live in ignorant bliss. All she cared about was the fact I had found something to help pull me out of my soggy depression, which was pulling me deeper and deeper, like invisible quicksand, leaving me a wet mess of my former self. Night sweats and constant salty tears had become my new normal, which my mother noticed after she started to randomly drop by my rented condo in Chicago unannounced.
I didn’t care where I was going as long as I wasn’t in the Midwest. I didn’t want to be near anything that would trigger my mind to remember him, or anything I lost. I kept telling myself I simply needed to hop on a plane, leaving this horrible place in the dust, and I would start to feel better. I desperately needed to start feeling better.
I genuinely looked forward to waking up every morning in an unfamiliar place where my brain didn’t automatically jump to my failed marriage, and my life in shambles. Arizona represented this hope, a hope for a better tomorrow. In Arizona, I could wake up and have a couple cups of coffee and a quick hike before I remembered the train wreck my life had become.
I had a permanent scowl on my face now, sure, but inside I was optimistic that the scowl would fade away. I’d start to feel better once I stopped feeling as disgusting as chewed up old gum, sticky and gross. Any second now I was going to start feeling better. Any second now... wait for it... ugh. Another wave of nausea and dizziness hit me, remnants from the night before. I thought to myself that maybe after I puked in the bathroom and got rid of the lingering toxicity from the alcohol, I might start to feel better... maybe.
~ * ~
I managed to board the plane without drama. My hand trembled as I handed my ticket to a bubbly flight attendant. As soon as I was settled in my window seat I fell asleep before I saw who was sitting next to me, and well before the rest of the passengers boarded. It was the way I preferred to fly, with no unnecessary interaction.
I slipped into a restless sleep, dreaming the same reoccurring dream that started haunting me a year ago. I was driving on a two-lane highway, the only car on the road for miles and miles. The only piece which changed with each dream was the scenery out the driver’s side window. When I turned back to the road, a huge semi-truck appeared in front of me. The semi-truck slammed on the brakes, but I followed too close to react. It is the same story every time. I ended up getting thrown through the front windshield which splintered into a million tiny sparkly shards. Mercifully, I wake up right before I face plant into the back of the truck.
I woke up with a jolt, bolting upright in my plane seat, the familiar feelings of panic slowly subsiding. Today was a little different though.
Typically, I wake sweaty and disoriented in my own bed, but this time I had the added confusion of being on a plane forty thousand feet in the air with about three hundred miles left to go before touching down in Arizona.
I brushed my disheveled hair away from my face and smacked my lips a couple times. I was dehydrated, and cranky. I looked over and an elderly lady was sitting next to me, eyeing me like she was concerned I was a celebrity recently escaped from rehab. This was deductive reasoning on her part as I reeked of a mixture of stale booze, and was still wearing my obnoxiously large sunglasses covering half my face. I looked like someone on the run, someone who didn’t want to be recognized. Moreover, I looked like someone who just escaped from some form of hell.
“Are you okay, honey?” The elderly lady tapped me on the shoulder. She leaned away a little as she asked it, as if rethinking her attempt to make small talk.
“I just had a weird dream. Sorry if I bumped you. I’m a lousy flyer.”
“No problem. I’m Rose, I’m visiting my daughter in Arizona. Do you live in Arizona or are you visiting?” Typical plane chitchat. I took a swig from my water bottle to try to remove the cotton ball taste from my dry mouth. I was about to say my married last name as I introduced myself, but paused as a new realization hit me.
I wasn’t Brian’s wife anymore. Well-almost officially not his wife. I had the unsigned paperwork in my luggage, but I could be whoever I wanted to be. For the first time in a long time I saw the silver lining to my situation. I had a chance to write my new definition and fulfill unsatisfied ambitions. I was no longer Penelope Fredrickson.
I always hated the last name Fredrickson. I felt it dominated my name just as my ex-husband did. The last name was the emphasis, not my first name, and not me. I was going back to my roots. I was going back to who I was before Brian Fredrickson walked into my life, before I lost part of myself to him and spent many unhappily married years while slowly deteriorating emotionally. I was going back to Penelope Pope, but I wasn’t the Penelope Pope from my childhood. I was an older, wiser, slightly damaged, but ever hopeful version of myself.
“I’m Penelope Pope, but my friends call me Penny, or Pen, and I answer to any variation in-between. I was a botany professor from the mid-west, but now I’m on sabbatical.” I smiled after I introduced myself. The first real smile in weeks. I liked the way my old name sounded through my new lens.
She smiled back at me, relief spreading across her face. She was obviously more comfortable with me, and more assured I wasn’t going to have a violent freak-out on her like an escaped mental patient.
It was starting to feel real now, my new reality. As I looked out the window the red rock started to form from a distance. It was breathtakingly gorgeous, filled with rich enflamed colors, almost like the sunshine had permanently faded into the rock, staining it war paint red. I took a deep breath and let the serenity of the scene permeate for a while.
I found the job at Desert Hills randomly, and halfheartedly applied, drowning in my own sorrows too much to muster up enough strength to care one way or another. Now, as I looked out the tiny window of the plane, I felt real exhilaration and excitement. I was even a little nervous to start my new job. I came full circle, from not caring one iota, to feeling invested about making a good impression at my new job. This would be my home for the foreseeable future, and as my breath fogged the window I promised myself I wasn’t going to mess this up.
This was my new start, my new beginning, the first day of my new life, the first time I could be a brand new me, and it was such a powerful turn of emotions there was nothing else I could do but gratefully embrace the fleeting moment. The feeling of trepidation and hope, the knowledge things can either get much better, or infinitely worse.
~ * ~
Beads of sweat formed around my hairline, which did nothing to help my already foul mood. It was hot on the cramped white passenger van which met us at the airport. It was crowded with excited visitors squished shoulder to shoulder and headed toward the middle of nowhere Arizona. My raccoon eyes, a byproduct of horrendously smudged makeup, were hidden by my sunglasses. Despite receiving odd looks for wearing these shades, they came in handy on days like today when I found my eyes filling with hot tears. The trendy, yet clownish, dark eye wear allowed my tearful bouts to go unnoticed.
Everyone in the van was headed to the same place, Desert Hills Resort and Spa, but I was going there for a different reason than the rest of the guests. While they animatedly talked, I stared out the windows in silence. I angled my body away from the rest, discouraging idle chitchat or human interaction. I wanted to take in these new surroundings, and I didn’t want to pretend to be interested in anything any of the other passengers had to say. I wasn’t the same as the rest of the fresh faced, wide eyed, van cohorts. They had easy smiles and radiated happiness, while I languished under a perpetual cloud ofmessed-up-ness. Oh yes, I was different, because I was emotionally, physically, hell even metaphysically, messed up.
Gazing out the dusty van window, I was struck by the expansive stretches of wide open spaces. My eyes trailed along the endless reddish brown rock cutting into the skyline as far as the eye could see. The driver continued telling us about Arizona architecture, and the conscious choice to create buildings with the same muted tones as the natural backdrop. The color scheme allowed buildings to become an extension of the openness and beauty of the red mountains and rich brown tones of the desert landscape. A notion completely foreign to me and where I came from, which only made Arizona more appealing.
We pulled onto a winding road at the entry of the gated resort, and stopped in front of the main office. Our driver got out to start unloading bags. I decided to yank my own piece of luggage from the back of the van. In my drunken stupor the night before, I had stuffed more than should have been humanly possible into the bag. The heavy load dropped to the concrete right after I yanked it out of the back of the van, and it landed with a loud thud before toppling down the slightly curved driveway of the resort.
Throwing my head back in exasperation, I let my shoulders sag in defeat. As my oversized suitcase tumbled along the cement, the zippers and material created a cadence of obnoxious scraping sounds, swish, swish, creak, creak, with each roll and rotation. As I followed my rolling bag down the driveway, I noticed the gardener look up from a corner in the shade alongside the main building. He was busy working as he kneeled next to a large red tool bag until he heard the scraping noise from my luggage.
He stepped into the sunlight from beyond the shadows of the building and I felt my face flush. Sweat gleamed off his tanned arms and glistened in the sunlight, emphasizing the form of his sculpted physique, with each rope of bulging muscle visible in the light. I noticed his chest muscles straining against his tight cut off shirt, and heaving ever so slightly from his manual labor.
Arizona just got a little more interesting.
The dark shades and scruff on his face sculpted his sharp features, and my eyes were drawn to his athletic walk as he stopped my rolling bag in one quick motion. A lot can be determined about a person from their walk. Athleticism, coordination, and conviction can all be assessed, and this guy had it all. His broad shoulders led with each assured step. He strode up to my bag and lifted it with ease from the pavement. Tight ropes of muscles displayed on his forearm as he lifted my heavy bag, and then closed the gap between us as he came toward me. The wind caused a few strands of his sandy blond hair to brush his face.
I realized with a wave of panic that he was walking toward me. He removed his sunglasses. I was pulled in by his kind and welcoming eyes flecked with a unique dark green hue, with his eyebrows arched in a bemused expression. His strong jaw and perfectly sculpted features broke into a smile, and I couldn’t help but smile back.
“I believe this runaway bag is yours, miss.”
I noticed my eyes lingering on his perfectly formed lips. He had an accent when he spoke, a southern twang as if he spent time in Texas or Tennessee. I looked up at him speechless for a moment, shell shocked by the fact he was possibly the best looking man I had ever set eyes on. My enamored haze was short lived as the mortification set in when I realized he looked stunningly majestic, and I personally looked like I just crawled out of a rat’s nest.
“Uh, yes, thank you so much.” I managed to squeak out a few words in reply. I also appreciated the fact he considered me “miss” instead of
“ma’am.” I self-consciously pulled a couple flyaway strands behind my ear from my bee-hive mop. I thought with dismay that today was not one of my sexy days. I was painfully aware I looked like the poster child for the “before” photo on any self-help ad.
“Your first day at the resort?” he inquired. He wiped his hands with a red handkerchief he tucked away in his back pocket. His jeans hung just a little off his fit waist, but tight enough to show off his strong legs, draped over a worn set of cowboy boots caked with red dust.
My gaze lingered far too long on the outline of his pectoral muscle against the cotton of his work shirt. Someone needs to buy this boy a new shirt that fits. All it would take is lifting something heavy with those strong and capable hands of his and that shirt might rip right off him.
“Yes, just arrived.” I looked down to my bag as I noticed the zipper was open, causing some of the contents inside to stick out. I noticed the blue coloring from one of my tank tops, and my mind wandered immediately to my unmentionables. I realized I needed to close the bag before my undergarments spill out in front of the nice gentleman.I smiled up at him as I tried to discretely bend down to pull the zipper shut, but the stubborn metal refused to budge. I tried yanking it closed while still trying to maintain eye contact with the handsome stranger.
“What brings you to our beautiful resort? Are you here to train for a marathon, here to check out the adventure hikes, or just taking it easy?” I noticed how his cut off sleeves emphasized his chiseled arms. He must be a climber? What else is there to do around here? His skin was bronzed like some sort of sun god from the hot Arizona summers. I caught myself devouring his physical features, and licked my lips in concentration as I imagined him climbing the beautiful peaks around the resort. I realized I was acting like I’d never seen a guy before because I was staring at him silently after he asked me a question.
I was still futzing with the zipper as I cleared my throat, and when I gave one last tug two empty mini liquor bottles left over from my drink order on the plane popped out, the empty glass clanging on the pavement, and finally rolling to the grass. I froze as I stared at the empty, accusatory bottles, my eyes widening in horror. I looked up and noticed his eyes following my gaze and locking onto the bottles as well. I wondered why I didn’t throw away the bottles on the plane like a normal person.
“Um... great question. Why am I here? Wonderful question. Some mix of all of the above, I would say. Open for anything really, taking a bit of a sabbatical and this seemed like a great place... to really figure things out. Seeing what Arizona has to offer. How about you? Oh, shoot, I mean you work here of course, that was a silly question.” I cursed under my breath as I smiled broadly, owning my decision to ignore the fact I just decorated the pavement with tiny liquor bottles spilling out of my luggage at a wellness resort and spa of all places, in front of one of most well-proportioned, stunningly gorgeous, male specimens I have ever seen.
He nodded slowly, as he observed me. I could feel my cheeks reddening under his watchful gaze. He replaced his dark sunglasses on the bridge of his perfectly formed nose. I continued smiling like an idiot, hoping he would be a sport and pretend to ignore the embarrassing bottles, my comical glasses, my disheveled appearance and my inability to articulate intelligent sentences properly around him.
“Absolutely, lots of great stuff to do around here. Well, I hope you have a relaxing stay, looks like your group is heading in to the main lobby so I should let you go. Take care.” I nodded and smiled back at him as he turned and walked back toward the side of the building where his tools rested in the grass, waiting for him. I smacked my palm against my forehead as I mumbled to myself. Oh Penelope, silly Penny, disastrous Penny-pie, let’s try not to make a complete fool of yourself with everyone you meet. At least pace yourself while achieving these moments of pure mortification. You just touched down, plenty of time to create a reputation for being a complete disaster.
I sighed, resting on one leg with my hands on my waist, watching him walk away. After that embarrassing encounter, I doubted I would have any further contact, but at least I could enjoy watching him walk away. The view from the back was just as gratifying as the front. His stride long and confident, a slow dance with his hips, and I was unable to peel my gaze away. I realized he was the first guy in a long time who had this effect on me. It was the first time I was interested in the opposite sex since becoming inexorably soured from my divorce. It was a refreshing feeling, after having moments of doubt my bitterness toward the male species would never fade away. These types of thoughts often led me to suspicions that I would grow old by myself, taking in homeless cats so I would die the miserable old cat lady, and neighbor kids would giggle behind my back.
I bent down and tossed the empty liquor bottles back into my bag with disgust. I paused for a moment, taking in the warm open air, and the brownish red hills in the distance surrounding the resort like a thick wall of silence. The normal city noises I had become familiar with in my day to day routine were a distant memory. Only the guests bouncing into the main lobby made any noise at all. I sucked in a breath, the finality of my decision to come to Arizona finally sinking in.
I knew I was not in Kansas anymore, and no red shoes could bring me back home. The clean desert air and red dust rock as far as the eye can see meant there was no turning back now. Bags in hand, hurricane Penelope officially touched down in Arizona, leaving destruction and chaos in her wake.
I thought thrusting myself into all of this change and disruption would be good for me, but I didn’t count on not being able to outrun the one constant truth that follows me.
I’m a mess no matter what state I’m in. Why would Arizona be any different?