Ree sat at a table outside of a decrepit coffee shop on her hometown’s main street. She’d arrived home last night after a four year stint in the Air Force. She’d been thinking about having a latte at this shop for the last three years. It was on it’s last gasp but still doing better than the majority of shops on the street. Store windows were papered over, graffiti scrawled across several store fronts. She shook her head. What the hell happened?
A handful of retiree’s sat two tables away, complaining about the economy and enjoying the warm spring morning. It must be the economy, she thought as she looked up and down the street and finished her coffee. A light traffic flowed along the two way street, but it was headed through, going to the strip malls at the edge of town.
Standing, she looked around for a trash can to throw her empty cup in when she heard the crash behind her. Spinning, she saw a car coming out of the small side street two doors down, had smashed into the right front fender of a blue minivan headed north on Main Street. She dropped the forgotten cup on the table and ran to the van.
The soccer mom was pushing the airbag out of her face.
“You, OK,” Ree asked through the open window?
“Uh, yeah. Just a little shaken.”
Ree ran over to the car, a rusty four door that she was surprised passed its last inspection. She could see one of the oldster’s on his phone. The rest were standing up, taking pictures. “Hey,” she called as she reached the window. “You hurt?” She leaned down to see inside.
“I don’t think so,” the male voice said. Ree couldn’t see his face, he had his head planted on the steering wheel. The car was so old there was no airbag. He brushed his head and his hand came away covered in blood. “I think I cut my forehead.”
She ran over to the tables and grabbed a wad of paper napkins then raced back to the car. One of the old women called out. “We called 911, the ambulance is on its way.” Ree waved acknowledgement.
At the car, the guy was sitting up. Ree shoved half of the napkins into the guy’s hand. “Here, put this over the cut.”
“Shit, the brakes failed. I couldn’t get the car to stop at the corner.”
Ree peered into the car. The voice seemed familiar. “Stan?”
The guy dabbed at his forehead, staring at her from around the napkins. “Ree? Crap, when did you get back?”
Ree stood up. She could hear the ambulance sirens coming. All of the old people had gone over to the minivan to talk to the woman driver who was standing on the street. One old guy was directing traffic. “You’ve made a mess here, Stan.”
He leaned his head back on the headrest. “That’s me.” He opened one eye to look at her. “You’re lookin’ good.”
“Not the time, Stan.” Ree went to school with Stan. They graduated high school together, dating on and off the whole time. She sighed. Ree knew his life was going nowhere and she didn’t want to be trapped in this little town for the rest of her life. She joined the Air Force right after graduation. “Are you all right?”
“Just this cut, and a headache,” he said. He opened the car door with a tremendous squeal, and got out of the car. “Glad to see ya.”
Ree shook her head. They didn’t part on good terms. She was ambitious and wanted to travel. He wanted to smoke weed and do the minimum to get by. They had a fight and he backed out of her driveway in a huff. Ree’s dog was walking behind the car at the time. Even now her stomach turned at the memory of the car slamming into the Labrador mix dog.
“I’m sorry, Ree,” Stan said as he watched her face.
“That’s more than you said after you ran over my dog,” she said, her voice tight with unshed tears.
He reached out to touch her arm.
She jerked it away. “You said you didn’t even like dogs.”
She turned and walked back to the coffee shop where she’d left her backpack. It was time to leave this town for good.
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