The Broken Road (Ch. 1)

Jane feels... settled. Jane goes to Paris to research her new book. Jane meets a guy who she thinks is all wrong for her. Jane falls in love.

CHAPTER ONE

            The piercing shriek of my alarm tugged me out of what wasn’t the best night’s sleep I’d ever had. It’d been filled with tosses and turns and vague, unsettling dreams, not to mention the alternating wakefulness that had me lying eyes-peeled, in total darkness, anxiety for the coming day gripping me like it was the only force tying me to the earth. I should have been excited; Instead, I was ready to crawl under the nearest rock. Sure, I was bound to have a great time and get a lot of work done, but the possibility for things to go south was immense. Plus, I had this feeling in the pit of my stomach that fate had something in the cards for me. Life had been too settled for too long, and I could sense that this upcoming couple weeks spent vacated from my life was going to change all of that. How that was going to happen, I hadn’t the slightest idea, but I could feel the imminence in my very core. And hell, I was worried.

            A voice frantically shrieking my name dragged me out of bed and out into the hall, where I found my roommate, Deena, violently shaking her handbag upside down, loose change falling out onto a pile of other obscure, miscellaneous items on the floor. She asked me if I’d seen her sleeping pills, because apparently the upcoming eight-hour flight would be impossible if she couldn’t just sleep through it. I informed her I hadn’t seen them, and her verbal rage was enough to send me crawling groggily toward the bathroom to shower. I stood under the stream of water, letting the steam clear my head and the hot water drown out the chaos outside the door.

            A shampoo and a blow-dry later, I was sitting in front of my mirror, a towel wrapped loosely around me, trying to decide on how to do my hair. I would be on an airplane, so something conventional and easy would likely be the best way to go. I quickly threw my dark hair into a pony tail, taking a flat iron to my bangs a bit just so I looked semi-presentable. They laid in a mess across my forehead, but I just didn’t have the energy to fix them. I swiped on a bit of mascara, blinked my eyes in front of the mirror a few times, made a funny face in a failed attempt to calm my pulse, and finally decided it was time to turn to my suitcase.

            My clothes lay strewn across the floor, much like normal, except they were separated into piles- pants, shirts, dresses, undergarments, etc. My suitcase had only one item in it, a toothbrush, and I sighed heavily at the idea of having to condense two weeks worth of clothing into a carry-on sized suitcase that was probably meant to be an overnight bag. And that didn’t even include my shoes. I was considering bringing a whole other backpack just for shoes.

            I began folding, trying to absorb myself in the task at hand. Anything to take my mind off the mile-long list of things bothering me. And of course, just when it started to work, my phone rang. A picture of my boyfriend of almost three years, Kevin, flashed onto my screen and I lunged across the floor, grappling to answer it.

            “Hey!” I practically yelled into the phone. “So I’m almost done packing,” I lied through my teeth. “What time should I expect to see you?”

            “Here’s the thing,” he started, and almost immediately I felt my cheeks get hot. I figured I knew what was coming. “I’ve kind of got a lot of stuff going on today. And I’ve got a ton of work to do. So I don’t think I’m going to be able to make it over there.”

            “Oh,” I said, trying to sound surprised and hurt. But truthfully, all I could do was roll my eyes and shake my head.

            “Yeah. But I’ll give you a call or something later. Like, before your flight leaves,” he said. Like that made up for him choosing not to see me before I left for another country for two weeks. He’d promised me he had the day off and that he’d spend the morning with me before my flight. I even had the latest chapter of my book written, all typed out and ready to give to him to read while I was away.

            So much for that.

            “Sure,” I said, putting all my energy into keeping my voice steady.

            “Aww man,” he said, “you’re not pissed, are you? Don’t be pissed.”

            “Kev, I’m leaving today. I have to admit, I’m a little annoyed, yeah,” I replied, and I could hear him sigh through the phone.

            “Babe, it’s only two weeks. Chill out.”

            “Alright, I have to go,” I said. “I guess I’ll talk to you later.”

            “Bye Jane, love you.”

           Click.

            I stared at my phone in disbelief for a moment, mumbling “I love you too,” to no one in particular. Allowing my emotions to seize me temporarily, I sent his roommate, Jeremy, a text asking what the plan was for the day. He replied, “Call of Duty,” and I realized Jeremy probably wasn’t all that bright. I channeled my mounting anger into stuffing my clothes haphazardly into my bag, zipping it shut with such force I worried for a second that it would explode. When I finished, I took a deep breath, exhaled, and repeated a few times. It almost worked.      

            Deena started shrieking again, snapping me out of my temporary funk. I suddenly remembered there were more immediate matters to attend to, like the fact that we needed to leave in a few hours and I still wasn’t dressed, or the fact that, according to her most recent tantrum, Deena couldn’t find her passport. I took one last look at my phone, having an intense debate with myself over whether or not to call Kevin back, and finally decided to just turn the stupid thing off. Tossing it into my handbag, I threw myself headlong into the drama unfolding in my living room.

 

            “It’s about time you got here,” Deena said as John, my literary agent, strolled through our front door. He barely managed to get his coat off before she started handing him bags, snapping at him to take them to the car. John made a face, but willingly lugged our baggage to the car. Deena winked at me, and I suspected she and John had some sort of flirtation going on. It didn’t really bother me, because Deena pretty much flirted with anything that moved. John was my friend, but I was positive Deena understood that there were professional boundaries she needed to respect.

            Well, almost positive.

            Whenever I research a story I’m working on, I need to physically research it. No Google. I want my writing to be as authentic as possible. Since I have a near obsession with Europe, this usually requires me to travel. John comes with almost always, being both my agent and one of my closest friends. This trip, however, would be the first time Deena tagged along too, and until right this very second I’d thought it would be a fantastic idea.

            “I can’t believe you’re not letting me check a bag,” Deena said, frowning at two pairs of leather pumps she’d grabbed from her closet. “Now I have to choose. My shoes hate when I have to choose.”

            “It’s only two weeks,” I said. “And you get one carry-on and one personal item. That should be plenty of room.”

            She looked from one pair of shoes to the other, sighed dramatically, and traipsed back to her bedroom. I looked heavenward, left alone in the living room surrounded by a heavy silence, and asked whatever God was up there to please make these next two weeks easy. The apprehension I’d been feeling during the night resurfaced, and I threw a promise to stop swearing into the bargain, just in case. I was about to get down on my knees and say a ‘Hail Mary’ too, but Deena reentered the room, declaring herself packed and ready to go.

The End

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