Finally, after battling with herself, she climbed out of the bed. She put her jeans back on and then pulled her hair up in a ponytail. A sudden urge to use the restroom took over, and she rushed toward the bathroom. This was something new—no bladder control. She didn’t expect to already have to pee so much.
She quickly brushed her teeth then made sure everything was tidy as though she hadn’t been there. Grabbing her suitcase, she left the room. She expected to find Chloe up front, but she was nowhere to be seen. So she stopped by the front desk and scribbled a note, thanking Chloe for the stay and saying they would talk soon. After all, she was going to need someone during this process. As young girls, she and Chloe had always gotten along.
Outside, the sun was bright. There was a chill to the air, however. The few clouds in the sky were thick and fluffy. She bet there would be a light snow shower before the day was over. In fact, she was surprised to not see any snow on the ground yet. It would be anytime now.
The drive to her mother’s house was short. She lived on the older side of town, and it was unchanged except that the trees had gotten taller.
Julie was excited to see her mom. It had been almost a year since she’d seen her. Julie had flown her out last Christmas to visit her in New York City. She’d taken her mother everywhere, showing her every tourist spot there was to see. Her mother had loved it and said it had always been a dream of hers to travel. Julie hoped one day her mother would get to. Her father had died about ten years ago, and her mother had never remarried. She had a few close friends, though, and maybe one day they would all get together and travel.
But for now, Julie needed her mom. She couldn’t wait to have her mother embrace her and hold her tight, telling her it would all work out.
She pulled up to the house. It looked the same. A small ranch-style home painted a light blue color. It was time for a fresh coat of paint, that was sure. Perhaps she could get someone out here in the spring to spruce the place up. Her mother’s car wasn’t in its usual spot but instead pulled over near the picket fence. A pick-up truck sat where the car was usually parked. Maybe something was wrong with the vehicle, and she was borrowing the truck.
Climbing out of the car, Julie could smell bacon. A smiled crossed her face. Her mom was cooking breakfast. Shutting the car door quickly, she went up the front steps two at a time. As she turned the doorknob, she found it locked. Groaning, she dug through her purse until she found the key to the house and let herself in.
Loud music blared through the house. It was set to a local country station. This was so unlike her mother. In fact, as Julie looked around the living room and saw how untidy it was, she wondered if she was in the right house.
Following the smell of food, she stepped into the kitchen. Julie froze. A half-naked man stood at the stove, flipping pancakes. It was as if he sensed he was no longer alone. He turned, and Julie thought she was going to faint.
“Hi,” the man said.
“Who the hell are you, and where is my mother?” Julie demanded.