You can’t go home again. Andi Sherman repeated the words she’d said hundreds of times. Yet, here she was on the road to
Her stomach roiled. As the car sped along the highway leading to the town she’d left eleven years ago, she gripped the steering wheel. She gulped a breath. Yesterday she’d celebrated her twenty-ninth birthday and she still yearned for a faded dream.
She spotted the sign for County Road 178. On an impulse she turned. Fifteen or twenty minutes instead of ten would see her in her old home town.
The July sun shone bright in a near cloudless sky. A few wispy clouds called ‘mares’ tails’ streaked the brilliant blue. She rolled down the window and inhaled the scents of summer, dust, wild roses, mown hay and other aromas different from those of the city. The winding road would take her past the house where she’d spent her childhood, a house that no longer existed. The property, lost to greed, slovenliness and criminal activities, had been taken for back taxes. She had escaped long before that day.
Dead. All her family members except a younger brother had died when the meth lab had burned like an inferno. Dan Sherman, two years her junior, hadn’t been home the day of the disaster. Neither had she but she’d seen pictures of the fire on television.
Andi sighed. The day she’d graduated from high school she’d left
to begin a slow climb to success.
She knew nothing about her brother’s whereabouts and she had no desire to
learn. Fern Lake
Pressing her foot to the gas she sped past haunted memories and focused on the future. Now a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner she was on her way to join two doctors who had offered her a partnership in their practice.
Her thoughts drifted to her new partners. Josh had settled in
five years ago. Grace had joined
him two years later. Andi had always wondered why they hadn’t become a couple.
They liked the same food, movies and books. Maybe she would find a way to open
Josh’s eyes to the possibilities. Fern Lake
What about you?
She shook her head. She had a new career to explore. Eleven years ago she hadn’t dreamed of returning to
as a nurse practitioner or for any other reason. Her journey had taken hard
work and intense study. From nursing assistant to practical nurse to an RN,
bachelor’s degree and finally to her Master’s. All this had left her with
little time for herself. Fern Lake
The busy days had kept at bay memories of the boy who had hurt and rejected her. Only after hearing Rob Grantlan planned to sell the nursing home/rehabilitation center his father had built for him had she considered returning. The news he’d given up his medical practice had allowed her to accept her friends’ offer.
As she struggled to banish thoughts of him her knuckles whitened. Her chest ached. A rush of tears blurred her vision. She had no time for remembrances of lost dreams shattered like crystal spheres beneath battering words. She recalled the day she realized he’d never loved her and had used her for his pleasure remained strong.
Pleasure. Yours, too.
She had to admit the sex had been exciting. Her teeth clamped on her lower lip. She stopped the car to wipe tears away.
After gulping a series of deep breaths she hit the gas. When the car reached the snake-like segment of the road bordered by huge oaks and maples she slowed. This was no place for speed. A booming noise startled her. She drove around the final bend and discovered the cause. A luxury sedan had slammed into a massive oak. A plume of steam shot into the air. Andi slammed on the brakes and pulled onto the berm of the narrow two lane road across from the wreck. She grabbed her phone and dialed 911 as she ran toward the smashed red car.
The crumpled front end curved around the tree trunk. A rear door hung open.
An operator spoke. “This is 911, what is your emergency?”
“An accident. County road 178 about two miles from town.” She slid her hand across the jagged teeth of glass. “The driver has a faint pulse.”
“Help is on the way. Is there danger of a fire?”
Andi stared at the shattered hood. “The steam has subsided.”
A whimpering sound caused Andi to turn her head. “There’s a baby.” For a moment she froze. The mewling sound became an ear-shattering series of screams. The injured woman never stirred.
Andi leaned into the car and unfastened the infant seat and snagged a diaper bag. She carried the seat and bag to her car. Had the baby been injured? She turned to look at the car. Triage. The rules shot into her awareness. Care for the least injured first. She could do nothing for the woman until someone arrived to extract her.
The baby’s screams intensified. Andi took the child from the seat and tried to calm the infant. A wet diaper proved to be part of the problem. While Andi changed the little girl she checked for injuries. None were evident. She paced along the berm and patted the baby’s back but the cries persisted.
“Hungry?” she whispered. Feeding the child before a thorough neurological exam had been made wasn’t wise. She found a pacifier. The infant sucked halting the cries. Andi strapped the child into the infant seat.
She left the car windows open. Though the July day wasn’t beastly hot and she’d parked in the shade she worried about the tiny girl. Andi ran across the trail of deep skid marks on the gravel road. She halted at the car to check the driver. Still alive.
Sirens sounded in the distance and came closer. The driver’s pulse beat rapid and steady against her fingers. Andi tried to open the door but no amount of tugging helped. A fire truck, an ambulance and a police car arrived.
Andi drew a deep breath. Help was here.
“Move aside,” a man commanded.
Andi retreated and watched the firemen remove a tool from the truck. She believed the implement would allow them to force the door. The screeching noise made her cringe. Who was the victim and why had she sped on the hairpin curves of the road? The length of the skids showed she’d tried to stop.
Andi backed away until she reached her car. One of the officers approached. “Did you witness the accident?”
She shook her head. “I heard the crash as I reached the last curve. When I saw the car I stopped and called 911. The driver had a rapid but steady pulse. Then I heard the baby.” She continued her story as she watched the firemen and the EMTs work.
The officer flipped his notebook closed. “Good thing you happened along. She could have been here for hours. The road isn’t well traveled these days.”
Andi looked away. That was a change from the time when she’d lived in
. Years ago the road
had been busy with cars arriving to buy drugs from her older brothers. Fern
“Sounds like you have medical training,” the officer said.
“I’m a pediatric nurse practitioner.” She watched the EMTs remove the woman from the car. The baby whimpered. Andi lifted the car seat. “I’d better take her to the ambulance before they leave.” She strode across the road.
One of the attendants turned. “Was your baby hurt?”
“She’s not mine. I found her in the rear seat of the wrecked car. She’ll need a neurological evaluation. I found no other injuries.”
The man took the carrier. “Will see one’s done.”
“How is the victim?”
“Any idea who she is?”
He shrugged. “There’s no hand bag, no ID, We can’t access the glove box. Her face is bruised and swollen. Maybe from the accident or for some other reason. The police will have the car towed and they’ll investigate.” He handed the infant seat to one of his colleagues and slid two suitcases inside. “We might find something in these.” He paused on the step. “Who are you?”
“Andi Sherman. I start tomorrow in partnership with Josh Patton and Grace Lunt.”
He smiled. ‘Jack Browne. Heard you were joining them. Why not follow us to the hospital. I’m sure either of your partners would be glad to see you.”
“I could but I really want to see my apartment and unload my car.” She crossed the road. As she closed the rear door she saw the diaper bag. She turned to shout but the ambulance sped away followed by the fire truck and the police car. Looked as if the hospital had become her destination.