Author’s note: This is a possible first chapter of a longer piece.
She has turned off the music, finding it too distracting as she looks for some sign that she’s on the right road. But the final notes of the last song she was listening to still repeat in her head, and she’s humming a little off key. It’s dusk and everything is gray.
Great idea, driving alone in a rented car, relying on Google to get her safely to the house, she thinks. Yesterday, when this seemed perfectly reasonable, she had tooled around online, checking out the satellite view on her laptop, but the trees were too big and dense to make out any landmarks. And these smaller island roads haven’t been digitally mapped yet. Is that the shadow of a shallow puddle in the road or is it a giant pothole? In this light they look exactly the same.
More frustrated than worried, she rolls down her window, as twilight and the tint on the windows is making it harder to see. The summer sun has coaxed the scent from the native pine trees, and now, as the air is cooling, the clean, sharp fragrance drifts into the car. “This is what those pine tree air fresheners wish they smelled like”, she thinks, and in spite of being slightly lost, the fresh scent triggers Christmas memories. It invigorates her and she’s excited.
It feels like she’s going in the right direction, but the lights along these roads are more quaint than useful, just coming to life in the growing gloom, peeking out from among the trees heavy with hanging moss. She decides that she’s going to pull over at the next opportunity and get out to read the street sign. Perhaps if she does a search on the street name, the map will magically tell her “You are Here”. She spies a side street ahead, and turns right, pulling as far off the paved road as she can, ending up at the foot of a crushed stone driveway. It appears to be a residential street, but she can’t see houses or any kind of buildings from the road. Getting out of the car, she stretches and feels some of the tension in her shoulders and back dissipate. There are numbers on a brick and stone monument sign at the foot of the driveway, weakly illuminated by some ground-based landscape lighting. It says #40, no street name.
The address she is looking for is #48 Pine Cove Road. Taking a few steps back toward the intersection, she sees the street sign, but the pole looks a little crooked and it’s missing the part that should have the name of this side street. It’s only sporting one sign, Sandhill Crane, the road she turned off of. What was the name of this street? There are no curbs, and no sidewalks, and as she walks back to her idling car, she hears the crunch of footsteps on the gravel drive, coming closer.
“Hello?” A man’s voice calls out. “Can I help you?” He begins to materialize out of the deepening shadows, carrying a tiny little dog in his left arm, pulled up close to his chest, while a leash dangles from his other hand. “You lost?”
“Maybe,” she says. “Looking for a street sign.”
“Ah. Yeah. We had a helluva storm a couple of weeks ago and a lot of the signs on this part of the island got blown away. This is Pine Cove Road.”
He’s close enough now that she can see him pretty well, and she notes that he’s good looking in a vacationy kind of way; casual long shorts and a light colored polo shirt, untucked. Deck shoes and no socks. Hair a little mussed. A bit of stubble but an open, engaging smile. No wedding ring on that hand cradling the dog. Interesting.
“Oh, wow,” she says, “First timer’s luck. I’m looking for #48. I’m renting the house for the next few weeks.”
He takes a step closer and offers his right hand to shake, “Welcome to the island,” he says. “I’m Greg. Greg Miller. You’re just two doors down from here, this side of the street.” He looks down at his pup and adds, “This is Fritz.”
“Danielle Reston. I’m glad you happened to walk down the driveway just now. I was about to get back in my car and keep driving.” She shakes his hand. Warm and dry but his grip is a touch too tight and he holds her hand a second too long.
He smiles and says, “Serendipity.”