Excerpt for Tour Stops Waiting For You by Melissa Kate
Audrey Kelly cruised down the main highway in her little Audi TT heading straight into Crystal Valley. A familiar maelstrom of emotions crept in. The gnawing in her chest overpowered only slightly by the urge to turn tail and drive in the opposite direction. She pushed a button and the window automatically rolled down with a soft hum, letting in the warm, California air. She breathed in deeply, inhaling the fresh salty breeze, taking her back to her childhood. Splashing in the ocean, lying on the warm beach to dry off, ice cream cones and pizza parties. Days of innocent abandon. It was also the days of bitter disappointment and regret.
She squelched those feelings as she turned on to Crystal Valley exit. Good old small town USA. Audrey felt the tightening in her gut, the familiar noose around her neck that came with small town living. The stifling claustrophobia trying to claw its way out. She hadn’t been back in fourteen years, well except for the few days six years ago... and even that was a memory tightly locked away. The day high school graduation had rolled around, she had hightailed it out of here so fast she was surprised her coat tails hadn’t caught fire. Audrey had wanted to amount to more than just a clerk in the local store or a hairdresser at the corner salon. There was more to it than just that, more that she didn’t want to recall. She had set her sights on a high profile life. She had wanted to create a name for herself – a legacy to leave behind. And she did.
Audrey turned onto the street where she lived as a child. Grandpa Joe’s house. She smiled up at the familiar building. The two story, cottage- style house eased the anxiety that had been growing with each mile she drove closer to home. She parked in the gravel driveway and took in the house that had been her haven for most of her formative years. The black shutters on the large windows gave the home a real country feel. The wrap-around porch along the left of the house remained exactly as she recalled, even with the small swing seat where she and her grandma had spent many evenings together, regaling each other with made up stories. The garden surrounding the base of the house was still trenched but did not have even a fraction of the blooms that her beloved grandma had maintained year round. Audrey’s chest pinched and she buried the emotion. Just another one to file away, she thought wryly.