By Skye Knight
“Doors open for a reason, Miss”
The bus driver honked for emphasis. Not that Amelia Chatman needed the second reminder. She knew she was home. She just didn’t want to be there.
Sure, she had come of her own volition, with no prompting from or warning to anyone. In fact, no one even knew Amelia was arriving. After all, it was just yesterday that she had asked for an impromptu two-week vacation from her editor, crossed the country red-eyed on the red-eye, and scooted on the first morning bus for an hour-long ride past towns and villages still shockingly burned into her memory.
And through all her speedy preparations and the dusk to dawn flight, she knew she didn’t want to be home. Nothing good ever came of it before.
Amelia lugs her suitcase down the bus steps with a reminder to herself “I’m not here for something good.”
A sideways look from the bus driver lets her know that she actually verbalized the thought.
The bus door closes with the finality of a prison gate. It lurches away, its tires flipping bits of pebbles back at Amelia, almost as if the bus were spitting a goodbye.
When the dusk settles, it reveals Amelia to be a 28-year-old, eye-catching blend of West Coast funk and East Coast punk. She wears jean, topped off with a tie fitted top, flashing jacket and close-cropped, dyed copper hair with honey blond streaks. Everything about her shouts “Now!!!” Well, except for one thing. The 50s men’s Cavanaugh hat.
“Anywhere I hang my hat is home.” So sang Cleo Laine to the accompaniment of John Dankworth. So sings Amelia in a low melodic strain.
Amelia looks around. In many ways, the town has changed…and in most ways he hadn’t.
The fish business that once made its residents proud as well as prosperous? Dried up. The mill business? Taken elsewhere.
Millertown still had its charm, thanks to residents who refuse to let appearances reflect their vanishing bank accounts. In fact, the town still had its schools, banks, all the services one expects of a stable community.
But, the frayed around the edges taint gave away the fact that a healthy economy is not of the things Millerstown sports.
In other words, this is a town still loved by many, increasingly ignored by most. Betwixt boom and bedroom. A coastal community dying of thirst.
Amelia starts walking down a lane. He face reflects the resolution of a sidelined player unwillingly stuck on the permanently disabled list.
She passes a white oak tree. Her initials still engraved after all these years.
Suddenly a wolf whistle cuts the air. Amelia turns towards the sound. It’s one of several construction workers laying ground for a seedier version on 7-11, if such a thing exists. His admiring look doesn’t sway.
Amelia gives him the finger. Then pauses to light a cigarette. And continues walking the Cape Cod styled home at the end of the lane. Continues walking to death’s door.
She doesn’t notice the driver inside the dark gray sedan, a driver who’s been watching her since the moment she stepped off the bus.
Why should she have? Too busy talking to herself. Like now. “Get a grip, Amelia.”
Yeah, right. Like such an admonishment had ever worked any of the other times she had returned home and felt the same trepidation now staining her body with each step. Some people would say, you get what you wish for. Was that why within a day of each of her prior visits, something had happened that drove her to get a hasty return ticket and return to the comfortable superficial embrace of Hell-A.
But, here she was, pre-dawn and unprepared. The keys jangled in her hands as she fumbled at the carved oak entrance to the home where Amelia was born.
1. To be continued...