Copyright © 2014
The GPS told me to take the next left, but I wasn’t sure whether what I was looking at was a real road or not. Sure it had a street sign, but the single lane path that vanished into the forest didn’t look much like a road. I sighed and turned left. Though it wasn’t dark just yet, in the thick shadows of the forest I had to turn the headlights on. I bounced along for another couple of miles before I finally came to the mailbox at the end of the road leading up to the house. I eyed the thick bramble suspiciously before deciding my car had sustained enough damage on my trip here without the paint job taking a hit too. If I was going to get any trade- in value for the tiny car, I was going to have to take it easy. I climbed out of the car and grabbed my purse and duffel bag from the trunk. I could come back for the rest of my meager possessions in the morning. I started marching up the steep, narrow driveway and smiled at a chipmunk as it scurried across the path a few feet away from me. I took in a deep breath of the heavily perfumed fall air from the surrounding forest. The house came into view and I stopped momentarily to take it all in. I had to admit that buying a house, unseen and over the Internet, was one of the riskiest things I’d ever done, but it had paid off in the end. I smiled in relief; it was just as it promised on the seller’s website. The majestic log home looked as if it had jumped straight off the pages of a magazine. It was small but newly built and well made. But it had been the little details of the architecture that had caught my
attention more than anything else. The arched windows were all intricately carved out of the logs and they were all glowing warmly from the welcoming light radiating from within. The seller had promised to have it all ready for my arrival tonight, and Janet hadn’t failed me. What friends I hadn’t lost in the divorce thought I was nuts for buying a house sight unseen, but the thought of staying amongst The Circle, in our small, tight-knit community any longer made me crazy. I was willing to take my chances out here in the woods before I’d get one more sympathetic smile from another one of my former friends. I’d admittedly married very well, and I’d never truly fit in with his lifelong clique of acquaintances. It was always a little too Stepford for my tastes, but maybe I would have tried harder had I known it would all end this way. I’d never imagined that one day, after seven long, hard years of marriage, he’d come home one night with the news of a mistress and a divorce. So after a bitter, one-sided divorce, I’d lost the mansion, the money, and the man. I was surprisingly at ease with most of it but I knew couldn’t stay there, not when I might run into him and his new girlfriend. She had a pedigree that would win her top-prized show bitch at Westminster if platinum blonde, gold-digging whore was a dog breed. She was long and lean, with birdlike bones. If it weren’t for all the fake tanner, she would have been one wash of white, from her Scandinavian white-blonde hair and pale blue eyes to the tips of her pedicured toes. I on the other hand am not tall; in fact, according to national averages, I’m short. At five foot two—and three quarters of an inch—I don’t refer to myself as short, just fun sized. I have black hair and dark eyes. My bone structure is exotic…a little too exotic for The Circle , but they’d had to accept me when Ethan eventually proposed. In the seven years we were married, I’d heard it all, from “Oh she is very exotic, isn’t she?” to “My, my she does have a very native American appeal, doesn’t she?” Native American, my ass. I am a quarter Korean, half French, and a quarter Irish. In other words, I had more European in me than most of them but my skin was just a little too dark, my eyes a little too almond, and my temper a little too hot. In other words, his new girlfriend and I couldn’t have been more different, and that fact alone told me the marriage I’d had with Ethan Glenridge had always been a little forced. Part of me assumed it
had something, if not everything, to do with his hateful mother. The woman detested me but she tolerated me throughout college, blaming her only son’s affection for me, on her dead husband. Apparently Mr. Glenridge had a thing for exotic brunettes as well, but when what Mrs. Glenridge first assumed was her son planting a few wild oats, turned into marriage, her little English head almost exploded. What started out as little nasty, underhanded comments turned into an outright attack, but God bless her demonic soul, she had probably extended the life of our marriage by several years. The more she pushed her son to file for divorce, the longer he stayed. I dropped my bags on the porch and opened the front door. The house welcomed me in shades of warm tones from all the polished wood, from the floors to the ceilings. I stepped inside and took another deep breath. Some of my old girlfriends had bigger closets than this, but I didn’t need all that now. There was no competition here, only solitude. During the divorce, after several months of going back and forth for what amounted to table scraps, I finally gave up and simply told my ex-husband that I didn’t want anything from him. It was supposed to make him feel stricken with guilt. When he’d sighed out a breath of relief at knowing his family fortune was safe, I’d nearly tackled him over the top of the marble conference table that separated us. In that moment I realized he hadn’t loved or cared for me in a very long time, and that hurt more than anything else. Unlike a lot of the other trophy wives in The Circle, I had a career as a writer. I was no J. K. Rowling but I did all right, and I’d accrued quite a little nest egg over the years. That nest egg was a whole lot smaller and seemed to be shrinking by the day since my divorce, but now that my house was bought all I had to worry about was finishing the sequel on time and awaiting my next royalty check. Unfortunately, inspiration for my latest romance was running a little toward the dark side these days. My heroine always seemed to catch her hero cheating on her, and then it would turn into an even darker version of the Tell Tale Heart as she ran the bastard over with her car fourteen times and dumped his body under the pool house. What I really needed was time alone to heal. Sooner or later, boredom or starvation would force me to write again.