by Rebecca Reinwalt
The time had finally come and she was leaving the town that held no attraction for her anymore. She'd wanted out for so long, but it seemed there was always one problem or another that came up and kept her from making a dream come true. This time, nothing would stop her. The few belongings she had left were safely loaded in the U-haul truck in the parking lot; all that was left to add were her critters. And she would do that as she left the apartment for the last time.
She was unsure whether she would leave that night or wait until morning. In the meantime, she would try to get some sleep.
Time seemed to crawl, the hands on the clock seemingly stuck. As the hours crept by, the excitement of finally making her dream come true, moving to Texas to be with the man she loved with all her heart, urged her forward. Unable to sleep, she decided there was no reason to postpone her move any longer. Gathering up her last few things, along with her cat and dog, she locked the apartment door one last time and bid farewell to what had been her prison for the last 19 months.
Making one quick stop, she topped off the gas tank on the moving truck, purchased some Cokes and snacks, and hit the long road that would eventually lead her home.
She knew if she could keep to her schedule (which meant not wasting a lot of time sleeping nor stopping for gas and food) she could be where her heart had remained a month before, in Texas, within 36 hours. Reaching over, she lightly pinched her arm to make sure this was not all a dream.
She drove on into the night, the miles beginning to stack up behind her. As she approached Hoover Dam, the line between Nevada and Arizona, she had her first scare of the trip. Security flagged her down, telling her that no trucks were being allowed across the dam; instead, there was a detour that she would have to take, putting her 6 hours out of her way. However, they were in a good mood that night, for after inspecting her truck and talking to her about where she was going, they allowed her to go across.
A twisting, turning road through a narrow canyon lay ahead of her, taking her across the dam. Although she had lived within an hour of the dam for many years, she had never had the desire to cross it in a vehicle. Many years earlier, she had been on Lake Mead (created by the Colorado River held back by the dam) in a boat and had seen the dam that way. She had no yearning this night to take time to watch the scenery she was passing -- her mind was on the trip ahead and how soon she could complete it.
She continued to wend her way through the canyon, the highway virtually empty this time of morning, taking the opportunity to ponder the significance of that one lone Southern star that had been her constant companion through the long lonely night. Had it been put in the night sky by fate, or had it been merely a coincidence?
Her cell phone rang sharply, jarring her from her reverie. She knew before she ever answered, it would be him -- the man she had grown to love with all her heart and soul over the past 18 months. The very reason for this long journey. She was going home to Texas, to his waiting arms. But more important than that, she was going to share the love that they both knew was unlike any other they had ever experienced.
As she answered the phone and they began to talk, the excitement and love in their voices was unmistakable. She told him of her trip thus far and explained that the call might drop due to her surroundings. As they continued their conversation, she did lose her signal once or twice, but didn't worry as she knew he would call her back and they would talk until it was time for him to leave for work.
Suddenly he heard the panic in her voice as three words screamed in his ear "Oh, my God!" and the line went dead. Not knowing what had happened, what might have befallen her, his heart was filled with dread. He redialed her number over and over, but could not reach her.
Hundreds of miles away, on the other end of the line, she was also trying to reach him, but the canyon walls surrounding her weren't allowing any signal on her cell. She knew he would be frantic with worry, wondering what had happened.
Finally, after the longest five minutes either of them had ever spent, she got a signal and hurriedly called his number. The relief in his voice was apparent as he answered the phone, words rushing from his mouth. Was she okay? What had happened? Yes, although her heart was in her throat and beating 100 miles per minute and she was shaking like a leaf, she was fine.
She calmly, or so she hoped, explained about the big rig that had come up on her left side out of nowhere, passing her at a speed she felt was unsafe for this part of the highway. Before the trucker had completely passed her, he had begun pulling back into her lane, forcing her to the shoulder of the road that was next to non-existant and causing her to slam on her brakes. Somehow she had managed to keep the truck under control and, although shaken, she would be okay.
They talked a little longer before her signal started to fade once more. So before the call could drop again, they said their goodbyes, assurred each other of the love they felt, and she disconnected the call with the words "Be careful, Angelbaby, I love you!" echoing in her ear.
Not much later, as she reached the top of the canyon, a rest area came into view. She had been keeping an eye out for one, not only needing to pull herself together, but so she and her little dog could also stretch their legs. Stepping down from the cab of the truck, she noticed how crisp and clean the air was, as well as mind-numbingly cold. After just a few short minutes, she and her pup were ready to return to the warmth of the truck.
As she leaned back into the driver's seat and stretched her legs, the dog curled into her lap. Laying her head against the cold glass of the window, the last thing that went through her mind as she drifted off to sleep, was the face of the man in whom she was putting all of her love, faith and trust.
Awakening several hours later to the sun high in the sky and warm against her face, she again left the safety of the truck to stretch and allow her dog to answer the call of nature, before continuing their journey. The day was uneventful. She stopped only when she needed gas and something to eat -- allowing time at each stop to spend time with her little dog as he did whatever he needed to do. The warmth of the sun lifted her spirits, making her anxious to complete this trip.
As the hours snuck by, the miles continued to add up behind her. The forward motion was bringing her ever closer to her goal with one thought constantly on her mind. Please don't let this be a dream, and if it is, don't let me ever wake up.
The afternoon began to wane as the early evening took its place. Having arrived home from work, he called her again to make sure she was safe. And she was. She was sitting in the parking lot of a truck stop about an hour west of Albuquerque, New Mexico, sharing chicken strips and potato wedges with her little dog and her cat, who was traveling in a crate on the passenger seat.
She was, however, getting weary from all her travel and was quite ready to find a motel so she could get some decent sleep and a nice hot shower. She had researched several before leaving Nevada; she would need one that would accept her critters. He called ahead and reserved her a room, and then called her back with directions. They decided she would call him back when she was safely settled in the room. The return call came sooner than he expected, but she wasn't at the motel. She was sitting in a parking lot . . . lost. He called the motel on another line and soon she found the motel and registered for the night.
She settled her babies (her furry pets) in the room and made several trips back to the truck to bring in all that they would need for their short stay. She then ate the fried chicken she had bought at the truck stop for supper and made one more call to him. For the second time that day, she drifted off to sleep with his "I love you, Angelbaby!" echoing in her head.
The alarm awoke her in the middle of the night with its loud blaring beep. As she stretched and wiped the sleep from her eyes, she could hear the wind howling outside her window. This is all I need, she thought to herself as she climbed into a hot shower. But later, as she put things back into the truck, she noticed that the wind was blowing from the west, which meant it would help push her down the road, rather than hinder her.
Within minutes of getting back on the highway, she left the lights of the city behind. Looking into the distance, she saw the night sky was clear and bright. The moon was shining off to her left, stars were twinkling abundantly all around.
Remembering her companion of the night before, she took a moment to glance off to her right. To her surprise, that one lone star was all that shone in the southern sky. Brighter, much brighter, than any of its counterparts to the north.
She drove on through the night, the miles behind her growing longer, the ones in front of her, shorter, ever aware of that one lone star faithfully twinkling to the south. As the eastern sky was being painted by the dawn, she crossed over into Texas and took what would be her last look at what she had come to consider her "Southern Star." It winked at her one last time, as if to say, "I have brought you safely home" . . . before it melted away into the morning sky.
Yes, she was home. In a state that at one time, she had declared she would never be caught dead in. But, just as the man she was going to be with had done, Texas had stolen her heart from the moment she had set foot on its soil back in June of the previous year. She knew she belonged there. Belonged to this state and the man she loved more than life. She couldn't wait till he would come home at dinnertime and take her in his arms.
Then, and only then, would her new life be complete.
Rebecca Reinwalt is a native of Colorado who, after a trip to Texas, fell in love with the South. She recently relocated to Wichita Falls, Texas, where she shares a home with fellow USADS writer Randy Hill and her "furry critters." She's a veteran of the U.S. Navy, where she received her training in office administration. She also served as an Emergency Medical Tech with the Three Oaks Emergency Vehicle Association in Three Oaks, Michigan. A mother of four and grandmother to three, she has an extensive love of the written word and is an avid reader who also enjoys crochet and gardening.
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