The Crossroad of Past and Present
By Melissa Detto
Jenna breathed deeply, her nostrils filling with the sweet spring scents entering the open car windows. But her mood remained sour. “Still no service,” she said, gripping the steering wheel tighter and nodding to her phone.
Her aunt Margaret, a petite woman who wore her reddish-gold hair in a short bob, curved her lips up. “Try to relax, dear.”
“How can I relax? We’re on the wrong road. We were supposed…” She stopped talking and sighed.
Her head was beginning to throb, so she loosened the ponytail holding her long blonde hair.
A chuckle erupted from her aunt’s lips. “You just figured that out? I knew for a while.”
“Why didn’t you say anything?” Jenna glared at the woman.
Margaret shrugged. “I was enjoying the scenery.” She nodded to the majestic pines that seemed to reach the sky. “It’s been wonderful to get out of the city.”
“This is not a vacation,” Jenna reminded her.
“It kind of is. Anyway, you’ve looked at several places,” Margaret responded, referring to the cabins they had seen so far.
Jenna bit her tongue. There was no point in explaining to her aunt that none of the places were what she had envisioned.
“I know you’re eager to find a place. But you need to be patient.” Margaret patted her niece’s arm.
“I was just hoping I’d have found something by now. Looks like I’m going to be in the city for a while yet.”
She sighed again and glanced at her phone. “Sure, now we have service.” Her eyes narrowed a moment later. “The GPS says we’re in Georgia,” she said through gritted teeth. “How did we end up here?”
Her aunt started laughing again. “We really took a wrong turn.”
They both gasped a moment later when they saw a town come into view. “Are we in Germany now?” Jenna asked, seeing the red, sloping roofs.
“Helen,” her aunt croaked out, her eyes widening. “This is too eerie. Your mom loved this place.”
“You never mentioned it. Maybe we should stay here for the night,” Jenna said, intrigued. The sky was beginning to fill with orange hues. “It’s getting late anyway.”
She drove to a hotel on the river. “When did my mom come to this town?” she asked, pulling into a parking spot.
“Oh, it was the summer after she finished high school.” Her aunt’s eyes grew misty. She took a deep breath. “Let’s get our room. Then we can check the town out.”
Jenna hugged her aunt, who was like a mother to her and had raised her from the age of three.
She hated the thought of leaving her aunt in Philadelphia, but for years she had wanted to move to the Southern mountains. Something about the area called to her. Finally, after much scrimping and saving, she had a down payment.
Lost in her thoughts, Jenna didn’t realize they had entered the hotel office until she heard a low gasp.
Looking up, she saw a tall man with brown hair that was losing its fight to gray. He stood behind the counter, his hands clenched tightly. “Lo?” he asked in a quiet voice.
“Huh?’ Jenna stared at the man whose round face was as white as a ghost. His mouth hung open as he gaped at her.
Goosebumps popped out on her arms. “Let’s go.” She grabbed her aunt’s hand, which was trembling and icy cold.
She peered at the older woman’s face, noticing the dark eyes staring straight ahead, unblinking. “Aunt Margaret?” Jenna gripped her arm, and the woman blew out a breath of air.
She shook her head and gave her niece a sheepish smile. “I don’t know what came over me. I…”
“It’s my fault. I startled you,” the man behind the counter cut in. “I…I thought you were someone I used to know.” He scratched his thin hair. “But that was a long time ago. Of course you wouldn’t be.”
Margaret turned to him again and looked as if she was about to say something. A second later, she abruptly turned away.
“Let’s find another place to stay.” She steered her niece out of the hotel.
When they were outside, Jenna asked her, “What’s wrong?”
“We need to have a talk.”
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