Aubrey’s cell phone rings and vibrates from the cup holder of her rented mustang convertible. She turns up the radio to blast the latest country song from Carrie Underwood. God that girl can sing. The ringing stops but immediately starts again. She checks the caller ID.
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” she yells in frustration as she takes the cell phone in her hand and tosses it out of the moving car.
“What’s the point of a fresh start if everyone can still contact you, right?” she says to herself. She’s surprised at how invigorating and freeing it feels to only have to think about herself. After the past eight years, she deserves to spend some time trying to find happiness. Her own happiness. She spent most of her time dealing with other people’s issues as a psychologist and helped them carry their burdens. But who steps in when she needs someone to share her burdens? Her husband? Her friends?
Aubrey has never been the type of person who trusts easily, given that she hopped from foster home to foster home as a child. No one has ever prioritized her needs. Until now. Now, she doesn’t give a flying fuck about everyone else’s needs. She’s in need of a new start, which is how she finds herself driving through Silverton, Texas in a bright red convertible with the roof down and her brown hair blowing in the warm summer breeze.
She’s signing along to Redneck Woman on Route 86 when her convertible starts to smoke. The smoke becomes intense and Aubrey has no choice but to pull over on a long, secluded stretch of highway.
“You have got to be kidding me!”, she says turning her face toward the sky.
“You couldn’t cut me some slack, throw me a bone, God!”.
Aubrey gets out and walks around to the front of the car and opens the hood, only to get a cloud of smoke in her face that causes her eyes to water. Well, this is fucking awesome. Stranded on a back road in Texas with a broken down car and no cell phone. It’s a serial killer’s paradise and she’s just sitting pretty waiting to be hacked death or die of dehydration in the Texas heat. Why oh, why, did she decide on a fresh start in Texas in the middle of July.
“Because it’s as far away from Canada as possible,” she mumbles.
She slides down the side of the car and puts her head in her hands. She can’t believe her luck. If she didn’t have bad luck, she wouldn’t have any luck. She gives into a short moment of self pity and frustration. Aubrey screams out her anger and starts thinking about how to solve the problem. Every problem has a solution, right? That’s what she tells her clients. Now, she needs to take her own advice. She’s taken care of herself since she was a child. She’s stronger than this and isn’t going to let a string of bad luck stop her from her fresh start.
With a new perspective, Aubrey stands and moves towards the rear of her mustang. She pops the trunk and grabs her suit case. Thank God, it has wheels. Last she checked, it was a couple miles straight on Route 86 to reach Silverton. Sure, she isn’t exactly dressed for a walk through the fucking Sahara, but she’ll make it work. Her five inch stilettos and pant suit are her exceptionally well made coat of armour.
She locks the convertible and leaves the emergency flashers flicking. She’d get a tow truck once she was in Silverton. With that decided, she grabs her purse and suitcase and begins walking with her head held high. At least it was, until her left heel gives out and she falls face first on the hot blacktop.
“Mother fucker,” she bellows as she lands on her wrists in an attempt to break her fall.
She rolls onto her back and looks up towards the sky. She spots a vulture over head circling not far from her. If that isn’t an omen, she doesn’t know what is. Aubrey lays there watching the clouds float by. It’s a beautiful day in Texas. Warm as monkey balls, but beautiful. It’s been a long time since Aubrey has taken time to breathe and enjoy her surroundings. She’s not sure how long she spends on the black top, but eventually she composes herself and makes the step forward. She pushes herself up using her wrists and cries out in pain. She looks down towards her left wrist.
“Fuck,” she hisses.
Aubrey has a couple cuts on her palms where she fell, but it appears she sprained her wrist. The sharp pain radiates through her arm when she attempts to apply pressure on her hand. She grimaces through the pain and holds her wrist to her body as she continues to rise. Using her right hand to grab her suit case with her purse, she continue to limp towards her destination.
By the time she reaches the first sign of civilization, her wrist is throbbing and the blisters on her feet have multiplied. Her shoes are hosting a family reunion of fucking blisters that rub against each other with every step. She believes her luck is finally changing when the first building she spots is a bar called the Barn House.
Maybe there’s a light at the end of this horrid day.
Alcohol always helps.
Life lessons from dear old mother-in-law.
The local watering hole looks more like a dilapidated shack that could use some lysol wipes and maybe a bull dozer. The sign hanging over the door is missing a couple letters, spelling “Bar Hoe”. Charming. Aubrey doesn’t care as long as it serves alcohol and she can sit her ass down and rub her feet. She opens the door to the bar and the stench of bodies, alcohol and smoke smacks her in the face and is absorbed into her pores.
Aubrey grimaces and crinkles her nose as she moves further into the bar. She already knows she’s going to spend some quality time in a shower tonight just to get the smell out of her clothing. The bar is your traditional country bar with a dance floor and a small stage at the back. A curved bar is placed in the centre of the open space and there are whiskey, rum and gin bottles on display behind the bar. The stools around the bar hold a couple of patrons, one who is face down on the bar. Clearly, he started early today and has already passed out, leaving a puddle of drool on the bar top.
It’s fucking four o’clock in the day.
There’s a woman behind the bar with long black hair that looks like silk and is the colour of a raven’s. She’s tall and has some serious tattoos up her left arm that Aubrey notices, as she cleans glasses behind the bar.
Aubrey stumbles on her broken heels towards the bar and sits down. The bartender comes towards her with suspicion etched on her face.
She asks, “What can I get ya?”
“A shot of whiskey please, and directions to a hotel.”
The bartender pulls out some whiskey and pours her shot.
“You’re clearly not from around here. What brings you to our neck of the woods… Miss…?”
“Fox, Aubrey Fox. And no, I’m not even from this country. Canadian. And before you ask, I don’t say, “eh” or live in an igloo,” she sarcastically offers.
The bartender’s perfectly shaped eyebrow raises and she smirks.
“Okay, Miss Aubrey,” she says slowly.
“I’m Daisy and I own this classy establishment. The only bed and breakfast in town is Halley’s and from what I know she’s booked up right now. The next county over is Happy and they may have something there, but I doubt it since the rodeo circuit is in town. Places book up pretty quickly around this time of the year.”
Aubrey downs her shot of whiskey and takes pleasure in the burn it sends down her throat. Hopefully that takes the edge off the pain in her feet and wrist.
She slams the empty shot glass on the bar.
“Isn’t that just peachy! What about the local doc?”
“Doctor McGuire. What’d you need the doc for?” Daisy asks, as she peers over the bar to assess Aubrey.
“I fell and I believe I sprained my wrist.”
“Ahh, well the doc is good at what she does. She should be in her clinic this afternoon. Its just down the street a bit, right next to the feed store. Can’t miss it,” Daisy smiles.
“Great… thanks,” Aubrey lays a twenty dollar bill on the bar and hops off the stool.
“Nice to meet you Aubrey. I’m sure I’ll be seeing you around. If you need anything let us know, ya hear?”
“Yeah… thanks,” she mumbles, as she scurries to the exit.
Aubrey makes her way down the road towards the feed store sign. She ignores the subtle stares she receives from people as she limps down the side walk. She’s aware she doesn’t look like a human being right now. Small towns are always looking for something to gossip about.
Let’s give ’em something to talk about after church on Sunday, shall we?
She approaches the feed store but is stopped abruptly when a cowboy barrels through the door and rushes past her, bumping her shoulder and knocking her off balance. With a yelp of surprise she falls roughly to the ground on her ass. The cowboy, who clearly didn’t get the memo on southern hospitality or common decency, greets a couple other cowboys getting out of a red Dodge in the parking lot, completely ignoring her.
Oh, hell no…
“HEY!” she screams.
The flock of cowboys turn around to see her sitting on the ground. And wow, what a sight to behold. Standing before her is three of the best specimens of male hotness that she’s ever seen. The one who knocked her down is wearing a white cowboy hat, some well-worn Levi’s and a blue plaid button down shirt. He’s the youngest looking with his baby face features that are soft and undeveloped. He doesn’t look older than eighteen or nineteen, if she has to guess. The other two men standing with him are a different story. Wearing similarly well-worn faded Levi’s and matching cowboy hats in black. There’s no doubt that they’re related because they have similar features. One is taller and broader, wearing a black t-shirt that clings to his broad shoulders. He has longer dark brown locks that flow under his hat and a strong chiseled jaw line with bright green eyes. Eyes the colour of a forest after a summer rain. The other man, is similar in appearance, but his hair is shorter and lighter and he’s not as broad as his counter part. Blondie looks mischievous, like he knows everyone’s secrets. He grins widely at Aubrey’s outburst.
Black shirt hot cowboy doesn’t look impressed and his lips pull shut in a firm straight line. Aubrey speculates that if he smiles, his face will crack into a million pieces. Blondie has an amused grin on his face and the young dumbass appears shocked.
“Now that I have your attention, cowboys,” she lifts herself upright.
“How about an apology for knocking me over in your rush to get out of the store. I thought that Texas cowboys had manners!” she continues, as she approaches the trio with her finger raised in their direction.
“M-Ma’am,” the young buck stutters, but Aubrey doesn’t give him the chance to finish.
“Ma’am? MA’AM?” she says, sternly. For whatever reason this poor boy is about to be the scape goat for her bad mood but there’s little she can do to control it. It’s been festering for a while and now it’s a runaway train speeding towards disaster.
“Now you decide to use manners. Let me tell you something… cowboy. I’ve had a really bad day. My car broke down three miles from town. I walked in heels… well in one heel because the other cracked off and I landed on my wrist. Which fucking kills right now… AND I’ve been informed that the B & B has no vacancy! So, to recap, I’ve no car and no lodgings and I am to start a new job Monday. Then… you knock into me without even a glance in my direction or an apology,” she screams.
“Now, wait just a second ma’am,” hot black shirt cowboy comes forward. Damn, what are they feeding the men down here? Fucking miracle grow?
“I’m sure my brother is very sorry for not apologizing but your bad day is not his fault. How’s about you calm down,” he says placing his hands on his hips. And what fine, fine hips they are! Damn it, stay on task! The young buck is clearly embarrassed and his face flushes to the colour of a ripe tomato.
“Calm down!” Aubrey interrupts.
“Haven’t you ever been taught that the way to calm a distressed lady down is not to tell her to calm down. It doesn’t work. It pisses her off more,” she says pointing her index finger into the cowboy’s chest with every word.
Frustrated the cowboy rubs the bridge of his nose with his index and thumb as he exhales a deep breath.
“With all due respect ma’am, you don’t seem like the usual type of woman one of us would piss off,” he says.
“And what exactly is that supposed to mean?” Aubrey huffs, placing her hands on her hips and slides hot cowboy her meanest look. Her RBF usually causes flowers to wilt.
“It appears to me, ma’am, that you’re a bit uptight. Maybe your time here in our humble little county will assist you in removing the stick that is firmly lodged up your ass. If not, I know the name of a great surgeon who can help ya out,” he says with a cocky smirk.
Frustrated and unsure how to respond, Aubrey huffs and throws her hands in the air and begins to walk away but catches a muffled laugh from one of the cowboys. She glares over her shoulder to see blondie smirking. She rolls her eyes and keeps walking, not looking back despite all the flutters in her belly the hot cowboy gives her. She spots the local clinic and walks in. She’s greeted by a little old lady with bouncy white hair and glasses who is sitting at the front desk.
“Hi, I’d like to see the doctor. I believe I have sprained my wrist,” she says politely.
The woman looks up and her eyes widen when she takes in the state of Aubrey’s appearance. Her hair has slipped out of the tightly wound bun on top of her head. There’s blood on her white chiffon shirt from her palms and in addition to the broken heel she holding, she has a gaping hole in the knees of her dress pants.
“My word, darlin’. Are you sure you only need a doctor? Come, sit down in here and I’ll get Dr. McGuire right away,” the woman, rounds the desk with her hand on her chest in awe. She escorts Aubrey towards an examination room, where she has her fill out some basic paperwork before leaving her to sit on the examination table.
A light knock comes at the door and Dr. McGuire enters. She appears to be in her mid thirties with long straight hair the colour of honey. She has the facial features of an angel and when she speaks her voice is soft and comforting. No wonder this woman is a doctor. Everything about her is soothing.
“Miss Fox?” she asks.
“In the flesh…”
“What brings you in today? I don’t believe I’ve ever seen you around our small little town,” Dr. McGuire sits on a rolling chair in front of the examination table.
“I’m new to town. I fell and believe I may have sprained my wrist.”
“Alright, let’s take a look.”
Dr. McGuire lays down her chart and moves to examine Aubrey’s left wrist. Aubrey winces when she tries to move the wrist.
“There’s definitely some swelling and bruising. But nothing appears to be broken. I’d like for you to ice it and reduce movement. You can use this compression wrap in the meantime and it will help. For the pain you can take some OTC pain reliever. That should be sufficient. If the swelling persists or the pain increases, come on back and I’ll take another look.”
“Thank you,” Aubrey says, as she stands with Dr. McGuire.
“What brings you to town, Miss Fox?” the good doctor asks.
“Needing a fresh start. Saw an advertisement for a child psychologist and thought, why the heck not,” she shrugs her shoulders casually.
“So, you’re a psychologist?” Dr. McGuire asks surprised. Although, given her current state of distress she probably looks like she needs to be assessed by a psychologist.
“Yes, I am. I’ll be working privately as I’ll be taking over a counselling practice from the previous psychologist who plans to retire. However, I still haven’t figured out where I’m going to stay. Any suggestions?” she asks, shyly.
“Please, call me Jordan. It seems we’ll be working closely together. I may be able to help you out with some accommodations until you get yourself on your feet. My family owns a ranch just on the out skirts of town. I don’t live in the ranch house anymore, but my brother is still there and I know he would be fine with you staying there if I ask.”
“Really?” she’s surprised by her eagerness to offer help.
“Absolutely! Us professionals got to stick together, right? I’ll just give Remi a call to confirm. You go settle things up with Geraldine, the receptionist, and I’ll let ya know, okay?” Jordan says.
Aubrey is baffled and stumbles to Geraldine’s desk. The receptionist is face and eyes into an old quilting magazine that appears to be from the early 80s. Aubrey coughs to get her attention.
“Alright darlin’. You feeling a bit better?” she asks brightly.
“Yes, much better. Thank you,” she says.
“Now, I just had one question before you leave. You didn’t put a phone number on your demographics and we’ll need one for you in case the doctor needs to get in touch with ya.”
“Oh! Sorry, I just lost my phone. How about I give you my office number since I’m due to start there Monday.”
Aubrey provides her with the contact information for the counselling office. As she’s doing this, Jordan returns from her office and walks toward Aubrey.
“My brother said that he has room there for you. If you want directions I can give them to you,” Jordan says, smiling innocently.
“Umm, actually… my rental broke down on the out skirts of town,” She sighs. “It’s been a really bad day.”
“Oh, okay… Well, I finish up here in about an hour and I can bring you there. How about you go across the street to Dolly’s Diner? Dolly has the best apple pie in the whole state and she’ll love to see a new face,” Jordan says, while walking with Aubrey towards the door. Aubrey agrees and walks out of the clinic. She hears a gasp from behind her and turns quickly to see Jordan’s eyebrows rise into her hairline.
“What’s wrong?” she asks.
“I hate to add insult to injury Aubrey. But I think you may have sat in some dog…excrement,” she pulls her lips together, clearly trying to hold back a laugh.
Aubrey turns and looks to the sky, taking a deep breathe in attempts to calm her emotions. She doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry at how horrible this day has been going.
“Of course I have,” she says, sarcastically as she walks towards the diner.