In a heap in the corner, marked TRASH was everything that reminded her of her eight years with Blane. She was still not over the initial shock of him leaving her at the altar. He told her in front of the altar that he didn’t want to continue. He left her to explain to their families and friends that there wouldn’t be a wedding. That was why she was moving to a horse ranch to teach at the small countryside school for the local workers’ kids. It was a chance to clear her head and find her feet again, away from the constant reminders of Blane.
Mariella locked her old life away behind the door to her empty apartment as they carried out the last box. She walked with a heavy heart to her car to lead the moving truck to the unknown. Mariella had no idea what awaited for her at the other side of the six hundred miles. As she left her past behind her, the unknown started to tug at her heart with a hint of enthusiasm. This was her chance to do something for herself. As the kilometres raced by she was able to start breathing again. She sighed in relief as if she had held her breath for the past eight years.
She stopped at a convenience store in the nearest town to the ranch and read the email from her new landlord, Stef. He had advised her to bring enough food for at least a week, seeing that the ranch was so far out and they normally only made trips into town every Saturday. As she climbed out to do her shopping, the first cool drops descended from the cloudy sky above and splattered softly on her exposed skin. She had sent the moving truck ahead to start offloading her move. The convenience store wasn’t all that convenient, but she managed to find a few supplies and as she exited the store it was pouring heavily.
Drenched from trying to find a place to load her shopping she got into the driver’s seat of her sedan and took off. Right at the border of town she took the turnoff onto the gravel road that was by now a sixty kilometre mud river. It took all her effort to keep the vehicle on the winding road. It was getting dark and the rain still kept pouring. She had the map to the ranch propped on her dashboard and was so focussed on it, that she didn’t see the moving truck roaring towards her as she turned through the gates to the ranch. Getting the fright of her life as the headlights of the truck fell over her face she tugged on the steering wheel, sending her car into a ditch. Yelling in frustration she tried to get her car out of the ditch as the truck just kept on going. She stepped on the gas, but the wheels kept on spinning in one place.
She fumbled for her cell phone to call the ranch owner for help, but to her utter frustration her phone enlightened her that there was no reception. Slamming her fist into the steering wheel, she killed the engine and braced herself to walk the remaining distance to where lights flickered in the distance, in the rain. Locking her car securely she stuffed her purse under her already wet jacket and made her way in the ankle deep mud.
By the time she reached the steps of the farmhouse she was already breathless and cussing at herself for what she had gotten herself into. She shouldn’t have accepted the job in the middle of nowhere and she shouldn’t have decided to come at the beginning of the school holiday. She should have at least checked the weather for the area. She reached out a shaking hand to knock on the door and stood there shivering as she waited for someone to answer her call.
The seconds ticked by and what felt like days to her passed before she saw movement behind the tinted glass panelling of the door. The door swung open and in the frame stood a shrinking lady about the same age as her mother, wearing a nightgown.
“Oh my dear!” She exclaimed ushering Mariella to come in.
“You must be Mariella.” She said excitedly as she helped her out of her dripping coat.
“Just Ella, Ma’am.” Mariella quivered through her clattering jaw.
“No ma’am here, my darling. The name is Stefanie, but you can call me Stef.” She beamed.
Ella realised that the Stef that had emailed her was this woman in front of her. She had thought that it was a man named Stefan. She had thought that the owner was a man. She was actually relieved to find that Stef was more of a motherly figure – it made her feel more at home. Stef brought her a towel to dry her hair and then made her sit down on a rickety chair at the kitchen table and placed a cup of warm tea in front of her.
“Thank you.” Ella said with gratitude.
“You’re welcome dear, but why are you soaking wet? Where is your car?” Stef asked worriedly.
“I got it stuck in a ditch. It slipped on the mud.” Ella replied remorsefully.
“Just glad you’re safe.” She patted Ella maternally on the back.
“I’ll have William pull it out in the morning.” When Stef saw the question mark on Ella’s face, she continued.
“William is in charge of the horses. He’s the one keeping this ranch running. He helped the movers unload your things into the cottage. I’m afraid I don’t have an idea in what condition they left it though.” She said sympathetically.
Ella drank her tea and bid Stef goodnight as she directed her to two identical cottages at the other side of the yard. By now the rain had stopped and Ella made her way to the cottage on the right that was hers for the duration of her contract with the school. The one on the left she presumed was William’s, but all the lights were off inside. She unlocked the front door with the key Stef had presented her and nearly had a heart attack at the state of the place as it illuminated in front of her eyes when she switched on the lights.
The movers had dropped everything in the living area. All her belongings stood piled up into the one cramped room. She was immediately irritated with this William character for not having the common sense to tell them to place at least the furniture in the appropriate rooms. She was cold, irritated and tired after the day’s activities. She didn’t have the energy to move her bed, so she searched for a box labelled BLANKETS, pulled one out and curled up on the coach. She drifted off to a restless sleep almost immediately.