The Road Back

Based on Break Down Here by Julie Roberts

I’d sure hate to break down here,
Nothin’ up ahead or in the rear view mirror.
Out in the middle of nowhere, knowin’.
I’m in trouble if these wheels stop rollin’.…

“Damnit! Damnit! Damnit!” Phyllis groaned as she pulled the key from the ignition. She sighed heavily, jerking open the driver’s side door and popping the hood.

She stepped back as smoke poured out. “Fantastic,” she muttered as she shifted to the side to avoid the billows of stifling smoke. She stomped back over to the car and leaned in to retrieve her purse. “Because that’s exactly what I needed today…one more thing to go wrong..”.

“Ok,” she grumbled, walking towards the brightest spot on the stretch of grass where the moonlight shown the brightest on the screen of her phone. Her eyes widened. “You have got to be kidding me…”.

The battery alert flashed across the screen. She pressed the home button, silently hoping there was enough power to at least call for a tow. “No…No..Noooo…” she whined as she watch the screen go dark before her eyes.

“Perfect,” she hissed, “The perfect ending to a perfect day.

This road wasn’t heavily traveled. In fact, the lack of traffic was exactly what brought her to this particular stretch of nowhere, but she now regretted taking the scenic route. Leaning into the car, she opened the glovebox and pulled out an old faded paper map. Jack always insisted on using real, traditional maps. He never trusted GPS–said they were a sure fire way to get lost. Phyllis sighed as she stretched the map out on the front seat. If she was reading this right, there was a main road on the other side of this stretch of woods. If she just walked through…

She stared into the thick brush, taking a few steps closer to the trees. There was a rustling in the leaves yet there was no breeze tonight. She froze. What was that?

“Boo!”

She screamed, turning around quickly and flailing her arms in protest. The light of the moon shown down on his face. Her momentary relief at the sight of his face was quickly replaced by fury.

She pummeled his chest with her small fists. “What is the matter with you? You scared the hell out of me!”

Billy chuckled softly. “I’m sorry,” he smiled. “I shouldn’t have snuck up on you like that. I just couldn’t resist.”

His hands were wrapped around her tiny wrists, her body mere inches from his. “So,” he said, his voice softer now, “You wanna tell me what you’re doing traipsing through the woods in your dress and heels?”

Phyllis smirked. “Bird watching,” she grumbled sarcastically. “My car broke down. I thought I could walk through here to get to the main road.”

“Through the woods?” He smiled, suppressing a laugh. “You’re gonna walk through the woods?”

“I could have and I was just about to if you hadn’t stopped me and tried to give me a heart attack.”

“Well…far be it for me to interrupt your quest. Carry on..”. Billy stood, the smug smirk spreading across his face.

“You don’t think I’ll do it?” She argued.

“I think you’re still standing here in front of me,” he retorted.

Phyllis scoffed, taking a deep breath and summoning all her courage. “Fine.”

She took a few steps towards the thick mass of trees. Her arms pushed the limbs about, clearing a path to walk through.

Billy watched in amusement.

Phyllis took tentative steps. She could feel his eyes watching her every move and she would not give him the satisfaction of watching her fail. No matter what she was walking through these woods. She could handle some trees. There was nothing to be afraid of…the rustling sound returned. It was just her imagination, she reasoned, and then she felt it–something brushing against her leg.

Her body was slamming into his in seconds. “There’s something in there,” she blathered. “Something lives in there. It touched my leg. It touched me.” She shivered.

“Alright…”. He couldn’t hide the smile on his face as he softly stroked her back. “I’m sure it was nothing–probably just a raccoon or a bobcat–they’re almost never rabid and they usually leave you alone if you leave them alone.”

“Do you have their word on that?” Phyllis quipped. She smiled as she looked up at him. This was the first time in weeks she’d been this close to him. Her days were spent trying to get back in Jack’s good graces. There was something so refreshing about just being here–in the moment.

His hands moved up to her shoulders. She trembled slightly under his touch.

“You cold?” He asked, already removing his jacket and draping it over her shoulders before she had a chance to answer. He reached around her neck, gathering her hair in his hands and pulling it over his collar.

She breathed in, the smell of his cologne wafting through the air. She smiled again–in spite of herself.

“What?” He asked, his voice raspy.

“It smells like you,” she whispered.

“Sorry,” he joked.

“No,” she giggled. “It’s nice.” The intensity of his stare was almost unnerving. She glanced away from him, afraid if she didn’t soon that she’d be unable to resist him. No matter what she professed to want–no matter how many times she clamped to want to rebuild her marriage, she couldn’t pretend Jack ever made her feel this way. Even when things were at that their best between them, she had never felt as alive with Jack as she did with Billy. Nothing even close.

“Tell you what,” Billy said softly, “How about I call you a tow truck for your car and we go grab something to eat.” He glanced back towards the road. “I have my bike.”

“I…”. She hesitated. His bike…it would be so easy to climb on the back of his bike with him. She could wrap her arms around him, press herself against him, but she knew that was flirting with the line–the line that was so easily crossed.

“I should stay here…with the car.”

Billy nodded. “Ok,” he breathed, not wanting to push. “There’s a spot just up the road. I’ll call a tow and go go grab us something and bring it back here. We can eat while we wait…kind of a moonlight picnic.”

Her mind flashed back to months ago…their private paradise..how she’d wanted it to last forever.

“Sure,” she said softly, “I’ll be here.”

She watched as he jumped on the bike and pulled away. He’d be back in a few minutes and she knew it, but something about watching him pull away. She wondered how many times she could push him away before he stopped coming back?

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