Chapter 1

Lonely seas

I GRIMACED AND GROANED as I came to muddled consciousness noticing the pain in my head and throat, in particular, and in my body generally.  Squinting, I peered up into darkness and wondered how on earth I had come to feel as though I had been tumble-dried for a couple of hours.  And what was that putrid stench?

The enveloping black masked my surroundings, but there was no mistaking the solid, cold concrete on which I lay.  How did I get here?  Where was I?

Something skittered over me on four multi-fingered feet.  Instantly, full focus activated my brain and propelled me to a sitting position.  Or it would have, had lightning not struck behind my eyes.  I collapsed back supine, desperately sucking what air that murky, fetid place afforded me.

As the pain settled to a pounding throb and I lay exhausted by the agony, I searched my memory in hope of recalling what had happened to put me in this predicament.  My mind hopped desultorily among images and snatches of conversation.

At a realization, terror knifed through me.

“BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR,” Mom used to say.  That, and, “You have the worst luck with men, Connie.”

Don’t you hate it when your mom’s always right?

FROM CHILDHOOD, I WISHED FOR A DREAM PRINCE.  I got Gerry, the first time.  He’s still my best friend, by the way.  But we married in our late teens because we had always been friends since we were about two years old, and everybody said we made the perfect couple.  Maybe if we’d slept together beforehand, we’d have realized we weren’t meant to be more than best buddies.

Not that we didn’t try to make it work, but there was just no spark in the bedroom.  When about a year after the wedding Gerry found his true soulmate, I didn’t have the heart to deny him his happiness with Brenda.

Then came Dave, apparent answer to my own dream.  But his eyes weren’t only for me (nor his other parts, for that matter) and that brief marriage ended a lot less amicably.

Tom, my Johnny Cash clone, was more interested in his career and his groupies than in me.  He certainly had no desire to marry.

And married or not, Jean-Guy was determined to live down to the well-known reputation of French men.

So after the fourth go (I am a little slow on the uptake), I finally decided to put my wish for a handsome fairytale prince—or at least a faithful husband—on the back burner.

I should have tossed it into the trash along with Jean-Guy’s jeans and shoes.

I HAD BEEN WORKING for the trucking company for over two years.  It wasn’t a great job, but there was little to choose from in my home town.  Ordering supplies, keeping track of who was driving which rig, and scheduling shipments for customers beat running my butt off at the diner or standing all day slicing meat at the deli counter of the grocery store (both of which I had tried in my teens).  And the pay at Donnegan’s Cartage was a little better than minimum wage and came with medical and dental.

There was always down time in the office during winter months because people and businesses tended to wait until spring if they wanted to move to a new location.  Sure, companies continued to send goods to clients, many of them across the border, but frantic activity started around the middle of April and continued into mid December, ending with the Christmas rush.

But, like I said, things slowed once the snows flew in earnest.  After New Year’s, cleaning the office and the washroom, counting inventory, and shredding old files once the accountant decided they were no longer needed kept me busy for a while.  But by February I was bored out of my mind.  I brought hand-quilting projects to work a couple of times, but stopped when my boss Tom knocked my half-finished white-and-blue table runner on the floor where drivers and customers had tracked in filthy snow.  I could have killed him, but I swore mostly at myself for bringing it from home in the first place.

After that, I tried novels.  But I kept getting dirty looks from several of the guys who, I suspect, could barely read and certainly didn’t approve of any books with titles like “Forever Love” or “The Daring Duke.”  For weeks I ignored their glares and jibes.  But when a customer made a wisecrack about finding me reading when he came in, Tom politely suggested I think of something else to do.  (That same client had had no problem with my quilting the month before.  I can only guess that he, like so many other Neanderthals I know, prefers women ignorant, barefoot, and in the kitchen.)

“Try to look busy,” Tom told me.

So, I turned to the internet on my computer when my paperwork was finished and the phones were quiet.  Once I tired of reading news and of lifestyle sites and general surfing, I logged into social to read posts by family and friends and, if anyone was available, chatted online through direct messaging.

That’s how it all started.


Available in print in the Coffee Break Collection In the Fast Lane. Find it on Barnes & Noble or through a local retailer using IngramSpark’s iPage.