Tess Montgomery walked out the front of the rustic old farmhouse and down the porch steps. Her eyes fixed before her on nothing, in a way only narcotics and intense emotional and physical exhaustion can bring, she walked slowly across the lawn until she hit the narrow gravel road in front of her house. Abandoning her good sense completely, she sat cross-legged at the edge of it, staring, still, at nothing. From the farm over the hill came the muffled sound of sheep bleating. A four-wheeler started up. The cool night breeze ruffled her hair. From the same sheep farm came muffled boys' voices, yelling frantically.
Tess closed her eyes. Let's move to a new place, they said. A change of scenery will be good, they said. It offers more opportunities for your father's job, they said. Just think, they said, we're living our dream in a nineteenth-century farmhouse!
Tears squeezed out of Tess' eyes. Everyone she knew was in Hardfrost, Maine! There was plenty of forest, ten minutes away, on the border of town, besides the beach, five minutes away. She liked the scenery at their old house. How much more nature did one person need? Didn't they realize how hard moving was for her?
"Tess? Tess! Where are you?" Her mother's voice cut through the air like a knife. It jerked Tess awake. She stood up, stretched her arms over her head, shivered.
"Coming!" she yelled. She ran a hand distractedly through her messy, sweaty black hair and stared out at the road one last time.
A sputtering and rumbling noise kicked to life down the road. As she turned and walked into the house, a four-wheeler came roaring down the road. Two boys were on it, one in front, the other standing behind. They yelled and waved wildly as she stood in the doorway.
Tess debated whether or not to wave back. Finally, her decision was made for her as they roared away, leaving a cloud of dust. Tess slammed the door and went back inside to finish unpacking.
Tess waved her hand at her parents as they drove away on a grocery shopping expedition, the 'first one in their new town!' Their enthusiasm was slightly nauseating. When they had asked Tess to go along, she had replied in the negative.
"Tess! That was very rude!"
Tess had leveled frank brown eyes, shaded by thick black lashes, at her father.
"Dad. . ." she'd started, but stopped. She'd wanted to say, 'Dad, in case you couldn't tell, my level of tolerance of this new town is very low. I've got absolutely no interest in scoping the locals, as you so charmingly put it. All the locals I want to scope are five fucking hours away!'
But then she looked at him, at the eager hope in his eyes, his desperation for her not to hate the new situation they were in quite so terribly, to not blame him for their move, to deal with it bravely and make it that much easier for everyone. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, opened them again, and managed a smile.
"Sorry, Dad. I'm just tired. I think I'll just go crash with my Walkman in the back yard, okay?"
He smiled at her. "Okay, squirt. Don't get sunburned. See you in a little while."
Tess has heaved a sigh as she watched the Lexus pull away, then wended her way into the back yard. It was one of her favorite places in the new house, green lawn, with a border of thick trees that offered cool shade and shadowy, mysterious forest not too far away. Yesterday, while unpacking kitchen utensils with her mother, Tess had pulled a dilapidated lawn chair out into one of the sparse patches of sunlight and collapsed upon it whenever given a chance. Now she sank upon it, her CD player in her lap. She threw one arm over her closed eyes to keep the sun out, and with the other, pressed play.
I woke up in New York City from my sleep behind the wheel.
Caught a train to Poughkeepsie, and time stood still.
Something Corporate filled her ears, Andrew McMahon singing to her gently about running away, going home, being safe.
I've never been so lost.
Never felt so much at home.
Please write my folks and throw away my keys.
I woke up in a car. . .
Tess drifted off to sleep, dreaming of her friends back in Maine, of the beach and her almost-boyfriend with the stunning green eyes, Forrest Bentley.
When she woke up, there was a sheep breathing in her ear.