The car hummed as I pressed the accelerator, easing out as much speed as I could. A sign whizzed by, reading "Hillsboro - 10 miles". The CD player had Dido in, and in the back of the blue Toyota Rav4 lay state maps, packages, bottles, coffee cups, and bags of trash.
After about 10 minutes, I saw the houses of Hillsboro in the distance. There were about 20 houses on the main road, and were pretty spread out. It was basically a one road town, nothing much to look at. The houses were made of wood, stone, and brick, and painted in whites, greens, and blues. One house had steps lined with trees going up to the porch. Fields and woods spread out in either direction beyond the town, several farms spotting the landscape. In the whole town, there was one inn to stay at, the Red Herring. Out front a sign hung, with the name printed on it, and under it there was "Bed and Breakfast." Slowing down, I glanced around, fascinated by the old houses, many dating from before the Civil War. Pulling up to the Red Herring, I turned off the car, sitting there a few minutes taking in everything. Finally making up my mind, I climbed wearily out of the car. I jogged up the steps, each step creaking painfully.
The Red Herring was a two story building, painted white. The building needed a new coat of paint. The wood showed under the peeling white coat, but it was in pretty good condition. I pulled open the screen door, noticing the intricate carving done on the actual door. The window pane was oval shaped, with flowers and curlycues carved around it. The door handle was rusty with age, and pushed the door in, my hand coming away covered with red dust. Wiping the rust onto my jeans, I went up to the main counter of the quaint front lobby, having a drop-leaf table in the center with a bouquet of flowers on it, and there were a few chairs scattered around the room, all 19th century pieces. Reaching the reception desk, I rang the service bell. As I waited, I checked out the lobby further. A small tear-drop chandelier hung from the ceiling over the table. The walls were painted baby blue, the mortar around the walls indented in the middle, like a wave.
"Can Ah help you darlin'?" a woman's Southern accent came from behind me.
I turned around, partly in surprise. The woman was in her mid 40s, sun burnt, with a pleasant grin spread all across her face, her brown eyes shining as if she knew something I did not. Her dress was very simple, red with a small lace pattern around the collar. Her black hair was done up in a bun at the nape of her neck, a few wisps falling around her face.
"Yeah," I replied, smiling. "I need a room for the next couple of nights. Do have any that aren't in use??"
"Well," she said gingerly. "Ah do have a few rooms open. Would you like a view of the street?"
"Sure, I don't see why not." I paused as I watched her reach for some papers and a key behind the counter. "There don't seem to be very many people in town. The street was almost deserted when I came in."
"Well, now, this isn't a big town, dear, and the young folks like to go travelin'. Many of 'em have already gone..." A sad expression flitted briefly across her face. "Dear me. What's your name?"
"Ah'm Mrs. Vance. You have Room 13, second floor."
"Thank you, ma'am."
She nodded her head, smiling. Sticking the key in my pocket, I went out to get what I would need for the next couple of nights. Already I felt tired from the long drive, even though it was only 4 pm. Reaching my car, I pulled the roll-along suitcase out of the trunk and back up the creaky wooden stairs. Mrs. Vance was not behind the desk when I came in, so I went on up the stairs that hugged the wall, to the left of the desk. Reaching the second floor, there was one hallway with about five rooms on either side. I assumed that there were rooms on the first floor as well. There was a window at the end of the hallway, with a table and a vase of lilies under it. It, too, was painted baby blue, the same design as the lobby. I soon found Room 13, with a view of the street below similar to the one from the lobby. There were some white lace drapes hanging from either side of the windows, and the room was painted a comfortable yellow. A wash basin was on the bureau, across from a single bed with a bedside table, a small electric oil lamp on it. There was a chair, but not much else in the room. I placed my suitcase next to the bureau, grabbed my purse, and, locking the door behind me, went back downstairs and out onto the street, just to see what there was to see in Hillsboro.
There was not much, no stores except for a General Store that doubled as a gas station with the old-fashioned 1950s pumps, which was closed. The houses were all small, two storied, some having more of an attic than a second floor. They were all so old, and I could imagine what the town might have been like in the 1860s. It gave me an odd sense of belonging, like a home. Each house was unique in its own way.
Strolling up and down the street, I took a few pictures to add to my Civil War scrap book I was creating. Before I knew it, it was 5:45 and growing dark outside. Making my way back to the inn, I took one last picture of the whole street, having enough light to do so. Slowly and wearily, I stepped up onto the porch and went through the door, seeing Mrs. Vance on her way downstairs. She spied me and came in my direction. I went to greet her.
"Good afternoon, Miss Taylor," she said. "Ah was just up there at your room lookin' for you. Where have you been off to?"
"Shawn, please. I was just strolling the street, getting to know the place better. I'm making a scrap book of all the Civil War places I've been to, in chronological order. That's why I stopped here, besides the fact that it's a good stopping point before I move on to my next point of interest."
"How interestin'. Well, dinner is at 6pm, but since no one else except John and Sarah are here, Ah suppose you can eat now, if you would like to. There's fried chicken, collard greens, biscuits, and mashed potatoes, and iced tea. Sound all right?"
"Sounds wonderful," I grinned with appreciation. "Would you like me to set the table?"
"Thank you for offering. The dining room is right through that door" - she pointed to a swinging door to the right of the desk - "and the silverware is in the chest along with the plates. You can't miss it."
I started towards the door she had indicated, entering a small, plain dining room. There was a mirror against one wall, and a table in the center of the room, with seven chairs around the table. She must not get a lot of business, I thought. I saw the chest she had been talking about with two three-pronged candlesticks on it, the slender candles in them not yet having been burnt. The only other lighting source in the room was the small chandelier hanging from the center of the room, the candles on it having been replaced by electric lamps. I pressed the switch and got some light to see by. Striding to the chest, I pulled open a drawer, finding the silverware. I found the plates in the cabinet below it, as well as place mats. Getting four, I placed them around the table, not putting any of them at the heads of the table. Then I got the plates and silverware and put them on the table.
"Wait," I said aloud to myself. "What am I forgetting?" I paused as I surveyed the table. "Napkins!" I found them in the drawer next to the silverware drawer.
By this time, dinner was ready and everyone was getting themselves seated around the table with their servings of food already on their plates. John andSarah were brother and sister from Stanton, Virginia, going to Civil War Battlefields. We had a pleasant conversation, and I offered to take them along with me on my trip since they were going in the same direction I was, and thought it'd be easier for all to continue on as a group. They wanted to, so we decided that we would continue together the next day to Antietam. We stayed up until ten o'clock, then I retired to my room. I was weary and wanted to get a good night's rest. I sleepily climbed into my pajamas and brushed my teeth. Climbing into the single twin bed, I stared up at the ceiling as I waited for sleep to come. Turning the light back on, I got back out of bed and got a James Bond book out of my suitcase front pocket and began to read. My body was refusing to function, and I felt tired, but my brain was still wide awake it seemed. I saw the glow of the hall lights through the slit under the door. I felt my eyelids starting to drop, and, placing the book on the bedside table, I turned the lamp off and snuggled under the covers. Soon my weariness overtook my brain and I relaxed into a dreamless night of sleep.