The novel, Old Broad Road, is a realistic portrayal of a middle-aged woman on the run in an unfamiliar setting.
My eyes closed against the sudden brilliance of the bathroom light. Unsteady, I clutched the side of the sink and squinted at the tormented reflection in the small motel mirror. If only it were just a nightmare and not a memory.
Holding a wet washcloth against my face and the back of my neck calmed my panic. I peeled off my nightgown and reached for a towel.
Back in the shadowy room I slipped another gown over my head. Avoiding the damp sheets, I crawled into the opposite side of the bed and closed my eyes. The disturbing scene continued to haunt me. Even summoning images of the majestic coastline did little to rid my mind of the numbing memory.
Resigned to another sleepless night, I turned on the lamp and threw back the covers. With an impatient tug on the belt of my robe, I began the chronic ritual of pacing the floor – my arms wrapped tightly around my body.
My grown children and my friend−my best friend Maggie−thought I had lost my mind. They seemed to think I would do something crazy. Crazy? Like what? Kill myself?
These last few months I had shut myself off from the rest of the world. My integrity was shattered; my life was a sham. No one knew the truth. Not Darlene. Not Dan. Not Maggie. No one.
My chest tightened at the thought of returning to Toronto. Silent words ricocheted off the four walls. I nodded my head with inner reasoning, knowing that a new start was the only answer.
This resolution, followed by two quick intakes of breath, brought my pacing to a halt. My hands shook with the enormity of my decision to abandon my family for a future in Newfoundland.
Taking care not to shatter the miniature carafe against the tap, I prepared coffee. While the brew sputtered, I reached for the discarded local paper. The sports section floated to the floor while I clung to the smudged newsprint marking the ad I had noticed the day before. The realty advertisement. Hunching forward, I scanned the listing, my finger stuttering across the page.
Two acres on Old Broad Road, a rural property located in Chapel’s Cove, on the Admiral’s Coast between Avondale and Holyrood.
Old Broad Road. As soon as I saw the listing, I knew it was for me.
“Let’s check the property first,” I called back over my shoulder, without a sideways glance at the empty house.
The smell of wet vegetation and seawater created a nervous flutter within me and an urgent need to explore. Seeing the salt-water bay, overlooked by jagged rocks, calmed me in spite of the exhilaration I felt.
The real estate agent made impatient but gentle exclamations to get my attention. “Miz Kramer? You’re not dressed for this damp marnin’. Let’s go in, now,” he urged in his lilting pitch.
This waterfront property on the southern tip of Conception Bay was as close to paradise as I could imagine. A small community of a few hundred homes scattered along the shore and inland.
My stomach churned at the thought of what I was doing. A fear of being sick in front of this stranger was a growing worry, but there was no turning back. Chapel’s Cove would be my refuge. I refused to dwell on the anticipated backlash of Dan and Darlene. My mind was already made up!
“Yes, this is it. I’m sure.” I nodded toward the view.
His eyes widened and he took a small step forward, an incredulous expression on his face.
“You haven’t seen the inside of the house. That’s where all the work is, maid. ’Tis fairly isolated here and I don’t think you know what our winters are like,” he fussed. The representative’s strong east-coast accent made him difficult to understand. “You’d be lonely as a gull on a rock livin’ ’ere.”
“If I didn’t know better I would think you didn’t want to make a sale this morning.” My voice inflected a haughty tone – one I had perfected over the years.
Turning toward the abandoned house, I glanced down at my sodden canvas shoes feeling the wetness soak through to my socks. The rain had stopped and I closed my eyes and inhaled. The smell of the damp earth aroused a childhood memory of shiny worms inching across a wet sidewalk. Recollections of my childhood or, indeed, my life before I became Mrs. Paul Kramer, were rare.
A cool wet breeze ruffled my hair and moistened my skin. I turned back to the magnificent view, now blurred through tear-stung eyes. Looking down at my arms, I noticed the mist settling into the fine wrinkles of my relaxed skin. The agent, his head angled to the left, ended my wandering thoughts with a dubious look.
“I plan on checking the house,” I assured him. “But this view is hard to pass up, Mr. Howard.” A cajoling look softened my brusque manner.
Turning away from the crest of the craggy coastline once again, I looked up at the brown weathered edifice. Clinging to the back of the house was a wooden deck atop supports from the sloped landscape. Its stilt-like structure appeared to tremble as the breeze grew stronger.
Delighted with the natural rugged property, I did not look forward to going inside the house, which at a glance looked old and unloved − much like the way I felt. Water-drenched weeds tangled around my ankles, coaxing me back to the panoramic shoreline, yet I reluctantly began my approach to the dwelling. Seeing the decaying bottom step of the raised deck, I changed direction and led the way to the front of the house.
Through the open screen door, the battered inside entry with its peeling paint, added to the general tired appearance. I was beginning to understand the realtor’s scepticism.
Author: Phyllis Humby
Here is my submission. It is the prologue and a bit of the first chapter of my first (and unpublished) novel, Old Broad Road.
I live in a rural area and so a picture was a puzzle. However, I sent a picture taken from our backyard showing the fields beyond. That should work!