Lauren sighed when she saw the exit sign for her hometown, Cade’s Crossing. She and Hannah had a wonderful vacation, and she hated to see it end. In only one more week, school would begin. Teachers had to report on Monday. She loved her job, but there were times when the day-to-day routine grew old.
They had been on the road for two months, traveled almost 4000 miles, and visited fourteen states plus Washington, DC. They saw the battlefields of Gettysburg, monuments and museums in DC, and the Old North Church in Boston. They swam in the Atlantic Ocean, toured lighthouses in Maine, stayed a night at Niagara Falls, dipped their toes in Lake Michigan, and walked across covered bridges in Indiana.
“The time went fast,” Hannah said.
“Yeah, it did. Seems like yesterday we began our journey and spent the first night at Sleepy Hollow.”
“Without a doubt, that was my favorite part of our trip—and not because it was our only planned stop.”
“Mine too. I really feel connected with the people there.”
“I received an email from Millie this morning. She said Ivan had started to come out of his shell, thanks in part to Alex. At one time, Alex had a speech defect, so working with Ivan came naturally.”
“Sometimes a person just needs a little encouragement. By the way, I never asked you why you became so fascinated with the story about Hans.”
“Natural curiosity. I grew up watching the TV show Unsolved Mysteries with my mom. It always bothers me when something goes unresolved.”
“I have to hand it to you. You were persistent in digging for information. Now Alex knows the truth about his ancestor.”
“Oh, I can’t take credit for that. He was determined to learn what happened. Speaking of Alex, Millie said he’s considering moving to Collinsville after he retires in a few months. He thought it would be a good place to settle. He’s even interested in purchasing the Inn. Millie said she and Agnes aren’t getting any younger. They approached him with the idea.”
“I can picture Alex doing that. I think it would be good for him.” Lauren slowed the car as she approached the exit.
A half hour later, she stood in Hannah’s apartment, having helped unload her things from the car. “Guess, I’ll be going,” she said. “It’s getting late. I’m ready for a hot shower and a night’s sleep in my bed.”
“I know what you mean.” Hannah attempted to stifle a yawn. “Want me to follow and help with your things?”
“Thanks, but you did most of the driving today. Stay home and get some rest.”
“Guess I am more tired than I thought.” She walked to the door with Lauren.
“I’m glad you came with me this summer. Having you along made the trip more enjoyable.”
“It was fun. Who knows? Maybe we’ll do it again next summer.”
Ten minutes later, Lauren pulled into her own driveway. She got out of the car and paused for a moment to embrace the sights and sounds of home. Strange how, after being on the road two months, familiar places seemed different. Yet nothing had changed. Kids still played at a nearby park. The steady hum of traffic on the distant highway. The colorful crape myrtles that lined the street in her neighbor’s yard. The enticing smell from someone’s backyard barbecue.
Then she looked at the house next door. The “For Sale” sign was gone. Lights were on inside the house.
Something has changed. Looks as if I have new neighbors. She turned her attention to unloading the items from her car.
“Hi Lauren. Good to see you back.”
She looked up to see the new football coach, Mike Daniels, standing in the yard next door. She met him before leaving for her trip. “Mike! You’re my new neighbor?”
“Moved in two weeks ago. May I help you?”
“I would appreciate it,” she said. “We were on the road a long time today.”
With Mike’s assistance, she had all her things unloaded and in the house in less than five minutes.
“Thanks for the help. I’ll deal with unpacking tomorrow, but it’s good to have everything in the house.”
“I’d enjoy hearing about your trip sometime,” Mike said. “Want to come over tomorrow evening? I’ll grill burgers.”
Lauren smiled. “I’d like that.”
“Great. See you around seven?”
“Then I’ll get out of here and let you get some rest.”
She saw Mike to the door and watched as he walked back to his own house. He turned and waved before going inside.
Lauren closed her own door. She looked at the pile of stuff in her living room. Tomorrow would be a busy day—unpacking, laundry, grocery shopping. Yet she already looked forward to spending time with Mike.
Maybe it wouldn’t be a boring year after all.
I hope you enjoyed following along with Lauren and Hannah during their summer adventure. My original plan was to write about several of their destinations, but Sleepy Hollow wouldn’t let them go! But no worries. I have a feeling you’ll be seeing Lauren and Hannah again in the coming months. In September, I’ll have a new stand-alone First Friday Fiction story. Until then, happy reading! (If you haven’t read the story of Sleepy Hollow, visit the Friday Fiction page and follow the links.)