Have you ever thought of packing up everything you own and moving halfway across the country?
I’m talking about leaving your entire life behind—friends, family, school—with no turning back. No? Me either, but that was before a week of spring break changed my life forever. Before I did something I never thought I’d do at twenty-two. Before I fell in love with Grey.
Sometimes happily ever after isn’t always what you think it will be.
I kicked the back tire twice. It was already deflated. My frustration was pointless. Seriously, how could I have a flat tire? I stared at the rubber as it formed a pancake on the shoulder of the road. I didn’t see anything protruding from the mangled mess, but who knows what happens on these back Louisiana highways.
I pulled out my phone to call roadside assistance. There was no way I was driving another inch on that thing.
“Hi. Yes, this is Eden Brady. The trailer I rented from your company has a flat tire. Can you send someone to change it out?”
“Where are you, ma’am? And I need your rental ID number.”
I looked at the swampy canal on my left and the rows of sugar cane on my right. I had no idea where I was, only that my trip was on hold and I was completely stranded. I searched the canal waters warily, wondering if there might be critters in there I didn’t want to meet.
“There was a detour and I was rerouted.” I sighed. It wasn’t as if I memorized all the highway numbers. “Let me check my phone.” If the map on my phone could pinpoint where I was, I’d have something to share. “It looks like I’m on state road 101.” There were no mile markers or exits. Only swamps and sugar cane. I unfolded the rental slip from my pocket and read the numbers in the right-hand corner to her.
“Ok, I see your reservation in our system. It will be at least an hour before we can dispatch someone in your direction.” Her voice was crisp, not at all the comforting tone I needed right now.
I cringed. I had already garnered five catcalls from slow-rolling pickup trucks and I’d been standing here less than ten minutes.
“An hour? Isn’t there someone closer than that?”
“No, ma’am.” The operator was losing her patience with me. “He’ll be there as soon as he can.”
Before I could ask anything else, she hung up. I looked at my phone. Next time I moved, I would definitely go with another company. She didn’t need to get snippy. I was the one on the side of a Louisiana back road.
I trudged to the cab of the truck and climbed into the air-conditioned cabin. There was nothing cool about September in this part of the South.
My entire life was in the back of this truck. The bedroom set I bought when Taylor and I moved into our first apartment. Boxes of books that I couldn’t seem to part with and their bookcase. Suitcases of clothes. My first pair of cowgirl boots.
I flipped on the radio. Who does this? Who packs up her entire life and drives halfway across the country by herself? I do. Because part of me can’t seem to believe that I’m no longer coasting through life alone. I had to prove that I could take care of myself. To me, that meant making the move from Chapel Hill to South Padre Island one hundred percent alone. No parents. No friends. Above all options, that meant no Grey.
The strategy was to make the trip in two days. I had a route planned that included an overnight stay in Montgomery, Alabama. That part of the journey was smooth. I made it to the hotel before dark, checked in to my room, and called Grey to tell him I was safe and sound. The first half was over and I made it without a speck of help.
This morning, I hopped out of bed at six, ready to finish the last half of this travel feat. I had a hot cup of coffee, listened to the parking lot birds sing, and pulled out of Montgomery with a smile on my face. As Alabama faded in my rearview mirror, I felt the confidence surge through my veins. I was driving the biggest rental truck the company carried, with my car on a trailer behind it. It didn’t get much braver or bolder than this. I even learned how to pump diesel fuel at the truck stops. The trick was to wear gloves. I was quickly becoming a truck-driving expert.
I had to make this statement. Grey needed to know I could do things on my own. I needed to know that, just because I was in love, it didn’t mean I couldn’t make change happen in my life. I was still in control.
The second I saw the back tire on the trailer scorched with smoke and I pulled alongside the shoulder, all those proud certainties fizzled. This sucked.
I slouched in my seat and checked the mirror in case the service car had arrived. Nothing. Plenty of cars slowed to have a peek at my dilemma and me, but not a single car in that lineup included a man with a spare tire.
I thought about calling Grey, but if I told him where I was, he would get in his truck and start driving. No matter how many times I tried to convince him I could handle the situation and everything was under control, he would drive straight to me. That’s what Grey does. That’s why I fell in love with him.
T.A. Foster once spent a monthlong spring break on South Padre Island, where she soaked in the Texas sun, beach, and learned what real Texas country music is. Sometimes fiction does spring from reality.
She grew up catching rays and chasing waves along the North Carolina Outer Banks and now resides in the state with her adventurous pilot husband, two children, and two canine kiddos.
T.A. has an undergraduate degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a graduate degree in Educational Psychology from Texas A&M University. When she’s not chasing her two-legged and four-legged children or trying to escape for date night, you can find her reading, writing, or planning her next beach trip.