Times had been hard back then, but the years Syl had spent in the charming rural community surrounded by forested, rolling hills held memories she cherished. She was a good student, and she was popular. In high school, a glowing future spread out before her: a scholarship to college and a career in nursing, a husband and children, the sort of life Syl had always dreamed of and never had.
But life was never predictable, she had learned, and often times cruel. At nineteen, during her first year at Dreyerville Community College, Syl had fallen in love. She and Joe Dixon, the school’s star quarterback, were engaged to be married the summer of the following year. Syl couldn’t imagine ever being happier.
Then her world came crashing down around her, and all of her dreams along with it. A routine doctor’s appointment had brought news so grim that the week before the ceremony, Syl called off the wedding. She packed her belongings that same afternoon and left for Chicago.
If it hadn’t been for her mother’s sister, Bessie, Syl wasn’t sure she would have made it. Aunt Bess and Syl’s dearest friend, Mary McGinnis Webster, had been responsible for getting her through the most difficult time of her life.
But things were different now.
Syl studied the double yellow line in the middle of the two-lane highway leading into Dreyerville. The air conditioner hummed inside the car, while outside, the temperature was hot and a little humid this late in the summer. Dense growths of leafy green trees lined both sides of the road, and a narrow stream wove its way through the grasses, bubbling and frothing in places, lazy and meandering in others.
As she drove her newly washed white Honda Civic toward the turn onto Main Street, a feeling of homecoming expanded in her chest. She recognized Barnett’s Feed and Seed, just down the road from Murdock’s Auto Repair at the edge of town. Making a left onto Main, she spotted the old domed courthouse built in 1910 and the ornate clock tower in the middle of the grassy town square. A little farther down the street, Culver’s Dry Cleaning held the middle spot in the long, two-story brick building that filled the block on the left, and there was Tremont’s Antiques, right next to Brenner’s Bakery.
Sylvia smiled. The apartment she had just rented sat above the garage at Doris Culver’s house. Doris worked at Brenner’s Bakery, had for years. The middle-aged woman was practically a fixture behind the counter of the shop.
Syl’s friend Mary had found her the apartment. A job as a nurse in a local doctor’s office had recently appeared in the employment section of the Dreyerville Morning News, and Mary had convinced her to send in an application. After flying out for an interview, Sylvia had gotten the job.
She was coming home at last. She wasn’t sure what sort of life she could make for herself in the town she once had fled, but something told her coming back was the only way she could conquer the demons that had haunted her for the past eight years.