She Had To Go

She had to go. She had to go now.  The waters were rising fast and soon her home would be under the river.  Nat ran through her house. She only had moments. Running to her room she grabbed four things from her dresser: an old black fedora, a worn card with sunflowers on it, her artist bag with her easel and brushes, and a tarnished coin. Nat threw everything into the bag, slipped her wallet in her back pocket and grabbed her cell phone before turning an dashing out of the room, bag thrown over her shoulder. Running down stairs she called for her dog, Toby, as she scooped up her cat. Toby on his leash and Mischief in her coat, Nat ran. Out the front door, into the wooded door yard, the stark trees wet from the spring rain as the white gray sky bellowed with water soaked clouds. Her sneakered feet sloshed in the mixture of old leaves, mud, and water as she made her way up the back of the house to higher ground.  She ran as fast as she could up the slope of the hill and looked back to watch the hard wood of the first floor she fell in love with disappear under the water.

The damp spring air stung her cheek as she stood there, brown wisps of hair clinging to her face.  Her cheeks were bright pink as she breathed fast; trying to restore oxygen to depleted limbs.  She turned around to see the old van sitting in the clearing.  Walking over, she pulled at the heavy door. She let Toby hop in first before gingerly letting Mischief out of her coat as she scooted herself into the driver’s seat.  Her eyes panned the dashboard. There was some gas in the tank and that was promising.  Reaching up, she dropped the visor and a pair of keys fell into her lap. Biting her bottom lip and hoping for the best, she slid the key into the ignition and turned it.  The motor sputtered for a moment but then roared into life.  Yes, it works. And there’s heat. A loud meow sounded in agreement of this positive turn.

Nat pulled the big paint splotched bag off her shoulder and placed it on her torn jeans lap. She ran her hands over it. This bag was her life and her livelihood. She had gotten this bag in high school as a gift from her parents the first Christmas after she has found her calling.  Her time was never as well spent as it was when she had brush in hand. Nat’s hand went to the zipper of the bag that now contained everything worth anything to her.  Unzipping the bag she first pulled out the fedora.  She ran her hands over it as she pushed out the indent that must have happened during all the excitement. She remembered this fedora. Henry wore it the first time she met him.  He had met her on campus her sophomore year. This new freshmen with wild blackish hair, steely blue eyes, and a cocky smirk which was really a mask of confidence for his self-conscious self.  For months, anytime she saw him, he was in that hat.  It was one night under the stars laying back on the roof of his car that the fedora came into her position.  She had been teasing as she reached for it and placed it on her head.   She remembered how Henry’s smirk faded into a soft smile. “You having a piece of me suits you, love. It suits you,” he spoke softly before jumping off the car and making a claim that he was king of the universe.  Nat placed the hat on her head, as she reached for the next item, the faded card with Van Gogh’s sunflowers on the front page.  Her finger tips spanned the image before opening the card to read its inscription, “To the princess of stars, you always guide me home, Love Henry.”  Nat’s eyes read the last line over and over again.  She had woken up to the card after a quick hospital stay for her appendix.  Henry had snuck in while she was sleeping and left the card quietly on her night stand.  Even then her eyes stuck on the world “love”.  Never spoken, hardly written, but it was there, and now she’d keep it for forever as a reminder of HER Henry.

Nat dug to the bottom of the bag and pulled out the coin. It was just a regular old quarter, but it was special.  She had found it the day she met her best friend, Lynn.  Sitting in her freshman orientation class, she looked over on the floor and, seeing the glimmer from the coin, she bent over to pick up.  At the same time, she invaded the space of the girl sitting next to her.  Nat had never seen anyone with such large eyes before in her life, and they were dark chocolate brown.  The girl looked, well horrified that this stranger was basically leaning on her, so Nat smiled as she lifted her hand.  “Um, yeah…it’s a quarter, that’s like an eighth of the cost of a load of laundry. Sorry.” The big eyed girl first scrunched her nose in confusion and then slowly the scrunch faded to a smile.  “Oh, I know!  Anything to offset that 8 quarter need, I hear you.” Those first few seconds set in motion a friendship that was amazing in all the right ways.  Nat slipped the coin in her pocket as she pulled out her cellphone.  Going through her contacts, she selected the two people that meant the most in the world and slowly typed a message before she placed the phone next to Mischief. Putting the van in reverse, she rolled off the hill overlooking the flooded river bank.  In two separate places, far, but not so far away, two cellphone text alerts went off.  As both Lynn and Henry clicked the screen, the words “Houston we have a problem,” appeared before them.

 

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