Only, I didn’t feel like it was. I didn’t want to accept it. I had a feeling that if I could somehow manage to talk to her, maybe even drive down to Ludwig and see her, I’d be able to fix this. I could convince her to give this a shot, whatever this was. She didn’t need to come to Austin; I’d figure something out.
Alice’s idea popped up in my head, and I mulled it over for a few minutes before picking up my phone again and dialing.
“Hank’s Garage,” came a familiar voice on the other end of the line.
“Hank, hi, it’s Chance Ridder.”
“Mr. Ridder,” Hank greeted with a chuckle. “My, my, didn’t expect to be hearin’ from you so soon. What can I do for you?”
“I’m interested in commercial real estate,” I replied. “Can you recommend a commercial realtor in Ludwig?”
“Hell, Mr. Ridder, there ain’t no such thing as a commercial realtor in Ludwig,” Hank said. “Hell, we ain’t even got a non-commercial one.”
“Well then, maybe you can help me out,” I said with a smile. “I’m looking for a space where I can locate a field office for my company.”
“A field office? In Ludwig?”
“Yes, something large enough to accommodate say, a dozen people or so,” I said, talking right out of my ass because I hadn’t given it that much thought. “Something on the main road with good visibility, one the ground floor.”
Hank went silent for a second, and I could almost see him leaning back on his heels with his eyes closed, deep in thought. “Only two places come to mind, but they’re pretty bent out of shape, need heavy renovations,” he finally said. “But they’re more shops than office spaces. That’s really all you can find on the ground level on Main Street. Nothing big enough for an office for a dozen people though.”
“That’s fine,” I said, my mind racing with the possibilities. “Could you find out what’s available, the cost, that sort of thing, and get back to me? I’ll make it worth your while. And it’s important that no one in Ludwig know that I’m looking.”
“Sure, my lips are sealed,” Hank said. There was a short silence before he continued, “If you don’t mind me askin’, Mr. Ridder, but why would you want to open an office in a town like Ludwig?”
“Let’s just say Ludwig left a lasting impression on me.”
Life was slow in Ludwig during the fall. There was a lot less to do, and people were just generally lazy, with the urgency levels hovering dangerously low. And in this town, that meant something. It was almost as if life had come to a complete stand still.
My business always took a hit during the winter months, and every year around this time, I usually tried to get all possible repairs and renovations done while I still had the cash for it. The boiler at home was in dire need for replacement, and the truck was groaning with all sorts of ailments. I had to run my numbers this weekend at the latest, or risk having to find a part time job to help me push through December and January.
I pulled up into my regular parking space at the motel, climbed out of my truck and made a quick dash for the office. The winds had begun to slightly pick up, and they had this way of finding their way through every layer of clothing I wore, sending chills up and down my spine.
The office was empty, and I immediately made my way to the coffee pot and turned it on. I waited patiently for the pot to fill, placing my hands against the glass in an effort to warm them a bit, closing my eyes to the pleasurable feeling of heat snaking up my arms and spreading through me.
I looked to the couch on my left, and immediately pictured Chance sitting there, smile on his face while he flipped through decades old magazines strewn across the coffee table.
I shook my head, trying to get rid of the image. It had been almost eight weeks since I had watched that limo drive out of the motel, taking Chance with it. In the time between then and the last time we actually spoke, I had spent more time in bed than I had in my entire life. His absence hurt, and the fact that I had let him go had hurt even more. I had tried my best to act nonchalant about it all, to wear the perfect fake smile that I knew wasn’t fooling anyone, especially Martha, every time I came to the motel. I had tried to ignore the voice inside my head that was begging me to call him, or answer his calls, or at the very least text him back. It had taken a will of steel, and had ripped me from inside like my soul had been put through a shredder.
He had come through for me, though. His lawyers had shown up as promised, and after one or two court sessions, had made damn sure neither Earl nor any member of the Greene family would come anywhere near me again. For good measure, they had even taken a few light hits at the Sheriff, enough to make him a little warier, but not enough to make him hate me.
I texted him when it was over, thanking him for his help and letting him know just how much I appreciated what he did for me. I couldn’t bring myself to call him, knowing well that hearing his voice would mean I would have to go through the same pain it had taken to get over him the first time. He called me, several times, and then left me a simple ‘you’re welcome’ text when I didn’t pick up. I knew I wasn’t being fair to him, that I owed him more than a simple message, but I couldn’t do anything more than that.
But even after two months, although it had definitely become easier, I still couldn’t help but think about him every now and then. What would have happened if I had said yes? Would I have been able to live in Austin? My mother’s voice constantly rang in my mind, sounding disappointed that I had decided to stay behind even when the opportunity to leave came knocking on my door.
What the hell was I supposed to do anyway?
I frowned, angry at my mind for playing tricks on me, for throwing up images of what could have been, just to take them away again. It was cruel, yet at the same time frustrating. I had made the right choice. I know I ha. There was nothing for me in Austin. My entire life was in Ludwig; everyone I knew, everything I was familiar with, my little bubble of comfort in the big bag world. And my
plants. My greenhouse. How could I even consider leaving all that I had built behind? How could he ask me to, that bastard?
Is that really what you’re angry about?