One

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Dear Diary,

I'm in the last place on earth I ever expected to be at the tender age of twenty-five. I should be out making stupid decisions and falling in love. Instead I am here. Fairview. I can't find it on a map. It's like the place doesn't even exist. How am I supposed to find happiness when I can't even find this stupid town? Life is simply tragic.

Signed,

Ashley

I should come with a warning label. Seriously. The obnoxious neon orange ones that say 'fragile: handle with care.' I need one for each limb I possess, maybe a few extra too. I've just rammed the corner of a moving box into the tender flesh of my cheekbone; I can feel the bruise bloom underneath my skin. My grip on the box releases—it lands on the ground with a thud—as I instinctively cover my eye, trying not to sob; not over the new shiner I’ll be sporting, but because I’m here, in Fairview, banished to a small town existence rather than my big city life in Toronto.

“Bet that hurt,” my sister Becky says.

Thank you, Captain Obvious.

Becky gets as close to me as she can with her swollen baby bump and pulls my hand away to inspect the damage. “It's fine. But you're definitely going to have a bruise. Maybe even a black eye.”

I grimace. “None of this would have happened if I didn't have to move here.”

“Oh don't look at me like you've lost your puppy,” she huffs. “There was no other choice.”

“No other choice! How about telling Mom she has to sell the ranch?”

“It would kill her. You know that. Mom and Dad raised us before chasing their dream. This is their dream, Ashley, we can't take that away.” 

I glare at my sister. “Dreams of cow stench and hay bales. We should have made her sell it when Daddy died. If we had, she wouldn’t have broken her leg.”

 “You know how attached she is to this place.” She puts a sympathetic hand on my shoulder. “I know this sucks for you and believe me, I wish I could change it but one of us has to move in with mom. She can't do it on her own right now.”

This is what my sister says. What she means is, “You are the single loser and I am married with exactly two point five children. Sorry you got the short end of that straw but it's time you quit complaining and help our broken mother.”

My gaze swings to the porch and my mom who sits in a rocking chair, her leg extended to the side in an air boot. She fractured it several weeks ago and it refuses to heal, thereby virtually immobilizing her and ruining my life all at the same time. As mad as I am for having to uproot my life for her, seeing her there reminds me that she gave up everything for us and really this is the least I can do in return.

I walk by and drop a kiss on her forehead. “Hi, mom.”

She smiles. “Hello, dear.”

“Gwen,” an unfamiliar voice yells, “Gwen.”

I turn to see a woman about my mother's age, dressed in a neon pink sweat suit, waving from the pebbled start of the drive.

“That's Edna,” Mom says. “Mind what you say to her, she can't hold her tongue.”

Edna rushes to the porch, her pink clad legs moving with impressive speed for someone her age. She addresses Mom directly. “Is this your daughter?”

“My daughters,” Mom corrects her, motioning to Becky. “That's Rebecca, and this,” she says proudly, “is Ashley.”

Edna offers a tight smile. “Are you moving in?”

“Yes.”

“Are you single?”

“Are you nosey?”

Mom's blue eyes slice into me like daggers while Edna blinks, astonished, not sure she heard me correctly. “I beg your pardon?”

“You look cozy.” I nod to her ensemble.

 Mom's face is alternating shades of red while poor Edna looks confused. She's wondering if she can trust her own ears. I'm wondering if my mother will put aside the fact that I'm a grown woman and wash my mouth out with soap for being disrespectful to an elder.

“Are you single?” Edna repeats.

This time, Becky answers for me. “She's single,” she shouts from the moving truck.

I feel like I'm being subjected to a job interview. Her eyes scan me, sizing me up before her smile stretches wider. “You sure are pretty. You'd be a perfect match for Doctor Maxwell.”

My cheeks burn. She is exactly like the town busy bodies from the movies, spending her days knitting, gossiping, playing cards, watching soap operas and match making. I don't like this woman, but doctors, I do like doctors. Maybe she's onto something.

“I should finish unloading. It was nice to meet you, Edna.”

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