"Come on you, big buck! Get out of the way!" I yell loudly, smirking at my hasty play on words.
God, how little sleep have you had, girl?
Driving through Southern roads, dodging numerous animals, rocks, fallen trees, and roadkill, is a complete departure from the mostly wildlife free California streets I am used to.
The only thing you had to dodge out there were entitled joggers, irresponsible drivers, and the occasional stray.
Now, there's a huge deer blocking my path on some backwoods road and I missed the part in my girl scouts manual about how to deal with this shit.
Moving to this small town has already proven to be a pain in my ass.
I thought that riding in separately from my mom, her new husband, and my brother, would make this transition easier. After all, I would be avoiding the painful 'family' road trip. But, unfortunately, I've still had a terrible time.
I had to strip down to my tank and change into shorts on the side of the road when the air conditioner to my 1969 Volkswagen Beetle failed on me.
Again, for the umpteenth time.
On top of that hell, I had to tie my hair up in a knot to keep it from making my back and neck sweat more. I couldn't find my scrunchies and brush no matter how deep I dug into my backpack.
And here I am.
The deer just stands in the middle of the street. No matter how much I yell and honk at it, it just stares at me blankly, as if it cannot possibly fathom what's going on.
"Great." I slap my forehead. "My first time seeing one outside of a zoo and it's fucking brain dead."
Out of anger, I bang on my car horn and hold it until the idiot jumps a whole three feet in the air and darts into the thick brush on the side of the road.
I roll my eyes and start driving again.
But, sadly, I only made it probably two or three miles before I hear an eardrum piercing siren.
Peeking out my rear-view mirror, I spot an old, white police car with blue stripes running from the front to the sides.
Well, this is fucking wonderful.
I pull over, hitting the break so hard my car jerks.
Whipping the keys out of the ignition, I pull my hair down and check for pit stains.
My knowledge of law enforcement officers in this part of the country is limited to movies that clearly exaggerate them, but all of the encounters have one theme in common. Be nice to the stern, Southern cop, or you're in big trouble.
Heavy feet trudging through the gravel that we both parked in get closer as he approaches my car. It almost seems as if he is purposely trying to add suspense by going so slow.
It isn't really working.
Anybody that knew my dad would know it is not easy to intimidate a Selvey. He's only giving me more time to make sure I don't look a total mess.
Removing his brown aviators with a tension building movement, he lumbers up to my window that is coincidentally already rolled down.
"Is something the matter, officer?" I try to make my tone pleasant. This isn't my first run-in with the po-po.
One time, back in Cali, me and a few friends were out and I was the designated driver. We were underage and the three of them were wasted. I could hardly concentrate on driving, thanks to my friend Patricia who kept trying to kiss me.
Long story short, we were pulled over by some cop who noticed their obvious intoxication and lack of seatbelts. I was able to sweet talk us out of trouble without receiving a ticket or escort to the nearest police station. That luck may not pass over to this moment, but I'm crossing my fingers.
"Afternoon, young lady," he tilts his hat toward me. I notice his badge says: SHERIFF. "I happened to hear some honkin' comin' from the direction you just came from. Any idea who it was?"
It was obviously me...
His ploy is so obvious that it almost hurts.
"Yes, I'm sorry," I smile sweetly. "There was this big deer blocking my way back there and it just wouldn't move so I resorted to honking my horn."
He glances back towards where I point. "Where's the deer?" he squints at me.
Dead. Where the hell do you think it went?!
"Uh, it ran away through the thick trees and stuff after scared him," I make a honking motion.
"Where exactly are you headed, miss?" he pulls out a notepad.
My heart speeds up. No way can that be a good sign.
"Um, Hollydale," I wonder if I can cry on cue. "That's the name of the town I'm going to, I think."
His expression quickly turns curious. "What business have you got in Hollydale, little lady?" he scribbles something.
I fight the urge to roll my eyes and drive away. "My... mom's husband wanted to move to a nice small town, so he said, 'what better place than this one'?" I try not to rabble on too much. No way my car would get me far if I peeled off. It's not even on. "So, here I am! My mom and the rest are already there, I'm just falling behind due to some... mechanical difficulties."
He watches me reach up and pat the dashboard of my lovely, filthy, baby blue Beetle. I give him my prize winning smile, causing him to take a double take.
That's when I know I got him.
I'm not especially gorgeous in my opinion, but most men can't resist a pretty white smile. At least, that's what my grandmother -- mom's mom -- told me. In her thick German accent while she would force baking soda in my mouth.
"Well then..." much to my surprise, he smiles at me, tilting his hat. "Welcome to Hollydale, Miss...?"
"Oh," I reach my hand out the window so he can shake it. "My name is Christina Selvey, everyone just calls me Chris." he kisses the back of my hand, creeping me out immensely. "It's... nice to meet you... Sheriff...?"
He lets go of me, thank God.
"You can call me Sheriff Cooley, Miss Selvey," he tilts his wide-brimmed hat at me once again. "It's real nice to have met you as well."
I laugh awkwardly. "Okay, " I put the key back in the ignition. "Well, as much as I am loving speaking with you, I'm burning up and my mom will worry if I don't show up soon. May I leave now?"
"Go right on ahead, Miss Selvey," he points up the rode. "You've got about five more miles until you reach the welcome sign."
"Thank you." I watch as he goes back to his vehicle.
After turning the key, my Beetle starts to shake and roar. Grey smoke erupts and begins to seep from under her loose hood. My worst fears are becoming reality as my poor baby struggles to start up.
"Everything alright here?" Sheriff Cooley pops up. "Mighty lot of smoke comin' from this little wagon o' yours."
I bury my face in my hands. The urge to cry floats up and all I can do is sniffle as I try to fight off the hot tears.
So much has gone on today that I don't even know what to do anymore. My cell phone has no signal here so I can't call my mom or my brother. And the only person here is some creepy Sheriff of the stupid town that got me into this mess in the first place. It's hot as Satan's balls out here and my vintage is dying.
"Why is this happening to me?" I mumble.
A disembodied, silvery voice sounds in my ears. "Hey, Unc'," I wipe my face in case a tear managed to escape. "I spotted some smoke comin' from that car. Is everything alright?"
"No, this poor girl's car seems to have broken down on her," Sheriff sympathises. "She was headin' into town when it damn near exploded."
In my rear-view mirror, I can see a guy that looks like he belongs on a Golden Age movie billboard rather than an old road surrounded by woods and trees for miles. I can make out from here his wavy black hair, that's brushed and gelled back.
My hands fly up to my hair. Never in my entire life have I ever braided my hair so fast. It's near flawless, save for some strays.
"Well, I'm headin' back into town myself. I can take you if you need a ride." he speaks loud enough for me to hear his offer.
Sheriff Cooley bounces back as I swing my car door open.
"Sorry, Sheriff," I apologise for my abruptness. Turning my attention to his nephew. "I'll take that offer."
"Come on then," he flashes a pearly white smile and waves for me to come get in his red truck.
Not capable of holding in my glee, I smile and move quickly. Yanking my backpack from the passenger seat, I walk over to the retro pickup.
"Oh, wait," I stop dead in my tracks. "What about my car?"
"I'll handle your car," Sheriff Cooley smiles, waving. "I can get Tilly to come out here, tow it, fix it, and deliver it directly to your home."
I think on it. "But, you don't know where I live," I barely know where I live. Mom only gave me a scribbled address. Honestly, I was just going to drive around until I saw a moving truck.
"Darlin', I'm the Sheriff," he winks. "Sooner or later, I know about everything in this town."
We exchange smiles before I toss him the keys to my car.
"Take care of her, Sheriff. I wouldn't still have her if she wasn't important to me." I open the surprisingly heavy truck door with a creak.
This thing is nowhere near as old as my car, but it's up there.
"Yes, ma'am," he tilts his hat.
When I close the door, the handsome stranger drives off almost immediately. Even with the Sheriff right there, he just peels out at top speed and only slows down once we get farther away.
Not knowing what to really say, I just look out the window at the trees passing. I even get lucky and spot a skunk family in the bushes. The thought that there may be more closer to town both terrifies and excites me. Skunks are actually kinda cute to me, but there is no denying how terrible they smell and how horrible they can make their victims smell.
Only once have I ever had a run in with one. It was on a camping trip with my dad the year before he was gone.
The damn thing sprayed me in my sleep and then got my dad dead in the face when he tried to run it off. When we got home, mom made us soak in a tomato juice bath together for a whole hour. He had to almost beg her not to rip the seats out of our Jeep and burn them. She wore clothes pins on her nose for days. Always, going on about how sensitive her nose had become after giving birth.
"So," a low voice catches my attention. "What's your name?"
I sit up straight. "Christina Selvey." I blush. This is wild. A hot guy comes out of nowhere and rescues me from having to ride into town in the back of a police car.
That would have been a great first impression.
The whole town seeing the new girl already being escorted in a dingy police car. Her hair matted and her skin shiny.
"Christina Selvey," he repeats my name seductively.
"But, uh... people always prefer to call me Chris," be still my heart. He's making me nervous. "You can call me that if you want."
I usually keep my distance from men in general, but this guy gives off a comforting vibe. I won't deny that he gives me those kinds of vibes either.
He laughs. "Chris. I like that." briefly he looks at me with clear blue eyes. "Well, what brings you to Hollydale, Chris?"
"My mother's new husband is what brings me to Hollydale," this is probably the first time I've been grateful for my forced relocation. "My whole family moved here."
He nods. "How many?"
I raise a brow.
"In your family that is?" his thick southern hunk accent makes me want him to keep talking.
I want to be the one asking him questions. Both because I like his tone of voice and because I don't like talking about my family. Especially to strangers. I mean, he's handsome, but nonetheless, he's a stranger.
"My mom, me, and my brother," I respond, holding up three fingers. "So three," I remember that guy. "Okay, four if you add my mom's new beau."
He chuckles. "Well, I'm sure you'll like it here," his smile hasn't disappeared from his face throughout this whole conversation. "Welcome to Hollydale."
Don't his cheeks hurt?
"Wow," I put my elbow up and out the window. "A southern gentleman. I thought those only existed in movies."
"I don't think I would call myself a gentleman," he rustles his own hair a little bit before placing his thumb under his mouth. "I haven't even told you my name."
That completely slipped my mind. "You are one hundred percent right." I slap my hands together. "So, what is your name, handsome stranger?"
"Cole Cooley." he answers with a smoldering smize. "My friends all call me Cole, and my mama calls me Bubba."
He gives the cutest little self-conscious side eye. "I was... a chubby kid back then."
My eyes open wide. "Well..." I choke down a laugh. "At least you were able to grow out of it." my eyes survey his muscular arm, outstretched as he leans back in his driver's seat.
The button-up, dark blue, collared shirt he is wearing goes so well with his crow-black hair and crystal blue eyes that it makes my head spin. The short sleeves just happen to be an added bonus.
I wonder if he plays any sports.
What sport do they have in small towns? Football, maybe? Probably some baseball since its America's sport.
"Thank you for calling me handsome, by the way." he bobs his head nonchalantly.
"When did I do that?" I almost gasp. This habit of me talking before I think is getting really old, really fast.
"You called me a 'handsome stranger'. Remember, Chris?" there he goes again saying my name like he legally owns it.
I remember. "Just write that off as a slip of the tongue," I plead. "Usually I'm not all loose lipped around strangers. You just seemed nice, so I..." I stop myself before I start rambling. "Anyway, thank you for the ride. It's like a bazillion degrees out there. It would have been hell to walk so far."
"Just showing a bit of my own brand of southern hospitality," he emphasizes his accent for effect. "My mama always raves and hollers about us being kind to newcomers." he peeks over. "It just happens to be a bonus that the girl I'm helpin' is so gorgeous."
I wonder what he would do if I jumped him right now.
Stop it. Chris, you are supposed to be an innocent virgin. The pervy thoughts don't suit you at all. What would abuela say?
"Bonus for me that my rescuer is so handsome," I flirt a bit. "You vaguely remind me of the wannabe celebrities that I went to school with back home. I... not the wannabe part, but looks wise."
He laughs. "Thank you, Ms Selvey." he glances at me again. "So, where you movin' from?"
"Um, Burbank, California..." I reply. My heart is beating so hard I can hear it in my ears. "It's not as busy as L.A., but it's still a pretty active environment."
"Well, the longer you stay in Hollydale, the more you'll see that this town is more active than meets the eye." he points at his iris. "Small towns can be more exciting than the big city."
I doubt that.
"I'm sure they can be," I smile. "I'll see for myself sooner or later."
The conversation comes to a short pause, so I take the opportunity to look out at the scenery. The trees are dark green and their limbs are heavy with thick leaves. The road becomes smoother and it is clearly visible that it is now made of a completely different material all together.
Just ahead I can see a large, dark wood sign.
He reads it out loud. "Welcome To Hollydale! Friendliest Little Town In The South!"