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Chapter 1: The Teacher by the Sea-Side

“The tendency of her fate and fortunes had been to set her free. The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread. Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers, – stern and wild ones, – and they had made her strong, but taught her much amiss (Hawthorne 137).”

I told a little white lie. I had money in the bank, and all I really wanted was space and time to think. I couldn’t do it at my parents. I couldn’t think. And after our trip to Newport, I knew I needed to keep living for now, even if I was dying.

I called The Water’s Edge, a swanky hotel on the water in Westbrook, Connecticut, and I booked a room for $400. It was certainly a splurge on a teacher’s budget, but the walls of my parent’s home were closing in on me, suffocating any life that was left.

I packed a bag and told my parents that I was having a girls’ weekend with my best friends. I texted Karen, Jeannie, and Kelly. But I didn’t know if anyone would join me.

When I arrived to the hotel on that beautiful sunny April day, my spirits were finally brightening.

“Checking in,” I smiled at the desk clerk. “Yes, Ms. Rizzo?” he asked, examining my license. “I see that you have a partial water view. Would you like to upgrade your room for an additional $150?”

“No,” I said quickly, “That won’t be necessary.” I didn’t want to be wasteful. I figured a partial view would provide enough calm without totally emptying my wallet.

But when I saw the room, my heart sank. The partial view was literally a sliver of water that I could see through two buildings if I tilted my head in a specific direction. This just wouldn’t do for my ultra self-indulgent getaway.

I walked back through the extravagant lobby and back to the desk clerk.

“Hi,” I smiled. “Yeah, um, that room, there’s barely a view at all.”

“Well, let’s see here,” he said, typing furiously into the computer.

“We do have one ocean view room with a balcony. It’s an additional $200 per night. Are you interested in that instead?”

“Yes,” I said. Sure it was expensive. But $600 for some peace and quiet with a balcony and water view would be worth it.

And it was. The ocean stretched out before me the moment I walked into the room. I opened the balcony doors and felt the misty breeze on my skin. Yes, this was worth any amount of money at this moment. I sat peacefully on the balcony for a moment before deciding to unpack my things.

I placed my Autoject needle on the bathroom sink. I plugged in my iPod docking station and set my iPod to my angry girl mix.

A knock at the door was a welcome addition to my party for one. I opened the door to find Jeannie and Karen waiting with smiles, wine, and luggage.

“Surprise!” They announced in unison. “We came to stay for the night!”

Just as we were settling in, taking in the scenery, sipping on wine, my cell phone rang. It was a 928 number. Flagstaff. I paused the iPod and stared at the phone.

“What?” Jeannie asked.

“It’s Flagstaff.”

“Well, answer it!”

“Hello?” I asked cautiously.

“Hello, is this Lori?”

“Yes, speaking.”

“Hi, I’m calling you back about a place for rent.”

“Oh … um, I won’t be needing it. I was hoping for a teaching job, but it just didn’t work out.”

“Really? What kind of teaching job?”

“English. I teach high school English.”

“Well, actually I ask because my husband teaches at Flagstaff High School, and they have an opening for an English teacher. If you want to rent our place, I’m sure he can help you with the job.”

“Really?” My mind raced. Wasn’t this my dream come true? A nice place to rent, ans a chance at the job I’d been trying so desperately to capture for years? Since when did job opportunities suddenly fall into place? For that matter, since when did anything fall into place?

But it felt wrong. I didn’t have Donovan’s support. Actually, I didn’t seem to have him at all. And if I moved there on my own, I’d just be hanging on to something that no longer existed. A shadow of our former relationship. A shadow of my former self. I must have learned something from all of this.

“Well, thank you,” I said as Jeannie watched intently. It was as if she knew I was making a life altering decision just by the tone of my voice and my hesitation.

“I really appreciate the offer, but I’ve just decided that I’m going to stay where I am on the east coast, with my friends and family.”

I hung up the phone and stared it, knowing full well that I had just closed a chapter in my life.

I would no longer have to apply for each and every job opening in Flagstaff. I could focus on living where my roots had been planted. I wouldn’t have to keep in touch with family by phone and text. After all, they’d earned a place in my real life, and Donovan had not. He was the one who deserved the texts, if he deserved anything.

But the question of where I best fit out east still lingered. Should I settle down in Westbrook, a small community with beaches and shops, but little else? Move to Boston where at least I could rely on Karen? I had already explored Charlotte. I guess that was still an option. But staying at home was not.

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