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Part of Your World
Author: Abby Jimenez

 

Chapter 1

Alexis

 

Moths fluttered in my headlights over the long grass of the ditch. I was still clutching the wheel, my heart pounding.

I’d swerved to miss a raccoon in the fog and careened into a shallow embankment on the side of the road. I was okay. Shaken, but okay.

I tried putting the car in reverse, and my tires spun uselessly. Probably mud. Ugh. I should have bought the SUV instead of the sedan.

I turned off the engine, put on the hazards, and called roadside assistance. They told me it’d be an hour wait.

Perfect. Just perfect.

I was still a two-hour drive from home, stuck on some lonely stretch between the funeral home I’d just left in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and my house in Minneapolis. I was starving, I had to use the bathroom, and I was in shapewear. Basically the grand finale to the worst week ever.

I called my best friend, Bri. She answered on the first ring. “So? How was hell week?”

“Well, I can tell you how it ended,” I said, reclining my seat. “I just drove my car into a ditch.”

“Ouch. Are you okay?”

“I am.”

“Did you call a tow truck?”

“I did. An hour wait. And I’m in Spanx.”

She sucked air through her teeth. “Satan’s underwear? You didn’t change before you left? You must have run out of there like you were being chased. Where are you?” she asked.

I peered out the windshield. “I have no idea. Literally the middle of nowhere. I don’t even see streetlamps.”

“Did you mess up your car?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I haven’t had a chance to get out to check. I don’t think so.” I shifted uncomfortably in my seat. “You know what? Hold on. I’m taking these off.”

I got unbuckled and reclined the seat as far as it would go. I took off my heels and tossed them on the passenger side, then reached around to unzip myself. I wiggled out of the attached bra straps and leaned all the way back and pulled my black cocktail dress up around my hips, hooking my thumbs into the top of my Spanx.

There was nobody out here. I hadn’t seen another car on this road in a half hour. But just as I started to wrestle the nylons down, headlights poured through my back windshield—because of course they did.

“Shoot,” I breathed, moving faster.

It was like trying to get out of a full-body compression sock while being timed for speed. I heard a car door slam and I got frantic, fighting my Spandex restraints down to my knees under the steering wheel and then kicking out of them just as someone came up to the window.

A large shaggy dog popped out of nowhere and jumped up on my door to look in at me. Then a bearded white guy in a denim jacket with a wool collar came up behind him. “Hunter, down.” He pulled the dog off my car and tapped on the glass with a knuckle. “Hey, you okay in there?”

My zipper was still half undone, and my dress was hiked almost to my underwear. “I’m fine,” I said, tugging my dress over my thighs, pivoting to put my bare back to the passenger side. “Raccoon.”

He put a hand to his ear. “I’m sorry, I can’t really hear you.”

I cracked the window an inch. “I swerved for a raccoon. I’m fine,” I said again, louder.

He looked amused. “Yeah, we’ve got a lot of those around here. Want me to tow you out?”

“I called a tow truck. Thank you though.”

“If you called a tow truck, you’re waiting on Carl,” he said. “You might be waiting awhile.” He nodded down the road. “He’s six beers deep at the VFW.”

I closed my eyes and let out a tired breath. When I opened them, the man was smiling. “Give me a sec, I’ll tow you out.”

He didn’t wait for me to reply, just walked back behind my car.

I hurriedly zipped myself up. Then I picked up my phone again. “Some guy is towing me out,” I whispered to Bri.

I angled my rearview to try to see his plates, but his headlights were in my eyes. I heard metallic clanking from outside. The dog jumped back up to look at me through the window. His nubby tail began wagging, and he barked.

“Is that a dog?” Bri asked.

“Yeah. He belongs to the guy,” I said, shaking my head at the dog. He was licking the glass.

“Why are you so out of breath?”

“I was in the middle of trying to get my Spanx off when he showed up,” I said, grabbing them from the floor and balling them into my purse. “I was half naked when he walked up to the window.”

She laughed so hard I had to pull the phone away from my ear.

“It’s not funny,” I whispered.

“Maybe not to you,” she said, still laughing. “So what’s that guy look like? Some creepy old dude?”

“No. He’s kind of cute, actually,” I said, trying to see the activity behind me in the side mirror.

“Ahhhhh. And what do you look like?”

I glanced down at myself. “Hair and makeup done, black funeral dress—”

“The Dolce one?”

“Yeah.”

“So lookin’ hot. I’m gonna stay on the phone with you in case you get murdered.”

“Ha. Thanks.” I leaned back in my seat.

“So did the funeral suck?” Bri asked.

I let out a long breath. “It sucked so bad. Everyone kept asking where Neil was.”

“What’d you tell them?”

“Nothing. That we broke up and I didn’t want to talk about it. I wasn’t getting into it. And of course Derek was a no-show.”

“What a time to be in Cambodia. He’s missing alllll the fun,” Bri said.

My twin brother had a penchant for avoiding the family drama. I couldn’t say he knew Great-Aunt Lil was going to die suddenly in her nursing home, and that I was going to be thrust alone into the lion’s den at the three-day family reunion/funeral that followed—but it was very on brand for him nonetheless.

I rolled the window down another few inches so I could pet the dog. He had bushy old-man eyebrows and wide golden eyes that made him look startled to see me.

“Mom did a really nice job with the eulogy,” I said, giving the dog’s ear a scratch.

“Doesn’t surprise me.”

“And Neil texted me the whole time.”

“Also doesn’t surprise me. That man has nothing but the audacity. Did you reply?”

“Uh, no,” I said.

“Good.”

More clanking from outside.

“All right, so listen,” Bri said. “I was thinking we could do a double date thing when you get back.”

I groaned.

“Hear me out. It’s not at all convoluted.”

This was going to be convoluted.

“Both of us pick the hottest guys we can find on Tinder. Probably someone posing with a fish, but that’s not important. We take them to the café outside of Nick’s office, the one where he gets his lunch every day at eleven-thirty? And then when Nick shows up, we act totally surprised to see him there. You pretend to trip and spill some red wine down his shirt by accident while I make out with my date.”

I choked on my laugh.

“As much as I’d like to help you destroy your soon-to-be ex-husband’s clothes,” I said, still tittering, “I’m not dating for the foreseeable future. I don’t need any men in my life right now. Or ever.”

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