The Lost Highway
© 2008 The Wild Rose Press
Love, Texas Style Anthology
On a desolate west Texas highway, a man at a crossroads in his life meets a beautiful woman, lost in more ways than any cardinal point on a map. Her pristine 1959 Thunderbird, her matronly dress and her optimism conspire to place her out of touch with reality. In a race against the clock to reconnect with an old love, he discovers the captivating stranger has driven straight out of her own time and into the abandoned shell of his heart.
2010 Bump in the Night Flash Fiction Finalist
©2009-2014 L.A. Mitchell
The sailor maneuvered the warehouse: starched dress-whites, yards of make-do-and-mend-war dresses sheathing curved, lithe bodies, patriotic banners plunging from the rafters. A saxophone’s low C-note stretched around the crowd like a seductive embrace, the perfect overture to slow bodies in motion. Imposed on the July night were the intangibles—the desire for touch, a soft spot to cradle frayed nerves, a warm, liquid memory of home.
Finn ducked a USO banner, his gaze steady on a petite frame, the perfect hourglass to mark the dwindling hour: butter and cream roses against pale skin, tea-stained lights reflecting blue from her sleek, black hair. The young woman faced a second-story window alone. She stared out at the sleeping dock. Her reflection was more fog than substance.
He climbed the iron stairs, his footfalls absorbed in the tinny jazz number. He gave a gentlemanly clear of his throat.
Her shoulders shifted then relaxed as if he had awakened her from a lumbering sleep. Still, she stared out at the night.
“A prelude to a kiss,” Finn said.
The woman turned. She swept vanilla and flowers and everything exiled from a four-thousand ton battleship into his awareness. Pinned above her heart, an anchor broach glistened. Her brow was knotted.
“The song,” added Finn. “No one should be alone during this song.”
Lines at her brow eased. She smiled, a warm trickle of welcome.
Finn’s sea legs returned. Had he been on a raft, the sight would have capsized him.
“Say something,” whispered Finn.
She spoke, not with her patriotic red lips, but in the two steps it took her heels to clear a path toward him, in the uneven rise of her delicate collarbone, in a gloved hand filling his palm. Her body neared, a forbidden line with all the temptation of tepid water in an Atlantic winter.
Ellington’s bluesy movements dictated their own, a union of beats, a suspended orchestra of body and mind. Finn waded into a curl along her neck, his body alive in the streak of moonlight cresting the lock. Her temple teased his lips, the barrier of his warm exhale the only distance left.
Finn swayed past their first kiss, an impromptu pledge before boarding, love letters bulging beneath his cot mattress, a gold band, a child’s first cry. In her nearness, he found years, decades; in her touch, she became a destination that penetrated every ache, every truth within.
“Been lookin’ everywhere, Finn,” a male voice cut in.
Finn started. His gaze awakened, languid from a state more intoxicating than a furlough binge. His hand collapsed. His palm was empty.
She was gone.
“Where’d she go?” Finn turned, sought every platform within fleeing distance. His body still swayed from her imprint in his arms. The music stopped. A chorus of polite claps from below rang sour against his eardrums, his gut.
“The girl. The one who was just here.”
“Every available girl in North Carolina is downstairs and I find you up here, dancing alone.”
“She was just—”
“Right.” His buddy pounded out a few shoulder smacks, a humoring rally of camaraderie when the weeks lengthened and the pill of loneliness no longer slid down easily. “What’s say we find you that blond at the door? She was a real looker.”
The inertia of his friend’s insistence carried Finn to the step’s threshold. The band bounced a swing through the soles of his polished shoes. Finn turned.
A tiny anchor flashed–of stars or polished silver–he couldn’t be certain. He lingered one breath to savor vanilla, blossoms, dreams. A lifetime lived in the arms of a woman.
All as elusive to a sailor as home.