The City Girl’s Small Town Forest Ranger by Lexi Swift

 

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Maisie

I’m hundreds of miles from home when my car decides to break down. I grip my steering wheel tightly as I pull over to the side of the road, internally cursing anything and everything. Why does this have to happen now when I’m on my way back to the city?

I’m in the middle of nowhere! This stretch of road is long and barren, surrounded by miles of forest on either side. I can’t be dealing with this right now. I have to get back home and report to work at the Post tomorrow. I won’t make it back in time if this happens now.

The only reason I’m out of town is to gather information on a news story for a special edition in this week’s paper. I’m heading back to write up the story so that it can be published, and I’m on a strict deadline. I didn’t make room in my schedule for my car to die on me.

I rub my temples as I calm myself down. The stress from work has been really weighing on me lately. I’ve enjoyed being out of town, being able to get away for a little while. I’m kind of sad that I have to go back to the constant hustle and grind. Even being able to sleep in a few hours late on a day that isn’t part of the weekend was incredible.

I always knew at 24 that I’d be working hard, but I didn’t realize I’d be working more than doing anything else. I have no friends to call to come help me with this old, useless car of mine. I have no boyfriend that can come pick me up. All I have is my boss, and I’m not calling her at seven at night. She’d chew me out for sure.

I can’t fix my car on my own, so the only thing that I can think of doing is to walk to the small town that I passed through not too long ago. It only has to be a couple of miles away. Darkness is approaching, but maybe I can make it there before it arrives.

I step out of my car, glaring at it before walking along the side of the road toward the town. This was supposed to be an easy work trip, not a disaster. It’s just my luck. Things haven’t been going all that smoothly back at home. A pipe burst in my apartment. I’ve been forced into overtime at work constantly. I don’t feel very connected to anything right now.

It’s hard to feel at this age. I thought I’d have everything figured out by now. I thought I’d be happier. I’m even in the job of my dreams, and it’s still not enough. What’s missing? What am I doing wrong? I must’ve messed up somewhere to have ended up like this.

I drag my fingers through my dark brown hair, drawing the strands back from my shoulders as I trudge down the road. Nature sounds surround me on either side, whether it’s chirping or buzzing noises. It’s way different than people shouting or car horns like in the city.

It doesn’t take long for the last remains of sunlight to give away to nighttime. Darkness falls on me, and without streetlights, it’s almost impossible to see what’s right in front of me. I only know that I’m still following the road because I can feel the asphalt beneath my black flats.

The temperature continues to drop, and I wish that I grabbed my jacket out of my suitcase in the car. The thin, grey sweater and black pencil skirt don’t help keep me warm at all, and I soon find myself shivering. It gets to the point where all I can hear is chattering… and huffing and crunching.

Something is moving in the trees, but I can’t see what it is! I turn to face the forest, feeling my heart thud heavily in my chest as the noise gets closer and closer to me. Whatever is making that noise is coming right at me, and I’m too paralyzed with fear to move, even as growls sound through the darkness.