River's Crossing—a rural Connecticut town with a population of thirty-five thousand. A town that most Brits had never heard of. Most Americans had probably never heard of it either until it hit the headlines two weeks ago. Chris couldn't believe it was a real place. Or that he'd made it there in one piece. Now all he had to do was find Beth. How hard could that be?
He pulled off the freeway, drove through the commercial and industrial developments, and into what Beth always called The Old Town.' He parked in front of the courthouse in the town square. It was Sunday. The courthouse and most of the shops were closed. The only place open was a bar called Molly's. He went in and sat on a stool.
"What can I get you, pal?" the barman asked. His dark hair was slicked back, and he wore a tight, white T-shirt with the bar's logo on the right breast.
"Could I have a Budweiser, please?"
"Two fifty," said the barman. He sounded as if he belonged in a trashy American sitcom.
Chris fished out his battered wallet and handed over a five. "Haven't seen you around here before." The barman handed back the change. "You new in town?"
"I'm on holiday—er, I mean, vacation."
"Okay. You're a Brit, right? I can tell from your accent." Chris nodded. "Well, you guys backed us up over that mess with Saddam, so you're all right in my book. What brings you to River's Crossing?"
"I thought I'd see a bit of the real America." Chris decided it wasn't the time to start asking about Beth. He was desperate to see her, but he was also aware that it would look strange if a
foreigner started asking where someone lived.
"I heard that about you guys, you like to do things your own way. That's cool. Me? Give me a trip to Florida any day of the week." He laughed. "Well, you certainly come to the right town if you wanna see what the States is all about. We're 'bout as typical as you can get."
"Great. Look, this is probably a silly question but, do you know anywhere I could stay?"
"Sure. There's a Holiday Inn and bunch of other motels out by the interstate. They're part of the River's Crossing Mall development."
"I was thinking of something a little more luxurious. I'm on holiday—I mean, vacation, after all."
"Oh, right. In that case, you'll want River's Crossing Inn. Cross the square from here. It's pricey mind."
"Price isn't an issue."
"Well, when you go over to check in, be sure to tell 'em that Mitch from Molly's sent you. They may even give you a discount."
"Hey, we don't get many foreign visitors. We need to look after the ones we do get. You might tell your friends about us."
Molly's was on the eastern side of the town square. The courthouse dominated the northern side. To the south, east, and west were old, three-story buildings which had most likely been residences of the town's great and good in times gone by. They had all been converted into shops, restaurants, and offices. A road ran around the edge of the square. In the center, surrounded by a white picket fence, lay a well-kept garden. Chris cut through it and made a mental note to have a closer look later. River's Crossing Inn was an unassuming place, the kind of hotel that knows all about its own quality and doesn't need to show off. Chris booked in and got a free room upgrade after he mentioned Mitch. He lugged his suitcase up from the car and settled in. After a much-needed shower that washed away the sweaty legacy of a day's travel, he took quick nap to get back some energy. When he woke, he fired up his laptop and browsed through the pictures of Beth he'd collected over the two years of their online relationship.
They'd started out as friends brought together via an international affairs discussion forum. They'd gone on to be what Beth called 'cyber-lovers.' The pictures he'd got of her reflected that. He stared at the first photo she'd ever sent him and remembered the sense of anticipation as he watched the download progress bar creep across the screen. That was when he still used dial-up Internet. He remembered the pounding in his chest as he double-clicked the icon to open the picture and the delight he felt when she filled his screen. It was a picture from her college graduation. She was everything he'd imagined and more.The last photo she'd sent him showed just how far their relationship had come. She was lying on her bed in her underwear and sporting a 'come to bed' smile. She'd sent it several weeks ago—before she'd received her devastating news. They'd been saying for over a year that they should meet in real life. That one of them should get a flight and go see the other. But they never had. Chris hoped that his unannounced visit would be a pleasant surprise. She deserved a pleasant surprise. He knew how much she'd been hurting for the last two weeks. He wanted to comfort her. He wanted to wrap his arms around her and tell her everything would be okay. The last message she'd sent him before he signed off and went to bed the night before was "I need a hug." He'd been in London then and couldn't help her. Now he was in River's Crossing, he could help her. If he could find her.
The hotel offered free wireless Internet access to its guests. Chris logged on and checked his e-mail. As he suspected, there was a string of messages from Beth. The first was a polite inquiry into his whereabouts. The subsequent messages showed her increasing agitation. They went from anger at his absence to worry about his safety and finally concern that she'd somehow upset him. He sent her a message to say that he'd had to go out of town for the day and not to worry about him. He signed off with "I'll see you tomorrow." He smiled as he hit send, thinking that he would see her tomorrow, but in the flesh and not on awebcam.
Lost & Found - available now from Phaze Books
Marc Nobbs - The Known Unknown
"But… If you were… Why didn't you? You must have known…"
A contemporary Erotic Romance by Marc Nobbs
Available Now from Phaze.com
"So you are screwing her. I'm going to make this real simple for you,
boy. Get the hell out of River's Crossing or so help me God, I'll dig
out my service revolver and shoot you dead."
**LOST & FOUND**
A contemporary Erotic Romance by Marc Nobbs. 16th June 2008 from Phaze.com