Lizzie looked up from her bowl of soup when the dogs started barking. A lone figure trudged through the thick snowfall towards her door, the grey smudge coalescing into a woman, her scarf flapping in the wind.
The stranger hesitated when Chief and Rompus bounded over to greet her. Having nearly 400 pounds of dog run towards you will do that, and Lizzie smiled as she pushed back from the table. She went to the door and opened it.
“Boys!” The mastiffs stopped in their tracks and looked back at her. She pointed to the left. “Barn!” They dropped their heads in disappointment and slunk to the red barn across the driveway.
The woman pulled down her scarf. “Thanks.” She halted about ten feet from the door. “I’m sorry to bother you, but my car went in the ditch and my cell phone doesn’t have service out here.”
Lizzie looked her over. “You can use my phone. Come on inside.”
“Oh, thanks. I really appreciate it.” She stomped her feet on the doorstep, unwound her scarf and took off her hat, her short blonde hair sticking up in every direction. Her tanned cheeks were flushed with cold.
“How far away is your car?”
“It’s near that white church. Maybe half a mile? It’s slow going with the snow.”
“Yup.” She closed the door. “My name’s Lizzie. Lizzie Sutton.”
“I’m Gina Franelli. I moved here last month.” She removed a sodden mitten and they shook hands. Gina’s hand was small, cold and wet. She flashed a nervous smile with unusually white teeth. “Sutton. Where have I heard that name?”
Lizzie shrugged. Gina continued. “I know I just saw it somewhere.”
“Like maybe a street sign?”
“Oh wait, is this Sutton Road?”
“This is your road?” Her eyes widened in surprise.
“Well, it’s where my great-grandparents started our orchard, back when there weren’t a lot of roads out here.”
“Wow. Living on a road with your name on it…” Gina’s voice trailed off.
“So why were you driving in a snowstorm?”
“Oh, I was out taking photos. I have a Subaru, so I thought I’d be okay.”
Lizzie shook her head. “It doesn’t matter what you’re driving, smart folks stay home when it’s this bad out.”
“Isn’t everyone used to the snow?”
“Sure. It’s the freezing rain we got last night that’s causing the problem.” She glanced at Gina’s suede Ugg boots, now ruined, and her new Columbia down jacket. “So where did you live in California?”
Gina gasped. “San Diego. How did you know – ?”
Gina flushed again, this time from embarrassment. “I just wanna call Triple-A and I’ll be out of here.”
“Won’t be fast. One of my neighbors drives a tow truck, and he hasn’t been home since the ice hit. It’ll be hours before they can send someone.”
“Let me make some calls. Have a seat.” She motioned at the couch nearby. Gina took off her wet coat and hung it on a hook near the door, then sat.
Lizzie walked into the kitchen and picked up the phone. She wondered what it would be like to live somewhere so different that she wouldn’t know how to drive on the road. Surely she’d stay out of a ditch, but to be anonymous, to have nobody know her business… a breath of yearning flickered through her. She came out a few minutes later, the phone cradled on her shoulder as she handed Gina a steaming mug of tea.
“Thanks, Tommy. Yeah, I can get her there.” She paused. “Well, sure, Scott would love to use his new blade but I don’t think we’re going to need it. He’s such a goddamned showoff.” She blew on her tea. “Okay, see you in an hour. Bye.” She clicked off the phone and sat next to Gina. She could practically hear Tommy ribbing her about Gina being pretty. He wouldn’t understand if she explained that Gina wasn’t her type of woman.
“Some friends of mine are going to pull you out. We’ll have you home before dark.”
“That’s wonderful,” gushed Gina. “It must be so nice, knowing everyone, having lived here forever. I can tell you fit this place perfectly, you know what’s what.” She sipped her tea.
Lizzie shrugged. “I’m used to it.” She didn’t mention her invisible shackles, and that the acres of pear trees, their naked winter branches arced and curled like gnarled fingers, were her jailers. Losing one brother to meth and the other to Iraq meant that she was the only one left. Lizzie had to stay.
She was the last Sutton on Sutton Road, and there weren’t going to be any more.