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Joined: 4/15/2015
Posts: 4
Hannah R
The blazing hot side of the highway was not what Joanna had pictured when she decided to leave the dull sameness of her small home town known as Serenity in the mountains of West Virginia. She had left in the hopes of finding excitement beyond someone catching a fish as big as their arm in the small stream that the people of Serenity referred to as a river. Of course she hadn’t been entirely sure what she should picture because she had only graduated high school a week ago with no real plans except the knowledge that she didn’t want to stay in the family business working for her mother in Jansen’s, the homey little family diner that had been her workplace for the past four years. She wanted to live like the people in the young adult novels that consumed her in her free time, which was plentiful in a town like Serenity. Of course, she didn’t want anything tragic like something she would read by John Green, and the adventures that took place in stories like “Harry Potter” or “Star Wars” were out of the question. Honestly, she just wanted to discover something new, to meet enticing strangers, and do something more dangerous than climbing a tree.
The humid wind, which smelled like car fumes, rushed against her skin so that her dirty blonde locks swirled around her face, the roars of engines blasting in her ears. Still, she kept her thumb firmly held up for passerby to see. Joanna had never hitch hiked before. When she left a few hours previously, she had taken the bus to escape the too friendly little white-bread town that was the only landscape she had ever known. Now she was stuck on the side of the highway, her only hope for transportation to somewhere, or anywhere, new being the possibility that someone would randomly decide it was a good day to be helpful.
A semi truck zoomed by and she found herself stepping back from the highway, deeper into the prickly bushes that lined the slick black asphalt. The cotton backpack filled with clothing, bottled water, some paperback books, and a few bags of stale chips chaffed her back through her thin tank top, and the water weighed it down so that her shoulders ached. She couldn’t help but wonder if maybe it would have been better to just stay and work for her mother in “Jansen’s.” The thought of helping un-cultured truckers and cleaning grease from tables was almost a comfort compared to the blasting heat and lack of substantial food. Her stomach growled, but she ignored it. The thought of the diner was almost a comfort, but not quite. She wasn’t that desperate-yet.
Imagining the cool air-conditioned interiors of the passing cars made Joanna wish with all her heart that someone would stop. She could remember her mother warning her time and time again about the kinds of people that lived outside of the safe and confined town that was their home. Still, she wondered, what did her mother really know about the outside world? Sure, Maria Jansen, the matriarchal woman who had run every aspect of Joanna’s life up until a few hours ago, had grown up in the city, New York City actually, until she was twenty, but what did that mean? When someone moved to a small town at twenty, Joanna didn’t think that made them an expert on the great big world. Miss Jansen, as she liked for the people of Serenity to call her, had given up on people in the city because of one bad experience that she refused to go into detail about anyway. All Joanna knew was that someone trusted had screwed over her dad before he had a chance to marry her mother, things had gotten out of hand, and he was taken from the world before his time. Her mother wouldn’t really tell her much more than that. Since he had died before she was born, the only sense of loss that Joanna could feel for her father’s death was for her mother’s sake. Joanna could see the pain in her mother’s light brown eyes, the same color as her own, when she talked about the man she had lost. It was only when she talked about the death of her lover that Joanna thought her mother looked old.
Joanna thought that people probably weren’t that bad. Maybe if her mother had given the city more of a chance Joanna would give her more credit. Giving up after one bad experience wasn’t the way to live life though. If Joanna had learned anything from the fictional heroes she idolized, it was that you had to keep on searching for the good in life even when it seemed like the world was full of bad. Her mother had allowed one bad experience to convince her that humanity was hopeless. Maybe if Joanna at least knew more of the mysterious betrayal that had sent her mother from New York City to Serenity, West Virginia, she would have more sympathy for her mother’s insistence that no one could ever be trusted. Besides, it wasn’t like everyone back home was an angel or anything. Surely the world was like that, people didn’t come in the forms of angels or devils, but instead were just okay and maybe even helpful sometimes if you were nice to them.
An old black sedan with the windows rolled down was approaching and seemed to be slowing down. Joanna made sure that her thumb was held high. As soon as the car was about twenty feet away she could hear the nineties rock, something Joanna would definitely not have picked to listen to. She preferred Taylor Swift to Blink 182 any day. The sedan was barely moving by the time it reached her, but it passed her by about ten feet before pulling over. Joanna shoved her tangled and sweat drenched matt of hair from her eyes and peered at the driver. He wasn’t even looking at her really. Instead he was tapping the dashboard with his hands and nodding his head to the beat of the music. She had to walk right up to the car waving to get his attention. He was a twenty something guy with sandy hair wearing big black sunglasses and a dark brown leather jacket. The sunglasses were pretty neat, but the jacket seemed absolutely ridiculous given the intense heat. She knew what her mother would say: This man must trade in illegal goods, why else would he wear a jacket in this heat? She could practically hear her mother’s nagging drawl warning her to stay away. Joanna was used to hearing the echoes of her mother’s warnings in the back of her mind, and normally, nothing was exciting enough to be worth disobeying them for. So much had changed in the past few hours sense she had taken a bus to escape Serenity. Joanna figured that it was about time to figure out on her own what the world was like, what people were like, and whom she could trust.

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