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Writer Showcase: Laura Stapleton

Updated: Dec 11, 2019

I met Laura Stapleton in my "Jump Start Your Writing" workshop through the Loudoun County Public Schools Adult Education program. As you will see, Laura is an accomplished writer, and she wowed everyone in the workshop with her response to this prompt from The First Line, a quarterly online magazine. I am thrilled to share it with you here.

Laura is a graduate of Virginia Tech, a former editor for Log Home Living magazine, and a freelance writer whose work has appeared in local and national magazines, including Loudoun Magazine and Custom Wood Homes magazine. She continues to dabble in freelance writing, but is venturing into more creative writing pursuits while caring for her two spirited children. When she's not writing or entertaining her children, she enjoys cooking and photography.

“We went as far as the car would take us.”

We went as far as the car would take us and then drifted onto the shoulder, the car engine sputtering, indicating we had officially run out of gas. Thankfully there was still daylight, but there wouldn’t be for long. And we knew it was unlikely another car would come by any time soon. We were alone. A sign we had just passed minutes before foretold of an exit one mile ahead. We would need to walk. I would push Olivia in the stroller and Marc would carry Mara.

Bundling the girls back up in the extra layers they had shed during the warm car ride, we prepared ourselves for the walk ahead. I looked at Marc, wondering if this was our safest option, but his eyes had a look of determination, just as they had for the past three months. He was not going to let the simple fact that our car was shot keep us from moving forward. He strapped his very full backpack onto his chest, giving him the awkward ability to carry Mara on his back. I buckled Olivia into the stroller, tucking her small baby blanket around her little legs and hands, smiling as she nestled in under the blanket, trying to resume her coziness from the car. I began stuffing items from the car, which might prove useful later, into the small mesh basket under the stroller. I pulled handfuls of clothes from each of the girls kid-sized suitcases that resided on the floor in the backseat and shoved them into my backpack, then assessed what was left: a half full bag of pretzels the girls had been sharing, a note book, a small box of the girls’ favorite toys, two blankets and three bulging suitcases. I grabbed the notebook, the pretzels and a couple of the toys, squeezing them into my already overflowing backpack. Then I grabbed both blankets, covering Marc and Mara with one to help her keep warm while she rode on his back. The walk wouldn’t be too bad, but the temperature was dropping as the sun began its early evening descent and small snowflakes were starting to fall.

Despite her protests, I pulled the stroller’s orange sunshade over Olivia’s head to protect her from the wetness of the falling snow. The sunshade gave me a place to drape the other blanket, so I wouldn’t have to carry it. I looked back at the suitcases. Those three bags held the last remnants of everything we owned and had packed in our rush to leave the city. Now we were leaving those behind as well. I could hold out hope that they would still be there if we were able to make it back to our car, but I knew it was fruitless. The car, and anything inside it, would be ravaged within the hour of our departure. It didn’t take long for the Lost Ones to notice something—or someone—of value. And they would take everything from that car that had value, which in today’s world, meant they would strip it down to its barest bones. Leaving no evidence the car had ever existed in this place.

We set out in the direction of the exit and after walking for several minutes, Mara cried out, “Pinkie!”

Marc turned around and looked at me, and I pushed Olivia’s stroller up next to him. “I’ll go get her,” I said sweetly to Mara, trying to remain calm as tears began to trickle down her face, colliding with the snowflakes that were landing on her now rosy cheeks.

I walked back to the car and opened the door, finding her pink blanket under her seat, not sure how I had missed it before. As I leaned back up, my eyes caught the glimmer of the beaded cross that hung from the rear view mirror. I stared at it for a moment, thinking about the day Mara brought it home. That day seemed so long ago. I shoved it into my pocket and ran back to Marc and the girls. We were losing light fast and we needed to find somewhere to stay the night. And we needed to find food—the few snacks we had left wouldn’t last us much longer.

Finally we could see a sign in the distance, enticing us to move faster. Neither Marc nor I were certain where we were, as our goal had simply been to drive the car as far as it would take us. Now I found myself wondering what town lay ahead. And I hoped someone still remained in that town. Someone who could help us find somewhere safe to stay, somewhere safe to hide.

"We went as far as the car would take us." © 2016 by Laura Stapleton

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