Freesia Daniels choked again on the moisture-soaked Floridian air. Amazing that a person could live in the state all of her life and never notice it. But, after years away, the sensation was akin to inhaling pure HO.
She stepped into the yellow cab waiting outside the minuscule Key West International Airport. During the six-hour flight from Boston, she had rehearsed different ways of greeting her parents.
Hello Suzanne, Stephen...
Okay, so that's all she had come up with. Freesia slumped into the back seat and raised her eyebrows, causing her chic Dior sunglasses to slide down into place from her head to her nose. She much preferred the fanfare of her departure to college to the less than triumphant return she now executed.
Small town girl doesn't make good.
Key West was a small town, all right. Sure, it was a free-thinking, liberal town with the unofficial motto, "One Human Family," and a party at every sunset, but it was just like any other Middle America locale. Everyone knew everyone, and only one main drag served twenty-six thousand residents.
As they made their way down Duval Street, Freesia reflected on the town. Home to writers, artists, and musicians, Key West sheltered those who had traveled there for a vacation and those who remained on afterwards. Roosevelt, Flagler, Hemingway: something about the place fascinated those guys, and even kept some of them moored for years at a time. Maybe it was the sunsets at Mallory Square, or the expanse of pure, white sand at Long Key State Park. The lobster alone could keep a person grounded, but all of these things also unfortunately brought droves of hungry tourists.
She couldn't complain, really. Her Key West childhood had been idyllic, by most people's standards. Besides the constant threat of storms, summers in the Keys were the stuff of vacation fantasy. As a young child, sandcastles and swimming filled the days, but as Freesia had grown older, summers had been unadulterated by anything but Zachary Gray.
An inseparable pair, there had been a time when Freesia could not have imagined a future without Zachary. Zach. Her childhood best friend, first love, and now nothing more than a hazy memory.
They had drifted in different directions. She toward a corporate career, and Zach towards...
Freesia smiled wistfully. Zach never had a lot of direction.
She brushed away the past as she swiped at the tendrils escaping her ponytail: the beginning of the inescapable Florida frizzies. She definitely hadn't had that problem in Boston.
The cab abruptly halted in front of a massive Victorian. Painted a pale lemon yellow with white trim and hunter green accents, the Daniels house exuded the kind of quaint elegance for which Key West was known. Trellises bordered both sides of the house. The creeping vines of wisteria wound around the white wood, splashing the breezy exterior with a brilliant dose of magenta.
The cabbie stared at the empty trunk, and eyeballed Freesia's one overnight bag as if to say, "You seem a little more high maintenance than that."
In her rush to get back to the relative safety of her hometown, she had packed very lightly. None of her Boston clothes would really stack up to ninety-degree weather and record-breaking humidity levels, anyway.
With tip in hand, the driver gave her a friendly wink and drove off. She was left to face the firing squad alone.