Giant boulders and blue-tipped trees lined the thousand foot drop from the edge of the road to the valley below. The line of mountains resembled never-ending waves of green beneath the blue sky. The breathtaking vista was unblemished by guardrails or fences. Low hanging clouds obscured the uppermost tree tops. Katelin slouched in the back seat ignoring the spectacular scenery as the car wound through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. She cranked up the volume on her iPod to drown out her mother’s stories of summers with Nana Carter. Who cares, she thought. This is going to be the worst summer I ever spent in my whole life.
No amount of arguing had convinced her mother to allow her to stay in Philadelphia. Now she found herself forced into spending most of the summer with her brother and great-grandmother in the hills of the Appalachia Mountains. No phones, no TV and no malls. Life couldn’t get any worse.
She checked her cell phone once again. Not even one bar of signal. She dropped it in her lap and tuned out the conversation coming from the front seat. Katelin dug in her backpack for something, anything, to take her attention away from the stupid stories of life in the hills. She pulled out her rhinestone covered pocket mirror. Gray eyes and pouty lips framed by short, platinum hair set off with pink bangs stared back at her. Katelin smiled to herself remembering how her mother, Deanna, had turned ten shades of purple when she walked in the house with a new short hair-do. Even though the extreme hair style had been her act of defiance for being sent to the hills, she had grown to like her new look, it suited her. She knew by the time she got back home, all her friends would have made some drastic change in their hair styles. Too bad she wouldn’t be around to join in the fun.
After hours of listening to the never-ending wonders of spending time in the valley she thought her head would explode and send her screaming to be let out of the car. Her brother, Simon, on the other hand, laughed with each of their mother’s adventures.
From the back seat, Katelin said, “Sounds stupid to me. Just a bunch of hillbilly stories about hillbilly people. What’s so special about valleys and forests?”
“There is nothing wrong with people who live in the hills. It's a different way of life. Nana Carter is almost a hundred years old now and you would never know it.” Her mother gave a quick wink to Simon.
Katelin put her ear buds in and turned up the volume on her iPod. “Like I really care.” In fact, she hadn’t cared much about anything since her father died the previous year. Things had changed, and not for the better; no long hours on her computer, no going out with boys in the car, no loud music. She missed the times she and her father had spent dancing like a couple of crazy people to music blasting out of her iPod. He was the most awful dancer she had ever seen, but he laughed with her while gyrating to music he didn’t understand, all just to please her.
His sudden death in a car accident had turned her world upside down, and it seemed to get worse as the days went by. Next month would be the first anniversary of that nightmare of a day; the doorbell ringing, the policeman who couldn’t look her mother in the eyes when he broke the news and that awful scream coming from her mother that didn’t seem to end. She pushed all those thoughts out of her head like she had been doing for the past year and leaned back against the seat. The scenery going by could have been an alien space craft landing and she wouldn’t have noticed or cared.
Bored with her music and the sad memories that continued to pop into her head, Katelin tried once more to get a signal on her cell phone. Finally, a few bars enabled her to reach her best friend, Cara. “We’re in the middle of nowhere heading to an even worse place. This is going to be the most awful summer of my life.” She listened for a minute before saying, “I know. I’m going to die. Right here in these like, boring mountains.” She rolled her eyes while listening as Cara sympathized with her. “I know, right? I’m going to die and never see any of you again.” When the signal was lost, Katelin sighed, hung up, stuck the ear buds back in and leaned her head against the window.