Authors: Donna Sturgeon
Olivia Hanson has spent most of her twenty-five years staring wistfully across the tracks to the north side of town, longing for a white picket fence and normal—something she’s never known. Born in a prison and abandoned by her mother, Olivia was raised in South Juliette by her father, Eugene—a knee-bouncing, chain-smoking loner with a Cheeze Doodle addiction. Olivia drinks too much, loses her heart too easily, and works in a factory as quality control, a mundane job she’d sworn would only be
temporary, not the permanent drudgery it has become. Her only joy in life comes in the form of late-night slow dances with hot bartender, George, who can set her body on fire with his kisses but is unwilling to go any further.
The day Olivia accidentally backs her Buick into a black Dodge pickup, she tumbles head-over-heels into what she believes is the happily-ever-after kind of love she has been longing for. But the road to happiness is not as easy as it looks. It’s a long, winding journey of self-discovery full of potholes, pregnancy tests, lobster tattoos, Walmart scooters, impromptu weddings, hump-happy Boston terriers, and a sexy, but oh-so-annoying police officer who pops up around every curve.
by Donna Sturgeon
Copyright 2012 by Donna Sturgeon
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be used in the context of another work of fiction without the written permission of the author.
Cover design by Gina Barlean
utilizing selected photos from stockfresh.com
Final edits by Carol Weber
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this ebook with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
The first time Olivia Hanson fell in love it was with a boy named Paul Peters. He stood a few inches taller than Olivia, had blonde hair and blue eyes, could hit a baseball over the back fence at Harris Field, and had the unfortunate nickname of Pee-Pee. His parents weren’t rich, but they were on their way. He lived on the good side of town, which, in Juliette, Nebraska, was anywhere north of the tracks. When Olivia fell in love for the final time, it was with another sandy-haired, blue-eyed guy. In between the two, there was Mitch.
Mitchell “Mitch” Toler was a dark-haired, brown-eyed boy. Like Olivia, he hailed from South Juliette. He was a little bit older than her twenty-five years, and they met by chance at the Get ‘n Go on a Tuesday afternoon at exactly 1:55 p.m.
He was “getting” and she was “going,” and she was going fast. She was going so fast she didn’t look behind her and backed her rusty, red Buick Century right into his brand-new, black Dodge pickup parked at pump number four. She slowed down long enough to throw her insurance information out the window, and then she got going fast again. As usual, she was late for work and had only stopped at the gas station to buy a pack of Marlboro Reds and a giant, fountain Dr. Pepper.
Those two essential, daily purchases were the only things that got Olivia through her ten-hour shift as quality control at Garretson Enterprises. Every day, from two until midnight, she sat on a hard, metal stool and spot-inspected stamped metal that ran past her on a conveyor at speeds that had to be topping a hundred miles-per-hour. She had never asked how fast it was going, and had never clocked it herself, but judging from the cuts she got on her hands if she forgot her Kevlar gloves, it was flying pretty damn fast. She hated her job, as did everyone else who worked at Garretson, including her best friend, Isabel “Izzie” Bergman.
Newly-married and annoying about it, Izzie was the person responsible for Olivia being condemned to a life of misery at Garretson in the first place. Olivia and Izzie crashed into each other on the AYSO soccer field when they were nine-years old, and had been inseparable ever since—mainly because Izzie hated to do anything by herself, including filling out a job application. On the morning Izzie went to apply at Garretson, she sat in her car in Olivia’s driveway, laying on the horn, dressed in her Sunday-best, begging Olivia to come with her. Since Olivia was already up and somewhat dressed, and had nothing better to do that day anyway, she tagged along.
When the HR manager told Izzie what the starting pay was at Garretson, Olivia quickly calculated it as her way out of South Juliette and across the tracks to the greener pastures of Northside in no time at all. Without thinking it through, or even bothering to ask what the job entailed, Olivia quit her minimum-wage, cashier gig at Dickie’s Drugs via text message and signed her life away alongside Izzie.
Olivia worked one day and loathed every second of it. It was dirty and loud, the room sweltering hot. The metal dust in the air coated her teeth with grit. Everything about the job sucked—big time—but worst of all, the smock they issued her smelled like Corn-Nuts. At exactly midnight, she ripped off the stinky smock and peeled out of the parking lot, diving straight into oncoming traffic and swearing at the top of her lungs that she was never going back there again. Ever.
But she did.
She went back the next day, and the day after that. She never stopped going back. On their five-year anniversary at Garretson, Izzie baked a cake to celebrate their accomplishment, and dished it up in the break room during lunch. Olivia didn’t see five years of her life wasted at Garretson as an accomplishment. It felt more like a death sentence. She swore with a wave of her fork around a mouthful of rum cake that, seriously, she was never coming back.
Yet there she was, two weeks later, still half-asleep and hung-over at 1:55 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon in the middle of August in 2007, the Year of the Pig, buying smokes and sixty-four-ounces of watered-down Dr. Pepper in a super-size Styrofoam cup, rushing off to Garretson to the job she hated when she slammed right into Mitch’s beautiful truck.
She never looked at him. She didn’t have time. She spewed out an apology that sounded half-hearted even to herself, scratched out her name and her insurance agent’s information on an old Taco Bell receipt, shoved the scrap of paper into his hand, and pulled out onto the highway before he said a word. She wouldn’t have heard anything he might have said anyway. Her stereo was cranked and blasting out Godsmack’s “Sick of Life” at high volume through her crappy speakers. It was her personal theme song.
Olivia clocked into work at exactly 2:05 p.m. and her boss, Sam Dubaugh, called her into his office exactly one second later. Olivia loathed Sam, as did everyone else who worked at Garretson, except for Stephie Klinger who was screwing him in a desperate attempt to be promoted to the front offices. Stephie was the only one dumb enough not to realize Sam would never give up a free piece of ass just to make her happy and promote her. If she was too stupid to figure that out, that was her problem. It wasn’t Olivia’s responsibility to spell it out for her.
“Olivia!” Sam called out again when it took Olivia too long to snap to his command.
“Alright, alright,” Olivia muttered under her breath. She slid her timecard back into its slot in the metal rack and crossed the narrow hallway to Sam’s office.
As always, the room smelled like Sam’s feet. As soon as she crossed the threshold, she became a mouth-breather to avoid the worst of the stench. He glared at her as she plopped onto the plastic chair that sat across from him. She hated that chair. Sitting in it made her tummy feel flippy like it used to whenever she had been called into the principal’s office when she was a kid. She’d hated that butterfly feeling back then, and she hated it even worse now, but she played it off as if it didn’t exist as she glared back at him over his cluttered, metal utility desk and waited for her daily butt-chewing to begin.
Sam’s office was barely big enough to swing a cat in, made even smaller by stacks of paper covering every available flat surface in the room. He had production reports on the file cabinets, quality reports on the floor. Personnel files perched precariously on the corner of the desk by his elbow. Those stacks of paper were Sam’s life. One good gust of wind from the barrel fan that always blew on the production floor would destroy the man.
Olivia dreamed of wheeling that fan in and watching him crumple.
Sam leaned back in his chair, the tension spring screaming for mercy as he crossed his meaty arms over his chest and scowled. “You’re late.”
Sam was always trying to look big and badass, but Olivia didn’t know why he thought he needed to. He was a huge son of a bitch, standing six-foot-six and made of rock instead of flesh. He didn’t have to try to intimidate. He intimidated everyone simply by breathing. Everyone, except Olivia.
“Sorry. It won’t happen again,” she promised, not sounding the least bit sorry as she sucked on her Dr. Pepper. They both knew damn well she would more than likely be late again before the week was up, but this routine of theirs was scripted, and that was her line. She was obligated to say it. “Can I go now?”
“That’s your fifth tardy this month.”
“Sixth actually, but we’ll go with five because it wasn’t my fault this time. Honest.”
Sam grunted. “Uh-huh.”
He never believed her.
“Seriously! I got into an accident at the gas station.”
“You back into the pumps again?”
“No,” Olivia grumbled. “This time it was a Dodge pickup.”
Sam’s frown deepened as he stared her down. She stared back. Neither of them said a word as the second hand on the ancient, electric clock hanging on the wall above his desk silently swept two full rotations around the number plate. Without breaking eye-contact, Olivia brought her lips back to the straw sticking out of the gigantic Styrofoam cup, and sucked.
“Don’t let it happen again,” Sam finally said, dismissing her with a wave.
He was a pushover.
Olivia took her time putting away her purse and putting on her smock, and then took a potty break. She didn’t need to go, but she was right by the restrooms, so she went. By the time she perched on her little stool it was 2:17 p.m., and Louise
“Sorry.” Olivia tried her best to look apologetic, but as soon as the old woman turned her back, Olivia stuck out her tongue.
Louise hated Olivia with a passion, and the feeling was more than mutual. The woman was older than dirt and truly believed her shit didn’t stink. Olivia had no clue if Louise’s shit did or didn’t stink, and she had absolutely no intention of ever finding out.
Carla Rain snickered at Olivia nanny-nanny-boo-boo’ing the back of Louise’s head, hiding the laugh in a cough. Carla was a five-foot-tall, ninety-five pound, fifty-five-year-old alcoholic with a dirty mouth and no kids. She said if God wanted her to have children He would have handed them over to her fully potty-trained and old enough to drive her to the liquor store. She tried marriage once and didn’t like it, but she was too cheap to get a divorce. The last time she saw her husband was in 1994. As far as she knew, he was still alive. No one had ever told her otherwise.
“Spring washers today?” Olivia groaned as she grabbed her calipers. She hated the little parts, especially when she had a hangover. She’d be cross-eyed and half-blind before ten.
Carla dipped her gloved hand into the fast moving conveyor trough. “Only for another few hours, and then it’s battery contacts.”
“Awesome,” Olivia said, heavy on the sarcasm.
Garretson was top of the line in all of its manufacturing practices, except one—quality control. Old Man Garretson insisted the human eye was better equipped to find flaws than a fancy piece of machinery with lasers and a computer program designed to find the flaws and reject the pieces as they were made. Until he kicked the bucket and his son took over the company, Olivia and the other girls made up the entirety of the quality control department.
Armed with nothing more than a pair of calipers and a thick book of CAD drawings, they sampled less than one-half of one-percent of the product going out the door. Since the production machines were so much faster than they were, if they happened to find an issue with one of the parts, pretty much the entire order was already packed and strapped to pallets. It went out the door anyway. Most days Olivia just tried to look busy. Her job was pointless.