She was going home.
College and grown-up life had kept her away for more than seven years. She called her parents every Sunday, and stayed in contact with a few high school friends who never moved away, but it wasn’t the same.
She missed the late nights cruising main street with her girls, Friday home games when the whole town came out to cheer on their Red Raiders, and hot, summer Saturdays at Tyler’s creek, skinny dipping with Chase.
Living in the city, she felt disconnected and alone. She had made a few friends, but it wasn’t like the bonds she had with the people she grew up knowing.
As soon as she turned off the highway, she felt something was very wrong. The familiar grain silos and open fields dotted with red Guernsey cows were gone. In their place were asphalt parking lots and strip centers full of pizza parlors and hair salons.
The flashing red light at the intersection in the middle of town was now a full, four-way traffic tree with merge lanes and turn arrows.
When her constant rubbernecking almost caused her to rear-end a Honda Civic at Parris Boulevard and 18th Street, it was time to pull over and get her bearings.
Despite the growling of her empty stomach, she couldn’t bring herself to go through the drive-thru of the Zaxby’s that wasn’t there when she left. It was sacrilegious to have a fast food restaurant peddling prefab chicken when Miss Pearl fried up the best drumsticks in the four-county region.
She began to worry that maybe after driving all night, she took the wrong exit, and she wasn’t in Collierville after all. Pulling into a parking spot at the back of the restaurant lot, she called her dad.
“Hey, Punkin’! You almost here?”
His cheeriness only made her agitation worse. Near tears, she confessed that she was lost. After giving him a description of where she was, he tried to let her down easy.
“Sweetheart, did you really expect time to stand still?”
“Yes, Dad, I did! I don’t recognize anything. My hometown has disappeared. You told me a few things were different, but nothing is the same. It’s like being stranded in a foreign country, and not knowing anyone.”
“Different isn’t wrong, Punkin’, it’s just different. Give it a chance. I’ll come meet you and we can have lunch.”
“Is Miss Pearl still around?”
“She sure is and she’d love to see you again.”
“Let’s go there. At least that’s one thing that hasn’t changed. They still have football on Friday nights, don’t they?”
“Homecoming game is tonight.”
“Of course, it is.”