Hanover -- firstname.lastname@example.org
The adults in the towns of Johnson Valley, Oregon, are not who they believe they are. Teenagers Gary and Adrianna make a discovery that causes them to question their identity. They must decide whether to continue to trust their parents and the other older residents after learning the truth.
Available on Amazon in 2022
Dark cliffs enshrouded both sides of the Johnson Valley along its winding course to the Pacific Ocean. The five-hundred-foot vertical walls were said by the valley’s residents to be unscalable. Farmlands and oak and pine trees separated the valley’s townships into small communities.
After his shift at Curt’s Groceries, Gary looked up at the cliffs as he sat at a table in front of McHenry’s sandwich shop, his favorite place to eat in Hanover, the largest township in the valley. It was there at that table where he used to sit with his older sister, Cora, and invent unflattering names and stories for townsfolk walking by.
That was before she moved away to college.
He readied himself for the pair of loaded chilidogs and french fries set before him. Beside them was a letter from Cora, which he opened before his hands got too greasy. She had always been better at managing her life than he was. He read between bites that she had to keep track of her expenses and pay bills and get from one place to another on time. Her life in her big city on the other side of the country was complex. Even her college courses with long, strange names puzzled him: secured transactions, tort reform, nolo contendere, and civil procedures, which words he had to read slowly.
Her letter worried him because if she was having troubles, then what chance did he have?
He had spent so much time on her letter that his second chilidog had turned cold.
A girl, perhaps his age, walked from around the corner at Southern Street, her dark hair swaying behind her. She glanced at him as she passed, and whistled two ascending notes, her black purse hanging by thin straps over her leather jacket.
“Hey,” he said, immediately wishing he’d thought of a more interesting greeting.
Ashamed of staring, he gripped his napkin in his fist and turned his attention to the crooked old man across the street who was pointing a wagging finger at the man’s poodle, saying, “Hush-hush.”
Gary looked back at the girl in time to catch her at the corner at Brentlass Street. She glanced back at him and blinked twice before disappearing around the corner.
There was something appealing about her strange behavior. It didn’t matter because she was gone. The old man across the street made his way off somewhere, his poodle leading the way, telling it “Hush. Better to hush.”
Gary tried to remember anyone he knew who blinked and whistled. He returned his attention to the remainder of his second chilidog, which by then had turned cold.
That night, Gary regretted telling his parents about the girl because they told him about crushes, which he already knew about. His parents also reminded him that he should keep his attention on preparing for college. Working at Curt’s Groceries took up his spare time and helped him save for college. Sometimes he wished he could just quit saving and get away. It wouldn’t be long until he was eighteen, so he’d wait.
But he couldn’t stop wondering about the girl even while thinking he should be less interested in anyone he would leave behind.
At work the next day, a customer had picked through the apples, leaving them in disarray. Gary grumbled under his breath and began to arrange them. Mrs. Young, his old seventh-grade English teacher and one of the regulars at the store, said good morning to him. He returned her greeting, and she went on her way to the checkout counter.
That’s when Gary saw through the storefront window a bronze-colored sedan parked along the curb. Leaning against the hood was the girl with the black leather purse, her arms folded, and her head swaying left and right with her eyes closed, as if she was hearing music.
Not wanting a scolding from Curt, he resumed his work on the apples. But it wasn’t long before he looked up again and caught her watching him, her right palm held against her chest.
She couldn’t have been there for him, he thought. He waved a hand slowly at the girl.
Instead of waving back, she suddenly looked terribly sad and rushed to the driver’s side of the car. Gary headed to the front door, but by the time he got to the sidewalk, the girl and her car were gone.
He stood there wondering what he had done wrong. The girl puzzled him because customers of all ages frequented the store, but none had the effect on him that she had. It must have been how smoothly she walked, as if she was in a ballet, or because of her dark eyelashes, or her coat and black purse. He didn’t remember seeing her at school, so her family must have been new to the valley. Gary returned to the apple aisle before Curt noticed his absence.
Hanover provided few places for youth to hang out, which was good when trying to find someone on a Friday night. After searching for the girl in every store in Granger Mall twice, he drove home disappointed.
Companies moved into the valley every year, sometimes bringing edgy and impulsive folk who got into fights until the slower pace of the Johnson Valley relaxed them.
With the personal service between grocery deliveries, doctors’ house calls, and gas station attendants, the residents of the valley believed they were more generous of their time than other folk in the country. Curt had told Gary that real estate was inexpensive in the eight agricultural and farming communities in the valley because of the depressed wages. Gary had no complaint about the valley except for the schools, which emphasized responsibility and achievement and taught practically all there was to know about any subject.
One by one, Gary’s friends had turned eighteen and moved away just like his sister Cora had. That was what young people did who grew up in the valley. He wished he had a younger sister or brother with whom to share his time, but it didn’t matter because he too would be eighteen soon and be off to college.