The orange sky is coated with pink cotton candy looking clouds; the sun is setting for the day in a rural North Carolina town. A WOMAN, fit for her 40’s, is sitting on a wooden chair on the porch of her house, looking out into the open field.
Moments later, a car slowly drives up the road to then stop in front of the woman’s house. JENNIFER, mid-20’s, tall, curly red hair, gets out of the driver’s seat carrying a tote bag full of clothing. She slams the door shut and begins walking towards the house. The woman, CLEMENTINE, notices her.
Clementine: Miss Castro? What are you doing here?
Jennifer: *holds up the bag* I, um, came to drop this off.
Jennifer steps on the porch and leaves the bag in front of Clementine. She picks it up; the bag reads, “Southwick Dance Academy”
Clementine: … The season starts in two weeks; what’s this for?
Jennifer: I’m leaving the academy. Simple as that.
Jennifer looks towards the ground, trying to avoid contact with Clementine. Clementine analyzes Jennifer’s behavior.
Clementine: Well, I at least deserve a reason why, Miss Castro.
Jennifer: No reason at all. I’m just leaving.
Clementine’s not buying it. She sets the bag to the side and takes a deep breath into a sigh. She looks at Jennifer intently.
Clementine: Alright, what’s going on?
Jennifer: *plays it cool* Nothing. I just thought you needed to know first that I was dropping out of the academy.
Clementine: So, you traveled an hour and a half from your home to come at 6 o’clock in the evening to just drop off a bag of dance attire and tell me that you’re not returning to Southwick?
Jennifer attempts to keep her composure, but she starts fidgeting her foot on the ground.
She quickly looks at the time on her phone.
Jennifer: I better get going though, I don’t want to travel back home in the dark. Thank you for the opportunity for being in your company, I hope you have a nice night, Mrs. Southwick.
Before Jennifer could walk out of the entryway, Clementine calls out for Jennifer.
Clementine: If you were so worried about driving in the dark, this would’ve waited until tomorrow morning.
Jennifer stops in her tracks but tries to redeem herself by pretending she didn’t hear Clementine.
Clementine: *shouts a little louder* But I figured you’d wanted to be out of the town by tomorrow morning since tomorrow would’ve been your wedding day.
This makes Jennifer stop and turn around. The pain was visible on her face.
Clementine: You did send me an invitation a couple of months ago.
Jennifer walks back to Clementine, attempting to hide her pain. She looks at Clementine with a stern, straight mouth; too afraid to open it up due to the uncertainty of word-vomit that may come out.
Jennifer: *disoriented* You have no right bringing up my personal life like that, Mrs. Southwick. I am simply just one of your dance students and you are simply just my dance teacher. What happens with me in my personal life is none of your business.
Before Jennifer turns back around towards her car, Clementine stands up from her chair.
Clementine: Jennifer, I know you’re leaving town. It’s exactly what I did when my husband passed away.
Jennifer: *turns around; flabbergasted* What?
Clementine: You can’t stand walking around through the same halls and doors and rooms that your husband went through. You even sometimes think he’s walking around in there still because the floor creeks and cracks on the spots he walked on the most.
Jennifer slowly walks back to Clementine, astonished.
Clementine: You don’t sleep well at night because you can feel the less weight that is now on your bed. You cry, sometimes, because you’re alone and all you want is for them to hug you and tell you that everything’s going to be okay.
Jennifer’s body language is open. Acceptive. Hurt.
Clementine: Not only do you feel alone in the house, but you feel lost in a city that is not yours. Without him, you feel like you don’t belong anymore in a place you once called home.
Jennifer: *soft* How do you know that?
Clementine: My first husband passed away when I was twenty-five.
Clementine sits back down on the wooden chair. She looks over at the vacant seat next to her. Jennifer takes a seat.
Clementine: I married my first husband when I was 22. Straight out of college. We met at BU in Boston. He was a native, and I lived on campus. He was studying web design and I studied dance. We fell in love and by graduation, he proposed to me.
Jennifer: *reminiscing* Cullen proposed to me on New Year’s Eve.
Clementine smiles at Jennifer, then takes a deep breath.
Clementine: I thought for sure he was my soulmate. We had plans. By 28, we wanted to have a baby. By 30 we wanted to live in a house. By 35, we wanted to have at least three kids, steady jobs and had traveled the world. We had our whole life planned. *sigh* Until one night he went out to the bar with a couple of his friends from college. They were all celebrating a friend’s high-end job hiring at Google. Son of a bitch was too stubborn and drove himself home. Got into a car accident 10 minutes away from our loft. At least he didn’t suffer when he died.
Jennifer: I’m… sorry to hear that.
Clementine: *pauses to regather thoughts* My whole life came crashing down. I went on a downward spiral. I had no one to comfort me in Boston, I barely had any money, I just felt completely lost. For years I was broken. I pushed everyone away, I began partying and getting wasted every weekend; I was on the verge of being close to bones. But I look back at it now and realize that it happened for a reason. Sad to say this but if my husband didn’t pass away, I wouldn’t have found the love of my life.
Jennifer: Richard is in love with you, Clem. Anyone can see it in his eyes.
Clementine: I’ve known Rich for almost my entire life. He was my best friend. We were close until I decided to go away for college while he stayed here in North Carolina. We weren’t as close during our college years, but I realized that he was the only one there who dealt with me even after I pushed everyone away. He was the reason I moved back to North Carolina. I realized all I needed was him, which was home.
Jennifer begins to think about her scenario and her own life decisions up until this point.
Jennifer: I don’t think I could go back to New York though. I don’t know if I want to go back. I just know I can’t stay here. *eyes get watery* It hurts too much to stay.
Clementine: It took me 5 years to move back here. If there’s one thing I regret the most, is waiting too long to come back here. Because of the pain, I didn’t get to do any of the things I planned on doing with my life. Never had a kid, never had a family, and I never traveled the world.
Clementine looks at Jennifer softly, yet with guidance.
Clementine: Go out there and explore the world. Go on and find yourself. North Carolina isn’t where you belong. This is not your home. Travel the world and find the things in life that matter. Go discover yourself as a young woman. Have fun, leave your heart open. Don’t wait 10 years to achieve your life dreams like I did. Once you get a good grip on who you are, make sure you return back home. Where you belong. If I didn’t go back home, I wouldn’t have found Rich again.
Jennifer: What if there’s nothing back home for me?
Clementine: There always is, even when you’re not expecting it.
Jennifer looks out to the sky, which has turned into a violet blue; the sun is just about finished setting.
Clementine: Whenever you’re ready to go back to New York, the feeling will be indescribable. Besides marrying Rich, returning back to my roots was the second best decision I ever made in my life. If you’re anything like me, I know the same will be for you. But you have to be ready. As for now, go find yourself and your purpose in this life. Dance for other companies and academies. Reach to go build your own dancing empire. You’re so young, Jennifer. Don’t waste it on what could’ve been.
Jennifer looks around the rural area for one last time before she begins to get up from her seat. Clementine gets up with her.
Jennifer: I should get going. It’s getting dark.
As Jennifer begins to walk down the front steps, Clementine shouts.
Jennifer: *turns around* Yeah?
Clementine walks down the steps and opens her arms wide and gives Jennifer a hug. Jennifer accepts it and give one right back.
Clementine: It was an absolute pleasure to teach you this past year and a half.
Jennifer closes her eyes, opens them, and sees past Clementine’s shoulder. She sees North Carolina. She sees her late fiancee, Cullen. She sees what could’ve been. She sees the end of a chapter. She sees goodbyes.
Clementine: *lets go* You are an extraordinary and talented young woman, Jennifer. I know you’ll do what’s right.
Jennifer: Thank you, Clem.
Jennifer begins to walk back to her car. She opens the door and enters through the driver’s side. She sits there and closes her eyes for a moment. She remembers the proposal at New Year’s Eve. She remembers announcing the engagement to her family and friends. She remembers moving out to live with Cullen. She remembers moving to North Carolina. The wedding planning, the fights, the long nights in the hospital; the last night she spent with Cullen before he was gone. She looks over at Clementine, who is standing on the porch, looking at Jennifer. Clementine waves goodbye. Jennifer waves back, and starts the car. The car drives off into the road until it cannot be seen anymore.