Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Key (02/14/13)
TITLE: The Long Way Home
By Christina Banks
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She pushed her hands into the soft fleece lining of her coat pocket and pulled out her phone. She touched the smooth screen, but nothing happened. McKenna bit back the scream clawing up her throat. The car was dead and now her phone. She was alone in the employee parking lot behind a closed and locked store in the middle of the night, and she needed to get home to let Winston out.
McKenna slammed her eyes shut and tried to think.
She’d have to take the bus.
Snowflakes kissed her cheeks as she walked out of the parking lot. Artic wind rushed down the sidewalk, winding through her legs and raising goose flesh on her arms. Her twill pants did little to protect her. Within three blocks her thighs were frozen. The gentle touch of her pant legs forwarded messages of pain to her brain with each step.
The bus stop was deserted when she finally made it. She sat down on metal bench and huddled behind the Plexiglas wall. She pulled her hands out of her pockets and rubbed her legs. Needles pricked her thighs with each touch. She could feel the chill through her gloves.
An advertisement on the bus stop wall showed a big dog grinning at the camera. McKenna couldn’t wait to get home to Winston. She would bury herself under the covers and allow the dog on the bed.
Poor Winston would be waiting for her.
McKenna forced her legs to move and stepped toward the posted bus schedule. She checked her watch. Frigid air nipped at the exposed skin of her wrist. She frowned and looked at the schedule again. The last run left an hour ago.
Maybe she should just go back and sleep in the car. While the idea had merit, McKenna feared she would freeze to death before morning. And there was Winston to think of.
Icy wind pushed her as she started down the sidewalk toward home.
Three miles. It had never seemed so far.
McKenna focused on putting one foot in front of the other. Each step brought her closer to her door. Closer to Winston. The dog would be in distress.
Time lost all meaning as she pushed forward. Her feet were solid blocks of ice. They were going to hurt when they thawed out. Her legs could have been wood for all the feeling she had in them.
Finally, her street came into view. McKenna felt a surge of hope. She could do this. Just up the block, she could almost see her front porch hidden in the shadows. She picked up the pace as fast as her frozen feet would allow. Winston would be so glad to see her.
When she finally reached her steps everything was dark. She could hear Winston whining on the other side of the door.
“It’s okay, boy. I’ll let you out in a minute.” Winston answered back with an impatient bark.
She reached into her pocket and pulled out her key ring. It was then that she realized that the porch light was out. With the overcast sky, no moon shone through to help her identify the house key among the others. McKenna searched her memory, trying to think of the shape of the key. Was it two or three away from the car key? Did it have a square top or rounded? She pulled off her glove so she could feel the keys better.
Winston barked again and scratched at the door.
“I’m going as fast as I can.” McKenna muttered, jamming first one and then another key into the lock.
On the fifth try the key went all the way in, and McKenna was awarded a click as the lock turned. Winston shot out the door as soon as it was open. McKenna went in, took off her boots and stepped on a wet spot near the door.
At least it was warm, she thought ruefully.
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