Force of Nature

By: Melissa Toppen
Chapter One





It’s just as I remember it; the call of the rooster stirring me from sleep, the smell of bacon in the air, the busy chatter coming from the kitchen. It’s as if I never left and yet at the same time feels like I’ve been gone forever.

Four years.

That’s how long it’s been.

Four years. The day I left still so vivid in my mind. From driving away, watching my parents’ ranch disappear from view, the incredible freedom I felt in that moment. I felt unstoppable. On a high I was sure I’d never come down from. Leaving behind the girl who always felt out of place and chasing down the woman I knew I was meant to be.

For as long as I can remember all I wanted was to be an actress. I’d spent the better part of my childhood fantasizing about the day I would leave this ranch behind to chase my dreams. The bright lights of Hollywood calling to me from my little corner of the world.

Back then I felt like there was nothing I couldn’t accomplish. That was until reality decided to smack me square in the face and knock me down a few flights of stairs for good measure.

Even after everything, after all the rejection and disappointment, the dead end jobs as I tried to make ends meet, the constant stress and worry, I still wasn’t ready to walk away from it.

So how did I find myself back here? Simple. I had nowhere else to go.

After four years I had finally exhausted all of my options and drained every single penny I had to my name. It was either come back home to gather my bearings and figure out my next move or stay in Los Angeles and live out of my car. It’s easy to guess which option I chose.

I stare up at the ceiling of my childhood bedroom, mentally preparing myself for how my family will react when I walk downstairs. I got off easy by sneaking in after everyone but my dad had turned in for the night. He’s always the last one in bed and the first one up.

When I walked through the door completely unannounced, I wasn’t sure how it would play out. Would he be disappointed or excited to see me home? Had he known I would fail all along and has been waiting for this day to come? Would I get the famous ‘I told you so’ speech that Henry Roth has given to me more times than I can count over the course of my twenty-two years on this earth?

I ran through it over and over again on the sixteen hour drive home, all the while praying my little Civic would make the trip unscathed. She’s been banging and clanging for some time now and with nearly two hundred and fifty thousand miles under her belt, I know our days together are numbered.

And yet for every scenario I ran through my head, my father’s reaction was one I didn’t see coming. He smiled at me like I was the most precious thing he’d ever seen, then embraced me the way only a father can. There was no lecture, no questions, no I told you so. It was a father happy to see his daughter. And in that moment I felt a peace I hadn’t felt in the last four years since I left home.

Rolling to the side, I drop my legs over the edge of the bed and push up into a sitting position, stretching my arms high above my head before standing.

As much as I would love to hide out in here all day, I’m too anxious to see my brothers. Out of six children, I’m the only girl of Henry and Charlotte Roth. I’m also the only one that has ever dared to leave the ranch.

The babies of the family, Josh and Seth are only fifteen and are still in school, living in the main house with Mom and Dad.

Ben, who’s nineteen, lives in the cabin my dad and grandpa built that resides pretty far into the woods.

Chris, who’s twenty-four, lives in the apartment above the garage. And Brad, the oldest at twenty-seven, lives in a small ranch that my grandparents used to own a few acres from the main house with his wife, Miranda, and their one year old son, Devon.

Grabbing my duffel, I quietly slip from my room and make my way down the hall to the only bathroom on the second floor. I make quick work of brushing my teeth and washing my face before slipping on a pair of jeans and a long sleeve fitted navy blue shirt.

Throwing my long hair into a loose side braid, I quickly apply a light layer of mascara and berry flavored Chap Stick before making my way back to my room. Dropping my bag right inside the door, I pad down the staircase to the open foyer, the sound of my family in the kitchen growing louder with each step I take.

My parents’ house is the stereotypical farm house and the exact opposite of open concept. Each room is a defined space, walled off from every other room.

Passing through the living room, I stop right inside the doorway of the large eat in kitchen. No one notices me right away and I take the opportunity to watch my family.

My mom is at the stove, her back to me. My dad has his nose in a newspaper, a cup of coffee in his hand, and a half eaten plate of pancakes and eggs in front of him.

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