Author: Conteuse Vivante PM
On the first day, they left the city...Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Drama - Words: 998 - Reviews: 1 - Published: 10-14-07 - Status: Complete - id: 2426613
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On the first day, they leave the city.
Bags packed and loaded into his battered old compact that runs, like they do, on love and attention, they wave goodbye to everything they have and take off in search of something better.
She picks their route, flipping a coin at every intersection, and he drives where chance decides, until they are gone beyond familiar streets into a cold, bustling, glass-and-steel wilderness.
She presses her cheek against the window and watches two people come together at the intersection where they are stopped. Identical in dark suits and polished faces, they greet each other with looks, and continue their cell phone conversations as they turn together to cross with the signal. Halfway through he reaches out to touch her, but misses awkwardly as she rummages through her purse, still absorbed. He pretends he doesn't notice and takes up his gadget again to check whether he has time for dinner that night.
The light turns and the car makes a jerky right. She loses sight of the steel-and-glass couple, and she's glad they're leaving.
She jumps out to ask about finding a service station, blinding an old woman with her youth and life. While she struggles to get clear directions based on something other than cows in fields and cars in driveways, he has time to sense that someone other than he is watching her, with something other than love in their eyes.
The couple sitting outside the tiny metal-roofed shack is only just older than they are, and somehow seem much smaller. Both figuratively and literally at the corner of nothing and nowhere, they share cigarettes and swigs from a glass bottle, eyes bloodshot with lack of sleep and hope. Somewhere inside, a baby cries and the girl slumps visibly before the pull is too strong to resist.
He returns the boy's stare and makes him blush to be looking, but not enough to stop. He can still feel eyes on them as they push the car down a side road in search of fuel, knowing that they, at least, have a way out.
He manages the hairpin turn through the heavy steering, hauling on the wheel as if he were headed off the edge of a cliff.
Which, they realize later, after they have pulled over, and gotten out of the car to check, he was.
Through the trees, off to the side of the treacherous turn in the highway, they spot a small house, an old man on the porch gesturing them toward him.
He asks if they are alright, if they need him to call for help, even if they just need to sit for a moment. They accept the last offer gratefully, and sit close together on the steps. He serves them cool water and the three watch the afternoon light turn red in exhausted silence.
Only when she stands to go back to the car does she notice the graves, side-by-side, off to the side of the cottage, trees protecting them on all sides. Always curious, she asks who he keeps so close to him.
He tells him that his son and daughter-in-law weren't as good drivers as they are.
By twilight, they pull over on a newly paved road, next to a neatly kept lawn that fronts a freshly painted house that duplicates itself as far as the eye can see.
She struggles to read last year's map in the fading light, her mind tracing streets through spaces of bright green, while he looks through two windows unconsciously watching the golden scene within the gingerbread house.
A family that could have been either of theirs is sitting down around a table. Perfectly scrubbed and home-baked, dinner from a cooking show is served to children from a movie in a dining room from a magazine cover. He secretly admires everyone so happy in their safety.
She finds their way and they start up again, catching the attention of a little boy who is admonished to sit quietly and finish his dinner.
Leaving the car, they walk down the beach to the water, staring out over the waves towards the horizon.
Out of the corner of his eye, he sees a woman walking down the beach. Wind whips hair laced with silver around a face lined with sadness.
The dog at her heels nudges her with a stick and drops it at her feet, grinning with anticipation as she picks up the driftwood and considers it briefly before tossing it into the water. A faint smile as her companion goes charging after it, ears catching the breeze, and droplets shining in his thick fur, sparkling in rays of sunlight that have broken the clouds. He returns, dropping the stick at his mistress' feet, barking with excitement and looking for approval.
Finally she grins, and picks up the impromptu toy once more, drawing out the moment before she throws it again. In their playfulness, she turns and catches sight of the young couple standing close together on the beach. Her eyes meet the young man's, and although she's still smiling, it's no longer joyful, but wistful, and a cloud slides over the sun again to shadow her face.
"So," she says. "What now?"
They look at each other, and in that moment, know.
And he starts the car, and turns around.