Books are a uniquely portable magic. ~ Stephen King

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Journey

Fiction Friday

This one's for all of us who have ever wanted to run away from it all. Thanks to Crystal, Amy and Cass who all - in their own ways - let me know it was the right story to write this week. This is not a scary story, by any means, but some very weird stuff occurred between the time I wrote the first word and now. First - I got it started then stalled a little. Chris sounded a lot like Tom and the narrator sounded a lot like me. I didn't want Tom to read that and worry about me doing what the narrator does. So I stopped. Then the aforementioned Crystal, Amy and Cass all said things that reminded me of this story. I got back to it. I finished it. I set it up to post. The day before it posted I found out I'd need to go out of town for some job training. Guess where? The same place our narrator ends up. I'll be staying at the Hilton. When I wrote this story, she was, too, until I did a google search and found out there wasn't a Hilton near the airport, so she was relocated. Coincidence? Or just excellent timing? I don't know. Enjoy the journey.

The Journey

Chris kissed my cheek as he headed out the door. Seems like one or the other of us is always headed out the door these days. His kiss was mechanical – a force of habit rather than an expression of affection. I wasn’t even sure he liked me anymore. If I were to be honest with myself, I wasn’t completely sure I liked him anymore, either. We didn’t really know each other well enough these days to be sure.

Certainly we both still loved each other. But that love hadn’t been stirred up in a long time. We never fought, we rarely even argued; but we rarely talked, either. Our conversations had disintegrated into ‘who’s picking up which kid where and when?’ and ‘would you pick up such and such on your way home today?’

On the rare occasions that we were both home at the same time, Chris was content to lie on the couch watching reruns of shows that weren’t that good the first time around, while I puttered around playing at housework more than actually doing it.

In a word, we had become stale.

That night was no different than any other Wednesday night. Chris had gone to play darts with his league. I checked the kids’ homework while being reminded none too gently that they ‘weren’t babies’ and that they ‘didn’t need me to check up on them anymore’. I kissed the heads that housed their rolling eyes and headed out the door to teach my night class.

“Be good! I love you!” I said, as I said almost every night.

“Whatever”, came the mumbled response, as it did almost every night.

No, that night was no different than any other night – a million nights before it and a million nights to come.

I wasn’t looking forward to class that night, either. We were nearing the end of the quarter and that meant I’d be hearing a lot of questions that should have been asked weeks ago while listening to carefully and not so carefully honed excuses as to why these issues hadn’t been addressed earlier.

I passed the airport, as I did every night and, as I did every night, I fantasized about the people who were getting on those planes; people whose lives were full of intrigue and adventure instead of ungrateful children, an indifferent husband, and entitled students. I was thinking of those people as my car eased into the turning lane, seemingly of its own volition.

This was different.

My heart should’ve been pounding, but it wasn’t. I executed the turn into the airport as casually as if I had been doing it every day. I followed the signs to long term parking. I calmly locked my brief case in my trunk and I waited for the shuttle. I held only my purse while people began to join me; people who were struggling with their luggage, their infants, their toddlers. I smiled. It was a rare and wonderful feeling to be less encumbered than those around me.

I got off the shuttle at the first stop and walked past the posters of tropical landscapes, happy families and romantic couples. I approached the smiling, polished woman at the reception desk and said, “I’d like a one way ticket on the next flight out to somewhere tropical.” Her smile faltered a bit.

“Excuse me, ma’am?”

I repeated my request.

“Somewhere… tropical. Where – specifically – would you like to go, ma’am?”

“I don’t care. What do you have?”

“I have a flight to Key West tomorrow morning at 10:25…”

“Tomorrow morning is too late. What do you have going out closer to – now?” She really looked flustered at this point and I imagined that she was working on quite an intriguing story as to why I needed to be – to paraphrase the ubiquitous eighties stadium act – on a late night plane going anywhere.

“I have a flight in forty-five minutes to Denver,” she said, looking up from her monitor and frowning.

“Ah! Beautiful, tropical Denver. I hear it’s lovely this time of year.” I said, smiling broadly, “I’ll take it.”

“Yes ma’am,” she said, punching something out at her keyboard. I wondered if she was just printing out my ticket or if she was also alerting security about the whackadoo she was sending their way. Apparently it was only the former, because I went through security without a hitch. I used the restroom, bought a cup of chai tea, and headed to the boarding gate. Once there I called the school, telling them I’d gotten a flat tire on the way in and that I’d never be able to make it within my fifteen minute grace period. They promised to put a note on my door and wished me good luck. I was a little surprised at how easily the lie had come. I suppose I’d learned something in all those years of being on the other end of them. When the call was completed, I turned off my phone. I was officially off the grid. It was exhilarating.

I sat in the window seat and watched the lights of my city at dusk fade into a distant memory. I blew a little kiss out the window and settled into my seat, pleased with myself and a little amazed that I’d actually pulled it off. I looked at my watch and smiled. In another hour and a half I’d be in – Denver. Wait. Denver? What the hell had I done? Denver? I didn’t know anyone in Denver. I didn’t have anywhere to stay; I didn’t have anywhere to go… what the hell was I going to do in Denver? The reality of what I’d done started to sink in, and I began to panic. Chris wouldn’t miss me till morning, I reasoned. It was nothing for me to stay at school late correcting papers or counseling students. He’d go to bed without me without becoming concerned. Maybe I’d be able to find a flight back as soon as I landed – maybe if I could just hop on another plane I could be home before anyone even knew I was gone. I’d tell Chris about it before the credit card statement came and we’d just laugh and laugh. Oh my God, who was I kidding? I’d made a huge mess. We were never going to laugh about this. I had never been the impulsive type – what had I been thinking?

I exited the plane like a zombie. My legs remembered how to walk, my lungs remembered how to breathe, my heart remembered to beat – but my brain was completely non-functional. I couldn’t seem to form a complete thought – and it was important that I think – I needed to think – I willed myself to think – but it was futile. All capability of thought had escaped me. Finally, in desperation, I sat down in an all but deserted waiting area, turned on my phone, and dialed home.


“Can I talk to Daddy please?”

“Where are you?”

“Can I just please talk to Daddy?”

“DAAAAAAAD!!! MOM’S ON THE PHONE!!!!!! Could you keep it quick? I’m expecting a call.”

Ever since Jordan had had her cell phone taken away, she’d been commandeering the landline. She was always able to find a loophole in her punishments. We really hadn’t thought that one thr…

“Hey babe – what’s up?”


“Are you ok?”

“I did a bad thing.”

“What happened? Where are you? Are you ok?”

“Chris? I’m in Denver.”

“You’re in…”


“Denver? What the hell?”

“I just – I’m ok – I mean – I guess I’m ok…”

“Could you just tell me what’s going on, please?”

Chris’s voice sounded so scared. I broke down and told him the whole story. How it all just sort of – happened. How it had felt like the right thing – the ONLY thing – to do at the time. How sorry I was. How truly, truly sorry I was. How I couldn’t wait to get home. I couldn’t express how sorry I was. I asked him to look for flights online because it was late and I wasn’t sure how long it would take me to find something hopping from counter to counter. So, so sorry. Some of the counters were already closed.

Chris did a little research and told me there was no way I was going to get home that night. He told me to go the Airport Marriott and he booked a room there for me. He promised to call me in the morning with my flight arrangements. He told me to please stay put and not do anything impulsive. Like a shamed and obedient child, I assured him that I wouldn’t.

I took the shuttle to the Marriott and checked into the room Chris had reserved for me. I thought I’d never be able to sleep with so many conflicting emotions running through me, but I was asleep the minute my head hit the pillow, without even taking off my shoes. Perhaps sleep isn’t the right word – it was more like a complete shutdown. I just stopped functioning. I was awakened abruptly by loud pounding on my door. I had no idea what time it was or how long I’d been asleep. I went to the door, but didn’t open it. “Who is it?”

“It’s me.”


I opened the door to find my husband holding a bottle of wine, a bouquet of flowers, and a suitcase. I rubbed my eyes, certain that this was a guilt induced dream. Chris kissed me – not mechanically, not out of force of habit – a kiss that was full of love and regret and promise. It was slow and soft and sweet and deliberate. We hadn’t kissed like that in a long time.

He came in and opened the wine while I put the flowers in the little hotel water pitcher. He retrieved wine glasses from the suitcase. “You’ve thought of everything.”

“I haven’t thought of nearly enough.”

We sat cross legged on the bed and talked all night. We talked about everything and nothing. And we laughed. We laughed like we did when we were discovering each other the first time around. We’d never stopped loving each other, but it was awfully nice to rediscover liking each other.

“I’m sorry I ran away.”

“I’m sorry I made you need to.”

Chris and I stayed in Denver through the weekend. He’d made arrangements for the kids to stay with his parents. He’d made arrangements with both of our employers. He'd thought of everything. We treated it like a four day honeymoon.

We returned home Sunday night as a couple in love; not as harried parents and spouses. We vowed to keep that feeling alive, despite the fact that we knew that the world was going to come rushing right back in at us. When the kids or the jobs or any of the other pressures became too much for one of us to bear, the other would say, “Denver?” Usually, we found, when we worked on it together there wasn’t a need.

But it’s nice to know it’s always an option.


  1. Wow, how many times have I said, I feel like going to the airport and just get on an airplane.

    Somehow I don't think the ending would have been the same.

    Nice story.

  2. I'm in desperate need of trip to Denver. I can completely relate to your narrator.