I didn’t really remember getting in the car. I remembered my half-assed excuses to John, my deathly urge to get away from that house – that family – and I remembered Marion quietly plying them to let me go.
The gravel crunching beneath the rental SUV’s tires played like white noise in my head as I followed the twisting road, trying to find my way out of the backwoods.
As I fled Marion’s palacial home, I had only one destination in mind: the airport. I was going to leave this blasted place and never look back.
Salty tears blurred the road ahead of me and I saw the fork I knew would take me back to the pavement, back to civilization. In a moment of uncertainty, I chose the other fork.
I was not uncertain of which way would lead me back to town. I was uncertain of my initial choice. Was fleeing truly the best way to handle this? I wanted to be done with it all, done with John and his family, done with the decisions I forced myself to make every time I chose to spend a weekend away with Eli. I pulled off to the side of the road and all but fell out of the car. Something drew me back into the forest, something I couldn’t begin to explain, even to myself.
I climbed the pine needle covered hill. A canopy of evergreens blocked all but the most persistent of the mid afternoon sun’s rays. By the time I stopped, my nylons were torn to the point that I could have walked onto an eighties music video set without a second glance.
There was no fallen log here, so I sat in the squishy, needle covered hill. “Screw it,” I said, as I thought about the state of my posterior. The family would simply have to deal with a muddy behind for a few minutes… if I decided to go back.
Marion’s words echoed in my head and I felt the weight of the watch pulling at my pocket.
To think the man who had degraded me for years because I couldn’t bear children had suffered from the same affliction. I idly toyed with the notion of telling John, batting it away nearly as soon as it had entered my thoughts. I may not be an inherently good person, but I wasn’t cruel.
My head started to swim and all the anger, regret and sorrow built-up in me over the years washed over me as though the dam had broken. Gasping for air, I tried not to let the tears brimming at my eyelids flow.
My phone buzzed in my pocket, startling me. How did I have reception here?
The Phone flashed a picture of Cal State’s logo with the name E. Masterson beneath it.
Eli spoke before as soon as I accepted the call. “Are you okay?”
My heavy sigh echoed through the trees around me, urging a crow to take wing with an irritated caw.
“I hardly know anymore.”