I drove the van to where Jake and I sat a few months earlier, where we ate our fast food and talked for hours looking at the ocean. There had to be a way to enjoy things now, with all its perfection, if not for myself, then at least for the people I loved.
Perhaps I just needed some me-time. I realized with mild surprise that my face was wet with tears but I also noticed happily that I felt good at the same time, good to be away, good to be looking at the dark ocean that probably had Great Whites secretly gliding close to the shore. Good to remember there was a time not long ago that I lived on my own terms. I wanted to keep driving away from the house, but I knew that as a mother and a wife I was supposed to be good and go home and say I was sorry for storming out and that everything was going to be OK.
It was time to go back. I held tight on to the large steering wheel like a bus driver, and didn’t start the van. Maybe I didn’t have to go back. I mean, Chris could leave for months, and so why couldn’t I even leave for an hour without someone being annoyed at my absence? Just the idea of just driving off down the road to wherever the heck I wanted to go made me laugh with happiness. I pulled my phone out of my pocket and with my heart beating wildly, I called Chris.
“Hey” he said. “We can work this whole thing out, we always do. Where are you?”
“I’m just looking at the ocean.”
“Did you go for a walk?”
“I took Bob’s van.”
He was quiet for a few seconds…”His old bus? Why?”
“Yeah, that thing is pretty fun if you can get it to start.”
“Um, I was thinking…I’d like to have a little vacation.”
“I think I want to go now.”
“like, right now. Like I am going to drive around for a few days.”
I heard him sigh, “Oh, Odette. You are running away from me.”
“No, no, no, not at all. I just haven’t been on a little vacation since that time I visited you in New York. I just want to go away by myself for a couple of days. I can’t be away from Zoe for longer than that anyway, you know that.”
“I hope you are going to come and say goodbye to her at least, right?”
Chris’s voice was shaking a little. I wondered if he was angry. I felt awful that this fun idea was somehow hurting him when it had nothing even to do with him. “I just, I don’t think I need to” I said. I wondered why I couldn’t just drive back to the house, say a quick goodbye and then go. Maybe I would.
“What about the beach house?” he managed to squeak over the phone, “Do you still want to get it?”
“Yes, of course.”
“I thought we were going to do this together.”
“I’ll be back in time for the closing.”
He sighed again, then his tone suddenly changed and he spoke quickly, “You know, Odette, I am going to be busy with promotional crap all around town all week. It isn’t me you are dumping Zoe on, It’s Luna. Maybe you should talk to her.”
“I don’t want to.”
“She’s right here.”
I could hear Luna’s big breath as she took the phone from Chris, “Just go honey,” she said. “Go find yourself.”
“I’m not lost” I said, aggravated. “This isn’t some huge spiritual trip to India I’m taking, I just want to drive around Florida for a couple of days. Can you watch Zoe?”
“Yes, of course. You know I will.”
Chris got back on the phone. “OK, have fun” he said. “Hope I see you again. When am I going to hear from you again?”
“I’ll call you in ten minutes if you want. Don’t be so dramatic. I just want to go for a drive.”
“You, Odette are being dramatic, by not even coming home to get some clothes.”
That was true. I guess that meant he was cool with me not coming home though. This was going to be exciting. But I really didn’t want to feel guilty about it. “Can I please just do something minuscule for myself without alarming everyone or being judged or criticized? Don’t you think a totally spontaneous trip sounds really fun? You should love me even more for this!”
“Are you going to go see Jake?” he said.
This shocked me for some reason. Was I? “No, of course not,” I said, my heart starting to pound again at even the thought of that. “I’m going to Clearwater or Tampa I think. Or I might go visit Kat in Gainesville…you know, since I don’t have much time to go very far, since I have to be back in 3 days for the closing.”
“OK, bye. Be careful, please don’t break down in the middle of nowhere. Jesus, Odette, why don’t you just take your new car that won’t die in the night while you are in the middle of the woods somewhere?”
“Not as fun. Bye Chris,” I said. He hung up quite loudly and I wondered if he slammed his phone on the counter. For some reason this made me smile, then I felt guilty for enjoying that lovely smidgen of pleasure I found in his frustration. But didn’t slamming his phone just mean he totally loved me? There could never be enough reassurance.
Now it was time to clear my head. The pink and gold had faded to black and now the stars were trying to shine through the lights of the beach town. I pulled backwards out of the ocean-view parking spot and began to drive past orange headlights of the other cars with their windows open to also enjoy this perfect evening. The van roared at the traffic light while with one hand I yanked and pulled back the weird make-shift sunroof Bob had made with apparently a chainsaw and duct tape. I hoped I would be able to put it back together properly later. Then I drove off slowly down A1A to somewhere…I wasn’t sure where, but I kind of felt like going out dancing. Gosh it had been so long.