I sit in the creaking nylon-web lawn chair and wrap both hands around my coffee mug. Arlo comes up beside and lays down on his blanket. I watch the ripples on the water flicker with the light of the rising sun. and the reflection of an eagle circling overhead, waiting for expanding rings on the surface.
I’m content. A feeling which has eluded me for too long. After months of Rayna telling me to take better care of myself, the proverbial straw broke like the earth splitting in two. That’s when everything changed.
It started at work. I got back from lunch a few minutes late. My boss pointed one of his passive-aggressive comments in my direction. I threw my notebook at him, then my chair. On my escorted walk to the front door, I blew a little kiss to the receptionist. Colour drained from her face. She knew that I knew, and now I didn’t have any reason to hide it.
With each step toward my car, I became lighter. The warmth from the sun soaked into my skin. I smiled for no reason. I exited the parking lot with the windows down and the stereo cranked. The immediate instinct was to turn right at the lights, like I had every weekday for the last seven years. Instead, I pushed down on the turn signal lever, and with the green, went in the opposite direction.
I drove backroads for hours, taking corners too fast for fun, not because I had somewhere to be. I’d wave to horses and moo at cows as I passed. At a three-way stop, I let the car idle and stared at the tinge of warm colour along the flat horizon. My phone buzzed in the cup holder.
The boys are getting together for a pint, you in?
I stared at the screen like the words were foreign. I swiped to open the messenger app.
Gravel spit and the back end kicked out as I turned in the intersection and pointed toward the city.
A spot opened in front of the pub as I drove up. My dust covered car stood out in the sea of shiny paint. Not that I cared. Inside, I headed to the back corner and the usual table. Raff raised his glass to me. Carter nodded. Jonathon didn’t notice me. He was telling a story about last night’s conquest.
At the end of the table, I took the glass out of Raff’s hand and poured the amber liquid over his head. As Jonathan’s story trailed off and his eyes went wide, I cracked his jaw. I shook my hand out and patted Carter on the back. “Find better friends.” The reactions of the people around me failed to register as I walked out the door.
By the time I pulled up at home, the sun was minutes away from setting. Rayna sat on the front steps with her arms crossed, and her lips pinched tight enough they disappeared.
“Where the hell have you been?”
“Out with the guys.”
“Anything you want to tell me?”
I shrugged. “By the sounds of it, you already know.”
“How could you get fired? And why did you punch Jon?”
“Well, technically I quit. And Jonathon is a dick, I should have done it years ago.” I walked past her into the house. Arlo met me in the porch, doing his little dance and wagging his tail. Rayna followed along, nattering at me. Talked the whole way through me packing my bag and replacing my dress clothes with jeans and a t-shirt. On my way to the garage, I dropped my key fob and cell phone on the kitchen table. I pressed the button to open the big door and walked down to the cool concrete.
Rayna stood in the doorway. Arlo sat beside her with his ears perked. “I don’t understand what’s going on.”
I pulled the cover off dad’s old truck. I focused on how the dim light played off of the chrome and followed the swaying body lines. “I’m taking care of myself.”
“You’re ruining your life is what you’re doing.”
“Doesn’t feel that way to me.” I opened the passenger side of the truck, tossed my bag on the footwell, and patted my thigh. “Come on, Arlo.”
Arlo cocked his head, then bounded down the steps and up into the truck. Behind the wheel I flipped down the visor and a set of keys fell into my hand. I spread the ring out. One key for the ignition, one for the gas cap, and one for the cabin up north.
Photo by Haeden Kolb on Unsplash