We were driving the route through the Keys when he first mentioned it.
Thinking back now, I recall the sun had almost gone, sinking into a tomato-red horizon, and a faint silver line separated it from the ocean.
‘I don’t think I can go on.’
I spun my sunburnt neck to face him as we crossed the final expanse of water, Key West stretching out in front of us after the long but beautiful drive down from Miami. Did he mean the road ahead, or perhaps he was tired from last night’s escapades in the bar along the main strip. Surely he didn’t mean his life? I hadn’t known him to be the deep, depressive type in the five years I’d known him.
‘I’m sorry?’ I watched his profile. Straight nose highlighted by the remnants of sunlight, his eye – the one I could see right now – hazel, concentrating on overtaking yet another pickup laden with boxes of papaya.
‘Living a lie. I’m not happy and I keep trying to ignore it.’ His face gave away nothing further, no movement, only that eye sometimes zigzagging back and forth from the rear view mirror and the windscreen.
His hand reached down to change gear and as my stomach filled with the fire of panic, I noted the tendons of his fingers. How they had betrayed me when only this morning I had kissed them and they had gone on to touch me gently, then more frantically and ultimately nipping the skin around my nipples in the way only he knew how to do. Those fingers were attached to his hand, arm, body, mind. The same mind which was now informing me he’d been living a lie. I wasn’t sure when I last breathed out, but when a new breath came it brought with it an involuntary gulp of disbelief.
‘What do you mean?’ my question a squeak.
‘I’m sorry. You can do better than me, I know it.’
‘I don’t want better than you.’ My confusion strangled my words.
‘You will when I tell you about the last two months.’
‘Oh God. What are you saying? This was meant to be a celebration trip; our five year anniversary. And you are leaving me?’ The view through the passenger window was spinning. The edge of land mass to Key West disappeared beneath the bridge, the tarmac rolled away behind us as the yards of progress suddenly represented distance from what had seemed so safe, so perfect. He pulled over to the side of the road, where rough ground provided a make-shift layby.
‘It’s not you darling.’ He continued to stare ahead at the traffic whooshing past us, including the old pickup we had just overtaken. ‘I haven’t been honest with you. Those work trips I was taking last month?’ I nodded in silence ‘They were interviews. To set up an office in Los Angeles. And I’ve been offered the job. I accepted last week over the phone. I start next month.’
A parrot flew across the road, green flashes and a surprising wingspan. An hour ago, I’d have been so excited to see it, but now? It was all I could do to breathe. In, out. In, out.
I CHALLENGE THE FOLLOWING BLOGGERS TO PICK UP THIS STORY AND CREATE A PART 2 – in no particular order and there’s no time limit. (In the embarrassing scenario that no-one takes it on within 14 days, I shall create Part 2 :D)
We can then all see where these two could go … and that could be just about anywhere, right? I don’t really see Part 2s as competing against each .. more an exercise in differing minds taking a story somewhere, anywhere.
(I’m meant to be washing up while others walk the dog and do farm-things. But creating fiction is where I want to be!)