Janette laughed at her husband jumping around trying to get his pants pulled up and shoes back on his feet as she hurried to zip their largest suitcase shut before the rain came down any harder. She dragged the bag toward the back of the car but wasn’t strong enough to lift it. Instead she dragged the smaller suitcase over and hoisted it into the trunk and then the cooler.
“Stop, stop, stop,” Chandler said. “We’ll never fit the large bag in if you put the small one in first.”
He pulled it back down and lifted the larger bag into the trunk, then nested the smaller one on top.
“Get in the car,” he demanded in a gruff voice. “You’re getting soaked.”
“I’m not leaving you out here to do this by yourself,” Janette said, shoving another small duffle bag up and over the suitcases, and then looking around to be sure they’d gotten everything back in. Seeing they’d loaded everything, she hurried around to the passenger-side door and closed herself away from the now pouring rain.
Chandler slammed the hatch of the trunk down and was in the driver’s side door within seconds. When he settled into place, he grabbed a tissue and made an attempt to remove some of the drips. Looking over at her in exasperation, he cracked up laughing. “At least we got the tire changed before the rain arrived.”
“Good to look on the bright side,” Janette said then glanced up at the blackening sky in front of them. She pointed at the clouds. “That, however, is not the bright side.”
“Well, that is where we’re supposed to be heading.” Chandler started the car but didn’t put it into gear.
“We can’t drive that way,” Janette said.
“Thank you, Captain Obvious,” Chandler grumbled.
“Don’t get mad at me. I didn’t cause the storm.” As much as she’d always wanted to see a tornado, the reality of putting them in danger wasn’t worth the potential adrenalin rush. They weren’t driving a tank like The Dominator, and they weren’t professional storm chasers. She was a decent armchair meteorologist though. She held her smartphone in her hand. “Let me pull up my weather app and see if I can figure out what direction to drive to avoid the bulk of the storm.”
“You think you know enough from a weather app to get us out of this?” Chandler scoffed.
“Yes, I do, you jerk. Now be quiet so I can think.” She brought up a digital radar showing precipitation and wind speed velocity along with directional and estimated arrival time data. “Tornadoes usually happen to the back and southernmost parts of the systems and this one is heading in a general north-east trajectory, so if we head north-west, we’ll be heading into the storm briefly, but we’ll come out the other side completely behind the system. Whereas if we head south-west, we’ll be heading right into the most likely location of highest risk of forming a tornado, and I don’t think we can outrun this in order to get far enough south. I say we head north-west.” She pointed ahead into the darkest portion of the storm.
“That’s the worst part of the thunderstorm.” Chandler gaped in the direction she was pointing. “Are you insane?”
“You’ve asked me that several times today,” she said calmly. “There’s a fine line between genius and insanity. Please don’t ask my psychiatrist to order an IQ test.”
Chandler laughed at Janette, but his laugh was maniacal. “I’ll only order that test if you get us killed. There was a side road back about a mile that would take us north, if you seriously think that’s the correct direction to travel.”
“Only if you want to get out of this fast,” she said, looking behind them to check for traffic, as if she had any control of where he would drive.
“And you’re sure you’re not just leading us into the storm so you can look for a tornado?” He completed a three-point turn, the wrong way down the highway, heading for an emergency pull-off in the median about a hundred yards behind them. If there had been any other cars on the highway driven by people stupid enough to be heading toward this storm, Chandler would have hit them.
“I would never put you in danger on purpose.” She was hurt he would even think that but understood why he would make that assumption. Less than a half hour ago, she had suggested they follow The Dominator. Travelling along with trained professionals was different than purposely putting themselves in harm’s way.
Within a few minutes, Chandler turned north onto a side road that looked even more desolate than the main road on which they’d been travelling toward New Mexico. Janette’s stomach clenched wondering if they’d made a bad choice going this way. If they were in the middle of nowhere before, they’d be on the fringe of nowhere after just a few miles. She felt more and more terrified the further north they drove. The rain also came down harder the further north they drove.
“I can’t see through this deluge!” Chandler slowed the car and finally pulled off to the shoulder. “I don’t know if we’re all the way off the road, but I don’t want to slide into the ditch. What the heck, Janette! This was a bad idea!”
“Would you calm down,” she said, keeping her eyes on the tiny radar showing on the screen of her phone. “We’ll be fine. The rain will pass in a few minutes. There’s not any rotation in the sky right here so it’s not like we’re going to be blown away by a tornado.”
No sooner had she said the words then a gust of wind blasted their car from the west, not quite strong enough to move the car physically off the road, but definitely rocking it side to side. “We’re gonna die!” Chandler said.
“We’re not going to die, silly.” Janette reached for her husband’s hand, and he clung to her like a scared little boy. “This is nothing more than a little wind.” The car rocked again.
“A little wind? That’s not a little wind.” His hand gripped harder as he raised his voice.
“Okay, so, strong, gusty winds, but that’s it.” Just then the rain sounded like golf balls hitting the roof. “Hail? Stop hitting my car!” Janette yelled at the hail, as if she had any control over inanimate flying ice dropping from the sky.
“Are you sure there’s no tornado?” Chandler demanded.
“I’m not sure about anything right now!” Janette refreshed the screen on her phone. “No… there is no rotation in the sky above us, nor upwind from us. And this is going to be past us soon. Five minutes, maybe.”
“We have to survive this for five more minutes?” Chandler sounded like he was going to cry.
“You survived making out with me for five minutes yesterday,” Janette pointed out, trying to distract her husband. “If you can survive that, you can survive anything.”
“That was a different kind of torture,” Chandler’s voice softened. She had successfully distracted him.
“Do you want me to sing the thunderstorm song from when our kids were little?” she teased.
“Nope. We’re good. I heard that song too many hundreds of times in the past twenty-four years.”
“Can you believe you’ve put up with me this long?” No longer just trying to distract Chandler, she really was in awe that they’d successfully been married for almost twenty-five years. “What are we going to do for our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary?”
“We could… buy a Mustang convertible,” he suggested with a gleam in his eye.
“We just bought you one for your birthday. Try again.”
“We could take a really long road trip together again and test whether or not we want to stay married for another twenty-five years.”
“I’m never driving across the country again for the rest of my life,” Janette said. “Try again.”
“We have zero in common, Janette. How the heck have we stayed married for twenty-four years?” He met her gaze and they stared at each other for a few minutes.
“Uh… hmm… I’m trying to think of some way to answer that question.” She rubbed her chin in contemplation. With rain and hail pelting their car, wind gusts nearly ripping them off the side of the road, and no way to escape this uncomfortable question, Janette tried to come up with an answer.
“Oh look! It’s the Dominator!” Janette called out, pointing her finger to where a sturdy tank-like truck flew past them on the highway. “I wonder if Reed Timmer is inside. We should follow them!”
“Follow them?” Chandler was incredulous that after witnessing the aftermath of a multi-car collision just three days prior Janette would have the desire to follow a speeding vehicle. “Are you insane?”
“Hey, we’d be checking off an item from my bucket list.” Janette didn’t even seem to have her feelings hurt from him calling her insane. Still, he reminded himself to tone down his annoyance at his wife. They were finally getting along for the first time in years, and he didn’t want to ruin that. “I’ve always wanted to go on a tornado chase.”
“So, are you saying that if I increase our speed and attempt to follow the tank, that alone will check off a bucket list item?” Chandler asked in a teasing voice. They’d had a great day so far, in spite of the heat. After spending the prior evening hanging out with their son and his new girlfriend, they’d enjoyed some time at the hotel pool and relaxed in the hot tub. Chandler had to admit that Janette choosing hotels with hot tubs was a good idea.
“Well, no,” she admitted. “We’d actually have to see a tornado.”
“We’ll rent the movie Twister on Netflix or something. Problem solved.”
“I want to see one in person,” she said definitively.
“And you think the idiot who just flew past us is going to lead you to a tornado?” Chandler reached his arm out the open window of their Outback, loving the pressure created by the rush of air from the eighty mile an hour speed limit in the western Texas panhandle. They were almost to the New Mexico Stateline and were in the middle of nowhere surrounded by rocks and dust.
“Reed Timmer is the expert on tornadoes,” Janette said. “If anyone could find me a tornado, he could.”
“Well, there are storm clouds on the horizon,” Chandler said. “Maybe you’ll get your wish.”
Just then there was a loud bang accompanied by a whoosh of air and Chandler gripped the steering wheel as the car pulled to the right, their blown out back tire flapping against the pavement.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Chandler grumbled as the Outback gradually slowed down. He guided the limping vehicle to the side of the road and pulled as far off the highway as he could without going into the weeds. He turned on the emergency flashers, initiated the parking brake, and swore under his breath.
“We have roadside assistance with our car insurance, right?” Janette asked rhetorically. She opened the glove compartment and started sifting through papers, presumably looking for the phone number for their insurance carrier.
“Do you honestly think I don’t know how to change a tire?” Chandler shook his head with annoyance. “I can change the tire faster than the roadside assistance people can even get here.”
“But it’s so hot out there,” Janette whined. “You’re going to melt in the sun.”
“We are going to melt in the sun,” Chandler corrected her. “You’re helping me.” Without waiting for her retort, Chandler opened the door and exited the vehicle, heading around back and opening the hatch. When he remembered how much luggage they were going to have to move just to get to the spare tire, he groaned.
“I do not know how to change a tire,” Janette said from beside him, almost stomping her foot and pouting. She sounded like a spoiled little rich girl who had never had to do anything for herself. Not far from the truth.
“Help me move these suitcases,” Chandler snapped at her. “Make yourself useful.”
With little more than a grumble, Janette started helping him lift things out of the trunk and carrying them a few feet away from the car to get them out of the way. “What if it starts raining?” Janette glanced to the west where the storm clouds were brewing.
“Then we’ll move everything back in.” When they’d cleared out the trunk, Chandler lifted the rubber mat and pulled up the access door. The wheel lock key was still in its original packaging since they’d never had an issue with this car prior to hitting the obnoxious pothole in west Texas. He pulled out the scissor jack and lug wrench, then lifted the lid to the spare tire and twisted the wing nut holding the tire in place.
“Are you turning that thing the wrong direction or something?” Janette asked. “Why is it taking so long?”
“They’ve got this thing in here good,” Chandler said, reminding himself not to respond to her frustration. He lifted the replacement tire out of the well and set it next to the car then reached for the jack. Positioning the jack under the car, Chandler inserted the lug wrench into the jack and turned and turned and turned. If she’d been impatient waiting for him to release the tire, this was sure to make her tap her toes.
He used the lug wrench to unscrew the lug nuts, then carefully removed the blown-out tire. The spare tire fit easily and still looked brand new, contrasting with the dusty tire and filthy car. Janette was handling well her car being this dirty. She usually washed her Outback frequently and dried every crevice with a microfiber towel. To her credit, she hadn’t complained yet.
The process of screwing back on the lug nuts and lowering the jack was a reverse of the process of removing them and within a few minutes, he was finished. As promised. He sat back on his heels and brushed his hands off on his khaki shorts, realizing too late that he’d possibly ruined them with grime from the road. That and Janette would strangle him if he sat on her fabric seats with filthy shorts. Great.
“Wow, it’s humid all of a sudden.” Janette waved her hand in front of her face like a fan.
“What are you complaining about? You’re just standing there. Try helping me get all this back into the car.” Chandler rolled the blown-out tire over to the back of the vehicle and loaded it into the well where the spare had been, then replaced all the tools.
Since his suitcase was already out of the trunk, Chandler unzipped it and dug around for a clean pair of shorts. The easiest pair he could find were his long athletic shorts that he could slip on after slipping off his filthy khakis. Opening both side doors to provide a little privacy from the cars speeding past, Chandler balanced on one leg as he untied one of his sneakers and slid one leg out of the khakis and immediately slipped his leg into his athletic shorts and his foot back into his sneaker.
Feeling proud of himself for his accomplishment, Chandler shifted to the other foot and untied that sneaker. With each leg in a different pair of shorts, untied sneakers, both suitcases on the side of the road, one of which was open, Chandler felt the first raindrops fall from the sky, which had suddenly taken on an eerie green tint.
“Mom! Dad! Oh my gosh! You should have locked the deadbolt.” Asher started backing out the door of their hotel room dragging what looked like a girl. Oh crap!
“Asher, come back!” Janette called to their son, scrambling to the edge of the king-sized bed. “We’re fully dressed. We were just kissing.”
“Speak for yourself,” Chandler grumbled, pressing his face into his pillow and physically groaning.
Janette giggled at her husband like an embarrassed teenager.
“That’s not helping, woman.” His muffled voice held a plea for mercy.
“Just remember this was your idea,” Janette said with a chuckle then hurried toward the door. She straightened her dress before flinging open the door to where Asher stood holding the hand of a cute blond who had been at the pool party the evening before. “Marnie? It’s so good to see you again. Come on in.”
“Maybe we should wait for you guys at the restaurant downstairs,” Asher suggested, clearing his throat. “Kinda thought you were going to change out of your church clothes before we went to dinner.”
“We… uh… got distracted.” Janette looked away from her son’s piercing eyes.
Marnie stifled a laugh.
“You might want to comb your hair and wash dad’s face.” Asher pointed toward his mom in a nervous gesture. “The way your lipstick is smeared, dad’s probably wearing as much as you are.”
“Thank you, son, I’ll be sure to do that,” Janette said, backing away. “Why don’t you order us some appetizers and we’ll meet you down at the restaurant in about ten minutes.”
“Better make it twenty,” Chandler called in a muffled voice from where he was still lying face down on the king-sized bed.
“See ya in a half hour,” Asher said, shaking his head and tsking at his parents.
Janette’s embarrassment only lasted as long as it took her to latch the deadbolt and hurry across the room. The low hum of the air conditioner in their hotel room created a subtle ambiance that was intoxicating.
“Get over here, woman,” Chandler said, helping her back up beside him. He wiggled his eyebrows playfully. “Where were we?”
“I believe we were in the process of changing out of our church clothes so we could take our son to dinner,” Janette said, her voice laced with seduction. She laid her head down on the pillow and looked up at her husband, whose eyes smoldered down to her.
“That’s right.” Chandler nodded in mock contemplation. “We need to get these church clothes off.”
“And if I remember correctly, you needed help with these buttons.” Janette reached for the front of his white shirt again, finishing what she’d started before they were interrupted. “And I may need help reaching my zipper.”
“Why do clothing manufacturers sew zippers onto the back of women’s dresses?” Chandler asked, rolling his wife over.
“Just so our husbands can feel useful,” Janette said, breathless.
“I love feeling useful,” Chandler whispered, close to her ear. A trail of kisses down her neck followed the tines of the zipper.
Asher and Marnie had finished a whole plate of nachos by the time Janette and Chandler finished changing from their church clothes into something more comfortable.
The sermon that morning was about unity and how people can strive to be more unified in Christ and in their families. Chandler felt bad for the way he’d treated his wife in recent days, weeks, months, maybe years. Not that she wasn’t partially at fault for many of their arguments, but it took two to argue and he could choose not to take the bait.
Chandler tried to think back in their marriage and figure out what happened. He couldn’t pinpoint any one thing that had come between them. There had never been any infidelity. Neither of them was a drinker or spent time at bars or away from the home. Neither of them worked extensive hours or put their jobs ahead of their family. Neither of them was abusive in any way. Where had they gone wrong?
Somewhere in the busyness of raising their children they had become more like roommates who happened to sleep in the same bed every night. Chandler couldn’t remember the last time they’d kissed passionately for no reason. Sure, they kissed hello and goodbye and when they were intimate, but there was never a time when they just stood there and kissed, or better yet, snuggled on the couch and kissed. They used to love kissing back when they were dating. Back when they couldn’t go any further than kissing. He was insistent about that.
When Chandler had given his heart over to Christ as a young man, he’d also made a commitment to keep his body and mind clean and pure.
Janette had reluctantly agreed to his strict rules. She’d never had quite as strong a conviction toward staying chaste prior to marriage, but she’d never had as strong a conversion in her walk with Christ.
If he’d been willing to compromise either of their virtue, she would have been willing to do just about anything he wanted. Maybe that’s why she wrote silly romance novels. Maybe she was craving romance and he was failing her as a husband.
Chandler wrapped his arm around the back of the pew above Janette’s shoulders, not quite touching her. He absentmindedly looped one of her long curls around his finger and she moved an inch closer to him. Yeah, she craved more than just romance. She craved her husband.
Right there sitting in a church they’d never attended in a city they’d never visited, they connected spiritually. Chandler made a silent commitment to do a better job reaching out to his wife. He boldly dropped his arm to rest it on her shoulders and pulled her just a little closer. With no more prodding than that, she rested her head on his shoulder for several long, heavenly minutes.
At the conclusion of the church service, their son Asher told them he was going home to change out of his suit, and they gave him a key to their hotel so they didn’t have to come to the front desk when he arrived. He could just come up to their room when he was ready.
On the drive from church to their hotel, Chandler reached over and lifted Janette’s hand in his. Without a word of acknowledging his gesture, she gave his hand a little squeeze and they held hands for the remainder of the drive.
They were silent on the way up the elevator and down the hall and while Chandler used the electronic key to open the door to their hotel room. There was almost anticipation hanging in the air between them as if Janette was wondering what Chandler was thinking but was too nervous to ask. That was probably partially his fault. She was gun-shy to ask for even the slightest bit of affection for fear he’d get angry again. The ball was in his court.
Chandler took the initiative to lead Janette into their hotel room and gently pulled her purse strap off her shoulder, sliding it down her arm and set it on the table. He made a show of lifting the television remote control off the bed and setting it on the desk right on top of her closed laptop. He hoped she would understand the symbolism of that one gesture.
As if soft music was playing, Chandler pulled Janette into his arms and swayed back and forth in a slow dance that deserved a formal ballroom. She rested her face against his lapel right over his heart.
If only she knew how much he loved her. He felt ill equipped to share with words all that was in his mind. This soft embrace would have to suffice for now. For some reason he got the impression that she inherently understood.
As they danced to silence, Chandler rubbed his hand up and down his wife’s back, loving the silky feel of her church dress. Even at forty-nine years old, her ample body filled out her clothing in all the right places. This body held his children for nine months each, nursed his babies for almost a full year each, stretched and shrunk and stretched again so many times he couldn’t keep track of all her crazy diets. This body loved his body, passionately. She gave her whole self to him. This body was his body. They were one in body and mind and heart.
Chandler pulled back slightly and gazed down into her face. With a catch in this throat, he choked out, “I love you more than you can possibly imagine.”
“Why am I sensing a ‘but’ at the end of your declaration?” she asked.
“There’s no ‘but’,” he said. “There’s an ‘and’.”
“And… I’m sorry that we’ve had some disagreements lately.”
“I’m sorry too,” she squeaked out.
“I want us to do better.” Chandler didn’t have to explain what he meant by better. He knew she understood.
“Me too,” she whispered.
“I want to do something with you that’s kind of different…” He hesitated, suddenly nervous that she’d think he was being silly.
“Okay…” She waited for him to continue.
“I want to kiss you.”
“You want… to kiss me?” Janette raised her eyebrows. “How is that different?”
“Do you remember the last time we kissed for no reason?”
“Define ‘no reason’,” Janette said.
“Not to say ‘hello’ or ‘goodbye’ or ‘goodnight’ or during sex.”
“Oh, come on.” She smacked him playfully on the chest. “Those are my favorite kind of kisses.”
“But when was the last time we kissed for no reason?” Chandler asked again. “Do you remember?”
“No,” she admitted. “Do you?”
He shook his head. “I can’t remember a single time in years.”
“What does that say about our marriage, Chandler?” Janette was teasing anymore. There was a hint of emotion tugging at her usually stern demeanor.
“This may sound counterintuitive,” Chandler said. “But I actually think it says something positive about our marriage.”
“Who do I come home to every night?” he asked.
“Me,” she whispered.
“And who do you sleep next to every night?” They both already knew the answer to these rhetorical questions, but Chandler felt the questions were important anyway.
“You.” She lifted her chin with a little more confidence.
“That has not changed in twenty-four years of marriage,” Chandler said. “Even though we’ve had some ups and downs.”
“I don’t think we’ve really had many ups and downs,” Janette said. “What we’re experiencing is more of a plateau.”
“Good point.” He nodded thoughtfully. “And how do you feel living on that plateau?”
“Comfortable,” she said with sadness in her voice.
“How do you want to feel?” He asked, his voice lowering.
“Exhilarated.” There was a fire behind her eyes that was unmistakable.
“So, there’s our challenge,” Chandler said. “We need to find a way to take our relationship from comfortable to exhilarated. Are you willing to step outside your comfort zone and find some exhilaration?”
“I’m willing if you’re willing,” Janette said. “What’s our first step?”
“I want to kiss you… for as long as we possibly can without taking any clothes off.”
“No!” She leaned her head back in mock horror. “That’s not even fair!”
“Come on.” Chandler pulled his wife closer to the bed in their hotel room. “Humor me.”
“Exactly how long are we talking here?” She allowed him to pull her close and he fell back onto the bed, yanking her with him. He rolled her over so that he was half on top of her.
“A long, long, time.” He lowered his head and met her halfway, deepening what quickly became a very passionate kiss. Every time his hands started roaming, he forced himself to stop, purposely letting that kiss be the only nonverbal communication.
Even as Janette was yanking his white dress shirt up and reaching to undo buttons, Chandler forced himself to restraint, almost crying from the pain of wanting his wife with every last bit of willpower inside him.
And that’s when their son, Asher, walked into their hotel room.
“Mom! Dad!” Asher came running across the parking lot of his apartment complex with his arms out and a huge grin. “You’re here!”
Janette felt mildly vindicated that Asher called out to his mom before his dad. However petty and childish that was, Janette needed the reassurance after Chandler had repeatedly called Asher his son. As if she had nothing to do with bringing him into the world.
The moment she had the thought, Janette immediately felt bad for wanting vindication. She and Chandler had raised their children together and had always been a team. Her guilt also stemmed from having ruined the first time Chandler had shown her any affection in weeks. What was wrong with her?
Why couldn’t she just enjoy the moment as he’d suggested? Why did she have to push for more? Why couldn’t she just be satisfied with the affection he’d shown her? She’d definitely been satisfied at the time. After almost twenty-five years of marriage, Chandler knew what she liked and didn’t like. She’d fallen asleep in his arms with a smile on her face and woken up in a very good mood. Why couldn’t she just let that good mood be enough? Why did she feel the need to force him to admit they needed to do that more often? She needed to be thankful for what they had and not angry about what they didn’t have.
Janette pushed all her guilty thoughts to the back of her mind and reached out to hug her son. “Look at you. You’re all grown up.”
“Mom, you saw me at Christmas,” Asher chided, then reached for his dad.
“Son, have you been working out again?” Chandler asked, grasping Asher’s hand in a half hug. “Look at these muscles. Your Grandpa Morgan would be proud.”
“I think of Grandpa frequently when I’m at the gym,” Asher said. Chandler’s father had won some body building competitions in his early twenties. Asher had the same build and potential. “I’ve been doing some coaching for my friends. I’m considering changing my major to do something with the intention of becoming a certified personal trainer.”
“Well, you don’t need a college degree for that,” Janette said. “Don’t you just need a certification?”
“Yes, but where else am I going to meet girls except at college?” Asher said with a straight face, then his façade broke, and he cracked. “Just kidding. I’m here to get a quality education.”
“Yeah, right.” Janette snickered. “We have three colleges within a ten-mile radius of our house where you could get a quality education. You’re here to get out of the central Michigan area and into a new pool of potential grandbaby donors.”
“Very funny, mother. Come on, I want you to meet my roommates.” Asher led them in the direction where a group of guys were congregating around a barbeque grill near the pool deck where a group of girls were conveniently sunning themselves. Not here to meet girls? Yeah, right.
Janette considered heading over in that direction and introducing herself to the girls, scoping out a potential wife for her son. Instead, she shook hands around the group of guys, meeting Dmitri, Luca, and Joey, Asher’s roommates and best friends.
The twenty-something guys were mostly standing at the grill poking at a couple of overdone steaks that had been cooked well beyond the point of being flavorful and tender. She hoped that wasn’t what they intended to serve her for dinner. Perhaps the token steaks were on the grill just to have an excuse to stand around on the pool deck flirting with girls.
One white plate sat beside the grill with raw steak juices from carrying the steaks down from the refrigerator in their apartment. Two flies fought for a position of honor near the edge of the raw bloody mess and Janette nearly gagged.
“Could I help with dinner?” Janette asked, picking up the bloody plate. She was afraid that if she didn’t get the plate away from the grill, someone would take the steaks off the grill and lay them into their own raw juices. That was food poisoning waiting to happen. “Show me to your apartment.” She started walking toward the building, hoping Asher would follow.
“Hey, Mrs. M. Can I have that plate back?” Joey called out. Mrs. M? Lovely.
“No, you may not,” she called back. “But I’ll bring you a clean plate.”
“But these steaks are going to burn in the amount of time it will take you to walk up there and back,” Joey reasoned.
“Oh, sweetie, they’re already burnt. I’ll bring you a clean plate anyway.”
“I have an idea.” Luca hurried over and took the dirty plate from Janette and walked to the pool, dunking it into the chlorinated water. He held it up and wiped the plate on his sweaty T-shirt then brought it back over to grill. “Good as new.”
Dmitri began stabbing the charred steaks and lifting them from the grill onto the now semi-clean plate.
Janette glanced at her son and saw Asher’s jaw drop at the mess his friends had made with dinner. She decided to just be direct. “What else were you planning to serve with the steaks?”
“I hadn’t gotten that far,” Asher admitted with a shrug.
“How about if I order a bunch of pizzas?” Chandler suggested, throwing Janette a lifeline. He met her gaze, and she mouthed the words, “Thank you.” He shrugged and looked away. Great. He was still mad at her.
“What do you guys like on your pizza?” Janette asked, pulling out her cell phone. “Do you have a favorite place you usually buy pizza from? How many pizzas should we get?”
Within a few minutes, the group of roommates and potential girlfriends had grown by a few more people who had wandered over from the other side of the pool deck. Guess the phrase, “Let’s order pizza,” travels well over water.
And that’s how Janette and Chandler made fast friends with ten pizzas split between fifteen hungry college kids. The dinner cost more than their hotel room that night but worth every penny. They all hung out by the pool mingling and goofing off, occasionally pushing or throwing each other into the pool. Janette took time to meet each of the girls, scrutinizing them and connecting with them. Chandler threw a football around with a couple of the guys and seemed years younger than forty-nine by mere association.
Eventually they got tired, and the crowds started to disperse. They made arrangements to meet for church the following day and Janette and Chandler headed for their car and left to find their hotel.
That night’s hotel room was not as fancy as the one they’d slept in the night before, but not as dirty as the one they’d refused to stay in.
Chandler plopped onto the king-sized bed, propped himself up on some pillows, and used the remote control to turn on the television. His message was loud and clear. He had nothing to say to her.
Janette organized her church clothes for the following morning, washed the makeup off her face, donned a pair of frumpy pajamas, and climbed under the blankets on the other side of the king-sized bed.
Neither of them said, goodnight.
“You’re in a good mood today,” Janette said out of the blue.
They were halfway to Stillwater to visit Asher at Oklahoma State University and Chandler was excited. He smiled over at his bride of twenty-five years. “I get to see my son today.”
“Oh, so he’s your son.” Her playful grin indicated she was teasing him. “Which one of us spent nine months puking to bring your son into the world? Who spent the next few months bouncing a crying baby who had colic because he was allergic to the formula we were feeding him? Who drove him to doctor appointments and baseball practices?”
“Hey, I was the Little League baseball coach,” Chandler defended. “I never missed a practice or a game.”
“Okay, I’ll give you that one.”
“Well, I’ll give you credit for bringing him into this world,” Chandler said, reaching for her hand and pulling it to his lips for kiss. He loved this woman and couldn’t imagine a more perfect person to bring his children into the world. “How’s that?”
“Kind of hoped there were other reasons you were in a good mood today,” she baited him. He kept up his game.
“I slept really well last night.” He unsuccessfully tried to hide his cheesy grin. “And you know I love it when hotels have waffles available for breakfast.” He could almost still taste the crispy, buttery goodness and smell the maple syrup. Almost as satisfying as what they’d done just prior to falling asleep in each other’s arms.
“You’re just not going to admit it, are you?” Janette poked him in the side to tickle him and he finally let out a full laugh.
“Okay, okay, we need to do that more often.”
“You know I can’t concentrate on anything the last few weeks of school. Too many tests and term papers and stress.”
“And you don’t think that the endorphin release from the best stress management tool in the world wouldn’t be helpful with that?”
“Why do you always have to turn this around and put more pressure on me?” Chandler let go of his wife’s hand as if the steering wheel suddenly needed both hands and total concentration. “Why can’t you just enjoy last night for what it was and let me be in a good mood for once?”
“Because it’s not fair to me to make me wait weeks in between,” Janette said. “Do you even remember the last time you made love to me?”
Chandler tried to think back over the past few weeks. “Uh… it was a Saturday morning, I think.”
“When I was half asleep.” She folded her arms across her chest.
“You know enough anatomy and physiology to understand that men’s testosterone levels are highest first thing in the morning. This isn’t rocket science.”
“Almost a month ago.”
“Geesh, will you let up already? We’re not honeymooners anymore, you know. And there’s no on-off switch on my body. I can’t just wave a magic wand and make things work the way they did when we were twenty.”
“Whatever.” Janette huffed and turned away to look out the passenger side window.
“Gee, I was in a good mood. Thanks for ruining it.” Suddenly the waffles seemed to take center stage as the most enjoyment he’d had in a long time.
“At least you get to see your son today,” she said. “Maybe that will bring back your good mood.”
“Let’s hope so,” Chandler said, his stomach clenching in frustration. So much for his breakfast high. “Or this is going to be a long week and a half.”
“Only twelve more days to go,” Janette grumbled.
Twelve days. If he could make it that long with her griping at him. Twelve long days.
(Reminder to my readers: Clayton and I had an awesome trip and I don't think we fought even once the whole time. Remember, this book is not autobiographical. Our characters have to have some major conflicts or the resulting Happily-Ever-After won't seem as sweet. We did enjoy a few waffles along the way!)
“One towel?” Chandler asked, flipping on the light switch in the bathroom. “What kind of hotel is this?”
“Hey, you asked me to find affordable hotels,” Janette defended. “This was the least expensive in the area that had a hot tub.” She looked into the cracked and dirty tub that didn’t look like it would hold water much less her body weight. Of course, she had a lot more body weight than she used to but still.
Chandler turned to her with a slack jaw. “You based our hotel choices on whether or not they had a hot tub?”
“After nine hours on the road, my body needs a hot tub,” Janette said. “You may be able to fall asleep with all the lights on and the television blaring, but some of us need to relax for a little while before bed.”
“If you would shut off the lights at a decent hour and come to bed you wouldn’t have that problem,” Chandler grumbled and slid past her to continue on into the main room of the suite.
“Maybe you should give me an incentive to come to bed and I’d shut off the lights sooner,” she grumbled back.
He ignored her and flipped on the lamp beside the bed. “What the heck is this? A bare footprint? On the side table? And who sat on this bed? Didn’t someone clean this room in between hotel guests?”
“Sure doesn’t look like it,” Janette said.
“There are holes in the filthy carpeting and this table is broken. Janette, I can’t sleep here tonight.”
“Maybe if you had helped organize this vacation you would have done a better job at picking hotel rooms,” she suggested.
“Are you blaming this on me?” He waved his hand around the room and raised his eyebrows. “Or did you set up the crappiest hotels on purpose just to punish me for not helping you enough?”
“You should know me better than that,” Janette said. “I prefer to sleep in luxury. I would never choose this on purpose. I’m just as appalled as you are. Let me get on my phone and I’ll see if I can find us something else.” She sat down at that broken table and pulled up Google Maps.
Chandler stood behind her with his arms crossed and a scowl waiting, once again, for her to do the work of finding a hotel.
Three phone calls to answering services on the other side of the world and they finally found a high-end hotel fifteen minutes away that had a vacancy. She didn’t even want to mention to Chandler how much the room was going to cost. He would probably have freaked out.
They dragged their luggage and cooler back down the hallway, entered the rickety old elevator, and strode back to the front desk in the lobby of the dilapidated hotel to demand their money back. Perhaps the threat of a one-star review that included the pictures they’d took of the disrepairs was all it took for the clerk to remove the charges from their credit card. He barely apologized for the condition of the hotel room.
Upon arriving at the Hilton, Janette breathed a sigh of relief that the lobby smelled so pleasant and was well-lit with several desk clerks all who had welcoming smiles. She hauled out her credit card and accepted their key cards with gratitude.
Their suite was spotless and spacious with a full kitchen, king sized bed, office area, and giant shower. No tub, but by then it was ten o’clock and they’d been on the road all day and had witnessed a tragic car accident.
“They even cleaned the remote control.” Chandler held up the television remote with a wrapper around it to show guests how sanitary their room was.
“It’s like they knew you were coming,” Janette said with compassion.
“Hey, I’m sorry I got upset.” Chandler laid the sanitized remote control back on the television stand and opened his arms for Janette to slip into a hug.
“Me too.” They both sighed at the same time as they held one another for a long moment.
Chandler pulled back and smoothed Janette’s disheveled strands of hair away from her sweaty and gritty face and asked the best question she’d heard in weeks. “What do you say we try out that enormous shower and get the grime off us before I give you an incentive to come to bed early?”
“I would love that,” she said with a soft smile.
They never did turn on the television.
Chandler watched with horror as the idiot in the black Corvette spun toward him, out of control. There was nowhere to go. Nothing Chandler could do. He slammed on his brakes and reached over to protect the most valuable thing in his life. As if his arm could somehow save his wife from certain death had she not been strapped in with a seatbelt and passenger-side airbags.
The Corvette spun one more half turn as the automatic braking system on his Subaru Outback kicked into gear, bringing them to a complete stop faster than his reflexes would have provided. The laws of physics were called into question at how quickly the Subaru seemed to stop. The pickup truck in the next lane wasn’t quite so lucky. That Corvette’s one more half turn, and the Subaru’s otherworldly braking mechanism meant the pickup truck hit the Corvette, slamming it further up the road and out of their way.
Chandler glanced in the rearview mirror, hoping the cars behind them had decent brakes as well. The danger was far from over. They were on a curve and on a bridge and stuck between several cars piled up in front of them and speeding cars flying around a blind corner to their rear. A few other cars crashed into each other but somehow the Subaru’s shiny blue paint never received a dent or a scratch.
“Are you okay?” Chandler asked, breathless and heart racing.
“I think so.” Janette’s voice wavered with unshed tears. “I’m scared.” She also glanced behind them. The crunching of metal and breaking of glass had silenced as any cars still barreling toward them were far behind, around the bend where they’d see the pileup before it was too late.
“Stay here, I’m going to see if anyone around us needs assistance.” Chandler unbuckled his seatbelt and reached for the door handle.
“I’m coming with you,” Janette said, unbuckling her seatbelt as well.
He grabbed for her wrist to stop her. “Please just stay in the car! If anything were to happen to you… I would… oh my gosh. Please just stay here and be safe.”
“I am a mother, Chandler,” she said with annoyance in her voice. “I know how to do basic triage. There are probably people in these other cars who need help and I’m going to provide help as best as I can.”
Chandler couldn’t argue with that. “Please be careful.” He met her eyes with concerned resolution.
“You as well.” Without another word she was out of the passenger door, and he let himself out the driver’s side.
Janette headed for the nearest crashed car to check on the people there and Chandler hurried toward the front of the pileup to inquire about the drivers of the pickup truck and Corvette who had been the first to crash.
He could hear sirens in the distance but realized no emergency vehicle was going to get close unless some of the untouched vehicles got out of the way. Another man who was not injured approached from the other side and Chandler called out to him. “Can you head up to the front of the line of cars and see if you can get them to move out of the way?”
“I’m a doctor,” the man said. “Let me check on the injuries and you go tell the people in the cars to move.”
“Good idea, thanks.” Chandler shifted trajectory and headed for the frontmost vehicles, where people were starting to emerge with dazed expressions and wide eyes. He called out to them, “Can you help me move all these cars out of the way so emergency vehicles can get through?”
Together with several others they managed to direct traffic up and around and away from the crash site. Within a few minutes they had enough cars moved that Chandler hurried to move his own car. Janette was nowhere in sight, but he was confident she was helping someone, and they’d find each other later.
He had to drive quite far to get his car out of the way, but he was glad for having helped clear a path when a police car and ambulance came racing up the bridge from the opposite direction. Because of the cleared path, the ambulance was able to pull right up where they could be of greatest assistance.
Chandler wandered back through the crashed cars to see if there was anyone who still needed help. Mostly people were in shock from the trauma. Some had cuts and scrapes and injuries from inflated airbags, but otherwise were okay.
The driver of the Corvette wasn’t so lucky. Hearing the guy had been drinking alcohol wasn’t a shock. Learning he had life threatening injuries was sad. Finding out the man in the pickup truck was also seriously injured made Chandler angry.
None of this needed to happen. None of this would have happened if that jerk had been sober. Chandler looked around at the dozens of crashed cars, the dozens of injured and shocked people attempting to clean up the mess created by one reckless idiot who got behind the wheel of a Corvette after drinking alcohol.
After helping move more cars out of the way and assessing any other injuries that required attention, Chandler finally found Janette amidst all the chaos. They met each other’s gaze from a distance of about forty yards and Chandler sighed with relief. They strode toward one another, and Chandler tucked Janette into his arms and just held her. They didn’t speak; they just held each other.
Finally, Chandler pulled away and looked down into his wife’s tired face and said quietly, “We were lucky.”
“Can we get out of here?” Janette asked in a shaky voice. “I just want to find our hotel and go to bed.”
“Let’s go give a statement to the police along with our contact information and then we can leave.” Chandler kept his arm around his wife as he led her in the direction where multiple squad cars sat with lights still flashing. He would probably still be seeing flashing lights in his sleep that night. If he was able to fall asleep at all.
“It’s only sixty-five through here, people,” Chandler called out in his typical road rage fashion. “I’m going seventy and these guys are passing me like we’re standing still. Idiot!” He yelled at the guy in a Corvette who had zipped past, dangerously close. As if the guy could hear him. The only person affected by his tirade was Janette and she had already given up trying to convince him not to shout at other drivers.
She knew to just shut up and wait for Chandler to calm down. Yelling at him for yelling at them would just anger him more. He had enough stress dealing with the jerks drag racing through the complicated maze of crisscrossing expressways over downtown St. Louis.
Janette glanced fondly up at the Gateway Arch gracing the St. Louis skyline remembering with fondness that afternoon during their senior trip when she and Chandler had lain on their backs in the grass gazing up at the blue sky and dreaming of their future. Their final summer before the end of childhood and the beginning of college. Before the real world intruded on their idyllic life. Before careers and babies and mortgage payments and responsibilities. Back when life was as wide open as the blue sky above the Gateway Arch. Right there in the grass Chandler had looked at Janette like she was the only woman in the world and the only thing that mattered in his life.
He sat up halfway and propped himself on his elbow then leaned down and kissed her. He kissed her much more passionately than he should have in front of the hundreds of pedestrians moseying through the Gateway Park beneath the Arch.
Maybe the open aired freedom of knowing they couldn’t be tempted to go too far allowed him to shed the inhibitions usually holding him back. His commitment to purity before their marriage was admirable but restricting. She remembered wishing they were all grown up and married and could let that kiss continue long into the night. Now twenty-five years later she longed for that feeling to return. She wanted to experience that youthful passion and abandon.
As they passed through downtown St. Louis, the Arch disappeared in her rearview mirror and Janette realized Chandler was no longer grumbling at other drivers and seemed at peace. Maybe he was remembering that afternoon as well. Maybe he missed that blissful innocence also. She pulled her gaze and attention back to the road in front of them.
Just in time for the black Corvette that had zipped past them to careen into the guardrail, then overcompensate in the opposite direction, spinning into the lane directly ahead of them. Chandler’s arm reached across the front of her as if that alone could protect Janette from the oncoming crash.
“Hold on!” Chandler called out as he slammed on the brakes and Janette braced herself for impact.
“Would you please hoist this up into the car?” Janette asked Chandler with more disdain than he’d heard in a long time. Great. What’d he do this time? “Or do I have to do everything myself?” Janette was struggling to lift their heavy suitcase into the hatch of her Subaru Outback.
Chandler couldn’t understand why she hadn’t waited two more minutes for him to come help her. She was so impatient. Without answering her obviously rhetorical question, he calmly lifted the bulging suitcase up and shoved it further back so they could fit the cooler in.
“Don’t scratch my car,” she snapped.
He took a deep breath and closed his eyes then spoke through gritted teeth. “I did not scratch your car. Nor would I.”
“You did the other day when we went to the post office,” she reminded him. “You slammed the door against the curb and scratched the door frame.”
“The day I helped you carry that giant box of books you shipped to one of your little friends on the opposite side of the world? What did that cost you? Like, eighty bucks? Did you take that out of your business account? Or did you borrow money from our home checking account?”
“I used my business account.” Her words were laced with hurt. He needed to rein himself in. Again. “And Lana is not one of my little friends. She is a professional author and one of my co-writers. She deserves to have copies of our co-written book.”
“And she couldn’t just order them from Australia herself?” Chandler didn’t wait for Janette to ask for his help before lifting the heavy cooler and shoving it into the spot barely large enough remaining in the back of the trunk.
“I needed to sign them for her.” Janette’s vulnerability showed in the wavering of her voice. “You may not think my autograph is valuable but other people do.”
“I’m sure they do,” Chandler said dismissively. Looking around the car for anything else that needed to be loaded and seeing nothing, Chandler reached up and pulled the hatch down to close the trunk. “Did you use the bathroom? I don’t want to have to stop an hour from now.”
He pulled the car keys from his pocket and headed for the driver’s side door before waiting for her to answer. It didn’t matter. If she needed to stop, he would stop. He always did. His wife had a bladder the size of a grape and drank too much Diet Coke. Not that he complained since she never batted an eye when he snuck sips of her pop every so often.
Janette spent several minutes digging through her recently organized backpack while Chandler sat in the driver’s seat, adjusting the seat back so his legs would fit better in her tiny car.
If only they could take his Mustang convertible on their cross-country trip. He looked longingly across the driveway at his Mustang’s sparkling blue paint job shimmering in the morning sun, knowing that was a forgone conclusion. Janette hated having wind in her face and refused to ride in his prized possession with the top down. What was the point of having a convertible if he couldn’t lower the top? Plus, the little beast had manual transmission and Janette couldn’t drive a stick shift. Not that he’d give up the wheel long enough for her to drive, but still. If something happened and he was unable to drive, better to be riding in a car she knew how to operate.
“What’s the holdup?” he grumbled when she still hadn’t joined him a minute later.
“I can’t find my computer charger.” She kept digging in her backpack.
“You already plugged the stupid thing in,” Chandler said, reaching across the console to lift the converter from where it rested beside her seat, having already been plugged into the car’s auxiliary charger. “Are you really going to be on the computer long enough to need the charger?”
“I’m going to be writing the whole time you’re driving.” She slipped into the passenger seat and adjusted the lap desk so that it rested across her knees with the laptop already open and ready to go.
“All seventy hours?” He met he gaze and lifted his eyebrows.
“Unless you’re tired and need me to take over.” She snapped her seatbelt into place.
“Not a chance.” Chandler glanced in the rearview mirror and watched the screen with the backup camera to ensure nothing was behind them, then backed out of their driveway. “What are you writing?”
“I’m taking your advice.” Janette was already typing before they’d left the neighborhood.
“About what?” He was nervous that he couldn’t remember what advice he’d given her that involved writing.
“You said I should write a romance novel about our trip.” She kept typing without glancing his way.
“I said that?” He tried to reach back into his mind to dig up that conversation.
“And I told you that no one would want to read a romance about an elderly couple, and you hurt my feelings by telling me no one would want to read any of my romance novels.”
“I wouldn’t say that.” Would he?
“I guess you and I remember the conversation differently,” Janette said.
“I don’t remember the conversation at all, so I’ll take your word for it.” Chandler pulled onto the interstate and merged into rush hour traffic, cursing his brother for asking them to embark on this venture. “Do I get to have any contribution to the story?”
“Sure. I’ll even put your name on the cover if you’d like.” She kept typing. “Under mine and in smaller font size of course.”
“Will you autograph a copy of the paperback for me also?” Chandler chuckled and glanced over at his wife, still adorable in all her youthful endeavors.
“Of course… although the copy will be worth more if you sign the book also.”
“I wouldn’t want to undervalue our joint project by refusing to include my autograph.”
“Excellent. Now be quiet so I can write.”
“Yes, dear.” Their age-old joke from when his brother had given him the best marriage advice ever back on his wedding day. The only two words he needed for a happy marriage: Yes, dear. Worked to this day. And every day from now until eternity. Provided they make it through a seventy-hour cross-country car ride together. That remained to be determined. He glanced at the GPS. Only sixty-nine hours and forty-five minutes left to go.
“Jerk,” Janette grumbled, walking away from the slammed door of Chandler’s home office. “Who would want to read your stupid romance novels? All my fans, that’s who. And I am perfectly capable of transferring money from our savings to our checking account. Thank you very much.”
She strode down the hall to her home office, which was more of a converted parlor in their elegant Victorian. This room was probably used to receive formal guests in the eighteen-hundreds. They had attempted to maintain as much of the original charm when upgrading the electrical wiring and installing high speed internet and video equipment for vlogging. She was proud of what Chandler had accomplished in the remodel.
Settling into her large executive chair, Janette tucked her feet up under her legs and spun the chair to face her desk, jiggling the mouse to wake up her computer. However much she wanted to fight her husband on this, the reality was they were running out of time and needed to book some hotel rooms for their trip.
“Hot tubs,” she grumbled. “I’m insisting on hot tubs. I don’t care how much it costs.” She was tempted to find the most expensive hotels in each city just out of spite but recognized that she and her husband weren’t rich. Her fledgling career as a romance author had yet to pay out. Janette knew success was a possibility. Her friends were proof of that. Angelina in particular.
Angelina Michaels seemed to own a magic wand. Every book she wrote rocketed to the top of the clean & wholesome romance charts. Every time she wrote a blog post or produced a video, the world sat up and listened or read her words. She was also one of the nicest people Janette had ever met. Well, technically they’d never met in person. They’d only met by video chat. But Angelina was generous and patient, and always seemed to have time to answer Janette’s many questions. She was the epitome of a mentor.
She had also invited Janette and Chandler to stay at her house in Las Vegas when they were there to visit their daughter, Blayke. For that they were eternally grateful. The idea of finding an affordable hotel in Vegas was even more daunting than trying to space out their days of driving across the country. And there was no way they were staying with Blayke and her twenty-something aged roommates. College-age kids were notorious for partying and staying up too late. Janette needed her beauty sleep. Plus, she was excited to have Angelina’s undivided attention for two whole days. This would be a dream vacation.
If Janette could manage to get along with her husband.
She and Chandler had been married for twenty-four years. Long enough to know everything about each other and stay married in spite of their idiosyncrasies. They were also a couple of opinionated hotheads who both wanted the last word in every argument. And there were many, many arguments. Not fights. Just spats. Annoyances. Jabs. Digs.
Chandler just didn’t understand Janette. He thought she lived in fantasy land writing romantic stories about imaginary people. He never read anything she published so he didn’t appreciate her talent. She kept thinking that if she could make a boatload of money, he’d recognize her success. In spite of their differences, Chandler was the person from whom Janette craved acceptance.
He was her romantic inspiration. Even with his receding hairline and expanding waistline, he was still smoking hot. He probably didn’t even realize how much she was still attracted to him after all these years. If only he’d give her a second glance.
Janette understood why he wasn’t interested anymore. She’d gained weight over the years. Her hair was turning grey and thinning. Her favorite hairdresser had moved out to Las Vegas to pursue her career as a make-up artist to the stars. Although proud of their daughter, Janette missed the way Blayke always touched up her mom’s roots and kept her stylishly trimmed. Now she just looked shaggy and unkept.
Instead of searching for the most expensive hotel rooms, Janette erred on the side of average price with hotels that included a pool and hot tub. They would need one hotel halfway between their home in Michigan and their son in Oklahoma. She chose a hotel in St. Louis, Missouri, feeling proud of herself for a job well done, and moved on to the next city. Stillwater, Oklahoma, as close to her son’s apartment near the campus of Oklahoma State University as possible. Done. On to city number three. Albuquerque, New Mexico. Halfway between Stillwater and Las Vegas. She didn’t need a hotel in Vegas, thankfully. And they’d be heading from there to Chandler’s brother’s house in Mesa, Arizona.
Feeling a sense of accomplishment, Janette sent all the confirmation emails to her phone to be linked up to her car’s GPS and then opened a new Word document. She named the new file “Road Trip” and started typing chapter one. This was going to be fun. A road trip across the country with the man of her dreams. She wondered if her husband wanted to come along…
Before I share Chapter One, I just want to remind my readers that Clayton (my husband) and I joke that we’re still on our honeymoon. We are having a fantastic time on our seventy-hour journey across the country and have mostly concluded the research gathering portion of our trip. Although a lot of things about our characters are similar to us, this story (Silver Threads Series Book One: Road Trip) is NOT autobiographical. We also do not argue the way the characters seem to. They have to argue at the beginning of the story or they wouldn’t have any growth and maturity. Because this is a romance novel, there will be a happy ending. I promise. This is meant to be a romantic comedy. When I read this first chapter out loud to Clayton, he laughed at all the right parts. That’s a good sign. I hope you laugh too. -Julie
Chapter One: One week before leaving…
“I won’t have time to think about that until after school gets out,” Chandler said, frustrated that Janette had interrupted him again. Couldn’t she see the stack of tests he still needed to grade and get into the computer? “You are perfectly capable of setting up hotel rooms for our trip.”
“Broyce is your brother, not mine,” Janette snapped at him. “This should be your responsibility.” She glared at him from where she stood in front of his desk with her arms folded across her chest. In the amount of time she’d argued with him about this over the past two weeks she could have had the project done by now.
“He needs both of our help. One person to drive the U-Haul, one person to drive his Solstice, and then you can drive our car back.” Chandler tossed his red pen onto the pile of tests and sat back in his chair, using her intrusion as an excuse to stretch.
“Why can’t we just fly to Arizona and drive back?” Janette should already know the answer to that question and her whining was grating on his last nerves. “There is no way we can spend seventy hours together in a car.”
“We won’t be in the car together on the way back because I’ll be driving the U-Haul,” Chandler said. “Besides this way we can go see Asher and Blayke.”
They hadn’t seen their son, Asher since he’d left for college at Oklahoma State University, and hadn’t seen their daughter, Blayke since she moved out to Las Vegas for an apprenticeship with a make-up artist who caters to high-end clients and celebrities. Their kids were all grown up, and this was Chandler and Janette’s only chance to drive out west. They’d never had an excuse before now.
“Plus, didn’t you have some internet friend you wanted to meet in person? We can stop by so you can fangirl and meet your idol.”
“I do not idolize Angelina,” Janette said. “And she is way more than just an internet friend. She is my mentor.”
“Your mentor for your nonexistent career as an author?” Chandler was tempted to hold up air quotes but already sounded insensitive to his own ears. She’d probably spent more money than she’d made selling her little romance novels. Money she refers to as investing in her business. “Is she also, what did you call it? A midlist author?”
“No, she is a bestselling author and makes a lot of money.” Janette’s voice cracked. Now he’d offended her. Again. Oops. Maybe he needed to soften his tone, but he was still aggravated.
“Good, maybe spending time with her, some of her success will rub off onto you.” Chandler picked up his red pen and sat forward again, hoping to convey the message that he was done with this discussion and ready to get back to work.
“Let’s hope so,” Janette said. “I need all the help I can get.” She turned on her heel and walked out of his home office.
“Let me know how much these hotels are going to cost us so I can transfer enough money from the savings account,” Chandler called after her.
She spun back around, vitriol in her eyes. “Maybe you should have your brother pay for our hotel rooms. Since this is his family we’re helping move across the country.”
“That’s pretty insensitive,” Chandler said, feeling like she’d slapped him across the face. “His wife died less than a year ago. This is really hard for him to uproot his kids just so he can be closer to his parents and siblings. He needs our help.”
“Who’s the one being insensitive?” Janette didn’t move from her position of leaning against the doorframe of his office. “You’re the one forcing me from my work and making me come with you on this trip.”
“Don’t you want to see our kids? They’re spread out across the country now. When else are we going to see them?”
“If they wanted to see me they’d come home to visit,” Janette said. “They don’t even like me anymore or they wouldn’t have hightailed it out of town the minute they were old enough. I’m the witch who made them eat broccoli and get up for school.”
“They love your broccoli, school was their only chance to socialize with their friends, and the only thing they didn’t like about you was that you enforced their curfew. They left because they didn’t like our rules, not because they didn’t like us.”
“Whatever.” She chuckle-snorted and Chandler would have laughed if he wasn’t still annoyed that she’d interrupted his work.
“Just think of this as a grand adventure,” he said. “You could write a romance novel about our trip.” He leaned over his stack of tests and purposely rustled the top paper, trying once again to give her the hint to leave him alone.
“Who would want to read a romance novel about an elderly couple who can’t stand to be in the same room together much less stuck in a car together for seventy hours?”
“Forty-nine is not elderly,” he grumbled. “And who would want to read any of your stupid romance novels?”
“What was that?”
“Nothing.” He looked up at her sheepishly. “Could you close the door to my office on your way out?”
“Gladly.” Instead of closing the door like a sane person, Janette slammed the door, shaking the glass panes in the window. One of these days he would have to replace the windows. That or stop offending his wife.
Hello, this is Aubrey. I am one of many Julie's nieces. I am currently 13 turning 14 next month. I love my aunt's books! She is going to put me in one of her new books. Not only that, I'm helping her write the book myself with her. I LOVE MY AUNT! To all who read this post you must read her books they will blow your mind and away. Things about me - I love nature, I love anything water based, Love familia, I love movies, trying to collect the books of the movies, Harry Potter. Roses are Red Violets are Blue hope you enjoy reading this post. Adios fellow followers... Signed by Julie's niece, Aubrey Spencer
(posted with permission from her father!)
Greetings my friends, the past few days have been so busy that I haven’t had time to write at all. Thank you for your patience. I’ve shared a bunch of pictures but I’ve never really had time to myself where I could gather my thoughts. I’m now in my car again with my hubby and we have about four hours left until we reach the Grand Canyon.
We’ll be stopping at the South Rim and we’re basically staying long enough to take a few pictures and just to say we’ve been there.
We just passed by Hoover Dam again as we’re travelling back east from Las Vegas. Other than spending time with my daughter, Chelsea, and my friend Trina, the Hoover Dam was the highlight of our trip so far. I wish we had time to stop again. I wish we had time to spend a couple of days at the Hoover Dam. I had no idea its majesty would affect me the way it did.
Other than that, the trip has been rather peaceful. We’ve slept well notwithstanding the need to switch hotels from our original reservations two times so far, and we’ll have switched two more times on the way home.
The mountains here are breathtaking, but brown and desolate. I’m used to green. Even the mountains out east are green and lush with rock outcroppings. These are basically just rocks. Not much lives out here in this desolate and dry climate. I’m sure the people who have chosen to live here enjoy living here but I can’t imagine wanting to live here. I’m ready to go home to my beautiful green Michigan with thousands of lakes and water in every direction.
But first, we will spend a few days at my brother-in-law’s house in Mesa, Arizona. Another place we’ve never been. This is the trip of a lifetime and I’m pretty sure this is the only time we’ll drive all the way out here and back.
Clayton and I travel well together and are very compatible in most aspects of life but I think we’re happiest at home. I wish I could gather all my friends and family around me so we could all visit each other and still go home and sleep in our own beds.
We just stopped at a Shell gas station because I drink too much water and Diet Coke and they had the cleanest bathroom I’ve seen so far on this whole trip, other than our hotels and Trina’s house. I can’t even express how much I appreciate that. Silly thing to be happy about maybe, but sometimes it’s the little things that make a difference in the enjoyment of your experience. Thank you, Shell station on 93 South an hour & a half south of Las Vegas. You are to be commended.
Backtracking to what we’ve done so far on our trip, in a previous blog post I told you about our nightmare hotel in St. Charles, Missouri, so I won’t talk more about that. The following day we arrived in Tulsa, Oklahoma to hang out with our son, C.J. and I’m pretty sure I haven’t shared those pictures with you. I’ll include that picture at the bottom of this blog post. We also had a relatively uneventful stop in Albuquerque, New Mexico just stopping through on our way from Tulsa to Las Vegas. We’ll be doing the same thing on our way through from Mesa to Oklahoma City on our way home.
Okay, I’m going to pause my commentary for now until after we go to the Grand Canyon. I’ll get some other work done for now. See you on the other side.
Greetings from the other side. The Grand Canyon was incredible but I still think the Hoover Dam was the highlight of the trip so far, and probably will remain since we don’t have much else that we’re going to be doing for the rest of the trip.
I was just telling Clayton that I’ll probably lock myself in a room at his brother’s house and let him hang out with his brother while I get some writing done. I’d like to actually get this book outlined and maybe be able to actually start sharing real chapters instead of just research and pre-writing. I’m sure you’ll appreciate that.
On that note, I’ll start working on that now while I’m driving. Goodbye for now. -Julie
Another busy day, this time on the strip in Las Vegas with our daughter! Tomorrow we're going to the Grand Canyon and on to Mesa, Arizona to visit my husband's brother. In a couple days I'll have time to actually start writing this book! -Julie
Four time zones in five days. I'm too tired to think and am having trouble fully processing everything I saw today. The Hoover Dam is indescribable. I'll have to take some time to write down some thoughts soon but for now I'll just share some pictures and collapse for the night. It's 11:30 here in Nevada which means it's 3:30 in Michigan. Goodnight for now. Or good morning. Whenever you see this. -Julie
As a way of conducting research, Jeanette and Chandler spent some time in the car discussing everything they loved about each other and about the two of them as a couple!
Here’s the list they came up with:
Things we love about each other:
We’re both easy to travel with.
Even the things that annoy us are still endearing.
She likes his short hair.
He likes her long hair.
He likes to hold her hand when they’re walking.
He’s a great singer.
Sometimes she takes charge and sometimes steps back to let him take charge.
We’re both flexible.
We’re both confident.
We give each other space and don’t have to do everything together.
We support each other’s hobbies and have independent hobbies.
We rarely use passive-aggressive influence.
She’s good at navigating.
He’s willing to drive all day so she can write in the car.
We’re physically compatible.
We’re polite to each other.
We rarely fight or even raise our voices at each other.
We’ve never even considered separating or gotten so angry that the subject would even present itself.
We don’t talk down to each other.
We both love God and church.
We both love nature and the environment. We were both into recycling before we even met.
She likes that he is devoted to his church callings and priesthood commitments.
Our eyes have never strayed from one another. We never have had to question our commitment to each other.
She like that he comes home to her every evening and sleeps in her bed every night. He never goes to bars or stays out late with friends.
She like it that he doesn’t drink alcohol, like, ever.
He loved her daughter right away and saw her as a wonderful addition to his life rather than baggage that came along with the woman he fell in love with.
He loved our children and rarely yelled at them or criticized them.
He provided for us.
He would have rather worked two jobs than to have her leave our home to work and hire a day care or babysitter.
We love to sing along to music together while driving in the car.
As a way of conducting research, Jeanette and Chandler spent some time in the car discussing everything they found annoying about each other!
Here’s the list they came up with:
He falls asleep while watching television with all the lights on and the television too loud for her to work in the next room then complains if she wants to read in bed with the tiny little light from her Kindle.
That little bit of light penetrates the dark like a spotlight.
He can’t sleep without the fan on.
He snores too but she’s the only one who has gone to the doctor about her snoring.
She’s a hypochondriac and goes to the doctor about everything.
He refuses to go to the doctor, even when it’s something serious. Something that could negatively affect their marriage.
She’s too needy.
She takes way too many bathroom breaks.
He likes to change the subject.
She’s addicted to her cat as if he’s a child. She takes more pictures of her cat than anything else.
He keeps the television volume too low while she’s watching with him but too high when she’s trying to work in the next room.
She has to wear headphones to block out everything in order to get anything done.
He interrupts her when she’s trying to write to tell her trivial things like what vegetables are on sale at Kroger.
She’s constantly writing.
He has to have the television on constantly whenever he’s home and he watches some of the most annoying television shows of all time, and we’re talking all time, as in from the nineteen sixties. Reruns of black and white sitcoms.
She can’t watch television unless she’s riding that loud exercise bike.
He changes the channel on the commercials and doesn’t go back to the original channel in time, or he’ll even leave the room to go get a snack and leaves it on the wrong channel.
She leaves the lights on when she leaves the room.
He turns off the lights in the kitchen and dining room whenever she steps out of the room and she has to walk to the other side of the room in order to turn it back on.
She can’t hear very well and doesn’t hear things he tells her.
He won’t listen to her and walks away in the middle of a conversation.
She won’t stop talking and goes on and on.
He has to have the bathmat always facing the same way so it doesn’t get his feet dirty.
She paints her nails all the time.
He hates the smell of nail polish remover.
She sings all the time and gets obsessed with one or two kinds of music and won’t change CDs for months or years at a time.
He itches his nose all the time.
She uses too many Kleenexes.
He wipes his hands on his pants after eating.
She brushes her teeth constantly, like seven times a day.
He gardens constantly.
She won’t can the food he grows.
He wants her to spend seven hours canning to provide the equivalent of $10 worth of canned green beans. Her time is worth more than that.
But you don’t get fresh vegetables that way.
If he wants them canned, he should can them himself.
She obsessively has to have her car spotless.
He drives too slow.
She drives too fast.
He won’t look at the map and takes wrong turns.
She has to take her glasses off in order to look closely at the map.
He needs reading glasses but won’t go to the eye doctor.
She won’t drink water out of the faucet, won’t eat meat or anything that’s been sitting out for any length of time.
He leaves food just sitting out on the counter and then thinks it’s safe to eat.
She drinks too much Diet Coke and has to drink fountain Diet Coke while travelling.
He throws her cup away before she’s had a chance to refill the cup.
She flips out about that.
She doesn’t pack light.
He… let’s see… I can’t think of anything else.
I could go on.
And he says I’m the one who goes on and on…
Maybe tomorrow we could come up with a list of all the things we love about each other.
Do you think the list will be as long?
Our main characters, Jeanette and Chandler, have already had exciting adventures. On Day One they got to switch hotels because someone had already been using their hotel room. Someone's been sitting on their bed.
Someone's been using their toilet!
The hotel staff must have thought two people staying in a hotel room would only need one disheveled towel.
There was a bare footprint on the bedside table.
Yes, an actual footprint!
The floors were filthy and had holes in the carpeting.
The floors were filthy and had holes in the carpeting.
The whirlpool tub was cracked and filthy.
Many things were held together by tape, including a table.
Electric tape covered one outlet.
The door jam had been broken.
Thankfully, Jeanette and Chandler found another hotel nearby and drove there. Theu got their money back for this one!
Today I struggle to write fiction. My sweet dog, Sasha has taken her last breath and has gone to live with her daughter, Sophie, who passed at the age of eleven weeks. Rather than attempt to write a chapter, I’ll just take a moment to share with you the most adorable dog to ever grace my life.
Sasha was born on my son’s tenth birthday so we could always remember her birthday. Since he is now twenty-two, she was twelve, and will be forevermore.
She was a princess to the end. When she walked down the street (blind as a bat and no idea where she was going), she lifted her head with dignity and held her fluffy tail high. People asked us all the time, “How old is your puppy?” and we would tell them her age and they would be surprised. She was so youthful.
In a way, she chose the time in her life when she was ready to leave this world because she stopped eating about six days ago. Two days ago, she stopped drinking water also. Dogs aren’t supposed to live more than three to five days without food, and way less than that without water so we have no idea how she stayed alive.
We felt kind of silly bringing an otherwise healthy dog into a veterinary hospital with her tail wagging and her held lifted, almost a smile on her little muzzle. I would have loved for her to take her last breath lying in her bed here in our home but we just couldn’t watch her starve to death. We gave her permission to join her baby and said a tearful goodbye.
Love you forever Sasha.
Love, Clayton, Julie, Virginia, C.J. and Chelsea
Names of Characters – Main male and female characters (empty nesters) Chandler and Janette Morgan
Adult son: Asher Morgan
Adult daughter: Blayke Morgan
Adult son’s college roommates (three guys): Dmitri, Luca, and Joey
Adult daughter’s boyfriend: Vincent
Best friend who lives in Vegas and her husband (also empty nesters): Glenn and Angeline
Brother of main male character: Broyce Morgan
Pre-teen son and daughter of brother: Ryan and Cecelia Morgan
Thank you to Morgan Elizabeth Coldwell for her excellent insight into my characters' names!
Tomorrow is Day One of Chandler and Janette's road trip! Tonight they are packing and exhausted! How do you like the names?
Over the next few weeks, Chapter-A-Day posts will feature all the background information going into writing Book One in the Silver Threads Series, appropriately titled Road Trip. You, my dear readers, will have a hand in writing the book!
Here are some of the things we need:
Names of Characters – Main male and female characters (empty nesters), one adult son, one adult daughter, adult son’s college roommates (three guys), adult daughter’s boyfriend, best friend who lives in Vegas and her husband (also empty nesters), brother-in-law of main male character, pre-teen son and daughter of brother-in-law.
Places of Interest and Fun Things to Do – Along the planned route, fun places for them to stop, either touristy, historical, sentimental, haunted house, old friend from high school, cool little city that they simply must drive an hour out of their way to go see, etc.
Happy Things that Happen – If you have any suggestions of things you’d like me to include in the story, let me know.
Tragic Things that Happen – If you have any suggestions of things you’d like me to include in the story, let me know.
Hilarious Things that Happen – If you have any suggestions of things you’d like me to include in the story, let me know.
If you contribute to the story in any way, your name will be featured in the acknowledgements section of the book! Heck, I might even name a character after you.
Here’s the basic itinerary for their car trip. If you’ve been to any of these places or along the route, or have suggestions or ideas, let me know!
They will leave Michigan and travel to Saint Charles, Missouri, a total of 8 hours, 13 minutes’ drive time.
Saint Charles, Missouri at a hotel
They will drive from Saint Charles, Missouri to Tulsa, Oklahoma—5 hours, 48 minutes’ drive time—where they will visit with their son and stay two nights.
Night Two & Night Three
At a hotel in Tulsa, Oklahoma
They will go to church with their son and enjoy a day of rest hanging out with him.
They will travel from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Albuquerque, New Mexico, a total of 9 hours, 25 minutes’ drive time.
At a hotel in Albuquerque, New Mexico
They will drive 8 hours, 39 minutes from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Las Vegas, Nevada where they will stay for two nights with their friend, and hang out with their daughter.
At their friend’s house in Las Vegas, Nevada
They will spend the day hanging out with their friend, her family and their daughter in Las Vegas, Nevada.
At their friend’s house in Las Vegas, Nevada
They will drive from Las Vegas to Mesa, Arizona, stopping briefly to gaze upon the Grand Canyon just so they can say they’ve been there and to take photos. That day they will have a total of 8 hours, 23 minutes’ drive time.
They will stay with his brother in Mesa, Arizona.
They will stay with his brother in Mesa, Arizona.
They will stay with his brother in Mesa, Arizona.
They will drive 6 hours, 53 minutes from Mesa, Arizona to Albuquerque, New Mexico where we will stay for the night, just passing through.
At a hotel in Albuquerque, New Mexico
They will drive 7 hours, 55 minutes from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma where we will stay for the night, just passing through.
At a hotel in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
They will drive 7 hours, 30 minutes from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to Saint Charles, Missouri where we will stay for the night, just passing through.
They will stay at a hotel in Saint Charles, Missouri
They will drive 8 hours, 18 minutes from Saint Charles, Missouri to their home in Michigan.
Here’s a map of their itinerary. What should our hypothetical couple do as they’re travelling along this route?
Dennis stepped off the curb and almost crushed the late model cellphone with a pink, sparkly case. He bent down to pick it off the pavement. There wasn’t a scratch on the thing. “Thank goodness for Otterbox!”
“Whatchu got, buddy?” Kurt leaned over Dennis’s shoulder.
“Some chick lost her phone.” Dennis turned it over, trying to find some identification or clue to the owner.
The phone pinged a notification and Dennis pushed the button on the side. Part of a text from “Mom” popped up on the screen, then was hidden behind a request for a password.
“How am I supposed to know the password?” Dennis mumbled.
“Try one, two, three, four,” Kurt said. “That’s my girlfriend’s password.”
“Why would you tell me your girlfriend’s password?” Dennis shook his head and crinkled his forehead. “Not only that, but who would be stupid enough to… never mind.” Dennis punched in the four-digit code suggested by the second stupidest person he knew. He was kind of glad it didn’t work. The girl with the expensive, sparkly phone wouldn’t be that stupid.
“What do we do with it?” Kurt asked.
“I dunno. Try to find the owner, I guess.” Dennis raised his head and scanned the busy sidewalks and cars coming and going. “It’s going to be impossible.”
The phone pinged again. Another text from the girl’s mom, then a request for the password.
“Maybe someone will call the number. We can answer and ask them whose phone they’re calling,” Kurt said.
“Nobody calls each other anymore,” Dennis said. “They text and Tweet and Snap and Insta-photo-thingy.”
“You mean Instagram?” Kurt asked.
“Yeah, whatever it’s called.” Dennis turned in a circle. “Guess we could start by inquiring at these local businesses.”
“Let’s start with the donut shop,” Kurt suggested.
“No way, man. If I go in there, I’m going to want a donut. I didn’t spend an hour in the gym to waste my daily allotment of calories on empty carbs. The Army won’t want me if I get fat.”
“How about the hardware store across the street?”
Dennis turned and gaped at his friend. “Do you honestly think that pink-sparkly-phone girl spent the morning at the hardware store?”
“Yeah, yer probably right.” Kurt took a deep breath and looked around again.
“We could try the Verizon store,” Dennis said, walking in that direction. “It’s only a mile down the road.”
“A mile? We can’t walk that far.” Kurt hurried to catch up. “There’s no way we’ll make it to get your haircut, then back to the recruiting office in time.”
“We’ll make it.” Two more texts came through as they walked.
Linda, the smiling clerk at the Verizon store couldn’t give out any information about the owner of the phone.
“I just need a cord so I can plug it into my computer.”
“You’re still trying to access her information.” Linda shook her head, still smiling sweetly as if trained to never stop smiling, no matter how angry the customer.
“Look, lady, I’m trying to find the girl who owns this phone so I can return it to her.”
“How do you know it’s owned by a girl?” Linda was still smiling.
“It’s pink,” Dennis spoke through clenched teeth. “And sparkly.”
“Lots of guys buy pink, sparkly phone cases.” Still smiling.
Dennis reached into his wallet, pulled out a fifty-dollar bill, and slapped it onto the countertop. “Sell me a cord and you can keep the change.”
It was amazing how quickly Linda located the correct phone charger. She handed it to Dennis with an even bigger smile. “Thank you for choosing Verizon. Have a nice day.”
Dennis rushed from the store and sat on a nearby bench. He opened his laptop, plugged the USB port into his computer and the charging end into the phone. A little screen popped up that read “Brooklyn’s iPhone.” There was also a prompt for a password. Kurt started laughing.
“What is so funny?” Dennis wanted to scream.
“You just spent fifty bucks to learn that pink-sparkly-phone-girl’s name is Brooklyn.”
Dennis’s shoulders fell and his lower lip jutted out. Another text popped up.
“Come on, man, let’s go get those locks chopped off so you can enlist.”
“The Army’s not going to want a depressed guy pining after a girl named Brooklyn who once owned a pink, sparkly phone.” Dennis unplugged the cord, shoved it and his laptop into his backpack, and trudged after his friend.
Walking into the salon Dennis’s nose was assaulted by acetone and neutralizers mixed with something sweet. The smell reminded him of donuts. The lady at the counter asked for his name and he sat on a chair next to Kurt.
A young stylist with an unnatural blondish-green hair came rushing up to the counter, whispering frantically.
“So distraught… crying… she says her life is over.”
“Well, she has a client waiting. Tell her to suck it up and get out here.”
“She can’t remember his name. The appointment was on her Google calendar.”
“His name is Dennis.” She pointed and Dennis waved. “Now tell her to get her pretty little self out here and cut his hair or she’ll be looking for a new job and a new phone.”
A new phone? Dennis’s ears perked up. The green-haired stylist left and a minute later a young lady with natural-colored hair and designer clothes came out. Her eyes were red, and she sniffed. Dennis felt compassion for her.
“Hi, Dennis,” she whispered. “I can take you back now.”
He followed her to her station and sat in the swivel chair, watching her sad eyes as she draped the black cape around his shoulders and snapped it into place. “Are you okay?”
She shook her head. Another lady came up behind her and spoke softly. “Brooklyn, your mom just called. Said she’s been texting all morning but you’re not answering.”
“I can’t find my phone.” A single tear fell down Brooklyn’s cheek.
“Did it have a pink, sparkly case?” Dennis asked, holding up his lucky find.
“Hey Google, what time is it?”
“The time is five-thirty-four a.m.”
Ugh, my alarm is scheduled to ring in twenty-six minutes. Brooklyn rolled over and tried to go back to sleep. It was no use. A million tasks ran through her head. Might as well get up.
Brooklyn felt around in the dark to turn off her alarm clock, knocking her glasses to the floor. She grabbed her phone to use it as a flashlight and fumbled through the carpet hoping she didn’t crush them.
There was nothing in Brooklyn’s life more important than those glasses. If she ever lost them, she wouldn’t be able to see to find them. She’d put her contact lenses in after her workout. The cold frames pinched her finger when she grabbed them backward. She slid them onto her face and stretched.
Early workout. A soft pair of socks and her sturdy running shoes. She checked the workout app on her phone and clipped it to her belt. Plugging in the earbuds and raising the volume, she started her favorite playlist and pulled her hoodie close over her head.
The frosty morning air awakened her senses and Brooklyn set the starting timer on her Track-My-Run app, letting technology assist her in counting the number of miles so she could just enjoy the pull of her muscles and the pounding of the pavement.
The steam from the shower was a welcome break from the chill and sweat. Brooklyn changed her playlist to enjoy hymns while she showered. She always read scriptures with breakfast and listening to hymns put her in the right mindset.
What was that smoothie recipe my sister made when I was visiting last week? Brooklyn sent a quick text to her sister to ask what her special ingredient was while she gathered milk and bananas and yogurt and strawberries next to the blender. A text notification pinged, and she picked up her phone. Frozen yogurt? Okay.
She slid the regular yogurt back into the fridge and opened the freezer. Pushing aside that bag of frozen peas she’d been avoiding for months, Brooklyn grabbed the tub of frozen yogurt, spooning as much into her mouth as she did into the blender.
No time to sit at the table, Brooklyn opened her Kindle app and read from the Old Testament. She’d uploaded the scriptures for days like these when she didn’t want to haul out her big leather-bound book full of red marks where she’d highlighted her favorite passages.
Brooklyn sucked the last of her smoothie through the straw as she trudged up the stairs to her bedroom closet. Too much to choose from, and yet not enough.
“Hey Google, what will the weather be like today?”
“Today’s forecast for Lansing is 79 degrees with a thunderstorm.”
“Ugh, how do I even dress for that?” She shoved aside her favorite silk blouse knowing it would be too hot and could get ruined if she were caught out in the rain. She pulled a nice poly-cotton blend off a hanger and made a mental note to grab her raincoat on the way out of the house.
While straightening her hair, Brooklyn watched YouTube videos of makeup tutorials, justifying they would help with her long-term career plans.
As she was slipping on her shoes a video chat rang into her phone and her mom’s face popped up. “How’s the new job?”
“Mom, you’re too cheery this early in the morning.” Brooklyn picked her purse up off the floor and dug for her keys. “The salon is great. The girls are really nice and I’m starting to get some regular clients. I had this really cute college guy come in for a haircut, and he’s coming back today. He requested me as his stylist. Everybody’s been teasing me about him ever since.”
“Ooh, I wanna hear all about him.”
“Later, mom. I gotta go.” As Brooklyn was inserting her key into the house door, she remembered her raincoat and opened it back up. Her phone vibrated. “Mom, I have a call coming in. Talk to you this evening.”
She didn’t even give her mom a chance to say goodbye before she had the cell phone to her ear and the high-pitched voice of her co-worker came ringing through the line.
“Can you pick up donuts on your way into the salon?” her friend asked.
“Sure…” Brooklyn asked for a general order of what everyone wanted as she opened her car door and slid into the seat.
Pulling up Google Maps, she found the nearest donut shop and hit ‘start’ for the annoying recorded voice to tell her to turn left out of her driveway.
Following the navigation perfectly, Brooklyn made it to the donut shop and purchased a big box of assorted donuts. It was so big she couldn’t open the car door with it in her arms. She set it on top of her car along with her purse and phone as she fumbled with her keys. She carefully lifted the box and placed it onto the passenger seat. Grabbing her purse from on top of her car, she slid into the driver’s seat and clicked her seatbelt on.
“Okay, just one donut on the drive. No one will know.” She licked the icing off her finger and shoved a bite into her mouth as she put the car in gear.
Brooklyn carefully checked for traffic before pulling out into the lane. Her radio was cranked so loud she didn’t even hear her phone slide off the top of her car, bounce along the trunk, and crash to the pavement.
Click here to read the sequel to Something Lost, appropriately named Something Found.