Janette fell asleep, which gave Chandler time to think as he drove west through nothing. There was nothing to look at to the left or to the right or in his rearview mirror or on the horizon. He finally turned cruise control on because the odometer kept creeping up toward ninety-five. Not that he was impatient. There was just no one else on the road. Nothing in his way.
Old habits die hard. Why had he said that? Why had he told her to get over her phobia? Why had he complained about anything?
He was lucky to have Janette sitting beside him in their little blue Subaru Outback. Her dream car. Not that she would drive the whole time they were on their vacation. Chandler had his own phobias. He didn’t like not being in control.
He would just have to sit in the passenger seat bored. Might as well drive so she could read and write. She liked to read or write while he drove. They had a perfect system.
They had a perfect marriage.
Why hadn’t he seen that before now?
Neither of them was perfect. Their lives weren’t perfect. They weren’t that bad either. They didn’t cheat on each other. They didn’t beat on each other. They didn’t really do anything wrong. They weren’t perfectly healthy. They could both stand to lose a few pounds. But neither of them had cancer or diabetes.
And they were together.
That alone with something.
Chandler glanced over at his wife, peacefully sleeping in the bucket seat, her neck in a really uncomfortable looking position, her bare feet propped up on the dashboard.
Three hours flew past with only one other bathroom break where Janette groggily stumbled into the truck stop and came back out with a fountain pop. To wake up, she said.
They passed the suburbs and then the lights of Albuquerque shone in the valley. Some of them anyway. Weird. There seemed to be huge pockets of darkness and Chandler was driving directly toward one. Parts of Albuquerque were without power because of the storm. Including their hotel.
“Why are we even going inside?” Chandler shook his head when Janette insisted they pull up to front door. “They’re not going to be able to rent us a room.”
“Let’s just ask,” she said, opening her door. “Maybe they can tell us where to go to find a different hotel.”
Chandler sighed with frustration while she hurried around the front of the car and pushed on the automatic door, which couldn’t open because the building didn’t have power. The safety mechanism allowed the door to open if she pushed really hard. He should have just gotten out to help her, but by the time he realized that, she was into the building. Not wanting to subject her to that twice, Chandler put on the flashers, turned off the ignition and locked the car on his way into the lobby.
The gentleman at the registration desk didn’t understand what Janette was asking and they were both getting flustered.
“What I meant was do you know of any other hotels that are open?”
“No, ma’am, we are closed,” the man said in broken English.
“No, do you have any other hotels in this town that are open?”
“I’m sorry. We are closed.” The man shook his head.
“Thank you, sir.” Chandler put his hands on Janette’s shoulders and guided her toward the lobby door. “Have a good night!”
“Good night, yes.” The man nodded and smiled.
“But where are we going to sleep?” Janette whined as Chandler pushed the doors open.
“We’ll drive into another part of town that has lights and check hotels there.” He led her right over to the passenger door and helped his wife into the car.
They eventually found lights, and they found hotels. But they didn’t find any with vacancies. Until they entered the most exclusive hotel in the city of Albuquerque. The one they couldn’t afford and still make next month’s mortgage payment. Chandler held his breath, not sure if he was hoping they’d say yes or no.
“I’m sorry, sir,” the man said, and Chandler’s heart sank. “The only room we have available is the presidential suite.”
“We’ll take it.” Chandler slapped his credit card onto the reception desk then turned to offer Janette a sly smile. “We’re celebrating our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.”