I sleep poorly, partly out of physical discomfort, although it is dissipating more each day, but mostly from the pinch points of the week, squeezing my mind in its grasp. So, many times during the night when I try to get back to sleep, I’m nearly gone and then alerted, fully conscious, by a brief image of the emergency room, or the dark path where I last saw Kenny’s truck, or me watching Daniel enter the airport as if he won’t return. The one glimmer of peace during the entire night, arrives after dawn when I check my phone and see that Daniel’s flight has departed Denver. At least he is coming home, even if we may not be tucked in our own bed by the day’s end.
Giving up on the night’s rest, I wait to shower until I know he is on the ground, even if I won’t get to see him for hours. I only get a text – no call as I’d hoped – when he lands.
Arrived. We’re getting a ride to the office.
Can’t talk now, just know I love you.
See you soon.
With no additional information, I call the front desk and arrange to stay another night.
I wish I knew more. I wish I knew when to expect him. I wish I knew what transpired to make this change in arrival location. I wish I knew what was happening at the office. I wish I knew when he would be in my arms. I wish I knew something to fill the void where my mind’s alternate story is being penned.
After two hours, I finally manage to find something to eat. I don’t want to leave the hotel, but if we are to be here another night, I rationalize an excuse to go to the store, hobbling down each aisle not knowing what to get.
After four hours since his arrival, I am completely inept at deciphering what might have transpired over the past two weeks abroad. If Daniel ever hinted at what work caused him to be assigned to this responsibility, perhaps I could piece together clues, but my sleuthing requires more information and more attention and more brain power than I have available.
I fall asleep sometime between hours four and six, a rest for which I am grateful for both the distraction from watching the clock and my body’s inability to recover from the impacts of a week gone awry. I’m shuffling around the room in a post-siesta fog when my phone finally rings.
“Hi, what’s going on?” I ask, not giving him a chance to even greet me or ease into the moment.
“We’re done here. Do you mind coming to get me?”
“At the office?”
“Yeah.” I pause, making sure I remember how to get there.
“Of course. I think it’s about twenty minutes from here.”
“Nat, this entire town is only twenty minutes across. I’m not sure where you are, but just get here as soon as you can.”
“Are you alright?”
“Yeah. I’m just ready for today to be over.”
“Do you want me to stay on the phone with you while I drive?” I’m hoping not, I can’t imagine even getting to the car and managing a conversation. My earlier trip to the store confirms I am still navigating getting myself in and out of my car.
“No. Just come.”
“Okay, I’m on my way.”
“I love you.”
“I love you, too, Daniel.” I realize he’s as emotionally spent as I am. “We’ll get through this.”
“Yep.” He responds. His breathing tells me to just get there.
“I’ll be there as soon as I can. Bye.”
I don’t look at the time, and I don’t know if it takes me twelve minutes or twenty-two minutes. I presume I stop at every red light, and that I stay within the speed limits, but I’m not even certain and I’m the one driving. I have no idea as I block out everything except the path to him.
I text him when I arrive, and I barely hit send when I look up and he’s nearly to the car. Rather than get out to greet him, I simply unlock the doors with the laziness of an old married couple. I guess that’s us.
“Hi,” I breathe, somewhere between a gush and an oversized exhale, as he tosses his bags into the back seat.
“Hey, babe,” he whispers, sounding exhausted himself. He closes the door swiftly, partly due to the Wyoming wind kicking up and his rush in what appears to be him getting away from the scene of a yet-to-be-determined crime. He plops down in the passenger seat, closes the door just as quickly as the rear, and leans and kisses me with far less rush. God, I’ve missed him.
“Hi,” I repeat, less exhaustingly, and with a full sense of relief.
“Let’s go,” he directs, like a starship commander.
“Yes, but just go. Anywhere. Go.”
I pull away.
I wait what feels like a suitable, if not quite enough time and bring up the meal question again.
“I’d like to get something to eat. Do you care if I just drive through somewhere?”
He squeezes my arm, and then leans his head against it. Even after years of learning his unspoken language, I’m uncertain if this is a yes or a no. I follow with my plans and pick a higher-end option so he doesn’t spend the evening readjusting to greasy American food.
He doesn’t offer up a meal choice when I pull up to the menu, and he doesn’t stop me when I ask for two of everything. He leaves it to me to pay, so I know he’s teetering on sleep, or frustration, or total apathy.
The short journey back to the hotel makes me so relieved that I booked a second night as neither of us are up to a lengthy drive. He climbs out slowly and moves to grab his bags. I move slowly but am comfortable enough with my new extra ankle weight to manage unaided. Yet between my purse, the food, and my awkward weight imbalance, getting the drinks without spilling anything becomes an acrobatic fete. By the time I get everything in hand, lock the car, and make my way towards the hotel entrance, Daniel is more than half way to the door. He’s at the elevator, not even knowing if we are on the ground floor or not.
When I hobble in the automatic door, and finally catch up to him, he pushes the button and leans into me. It takes all my strength not to fall over. He must be on the verge of falling on his face as he still hasn’t noticed my medical boot. When the door opens, he blocks its ability to close with a hand and I limp into it. Finally, he notices.
NEXT: The Secrets We Keep – Part 41