There had been no point in hitting the road during a storm. There had also been no point in hurrying after a year had fled by. Jasmine would survive one more night with her maid-fucking betrothed. In fact, she’d have to survive more, he though, watching some of the early morning pink fade from the sky. His ancient ’87 Jeep Grand Wagoneer would most likely struggle with a trip from the east coast to the west. But it was the only way he intended to get there.
“You know you can come back whenever you want,” Bob said. He passed Caleb a large convenience store coffee. “The house is yours again if you come back. Just give me a few days notice.”
“Because you’ll just kick out whoever’s here?” Caleb smiled.
“Probably. Because if you’re not here it’ll probably be one of Belinda’s horrible relatives.” Caleb’s boss scratched his thinning hair and watched the sun splash brightness across the sky. “Don’t suppose you want to tell me what’s going on? Why I’m losing my best worker? And my tenant, I might add.”
The words and my friend were left unsaid but were understood.
“It’s a long story,” Caleb said. He sipped steadily from the coffee, the thought of driving for days suddenly exhausted him.
“And you’re not much of a story teller,” Bob said. His mouth curled up into a smile. “Never have been.”
He leaned against the Jeep and settled on watching the light come into the sky. Somewhere out on the water a bird called out. Somewhere else another answered.
Finally, tired of the silence, Bob smacked the Wagoneer and said, “Well, I sure as shit hope she gets you there okay. Wherever it is you’re going.”
“Somewhere near Santa Barbara,” Caleb said. “And I’m sure she will.”
“At least we know she’s got a new fuel pump,” Bob said. There was a sadness in his voice that tempted Caleb to stay right where he was. He’d put down shallow but strong roots here and he was just realizing it.
This man was the kind of man he’d always wanted for a father and hadn’t had.
“Yep. What will I do, man? Without you around to boss me around?” He forced himself to laugh softly. “You got me my job, my home and sold me my fucking ride. I hope there’s a Bob where I’m going.”
“Christ, me too. God knows you need someone to look out for you.” Bob put his cap back on, scratched his arm. Caleb could feel the mix of sadness and discomfort radiating off the man like heat. “Jesus Christ, Belinda’s going to lose her shit not having you to fawn over now that all the kids are away at college.”
“I’ll come back some time and let her yell at me,” Caleb said.
“You do that, kid.” The sky was fully lit now, all the soft candy-colored light gone from the sky. Bob dug in his pocket and thrust a bank envelope at Caleb. This is your last paycheck and your security deposit on the bungalow and just a little extra from me and Belinda.”
“Don’t say you can’t because you can. You earned some of it, you’re owed some of it and the rest is…a good luck gift. We want to know you’re eating until you get a new job if she can’t pump you full of her awful food.”
Caleb snickered. “She’s not that bad, Bob.”
“Oh, she’s got a good heart and a great ass but she is that bad when it comes to food. And now it’ll just be me she’s trying to poison.” Bob stuck out his hand. “You’d better get going. You have a pretty long drive ahead of you.”
Caleb nodded, took the hand offered and surprised them both by pulling the older man in and giving him a brisk hug. He clapped Bob on the back and said, “Kiss that woman for me. Tell her I’m sorry it was such short notice.”
“I will. And I hope this girl you’re out after is good enough for you to give you cause to up and leave what you have here. I was thinking you’d built the beginnings of a pretty good life.”
Caleb hoped she was too but he didn’t say as much. He just shook Bob’s offered hand once more, thanked him again—he’s been very good to Caleb for the past year—and promised to call.
“You’d better send Belinda a post card from that place you’ll be,” Bob called as Caleb backed out. “Otherwise she’s bound to lose her shit!”
Caleb promised, waved, and headed out toward the main road. He wouldn’t really need the GPS for a bit. For now he watched the red roofed bungalow and one of the best men he’d ever met receding in his rear view mirror.
“What the fuck are you doing?” he asked himself aloud. “You don’t even have a dog to keep you company. You know if this was a movie you’d have a dog next to you.”
He turned on the radio, turned up Bill Withers and watched the place he’d called home for the longest amount of time he could remember vanish behind him. Then it was a matter of watching the water and the shoreline until it was gone and he was simply surrounded by guard rails, Jersey walls, concrete and steel. Which could have been anywhere, he thought.
He flipped through his mental file of his time with Jasmine. Big, expensive parties where he didn’t fit in. A father—her’s—who couldn’t stand him and couldn’t wait for him to be gone. Sex, sex and more sex. A healthy helping of drama for flavor. And then her announcing she was getting married.
“He comes from money,” she’d said. Her makeup smeared around her eyes from the occasional errant tear. It was the only time he could recall seeing her cry even a bit. “Daddy said if I didn’t marry him he’d cut me off. Cut me off!” Her fingers had been plucking at the buttons on the fly of Caleb’s jeans. Flat copper colored discs sliding through pale denim slits as he watched.
She was on her knees. She was explaining. She was saying good bye.
“You asked her why she couldn’t just be cut off,” he laughed, taking the exit he needed.
“I come from money, Caleb. I can’t just…I don’t think I’d make it. As sad and horrible as I’m sure that sounds to the likes of you.” She’d gotten her fingers into his jeans then, found him and wrapped her cool hand around his length. Then she was drawing him out, putting her mouth on him, the coolness of her fingers bleeding into the searing heat of her tongue.
She said goodbye on her knees, with her lips and teeth and tongue. And he’d let her. Because truth be told, as tethered to Jasmine as he’d felt at the time, it wasn’t anything real. He’d know that even then, deep down. He felt a flash of anger, a spark of violence, a wave of what was possibly sadness. He’d warned her that she’d want him back, and look at that, he’d been right. But that was all. When she was gone, he moved forward and he carried on. Same as always.
And now he was ditching all this to return to her. What did that say about him?
He had no idea. As he dodged darting cars and eighteen wheelers and held tight to the steering wheel because the Wagoneer shuddered like crazy above sixty, Caleb seriously considered that dog...
While I have you:
Wow! I've been nominated for a Golden Ankh by Ellora's Cave in the Moderne category for my novel Restricted Release. If you do that voting thang I'd sure appreciate yours. Go HERE to look at nominees.
And if you're enjoying the new live novel, consider buying the previous one Wanderlust. It's $2.99 for a whooooole lot of words. Over 88,000 if I do say so myself.
photo credit: Dave Hosford via photopin cc