“Good evening, Officer,” Jesse says. “How can I help you?”
“You need to take these turns a bit more cautiously in this weather, son,” the man says.
“License and registration.”
This is my nightmare. This is a nightmare I am having.
Jesse barely shows a moment’s hesitation. He leans forward into the glove box and grabs a few papers. He hands them over to the officer.
“We’re in the beginning of a storm. You can’t be driving like it’s the middle of June,” the cop says as he takes the documents from Jesse and looks them over.
“And your license?” The officer looks down, staring at Jesse directly. I look away. I can’t stand this.
“I don’t have it,” Jesse says.
“I don’t have it, sir,” Jesse says. This time I can hear in his voice that he is struggling to maintain his composure.
“What do you mean you don’t have it?”
I just sort of snap. My arms start moving on their own. I grab the envelope I left in the car when we drove up here.
“Officer, he’s just come back from being lost at sea.”
The officer looks at me, stunned. Not because he believes me, but because he can’t seem to believe someone would try a lie this elaborate.
“She’s . . .” Jesse tries to explain, but what’s he going to say? I’m telling the truth.
“I can prove it to you,” I say as I look through the envelope and pull out the article from years ago about Jesse being missing. His picture is right there, in the middle of the clipping. I hand it over to the cop.
I’m not sure why he humors me enough to take it, but he does. And then he looks at the picture, and then at Jesse. And I can see that while he’s still not convinced, he’s not entirely sure I’m lying, either.
“Sir,” Jesse starts, but the cop stops him.
“Let me read this.”
And so we wait.
The cop looks it over. His eyes go from left to right. He looks at the picture and then once again at Jesse.
“Say I believe this . . .” the cop says.
“He got back a couple of days ago,” I say. “He’s still waiting on a license, credit cards, really any sort of ID.”
“So he shouldn’t be driving.”
“No,” I say. I can’t deny that. “He shouldn’t. But after being lost for almost four years, all he wants is to be able to drive a car for a few minutes.”
The cop closes his eyes for a moment and when he opens them back up, he’s made his decision.
“Son, get out of the driver’s seat and let this young woman drive.”
“Yes, sir,” Jesse says, but neither of us move.
“Now,” the officer says.
Jesse immediately opens up the door and stands as I get out of the car on my side and switch places with him. I walk past the officer and I can tell he’s not exactly entertained by all of this. I get in the driver’s seat and the officer closes the door for me.
“It’s cold as hell out here and I don’t feel like standing on the side of the road trying to figure out if you two are pulling something over on me. I’m deciding to err on the side of . . . gullibility.”
He bends down farther to look right at Jesse. “If I catch you driving a car without a license in this town again, I will have you arrested. Is that clear?”
“Absolutely,” Jesse says.
“All right,” the cop says, and then he turns back. “Actually, I’d like to see your license, miss.”
“Oh, of course,” I say, turning toward my purse. It’s at Jesse’s feet. Jesse leans forward and grabs my wallet from it, pulling my license out.
“I don’t have all night,” the cop says.
I take it from Jesse and hand it over to the cop. He looks at it and then at me. He hands it back.
“Let’s stick to the speed limit, Ms. Blair,” he says.
“Certainly,” I say.
And then he’s gone.
I roll up the window and the car is once again dark and starting to warm. I hand my license back to Jesse.
I watch the cop pull onto the road and drive away. I put on my blinker.
I look over at Jesse.
He’s staring at my driver’s license.
“You changed your name back?”
He shows me my own ID. He points to my name. My younger face smiling back at me.
“You changed your name,” he says again. This time it’s more of a statement than a question.
“Yeah,” I say. “I did.”
He’s quiet for a moment.
“Are you OK?” I ask.
He puts the license back in my wallet and gets hold of himself. “Yeah,” he says. “Totally. You thought I was dead, right? You thought I was gone forever.”
I don’t mention that I’m not sure I was ever really comfortable changing my name to Emma Lerner in the first place, that I am and have always been Emma Blair.
“OK,” he says. “I get it. It’s weird to see, but I get it.”
“OK,” I say. “Cool.”
I pull onto the road and I drive us back to the cabin. It’s silent inside of the car.
We both know why the other one isn’t talking.
I’m mad at him for getting pulled over.
He’s mad at me for changing my name.
It isn’t until I pull up in front of the cabin, and the tires crunch over the gravel, that either of us speaks up.
“What do you say we call it even?” Jesse says with a smirk on his face.
I laugh and reach for him. “I’d love to,” I say. “Even-steven.” I kiss him firmly on the lips.
Jesse grabs the pizza and the two of us run out of the car, heading straight to the cabin.
We shut the door behind us, keeping out the cold and the wind and the cops and the fancy restaurants where we don’t like the wine.
It’s warm in here. Safe.
“You know, you saved my ass out there,” Jesse says.
“Yes!” I say. “I did! You’d be halfway to jail by now if it wasn’t for me.”
He kisses me against the door. I sink into him.
“Emma Blair, my hero,” he says, a slightly sarcastic edge in his voice.
I’m still a little mad at him and now I know he’s still mad at me, too.
But he pushes into me and I open myself up to him.
He runs his hands along my stomach, underneath my shirt. I gently bite his ear.
“You know where I think we should do this?” he says as he kisses me.
He smiles, pointing to the kitchen counter.
I smile and shake my head.
“Remember?” he says.
“Of course I remember.”
He pulls me over there and stands up against it, the way he did that day. “I couldn’t get your dress off, so I had to push the bottom of it up around your . . .”
“Stop,” I say, but not emphatically. I say it the way you say, “Don’t be silly” or “Give me a break.”
“I’m not going to have sex with you on the kitchen counter.”
“Why not?” he asks.
“Because it’s gross.”
“It’s not gross.”
“It is gross. We ate there this afternoon.”
“So we won’t eat there again.”
That’s all it takes. A very simple, very misconceived idea—and I’m doing what just thirty seconds ago I said I wouldn’t.
We are loud and we are fast, as if there’s a time limit, as if there’s a race to the finish. When we are done, Jesse pulls away from me and I hop down. I see a line of sweat on the counter.
What is the matter with me?
What am I doing?
Run-ins with the police aren’t as thrilling at thirty-one as they were at seventeen. It’s one of those things that was charming once. Ditto having sex in the kitchen and speeding. I mean, c’mon, I’m talking cops out of tickets and doing it next to a box of microwaveable bacon? This isn’t me. I’m not this person.