The song ends and she finally steps away, dabbing at the corner of her eye. Fuck. I made her cry.
“I want to go home.”
“I’ll take you.”
“I’ll ask Tucker.”
“He’s been drinking.”
I saw him have a beer earlier, so technically I’m not lying.
“Then I’ll ask Edith.”
Edith, smart woman that she is, tells Meredith she’s not ready to leave yet.
“Just have Jack drive you,” Edith says, pointing to me.
Edith shakes her head sternly. “I won’t have my yoga teacher end up being coyote food.”
Meredith pauses, as if really contemplating the choice between a car ride with me and being picked apart by a pack of wild canines. For her, it’s a tough call.
Fortunately, she has enough sense to agree, but Tucker isn’t happy about it. When I walk over with her to say goodbye, his eyes are focused on me accusingly.
“You really want to leave? Don’t you want to stay for the cake and bouquet? I thought girls loved that stuff.”
She offers a weak smile. “Thank you, but I’m tired. I’ve had a long week and it’s finally caught up with me.”
“Are you sure you want to go with him?” His eyes slice to me. “I could take you.”
The ride home is tense and silent. Meredith is stewing in the passenger seat, arms crossed, gaze out the window. I can’t leave things the way they are. I know she’s still upset with me and I want her to get it out, to shout at me like she wanted to back on the dance floor.
I turn off the main road, down a street that leads to the old quarry. On either side of the dirt road, cornstalks jut toward the sky. There’s nothing but night beyond my headlights. We’re alone.
I put the truck in park, cut the engine, and turn toward to Meredith.
“I get it, you feel cheated—you want a fight,” I say calmly. “Okay then, let’s fight.”
We’re parked on a dirt road in the middle of a cornfield, and I have no clue where we are or how to get back to the ranch from here. I should have been paying attention while we were driving, but I was too busy stewing. It’s pitch black outside. If I got out and tried to walk, I’d end up marching blindly into the comically large open mouth of a mountain lion.
“You want a fight. Okay then, let’s fight.”
That’s what he says to me.
I turn to him just as he kills the engine and turns to face me on the bucket seat.
“I don’t want to fight.”
I don’t have the energy. I’m so tired, so defeated. I can’t keep putting on a brave face for the world. I’ve used up all my confidence, burned through all my false bravado. I almost cried on the dance floor, and I’m dangerously close to actually doing so now. Once I start, I don’t think I’ll be able to stem the flow of tears.
“How about we talk then?”
I shake my head and turn to the cornfield.
“Take me home please.”
We sit there for a few more minutes, but then he sighs and restarts the truck, turning back for the main road.
When we pull up to the farmhouse, I jump out before he’s even put the truck in park and bee-line straight for the shack. I don’t thank him for the ride, and I definitely don’t stick around to listen to any more of his apologies. I’m so sick of people, of the back and forth, of the emotional rollercoaster. Maybe I should go live on a private island somewhere, just me and a bunch of wild swimming pigs. That sounds fucking great.
I change out of my dress and kick off my heels. I tug on one of Jack’s t-shirts—the one I didn’t return with all the others a few days back—and then stare at my bed. It’s still early. I’m too wired to go to sleep. I want a stiff drink—a big one, something bigger than a shot but smaller than a swimming pool. I step toward my window and check the farmhouse. Jack’s bedroom light is on, but it’s dark downstairs. I could probably make it to the liquor cabinet and back without him even knowing.
I know from cleaning it that it’s well stocked. I hesitate, really not into the idea of having another confrontation with him, but my need for alcohol wins out. I’m special agent Tom Cruise weaving in and out of red lasers as I tiptoe across the lawn and tug open the back door. Alfred is there, tail wagging, excited by my impromptu visit.
“Shhhh,” I hiss, petting him behind his ear before he starts barking or something. “Go away—can’t you sense that I’m fighting with your human? Stop hitting the wall with your tail! You’re making too much noise.”
I pause and listen for Jack, hear footsteps upstairs, and know I’m in the clear. I dash toward the liquor cabinet, grab whatever my hand lands on first, and then sprint back outside.
Alfred follows after me, acting as my accomplice, and together, we hightail it back to the shack. Once we’re inside, I slam the door closed and press my back against it. Mission: Possible, apparently.
I glance down at my bounty. I managed to nab a bottle of Jack Daniels. Fitting. I pour myself a bit and barf a little in my mouth when I take my first sip.
“It’s so bad,” I tell Alfred, trying to keep the rest of it down.
He looks at me with sad, questioning eyes as if to say, Hmm, and I thought you weren’t a little bitch.
I nod. “You’re right. Here goes nothing.”
I drink my glass in one long swallow then sit down on the floor and pet Alfred.
I continue like this for a while, so long that I lose track of time and space and the number of times I’ve forced myself to swallow more disgusting brown liquor.
What I do know is alcohol is great and Alfred is soooooo soft. My fingers feel tingly. I forget I have any problems. I know nothing beyond this tiny shack and this adorable golden retriever licking my toes. I’m lying on the rug, spread out like a snow angel.
“I’m considering moving to Mexico,” I tell Alfred. “I get that most people only flee to Mexico if they’ve committed a crime, but what’s so wrong with good ol’ fashioned fleeing? Do I godda robbabank or something to JUSTIFY running away from my problems?”
He splays out beside me.
“Of course, you can come with me if you want. I’ll just have to reteach you your commands in Spanish so we don’t stand out. Okey, hello is hola. Sit is siéntate. Stay is…I dunno, let’s go with…estée lauder.”
A fist pounds on the shack’s door and makes me scream out in fright.
“Relax,” Jack says from outside. “It’s me. The door was ajar back at the farmhouse, so I’m just making sure Alfred didn’t run off. Is he in there with you?”
“Uhh…” I look over at the dog in question. He licks my foot. “No! But I have a very strong feeling he’s fine!”
“He was in the house when I got home, but now I can’t find him.”
Apparently excited to hear his owner’s voice, Alfred hops to his feet and pads over to the door, scratching it with his paw.
“Alfred?” Jack asks, apparently hearing said scratching.
I contemplate telling him it’s me, etching hatch marks into the wall like a prisoner counting my days.
I cover my eyes with my arm. “Ugh, fine. He’s in here.”
The door opens and owner and dog are reunited once again. Whoop dee doo. I don’t have the energy to move off the ground…or open my eyes.
“’S’wat they call me.”
“Are you drunk?”
“What’s with the twenty questions?”
“Did you polish off that entire bottle of Jack?”
Depends on how much was in it when I started—I can’t remember.
“Who’s can say, really, in this day and age?”
“Why are you on the floor?”
“Be-cause it’s comfortable and my twin bed isn’t big enough for me and Alfred.”
He steps into the shack and toes the glass of liquor away from my hand.
I still have my arm thrown over my eyes, but I hear what he’s doing. “Hey, I was going to drink that.”