I wrote this a long time ago, when I was part of my first writing group. Some thought the main character should have had an affair. It would have “spiced things up”. But that wasn’t the point of the story. Read it and let me know what you think.
It was like I was single for three days.
It was my first business trip. Mike was still in Charlotte, stuck with the kids’ piano lessons, baseball lessons, homework and lunches. I was a realistic woman. I knew it would be Micky D’s for dinner every night, and probably cold Micky D’s for their lunches.
I settled back. Never had a too-small, over-priced aisle seat felt so free.
Outside the small plane, I could see the roly-poly paisley of rural farms, the winding blue of meandering rivers and the gentle curves of roads following the slight summits of gently rolling hills.
Huntsville, Alabama was only an hour-and-a-half from Charlotte by air, but it felt like a lifetime. A luxury hotel, hour-long bubble baths and a full night’s sleep. Sounded like heaven to me.
Mike was not so sure about the trip. He had been away on business for his company many times, but this was brand new to me. I had written out the kids’ schedules and posted them on the fridge. I had made sure my mother was available for backup. I had even given the babysitter an advance to keep her schedule open – just in case.
Mike had been disapproving, right up to dropping me off at the airport; he pouted worse than Sheri and Taylor. Of course, I knew they were looking forward to movies and pizzas and burgers. It wouldn’t kill them – not in three days anyway.
Huntsville was smaller than Charlotte. The airport was smaller. It didn’t matter. I was less interested in getting away to bright lights and more interested in proving to my company, and myself, that I could do this. I admit, I was also looking forward to getting away, having time to myself and breaking away, if only temporarily.
This trip meant my job had purpose, meaning. I was moving up in the world. I knew that most of my male co-workers had turned it down. It was only a small conference. They were used to bigger jobs and bigger clients. But to me, it was the start of the rest of my career. After fifteen years of raising kids and working part-time, I was finally making a mark in the world.
The captain’s voice crackled over the loudspeaker – we were starting our descent.
Outside, the paisley was turning to color-block. Square plots of green and brown and rust. Straight highways crisscrossed at right angles. I could see the number of houses increasing, like resistors and capacitors on a circuit board. I could see tiny cars moving on black ribbons stretched taught over the landscape.
I was almost there.
Landing, I grabbed my carry-on and laptop, and rushed to the rental car area. I didn’t want to stand in line. I had a reservation waiting. I couldn’t wait to check in. Eat a fancy dinner alone. I planned to order steak.
At the hotel, I called home, leaving a rushed message in the machine. Mike must have taken Taylor along to Sheri’s piano lesson. I left the hotel number, my room number and an abbreviated “I miss you.”
I was hungry.
A steak house down the road had a big, flashy sign. It was a chain restaurant, but I did not care. I did not want to get lost and spend the night trying to find my way back to the hotel.
It was strange eating alone. I had no one to comment to on the limpness of the salad or that my steak was cooked exactly the way I wanted.
Dinner was over too soon. Maybe I would just order in tomorrow. Pizza and pay-per-view. I was starting to feel like a teenager left at home while Mom and Dad was away.
I can remember the one time my parents did that. Went away and left us kids alone. They went to a Church retreat when I was 15 and my older sister 18. I had more or less locked myself in my bedroom, hiding beneath my quilt, while my sister hosted the best senior party in local history.
My parents all but disowned her after that. But Margie was a now successful CEO in DC. She drives a BMW and lives in a luxury condo. I envy her take-charge attitude.
Back at the hotel, I flipped through the channels. Nothing much was on. I checked out the pay-per-view listings. Nothing I wanted to see there either – it was all sex, violence and sports. I lay back on my pillows and pulled out the book I brought with me. It was a best seller I had bought three months ago and never gotten the chance to read.
It was too quiet. I turned the TV back on, setting the channel to CNN. It was background noise. I had trouble reading. The book was boring. I tossed it aside, deciding to buy something else tomorrow. Maybe a raunchy romance – just for the heck of it. I could leave it behind without worry that Sheri would find it and start reading it.
It was 8:30 – 9:30 at home. Mike was probably putting the kids to bed. I could call – but it might be better to wait.
I waited, watching the clock and a report on the history of Wall Street.
Finally, I decided to call. The phone rang three times then Mike answered.
“Hey! How was your flight?” The question was followed by a yawn.
“Not bad. Rather quick. And cramped.”
“I had steak and a glass of wine for dinner. Now I’m back at the hotel, getting ready to settle down for the night.”
Mike laughed. “Sounds like you’re enjoying yourself. I ferried the kids around and we had dinner. Pretty quiet evening.”
There was a silent pause, the phone card swaying between me and the phone.
Mike yawned again. “Well, get a good night’s sleep. Don’t want to be yawning at your meeting tomorrow.”
“Okay. Night. Love you.”
“Love you, too.”
It was 9:15. I decided to take a bath.
I gathered all the paraphernalia I brought with me and headed for the bathroom. The tub was smallish, but I filled it with water. I didn’t have bubble bath and it wasn’t included in the little bottles the hotel leaves for you..
I crawled in. The side was hard against my neck, and my knees stuck out of the water. I washed my hair and climbed out. Bummer.
I put on my cotton PJs and went to bed.
I woke up at 4:21. The alarm went off at 5:30. I turned off the TV and the clock and got up. I guess my body was used to getting only 6 hours of sleep. It didn’t know how to sleep any longer than that.
At least I had time to do my hair properly. I pulled out my curling iron and hair spray, blew the dust off my makeup kit and set to work. The curling iron set the curls too tight and they didn’t want to brush out into the soft waves I wanted. I put my make-up on too heavy. I scrubbed it all off, slapped on a little lipstick and swept my hair up into a quick bun. Oh, well. This is how I usually look for work.
My suit looked good – no wrinkles – and I had time to put on my hose without snaring them. I was ready to go. It was only 7:00. I ate breakfast at the hotel – a coffee and a bagel – and set out to make my mark.
The convention center was not too far away. In Huntsville, nothing is too far away. I had lots of time to set up and get ready. Of course, I also had lots of time to get nervous. By the time it was my turn to speak, I had a knot the size of a highway cloverleaf in my stomach. That didn’t lave much room for that bagel and coffee, which were threatening to abandon me at any moment.
I could feel my face flushing and stammered my way through my intro. Turning to the projection screen, I concentrated on my presentation and settled into my speech. I think I did a pretty good job. Several in the audience nodded at the points I made, and a couple even spoke to me after, asking questions and offering me their own observations.
I felt like a success.
I listened and made notes the rest of the day. I think I learned a lot and made some good contacts. I felt great walking through the smudge-fee double glass doors of the hotel. The day had gone well and I didn’t have a stack of dirty laundry waiting for me to wash it. I had an entire evening free to do whatever I wanted.
I called home. Sheri answered.
“Hi, sweetie. How was your day?”
“Hi Mom. It went okay. Can you call back later? Susie and I are watching a movie.”
“Um, sure. Is Taylor there?”
“Nope. He went to play at Bobby’s”
“Okay. Let Daddy know I called. I’ll call again later.”
“Yup. Bye. Love you.”
I didn’t get a chance to say “I love you” back. Sheri hung up the phone.
I stared at the phone, my fingers toying with the coiled cord. I decided to go out for dinner. Not to the steakhouse – someplace really fancy. I wanted to celebrate.
I shrugged into my suit jacket, let down my hair and brushed it out. The clerk at the desk suggested a seafood restaurant and gave me directions. I set out in the rental, ready to feast on my favorite food – lobster.
I only made three wrong turns, so I don’t think I did too badly. The parking lot was full, and it took me twice around the lot to find a space. The line was pretty long too, but I put my name on the list and waited.
My growling stomach finally held sway and I took my name off the waiting list. Most of the other restaurants I passed were also full. A few even had lines out the door. I guess Friday night is busy in Huntsville.
I stopped at a fast food place for a burger and fries, then stopped at a convenience store to fill the car’s tank and grab a Pepsi.
I used my swipe-card to enter the hotel from the side entrance and used the stairs to the second floor. The hotel was quiet.
Once again, there was nothing on TV so I once again checked out the pay-per-view, which was still just sex, violence and sports. I put the TV on PBS. There was a show on “entity attacks” – ghostly persons who attacked people when they slept. I wondered briefly if a person could be haunted, rather than the place, but I spilled ketchup and lettuce down the front of my suit and lost the thought rushing to the sink to stem the damage.
At 8:00, I called home. Taylor answered.
“Hi, Mom. I got an “A” on my Science test, a “B” on my Math and almost hit Jimmy Smith with the bat during gym class. I have a field trip next week – can you drive? It’s on Wednesday. I also need something for a bake sale, I forget when that it. I have a note about it I gave to Dad. Well, gotta go, here’s Sheri.”
I took a deep breath, struggling to dig my day-planner out of my briefcase so I could write a note to myself to call Taylor’s teacher about the bake sale.
“Hi, Sheri. Did you like the movie you watched with Susie?”
“It was pretty lame at the end.”
There was a long pause.
“How was school?”
“Huh? What did you say? Felicity’s on. I’m trying to watch it. TAYLOR GET OUT OF THE WAY! WHAT ARE YOU? A DOOR?! Sorry about that Mom. Here’s Dad.”
“You’re calling early.”
“I called when I got out of the conference, but Sheri was busy. I said I would call again later. I didn’t want you to call here and find me out.”
“Oh. She didn’t mention it.”
“How are you managing?”
“We’re doing fine. Haven’t missed anything on the schedule yet.”
“That’s good. I think I did well at the conference. Talked to quite a few people. Got a lot of business cards.”
I heard a wail in the background. “Taylor! What the- Damn it! Honey, I’ll see you at the airport tomorrow. The plane comes in a little after ten in the morning, right?”
“Yes. I’ll call if I’m delayed.”
“Okay…TAYLOR I TOLD YOU…” The line went dead.
I stared around the empty hotel room, the few fries left growing cold on the burger wrapper. At home, they would have been a treat for the dog.
I hadn’t bought a book and I decided it wasn’t worth going out for now. I finished watching the entity show and went to bed, but didn’t fall asleep. I checked out the pay-per-view listings one more time. I considered the listings, an idea forming slowly. I was away from home, alone – anonymous in a large hotel. I could watch something I had never dared watch before. I piled the pillows up behind me, and dug my credit card out of my purse.
Ten minutes later I was watching “Spicy Girls Cooking Out of the Kitchen.”
I was surprised at the opening scene. It was two girls, making out with each other. I thought this movie was for men? Their skin was shiny from the start too, and they were loud. As soon as one started sucking on the boob of the other, they both started panting and moaning and tossing their long blond hair around.
I shifted on the bed, rearranging the blankets and sheets.
The two girls went off to work – at a restaurant. Ah. The title started making a little sense. They then proceeded to have sex with the vegetable delivery guys, the head chef, and a couple that had an early reservation. That made four times in one day. I wondered how they got any work done. The finale included a whipped cream dessert that ended up all over their naked bodies and required a lot of licking from each other and the boyfriends that showed up to take them home after work.
It was hard getting to sleep. My PJs felt tight and hot. I couldn’t wait to get home to Mike.
I was awake again at four uncomfortable after having a couple of dreams that included whipped cream and Mike. I packed up and headed for the airport early. Extra security meant longer waits and I figured I might as well wait after the security check. I could always buy a magazine.
I was too early for the continental breakfast.
Picking up my ticket at the booth, the clerk mentioned an earlier flight. “There’s space if you want to catch it.”
Why not? I thought. I could just take a cab home from the airport.
I agreed and rushed off to the security check and the terminal. I had lots of time. I t seems that very few people fly at 6 am on Saturdays.
I landed in Charlotte a little before nine, once again married with kids. I lost an hour coming back – I was back in the Eastern Time zone.
If I hurried, I could get home before Sheri left for dance class and Mr. Gentry picked up Taylor for his baseball game.
I almost missed them, running through the terminal to catch a taxi. I saw the balloons out of the corner of my eye.
It was Sheri and Taylor, fighting about who should be holding the balloons, that stopped me up. From behind one of those huge palm fronds in a bucket, I spied on my family. Mike was nervously smoothing his shirt. Sheri had the balloons, and since she was taller, holding them out of Taylor’s reach.
“Can’t you two not fight?” Mike looked tired. “Why don’t you each hold half?”
“There’s only five balloons, Dad.” Taylor had his hands on his hips.
“Only because you busted one in the car.” Sheri continued to hold the balloons out of his reach.
“That wasn’t my fault!”
Mike closed his eyes. When he opened them, he was looking right at me. Neither of the kids noticed his expression. I thought the open mouth look was adorable on him.
I winked and held one finger to my lips. He smiled and nodded. He didn’t look quite so tired any more.
I walked cautiously up behind the kids, silently put my bags on the floor and said, “BOO!”
Sheri jumped and let go of the balloons. Taylor yelped.
“Mom!” It was nice to hear my name at high volume.
We all hugged and laughed.
“Mom,” Taylor whispered in my ear, “I missed you. Don’t forget about the field trip and the bake sale. I don’t think Dad can handle them.”
I laughed some more and hugged him close. Thank God it had only been three days!