I couldn’t seem to catch a deep breath until we were strapped in Kate’s rental and merging onto the interstate. Traffic was light. I assumed we were heading for Atlanta, the flying hub of the East; we certainly couldn’t drive to Greece. But I didn’t ask. I needed just a minute to try to catch up with myself.
I laid my head back and closed my eyes and began to compose a letter to my sister, a habit I’d gotten into since her death. Dear Lynda, how are you today. I just threw 20 years of marriage into the crapper. It’s been one of those days. Say a little prayer for me, darlin’.
Kate was uncharacteristically silent and I stole a glance at her.
“You’ve got pink streaks in your hair.”
“Yeah, well … it was supposed to perk me up – didn’t work, so Greece is next on the list.”
I hesitated before I asked, “You ever talk to your mother?” but Kate didn’t hesitate in her reply.
“Not out loud, if she answered me, I’d be screwed. White coats with those extra long sleeves screwed. But yeah, sometimes I talk to her in my head. She still gives lousy advice.”
“Lynda’s become like my journal, I even write it down sometimes. Enough to fill a box.” I hesitated again. “Are we weird?”
“Just lonely. God Min, I thought I’d go crazy when I lost touch with you.”
“Should I be uneasy I’m alone with you in this car?” I smiled to show I was joking, at least I think I was. “I thought I knew you even better than Pat, but that was the internet you. You know what I think? I think we have to get to know each other all over again – face to face. And if people start calling us lesbians, I’m moving to Italy!”
She snorted a laugh. “You don’t have the right equipment, doll. I’m going to find me a drop dead handsome Greek guy and do the horizontal mambo.”
“Sure you are,” I said dryly. “So where are we heading? Athens?”
“Uh … no.”
I shifted in my seat so I could give her the full benefit of my attention. She looked so small. Her dark hair with those ridiculous pink streaks tumbled over her shoulders, just a little stringy with sweat even though she had the air conditioner turned up so high I was shivering. Her eyes were hidden behind dark glasses but her discomfort showed in the way she chewed her lower lip and clutched the steering wheel tightly.
“Where are we going, Kate?” I asked gently. “And why are we going there?”
“I had it all planned and I was going, even if you didn’t. Never think this was all spur of the moment,” she said earnestly. “I bought a house. On an island. In Greece.”
“You’ve …” Words failed me. “But why Kate? Why? And where did you get the money?”
“I’ve been liquidating myself, selling everything I thought was so damn important to keep. Do you know how much that piano brought? And then there was Mother’s bonds, I cashed them in.”
“You lose money when you cash them early,” I said faintly. Pat would have had a fit!
“Well I didn’t cash them early,” she said smugly. “Probably they were glad I came and got them, one of my parents bought them decades ago. Or something. Anyway, they’d matured.”
“And you bought a house unseen. In a strange country. That you haven’t seen either.”
“I saw pictures,” she said defensively. “And the price was right. And it’ll be cheaper to live over there, everyone says so. Anyway, I plan to work.”
“Oh, okay, that makes a difference. Doing what?”
“Cooking! You don’t cook!”
“I can learn. Why are you raining on my parade, Min? You sure as hell didn’t hesitate to pack up and run away yourself. What did you think we’d do in Greece, be tourists? We can’t afford that.”
“No … sorry … it’s just all come at once.” I took in a deep breath and tried not to feel panicked. Dear Lynda, I think you’re gonna need help with the prayers, darlin’. Please don’t let them hurt us when they arrest us for pure craziness.
“Are you thinking like Pat?” Kate asked softly, and it was like she’d slapped my face.
“No. I’m not, not at all. Only Pat thinks like Pat. Lord, I wish I tanned, Kate. I must be crazy going to live in a country with all that sun.”
“You’re already crazy, you live in Alabama. I’m gonna think of Greece like Arizona – dry heat.”
“Okay … just a little further west, is all.” I laid my head back again. “Go West, young women, go west.”
“Yeah,” Kate said, and settled back to drive.