Written for the prompt(s): Joshua Radin’s “A Beautiful Day.”
|Word count: Approx. 1,300
“Cadence—this is crazy!”
I smiled as I strolled past Mr. Pike’s office, Abel Dekker on my heels. I nodded in at Pike as he talked on his cellphone. He waved absently and turned away, looking vaguely annoyed, as usual. “I know it’s crazy, Abe,” I said as we turned the corner past Karen Yamamoto’s cubicle, which wasn’t so very different from mine, or anyone else’s. “It’s completely crazy.”
“So—don’t do it! Go in there and tell Barker you changed your mind!” Abel commanded and I laughed, clapping his shoulder as we turned another corner. My corner and cubicle. Well . . . not anymore.
“No can do, Abe-ster. This little kite’s gotta fly.” I surveyed the cubicle I’d been chained to for nearly thirteen years. It was bare of papers and clutter—I’d stayed late the past few nights, catching up on all my paperwork and tying up as many loose ends as I could—and everything else but my monitor, keyboard and mouse. And my photos, which were not on my desk, but taped to the three walls of my cubicle. Every which way I turned in my small space, I’d had a view of the forest, or the plains, or the mountains . . . or the ocean . . . yeah . . . the ocean. Just thinking about it made my entire being swell like a sail full of a righteous head wind.
I’d only ever seen the ocean once while on vacation, five years ago. I hadn’t been back since, but something about it—the sight, the sound, the smell, even the taste of salt on my lips whenever I’d smiled—had caught hold of my soul and not let go.
Which was why, at long last, I was going back, while I still could.
“You didn’t even give two weeks’ notice!” Abe reproached, hands on his hips like a scolding mother. I laughed again and before I could think better of it, I hugged him, good and tight. He went stiff as a plank in my arms and stayed that way even after I’d let go and stepped back.
He looked absolutely poleaxed, and I grinned.
“Take care of yourself, Abel-ator,” I said, turning and grabbing the one thing from inside my desk that meant anything to me—that I couldn’t and wouldn’t do without: a large, white and pink seashell that’d come home with me from that fabled vacation.
I walked out of the office for the last time, listening to the ocean, and leaving Abe to stare after me, shaking his head and muttering.
“This is . . . crazy, Cadence.”
“I know it is, Dr. Rothfuss.”
“We can treat you, here. The same probably can’t be said of wherever your little road trip takes you.” Dr. Rothfuss crossed her arms and glared sternly at me over the tops of her bifocals. “Here, you have a chance, even if it’s a slight one. And, if it becomes necessary in the future . . . we can offer you hospice. . . .”
I sighed and reached across her desk to take her hand. To say she was surprised would be to understate, and yet it barely showed in the slight lift of her eyebrows and parting of her thin, red lips.
“I need to be where my heart is, and that’s not in treatment, not in hospice, and not in here. Here . . . I’ll just wither, get worse, and die. At least at the ocean I was happy. And I can make the most of what time I have left.”
I stood, and Dr. Rothfuss stood with me. I was still holding her slim hand. “But Cadence—” she finished my name with a eep sound when I leaned over and kissed her cool, perfumed cheek.
“Thank you, Helen,” I said softly, enmeshed briefly in her once more palpable surprise.
Then I turned and left her office, whistling.
“This is cray-cray.”
“No, seriously, Cadence, this thing you’re doing is pure-D, banana-balls, batshit insane.” Harmony put her hands on her hips like Abe had—like our Gram had, once upon a time—and I grinned and wrapped my arms around her, hugging her tight and long . . . just like Gram used to.
After a few moments of stiff surprise—why was everyone so surprised when I hugged them, lately?—Harmony hugged me back just as hard, sniffling.
“I don’t want you to go.”
“You should stay.”
“I’ve been staying for my whole life. Now, it’s time for me to go and have my adventure while I still can.”
“Can’t you have adventures here? Without going halfway across the country?”
“It’s not an adventure if you live there, Harm!”
“It can be, with the right person,” Harmony leaned back and looked at me. Unlike me, she’s gorgeous. She has our mother’s dark, wide eyes and our father’s dark, fluffy curls. But her temperament? Is all Gram. “You know, Terry McKnight still asks about you.”
I blushed and laughed. “Oh, yeah? What, exactly, does he ask?”
Harmony got that cat-that-got-the-canary look she always wears when she knows something I don’t. “Stay, and find out.”
“But I don’t want to,” I said apologetically, only to see her face fall. “I don’t—I’ve made my peace with everything, Harm. And now, that’s all I want, is peace. A peaceful end. And I think that’s what I’ll find, after I’ve had my adventure.” Seeing the hurt in Harm’s eyes made me wince, but I was firm. “I wish I could explain it to you—how I feel—”
“Dummy. You don’t have to explain it to me. We’re twins, remember? We feel each other’s feelings, and shit.” Harmony sniffled and tried to smile.
“Uh . . . I thought that was only identical twins. . . .”
“I’m pretty sure it’s fraternal twins, too.”
“If you say so.”
We both laughed, then, and hugged once more. “I still wish you could stay, Cade.”
“I wish I could, too.” Though I didn’t, precisely. I didn’t want my sister, brother-in-law, and niece to watch me deteriorate and grow frail. Didn’t want them to have to face their own mortality upon seeing mine, and be helpless in the face of that. “But the sea calls. Gar!”
“You’d be the worst pirate ever,” Harmony mumbled on my shoulder, still giggling a little.
“I’d have you keelhauled for saying so.”
“You'll call and write all the time, won’t you?”
“You’ll get sick of the sound of my voice and me pinging your inbox.”
“And we can do Skype, too.”
“I hate Skype.”
“You’re such a Luddite.”
“A mantle I wear proudly.”
We hugged for a few more seconds before Harmony let me go with a light shove. “Well, if you’re going, go!”
I snorted. “That’s a fine send-off,” I muttered, but couldn’t stop smiling. I was already feeling it. The pull of the open road, and at the end of that road . . . the ocean. I backed down Harmony’s driveway, waving, and squinting in the sun. “Call ya tonight when I get to a motel.”
“You’d better, or I’ll hunt you down!” She waved back, smiling big and bright for me, but there were tears shining in her eyes.
Still, I kept backing away. Kept waving. Kept going . . . even when I nearly tripped and broke my ass on Kylie’s pink and purple trike.
Five minutes later, I was on the road in my new-to-me, worn-in blue Jeep Wrangler, and heading East. The wind was in my hair, Joshua Radin was on my radio, and a white and pink seashell was in my passenger seat.
I was going home.