A couple moves across the country but along the way.....
| Lila slid into the passenger seat next to Nate. “I can’t believe we’re moving to North Dakota.”
The night before Nate crammed their Ford Taurus full of all the belongings they didn’t want to leave behind.
Laying his hand on Lila’s leg, Nathan said, “This teaching job is too good to pass up. I’ll be making double what I do here plus a five-thousand dollar moving bonus every year for three years. Then next year when the history teacher position opens up, you can jump right into it. Together, we’ll be making more than we ever have.”
“I know, but I’m going to miss living next to the ocean.”
Nate put the car in reverse, “Florida’s a dead end. It has been since the recession. You’ve been out of work for more than five years. When I got laid off, I knew there was nothing left here for us.”
Lila looked in the rear view mirror as they pulled away. She’d miss the life they built here. She’d miss all the things that made their little apartment home—things they had to leave behind. “Right—well, let’s get coffee. Four in the morning is too early, even for a grand adventure.”
Nate smiled at her, “An adventure?”
“Yes, an adventure Nate. We’re moving twenty-five hundred miles in the car. We’ll go through states we’ve never been to before, and it’s easier for me to look at it as an adventure.”
“Adventure it is then.” He squeezed her hand, “Where do you want to stop for coffee?”
“Hey, Lila wake up. We’re about to leave Florida and be in Georgia.”
“We’ve been to Georgia before.”
“I know, but don’t you want to say an official goodbye to Florida.”
“No, I did that yesterday. I went to the beach and found two perfect little shells to take with us. They’re in my pocket—for luck.”
Lila slept through most of Georgia. She woke up while they were driving through Atlanta. She missed Florida already. She liked the sun, the beaches, the predictable weather, and absence snow. Moving to North Dakota in February made no sense to her. They’d be leaving seventy degree days for temperatures that fall below zero. She didn’t even own a coat.
Nate’s eyes looked red. She needed to take the wheel soon. “Give me a few minutes to wake all the way up, then I’ll take over driving for a while so you can get some sleep.”
“We only have four more hours until we get Nashville. We’ll find a place to stay there for tonight and start out early again tomorrow.”
“How long did I sleep?”
“About seven hours.”
“Geesh, Nate, I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay. I’m going to pull over so we can switch though. My eyes are crossing, I need a couple hours of sleep.”
Nate pulled into a rest stop along I-75. They both used the restroom. Lila grabbed some vending machine coffee and a candy bar. Back at the car, Nate got into the passenger seat, buckled up, and fell asleep as soon as the car started to move.
Lila hated driving on the interstate. She couldn’t keep track of where she was, where all the other cars are, and the map at the same time. She tapped Nashville, TN into the GPS on her phone and listened to the directions. “Who needs a map,” she asked herself, “It’s the twenty-first century?”
Four and a half hours later, just north of Tennessee, Lila pulled the car into the parking lot of a Motel 6. Twelve hours in the car was enough. She wanted some real food, some real coffee, and a soft bed. Shaking Nate she said, “Wake up sleeping beauty, let’s get checked in and find some food.”
“Yeah, we need to. Your growling stomach woke me up at least three times.”
“Hilarious,” she said as they walked into the hotel.
The next morning at four Lila and Nate climbed back into the car, Nate took the driver’s seat. Lila rubbed the sleep out of her eyes and asked, “How many hours are there between us and Sioux Falls?”
Nate pulled out the map he printed before they left Florida and said, “About thirteen hours, depending on traffic. If you want to get some more sleep go ahead. I’ll wake you up to take over when we get near Kansas City.”
“No, I’m okay for now. Let’s grab some coffee before getting back on the road though.”
Nate laughed, “I’ll never understand how you can drink coffee all day every day.”
Thirty minutes later they left Tennessee and entered Kentucky. “We won’t see much of Kentucky,” Nate said, “Only the smallest bit of the Southwestern corner. Don’t blink or you’ll miss it.”
“No worries. I’m more interested in seeing Missouri.”
They drove along in silence for a long time. Lila watched the scenery pass her by. Small towns, small cities, and vast empty spaces whisked past without names. Nate focused on the road and checked the map every now and then to make sure he was still headed in the right direction.
“Hey Nate,” Lila said, “We just entered Illinois. It’s too bad we can’t take a detour to Chicago.”
“Chicago is a long way from here, and it’ll add another day of driving. I’d rather just get to Sioux Falls and call it a day.”
“Where’s your sense of adventure?” As the words left her lips, a loud popping sound escaped from underneath the car. “What the heck was that?”
“We blew out a tire.” Nate eased the car to the side of the road. “It’s going to take forever to change. I’m going to have to pull everything out of the trunk to get to the spare.”
“Where are we?” Lila asked. The deserted country road went on for miles with nothing in sight.
“I’m not sure exactly. The last city we went through was Metropolis. We’re close to the Shawnee National Forest though.”
They both turned when they heard tires approaching behind them. An old blue pickup truck pulled up behind them. A tall and rugged looking man with a scar down his face from his right eye to the side of his lip got out and sauntered toward them. “Need some help?”
Nate spoke first, “No, we have it handled. It’s just a flat. No big deal.”
The man glanced at the license plate on the car and said, “You’re a long way from home. Dontcha got Triple A? Y’all shouldn’t travel so far from home without emergency backup.”
Lila moved closer to Nate. She didn’t like the look of the man standing three feet from them. “We have Triple-A, but it’s just a flat. We can take care of it and be on our way in no time.”
The man smiled at her. Lila saw he had four missing teeth. The ones he had left were bright yellow. She stared at the tobacco stained stubs while he talked, “Well, alrighty. I’ll just wait in mah truck until y’all are safely on yer way.” He turned and headed back to the old blue pickup.
Three days later, a deputy sheriff happened upon a white Ford Taurus with a flat tire twenty miles outside Metropolis. There was blood splattered across the trunk and a man lying face down on the road. A single gunshot to the head had ended his life. According to his wallet, his name was Nate Morris from Orlando, Florida. They assumed he had been traveling alone.