Author: Teresa Mummert
"That could be fun." I settled on a remake of "Wild Horses" on the radio. "So what is the deal? You leave your dog with a friend or something?"
"Something like that." The muscles flexed in his jaw as he clenched his teeth together.
"Oh, no. You have to give me more than that." I leaned forward and turned down the volume on the stereo. "I'm trusting you to take me a thousand miles from home, you owe me the juicy details."
"Roxy is at my ex's house." He clenched his jaw.
"So what happened?"
He glanced over at me, trying to decide what details to omit from his story as he turned down another road.
"Not everyone is cut out for the military lifestyle. She didn't like being alone, so she found someone else to be with her."
I reached over and grabbed his hand, giving it a small squeeze. I knew all too well what it felt like to be cast aside for someone else. It was a horrible feeling.
He released my hand and gripped the steering wheel.
"Don't be. I can't blame her. I chose this career." He turned the volume back up on the radio using the controls from the wheel, ending the conversation. I leaned forward and turned it back down, folding my arms over my chest. His eyes cut to me and I could tell he wasn't going to open up to me without a fight.
"I sometimes think I would still be with my ex if I hadn't focused so much on my career. Of course, knowing what I know now about him, I wouldn't change it for the world."
"Yeah," Shane sighed, as we merged onto Interstate 95 heading south. "I feel like I was meant to be a soldier. I wanted to help people, but I ended up hurting the ones who cared about me most."
"If she didn't understand that, then she didn't care about you enough."
Shane swallowed hard and switched lanes, accelerating quickly into the passing lane.
"So what did your ex do?"
I took in a deep breath and reached for the radio to turn it back up. It was obvious neither one of us wanted to open up about our pasts. His hand shot out and caught mine before I could reach the dashboard. He gave it a squeeze, sending a pulse of electricity shooting to every nerve ending in my body.
"I know it's not fair for me to ask you about your past when I'm not willing to share mine. I'm sorry. Let's just enjoy right now." My eyes locked on to his and I nodded slightly, as he released my hand. My fingers still tingled from his contact and I could feel the warmth of a blush creeping over my cheeks. Shane pressed the volume buttons on the steering wheel and drowned us in background music.
I wanted to tell him everything about me, but part of me felt like I would look weak in his eyes. Shane was strong and always in control. I felt like I was grasping at a life preserver with my head barely making it above water. The volume on the radio decreased and I looked to Shane, worried about the next barrage of questions.
"You don't have to tell me anything. I don't need to know the Jenn you were before I met you. We all have a past. I like the person you are now and if that is the only one I know, I am happy with that."
"Thank you," I whispered as I smiled to myself.
"How do you want to pass the time?"
"Well…we could get some milk shakes."
"Milk shakes? In a brand new car?"
I rolled my eyes and turned back toward the window.
"Fine. What flavor?" he asked with a grin on his face.
He shook his head as he took the next exit and pulled into a McDonald's.
I knew I was being a hypocrite, but I wanted to know more about Shane. He had mentioned before that he didn't know what it was like to have his parents. The idea was heartbreaking. I didn't see eye to eye with my parents on most things, but they were still there for me.
"Shane…" I couldn't find my voice. How do I ask someone something so personal? Shane handed me my milkshake and pulled off toward the highway.
"Just ask," he sighed, as he turned onto the ramp to get back to the highway.
"What happened to your dad?" I knew his mother had died, but where was his father when all of this happened?
"I don't know." The muscles in his jaw jumped under his skin and I knew I had hit a nerve. "I only have flashes of him, ya know?" I know he came and went a lot. Sometimes it felt like forever until I got to see him. He was always so serious. So angry."
I could relate to that. My father spent more time in his office than he did at home and he was never one for affection. Not with me anyway.
"Don't be. It was a long time ago. Some people shouldn't have kids if they don't intend to be there for them."
I nodded but couldn't imagine ever not wanting to be with my own flesh and blood.
"I've never been on a road trip like this." I was hoping to change the subject.
"I love to travel." He smiled. "Used to, anyway."
"This trip will be fun."
March 21, 2010, 3:00 a.m.
"Maybe we should get some sleep. I am exhausted." Jenn whined as we pulled into the cul-de-sac in front of my old house. "It's three o'clock in the morning."
I cut off the headlights and turned off the car. The moonlight poured in through the windshield, illuminating the car.
"Why wait? This is the fun part," I said as I opened my door and began to get out, stretching from the long drive. Jenn opened her door and slid out.
"Because it is the middle of the night. Someone is going to call the cops!" she whispered over the roof of the car. I laughed as I slowly closed my door.
"I think I can get in and out of my own house without being detected."
Jenn rolled her eyes and walked around the rear of the car to my side.
"This is illegal!" she whispered a little louder. I reached out beside me and grabbed her wrist in my hand. Her pulse beat erratically under my fingertips
"My name is on the lease. If you're too scared, you can wait here."
"I'm not scared," she replied, her big blue eyes sparkling in the warm glow of the moon.
"Your heart is racing." I turned my body to face hers, her warm minty breath blowing across my face as her chest rose and fell between us. She sucked in a ragged breath, not saying a word. A loud banging broke us from our daze as I yanked Jenn's arm, pulling her down beside the car with me. She squealed at the sudden movement.
"Shhh…" I placed my thumb over her full lips to keep her from speaking, my palm against her warm, flushed cheek. We listened to the sound of footsteps leave my front porch and walk out into the road. A car door closed off in the distance and the engine revved to life before it pulled off into the night. I let my finger slide over Jenn's lower lip as she leaned her face into my hand. I swallowed hard and stood, breaking the contact between us.
"Come on." I held out my hand and she placed her fingers in mine as I pulled her up from the ground before taking a step back and letting my hands fall to my sides.
"Was that her?" Jenn asked as she trailed behind me toward the house.
"Yes." I swallowed hard trying to force the lump in my throat to disappear.
"Where was she going?"
I pulled the keys from my pocket and slipped them inside the locked, holding my breath as I turned the key and the door popped open.
"Doesn't matter." I stepped inside holding out my arm to keep Jenn back to make sure no one was inside. Roxy leaped into my arms nearly knocking me back outside. "Hey, girl!" I scratched her ears as she panted, licking my face.
"How did you know she would be leaving?" Jenn asked.
"Come on, girl." I pushed Roxy off me and headed back out the front door next to Jenn. I took a few steps off the porch and turned around to see Jenn still standing by the door with her arms folded over her chest.
"I will explain. Please, come get in the car."
She cocked her head to the side as if she didn't believe me.
"I promise, Jenn." I held out my hand, but she hesitated before taking it with hers and following me to the car.
I slipped my seat forward and called for Roxy to get in the back. I took a few deep breaths before sliding into the car next to Jenn, whose eyes never left me.
I pushed the button to start the car and pulled down to the end of the road before turning on the headlights.
"I think we should get a room. I'm not sure how much longer I can drive without sleep."
Jenn nodded but didn't respond.
"I'm good at getting information. Not much goes on that I don't know about in my life. All of our neighbors are military. I knew Chelsea was getting visitors from some guy when I wasn't home. I didn't want to believe it."
"She cheated on you?"
"She left me with nothing. I couldn't let her have my damn dog too." I looked over at her to make sure she understood. She nodded and I continued.
"I also knew that the man she had cheated on me with was leaving at all hours of the night doing volunteer dental work at the hospital outside of post. Only, that isn't where he was going."
Jenn raised eyebrow as we turned into the Holiday Inn parking lot.
"It wasn't my business anymore but no matter what she has done to me, he didn't deserve to get away with what he was doing to her. No one deserves to be hurt that way."
"Even though she did it to you?"
"It wasn't a completely selfless act." I smirked and reached between the seats, petting Roxy on the head. "I needed to get my dog back. Chelsea hates dogs."
"So you set him up to be caught?" she asked as she got out of the car and stretched with her arms over her head.
"He is out cheating on his own. I just made sure she knew where to look. Wouldn't you want to know?" I patted my leg and Roxy leapt from the backseat and stood by my side.
"Yes," she replied sadly as she joined me by my side and we walked toward the hotel.
"Your turn," I said as I pulled open the glass door to the hotel and stepped to the side so she could enter.
"My story isn't nearly as interesting."
We leaned against the counter and waited to book a room as my mind raced with what could have happened between Jenn and her ex.
I took care of booking us a room. We were only able to get a room with one queen-size bed, but I was assured that it had extra blankets and I wasn't too good for the floor. I had slept in much worse places. As we made our way to the third floor, I struggled to find the right words to let Jenn know it was okay to open up to me. But the bell to the elevator dung and the doors opened to our floor.
"Come on, Roxy." I slid the keycard in the door handle and unlocked our room, stepping aside for Roxy and Jenn to enter before closing it behind us and locking the bar lock at the top of the door.
I immediately went for the closet and grabbed the extra bedding from the shelf. Jenn went into the bathroom to remove her jeans. I pulled off my T-shirt and knocked on the bathroom door.
"I'll be right out."
After a moment, the door cracked open and Jenn peaked out at me, her eyes falling to my dog tags on my bare chest.
"I thought you might be more comfortable in a larger shirt."
She smiled and grabbed the shirt through the crack.
"No problem." I kicked off my shoes and turned on the television as Jenn came out of the bathroom, tugging at the bottom of my shirt. I couldn't begin to tell you what was on the news as she walked in front of me. Seeing her wearing nothing but my shirt sent my imagination into overdrive. The only time any other woman had worn my clothes had been after making love. She crawled into the bed and pulled the white comforter over her before turning off the lamp beside the bed.