The plane trembled for a moment, shifting up and down as it sorted itself out through the clouds. Allie closed her eyes, unfraid of the turbulence but still terrified of the disorder she’d left behind in New York.
The decision to leave Bernardo had arrived with the invitation from her friend to go on a trip. A simple text arriving a month ago with a one-sentence question that ultimately would change Allie’s life.
Want to go to North Carolina with me?
There was something about the straightforwardness of the question that made Allie decide in an instant that she was going to go with Morgan. But not only that, Allie was going to finally leave her husband. This simply felt like the natural thing to do. It was a legitimate offer to get away and Allie took it. But she also took it knowing she wasn’t going back. She would stay away. Far, far away.
“You seem nervous,” Morgan said in the seat next to her facing the window.
“I’m fine. Just tired.”
She hadn’t told her friend about everything. Not yet. Allie planned to, especially since reading the texts that Bernardo had been sending to her.
Unfortunately for everybody I didn’t kill the bastard.
He didn’t know she was still friends with Morgan, but eventually her husband would find out. He would figure out what had happened and where she’d gone. And chances were good that he’d come find her, too. So Morgan needed to know. But later. Not at this moment.
“We’ll be there in less than two hours,” Morgan said, grabbing her hand and squeezing it. “Aren’t you glad that it didn’t work out with Sterling?”
“I’m not happy for you, but yes, I’m very happy for me that I can accompany you.”
“Sterling had wanted something tropical. Probably so he could be around a bunch of women in bikinis. The jerk. I swear. Between you and me, we could write a book on getting the wrong guys.”
Allie glanced at her beautiful friend and smiled. “You could write that book. With the emphasis on guys. With a big fat ‘S’. I’d just write a book on living with a monster.”
Morgan gave her a sad and sympathetic look, so very familiar this past year. “I’m sorry for bringing that up.”
“It’s fine. Really.”
“You were quiet last night. Do you want to talk about anything?”
Last night I was wondering whether I left my husband for dead.
“Not now. Let’s just celebrate getting away to the resort in the mountains.”
“You’re going to love it,” Morgan said. “I promise you. Let’s hope for lots of snow.”
“Sounds good to me.”
She had known Morgan since college, but it had only been since moving back to Manhattan that the two of them had reconnected. Allie still found it hard that her friend had so many guy troubles. Everybody said Morgan resembled Jennifer Aniston, not the young woman on television but the star gracing the movies these days. There was a strength and sophistication about Morgan that Allie felt like she’d never have. People called her friend warm and sexy while using words like elegant and aloof to describe Allie. A few years ago, that would have bothered her, back when she and Bernardo were living in Los Angeles keeping up with that insane lifestyle. Now it didn’t matter how someone described her.
Tired and old and scared.
The tired and old parts didn’t bother Allie, but the scared part did. She had lived a long time—thirty-plus years—without being scared of anything or anyone. But suddenly fear had deluged her entire existence just like those crippling twin tsunamis last year. Everything changed. Nothing was spared.
The only difference was that Allie could move on from the wreckage and reclaim her courage. This was that moment. Now and tonight and tomorrow and the rest of her life.
Allie glanced back down the aisle and noticed it was empty. She told Morgan she’d be right back, then unbuckled herself and walked to the back of the plane. The glances of several men followed her but she ignored them, mostly because she felt so disheveled. She was glad to close and lock the folding door behind her.
For a moment, she held onto the edge of the sink while she bent down and looked into the small mirror. The sensation filled her again, starting in her stomach and working its way up. Soon she felt her jaw tighten, the surge almost ready to spill out again like it had in the airport earlier this morning. The dizzy sight and the dry mouth and the gurgling stomach almost made her vomit. But Allie didn’t have anything left inside her. A few dry heaves and then she was fine.
The lukewarm water ran over her cupped hands. She splashed her face, then wiped her mouth. Then as she took a paper towel and dried it, Allie studied the face she didn’t recognize. Nothing about it was pretty anymore, or young, or energetic. It stared back at her with a sad and sorry look of contempt.
Allie placed a hand on the mirror, wanting to block out the face. Instead of feeling the smooth surface of the glass, she felt nothing.
Her hand simply disappeared.
She could see it half gone up to her wrist. And not only that, her right hand lost behind the mirror was cold. Brutally cold. The kind of cold that could give you frostbite real fast.
Allie pulled her hand back as if it was in some kind of rabid dog’s mouth. It was fine. The mirror looked the same as it had and so did her long fingers.
She touched her right hand with the left and noticed how cold it felt. Her eyes moved back to the mirror, but it didn’t look any different. So she tried again, this time with her other hand.
The same thing happened. It sunk inside the glass, behind the surface, disappearing to look like she was missing fingers, then an entire hand. It was as if she was dipping her hand into the dark waters of a lake at evening time.
A part of her wanted to put her whole arm inside the mirror. To put her head inside and look inside. If this was some kind of wacky dream, she wanted to see where it went. She wanted it to play itself out.
There was a jostling at the door with someone trying to open it. This got her attention and made her pull back her left hand.
It was frigid just like her other hand had been.
What just happened here?
She examined the mirror before leaving but couldn’t see anything unusual. The plane bounced a bit, prompting Allie to hurry back to her seat. Morgan smiled and asked if she was okay.
Allie didn’t wonder or worry about whether she was seeing things or maybe even losing her mind. She wasn’t coughing up blood or feeling a broken rib or being held a prisoner in her apartment to avoid anybody outside seeing the bruises on her face. There wasn’t a monster hovering over her anymore, screaming at something she’d done or clutching at something he wanted.
Yeah. I’m fine. As long as Bernardo doesn’t show up to kill me, I’ll be fine.
She stared at her hands and wondered if she really knew what that word meant anymore. Maybe fine was a feeling for other people. Maybe there was never a way to get back to the simplicity and the normalcy of it.
Could you ever replace the dire and the despair with a life of fine?
I hope and I plan to and I will.