The tension was as thick as the mist of the winding mountain road. Mile markers seemed to fly by as quickly as the minutes. A gentle hum from the heater and the beating of the windshield wipers were the soundtracks to our otherwise silent journey.
“I think we’re lost,” My wife’s voice pierced the still air of our Toyota Camry. “Why don’t you pull up the address on your phone and put it on the dashboard?”
I hesitated momentarily before unlocking my phone and typing in our destination. I placed the phone on the dash as requested. I bowed my head and looked out the passenger side window.
I glanced back at my wife as she dug a cigarette from her purse.
“Could you not smoke that in the car?” I asked tentatively. “I hate it when you smoke in the car.”
She shot me a look that penetrated my soul, “You don’t get to ask me to do anything. Not after what you did.”
“You know that I’m sorry,” I sighed. “I’d take it all back if I could.”
She lit the cigarette and took a long drag.
“Why are you doing this, Cassidy?” I asked. “Why are you shutting me out?”
“Shutting you out?” she coughed out the smoke from her lungs. “What the hell do you know about being shut out? We’re in this mess because of you. We’re going to this damned couples retreat because I gave you an undeserved second chance. Don’t you dare talk to me about being shut out.”
I turned my body towards her, “It was a mistake, I swear. It meant noth—”
“A mistake?” she cut me off. “A mistake is forgetting to load the laundry. A mistake is forgetting to pay the phone bill. A mistake is making a wrong turn at a stop light. What you did was not a mistake. You made a choice!”
Tears carved their way down her cheeks now. The cigarette in her mouth burned bright orange as she breathed another long drag into her lungs. I sat staring at her, a deer caught in her headlights. She looked old to me now. No longer the young, carefree woman of my youth. Something was broken, and it was clear that I had broken it.
The screeching of the wind filled the air as she lowered her window and flicked the butt of her cigarette out into the cold mountain air.
“You’re right,” I resigned. “It was a choice. But believe me when I say it meant nothing.”
“I don’t,” she said under her breath.
The mist turned to snow as we climbed higher into the mountains. Fitting, I thought. I looked back out the passenger side window and watched the snowflakes fly by. Like them, I wished I could float off into the distance.
I closed my eyes.
A loud ding rang out from my phone on the dash. My eyes shot open, then darted to the phone. My veins filled with ice, and my heart pounded in my chest. There was no doubt that Cassidy saw the text:
“Samantha: I love you too.”
I opened my mouth, but no excuse escaped. Cassidy stared straight ahead through the snow. She stared at the crumbling world before her. I watched as her jaw clenched, relaxed, and clenched again. Then she smiled, a beautiful, blissful, and relinquished smile.
Ahead a curve was approaching. The engine revved.
Nathan McCoy is a 27-year-old husband and father of two. He is currently in college at Fullsail University for creative writing.