Authors: Katie Kacvinsky
Also by Katie Kacvinsky
First Comes Love
Copyright © 2014 by Katie Kacvinsky
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, distributed, stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher, except for brief quotes used by reviewers.
: Copyright © 2014 by Katie Kacvinsky
US map outlines credited to: www.freeusandworldmaps.com
Thanks for providing the real-life inspiration that helped write the ending of this book
PART ONE: THE ROUTE
~ Fifteen months after the break-up ~
I’m leaning against the side of my car in a parking lot in Omaha, Nebraska, and I’m watching a girl. White smoke curls around the open hood of her station wagon, and I can only make out a skinny leg and a faded, gray tennis shoe.
The sun bakes on the blacktop
between us and I swear the ground is so hot it has a pulse. I’ve been outside an entire thirty seconds and my forehead is already drenched in sweat. I can feel it beading on my neck and sliding down my back like a tiny fingertip tracing my spine. It’s the kind of humid heat that touches everything, even the thickest spots of shade, and it’s too heavy and stubborn for a gust of wind to blow.
She takes one step back and I notice a baggy blue skirt stick to her knees in the stagnant air. The rest of her body is lost inside a white cloud. I slowly walk towards her to see if she needs help.
She tries to wave the blanket of smoke out of her face with a long, skinny arm, as wiry as a tree limb. She takes another step back and her face comes into view. I freeze. I melt.
Oh. My. God. It couldn’t be.
I stare at her like she’s haunting me. Maybe I’m hallucinating. What is Dylan doing in Omaha, Nebraska of all places? She coughs and takes another step back and manages to smear engine grease across the side of her face. There’s no doubt that it’s her. She’s the same, all six feet of her long, lanky body. The only difference is her hair is cut short, tied back in two, messy pigtails that barely graze the top of her shoulders.
She glances around the parking lot, her eyes passing over me at first and then they focus and then they hold and expand to twice their normal size. Her mouth falls open like she’s staring at an apparition. I wonder if I am, if I’m dreaming up this entire scenario. Maybe I fell asleep at the wheel. Maybe any second I’ll collide head
-on with an eighteen-wheel semi truck. I would almost prefer that nightmare to this reality.
the last year trying to purge every memory of Dylan from my mind. It was a Dylan Detox. I listened to
, by Counting Crows, and let the melancholy verses nurse me back to emotional health. It’s nice to know somebody out there understands. Music can save you from yourself. It’s like a friend whispering,
Hey, it’s alright.
I’ve been there.
I got through it and so will you
. It’s my self-prescribed medication for post relationship therapy. I convinced myself those song lyrics carried into my own life, my own situation with Dylan, and it all was starting to make sense. It helped me to move on.
But Anna doesn’t come back at the end of that song. She doesn’t suddenly reappear
at a road stop in Middle America and say ‘Hey, remember me?’
What do I do now? Adam Duritz, where are your song lyrics for this prophetic situation?
I used to hope that one day I would run into Dylan again, but Hope can be a dangerous demon disguised as an angel. Hope works alongside Fate and Luck and Timing, and they’re all co-founders of the conspiracy group I like to call Team Asshole.
We both stand there, facing each o
ther like we’re
statues glued to the asphalt parking
lot. I hear car engines moan to life and tires peel away and I wonder if I died and went to hell. What do you do when you run into the ex-love-of-your-life? Say hello? Hug? Shake hands? Run for your life? I’m afraid to open my mouth. I might scream.
smiles, this elated, glowing smile as if our chance meeting should be serenaded with a marching band and fireworks.
Gray? What are you doing here?” she asks me, as if I’m the one that’s out of place in this picture. Her voice knocks me back to reality and I have to take a side step or I’ll fall over. It’s amazing how just the sound of a voice can make your entire stomach cramp and your head spin and your heart convulse in one simultaneous jerk.
“I played ball out here this summer,” I say, a little roughly.
“Oh,” she says and nods. “Was it a summer sports camp?”
I almost laugh
at her question. “Summer sports camp? Otherwise known as minor league baseball,” I clarify for her. Her knowledge of sports is up there with my knowledge of cosmetics. I cross my arms over my chest, displaying the muscles that I’ve worked on building for the last three years, as if to back up my statement.
doing here?” I demand.
For a tiny, split second I get the crazy feeling
Dylan followed me here because she desperately missed me. She showed up to surprise me at a roadway oasis to confess she can’t live without me, that if she graphed all the happiest times in her life, all of her peaks exist because of
. Her indifferent shrug dismisses this idea.
“I was on the highway until Orson decided to crap out,” she explains and points to the open hood. I walk up to her latest beater-mobile. Where did she get this car, a junkyard? The station wagon looks like the one my grandparents used to drive that we called the ‘grocery-getter,’ complete with wood paneling along the sides. I stop a few feet away from
Dylan, careful to give us some distance. The engine is still steaming.
I look inside at the fried motor that’s expelling fumes of burnt oil,
and back at her. I know her too well to sympathize with this situation. One thing obviously hasn’t changed.
“What is it with you and owning piece of shit cars?” I ask her
, looking into her eyes.
“Ssh,” she says and covers her lips with one finger. She rubs the fender like she’s stroking an animal’s head. “He can hear you.” She looks down at the singed engine
with concern. “Someone has to love him,” she says.
“Cars aren’t dogs,
Dylan,” I inform her. “They don’t have abandonment issues.”
She just blinks back at me like she never considered this.
“They’re meant to be
,” I state, two words that probably don’t exist in her vocabulary.
smiles and lifts the bottom of her white t-shirt to wipe off sweat dripping down her forehead. I can’t help but notice her bare stomach and it gives me a momentary brain lapse. Her skin has always had that affect on me. A fifteen-month separation might erase some feelings, even memories, but you can never erase that unstable, uncontrollable, unexplained phenomenon called attraction.
“I always thought interior lighting was the most important car feature,” she tells me. “Ambiance is critical. This one has red interior lights. It’s like Christmas every day.”
I look at her messy pigtails.
“When did you chop off your hair?” I ask, since the last time I saw her, it fell halfway down her back.
She grabs a pigtail between her fingers and examines the choppy end of it. “After you White-Fanged me in Albuquerque,” she says.
I lean in close enough to see the blue, brown and green swirls that swim in her eyes. Her eyes meet mine and a chill runs down my back, even in the sauna
-like heat of the late summer day.
“After I what?” I ask and a voice interrupts us
, calling out my name. I spin around and Rachel is standing on the curb next to the restaurant entrace, regarding each of us with interest. She adjusts the yellow cardigan open over her navy blue sundress. Her light brown hair is parted on the side and pulled back in a low ponytail.
here you are. They seated us inside,” she says to me. She looks curiously at Dylan who is looking at her and they both turn and look at me. I connect an awkward triangle of stares. Behind Rachel is the entrance to The Palm Tree Cafe. I’m still wondering who decided to name a restaurant in Omaha after a tree that would never naturally grow here.
“Rachel, this is
Dylan,” I say as she walks up to us.
reaches out her dirty hand. Her long, skinny fingers look like they were soaked in black grease. Rachel extends her own clean, small, manicured one. If hands express any sign of personality characteristics, these two are complete opposite. Dylan grabs Rachel’s hand in a firm hold and gives it one solid pump, her signature shake. Rachel takes her hand away and examines the track of gray fingerprints pressed on her skin like stamps. She rubs her hands together and studies Dylan.
“How do you two know each other?” Rachel asks.
“We…,” my voice trails off because our past is as easy to summarize as the plotline to a TV drama. I look at Dylan for help and she takes care of making the introductions.