Between the roped off barricades, the endless line sludged forward toward the train’s single check in attendant and opened door. Beeps and shuffled feet echoed against the steel and glass in the towering terminal as if taking flight.
Jerry stared down at his ticket and driver’s license. His square and weary face stared back from the slim piece of plastic.
“What about the mail?” asked Paula. She stared up at him while clutching her backpack to her belly like a child. “You remember what happened last time.”
“I do. I asked them to hold it until we got back,” said Jerry.
Paula gripped his elbow, her eyes wide. “What if there are packages?”
“You know, if my mom sent gifts or something for the holidays?”
Jerry sighed and shoved his duffle bag another few inches forward. “I’m sure the post office will hold those too.”
Paula lumbered forward with her second piece of luggage and sighed. “I hope so.”
Jerry pecked her on the top of the head, where her inky black hair parted to split into two braided pig tails. “Try to relax.”
Taking a deep breath, Paula blew out a long exhale. “The oven?”
“You locked the door?”
“I did,” answered Jerry. “I even double checked by rattling the knob.”
“Sorry,” Paula pouted and hunched in on her backpack like a withdrawing turtle.
“It’s fine,” said Jerry. “Everything’s fine.”
“That’s what you said about Milwaukee.”
Jerry winced. “Milwaukee was a mistake.”
“No, asking Bernice and Arnold for a ride was a mistake. That whole trip was an abomination.”
Paula gave him a wide stare and her lips condensed into a tight pucker. “You don’t remember getting called by the cops because of the car? How you lost both the tickets and then we had the wrong sized bags for carry-ons?”
Jerry rolled his eyes.
“Don’t roll your eyes at me,” snapped Paula. “Excuse me for asking a few questions now to try and keep this trip from devolving into such a disaster.”
“Right, ok.” Jerry held up his hands in muted surrender as they lumbered with the rest of the masses. “What else have I done while you’ve been slaving away at the office that you don’t think I’ve done, that you want to ask about?”
Paula stared straight ahead. “Some of us are more accountable to others than some.”
“Shit, do you really want to have this discussion again? Here?” Jerry waved at the crowd and nearly smacked into the clustered family behind them. “I thought you were ok with how this has been going?” he asked, reining in his hands and lowering his voice.
Scowling, Paula looked out the tinted window where the gleaming train cars waited. “I am.”
“Look at me,” asked Jerry. Paula cast her gaze up toward the ticking clock far overhead. “Paula.”
Sighing, she met Jerry’s gaze. “I am, really.” She shrugged her shoulders. “You’re business is great, and I like my job. What more is there to say?”
“They why this,” Jerry waggled his hand in the heavy tension in the air between them.
“When I’m at the office all the time, I don’t feel like I get to do anything at the house or plan for things. I just have to…”
“Trust me?” Jerry cocked an eyebrow.
Shaking her head, Paula inspected her bags zipper to hide her small grin. Silence hung for a few moments as they paraded forward like molasses.
“Go on,” nudged Jerry.
Paula gave him a relieved smile. “The car?”
“Locked and clamped.”
“They’re going to have Abby water the plants and promised to keep an eye on the house.” Jerry gave her a thin smile. “They’re good neighbors. They’ll call if they see anything.”
Paula bobbed her head as the details continued churning. “You got directions to the hotel?”
Jerry patted his coat’s breast pocket.
“Picked up the currency?”
“From the bank on Wednesday.”
Frowning, Paula looked down at her fingers. “Do you really think this is a good idea? I mean, your deadlines…my project…”
Jerry shook his head and wrapped one arm around Paula’s shoulder. With their carryon bags and luggage beneath their feet, he managed a weak hug but Paula leaned into the embrace. “It is, babe. We have to live.”
The couple before them lumbered through the last door and the weary attendant at the check in desk held out an expectant hand.
Jerry hefted his bag and offered his ticket and identification.
Unzipping her packs small pouch, Paula retrieved hers.
“Thank you,” said the attendant, splitting the tickets along their perforated edges and handing them back.
“Thanks,” said Jerry as Paula gave the sagging fellow a smile.
They passed out onto the concrete platform, the sliding doors closing behind them, blocking off the real world and real world worries as the train rumbled, ready to whisk them away.