Across three lanes of slow-moving traffic, yellow flowers undulate in the gentle breeze. Evelyn tries to light them on fire with her stare. Her eyes water but she is rationing her blinks. Any movement is weakness. She is a stone pillar of concentrated rage.
To her right, she can hear Robbie on the phone. “Yeah, I know. It sucks. Yeah. You’re telling me.”
Two cars in the middle lane are trying to merge right to deposit their passengers by the “DEPARTURES” sign. Their blinkers are synced up perfectly. Normally, Evelyn would delight in pointing this chance coincidence out to Robbie, but today is not a normal day.
“Yeah, okay, Jenny. You’re the best.” The beep of a disconnected phone call. Robbie’s voice is closer now. “My sister’s turning around. She should be here pretty soon. Did you want to wait inside?”
The dying breeze carries the goldenrod pollen across the road to the sidewalk and into Evelyn’s nose. She feels the reactionary itch. She holds her breath and clenches her stomach to keep the sneeze from clawing its way down her nasal passages. Evelyn loses the battle and the sneeze explodes with a snort that rakes the back of her throat. Successive sneezes contort her body into a “C.”
Robbie glances to his left. “Bless you?”
With great dignity, she wipes snot on her sleeve and semi-successfully stifles her coughs. She resumes her cold stance.
“You want some water? Evie, water?”
Evelyn knows the bottle is empty. He chugged it before they went through security. But he forgot that. Because Robbie’s a forgetter.
She knew, the moment he turned to her with those wide, blue eyes, that he had forgotten them. He still went through the dance of patting his pockets then rifling through his suitcase, the suitcase that Evelyn, caving after days of nagging him, had packed. The girl at the counter had sounded genuinely apologetic as she said, “I’m sorry. We can’t let you on without passports.”
There is a crinkle of plastic followed by “Shoot. Out of water.”
Evelyn had taken care of everything, as per usual. He only had one thing to remember.
Well, technically two things, she could hear him joking. She stares at the flowers again. Nope, not even smoking.
A car creeps past. It honks twice and the passenger leans out the window. The woman waves, pointing and calling, “Congrats!”
“Thanks!” Robbie shouts back.
Evelyn crosses her arms over her T-shirt, covering the swirling script proclaiming “Just Married!” Robbie wears a matching one. Tears are collecting in her eyes. She tilts her head to keep gravity from spilling them. She wishes her eyes could suck them back up like a straw. She will not weep. She will not be her whimpering mother. She is righteous fury. A tear trickles down the curve of her nose. She swipes it away with the back of her hand.
“You want me to go get some water? I saw a vending machine inside.” There is a long pause. “I’ll be right back.”
Her back aches from rage induced rigidity. The anger comes naturally in these circumstances but the performative aspect, making sure he knows just how angry she is, is exhausting. She leans on her suitcase, one hip hanging off. A bead of sweat blooms on her forehead. It feels like her brain has expanded and is too large for her skull. A fly circles her head. Its buzz sounds like a zipper going up and down, up and down.
A woman struggles to pull two wheeling suitcases at the same time. One tips on its side and Evelyn hurries to right it.
“Oh, gosh, thank you! Ah!” The woman notices Evelyn’s T-shirt. “How exciting!”
Evelyn scrounges up a half smile. “Yeah, exciting.”
“Well, have fun on your honeymoon,” the stranger giggles conspiratorially.
“Mmm,” Evelyn responds but the woman has already gone through the automatic doors.
Evelyn returns to her baggage and pulls a book of Greek myths from her carry-on. When he returns, she’ll be contemptuously poised, a dignified monument to disappointed women everywhere. After another rocket launch sneeze, she randomly opens the book to the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, the one where the woman is condemned to the underworld because typical man Orpheus couldn’t handle one task on his own. How appropriate.
Orpheus, in a moment of forgetfulness-
“Evie, would you like to split it?”
Orpheus, in a moment of forgetfulness, turns-
A partially unwrapped Hershey bar rests on the next page. She ignores it until she has reached the paragraph is it obscuring. The candy bar has a slight sheen of chocolatey sweat from the brutal, August heat. She brushes it off and it falls to the sidewalk, leaving a small brown smudge on the page.
“I. am. SORRY!”
Everyone in the vicinity is looking at them.
“Keep your voice down,” Evelyn hisses. She slams her book shut and shoves it back in her bag.
“I am sorry! I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I messed up! I don’t know what to say!”
“There is nothing you can say,” Evelyn mutters.
“I’ll look into flights for tomorrow-”
“There is no flight tomorrow! Not that we can afford!”
Evelyn hears her how shrill her voice is becoming. Her father calls it her fishmonger’s wife voice.
“I don’t… know what to do,” Robbie pouts.
Evelyn seethes but tempers her tone. “I don’t need you do to anything. I needed you to remember one thing but apparently that was just too difficult.”
Then he says it. “Technically two things.”
Evelyn leans down and grabs the candy bar in her fist. The simmering sidewalk has transformed it into a gloppy puddle. She smears the brown mess on Robbie’s post-wedding themed shirt. It’s so infantile but it feels so good. Globs slide down the “Ju” and “Mar.”
Robbie looks at the mess. He rubs his hand on the brown streaks then reaches towards Evelyn with a grin.
She scoots back, her arms raised defensively over her own shirt. “Careful,” she snarks. “I might need this again someday.”
Robbie’s grin evaporates. He wipes his hand on his shirt and sits on the ground. "Fuck, Evie,” he mumbles. “You can be so mean.”
“I didn’t mean it.” She wonders if she did. “Robbie, I…” Her voice cracks and threatens to crumble. She practices her controlled Pilates breathing and stabilizes. “Robbie. I did everything. I planned the wedding, planned the honeymoon. I packed your socks like Mommy.”
He hugs his knees. “But you’re so good at that stuff. I just mess it up.”
He’s seven inches taller than Evelyn but folded up on the ground, he looks like a little boy.
“Be honest, Evelyn,” he grunts. “If I had tried to do anything, you would have gotten mad that I wasn’t doing it the way you wanted me to.”
“The one time I ask you to do something, the passports are still at your Mom’s and we’re spending the first day of our marriage driving to and then from an airport.”
She had asked him so many times. She’d offered to pick them up herself. Every time he told her he’d take care of it, that his Mom’s house was on his way to work. Why didn’t she just do it herself? Why should she have to?
“Maybe you’re not husband material.” It’s her mother’s acerbic phrase, tipsily whispered at the engagement party and resurrected in the open air outside by the airport drop off. She can’t believe she said that. She wishes she could take it back; wishes she had said it yesterday.
“Yeah. You’re probably right. You’re always right, Evelyn.”
He looks so deflated, like a blow-up Santa in a puddle on the lawn after Christmas. Celebration’s over. It’s January, kids.
It hadn’t sunk in, the concreteness of marriage, until they were standing in front of that sympathetic check-in girl. He had looked turned towards Evelyn with a boyish, guilty expression that seemed to say, “I sowwy.” Suddenly, Evelyn had understood that this was her husband and all his wonderful attributes, his free spirit and lightness, didn’t seem so lovable when staring down the barrel of “‘til death do us part.” This was her forever partner. Laid Back Robbie. So laid back he’s practically horizontal. The future is so clear: the disappointment, the simmering resentment, all culminating in a bitter divorce and the validation of her mother’s whispered words.
“Evie,” says the voice by her feet. “I’m sorry. You have no idea how sorry I am. If we can’t get to France, I’ll… I’ll take you to Paris, Georgia right now. Or that Eiffel Tower in Las Vegas. Drive through the night. I wrote it down on a sticky note. Get the passports. I don’t know where I put the sticky note, but I am so sorry I didn’t remember. All I was thinking was how excited I was to get to marry you.” He looks up at her. His smile is loose, as if the barely perceptible breeze may carry it away.
Evelyn sees two futures so clearly. She chooses one. She kneels to Robbie’s level and, with her still chocolatey hand, wipes her palm repeatedly on her T-shirt, leaving multiple brown smears across the looping text.
“Look,” she grins. “Officially retired.”
Evelyn traces his ear with the tip of her fingertip then trailing it down the curve of his jaw, darkening with his five o’clock shadow. He was a truly beautiful man. Simple and beautiful and more than she deserved.
“Of course you’re not husband material yet,” she tells him. “You’ve only been a husband for six hours. I’m not really wife material either. I threw a tantrum then some candy.”
Evelyn reaches for the strap of her carry-on bag. She drags the bag closer and rummages until she finds a small, red notebook. She flips through it, displaying the pages covered in handwritten notes. “I’m not an organizational genius. I keep track of everything in my planner so it’s all in one place. What if, sometime this week, I get you one?”
“Yeah, sure. If it’ll make you happy.”
Evelyn inhales. “No, Robbie, it’s not… Okay. I’ll get you a planner.” She turns the pages until she finds a square that reads, “August 11. WEDDING!!!” She rubs her thumb on her chocolate stained shirt then presses it over the word, “WEDDING.” It leaves a brown print. “There,” she laughs. “To commemorate our first fight as a married couple.”
As Robbie kisses Evelyn, a car honks at them. The green Mini Cooper pulls up to the curb. The front passenger window rolls down and Jenny yells, “Get a room, Lovebirds!”
Robbie pushes himself off the ground and then pulls Evelyn to her feet. They gather their baggage together. Evelyn picks the Hersey wrapper up and tosses it in a nearby trashcan. She doesn’t mention to Robbie that he never did get her water.
“I’m sorry I ruined our honeymoon,” Robbie says, hefting Evelyn’s carry-on onto his shoulder.
“It’s not ruined,” she responds. “Just delayed. And maybe modified.”
“Still, I wish I had remembered the passports. Next time, remind me.” Robbie trots to the Mini Cooper. “Hey, Jenny. Thanks for coming back.”
Evelyn looks wearily at the goldenrod weeds across the road. It’s amazing how well they grow amidst the concrete and exhaust fumes. She wishes them well. She feels a slight tickle in her nose but it passes.
Robbie’s voice booms from inside the car. “What, you’ve never heard of the post nuptial food fight?”
An elderly couple in Hawaiian shirts shuffle past. The man points to Evelyn’s own shirt.
The wife claps her hands together. “A whole new chapter!” she crows.
“A new chapter?” the man jokes. “How do I skip to the next one?”
His wife smacks his shoulder. “Hank, stop it. God bless, Sweetheart,” she smiles at Evelyn.
Robbie pokes his head out the car window. “You coming?”
Evelyn sighs and walks towards the car. The suitcase wheels click as they rumble across the cracks in the sidewalk. It seems heavier now than it did earlier. She’s probably just tired.