5 comments

Contemporary

(Trigger warning: homophobic language)

They had been in line for hours, their rusted red hatchback pinned between a truck and minivan. Not knowing how long it would be until they got on a ferry, they had set up camp at a picnic table nearby, close enough to their car so Rick could keep an eye on it. Everything they owned was in that car. They had sold all the rest. 

 

"Just fucking ridiculous. Is everyone and their dog trying to get to the island today?" 

 

"I did ask you if we should book a reservation," Lynn said quietly. 

 

"Well, why didn't you just book one then?"

 

But Lynn knew it was better not to answer this question. She kicked nervously at a long-discarded cigarette butt, as her husband Rick lit a new one which would almost certainly join its used up cousin on the ground. Lynn's nose wrinkled as Rick's first cloud of smoke reached her

 

"Can you sit downwind of me, please, if you're going to do that?" Lynn said, waving away the smoke.

 

Rick responded by blowing his next drag in her face. "You could move." 

 

Lynn was already on her feet. She had spotted a small coffee cart further up the terminal and headed towards it.

 

"Don't go too far," Rick called out after her.

 

Lynn ignored him and kept walking. A risky move, especially today. Rick was moody and on edge and this waiting was not helping. He was anxious to get to their destination.

 

She had just ordered a chamomile tea when the message to return to their cars blared over the loudspeaker. Rick was waving frantically at her. Lynn walked quickly back to the car without her tea. It was finally time to go.

 

Rick's mood lifted once they were on the ferry and Lynn breathed more easily too. "Let's go upstairs to the deck. Have a look at the ocean. You'll love the ocean."

 

Lynn sighed. He'd been saying this for weeks, ever since he had got the idea into his head for them to move. You'll love the ocean, Lynn, it'll be a fresh start for us. You'll love the ocean, sea air is supposed to be good for you.

 

“I’m sure the ocean is great but I don’t want to move,” she had told him, “My family is here and Carla is here. I really wish –”

 

That is when he had slapped her. It wasn't really a surprise. She knew as soon the words had left her mouth that it had been a mistake to mention Carla. And so, he had turned in his notice to work and the landlord, and here they were on a ferry.

 

They squeezed between the tightly packed cars and climbed the stairs to the upper deck. Lynn looked back at the land as it pulled away, the ferry leaving the water churning, white and frothy behind them.

 

“See, isn’t this great? Maybe we’ll see whales.”

 

Lynn didn’t answer. She was being so quiet today. Rick shrugged and took out his cigarettes.

 

“I don’t think you’re supposed to smoke here.”

 

Rick rolled his eyes. “God, will you stop harping on about the smoking," he said as he lit the cigarette, "Jeezus, I can never do anything right around you. Moving day is supposed to be fun, you know.”

 

After Rick had finished his cigarette, they walked along the deck, finding a bench to sit on near the front. The sun was out but a strong wind had whipped up once they'd left the harbour. Lynn could see a bird above the ship, a seagull maybe, coasting on the breeze. They sat mostly in silence, with Rick making the occasional trip to the railing to “look for whales”, but Lynn knew it was just to hawk over the side.

 

“We should be getting there soon, I think,” Lynn remarked.

 

“Don't sound so excited.”

 

“I… just… I just miss…” Lynn started, wringing her hands as she tried to find the words.

 

“If you’re going to say you miss that dyke who nearly ruined our marriage –”

 

“Please don’t call her that,” Lynn said, almost in a whisper.

 

Rick smirked and said, “Well, that’s what she is.” .

 

“Nothing happened. I swear.”

 

“Look, I know you're not like that ok, babe. She’s just a bad influence. I don’t like the way she looks at you.”

 

Lynn had gone back to staring at the horizon. Rick continued, “But, we don’t have to worry about that anymore. You –”

 

An announcement cut him off. “Attention all passengers. We are arriving at the terminal. Vehicle passengers, please return to your vehicles at this time and prepare to disembark.”

 

Lynn had gotten up and was leaning against the railing, looking out at the water. A strand of hair had come loose from her ponytail and was floating around in the wind like it was lighter than air.

 

Rick joined her by the railing and continued, “Look Lynn, try to be happy, for me, okay? I’ve planned out this whole move for us, so we can try again, away from everyone who’s trying to pull us apart. I’ve done all of this for you, babe. This move is our new beginning. Just you and me. You should at least try to be excited.”

 

“Lynn?” Rick reached out and tucked the stray hair behind her ear, as tenderly as he could.

 

Lynn started a little and looked at him, meeting his gaze only for a moment. Her eyes were a bit wet. She cleared her throat and said, “Yes, you’re right. I am excited,” and then went back to staring at the ocean.

 

“Well, umm,” Rick said a bit lamely, “We should go down to the car.”

 

They crossed to the deck to the stairwell and were about to head down when Lynn stopped.

 

“I umm… I…”

 

“What is it?” Rick asked.

 

“I have to go to the bathroom,” Lynn blurted out.

 

“We have to get down to the car. You should have gone earlier.” Rick pulled on Lynn’s arm but she pulled away, staying at the top of the stairs, planting her feet.  

 

“I uh… I just have to go. I have to go. Now.”

 

"Ok, well, I'll wait for you."

 

"No, no, babe, you go get settled in the car. I'll be right behind you." She kissed him on the cheek. It was something she hadn’t done in years. 

 

Rick smiled. Perhaps this move was really going to be a fresh start for them. “Alright, ok. But don’t take too long”.

 

Rick walked down the stairs to the lower level and back to their car. He checked his phone and calculated they would make it to their new apartment with enough time to unpack a bit and order a late dinner before things closed. They could order Chinese, a treat for their first night in their new home. He drummed his fingers on the stirring wheel. The lights of the cars at the front of the ferry were starting to turn on. Now the line beside him was starting to move. Where the hell was Lynn? 

 

Rick opened his door and began to get out. A woman directing the cars off the ferry started towards him, "Sir, you have to stay in your car." 

 

"You don't understand, my wife, I have to go and –"   

 

"Sir, I'm sorry but you have to get back in your car. You're blocking traffic." She did not really give the impression she was sorry at all. 

 

Reluctantly, Rick got back in, feeling the glare of the woman remain on him until he closed his door. He was fuming now. She’s probably texting that bitch. He picked up his phone.

 

The car in front of his turned on and started to move. The ferry worker waved at him keep the line moving but Rick's head was down in his phone. She rapped sharply on the driver's side window. Rick rolled it down trying to control his breathing. "Listen, lady. I can't go until my wife gets back down here."

 

"Sir, I'm sure she's just decided to get off with the other walk-on passengers."

 

People behind him were starting to honk now. The woman seemed as unimpressed with this as she did with Rick holding up the line, "Just one moment, please," she yelled and then turned back to Rick's window, and attempted to smile reassuring. "I’m sorry sir, but you have to exit the ferry. You can meet your wife once you've gotten off. Just follow the signs to the passenger drop off area. Ok?"

 

Another honk. "Fine," Rick growled and started his engine. He followed the snake of cars out of the ferry terminal and circled back around to the parking lot. He grabbed for his phone and dialed Lynn’s number. It rang and rang but only her voicemail picked up.

 

“Lynn, where the hell are you. I’m outside. Why didn’t you come back to the car? Call me back.”

 

He watched as passengers filed out of the terminal, being picked up waiting cars or taxis. He did not see Lynn among them and soon there was nobody left.

 

“Jeezus christ, Lynn. I leave you alone for one fucking moment.” He called her again. This time, he thought he heard a faint buzzing coming from inside the car. Looking around, Rick saw Lynn’s purse tucked beneath the glove compartment on the floor of the car. He reached for it and tossed its contents onto the seat, swearing under his breath. Lynn’s vibrating phone fell out and so did a white envelope. Written on the front was his name.

 

The ferry horn sounded as it pulled away from the terminal, preparing to go back the way that it had come. As soon as she felt the vessel shudder into movement, Lynn emerged from the bathroom. She hadn’t been sure if they would check the stalls once the ferry had docked, so she had locked the door and squatted on the toilet seat. She had been squatting there so long her feet had fallen asleep, but in the end, no one had checked. Lynn tried to act casual as she walked along the deck, feeling like everyone was looking at her.  Finding a quiet corner, she pulled out the burner phone she had kept hidden in the inside jacket pocket. Her hands shook as she dialed the number.

 

“Carla, It’s me. I did it. It’s done. I’m on my way home.”

October 10, 2020 03:26

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5 comments

Zinnia Hansen
05:37 Nov 22, 2020

I read both the stories you posted. Your writing is vivid and concise. This story is absolutely devastating. The setting was perfect. I live in Washington State, so I am on ferries a-lot. There is this particular feeling that I think comes from the anxiety of trying to make the boat, the tranquility of the water, and the claustrophobic bathrooms and hallways.

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Shea West
06:04 Oct 11, 2020

The lengths abused women have to go to, just to get away is so devastating. I loved the detail of leaving her purse/identity behind as if she didn't need it where she was going. That she was willing to sacrifice it all just to get away and get back to where home was. Well done!

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June K
18:50 Nov 02, 2020

I know people say this a lot, but, this story is underrated. Your writing is underrated.

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Julia Boddie
17:24 Oct 12, 2020

Perfection! It's amazing!!!

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Izzie P.
17:23 Apr 23, 2021

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