Mary and Sean were leaving Idaho, driving through the Clearwater National Forest, heading into Montana. Mary was taking the first shift, hoping that her nausea wouldn’t flare up again.
“I was never really aware of how big the world was until I helped my stepmother move,” she said. “When I was young my world ended at the Bainbridge Ferry.”
“She’s in Santa Fe, right?” said Sean.
“Yes, she’s been down there for fifteen years, since the divorce. She loves it there. It’s too dry for me.”
“Do you ever hear from your stepfather? He’s still in Seattle isn’t he?”
“He lives in the University district. He doesn’t have much to do with either of us. I don’t think he was ever comfortable with the idea of adoption; I’ve never quite figured out the dynamic between him and my stepmom. He acted as if he was open-minded and progressive. I think that what he really thought was that adopting a black child would prove to the world how morally superior he was. I would characterize him as a ‘distant’ father.”
“What about your stepmother? Why did she want to adopt?”
“She wanted a baby, she was infertile, although later on, when I was a teenager, I think she regretted it.”
“Was that because you are black?”
“No, it was more about the fact that she could never appreciate my nerdiness. I think she read too many articles about D&D players being devil-worshipers. When the internet took off in the mid-nineties I started to make some real money gaming. She thought I was doing something illegal.”
“Which you were?”
“I understood how to game the games. It was my ‘gateway drug’ to data mining.”
“And now you’ll be going cold turkey?”
Mary paused before answering.
“I never thought I’d say it, but I’ve come to the conclusion that there are better ways to live than interacting with a computer all day.”
“Is that one of the reasons you became pregnant?”
“Having a baby is beyond reason. My new role model: Supermom. Besides, your Icelandic love-child needs a cousin.”
“Hmm. It seems like a pretty half-baked plan for starting a dynasty. That child could be Billy’s,” said Sean.
“A cousin either way,” said Mary, “I do wonder why you got that photo of the child, with no letter attached. I would think that his mother would be looking for some child support or, at least, an acknowledgment. We should have our lawyers look into it when we get back.”
“A guilt trip? Or maybe the Senator’s lawyers got to her first. He has a history of paying out hush money.”
they know about her and the baby. You didn’t tell anyone about her, did you?”
“Sally O'Donnell knew I had seen her, but that’s all—as far as I know. They thought she was one of Billy’s girlfriends. I don’t know if they followed up on her.”
“That’s the Montana border ahead, Missoula is another 45 miles, let’s get something to eat there and then you can drive. I want to check in with the legal team.”
“Cold turkey, huh?”
“That sounds delicious. No, I just want to see what happened while we were gone.”
“And I should call Tina; let her know when we’ll be there. If we push it, we can make Rapid City tonight and Decorah tomorrow.”
“That’s a couple of very long stretches. We should stop in Billings instead; we’ve got time. Let’s stay off the interstate, the world can get along without us for another day. Call your Aunt tomorrow.”
“Sounds like a plan… a fully baked plan.”
“I’m starting to like being out of the loop… ” Mary said, “… no clients, no employees, no one scrutinizing my every move.”
“Inscrutable Supermom. I like it.”
“Please don’t become a ‘Distant Dad.’ I’ll need you with me on this.”
Mary slammed on the brakes as a mule deer bounded in front of the car, missing it by inches. The scent of burning rubber filled the cabin. Visibly shaken, Mary pulled the car over to the side of the highway.
“That was too close,” Mary said, turning off the engine, “I think it’s your turn to drive, Sean.”
They got out of the car to change places. After undergoing a couple of hours of road noise, the silence of the forest was palpable. Sean put his arms around Mary, she was trembling.
“Are you sure you’ll be OK?” asked Sean.
“I’ll be fine in a minute. I… when that deer was in front of us, she turned and looked at me, there was something in the eyes… it was as if she knew me.”