"I'm sorry," I said. "Is that the reason you're heading to your sister's?"
Bettany glanced at Michael who was still engrossed in his cars and food. His tiny dump truck was bringing him a serving of fries.
"Yah. That's the drill. He totally went off the deep end last night. It's never been that bad before. He just about gave me a black eye, which . . . Anyway. I can't go back."
"Won't he know you've gone to your sister's?"
"He won't come after me, if that's what you're worried about," she answered. "I just need to be somewhere safe."
"If you're heading towards Toronto, I don't mind giving you guys a lift," I offered.
"Peterborough, and that would really be great," she exhaled as if she'd been holding her breath. "I can pay for the gas. And, um, I have a big favour to ask."
"Don't worry about the gas. Ask away."
"I only took the bare minimum with me, since I thought we'd be on the bus. Would you be okay making a detour back to the house so I can pick up a few other things? I'll be really quick about it. I know exactly what I want."
I was not on a deadline -- which is why I could stop for this early lunch -- and was sure to be in Toronto before sunset anyway (I hate night driving), so I saw no problem with this.
Half an hour later we were driving down a gravel road, leaving a dust cloud behind us. Shabby houses were sprinkled at long intervals along the road.
"It's the next one on the left," Bettany told me.
It was set well back from the road, a simple raised bungalow with standard concrete steps to a builder-grade front door. The pale blue-grey siding was warped in places, and some of the corner caps were missing. A garden that looked like it hadn't been weeded in a couple of years made a pitiful attempt at masking the foundation. An assortment of tacky lawn art was strewn like flotsam around the yard.
The K-car sat immobile in the driveway as I pulled in behind it.
We got out and left the doors open so the car wouldn't turn into an oven.
"It's all in the trunk of the car, actually," Bettany said. "We don't even need to go inside."
"I have to pooh," Michael informed us.
"Oh," she paused. "Oh. Okay then, come in and use the bathroom, then I want you to play outside, okay?"
Then she looked at me. "I'll go with him. I'll be right back."
When they came back out she had a bag with her. "Figured I'd grab some towels while I was in there. And a couple of cans of pop," she said, handing me a bag of cold drinks.
She was right that there wasn't much stuff. A box of kitchen things, a garbage bag of linens, a box of toys and books, and large suitcase of clothes. A bulky toaster oven. It all fit in the trunk and back seat with room to spare.
She seemed to be in no hurry.
"He at work?" I asked. I still didn't have his name. Didn't like to ask.
"He works shifts. He's on nights." That explained why she didn't want Michael to be playing in the house; you don't want to wake a sleeping bear.
Finally, we were on the road. I slid a Sarah Maclachlan cassette into the player and we sang along, the mood suddenly festive.
'cause you're workingFor previous entries, visit my Fiction Friday page.
building a mystery
holding on and holding it in
yeah you're working
building a mystery
and choosing so carefully