Writing prompt: Your life in seven years.
***Maybe we’ll travel the country by motorcycle***
The road curls out endless and tempting ahead of us beneath the slowly setting sun, but we’ve been riding for hours and John is standing on his pegs more and more frequently. I am, too. Besides, I’d like to set up camp before it gets dark. I flash my lights at him, and he pulls over onto a dusty offshoot of road and waits for me to pull up beside him.
“Ready to set up camp?”
“Yeah, pretty much.”
We park our motorcycles and fall into the familiar rhythm of unpacking our equipment. I love this part of the day, with the smell of dust and sun-dried grass lying heavy in the air at the day’s end. I can taste a hint of water in the air, and John points out a small trickle of a creek. “Didn’t expect that,” he said.
“Oh, good. Fill up a can, I’ll filter it and make some rice.”
He shook his head in amusement. “Finally gonna use it, huh?”
I’d picked up a half-pound bag of brown rice at a farmer’s market two weeks ago, and carried it in my pack since. John was starting to tease me about being one of the Vuvalini.
I shrugged, grinning a little, and busied myself gathering kindling for the fire. The sun slipped full behind the horizon, leaving faint wisps of pink and yellow clouds that quickly dissipated in the darkling sky. I hurried to light the fire before the purple dusk went black with shadows, and was soon rewarded with a bright crackle.
After dinner, we sat by the dying fire and looked up at the sky. “See the Pleiades,” said John. I followed his pointing finger to the seven sisters in the sky, and nestled against his shoulder. He smelled like the days riding; like sweat and fresh air and dust, with a hint of campfire smoke to finish it off. My muscles felt warm and loose, sore from the day’s riding but in the best way. I blinked sleepily as the stars wheeled dizzyingly overhead.
“There’s Betelgeuse. Saturn.” He squinted. “Didja see the shooting star?”
I did, and sleepily made an affirmative noise against his shoulder. He shrugged, nudging me upright. “You’ll get eaten alive if we sleep outside,” he said gently, and steered me toward our small tent.
***Maybe I’ll become an author, and John will promote up to management.***
“Did you remember the forms?”
John looked at me from the driver’s seat of our Tesla Model-3, his fingers tapping impatiently against the steering wheel. I slid into the passenger’s seat and tossed him an offended look. Twenty-two years of marriage, and he couldn’t trust me to remember some god-damned forms?
“Yes, I remembered the forms,” I said, snapping the buckle of my seatbelt with a little more force than necessary. I flashed the sheaf of papers at him. “See? Papers. All of them. The release form, and the contract, and the …”
I trailed off, and shuffled through the papers again as John started backing out of the driveway. Seeing my hesitation, he braked and asked, “What?”
I flipped once more, futilely, through the pile. “Okay, so I actually do have to go into the house again, real quick.”
He rolled his eyes and laughed. “What’d I say? I know you, Laura!”
“Okay, okay!” I slid out and jogged back to the house, cursing under my breath. We didn’t have time for this today–I had a flight to catch, and Austin would be waiting at the airport to drive me to his apartment, and then dinner with my agent tonight. Poorly scheduled, I thought irritably. If they’d left the booking to me, I would have handled it much better.
Still, no room to bitch. They were paying my travel costs.
With all papers in hand, I slid back into the passenger seat. John looked at me, eyebrows slightly raised.
“Just making sure you didn’t forget anything else.”
“I have everything,” I assured him.
“Contract? Wallet? Your Nook? Luggage?”
“Yes, yes, yes, and yes! Now let’s go, I’m going to be late!”
“Calm down,” he said easily, and backed the rest of the way out of our square little driveway, leaving the many-windowed house on the bay in our rearview window. I put my temple against the passenger window, feeling the slight hum of vibration through the glass of the tires on the pavement, and sighed. “I wish you could come.”
“I know,” he said regretfully, “I do, too. I wanted to see Austin.”
The miles slipped away beneath us, a gray ribbon shot with yellow as we wound from town to city. Mt. Rainer loomed ahead of us and the Puget Sound flirted with hills and valleys to the left of us. The yellow blossoms of Scotch Broom crowded along the highway, and John looked at me with a teasing smile. “At least you got to see the French Sweep before you left.”
I manage to summon a smile at the old joke, because I know that’s what he wants, but I’m miserable inside at the prospect of three weeks away. At least, I think its misery. It’s hard to tell when it’s twisted into a tight knot of anticipation beneath my breastbone like that. “Are you sure you can’t join me halfway?”
“The store’s opening, Laura. You know the answer.”
I did. A store manager could hardly abandon their location in the first month of opening. It just sucked that it coincided with Austin’s research presentation and the first leg of my book tour. My leg jittered against the floor, and John reached over to gently squeeze my knee. “I’ll facetime every night, I promise.”
I turned to smile at him. “I know you will. I’m sorry; I don’t mean to be all sadface. I’m excited, honestly. For all of us. I just get nervous. You know.”
“I know,” he said, and I smiled to be known so well.
There are other futures. Futures where tragedy strikes, and we have to deal with the death of a child or spouse. I don’t like thinking of those paths. Futures where I give up on my book and end up working some 9-5 in an office, maybe as a paralegal or a receptionist. That’s also depressing. Futures where we live in a houseboat, or on a tiny farm, or we backpack across Europe. Those are all interesting. Of all our futures, I think the two above are the most likely, or some combination of them.
Our son will be 18 when we are 38 and 40. Then it’s off to college or vocational school or whatever path he finds to walk as an adult, and John and I will be left with the rest of our lives to do with as we see fit–to travel and roam, to climb and camp, to risk and fail.