My husband gave me money to get a taxi back to the city. He didn’t pick me up himself—work. But the money was nice, so I took it. I didn’t tell my sister about it because I knew she’d lecture me. Try to keep me here.
She didn’t greet me when I emerged from the guest room. Neither of us said anything to each other, opting to sit on opposite sides of the couch in silence. She was sewing again, ripping a seam from the square of her quilt so she could redo it more perfect than last time. I stared at my phone, then the TV, which was playing some sitcom I didn’t know.
I guess maybe I was supposed to leave in the evening, but I didn’t.
I don’t know what it was. Something in the pit of my stomach twisted and my face ached, the throb of my eye clouding my judgment. I should have gone like I knew he wanted me to; I’d agreed already. He’d be angry. But I glued myself to the couch against better judgment.
The sun went and set and I was still there, watching Beck sew her quilt. She snipped a thread with her teeth, then held the fabric back to look at it. She tilted it, trying to get a better angle, then pulled it close to her lap again so she could continue her work. No one passed through the living room. Neither of us spoke, the low drone of the TV filling the room instead.
I could get a taxi. I could. It wasn’t hard to do; I’d done it before. All the time, really.
I was about to do it, finally, when Zeke texted me. He said they were going up the mountain again, like I found them the first time. It wouldn’t be the same without you, knowing you’re back, he wrote. It wouldn’t be the same anyway. We weren’t kids anymore. But I said yes, because I hoped that when I went back there, it would throw me back in time. Someone would be drunk when they shouldn’t and we’d laugh at the stars. I wouldn’t be married. My sister wouldn’t hate me yet. It would be fun. Zeke said he’d be there in five.
I didn’t look at Beck when I got up and she didn’t look at me.
Garrett was in the kitchen reading at the table when I passed through, pen in hand so he could note the pages in the book. I slipped on my shoes, ran a hand through my hair. He cleared his throat.
“Do you have a key?”
I didn’t want to tell him about the one I hid on the porch, so I shook my head.
“Here, take mine. So you don’t wake anyone up calling them. Becka hates that.”
“Stay safe. Have a good night.”
I nodded, then slipped out the door just as Mark texted me they’d arrived. Their headlights greeted me. I shielded my eyes and wondered why Garrett helped me. I was sure it was for Beck’s sake.
The trunk honked to remind me I was supposed to be getting in it, not staring off into nothingness, contemplating my relationship with my brother-in-law. I climbed into the tiny backseat and sat in the center. Mark flashed me a grin, and then Zeke pulled out of the driveway.
We didn’t need to say anything. We knew what we were doing. It was just like before, but there weren't any people overflowing into the truck’s bed. Silence hung in the air, heavy, like a winter blanket holding me close. I closed my eyes and dozed the way up the mountain.
I jolted awake when we came to a stop. It was in the same grooves their tires settled in last time, wheels sinking into the worn pits. They slipped in perfectly. Mark and Zeke hopped out immediately, so I followed behind. Mark held a six pack up above his head, spun around, and grinned at me.
“Zeke said he’d drive home. You drink?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I said. “Sometimes.”
He snapped one can from its ring and handed it off to me. By the time I got it open, they’d sat in the center of the field. The grass was cold when I sat down, no longer heated by the sun. I laid down, then promptly sat up when trying to drink beer ended with half the can down my shirt.
Mark chuckled. Zeke swatted at him and produced a handkerchief from his pocket. I wondered if he knew this would happen. That I would be a fool. Or maybe Mark did it before.
I hoped Mark had done it before.
The beer was cold. It tasted bad. I wiped off the condensation on my shirt, then watched it reappear, like it had just run a marathon. Sweating again. Mark idly sipped his drink and I considered slowing down, but in high school we’d just down them. My phone buzzed, receiving a call I wasn’t going to answer. I chugged the rest of the drink, then crushed the can in my fist and tossed it aside, beginning the graveyard.
“Hey, careful,” Zeke warned. “You could cut yourself!”
As if to emphasize his concern, he took my hand in his and examined it in the low light of the moon, his face so close I could feel his breath on my palm. Warmth ghosted over my skin. I yanked my hand back and thanked the night, because otherwise he’d see how deep I blushed.
“Sorry,” I said.
“Just don’t do it again,” Mark said. “No harm done.”
I took another beer for myself and hoped Zeke would finish his soon.
It took him about half an hour, and I’d gone through another. My pile grew. I was tipsy, flat on my back, staring at the sky, arms spread out with my fingers digging into the grass. Mark had laid down, too, and our shoulders brushed when he laughed at Zeke’s jokes.
Zeke always got loud when he was drunk, but it was a nice loud. He laughed like no one could hear him. It echoed through the surrounding forest until it came back to us, sending him into another fit of giggles. Mark joined him, grinning wide. I didn’t say much, my thoughts drifting back to high school. I knew we’d laughed like this. I’d heard it before, way back then. The sound of all of us together would drown out everything.
My husband didn’t laugh like that. His was soft and reserved, like he didn’t want people to know he was happy. It was tidy. Oftentimes he’d hide a smile behind his hand and it wouldn’t reach his eyes, so you’d never know it happened. But I’d see it from the side, know what he was hiding.
I liked his smile, sometimes.
I wasn’t a loud drunk. I was quiet, contemplative, and entranced in the stars. I stared at them, ignoring the insistent calls coming through. It was time to sit around and forget if I could.
We laid on the ground a while longer, Mark and Zeke talking about what was going on around town again. They liked to gossip, and they wanted me to hear about it, because there was still so much to cover. I’d been gone so long.
“Then he drove the car into the ditch, all to avoid a turkey!” Zeke rolled his eyes. “I mean, it wasn’t that big. It would’ve scrammed if he honked at it, you know?”
“His girlfriend was so mad when she had to tow him out,” Mark added. “I heard the turkey watched her do it.”
“Yes way. By the end, there were, like, five of them.”
“You’re shitting me.”
“No, I’m serious. Liza got pics,'' Mark pulled out his phone. “I don’t know if I kept them…”
“You’re such a bad liar!” Zeke grumbled. He turned to me. “You think the turkey called its friends to laugh at Jared?”
I shrugged. “Maybe. Was he OK?”
“Oh, yeah, he was fine, but they had to get the car fixed.”
“They replaced the hood with a different color and it’s hilarious. That shade of yellow with that green… does not go well together,” Mark continued. “Ask him about it if you see him.”
I did not want to ask. I didn’t want anyone else to ask about me. I twisted my wedding band around my finger. Didn’t want them to ask about my husband either.
They babbled on about the whole ordeal. Turkey this, turkey that. The intense staredown that Liza had with the birds, a total faceoff. It was ten minutes of tense staring at the flock. Mark swore he had photos, but he couldn’t find any, because it was long ago, or something, and maybe they were posted on the Internet or something, somewhere. Zeke said he was bullshitting. I smiled a little at their argument as it continued.
Mark eventually relented, said he made that part up.
“I’m going back,” I said, eventually, when everything had calmed back down and we’d been laying in silence for a minute.
“Oh, yeah, it’s super late. We should take you home,” Zeke agreed.
“Do you have a curfew?” Mark asked while checking the time on his phone.
I thought about lying. “No. Kind of. It’s different,” I paused. “My husband asked me to come home.”