Jenny filled a pan with water and set it on the stove. Opening a box of noodles, she briefly debated how much to make, then simply dumped it all in. She sat at the table and took a long sip of wine.
"I've got to get out of here," she said to her cat, though she didn't expect any more of a reply than when she'd said it to her husband the night before.
Ocean waves sweeping into the sand. A cool mountain breeze playing lightly off the willows. A pond with a cottage, the pontoon boat roped to the nearby pier. These were the things she dreamed of.
Water boiled over the sides of the pan. Jenny put her wine down with a start and took the lid off the noodles. The stove was a mess.
It was quiet that night at dinner. Gary barely looked over his paper when she mentioned the trip again.
Later, as she scrubbed the stove, the truth dawned on her. She wasn't getting a vacation. Not ever. They made too little. They drank too much. They were constantly behind on the bills. There was always a reason.
She resolved then and there that she would find a way.
Memorial Day weekend, she had to work overtime. Monday, they both had off, so they spent the day washing the dirt off his truck from when he'd gone four-wheeling. That night, they made margaritas and watched Star Wars, his favorites. They both called in sick the following morning.
The first of the month, they were short on rent again. And her dream of a holiday was as far away as the ocean shore.
It only takes once to quit, she thought. It only takes once if you stick with it. And so she did.
Gary didn't. He kept on drinking and four-wheeling, the two things he seemed to love more than anything. And he'd nudge her, offering her some wine, trying to entice her with a margarita. But it didn't work. She was putting money away, a bit at a time, and the roar of the ocean was getting closer.
Labor Day. They were going labor day, they decided. He toasted the date with a grin and a beer, but she kept saving.
Gary had been a good man, once upon a time. He'd been kind and generous, and even compassionate. She wondered what happened to him. She wondered what happened to their marriage.
She spent the summer dreaming about salt water waves.
As June turned into July, she worked overtime. She put aside all the dimes and dollars she could find. He got frustrated with her newfound frugality.
"Don't you want to live a little?" he asked.
"If this is living," she said, "I'm tired of it."
He'd go off four wheeling until midnight and come home reeking of beer. She'd darn socks and pack lunches.
"God made me like I am," he said. "And you're stuck with me."
"Ay. That I am." And she was.
September approached. She made reservations at an inexpensive cottage a few blocks from the shore. She sent a check as a deposit. She didn't know how she'd come up with the rest.
Late August, panic hit. Jenny realized there wasn't going to be enough money. They weren't going to make it. Even Gary began to pack his lunches, cut back on his beer, but it was too late.
Jenny felt her very soul slipping away. Gary tried to cheer her up, but his ill-timed jokes fell unnoticed. He walked about with the look of a man who'd let his best friend down.
The Friday they were to leave, Gary walked into the darkened bedroom where Jenny was sitting. He sat on the bed across from her.
"I'm sorry," he said.
"That's alright," she replied. And she did her best to mean it.
Gary got up and walked out, his head hanging low.
Two hours later, he returned.
"Let's go, Jen. I've got the money." His eyes were wild and daring.
"What'd you do?"
Gary grinned indulgently while Jenny stared past him, past the porch, to see a small Honda Civic parked in their drive, the car lot's used sticker still in the window.
"You traded your truck for this?"
"Ay," he said.
"But why? You love that truck more than...anything."
"No, girl, not anything." he said, pulling her close.
"Oh," said Jenny's soul, sighing with happiness. Then softly, under her breath, "God bless you."
And he did.
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