(Last Sunday: Julie and Brazil tie the knot an hour after first meeting at Chartan and Gina’s wedding celebration).
Chartan, eyes closed with arms extended over his head, took a deep breath to fill his lungs with crisp, fall air. He was standing under a coastal oak by the edge of the river that meandered behind his apartment building. He dropped his arms slowly as he exhaled. It was a glorious moment for him—for the first time in two days, he was alone. Gina was at work. Skyler and Julie were off on a road trip to the mountains. He was scheduled to drive Minerva to San Francisco tomorrow morning. For now, he was…free. No more weddings. No more…what is it that I am free of? Gina? Isn’t it wrong to have even a fleeting thought about the…demands of a commitment to someone else? Skyler’s details have come to roost. How is marriage any different than taking responsibility to drive a person safely 200 miles for a fee needed to pay my, no, our bills? Is it that I don’t want to do any of this: to drive…to love?
He clenched his fists. His face contorted and turned red as he screamed silently in desperation to will away the thoughts that had invaded his moment of peace.
When Gina returned to the apartment, she stopped in the doorway, struck by the large vase of flowers that took up half of their kitchen table. She picked up the slip of paper at the table’s edge: Gina, I love you more than ever—CC. Tears came to her eyes. A few minutes ago with her hand on the outside door knob, she hoped Chartan wouldn’t be inside—she needed time to think.
“They’re beautiful,” she said to her husband of two months as he entered the room. They kissed for a time before going to the bedroom.
Julie and Brazil were the only customers seated at a run down, dimly lit bar somewhere in New Mexico about an hour before sunset.
Julie nudged her cocktail glass . “Maybe we should go home.”
“The last two weeks have been the best in my life,” replied her husband.
“They’ve been great for me too.”
Brazil squeezed her hand. He thought about how well they fit together in bed, how they laughed at the same things like the rooster screeching at daybreak outside of their motel room, or the overdone hamburger that slid off of Julie’s bun at an all-night diner. He liked not knowing much about her—there were no expectations. But they were running out of money—a good reason to go home. He needed to resume his detective work, if, indeed, there was any in Sacramento.
“Yeah, I guess we should get back,” he said.
“I wonder how Gina and Chartan are doing? asked Julie.
“I forgot about them. I bet they’re fine.”
Julie pulled her hand away from Brazil. “I’m not convinced of that.”
“Gina doesn’t stay put. She runs rather than face up to her problems.”
Julie grabbed Brazil’s wrist and brought to her mouth and kissed it. “Honey, I’ve said more than I should. Let’s go home and make sure they’re okay.”
“What should I know about Gina?”
“For starters, I’m not her aunt. But let’s go.”
“Okay, but know this Julie, “I’m a bulldog detective. Secrets don’t exist for me.”
They left for the front door, but stopped in the parking lot to admire the final day’s light that painted the surrounding mountains with a red glow.
“Quite a contrast to where we just were,” said Brazil.
“Beautiful. Like us. And I don’t mean to be melodramatic about Gina. We did time together for running a Ponzi. You know about Ponzi’s?
“I’m a detective, remember. And I don’t do secrets, remember.”
Julie threw her arms around Brazil and kissed him hard. The driver in a passing semi-tractor trailer blasted his air horn, but it didn’t break up the lovers.
(To be continued next Sunday)