Motion (Page 21)
But, again, you’ve only known him for two days!! And Lisa will be home very, very soon . . .
Also true. Very true.
When Lisa arrived home, ideally, she’d continue the lie. Abram would have to believe we were the same person. Which meant any friendly overtures, or clever teasing, or any looks of appreciation he sent my way would all eventually be shifted to her.
Twisting my lips to the side, I removed one of my hands from the wheel just long enough to rub my sternum. My chest ached, a strange expanding tightness against my lower ribs, and the thought of Abram teasing Lisa made me want to pull over and punch that stupid guy in his stupid hat on that stupid billboard I kept seeing all along I-94.
Once or twice, when the highway was free of other cars, I gave into the temptation to glance over at Abram’s silently sleeping form. Entirely quiet and motionless, his stillness verged on eerie. At one point I debated whether or not to pull over and check his pulse. That would’ve necessitated touching him, which I had mixed feelings about—he couldn’t give consent, but then again, he might be dead—which was ultimately why I didn’t do it. However, if I’d had a mirror on me, I probably would’ve pulled over to hold it under his nose.
Who sleeps like that?
But back to Abram. I snuck another look and my stomach flip-flopped. He’d called me sleeping beauty, but the label firmly belonged to him and his dark lashes, his gently parted, gorgeous lips, the angle of his strong jaw, and the perfect curve of his bicep supporting his head. This was all transposed against tousled hair and rumpled clothes.
He was a messy Adonis and, despite myself, I just . . . really liked him.
To what purpose?
What are you doing, Mona? Stay on the path. Liking him is irrelevant.
My chest flared with another ache. Indigestion? I probably should have eaten something more substantial than granola.
Conclusion: I needed a healthy meal, and I needed to get control of this situation.
More precisely, after today, I needed to redouble my efforts to avoid Abram, and I needed to take care of my physical urges. Because that’s all this was really.
Embrace the null hypothesis, Mona!
Liking Abram was madness. It would never lead anywhere. Therefore, there was no decision to make. My choice was made by default. I didn’t actually like Abram. I had physical needs. Thanks to Gabby’s insidious text yesterday, I was having trouble concentrating. I thought I’d be able to wait until I made it back to California, but that wasn’t going to work. I’d have to take care of the physical urges now.
I glanced down at my form-fitting skirt hiked up to my mid-thigh. Well, not now now. More precisely, this evening now.
Maybe once that box was checked I’d stop noticing the prettiness and amber color of Abram’s eyes, and how great he smelled, and how the man chewed, and how achingly gentle and sincere he was with me when voicing his concern for my well-being, and I would be able to properly avoid him. Yes. This was a good plan. The moment we returned to the house? I was definitely going to avoid him and . . . do something.
But first, I needed to get through this expanse of highway, operating this vehicle without my license, his mother’s birthday, and the drive back to the house. After that, it would be all avoidance, all the time.
Four hours into our journey, just when a rest stop sign appeared and I was seriously close to pulling off and placing two fingers against his neck—not because I was itching to touch him, but because who wants to drive not only without a license but also with a corpse?—Abram finally stirred.
Without meaning to do so, I exhaled a large sigh, mumbling one of my anytime-phrases, “As the prophesy foretold,” and felt my shoulders relax.
In my peripheral vision, I saw Abram lift his head, rub his eyes, and peer out the windshield. “Hey. What time is it? Where are we?” His voice—deep and sleep-sandpapery—slid over me, making me sit up straighter. His voice was pleasing all the time, but newly awake Abram-voice was real nice.
“On I-94.” I cleared my throat, glancing at the car’s clock before remembering it was broken.
“What time is it?” he asked, peering at his phone where it was held suspended on the dash. “It’s after three? Did we- did you miss the turn off?”
“No. It’s still a few miles away.” I gestured to the looming green sign. “We passed Kalamazoo twenty minutes ago.”
I sensed rather than saw his stare. “Did you pull off for a while? Take a break from driving?”
He waited a beat, and then asked, “Is there something wrong with the car?”
Again, he waited a beat before questioning me further, but this time I felt a mood shift. “Then what happened? We should have been there an hour ago.” He grabbed his phone from the dash, moving his thumb along the screen. “My mom has texted me five times.”
“Your mom texted you five times?”
“Yes. Haven’t you noticed the messages?”
“Yes, but I didn’t read them or know they were from her. I hid them when they came in.”
“You didn’t read them?”
“They’re not my messages, it would have been an invasion of privacy.” I gave a weak shrug. “Why? Why did she text?”
“Lisa, we’re very late and she’s worried.” He said this like it was obvious, as though all parents worried and texted their kids when they were late. “We’ve gone a hundred and fifty miles in four hours, why are you driving so slow?”
“I don’t have my driver’s license.”
He waited, like he expected me to continue. When I didn’t, he asked, “So?”
“So, I didn’t want to get pulled over.” I glanced at him, found him staring at me. “Hey. Don’t give me that look. You’re not the one operating a motor vehicle illegally.”
“It’s not illegal to drive without a license. It’s illegal to drive if you have no license.”
Sending him a quick glare, I readjusted my hand placement on the steering wheel. “Is that some kind of riddle? If I say your name backward three times, will you drive?”
Abram barked a laugh, drawing my attention. I found him looking at me with glassy eyes, his hand over his mouth, hiding his smile while shaking his head. His shoulders shook with quiet laughter.
“You are . . .” he started, stopped, sighed, then chuckled. “I should be mad at you.”
“You’re mad at me?” I felt equal parts indignant and contrite, which was a weird, new combination for me.
“But I’m not. You are so much different than I thought you would be.”
Unsurprisingly, that had me gripping the steering wheel tighter and flailing for something to say that might sound Lisa-like.
But then I stopped flailing.
If my actions and our conversations over the last few days hadn’t made him suspicious, then he wasn’t going to be suspicious. At all. In fact, now I had a suspicion Abram wasn’t ever going to be suspicious of me.
Conclusion: No need for me to worry about acting Lisa-like, because—to him—I was her.
Which, I conceded with a good measure of uneasiness, when she arrived, she’d have to act like me.
I’d never been to a suburb before.
Driving through Abram’s parents’ neighborhood was like visiting a movie set. The houses all looked remarkably similar, the front lawns were perfectly maintained, US flags flew from flagpoles, wreaths hung on doors. I even spotted a few picket fences.
Honestly? I loved it.
“You grew up here?”
“What do your parents do?” I asked, making a left onto another street that looked just like the last street. Everything was so delightfully tidy.
He didn’t answer immediately, so I glanced at him. He looked uncomfortable.
“What?” I split my attention between him and the street. “Do they run a grow house?”
Abram coughed a laugh, now staring at me. “No! My parents don’t run a grow house!”
“This neighborhood reminds me of that show, Breaking Bad. Of course, we’re in Michigan, not New Mexico, and the house styles are different, but the neighborhood has a similar feel. Have you ever watched it?”
“No.” His tone held amusement, but also maybe defensiveness. Or something like defensiveness.
“It’s a good show. The chemistry stuff is spot on,” I said distractedly. A house with a picket fence, a rooster weather vane, and a towering flagpole with a US flag snagged my attention. The outside was painted white, the shutters were trimmed forest green, the door was red. A summery-looking wreath with yellow flowers was affixed to the door. It probably had a welcome mat.
I want to live there.
“How would you know about the chemistry stuff?” he asked, also sounding distracted.
Instead of being flustered or worried that I’d made a mistake by mentioning chemistry, I saw his question for exactly what it was: a way to avoid answering my earlier query about his parents.
So I said, “Mona knows chemistry stuff,” which wasn’t a lie, but rather a true statement meant to deflect, and then asked again, “So, what do your parents do?”