DISCLAIMER: Women's Murder Club and its characters are the property of James Patterson, 20th Century Fox Television and ABC. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Inspired by the_girl_20 and the Trisha love ;)
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
The Road Almost Not Taken
"Come on, baby, let's get out of this town..."
"Because you have been drowning in routine, and I really need to start on that book I wanted to write ever since I was seventeen."
We all laughed at that, until I looked into Cindy's eyes, really looked, and realized that she was serious. And the thought terrified me for reasons of which some I could grasp, and some, I couldn't. She was partly right, but that routine was also comfortable and familiar, if stifling. I didn't feel young enough anymore to just leave it all behind and go where the road would take me, if only for a few weeks. My life wasn't like that anymore... and my dreams - left behind somewhere on that road.
On the other hand, I didn't want to lose the easy affection she had given me right from the start, hero worship, Claire had called it; crush, had been Jill's definition - whatever it was, it had been there right from the start, warming and surprising me. I was far from being a hero, but isn't that what everyone wants, to have somebody to look at you like this, like you're the only thing to exist for them? Even if you can hardly believe that it's real.
I was irrationally scared that it could end in a heartbeat, here and now, because I couldn't bring myself to make that decision, to go on that trip with her. Because my life wasn't as adventurous as she maybe had hoped; just dead bodies, regrets, and paperwork.
Damn that one of too many Margaritas; I felt like crying.
"You want to write a book?" Jill asked after giving me a meaningful look.
"Of that road trip, yes," Cindy confirmed excitedly. "And I bet you there's going to be a movie. Angelina Jolie will be Lindsay, and Kirsten Dunst will be playing me."
"Whoa, those are big plans," Claire remarked dryly, and within an instant, she had us all cracking up again. It was just that kind of evening.
Change was in the air. Heather Hogan was pregnant. The Kiss Me Not killer was behind bars. Just where did that leave me?
"You should do it," Jill coaxed gently. "You haven't had a day off in -- I actually can't remember for how long. You just closed a high profile case, so I'm sure Tom is willing to cut you some slack."
"She's right. The chance might not come back so soon again, if you don't take it now." Claire joined forces with her.
Cindy flashed me a brilliant smile, one of those that always made my heart beat just a little bit faster; not that I'd ever go as far as taking a look at all the possible implications. "See," she said with a hint of triumph. "It'll be like a transition ritual. And don't worry, I'll protect you, whatever comes our way."
That elicited indulgent smiles from Jill and Claire, while I leaned forward to rest my head in my hands with a groan. Looking up at them again, I asked, "Can I sleep over this just once?"
"No!" came the chorus of three.
What chance did I stand against the combined force of three smart and determined women, my best friends?
"I can't believe I'm going to do this."
"Just... yes?" I asked, baffled.
Tom looked up from the file he'd been brooding over when I came in. "Is there anything else?"
"I mean, you just agreed."
"Yes, I did." He leaned back into his chair, giving me a questioning look.
"I, um, said, four weeks."
"And I said yes."
I was out of the door already when the thought made me spin on my heels and go back.
"I'll still have my job when I come back, right?"
"Lindsay. You go on that vacation. You come back to work in four weeks. End of story. It's not that complicated."
I scowled at him and turned to leave again, when he held me back, "Linds, wait."
A heartbeat later: "Go take that time off. You caught that son of a bitch. You deserve some time for yourself."
I was going to remind him that the same was true for other people, too, but at the last moment, thought twice about it. Claire would be taking some time off during her kids' vacation time. Jill might or not might be seeing Luke again - so my time was now.
I had said yes to some weeks on the road together with Cindy Thomas who was finally going to write that book - I remembered her words about the movie, and Angelina Jolie, and had to grin. So Cindy had dubbed me for a couple of years younger than I actually was. I didn't mind at all.
I knew Cindy had cleared it with her boss before; she had mentioned it when telling us about the idea yesterday. So there was literally no turning back - a scary thought. Martha would temporarily move in with Tess, our neighbor, who was ecstatic about it (Martha, not so much). I'd already provided her with a check to cover for expenses.
Cindy had suggested to just pack a few things and go, but I'd negotiated. Get a little cash, buy some cards. Give it a few more days to be able to either close or delegate cases.
Even so, the day came much too soon for my liking. Cindy had decided to camp out in my living room for the night, because she had the romantic notion of starting on our journey before sunrise. Metaphorically speaking. Did I just say 'romantic'? The girls thought that she got it bad, but sometimes I couldn't help thinking that it was all me.
Four weeks of sharing a car, hotel rooms, life?
I had to be crazy.
But if that meant having Cindy sitting in my bedroom, telling me about her dreams, having that glow of happiness on her face... I didn't mind much.
At 4:30 a.m., I was brewing a fresh pot of coffee.
Cindy hadn't stirred yet; she was all tucked in, hugging the pillow close, wearing that dreamy smile. It made me smile, too. So much for the romantic notion. I couldn't have known, because we'd never spent our mornings together, but I had suspected that she was not a morning person. More, like, having a hard time getting up in the morning, but burning the midnight oil.
I touched her shoulder, sleep-warm through the layers of fabric. "Hey, Sleeping Beauty. Time to rise and shine."
Cindy mumbled something unintelligible, only to burrow deeper under the covers.
It was disconcerting, how I seemed unable to take my hand away, how I was battling the impulse to just lean down and press my lips against hers which, I knew, would be soft and welcoming. Needing to break the spell, and quickly, I did my best to intone her boss' voice, and said firmly, "Thomas, you missed your deadline."
That had her bolting upright on the couch with a shocked, wide-eyed look on her face. "That's not true!" Finally awake and somewhat cranky: "Linds, you don't think it's fun to scare the hell out of me?"
I laughed some more. I was sorry. I couldn't help myself. "Well, you wanted to start around five."
With a sigh of the long-suffering, she let the blanket fall, and I had to think that while that shirt could have easily belonged to a 12-year-old, the body beneath definitely did not.
I already had a shower this morning. Maybe I should go take another one. A very cold one.
Over the second coffee, we checked out routes on Cindy's laptop and how far we'd want to go today. How far would this go anyway? Cindy insisted it would be much more interesting not to plan ahead too much. And if there was no room available, we'd sleep in the car.
I glared at her, and she giggled. So much for that.
After the dishes were done and I'd taken a last look around, we left the house to a sky starting to burn with a stunning sunrise.
I caught Cindy's look at me, the utter awe in it.
She shook her head. "I'm just amazed. I never thought I'd be so easy to make you do this."
//Because I could never say 'no' to you when you turn that look on me?//
"I can be spontaneous, you know. So will you tell me now what that book is all about?"
Cindy fastened her seatbelt and fumbled with the radio until she found a station that played a Melissa Etheridge song, and I couldn't really decide if this was simply ironic, or a hint of fate. Well, maybe I'd find out, at some time of those four weeks.
It was finally real. Exciting, after all.
"I'll tell you as we go," she promised, leaning back and humming along to the song with a smile.
I couldn't wait to find out.
"So, baby, you can sleep while I drive..."
(Lyrics by Melissa Etheridge, "You Can Sleep While I Drive")
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