Abby turned the wheel and pointed her small Cavalier down her Aunt Sydney’s long, wooded driveway, relieved to be done with the drive, but terrified at what lay ahead. Had she really just abandoned her entire life?
She could smell Lake Michigan before she saw it – like liquid earth filling the car. The sun pierced the windshield and splashed a metallic glare into her eyes. She lifted a hand to shield her face, but caught it midway as an unfamiliar shape emerged from the brilliance. The shape, a narrow black car, was parked in the small circular drive near Sydney’s house, but the trunk stood open.
The driveway should have been empty. Abby had chosen her Aunt Sydney’s home largely for that reason. Sydney mostly lived with Rod, her young lover, recently turned husband, in his studio apartment downtown. The couple had booked a trip to the Cayman Islands, and Abby had intended to leave Nick (and her life) when Sydney returned so that she would have a confidante. But that morning, after Nick had loaded his golf clubs and pecked her quickly on the forehead, Abby had heard a voice in her mind say ‘Go’. She did not question it. She packed a duffel bag, hit the ATM for cash and fled.
It was not exactly an impulsive decision, but one that had been months in the making. Abby had tried to snuff it out, justify her unhappiness as lack of job satisfaction, or hormones out of whack. But in the end, desperation always won, and that morning Abby had felt desperate. So desperate that she did not say goodbye to her parents, specifically her mother, who would most likely implode at the news. Nor did she call her boss, return her library books or even change the kitty litter.
Now, four hours after her departure, she was already facing a kink in her poorly executed plan.
The screen door on the back of the house swung open. Her eyes followed the line of a man’s foot and then his leg. The stranger did not look much older than Abby’s own twenty-three years. Dark curls fell over his tan face, obscuring his eyes and nose. She could see his lips, swollen and red, sunburned. He wore a Pink Floyd t-shirt and blue shorts that stopped just above his knee. He was barefoot and carrying a cardboard box, the lid taped shut with a thick line of electrical tape.
Abby thought to back out of the driveway and go, but where?
She started to shift the car into reverse, silently whispering a plea that the stranger would not hear the crunch of gravel beneath her wheels. He did. He looked up and then stumbled, nearly dropping his box.
Abby squinted at him; he’d moved into the sun and looked large and shadowy. He was waving.
“Shit,” she whispered.
Forcing a calm that she did not feel, she pressed her foot on the gas, and the Cavalier shot forward, too hard. The stranger jumped back and flattened himself against his car.
“Sorry,” Abby called out her window, parking next to him. “Sorry,” she said again, climbing out and getting a better look.
His blue eyes narrowed on her face, surprised, but a smile cracked his lips.
“Abby?” he asked.
She searched for his face in her internal Rolodex, but came up empty.
“I’m sorry, do I know you?” She held up a hand to block the sun.
“No, you don’t, actually.” He cocked his head to one side and held out his hand. “I’m Sebastian. I know you because Sydney keeps about a billion pictures of you in there.” He jerked his head toward the house.