Tamara sucked on the end of a beef stick while tracing her finger along the United States map on the back of the atlas she’d just purchased at the gas station. They’d already driven three hundred miles, but until this moment, she hadn’t fully cognized how much it would take to get from Kentucky to Wyoming, or how many mountains would be in the way. She’d only been there once, when Kiki was born, but she’d flown. She had left Nick and Justin back to manage the farm and she remembered nearly missing her flight while she drank glass after glass of sparkling wine in the airport bar, enjoying the bubbles of celebration and freedom. She recalled KiKi’s impossibly tiny, almost transparent baby fingers and wondered what the girl would be like now. Tamara made a mental note to stop somewhere along the way to buy her a present to help her get in good with her.
Checking the Kentucky map once more, Tamara pulled back out onto the highway. GPS on her phone would guide her, but something about a paper map felt more adventurous, and she liked looking at her path and seeing how much space there would be between her and the farm. The fatty snack felt like heaven sliding into her stomach compared to that sour feeling she’d been feeling since last night. It wasn’t all the beer. That she could handle. It was Justin. She had to learn to trust her gut. If Justin were good for her, she wouldn’t get that bad belly feeling when he was around. She was better off on her own, with her dog and her truck and the road before her.
Tamara glanced at Maggie, who had circled a few times in the passenger seat and settled in with a sigh. It sure would be nice if dogs could drive; or talk. All this time alone in her head with nothing to do but stare down the endless highway was scaring up ghosts.
Somewhere around Kansas City it had occurred to her that Rachel might not actually want to see her. They hadn't really known each other since they were kids, and even then, they lived such different versions of the same life, they'd never really known each other. What if Rachel just felt compelled to say yes to the visit because of some ancient family loyalty, or guilt over missing their dad's funeral? What if Tamara actually made it all the way to Wyoming, living on beef jerky and gas station coffee, her old truck somehow not falling off a mountain, and she and Rachel had nothing to talk about? What if it were awkward as hell? How long would she have to stay before she could turn around and...drive all the way back home to Kentucky? Ugh. This was a bad idea.
Still, she really did want to see Kiki, and felt terrible for how long it had been. Although, she knew Rachel could have come home any time for a visit. It's not like Rachel made any effort to visit her, either. Oh, God, this was a bad idea! The Kiki in her mind was tiny but the real one was a six-year-old with opinions and ideas of her own. Would Kiki like Tamara? Could she be a fun aunt? Her only experience with kids was teaching them to ride, and, although she got results, she wasn’t fun. Tamara opened a Snicker's bar and tore off a huge bite with her teeth, rousing Maggie, who sat to face her, sniffing the air. Moving the chocolate to her hand on the wheel, she reached to scratch Maggie's head. At least she was bringing a dog. That had to score her some points.