Chance: A Day in May Ch. 06bythe Troubador©
Chapter 06 – Parting
Morning came too soon for both. Duncan had left a wake up call, but that was a real misnomer! He hadn't been able to shut his eyes for more than an hour or two all night. And he hadn't been able to sleep then.
In the bathroom he nicked himself shaving, couldn't find his styptic pencil, then bled profusely through the toilet paper he used to stem the flow. Knowing he was grumpy Duncan vowed to hold his tongue. He may never see Helen again and he wanted her to have kind thoughts of him in the years to come.
Helen's morning didn't go any better. She showered, blow-dried her hair, then found herself in the midst of the worst "bad hair" day she ever experienced. She was barely dressed when Duncan rapped on the door between the rooms.
The two committed themselves to be pleasing companions over breakfast, despite the start to the morning. Instead, striving not to be cranky, they were silent during the meal. As breakfast wore on each began understanding their companion wasn't happy about parting.
Back in the motel they left the connecting doors open as they assembled their things and packed. When finished Duncan carried his luggage into Helen's room, setting it just inside the door.
"Anything you want me to sit on so you can close it?" he quipped as he slouched onto a chair by the window.
Helen had just snapped her suitcase closed. "Too late, my hero. And everything fit," was her soft reply. Then she dropped into the other chair. "Going to be a lonely drive the rest of the way."
Duncan started to say something, then shut his mouth.
"Duncan, let's leave it where it is, OK?" she asked. "Somehow I can't feel what we've done has been cheating on Gerry. But he certainly wouldn't feel the same way. I can't explain it, but us... These few days... It seems like I've stepped outside my life. I will probably be miserable about this later."
"Helen, please God! I don't want you feeling bad about yourself. You are a married woman... Damn it! Nothing that happened was intended. And I don't know now how we could have prevented it. That sounds weak, but it's the way I feel."
They were silent a while longer, then Duncan asked, "What route are you following today? Are you still going to Lake Chelan?"
"Yes, Duncan. Maybe Gerry will come home and join me. It's already rented and he would expect to find me there. We were going to take the little state road from here to Highway 2, so I'll do the same. Then I'll follow 2 and cross the Columbia just North of Wenatchee. Then I'll just follow the river North. I expect to take my time, but I'll be in Chelan by mid afternoon easy. I'll be in the condo and settled by dinner time."
"Do you want to walk around Ritzville again before we leave?" asked Duncan. As soon as he said it he was ashamed of himself. He was trying to hang onto her as long as he could. Once her taillights disappeared up the road he was afraid he would never see her again.
He paused for a moment thinking. Yes, fear was the right word. He knew parting would be painful. Past experience told him the longer he delayed the inevitable the more it would hurt.
"You know I'd like to, Duncan. But, I can't. It's better if we can just cut this off. I AM married, and I DO love my husband. What we feel is special, but how would you feel if Jamie were in my position? Please, make it easy for both of us and just... end it here." Helen almost cried watching the pain flit across Duncan's face. This thing between them had gone too deep already. The longer they stood here the harder it was going to be.
Duncan was silent, knowing he had nothing to say. What she wanted was the only way. "Helen, let's just load the vehicles and I'll follow you to the edge of town. I'll need to fill up before I leave, so we can say goodbye there. OK?"
Helen nodded and they walked together to the vehicles. When she pulled onto the road he followed her, pulling to the curb at the edge of town. Helen pulled over when she saw him stop and got out of the BMW. The two of them climbed out for their few last words.
Standing together, neither could think of a thing to say. Duncan stood memorizing her face while idly kicking rocks into the gutter. Helen's eyes were fixed on his face, unaware she was wringing her hands together. Finally Duncan opened his arms and Helen stepped in for a last hug. She leaned her face against his shoulder while Duncan rested his cheek atop her head. They stood like that for a minute before Helen stepped back to kissed her fingertips, then reach out to place the kiss on his lips.
Duncan saw the tears brimming in her eyes as she turned back to her car. He stood watching as she fumbled getting the seat belt fastened, then started the BMW and drove away. Before she disappeared around a bend in the road, unwanted tears began running down his cheeks.
Long minutes after Helen disappeared he stood there before climbing back into his RV. Backing around he returned to town and "their" café. He parked and went inside, sitting at the counter to enjoy a cup of coffee with Clarice. He spent a bittersweet hour chatting with her and several other residents he and Helen had met the past few days. Even Chester stopped by for coffee.
When he couldn't delay any longer he said goodbye. After gassing up he followed Helen north, following her route 'til he crossed the Columbia where he turned south to follow Highway 2 through Wenatchee and on over the pass to Seattle. She had his cell phone number and promised to call when she was settled. Helen had promised to give him the phone number where she was staying. If she had trouble she could give him a call, and if she had car trouble he would be on the road behind her.
He knew it was a hopeless plan. Lightening didn't strike twice.
Driving slowly, it was mid-afternoon before he was in Wenatchee. He had time to drive home over Steven's Pass to Seattle before full dark. But he temporized. He was hungry, though he really wasn't. Traffic would be bad in Monroe, where the road leveled as it left the mountains. He needed gas even though the gauge read over half full.
So he stopped and got a hotel room. Carrying his cell phone he walked to a restaurant near his room for an early dinner. While he was waiting for his meal at the restaurant Helen called. She had arrived at Chelan, the condo was wonderful, the town was everything she and Gerry had expected.
She thanked him for being so kind.
It was a very long, tasteless meal.
Back in the hotel he tried watching television, with the usual boring results. When he tried to read Duncan couldn't concentrate, giving up in frustration after half an hour.
When the rooms walls began to close in Duncan went for a walk with his camera. He found several interesting shots and took them. Instead of calming him the camera made him miss Helen even more as he wondered what she would have seen to photograph he had missed.
Giving even that up Duncan returned to the hotel. After a long hot shower he went to bed where he tossed and turned.
The next morning Duncan ate breakfast in the same restaurant where he ate the night before. Then he climbed back into his RV and drove home, over the pass, arriving home before lunchtime.