Vote Me a Story: Kayla’s Journey, chapter 5

    As they drove toward town, Kayla kept thinking about her mom, until finally she told Danny,” Stop by my old house first.”

    “I don’t even know where your new house is,” he said. “I was about to ask.”

    “That’s second,” she said. “I haven’t told my mom yet. I need to before we go.”

    He looked at her sidelong as long as he safely could. At the red he turned back to her and said, “You told your friends, and you told me, but you didn’t tell her? She’s going to kill you, and I’m likely to be next as collateral damage.”

    He roared ahead, shaking his head. “I’m staying in the car.”

    When they pulled in the driveway he insisted on hanging back, and when Kayla greeted her mother and gestured back at him, he waved, pretending to be fiddling with something in the glove compartment. “Chicken,” she called. “Look who’s talking,” he shouted back as she disappeared into the house.

    “It’s nice to see Danny, but a little surprising,” her mother said.

    “Getting right to the point, are we?” Kayla replied. “OK, I’ll do the same.”

    She spilled the events of Wednesday. Her mother, ever a hypochondriac, had feared the horrible, but hadn’t really dreamed of it for her daughter. After about a minute she suspected what was coming and held up a hand while she went to fetch Kleenex, then sat, wadding up one wet tissue after another, as her daughter talked and the tears flowed from both women.

    “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner,” Kayla finally choked. “I wish I had better news.” She looked up, bright-eyed. “I don’t want you to be sad without me.”

    Her mother smiled back. “Tough,” she said. “I’m going to miss you. I’m going to cry, and I’m going to be sad, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

    Kayla laughed shakily. “So, you’re not going to try to talk me out of it?”

    Mom shook her head. “I know who all you’ve seen. You even went to that one specialist I recommended when you thought it was pointless. If they can’t find a way to help, there isn’t one.”

    The firmness of her conviction was a little jarring. “Well, thanks,” Kayla told her.

    Her mother’s mouth quivered a little. “I don’t wish it on you, honey,” she said. “I’d take it away if I could. But I don’t think wishing for something that can’t be is how you want to go out. That’s not like you.”

    She did understand, so Kayla hoped she’d understand the rest. “Everything’s in order,” she said. “And Danny wrote me the day I found out asking me to meet him today, and he knows. We thought we’d go on a trip.”

    “Together?” her mother asked, raising an eyebrow. “That’s interesting. How long?”

    “Of course together. We hadn’t decided how long.”

    “Will you be back in time?”

    Kayla paused. They hadn’t talked that far, but what did she have to come back for? So everyone could gather around her bedside? She’d rather send breezy postcards and be remembered that way.

    “I don’t know,” she said, watching her mother carefully. “It might be kind of nice to, I don’t know, fall asleep at the edge of the ocean and just not wake up there, rather than in my living room waiting for someone to miss me.”

    Mom frowned. “I don’t like the idea of not knowing where you are. Will you call me every day?”

    “Every day? I’m 45.”

    “Extenuating circumstances,” her mother said. “OK, every other day, or if you don’t feel well. And if you decide you want me there, you tell me” –- she glared for emphasis –- “and I’ll fly into the closest airport and meet you wherever you want. Promise?”

    Kayla relaxed. “Promise,” she said.

    “Good. Now tell that boy to come inside and stop avoiding me.”

    She put a pot of coffee on and talked pleasantries with Danny before giving him some pointed instructions about how to watch over her daughter. Half an hour later she was satisfied, or as satisfied as she was going to get, and motioned Kayla back into her bedroom.

    “Pick something out,” she said, gesturing at her jewelry box.

    “What? Why?” Kayla asked.

    “So I can watch over you.”

    Kayla didn’t want to choose anything too precious or expensive, but her mother did have more than one cameo, and one with a Wedgewood blue background always had been Kayla’s favorite. “May I borrow this?” she asked, and her mother pinned it to her jacket, smiling sadly.

    “Of course,” she replied. “Now go, before I won’t let you.”

    The hug at the door couldn’t be long enough, so they gave up trying. Kayla turned around in her seat and waved all the way down the street, then sat back down, wiping tears away.

    Danny had the sense to be quiet for a few minutes before reminding her, “I don’t know where to go.”

    “Oh, right. Sorry,” Kayla said, giving him quick directions.

    Packing was fast. Grateful she had a cat, she poured as much food and water as she could, then left Becky a message asking her to check in every few days. She had missed the mail carrier, so she wrote a note and tucked it in the box, and called the newspaper to ask for delivery to stop. She grabbed only clothes she loved and a small bag of keepsakes, packed a separate bag of medicine and records, and proclaimed herself ready to go.

    “By the way,” she said, in what she hoped was a light way, “how long are we going to be gone?”

    “Your mom seemed to be under the impression you weren’t coming back vertically,” he said. “I wasn’t going to argue about it there, but what do you want?”

    “Well, I had thought about going off myself,” Kayla said. “I don’t know how much time you have off, or if you really want to stick around to the end, but …”

    He cut her off. “I’d be honored. I had figured a couple of weeks, so I’ll just call my boss and tell him what’s up. It’ll be cool,” he said, adding for her raised eyebrow, “really.”

    She waited, but he stayed stock still, daring her to challenge him. She shrugged and said, “OK then,” grabbed her U.S. road atlas and said, “Let’s go.”

    “You just happened to have a road atlas?”

    “I was thinking about a road trip out west,” she said. It was the truth.

    “So do we head west?”

    She thought about it. “Well, I kind of always wanted to just go to an airport and choose the destination when I got there -–”

    “How would you know what to pack?” he interrupted, and she waved him off.

    “As I was saying, I thought it’d be amazing to just make decisions along the way, so could we maybe do that? Like, just start on I-75 and flip a coin when there’s a big split in the road?”

    It was his turn to shrug. “I don’t see why not.”

    “Cool,” Kayla said. “So we’re done here. Keys,” she added, opening and closing her hand. “My turn to drive.”

The next chapter is based on these votes and e-mails:

When it’s time to turn, which way do they go?

251 votes went like this:

east: 57.37 percent (144 votes)

west: 42.63 percent (107 votes)

When it’s time to turn, which way do they go?

251 votes went like this:

north: 59.76 percent (150 votes)

south: 40.24 percent (101 votes)

How long do they drive before stopping? It’s 8 p.m.

251 votes went like this:

2 hours: 2.79 percent (7 votes)

until they cross the state line: 65.34 percent (164 votes)

until midnight: 10.76 percent (27 votes)

until sunrise: 21.12 percent (53 votes)

How far should they go Sunday?

251 votes went like this:

300 miles: 5.18 percent (13 votes)

500 miles: 13.55 percent (34 votes)

through at least 2 states: 81.27 percent (204 votes)

    This post originally appeared on, the online home of the Midland (MI) Daily News. Republished with permission.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s