Kayla tapped the iPhone again and looked at the remaining lighthouses. “It’s about an hour and a half to the next one, Cape Hatteras,” she said. “Then we start hitting things like car ferries.”
“Those are cool,” Danny said. “Did you ever take the Badger?”
“Yeah, from Wisconsin to Ludington,” she replied. “Lousy weather, so we spent most of the four hours below watching ‘The Apple Dumpling Gang’ on a little TV. It cleared up for the docking, though.”
He frowned. “Well, I don’t know if we can replicate that viewing experience. How long are the ferry rides?”
She checked. “The one from Hatteras to Ocracoke is about 45 minutes,” she said. “Then to Cape Lookout is more than two hours, and they recommend reservations.”
She shook her head. “I think we’ve done the lighthouses justice. Let’s just head back north.”
He feigned shock. “North? An actual direction? Not, ‘left at the Kmart?'”
She mock glared at him. “Shall I shift into reverse while the car is in gear?”
His shock was a little closer to real this time. She had cited one of the cardinal sins he had preached at her long ago, and she grinned at the reaction.
“I promise not to strip the transmission on the Viper,” she said in her sweetest voice, pulling the keys away from him.
At the car, though, she changed her mind. “I need to call and check in,” she said. “OK?”
He nodded and steered them back onto the mainland. “Flip,” he instructed.
She consulted the atlas instead. “I vote we call it good for the Carolinas, and skip South. Nothing personal. Heads for Tennessee, tails for Georgia?”
“Are those our only options?”
“OK, we did that pretty thoroughly already. Flip.”
Tails it was, so they plotted a course, although neither was close. “It’s a good 440 miles as the crow flies, and we don’t have that luxury,” Danny said. “On an up note, that should be enough time for a conversation with your mother.”
She ignored him and settled in. It was a very long conversation, but mostly because her mother, a longtime devotee of colonial times, insisted on peppering her for every detail. She asked for copies of the photos, and Kayla promised to e-mail them as soon as she hung up.
“Given any thought to coming back this way?” her mother asked.
Kayla hesitated. She had been thinking about it, but more from a road trip sense.
“Do you want to meet up in Chicago?” she asked, ignoring the look from Danny. “One of my friends raved about Navy Pier, and being at the top of the Ferris wheel at night. And I’d like to go to Shedd again.”
“You and your aquariums,” her mother said, and Kayla could hear the warmth in her voice. “Do you know when you’re coming?”
“No idea. We’re aiming for Georgia right now, so probably a couple of days at least.”
“Well, when you two figure it out, let me know. Let me talk to Danny a minute.”
Kayla held the phone out and he shook his head. “It’s unsafe to drive that way,” he said.
She rolled her eyes and shook the phone at him. “I’m sure she wants to see if you’re taking care of me. Humor her.”
He rolled his eyes in turn and took the phone. “Hi, I’m making sure she eats and sleeps and takes her meds. How are you?”
The grimace said he’d been blasted, but he was smiling when he handed the phone back a moment later. “All good,” he promised. “Same instructions, just repeated.”
She put the phone back to her ear. “Did you call your doctor?” Mom asked.
“Just check in and tell them how you’re feeling. It’ll only take a minute and it can’t hurt.”
“After I e-mail you the pictures,” Kayla said.
As she composed the message and attached the photos, Danny was quiet. Finally he asked, “So, are you going to call them?”
She stopped, annoyed. “Why does everyone want me to call my doctor? Don’t you think we’ve had enough conversations? I am fully aware it is D minus 23” — she paused while recognition hit him — “and that I have a makeup bag full of drugs, none of which will make me a live a day longer. I spent too much time talking about this stuff already. I don’t want to rehash. I want to have fun.”
She turned back to sending the photos, then put the phone down firmly and stared out the window.
Danny sighed. She refused to respond. Miles rolled by.
As they neared Georgia, he offered, “There’s a sign for Atlanta. Without you getting us lost, even.”
She remained silent and he tried again. “I hear they have a killer aquarium.”
She relented. “Yeah, they do. I’ve wanted to go ever since it opened.”
He sighed, this time in relief. “Hiawassee,” he announced as they crossed the state line. “Lake Chatuge Lodge?”
“How much do you want to bet it’s not anywhere near a lake?” she asked.
He didn’t, which is good, because she’d have lost. Every single room faced either the lake or the Blue Ridge Mountains, and being flatlanders they chose a mountain view. Taking a barbecue tip from the clerk, they headed into town for Hawg Heaven, Kayla at the wheel.
“Atlanta’s only a couple of hours from here,” Danny noted.
“I have a map,” Kayla said, waving the paper the clerk had scrawled on. “We’re good. We’ll eat too much barbecue and then head for Atlanta tomorrow. And I’ll call my doctor when the office opens.”
He watched her. “Only if you want to,” he said. “I don’t want to lose you. I mean, I know we didn’t talk for ages, but I always knew we could. I don’t want to lose that,” he clarified.
“But you’re the one who sat through all those appointments and tests. If you don’t think there’s any point in calling, I’ll stay off your case and your mom can be the bad guy.”
Kayla swung the car into the parking lot sharply to startle him and grinned. “Fair enough. But right now I’m starving.”
The next chapter is guided by these answers:
Should Kayla call her doctor?
73 votes went like this:
Yes: 75.34 percent (55 votes)
No: 24.66 percent (18 votes)
Will her doctor have new information for her?
73 votes went like this:
Yes: 79.45 percent (58 votes)
No: 20.55 percent (15 votes)
Do you want her to live longer than 30 days?
79 votes went like this:
Yes, years longer: 50.63 percent (40 votes)
Yes, a little: 21.52 percent (17 votes)
No, stick to the original vote: 27.85 percent (22 votes)
After Georgia, where do they go?
72 votes went like this:
Tennessee: 43.06 percent (31 votes)
Alabama: 23.61 percent (17 votes)
Florida: 33.33 percent (24 votes)
This post originally appeared on ourMidland.com, the online home of the Midland (MI) Daily News. Republished with permission.