She’s been really friendly about the whole ordeal so far. She introduced herself as Reba Carter, but we already knew that. She’s sitting back there with her hair all messed up and curly. She tells tales about one of her kids, how she still needs to be picked up from school this afternoon.
I say to her, “We’ll figure it out. The kids will be alright.”
Andy sits in the passenger seat, smoking the cigarettes he rolls himself. He asks Reba how she got such good looks.
She giggles, pounds her hands on her left knee. “It’s important for a political figure to keep her looks. I don’t pay a damn for it, though.”
Andy laughs and throws his cigarette butt out the open window.
I dial the radio to a moderate volume. The Stones play. It’s “Sweet Virginia.” My dad used to listen to that shit up at the cabin back when I was a kid. He kept busy there. He taught me how to chop wood, to gut fish. When he took his daily nap, I’d wade in the river and try and catch crawdads. One time, I cooked one over the fire. It tasted like river.
“Can I have a cigarette?” Reba asks.
Andy mumbles, “Sure.” He digs into his platinum case. He pulls one out and sticks it into her mouth. He lights it.
Out the side of her mouth, she spits out, “Can you please roll the window down a little?”
I press the button and roll the window down maybe a little over two inches. She struggles at first, but, with her hands, she begins to take little drags. She tells us thank you.
“So where did you and the big boy first meet?” I ask.
She sighs a little, rolls her green eyes. “College. I was an English major. Gary was political science. It seemed to make sense. We both had a pretty good vision of the future. We were involved in a lot of things on campus. It just worked very naturally. I fell in love very young.”
“Touches my black heart,” Andy says.
Reba cracks a little smile. She asks us, “How long have you guys been doing this? This kind of work?”
“Years,” I reply. “Just a whole lot of years.”
“You like it?”
“We like the money,” Andy says.
Reba puffs out a long stream of smoke. “Money’s never a bad thing.”
I tell her, “Sure got your husband into a lot of trouble.”
“And that’s when the love started fading.”
A song by that band Pearl Jam start to play from the radio. I like it, but I don’t know the name of it. What’s-his-name’s voice is just so recognizable. Really speaks to a period of time in my life, I suppose.
“So you don’t even love the guy?” Andy asks her.
“Well,” Reba replies. “That’s an interesting question, really. I mean, you get to a certain point when…You two got wives? Girlfriends?”
I hold my wedding ring hand up, wave it. “Been married fifteen years. Love her a lot.”
Beneath the cigarette hanging from her mouth, Reba smiles. “Congratulations. That’s just great.” She then looks to Andy in the passenger seat. He doesn’t say a thing. He’s always been very quiet about what happens outside of work. “It’s okay, Andy,” Reba says. “Love is love.”
“Yeah,” he replies. He turns around in his seat and removes the half-smoked cigarette from Reba’s mouth. He tosses it out her partially open window. Then he brushes some of the ash from her leg. After he’s done doing that, she places her hands back in her lap. She says thank you.
“You never finished what you were saying before,” I tell her.
“About what you were trying to say before you asked about our relationships and shit.”
“About what though?”
“Love,” I reply.
“Oh.” She laughs a little. “Well, I mean, I guess it’s just that Gary and me fell in love real young and it just made sense to do something about that. To grow into our thirties with a little bit of security. I got pregnant. That meant even more security. He got real successful with his campaigning. That meant the most. But then he got so busy. And I started trying to keep myself busy, but…It just faded. He started behaving badly, sleeping around, dabbling in this whole money thing. I just thought, ‘Whatever. It’s too late now.’ You can’t really do the whole divorce thing in a world like this. At the age of fifty, I adopted Janae at the age of seven, my black child. She’s gorgeous—fantastic swimmer. She brought me a discernible amount of youth that I thought I had lost.”
Andy says, “You still love him, though. Don’t you?”
“I suppose. You run out of things to love though. So eventually, I think you just have to put up with the shit. Just take the commitment…”
“…as it is.” I take a sip from the coffee I picked up at the gas station probably 50 miles back. It’s still warm. It still tastes half-priced.
“So what happens now?” she asks us.
“We wait for the ransom money.”
“When does that happen?”
“Soon, I’m sure. You’re husband’s in the kind of position where it should come relatively quickly. I’m confident about that.”
“You might be overestimating his love though.” From the rear view mirror, I can see there’s a little flicker in her eye. I don’t really understand. “Maybe I don’t want to go back,” she says.
“Well,” Andy says. “You’re gonna have to. It’s protocol. It puts food on my table.”
She turns her head and looks out the still-open window at all the farmland—the miles of it. “It’s such a pretty day, though,” Reba says.
I look out at the open road, the rows and rows and rows of cornfields. I ask her, “Why the fuck do you live here?”
“It’s so pretty,” she replies. “Boys, please don’t let me go back.”
“How about this,” Andy says. “We’ll untie your hands.”
Reba elevates her hands from her lap. Andy wrapped them with a thick rope back at the house. She says, “Yes please.”
Alan Semrow lives in Wisconsin and is a graduate of English from the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point. His poetry and fiction have been featured in multiple publications, including BlazeVOX 14, Red Fez, the Bicycle Review, Earl of Plaid Lit Journal, Danse Macabre, Potluck, Blotterature, The Rain, Party, & Disaster Society, The Commonline Journal, Crack the Spine, Indiana Voice Journal, EAP: The Magazine, Former People: A Journal of Bangs and Whimpers, Golden Walkman Magazine, Barney Street, and Wordplay, and he won the Essayist Award from the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point English Department for his nonfiction work. In 2015, his stories are set to be featured in several journals, including TWJ Magazine, The Biscuit, DoveTales, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, The Chaffey Review, and The Radvocate. Semrow spends the majority of his free time with his boyfriend, friends, family, and Shih Tzu, Remy.