Sara's Promise(80)

By: Deanna Lynn Sletten

The traffic was heavy despite the fact that Woodroe was a small, northern Minnesota town of about twenty-thousand people. Maggie couldn't help but sigh again as she followed the parade of parents in minivans and SUVs in a rush to drop their children off at school. It was only the third week of school and she was already tired of the morning traffic in and out of the much-too-small middle school parking lot. There was no doubt at all in Maggie's mind, parents in minivans and SUVs were the worst drivers on the planet. She found herself in near-accidents at least three times daily upon either entering or driving through the parking lot. Everyone acted as if they had somewhere better to be and needed to get there faster than the next person. It was the same old story, year after year.

Maggie followed these inconsiderate drivers in the long line entering the parking lot, waiting her turn to drop Kaia off at the front entrance. Country music blared from the speakers—Kaia's choice. Maggie always let Kaia choose the music when they rode together. It was much easier than fighting over the radio. Soon enough, Maggie would be able to pop in the CD of her choice as she headed home.

"I'm sorry we couldn't get here earlier," Maggie offered as they pulled up in front of the school and stopped.

"Whatever," Kaia said under her breath as she gathered her book bag and tennis racket. "Remind Dad to pick me up after tennis practice tonight," were her last words before slamming the van's door and stalking off. Kaia didn't give her mother time to say goodbye or wish her a good day.

Maggie tried not to take it personally, but her heart felt heavy as she turned AM to CD on the stereo and let Bob Seger sing about escaping down a western highway on his big two-wheeler. Maggie had bought the CD on a whim two weeks ago, remembering how much she'd loved listening to Seger years ago; before kids, before marriage, before life took control of her instead of the other way around. His music had a freeing effect, and she'd been listening to it continuously ever since.

Maggie dutifully followed the line of cars out of the parking lot and headed her van home. She was happy she didn't have to work today. Three days a week she worked at a Group Home with developmentally challenged adults. She enjoyed working with her challenged friends, but sometimes it was exhausting meeting their needs all day and then going home to more needy people. Lately, she'd felt overwhelmed by it all, home, work, and the kids. There never seemed to be a break in everyone's needs and wants.

As Bob sang and traffic crawled along, she let her mind drift back to the morning rush at home. Andrew hadn't even kissed her goodbye. Not even a peck on the cheek. When was the last time he had? She really couldn't remember. Was it a year ago, two years ago? The heaviness in her chest swelled. Their relationship had changed greatly in the twenty-three years they'd been married. She remembered back to when they first began to date in college in Seattle, Washington. He'd moved there for school to experience something new and different from his small-town upbringing. Her father had been stationed there at a military base. Andrew had been a communications major; she had majored in art, mainly photography. He'd been very conservative then, but her impulsive nature had brought out the fun side in him. She'd plan trips on a whim, dragging him along with her and her camera to rocky cliffs, sandy beaches, and romantic parks on Puget Sound. Once they'd driven to Lake Tahoe and stayed the weekend without even a moment's thought about it. She'd made him promise on the day they married that they would always allow a little wanderlust in their lives, no matter how conventional they became. And she'd believed him when he said they would.

Maggie pulled up and stopped at the red light where she was to turn north to go home. She hit the back button on the stereo to once again play "Roll Me Away". She didn't switch her right blinker on to turn; she just sat there, looking straight ahead. The lane headed west, just as Bob said he was doing, west, across the plains, over the mountains, to the ocean. She glanced at the back seat where her Cannon camera lay in its case. Beside it, her laptop computer also sat waiting. Wouldn't it be fun, just for a little while, to just drive a different direction and take a few snapshots? Just a few miles, not too far, not for too long. Maggie's heavy heart lightened at the thought and a smile lit up her blue eyes. North or west? One direction meant home, the other, adventure. North or west?

The light changed to green and Maggie didn't give it another thought. She turned up her stereo, smiled wide and said out loud to no one but herself, "Roll me away, Bob." And she rolled clean out of sight.

Andrew Harrison stepped through the back door of their 1890s Victorian home with Kaia close on his heels. It was just after five and he planned on taking a quick shower before he ate and headed off to the County Planning Committee meeting he was expected at by seven. He was a busy man, committed to several area boards and committees along with his full-time job as the Communications Manager at Woodroe Communications, the local television and internet provider. The contacts he made in the area were important to his job, and his volunteering looked good for the company he worked for. Besides, he loved the community they lived in and enjoyed being a part of the many decisions made as it grew. Tonight, the committee would be discussing the possible development of a large parcel of land into a new "upscale" neighborhood, and he was anxious to get there early and feel out how some of the other members felt about the proposal. He hoped Maggie had dinner ready on time so he could leave right afterward.

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