On Ice

By: J. D. Faver


Getting away was easier than she thought. She put the kids in the back seat and headed west on Interstate-Ten. As the Houston skyline receded, Rene took a deep breath and let it out slowly, her damp hands gripping the steering wheel.

Glancing in the rear view mirror, she flashed a nervous smile at her daughter. Sara chanted in a little sing-song voice. Rene couldn’t hear the words but it involved some sort of finger play. The sweet, pure tone wafted to the front seat to compete with the hum of the air conditioner.

Seth was another matter. Grim best described his mood. His brows were knit and his form of finger play involved biting them until they were pink and ragged. He kept turning in his seat to peer out the back window as though searching for signs of impending doom. Too much pain for a seven-year old who had suffered too much already.

I should have done this a long time ago. Maybe he won’t follow. Rene glanced in the rear-view mirror again, this time scanning the highway ribboning out behind them. She bit her lower lip. Maybe hell’s frozen over.

“Are you kids hungry?” She forced a note of gaiety into her voice. “How about sandwiches from the Smokehouse? We’re getting close to Schulenburg now.”

Sara clapped her hands with glee. Seth remained silent. Poor kid. This took a long time in coming, but it was happening too fast for him.

The Schulenberg exit was just ahead. Rene changed lanes, checking her mirrors for a dark blue Lexus. He probably doesn’t know we’re gone yet. Her stomach tensed at the thought. She had to put as much distance as possible behind them. Two other cars parked in front of the Smokehouse. Not many people to remember them.

Their shoes sounded unnaturally loud clomping across the wooden porch. The aroma of smoked meats and freshly baked bread assailed their senses as they entered the frame structure.

Sara ran to press her nose against the glass display case housing the baked sweets. Even Seth seemed interested in the array of cookies and pastries.

Rene ordered half a dozen smoked turkey and ham sandwiches. She had them packed in a Styrofoam ice chest with fruit juice, sodas and milk. At the last minute she got two dozen assorted cookies and let Sara carry the precious bag to the car. Seth hoisted the cooler, using both hands to keep it from scraping the floor.

Rene held the door open, self-consciously tucking stray tendrils of ash-blonde hair under the blue baseball cap and adjusting her dark glasses.

Back on the highway, the children ate as Rene drove. A knot as big as a fist formed in her stomach. She barely swallowed a few sips of soda, much less anything solid.

Three hours ago she had taken a step toward changing their lives for the better. A smile played around her lips as she recalled how their doorman had complimented her when he helped her into the taxi.

Looking every bit the affluent wife, she wore a well-cut suit in an especially flattering shade of rose silk. Her stiletto pumps were Manolo Blahniks and her bag by Fendi. She carried a large Niemann’s shopping bag.

“Lookin’ great, Mrs. Desmond.” He leered as she tucked her long slender legs into the cab. “Meeting someone?”

Rene stifled a shudder, knowing he reported her every move to Mark. “No, I just need to return something.” She patted the bag and reached past him to pull the door closed before he could make further inquiries.

Directing the elderly cab driver to the children’s private school, she leaned back on the seat and closed her eyes, inhaling the odor of those who preceded her. A wave of relief washed over her. So far, so good.

Rene had read that courage wasn’t about being fearless, but rather, being afraid and taking action anyway. If that was the case, Rene was already a hero.

Her stomach was tied up in a knot and her heart throbbed against her ribs as if she’d run a marathon. She tried to smile, but developed a nervous tic instead.

The driver turned onto a broad avenue lined with old oak trees reaching across to one another. The cool green umbrella offered a respite from the glare of the late morning sunshine.

The driver agreed to wait while she picked up her children. With trembling fingers, she drew a tissue from her purse. Leaving the Niemann’s bag on the seat, she stepped from the taxi, squaring her shoulders for the ordeal that lay ahead.