Some day in the future, I'm going to write a book chronicling the misadventures of a young married couple. It will be entirely fictional, of course. Here's a preview:
Tamara glanced at her watch and saw the minute hand ticking past the eight. She felt a rush of alarm. It was almost nine p.m., and she still had to drop off some of the kids from youth night, pick up her own kids, and head to Missouri.
"All right, out to the car," she said, baby carrier balancing on one arm while she ushered the kids out to car. She shivered in the five degree air, checking to make sure the pink blanket was secure around the baby.
"Oh! I've got to use the bathroom!" the 16yo girl said, turning and running back into the church.
"Okay!" Tamara called after her. "Hurry! We'll be right here!"
"Let's just leave her," the girl's brother said, jumping into the front seat.
Tamara didn't respond, though she did wonder why the girl waited until now to need the bathroom. She clicked the baby's carseat into place and climbed into the driver's side. How long did it take to use the bathroom?
The doors to the church flew open, and the girl came running out. Finally, out of the church parking lot.
The small group chatted comfortably while Tamara drove to a friend's house to pick up her other two kids. Of course the children didn't want to leave, and then they were hungry, and then they needed to use the bathroom.
By the time she got them in the car, dropped the other kids off, and got on the road to Missouri, it was 9:20pm. And she still needed to get gas. Roads were a bit slick. I forgot to grab blankets, she thought. Her children were in pajamas with coats, but no blankets this time. She pulled up the gas station. Oh well. One tank of gas always gets us there and back. She had made this trip more times than she cared to count, after all.
She swiped her debit card and hooked the pump up to the car. Nothing. No signs indicated that the station was closed, but she saw someone else trying to go into the convenience store, and the man inside wouldn't open the doors. What, the gas station closed at nine today?
Getting back in the car, she drove across the street and filled up. Time was ticking by.
The three hour drive to Fort Leonard Wood felt like an eternity. The 2yo cried for the first hour and a half before finally giving up and going to sleep. As the time drifted past midnight, she fought to keep herself awake. I'll pluck all my nose hairs. That's usually painful. After half an hour, though, the tweezers were coming up dry, and she resorted to her old standby for staying awake: biting her fingers. Thank goodness Mark was driving on the way back.
She felt a burst of energy when she saw her husband. He was coming home for the weekend. And hopefully he'd have a different mode of transportation for the ride back! They switched places, and Tamara popped her contact lenses out, leaned her seat back, and fell asleep.
It wasn't exactly a deep sleep, but it was sleep. Two hours later, feeling rested, she sat up. "I forgot my glasses," she told Mark.
"I need to get gas," he replied.
That was new. Tamara focused on the console and could make out the yellow light. "When did it turn on?"
"About ten miles ago."
Tamara looked out the window at the blackness that surrounded them. She didn't think there were any gas stations between here and Joplin on I-44. "How far is Joplin?"
That was cutting it close. Not wanting to alarm her husband, Tamara said confidently, "We'll make it. Just don't take the 71 exit; drive into the city."
"Are there gas stations there?"
"Sure there are." One time, Tamara had missed the 71 exit. But to be honest, she didn't remember what came after that. She reached around and turned off all the heat dials, in case that was draining the gas.
They drove past the 71 exit and continued on I-44. So did the nothingness.
"We're not going to make it," Mark said, uneasiness in his voice. "This isn't good."
Tamara had to admit he just might be right. "It'll be okay. I have my emergency card and we'll call for help." Though that would mean sitting for forty minutes with no heat while they waited. Tamara kicked herself for not remembering the blankets. "What are those lights?"
"It's a gas station. But there's no exit."
Tamara stared woefully at the bright flashes as they drove past. Maybe they should stop the car and run across the interstate to buy a gallon.
"We're going to make it," Mark said, and Tamara noticed the change in his tone.
"Did you see a gas station?"
"Yes. Next exit."
Tamara settled back into her chair, fully awake now. Mark filled the tank up, and when he came back in, Tamara let out a little chuckle. "Well. That was fun."
"No," Mark said, his voice tight. "No, it wasn't."