Flight Risk- Chapter Two

26 Apr

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“Tell me about yourself.”

“You don’t want to hear it.”

“Yes, I do.  Tell me your past, present, and future.”

“All of it?” I challenged.  “That could take a while.”

* * *

Chapter 2

“I’m sorry.  What did you just say?”

“Nashville!” he repeated with more zest.

“N… N… Nashville?”  The word tasted bitter on my tongue.

For years I avoided mentioning the place by name and repressing the memories I had made there.  When I left I told myself that I would never go back.  Yet here I was, discussing crossing beyond the city limits and visiting for two whole weeks.

“Yeah, that’s what I said!” Will responded, offering me a proud grin.

“Nashville, Tennessee?”  I prayed Will would pay no heed to my horrified expression.  Recognition would only lead to questions I had adeptly dodged for nine years.

“Well, yeah.  What other Nashville is there?”

“There’s one in Georgia, Arkansas, Ohio—”

“Alright, alright,” he interrupted.  “Are there really that many Nashvilles?”

“I think there are nine or ten.”  And I had no desire to visit any of them, least of all the one to which he was referring.

“I’m not going to ask why you know that.  Yes, we’re going to Nashville, Tennessee, on Monday!”

“That’s just one state down.”

The chosen destination made more sense as a weekend venture than a vacation—not that I’d be enthusiastic about either.

“Very good, honey.  If you ever get tired of English you could always teach geography.”

“We’re practically neighbors.”

He chuckled.  “Can’t pull one over on you, can I?”

“But there’s no beach there.”  Tennessee was as landlocked as a state could get.

“Come on, Evelyn.  Going to the beach is overrated.  It’s been done too many times before.”

“Not by us,” I contradicted.  The last time there was gritty sand between my toes and saltwater lapping gently against my ankles was back in high school—the first time around.

“I was trying to think outside of the box.”

Didn’t he know how much I liked the box?  It had worked for us thus far.

“But of all the destinations in the world, why Nashville?”  And why did God hate me?  What had I done to be punished so severely?  Was Karma finally making her rounds?

“Because there was a great deal online and…”

“And?” Because God hated me!

“Because you love country music!”

It was a sick coincidence that his reasoning mirrored my own excuse from the last time I had made the trek to Nashville.  The nonsensical logic had seemed a good enough reason to relocate back then; now I could see the fatal flaws.  Why hadn’t I listened to my sister all those years ago and turned around?

“Yeah, I love the color green too.  Why don’t we go to Ireland?”

The Emerald Isle was on my list of places to visit before I died.  The foreign country seemed infinitely more appealing just now because it was thousands of miles away from Tennessee.

“Oh, Evelyn.  This is why I love you.  You come up with the craziest ideas.  Ireland?  Seriously?”

“Ha.  Yeah, I guess.”

My stomach began to roll, protesting our proposed destination.  I had left Nashville nine years ago and never rarely looked back.  If I hadn’t felt compelled to return before now why would I want to after all of this time?  There had to be a way to put an end to this trip that didn’t include telling my boyfriend the truth.

“Do you realize how hot it’s going to be down there?”

“It’s summertime, honey.  It’s hot everywhere.”

“Not in Alaska.”

Alaska?” he repeated. “I don’t want to go there, Evelyn.”

“But we’re going to end up sweating so much in Tennessee that we won’t enjoy ourselves.  I don’t want to be miserable for our first vacation in four years.”

“Don’t worry about the weather.  I booked us a nice hotel on the main drag in the city that has a pool.  And it’s within walking distance of all the top-rated bars and restaurants.”

“Great.”  Little did he know, just about every downtown hotel was within walking distance of multiple bars and fantastic restaurants.

“There’s only one minor hitch.”

Only one?  I could think of a million that ultimately revolved around Nashville itself.

“What’s that?”

“We’re driving.”

“Oh, okay.”  The trip would take us a little over four hours—half the amount of time the drive had taken me ten years earlier.

He mistook my estranged expression for an aversion to highway travel.

“But don’t worry about that either.  Road trips are really fun and adventurous.  We’ll drive down the road and just see where it leads.”

“I bet it’s going to lead to Nashville,” I murmured bitterly.

The end of this was already predetermined—that is unless I sabotaged our GPS and Will allowed me to assume the role of navigator.  Circumventing the city would be considered an art form by the time I finished with our route.

“Well, yeah, Evelyn.  Eventually we’re going to make it to Nashville.  But we can stop wherever you want along the way there and back.  Our timeline is pretty lenient.  I’ve allowed plenty of leeway for excursions.”

“Great.”  Just perfect.

“I’ve found that when you fly somewhere you tend to miss a lot of the excitement and spontaneity that you encounter on a road trip.”

“Have you ever been on a road trip, Will?”  He didn’t strike me as the type to waste precious vacation time in a confined space; he was too efficient for that.

“Of course.”

“How many?” I pressed.

He grimaced before answering.  “One.”

“And where did you go?”

“I went to Savannah.”

“You drove all the way to Savannah in a car?” I scoffed.

“No, we took a space shuttle.  Of course we went in a car, Evelyn.  It was for a conference my senior year of college.  Our accommodations were covered by a grant but we didn’t have the money to fly,” he explained.

“But we have the money now,” I reminded him, more than willing to fork over the extra cash to fly somewhere else.  I’d finance the entire trip if that meant I could choose our destination.

“Come on, Evelyn.  Where is your sense of adventure?”

I couldn’t admit that my adventure had been left  in the same place he wanted to visit.

“I don’t know, Will.”

“Maybe we’ll find it on the way,” he said, forever the optimist.  “So I was thinking that when we’re down there we could…”

It took me a few seconds to realize that he had stopped talking.  “Keep going.  I’m listening.”

“No, you’re not.  What’s wrong, honey?  You look like you’re a hundred years away.”

Actually, I was only ten years away, mentally reliving a past I had attempted to forget.

“I’m sorry, Will.  I’m focused now.  What were you going to say?”

“Oh, no.”

“What?”  The revelation on his face immediately alarmed me.  Things were about to get a lot worse.

“Why didn’t I see this coming?”

“See what coming?” I pushed, growing more worried with each passing second.

“You hate it.”   Will pressed back into the cushions and searched his mind for reasons why I would hate his idea—reasons he would never find.

I pulled myself out of my own misery long enough to realize that his ever-present smile had faltered.

“No, I don’t,” I said quickly, a knee-jerk reaction.  This situation was my cross to bear, not his.

He was too perceptive to take my lie at face value.  “Yes, you do.”

“Hate is such a strong word.”  Accurate, but strong.

“I knew this was a bad idea.  This is the first time I tried to do something special for you and I completely screwed it up.”

“No, you didn’t.”  Our trip was still salvageable as long as there was a change in destination.

“We can fly down if you want but I don’t really see the point,” he said.  “By the time we’d get to an airport and wait around we’d nearly be there by car.”

“I don’t have a problem driving.  Like you said, it’ll be adventurous.”

“Even better,” he ground sarcastically, his frustration compounding.

“What?”

“If you don’t have a problem with our mode of transportation that means you do have a problem with something else.  You really don’t want to go to Nashville, do you?”

Dodging this question was vital to my survival.  “How did you pick Nashville, exactly?  It seems like a fairly random destination coming from you.”

Luckily, he took the bait and didn’t think twice about the change in subject.  “I browsed our options online after I had confirmed the dates with my supervisor and this opportunity presented itself.  So I snatched it up before it expired or someone else stole it out from under me.  You always have to plan everything, and I wanted to take that burden off your hands.”

This probably wasn’t the best time to explain that I enjoyed every aspect of the planning process, and that he had burdened himself unnecessarily.  It was important to remember the thought had come from a good place.

“I appreciate it,” I said.

“I guess we don’t have to go to Nashville.”

“We don’t?”  If he was willing to go somewhere else then there was still hope for this ill-fated vacation of ours.

“I’m sure I can cancel the hotel and incur only a minor fee.  I spent the extra twenty dollars on travel insurance,” he explained.

“You’d be willing to do that?” I asked, too brightly to appear indifferent.

His frown grew more pronounced.  “I guess so.”

“What I meant was, there’s no way I want you to do that.”

“Okay.”

“Unless…” I began cryptically.

Will took the bait.  “Unless what?”

“Unless you wanted to.”

“Why would I want to?  I’m the one who picked Nashville in the first place.”

“Oh, right.”

“Do you want me to?”

Yes.

“No.  I want you to do what you want.”  As long as that included cancelling the hotel, visiting some other state/country, and never mentioning Nashville again.

“Well, what I want is to make you happy.”

“I’ll be happy as long as I’m with you.”  And as long as we weren’t anywhere near Nashville.

“Same here.”

“I have a great idea!”  One that would make me happy and my boyfriend content with my appreciation for his efforts.

“What’s that?”

“Why don’t we get online to see if there are any other places we’d rather visit?  If not then we’ll just head for Nashville, determined to have a good time.”

I had enough confidence in my power of persuasion to know that I could make any destination seem more appealing than Music City.  Will would be purchasing two round-trip tickets to Afghanistan before he even thought twice about getting into the car and driving south.

“I guess we could do that if you really don’t like the idea I came up with.”

He just had to play the pity-card, didn’t he?

“It’s not that I don’t love your idea,” I confessed, hoping dishonesty didn’t seep through my words.  “It’s just that I’m a little worried about what’s going to happen when we get there.”

My admission brought the frown back to his lips.  “Worried?  Why?  I took care of this so you wouldn’t have to worry about a thing.”

Because there was a past in Nashville that I never wanted to revisit or share with anyone, especially my boyfriend. 

“Well, for one, you hate country music.”  Will had never voiced his opinion in so many words but there had been numerous signs that led me to that concrete conclusion.

“I wouldn’t say I hate it,” he hedged.

“Every time I play the country music station in the car you change the channel.”

“That’s because I can’t stand radio commercials,” he said.

There was more to his action than an aversion to advertisements.

“You tolerate my CD’s but turn the volume down too low to hear.  And you can’t blame the commercials for that one.”

“Come on, Evelyn.  You listen to those things so loud that it makes the windows shake.  I’m surprised we haven’t been issued a noise violation,” he countered.

“How about when I watch the music videos on CMT?  You constantly find some reason to shut off the TV.”

“This trip isn’t about me, Evelyn,” he protested, effectively changing the subject and ignoring my logical arguments.  “It’s all about you and what you want.”

“Like I said before, I just want to get away and enjoy myself.”  The latter would be impossible in Nashville.

“That’s my goal too.  I know I’ve been the sole reason we’ve been stuck here for the entirety of the past three—”

“Four.”

“Right.  Four years.  Anyway, I wanted to do this as a way of thanking you for putting up with everything.”

“You’re my boyfriend.  I’m supposed to put up with you.”  Sometimes I didn’t want to, but I did anyway.  That’s the way it was when you loved someone.

“You know what I mean.”

I shrugged.  “It was for work and ultimately out of our control.”

“Alright!  Enough of this depressing talk.  I want to see some of that enthusiasm from earlier.  You are going to Nashville, Evelyn!”

“You’re coming too, right?”

“Of course I’m coming too,” he scoffed.  “Do you think I’m going to let my sexy girlfriend strut around Nashville with all of those famous country musicians in the city?  One may try to snap you up!”

My laugh was a brittle, gasping wheeze.  “If you’re going then I want you to have a good time too.  Downtown Nashville is country music—it’s in every bar and restaurant, playing on every street corner and on every radio station.  You won’t be able to switch it off or turn it down.  And two weeks in Nashville?  We’re going to run out of things to do after a couple of days.”

He grimaced slightly, but the look was replaced by a dangerous realization.  “How do you know all of that?”

“Everyone knows that.”  Didn’t they?  Nashville was called Music City for obvious reasons.  Just about every tune on country radio paid homage to Tennessee’s capital.

“No, there’s more.  You’re not telling me something.”

Actually, there were a number of facts I had omitted throughout the years.

“Um…”

“Hold up.  Have you been there before?”

So much for avoiding more questions; I had recklessly walked straight into that one.

Now did I lie and delay the inevitable or face the consequences head on?

“Yeah.  Maybe once.”

Maybe once or definitely once?”

“Definitely once.”

My boyfriend looked ready to throw a tantrum worthy of any spoiled two-year-old; he crossed his arms and ground his teeth together.

“You’re going to give yourself a headache from doing that,” I teased with a false air of lightness.

“You never told me,” he accused.

A purple vein pulsed beneath the skin on his forehead.  His disappointment made me feel like a child being scolded by her father.

“That’s because it was forever ago.”

“I don’t care if it was forever ago or last week.  You should have said something when I first told you that we were going there for our vacation.”

“I know,” I whispered, ashamed by my dishonesty.

“No wonder you don’t want to go.  I can’t believe that of all the places I could have picked, you have already been there.”

“It’s really not that big of a deal, Will.  I’m sure the place has changed a lot since I was there the last time.”

Although in my experience, cities didn’t have a lot of room—or inclination—to change.

“Did you like it when you were there?” he inquired, placated for the time being.

“Yeah, I did.”  A decade ago I had spent the time of my life in Nashville.

Now, however…  Well, now was another story entirely.

I was a different person than I had been all those years before.

“Do you think I’ll like it?”

It was simpler to answer honestly.  “No.”

“Why not?”

“I just told you the music is—”

“Okay,” he interrupted.  “If I loved country music as much as you do, would I like it?”

“I’m still not really sure.”

“I think you’re wrong, Evelyn,” he said, moving closer to me and taking my clammy hands in his.  I resisted the urge to pull free of his grasp and wipe my palms on the pants I wore.  “I know I will like it if you like it.”

“I’m still not really sure.”

“I guess we’ll have to wait and see.  I might surprise you.”

“You already have.”  More than he would ever know.

“Good.  That was my goal, remember?”

“I believe you’ve surpassed that goal and brought surprise to an entirely new level.”

An uncomfortable, menacing level that did not bode well for my happiness.

“I guess the only question that remains is whether or not you would like to go back again?”

The urge to put an end to our trip before it began was overwhelming.  But I didn’t have the heart to dash his hopes with the truth.

“Sure.”

“Come on, Evelyn!  I know you can do better than that.  I saw the look on your face when I told you that I had taken two weeks off.  Let’s try this again.  Would you like to go back to Nashville?”

The broken smile hurt my face, but it made Will grin in response so it must not have appeared too fake.

I answered him with as much feigned excitement as I could muster even as I felt an odd foreboding for what was to come.  One thing was for certain: this journey was not going to end well.

“I’d love to go back to Nashville.”

* * *

Come back next Friday for the next installment of Flight Risk!  Don’t want to wait that long?  Come back on WEDNESDAY, May 1 for links to purchase a copy!

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