Suspiciously Obedient

Page 13

“Some people say that about my blue eyes.”

“No,” she protested, “they’re exquisite and very real.” And then, she leaned forward for the kiss that he had craved, for what had felt like a lifetime of waiting. Her lips were no surrender and his response was no claim, it was simply two people trying to find common ground, and to see if the desire that each had could fit into the equation of the ruins that both faced.

“Lydia!” Her grandmother’s voice snapped them apart. “You need to come see this.”

“Grandma, no, I’m talk—”


The old woman’s demeanor and the way that she looked at Mike as if she wished her eyes were lasers and could burn him into a tiny, little pile of soot made him realize that something was wrong—something more was wrong, if that were possible. The sound of the television screen voice came through from the bedroom; it cut in mid-statement: “…Producer Jonah Moore says that the viral sex tape of Michael Bournham and the undisclosed young woman from the office was part of the reality TV show’s production all along.”

Lydia practically ran away from him, down to the bedroom, where Krysta and Lydia’s grandmother stood. He walked on faltering feet, hearing, suddenly, Jonah’s voice. “Oh, yeah,” he said, in rapid-fire speech, “this was all part of Meet the Hidden Boss’s plan. Michael Bournham came to us and he wanted to play a middle manager in his own corporation so he could understand how everything worked, and then he added, ‘And by the way, I have this great idea for how we can really make this go viral.’” Lydia’s grandmother pointed the remote at the TV and shut it off. Suddenly six daggers posing as eyes were pointed at him.

“Get out,” Lydia spat.

“No, no, Lydia…” He closed his eyes, turning away from her. There was absolutely nothing he could do. Stripped powerless, he simply walked, one foot in front of the other, further and further away from the love of his life, the woman who had taken him to places so far from the constructed life of Michael Bournham the CEO, that he’d forgotten their simple humanity, and for that she was right—he needed to get out.

Chapter Four

A phone call would have been a waste, so Lydia had invited Krysta to just hop in the car and drive the four hours north, both of them calling in sick—cough, cough—for the next day. Her decision made, Lydia had emailed, called, faxed and scanned, signed and agreed to the promotion in every manifestation possible short of smoke signals. She did this for two reasons; one, time was of the essences and the very nervous HR woman who had a special number she didn’t recognize had asked her, before any other question, “Do you have a passport?”

Lydia had laughed. “You know, I couldn’t have said yes to that even six months ago but I do, because I needed to go Canada for a big camping convention and my mom made me get one. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have.”

“Oh…oh, I see,” said the woman, whose name was Joanie. “I see.” She sounded like she was about sixteen and her voice was shaky as she asked, “And have you spoken uh with—uh…with umm…your boss, Matt Jones, about the transfer?”

“No, he was out sick today.”

“Oh…oh yes, that’s right, uh…he informed me of that.”

If Lydia had been a little less happy, a little less excited and a little less gobsmacked by how her life was careening toward a stratospheric trajectory to awesomeness, she might have wondered why this fellow admin was so odd. Finally, she had gotten off the phone, had cleared her schedule, filled the gas tank, and she and Krysta, each with a small overnight bag, were about to surprise Sandy.

Lydia needed the element of surprise on her side because the joy that her mother would feel at the last-minute unannounced visit would have to carry through to the morning that she would go through when she dropped this bombshell on her. You thought moving to Boston was bad, Mom, she thought, try Iceland.

“Your mom is going to kill you,” Krysta said.

“I know.”

“She hates to fly.”

“I know.”

“But she’ll do it for you.”

“I know.”

“Well, and it’s not like you’re moving a continent—well okay you are—oh no…shit…well…”

“Shut up, Krysta.”


The drive to Maine took them up I-95, over the bridge into Portsmouth, and then across the state line, leaving them with three more hours to go. Portland became a blur and then they hit the much, much wider open road, more moose than cars, at one point. Lydia decided to pop off of 95 and take Route 1 up, knowing that it would take longer but loving the drive regardless.

The little towns in Maine looked like something from sixty years ago, with the occasional sign “free wifi here” telling you that there were no places that were true throwbacks to the ’50s. Maine’s rocky coast never disappointed her. From a distance, the shoreline here and there, in small towns they crept through at 35 to 40 mph, had a grayish tint to it, with large, jagged rocks jabbing through marshy ocean sections and, of course, ports in nearly every town with small lobster boats and other well-worn dinghies.

This was not a fancy Cape Cod ocean, the well combed beaches of Wellfleet or Eastham. This was Maine. If you wanted to go swimming you put on water shoes and you prepared to get scraped up, and the water was a good, solid sixty-three degrees at the end of July. If you wanted to swim in Maine, you needed to be prepared to tough it out. If you wanted to swim somewhere else, go to Truro.

She could smell the salt in the air as she took her little red Honda Fit along the well-worn curves, along a road that she knew all too well, and had known all her life. She took the final, familiar turn, the right into Escape Shores Campground. She and her brothers had painted the giant billboard in front of the entrance. It had been, what…five or six years? Her second year of college. It was an enormous starfish, a giant…well, no one had quite figured out whether it was a narwhal or a dolphin, their art skills inhibited by absolutely no talent, and lettering that made a fourth-grader’s handwriting look professional. But what they’d lacked in style, they made up for in enthusiasm, and their father had dutifully put up the floodlights and added a couple of proper professional signs just for clarity, and so the gaudy billboard had stuck.

All of the roads at Escape Shores Campground were dirt and gravel. Gravel if you were lucky. And during mud season the golf carts frequently got stuck, requiring someone, normally whichever child was lowest in the totem pole—and that meant Lydia and Caleb—to get behind the golf cart and push. But in late July the roads were dry, if rutted, and Lydia’s car bounced as she drove at city speeds and then hit her brakes hard to realign herself—because now she was on Maine time. And that meant 5 mph through the campground at all times. You never knew when there might be a child riding a bike or a dog frolicking.

The front entrance was deceptive. A single long road that stretched on for a good quarter-mile with the occasional branch road off to the left and then after a slight clearing, off to the right, another one. The shrubbery that lined the main road was deceptive too. It wasn’t simple overgrowth or woodsy brush, for if you peered at the height of raspberry season, as it was now, you’d see little red dots here, there and everywhere. If you concentrated hard enough, suddenly you’d realize that what your eyes saw were thousands and thousands of succulent berries—at least the ones the birds hadn’t gotten to yet.

Her parents had, over the past three decades, painstakingly filled Escape Shores Campground with edible landscaping. From apple trees that yielded bountiful harvests in September and October to the summer berries to the careful protection of wild blueberries, a hallmark in Maine along the miles and miles of trails, over a hundred in all, that dotted the 140 acres of privately owned land. There were community gardens, and if you were a seasonal camper, you could get your own little eight-by-eight plot of land that would be good for growing your salads, your beans, and your tomatoes.

The gardening group were pretty hardcore, and a few years ago had lobbied to have their own section of the park, about fifteen of them all clustered together in RV slots that led to a stretch of land that Pete had cleared just for them so that they had their own extra space, away from the more lightweight hobby gardeners. These folks grew most of their food using a variety of techniques, from square-foot gardening to no-till methods and experimenting. The venture had even gotten Escape Shores Campground an article in a national gardening magazine and a national RV magazine, which had pleased Pete and Sandy to no end. Her parents were nothing if not innovators.

As she continued on down the dirt road, signs of life started to pick up. The roads were set up much like a tree with a thick, deep, tall trunk that fed into a bunch of branches that split off and off and off, all leading into the sea. The paths for children to ride bikes were far off the main road, the plan that her father had laid out so many decades ago still intact.

A careful preservation of a sense of community in camping was her parents’ ultimate goal, but in order to accomplish that, they’d had to adopt newer techniques. Escape Shores was noted nationwide as a telecommuter's dream. For RVers with businesses on the road, this had become something of a mecca, and for Bostonians looking to get away from the city but who could barely grab those two precious weeks of vacation that corporate life meted out to them, this was a dream come true. A little piece of beach, the ability to work from a remote location, and loads of fun. Sandy and Pete had worked so hard to create an idyllic life for their family and that had spread out into creating an idyllic vacation spot.

So much so that Sandy had instituted a rule. All wireless routers were turned off in the campground from the hours of 6 to 9 p.m. She called it “unplugged time,” and it was meant for families. If you were desperate and still needed to be plugged into the Matrix, you could do it with an ethernet cord. But the roaming about, heads down, fingers texting that drove her nuts was something that she absolutely banned during prime campground time, those hours when the grills came out and the campfires were fired up, the bags of marshmallows sold like crazy in the camp store and the final frolics as the sun set over the water turned people into shadows.

This is what Lydia looked forward to every year, six o’clock, just before the mosquitoes came out and just as the air turned cool enough to make it worth slipping your shoes off and wading in the water, but a little too nippy to wear your suit. And then to climb out, towel off your feet, throw on a warm sweatshirt and head over to someone’s campfire to chat, to catch up, to make a new friend, or to just sit in silence and enjoy the sounds of a little slice of utopia on the water.

This was Thursday. She knew that tomorrow Mom and Dad would be so busy they practically wouldn’t recognize her if she walked in off the street. Timing was perfect. That meant she could escape tomorrow—escape from Escape Shores, she and her brothers joked. She could come in, do her damage, and run away, leaving Mom and Dad with a busy night to keep their minds occupied, because Sandy was about to need the distraction. In her world, the idea that Lydia really wasn’t coming back and that she was actually going further, further than any of her children had ever gone except for Luke…well, that made Lydia glad that she would be escaping soon.

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