New Winslow S6E71
“Two nights away,” Roman said, letting out a long breath in the passenger seat of Celine’s van. “You’re sure about this?”
“It’s a little too late to not be sure.”
Roman turned to Celine with a scowl, but she was grinning as she focused on the highway ahead of them. In the back seat, Aidan and Abby were in their car seats. Aidan chewed on a toy figure while Abby pointed gleefully at all the trees they passed. In the farthest back seat, Jamie had his headphones on as he also looked out the window, occasionally nodding when Abby called his name.
Roman had been anxious about it, but the idea of their first family vacation was too much to resist. They weren’t going far, just to a hotel in southern Vermont. They had no plans, though Jamie was talking about exploring downtown and buying a hacky sack to bring to hockey games. It had been over twenty years since Roman was in high school, but he didn’t think those two things tended to go together. Still, maybe he was out of touch, so he just nodded. He was pretty sure Jamie was also trying to get around them to buy anything he could with a weed leaf on it, but they’d address that when it came up.
The trees along the highway felt familiar, at least. Celine had taken him for a few highway drives since he’d gotten out of the hospital, so the speed they were traveling felt more comfortable again. The first time she’d brought him on Route Two, he’d been so sure he’d survived the heart attack just to die here. Even now, the sight of the babies and Jamie in the car still gave him a little jolt, but he had to remind himself that he was the one out of step with the world. Celine had been driving these kids on the highway their whole lives. Roman was just joining them this time.
“It’s got a pool,” he said, scrolling through the hotel’s description on his phone. “We brought swimsuits for the kids?”
“In the back,” Celine said. “Floaties for both too.”
“Got some for Jamie in there?”
“Very funny, Dad!” Jamie’s voice came from the back of the van.
Roman laughed and went back to his phone. “They’ve got a sauna.”
Roman knew he wasn’t going in the sauna. His doctors had put that on a list and it still came up in his follow-ups and physical therapy. But the idea of Celine in a sauna? He wouldn’t say no to that.
As though she’d read his mind (or maybe she really had), Celine looked at him with a fond smile. Roman held up his hands. “Just saying.”
The stars were out in full force tonight and the little hotel room had a balcony. Roman was sitting outside, looking up at them. While they still looked the same as they did in New Winslow, everything else about the scene was different. By this point, he was used to the Countess and as used to going out in public as he might expect to be. But now they were in an entirely new place and he was torn between being afraid and not wanting to show his children that he was afraid.
He wanted to be the same as he’d always been, but he couldn’t help feeling like he’d almost been playing pretend for so long. Like, people lived real lives out here. They went to grocery stores and traveled with their families. Meanwhile, everything Roman had been doing was behind a pane of glass at the zoo. No one was watching, except the people who found his curse fascinating. So that might actually be a number of people. Scientists, sociologists, random people in town. Look at the amazing trapped man, shopping at the general store. He’s scared of Market Basket! Big Y gives him nightmares! Everything he needs is in his enclosure, come see how he lives his life in there, doing the same things day in and day out.
Roman knew he was being ridiculous. He was forty-five years old now, with a family and a business. He’d done the best he could with the hand he’d been dealt while living in New Winslow. Maybe the first few years had been a wreck, but could anyone blame him? He wasn’t sure how Andrew was handling it so well, though he suspected a strong support system was a big part of that. But once Roman had sobered up and gotten his life together, he’d made it a good one.
Sitting out here with a mug of tea in his hand, Roman suddenly missed Minnie. He’d gotten out, just like she’d said. He wondered if maybe she knew what was going to happen. Certainly not the details, she wouldn’t let him nearly die like that if she could help it. He remembered the way she would laugh with him, or the way she glared at him when she realized he was working himself down to the bone to get her out.
It had been about her at first. And after that, he’d let his fear of losing his family take over, even more than the idea of never leaving town. He’d spent years making the best of it, then he’d completely fallen apart again.
A plane flew overhead, its lights blinking against the night sky. Roman watched it go, the tiny lights twinkling against the faint clouds. He’d been on planes before as a kid, flying with his grandmother to see family members out in Minnesota. But he had obviously never done so in his adult life. He wanted to, but maybe he’d get used to these road trips before doing anything like that.
God, there were so many things he needed to do. And they were things he’d never really considered, either during his time under the curse or since he’d gotten out. Anything faster than his truck, anything longer than the stretch of road going from one end of town to the other. He hadn’t been to a shopping mall – did they even have those anymore? – or a nice restaurant. Though that last one might be worth considering right now.
Still, as much as he was itching to get started on those things, he had to keep in mind that he was already doing so. He was in Vermont with his family, something that seemed impossible six months ago, despite the fact they were maybe an hour away from home.
He took another sip of his tea and looked for that airplane again.