ora should have known better than to drive into Hot Springs at night. She and her daughter Juliette were up before six in Paris to get to the airport on time, swaying on the Metro through the gray dawn, gripping the suitcases that held everything she had to show for twenty years in Paris.
But it was all right, she told herself. They’d sleep on the plane and then her brother Jamie would meet them at the airport in Little Rock and then her father would be waiting for them, a fresh platter of fried chicken at the ready, and maybe a big bowl full of mashed potatoes cratered with salt and a volcanic pool of melted butter floating on top.
But their takeoff was delayed, so they were late getting into Houston and had to get a later flight to Little Rock. And then Jamie was not waiting for them at the Little Rock luggage area, and her father wasn’t answering the phone . They were bone tired and all Cora wanted to do was check into the nearest motel and make her way home in the morning. But she had a bad feeling, and Juliette could sleep in the car, and she could definitely drive that hour of mostly interstate to Hot Springs, couldn’t she?
Even with no energy, and no brain.
But she had forgotten how dark things got out here, in winter, when the tourists were not around. How close the hills crowded in, how dense the fog could be from the damp crevices in those hills.
It never got dark like this in Paris.
Juliette snored softly and Cora flicked on the radio, settling on the third and last station on the dial, all of them country, but at least something to keep the coyotes at bay. Was Medhi combing the streets of Montmartre for them right now, banging down the doors of her friends, demanding to know where she’d gone, where she’d taken his daughter? Or maybe, relieved to find that she’d vanished at last, he was laughing in bed with one mistress or another, happy to be alone.
Your cheating heart will pine someday
And crave the love you threw away
She would not cry, would not. First with her mother’s death, and then with the discovery of Medhi’s extravagantly adulterous life, and then with Juliette’s rebelliousness and with the intimations that her father and brother were not holding things together in Hot Springs, she’d cried enough. She was starting a new life now. A life that would not include the kinds of things that made her take four showers a day just so she could cry.