A horrible dream made the decision for her; she wouldn't fight him for custody. She left a lengthy and detailed message on her attorney's answering machine and went online to buy a one-way ticket to Salt Lake. Surely he wouldn't give her a problem about staying in the condo - it would be hers eventually, you could bet on that - and she could have at least a week or so to breathe mountain air and get her thoughts sorted out before making any rash decisions about things not requiring absolute expediency.
The girls would stay in the same school, would get through junior high with the same friends, and they could all convene and conference about high school when the time came, in three years, with each one faster then the one before, but time enough to survey the landscape. Enough time to assess and strategize, then begin the next chapter, an analogy she had always found more reassurring than it was now, having come to the conclusion that the entire book had decided to rewrite itself just as she'd figured out where the story was going. Now, the next page made her nervous.
But a step at a time, she reminded herself. One step at a time. She repeated it like a mantra as she filled the open suitcase on the bed, remembering it would be colder, even very cold at night, and who knew, it might even snow. She decided on hiking boots instead of running shoes. She called her parents, her dad answered, she told him where she would be and that she'd call him tomorrow when he began to press for details. "Just a getaway, that's all, a take a breath timeout." Breath for what, he asked her. Are you alright? "Yes dad, I'm fine, now let me get off the phone so I can get some coffee and to the airport on time." She heard her mother in the background.
Is who alright? William? Is who alright? Is that Janice? If that's Janice I want to talk to her. "I gotta go, dad. Taxi's here. Love you. Talk to you tomorrow," and she hung up. She turned off the phone and dropped it on her sweatshirt and closed the suitcase. When she turned to see if the car she'd heard was the taxi - no, a beater pickup truck with New Mexico plates and two dogs in back - she caught herself in the mirror and stared as if at a stranger until her taxi did arrive and finally honked her to attention.