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NOTE: Since this is a novel featuring informal dialogue and thought processes, I have retained some of the author's original punctuation in places where the Chicago Style Manual would insist on a correction.

Original
Chapter Two: Departure, August, 1981

Riding shotgun in J.R.’s car, the hum of the tires on the pavement is drowned out by my own heart as it hammers wildly in my chest.

“Hey,” J.R. snaps his fingers in front of my face, “Earth to Kate, anyone home? You seem a million miles away. You aren’t having second thoughts, are you?”

“I was just sitting here asking myself the same question. I mean, it’s not every day you run away from home.”

“You didn’t exactly run away.  You told your parents what your plans were, you just didn’t ask for their permission. And quite frankly, Kate, you don’t need it. You’re an adult now and quite capable of making up your own mind about what’s best for you.”

“Then why does it feel like I’ve just swallowed a bucket of nails?

“Ow, that sounds painful. Do you do that often?”

“Ha-ha, very funny. And, NO! But if I had, I’d imagine that this is what it feels like.”

“Give it time, Kate.”  J.R. soothes reaching across the seat and lacing his fingers in mine, as he strokes the top of my hand with his thumb.  “Your parents will come around. You’ll see.  In the meantime don’t be so hard on yourself. You haven’t done anything wrong.”
 
As we cruise down the highway each new mile marker is a running commentary on the distance I’m putting between me and everything that’s familiar. Distance between my home town, a place where everyone knows everyone, and we congregate at Jorgi’s coffee shop to catch up with friends. A place beautifully nestled amongst lakes and mountains that brags of its New England heritage through the maple, elm and birch trees that turn gorgeous colors in the fall. Distance between the countryside, dotted with its white-steepled churches. And then, there’s my family. The most amazing family a girl could ask for. I was raised Catholic by parents whose love for each other is the stuff from which Hollywood movies are made. My siblings, three sisters and a brother (I’m the youngest of five), would take a bullet for each other and never entertain even a nanosecond of regret, as the trigger was being pulled. They’ve been the bedrock of my life for as long as I can remember. It’s not that I want to run away from them, but it feels like I’m running because they don’t approve of my most recent decisions. Maybe I am running. Maybe I’m running away from their disapproval, but to turn back now would only serve to validate their lack of confidence in me.

Last Christmas, J.R. proposed to me and I. Said. Yes. It was one of the happiest days of my life. It’s been almost eight months now since he asked and still I find myself mesmerized by the beauty of my engagement ring and all that it represents. I can’t seem to stop starring at it. My parents, though, are completely against this union, and they refuse to budge. It’s not that they dislike J.R. out-of-hand, but he’s eleven years older than me and...Here’s the biggie-he’s not Catholic. So, to add insult to injury, not only am I engaged to be married to an older man, who’s not Catholic, but I’m leaving home with him to attend Grace Haven International, a nondenominational bible seminary. In their eyes I’ve left “The Faith.”

“Kate,” J.R. says my name again. “Did you hear what I said?

“Sorry, what?”

“I said, it’s not too late to change your mind. If you’re really not sure about this it’s not too late to turn the car around and go home.”

“It’s just nerves, J.R. I mean, after all, this is a huge step for me. I don’t know, maybe I’d feel differently if I hadn’t left home on such bad terms.”

I’d always imagined leaving home with my parents blessing, knowing that whatever path I’d chosen for my life it would make them proud. How had things spiraled so out of control? I must have reviewed the events of the past month a thousand times in my mind. I looked at them from every possible angle, asking myself if there was anything I could have done differently, anything at all, and each time the answer was the same.  No. There was nothing more I could have said or done. The circumstances had been completely out of my control.

A month ago, as my parents sat watching T.V., enjoying their evening coffee, J.R. and I, having settled on this night to announce our plans to attend seminary, knew our decision wouldn’t be met with a ringing endorsement, but we never expected the level of resistance we were about to face. Once the cat was out of the proverbial bag they made it their mission to enlist my entire family to try and change our minds. While J.R. and I made it our mission to try and get them to see reason. It was a stalemate.  

Then came the untimely news that seminary registration had been moved up an entire week. This meant we’d have to leave immediately if we were going to enroll before the deadline. I knew this news was going to drive a deeper wedge between Mom, Dad, and me, but it couldn’t be helped. I had to tell them today, because we were leaving in just a few short hours.   

So I sat at the table in our country kitchen waiting for my dad to come home for lunch. He worked in a hell hole of a shirt factory, and coming home for lunch, as he’d done every day for the past twenty years, was his way of getting temporary relief from his oppressive work environment. If our kitchen, with its outdated wallpaper, and pine knot cabinets could talk, it would recount stories of family dinners filled with laughter, as each of us recalled our days. It would chatter on about the birthdays, anniversaries and holidays celebrated around this table, and it would divulge the one, true thing that means more to us than anything, ‘family’. Today though, our resident kitchen historian, had he known what was about to transpire, would’ve preferred to take his leave of us rather than have to record this chapter in our history.

Hearing the front door close I snap back to the present as my Dad, my first love, and a hero bigger than life to me, appears in the frame of the kitchen doorway.

“Hey, Kate, what’s J.R. doing here? Doesn’t he have to work today?”

Then crossing the room, he grabs his lunch out of the fridge, pulls out a chair and sits. As he unwraps a bologna and cheese sandwich that mom made for him last night, I take a breath and blurt out what I need to say before I lose my nerve.

“Dad, Grace Haven called this morning,” At the mention of Grace Haven Dad stiffens in his chair, but doesn’t say a thing.  I rush on wanting to get it over with. “And registration has been moved up. If we don’t leave today we’ll have to wait an entire semester to enroll.”

Putting down his sandwich, Dad rises from his seat and so do I, not really sure what’s happening. Then he reaches for me, his eyes brimming with tears, and takes me in his arms.

“I don’t suppose I can change your mind?” He says, a hitch in his voice.

“Oh, Dad,” I whisper, my voice barely present. “Please don’t do this. I think you know the answer to that question already.”

“You know I don’t approve, Kate, but…” He hesitates, then lets out a sigh. “It’s your life, and your decision.  This is going to break your mother’s heart.”

The pain in his voice makes my heart ache, as tears threaten to betray my resolve. “Dad, I’m not trying to hurt you or Mom. I’m just trying to follow the path that I think is right for me.”

“Well, I can’t say I understand why you’re doing this, Kate, but no matter what, you’re my daughter, and I will always love you.”  

“I know Dad. I know.” I say, trying to tamp down my emotions, but failing miserably, as a trail of tears overrun their banks, streaming down my cheeks.

My heart aches as if a thousand vice grips are squeezing it. We hold each other a moment longer, a little tighter now, as if this might be the last time we’re going to see each other. And then, he lets go, and I feel hollowed out and afraid. These two people, my mother and my father, have been my most valued advisers throughout my life, and we have almost never been on the opposite side of any issue, and now, on these things, we are polarized, with no common ground.  We both know there’s nothing more to be said and we don’t even try.

As hard as it was telling dad, telling mom is going to be so-much-harder. Mom’s at work right now which only complicates this even more. She works in the office of a men’s clothier store owned by a Jewish family who hired her to manage their payroll and real-estate accounts for rental properties they own.

I’m really dreading this, because I know when I tell her about our sudden change of plans she’s going to feel blindsided, so instead of just showing up, I decide it’s better to call her first. I don’t want to cause a scene at her work place or make this any harder than it has to be.  She’s going do that all by herself without any help from me. When she answers the phone, I steel myself, and then…I do what I have to do.  

“Hello?” mom’s voice comes on the line.

“Hey, Mom. It’s me, Kate.”

“What’s wrong, honey? You sound upset.”

“Mom, the registration dates for seminary got moved up by a week and J.R. and I have to leave today or we’re going to miss the deadline. That would mean we’d have to wait until next semester to enroll.”

The silence on the other end of the line is deafening.

“Mom? Mom, are you still there?”

“I’m here,” and I can hear her trying to hold her voice steady.

“Mom, I’d like to come and say goodbye in person.”

“No, don’t come! I don’t want to see you.”

Her words cut me like a knife, eviscerating my heart. My mother has always been there for me. This strained relationship is foreign to both of us and even though I know in my head her words are betraying her real feelings, that what she’s saying isn’t true, that she’s just trying to protect herself from breaking down in front of co-workers, my heart, right at this moment, can’t make sense of it.

All I want is just to hold her in my arms and make her understand that she doesn’t have to be afraid, that I’m going to be fine and that attending seminary is a good thing. But apparently I’m not going to get that chance. We end the call with a teary goodbye from me, as mom stays silent, choking back her own anguish.
 __________________    
 
Emotionally exhausted from the day’s events, I let the rhythm of the road coax me to sleep. I need the escape and I welcome it with open arms.  Sometime later, awakened by the slowing of the car as it interrupts the consistent rhythm of the road, my sluggish mind is dragged to the surface, as J.R. pulls into a rest stop.

“How long was I out?” I ask J.R., as I wipe the sleep from my eyes.

“A couple of hours. You must have been really exhausted.”

“Oh yeah, why’s that?”

“Well, emergency vehicles with lights flashing and sirens blaring flew by us, and you never even stirred. Heck, you must’ve sawed a cord of wood you were snoring so loud.”

“I Do. Not. Snore.”

“Oh really, shall I record you next time?”

“Lovely, just what I want my future husband to think about his bride-to-be. I can just hear the introductions now—‘Mom. Dad. I’d like you to meet Kate, my fiancé. Oh and by the way, guess what?  We’ve got ourselves a lumberjack in the family.”

Amusement plays around J.R.’s eyes as laughter bubbles to the surface, “No worries, Kate, your secret’s safe with me.”

“Look,” I sputter defensively, “I probably don’t snore all the time, but today has been a rough day, and I’ve been crying a lot. I’m sure that’s all it is.”

“I’m sure that’s all it is too.” He wiggles his eyebrows at me in jest, knowing he better quit while he’s ahead. “You want anything? I’m grabbing a coffee for the road.”

“Not right now, thanks.”

“You sure? We won’t be stopping again for a while.”

“Alright, grab me a decaf, light with two sugars.”

Opening the car door I step out to stretch and get some air. And it occurs to me as I begin taking note of my surroundings that I’m not in Maine anymore. The greatest clue coming from the flow of human traffic all around me. There are people who look like me, but there are also African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, and various other ethnicities. None of them live in my state let alone my hometown and it makes me afraid. Not of them, but afraid that my world has been too small and I won’t know how to interact when I’m exposed to new cultures. Cultures I know nothing about. Great! One more thing to worry about.

 “Kate, you ready to go?”

“Yup, just stretching my legs.”

As we pull back onto the highway both of us sit quietly, comfortable with the silence between us. It’s one of the things I love most about our relationship.  Oh, we can both ramble on about any number of subjects, and there’ve been times we’ve talked late into the night, but I like that we don’t have to talk in order to be comfortable with each other.

This is one of those moments. A moment when there’s an unspoken understanding that the silence between us is needed. And as each mile moves us closer to our destination, I find myself traveling back to how and when I met J.R., because that’s really where this entire journey began. Actually, I guess it began even before that.
 



Edited
Chapter Two: Departure, August, 1981

I'm riding shotgun in J.R.’s car. The hum of the tires on the pavement is drowned out by my heart as it hammers wildly in my chest.

“Hey.” J.R. snaps his fingers in front of my face. “Earth to Kate, anyone home? You seem a million miles away. You aren’t having second thoughts, are you?”

“I was just sitting here asking myself the same question. I mean, it’s not every day you run away from home.”

“You didn’t exactly run away. You told your parents what your plans were; you just didn’t ask for their permission. And quite frankly, Kate, you don’t need it. You’re an adult now and quite capable of making up your own mind about what’s best for you.”

“Then why does it feel like I’ve just swallowed a bucket of nails?”

“Ow, that sounds painful. Do you do that often?”

“Ha-ha, very funny. And, NO! But if I had, I imagine that this is what it would feel like.”

“Give it time, Kate.” J.R. reaches across the seat and laces his fingers in mine, stroking the top of my hand with his thumb. “Your parents will come around. You’ll see. In the meantime, don’t be so hard on yourself. You haven’t done anything wrong.”  

As we cruise down the highway, each new mile marker is a reminder of the distance I’m putting between me and everything that’s familiar.

The home town that I am leaving is a place where everyone knows everyone, where we congregate at Jorgi’s coffee shop to catch up with friends. My town boasts an abundance of maple, elm and birch trees that turn gorgeous colors in the fall. It is a small gem in the larger setting of the New England countryside, with its lakes, mountains, and quaint, white-steepled churches.

And then there’s my family – the most amazing family a girl could ask for. I was raised Catholic by parents whose love for each other is the stuff from which Hollywood movies are made. My siblings, three sisters and a brother (I’m the youngest of five), would take a bullet for each other and never entertain even a nanosecond of regret as the trigger was being pulled. They’ve been the bedrock of my life for as long as I can remember.

It’s not that I want to run away from them, but it feels like I’m running, because they don’t approve of my most recent decisions. Maybe I am running, but to turn back now would only serve to validate their lack of confidence in me.

Last Christmas, J.R. proposed to me and I. Said. Yes. It was one of the happiest days of my life. It’s been almost eight months now since he asked, and still I find myself mesmerized by the beauty of my engagement ring and all that it represents. I can’t seem to stop staring at it.

My parents, though, are completely against this union, and they refuse to budge. It’s not that they dislike J.R. out-of-hand, but he’s eleven years older than me and – here’s the biggie – he’s not Catholic. To add insult to injury, not only am I engaged to be married to an older man who’s not Catholic, but I’m leaving home with him to attend Grace Haven International, a nondenominational Bible seminary. In their eyes I’ve left “The Faith.”

“Kate.” J.R. says my name again. “Did you hear what I said?

“Sorry, what?”

“I said, it’s not too late to change your mind. If you’re really not sure about this, it’s not too late to turn the car around and go home.”

“It’s just nerves, J.R. I mean, after all, this is a huge step for me. I don’t know ... Maybe I’d feel differently if I hadn’t left home on such bad terms.”

I’d always imagined leaving home with my parents’ blessing, knowing that whatever path I’d chosen for my life would make them proud. How had things spiraled so out of control? I must have reviewed the events of the past month a thousand times. I looked at them from every possible angle, asking myself if there was anything I could have done differently, anything at all, and each time the answer was the same: No. There was nothing more I could have said or done. 

A month ago, as my parents sat enjoying their evening coffee and watching TV, J.R. and I announced our plans to attend seminary. We knew our decision wouldn’t be met with a ringing endorsement, but we never expected the level of resistance we were about to face. They made it their mission to enlist my entire family to try and change our minds, while J.R. and I made it our mission to try and get them to see reason. It was a stalemate.  

Today, we heard that seminary registration had been moved up, and that we needed to leave immediately if we were going to enroll before the deadline. I knew this was going to drive an even deeper wedge between me and my parents, but it couldn’t be helped. I had to break the news that we were leaving in just a few short hours.   

As we travel farther and farther away from my home town and my family, I relive that painful goodbye.
__________________

Waiting for my dad to come home from lunch, I sit at the table in our country kitchen, with its outdated wallpaper and knotty pine cabinets. My dad works in a hellhole of a shirt factory. Coming home for lunch, as he has every day for the past twenty years, is his way of getting temporary relief from his oppressive work environment.

(If our kitchen could talk, it would recount stories of family dinners filled with laughter. It would chatter on about the birthdays, anniversaries and holidays celebrated around this table, and it would divulge the one, true thing that means more to us than anything: “family.” But today our kitchen historian, had he known what was about to transpire, would’ve preferred to take his leave of us rather than have to record this chapter in our history.)

I hear the front door close. Dad, my first love, and a hero bigger than life to me, appears in the kitchen doorway. “Hey, Kate, what’s J.R. doing here? Doesn’t he have to work today?”

Crossing the room, he grabs his lunch out of the fridge, pulls out a chair and sits. As he unwraps a bologna and cheese sandwich that Mom made for him last night, I take a breath and blurt out what I need to say before I lose my nerve.

“Dad, Grace Haven called this morning.” At the mention of Grace Haven Dad stiffens in his chair, but doesn’t say a thing. I rush on, wanting to get it over with. “And registration has been moved up. If we don’t leave today, we’ll have to wait an entire semester to enroll.”

Putting down his sandwich, Dad rises from his seat. So do I, not really sure what’s happening. Then he reaches for me, his eyes brimming with tears, and takes me in his arms.

“I don’t suppose I can change your mind?” he says, a hitch in his voice.

“Oh, Dad,” I whisper, my voice barely present. “Please don’t do this. I think you know the answer to that question already.”

“You know I don’t approve, Kate, but ... " He hesitates, then lets out a sigh. “It’s your life, and your decision. This is going to break your mother’s heart.”

The pain in his voice makes my heart ache, as tears threaten to betray my resolve. “Dad, I’m not trying to hurt you or Mom. I’m just trying to follow the path that I think is right for me.”

“Well, I can’t say I understand why you’re doing this, Kate, but no matter what, you’re my daughter, and I will always love you.” 

“I know Dad. I know,” I say, trying to tamp down my emotions, but failing miserably. A trail of tears overruns its banks and streams down my cheeks.

My heart aches as if a thousand vice grips are squeezing it. We hold each other a moment longer, a little tighter now, as if this might be the last time we’re going to see each other. Then he lets go, and I feel hollowed-out and afraid. These two people, my mother and my father, have been my most valued advisers throughout my life, and we have almost never been on opposite sides of any issue. But now we are polarized, with no common ground. We both know there’s nothing more to be said, and we don’t even try.

As hard as it was telling Dad, telling Mom is going to be so much harder. Mom’s at work right now, which complicates this even more. She works in the office of a men’s clothier store owned by a Jewish family who hired her to manage their payroll and their rental properties.

I’m really dreading this, because I know when I tell her about our sudden change of plans she’s going to feel blindsided. Instead of just showing up, I decide it’s better to call her first. I don’t want to cause a scene at her workplace or make this any harder than it has to be. She’s going to do that all by herself without any help from me.

When she answers the phone, I steel myself, and then ... I do what I have to do. 

“Hello?” Mom’s voice comes on the line.

“Hey, Mom. It’s me, Kate.”

“What’s wrong, honey? You sound upset.”

“Mom, the registration date for seminary got moved up by a week, and J.R. and I have to leave today or we’re going to miss the deadline. That would mean we’d have to wait until next semester to enroll.”

The silence on the other end of the line is deafening.

“Mom? Mom, are you still there?”

“I’m here." I can hear her trying to hold her voice steady.

“Mom, I’d like to come and say goodbye in person.”

“No, don’t come! I don’t want to see you.”

Her words cut me like a knife, tearing at my heart. My mother has always been there for me. This strained relationship is foreign to both of us, and even though I know in my head that what she’s saying isn’t true, that she’s just trying to protect herself from breaking down in front of coworkers, my heart, right at this moment, can’t make sense of it.

All I want is to hold her in my arms and make her understand that she doesn’t have to be afraid, that I’m going to be fine, and that attending seminary is a good thing. But apparently I’m not going to get that chance. We end the call with a teary goodbye from me. Mom stays silent, choking back her own anguish.
__________________

Emotionally exhausted from the day’s events, I let the rhythm of the road coax me to sleep. I need the escape and I welcome it with open arms.

Sometime later I am awakened by the slowing of the car. My sluggish mind is dragged to the surface as J.R. pulls into a rest stop.


“How long was I out?” I ask J.R. as I wipe the sleep from my eyes.

“A couple of hours. You must have been really exhausted.”

“Oh yeah, why’s that?”

“Well, emergency vehicles with lights flashing and sirens blaring flew by us, and you never even stirred. Heck, you must’ve sawed a cord of wood you were snoring so loud.”

“I Do. Not. Snore.”

“Oh really, shall I record you next time?”

“Lovely, just what I want my future husband to think about his bride-to-be. I can just hear the introductions now: ‘Mom. Dad. I’d like you to meet Kate, my fiancé. Oh and by the way, guess what? We’ve got ourselves a lumberjack in the family.’ ”

Amusement plays around J.R.’s eyes as laughter bubbles to the surface. “No worries, Kate. Your secret’s safe with me.”

“Look,” I sputter defensively, “I probably don’t snore all the time, but today has been a rough day, and I’ve been crying a lot. I’m sure that’s all it is.”

“I’m sure that’s all it is too.” He wiggles his eyebrows at me, knowing he’d better quit while he’s ahead. “You want anything? I’m grabbing a coffee for the road.”

“Not right now, thanks.”

“You sure? We won’t be stopping again for a while.”

“All right, grab me a decaf, light with two sugars.”

I step out of the car to stretch and get some air. As I begin taking note of my surroundings, it occurs to me that I’m not in Maine anymore. The greatest clue comes from the flow of human traffic all around me. There are people who look like me, but there are also African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, and various other ethnicities. Very few people like this live in my state, let alone my home town. I’m not afraid of them, but I am afraid that my world has been too small and that I won’t know how to interact when I’m exposed to new cultures – cultures I know nothing about. Great! One more thing to worry about.

“Kate, you ready to go?”

“Yup, just stretching my legs.”

As we pull back onto the highway, a peaceful silence falls between us. It’s one of the things I love most about our relationship. Oh, we can both ramble on about any number of subjects, and there’ve been times we’ve talked late into the night, but I like that we don’t have to talk in order to be comfortable with each other. This is one of those moments. There’s an unspoken understanding that the silence is needed.

As each mile moves us closer to our destination, I find myself traveling back to how and when I met J.R., because that’s where this entire journey began. Actually, I guess it began even before that.