I can’t tell her to come and find me in Chicago.
With shaking hands, I write a single word on the paper and then place it in the center of the bed.
I take a step back, and a glint of silver catches my eye.
There is a quarter lying next to the pillow.
Reaching over slowly, I pick it up in my hand and hold it tightly, transferring the heat of my palm into the metal. My throat constricts, and I swallow past the lump before I open my fingers and let the coin drop next to the piece of paper.
Turning quickly, I grab a couple bottles of water for the road and head back out to the truck. I spend a moment dismantling the wires attached to the battery and rolling the wire up into a tight, round loop. I bend down to pick up the dog dish and a bag of kibble, throw them and the duffle into the back of the truck, and whistle. Odin appears from around the house, races towards me, and a few minutes later we are heading down the road.
As I steer the truck down the drive, it feels like someone reaches through my back and grabs hold of my heart, ripping it through my body and yanking it back to that tiny, hot little house. I keep swallowing, but it doesn’t stop the burn in my throat.
Odin whines and noses at my arm. I look over at him and wonder what he sees when he looks at me. He noses my arm again, then licks my hand where it grips the steering wheel.
“Thanks, buddy,” I say in monotone.
He whines again.
“I can’t do that,” I say softly. “I can’t do that to her.”
With my eyes staring toward the spanning horizon, I push thoughts of her from my mind, burying her memory in the darkest recesses of my brain. I wish I could have explained it to her – told her it was for her own good, but there was no way. Anything I said would either be a lie or too dangerous for her to know.
So I drive off.
Odin at my side.
But otherwise alone.