I hugged my girls and kissed them like I lost them for a year. This was a curious feeling considering I didn’t usually miss them even with my frequent travels.
“What happened to you?” Kate said.
I didn’t know if she was mad or frantic and I didn’t care. I pulled her and gave her a hug. “I was lost, but now am found.” The words came out hoarse and choked.
“Why, Daddy’s crying!” Annie laughed and hugged me tight.
“I’m sorry, but don’t ever pull that stunt again.” Kate said.
“I really lost my way, sorry.” I said.
“So did the shuttle bus driver just gave you a lift? You’re lucky. This is not even his route.”
“Yeah, Tony. Weird guy but helped me find my way.” In more ways than one. Should I tell Kate about the strange things that had happened to me? Something kept me from baring everything.
“Just glad you’re here. Hungry?” She said and gave me a peck which landed on my lips instead of my cheeks because I turned.
“Eew,” Annie screamed.
Kate looked away, almost embarrassed.
Had it been that long since I last kissed her? What happened there? We were married for almost twenty years but she behaved like a young, blushing bride? Weird. “Where do you want to eat?” I said.
“McDonald’s!” Annie said. “Please dad, I just want McDonalds.”
“Honey, we didn’t come all the way to the Grand Canyon to eat at McDonald’s. Your dad might want to try the local restaurants here,” Kate said.
“That’s alright, Kate. Let’s drive-thru, eat at the hotel, and call it a night. It’s been a long day. I want us to catch the sunrise tomorrow at the Desert Tower. Just you and me. Let these two sleep in.”
“Really?!” The girls gleamed like they just won the jackpot.
Kate opened her mouth and snapped it closed. For once, nothing came out.
I grinned, liking the look of discomfiture on her face. It had been awhile since I had seen her look uncertain. The old me, who’d managed to throw her off in the past, was coming back, just like our first meeting when I handed her back the sandwich she gave and said, “You should have the last bite. I’ve saved the best for last,” and made her bite off the sandwich from my hand. At that moment, I felt big and wanted to protect her. For the rest of my life. And it had been like that until the children came. And life took some serious rough turns. And she had to take on the steering wheel, drove the entire family to a steady road until I got my feet back on the ground. And she had never relinquished her firm hold.
Perhaps it was time to bring back some of the spice of the past.
The drive home was silent until Kate broke it and said, “Jeff there is one huge request I want to ask from you.”
I held my breath. What would it be this time? Did she want me to confess something to the priest again? Or hear mass daily like her? I gripped the steering wheel as though my life depended on it.
“Can you pray for me everyday?”
I turned to her and gazed for a good three minutes
“Keep your eyes on the road. I’m not telling you to commit suicide.”
“No, you didn’t,” I whispered, still staggered from the request. “Pray?”
“Yes, pray daily.”
“Oh my Lord.” She slapped her forehead.
“I mean seriously, how? How do you want me to pray for you? What kind of praying do you want?”
“Okay, so I have to confess I’ve been praying for you this past month. Sam gave me this book on how to pray for husbands coz the way we women are doing it is wrong. Men are wired differently and we need to pray for you differently. We shouldn’t be treating you like women.”
For once, I thought this Sam guy talked a lot of sense. “What book?”
“Stormie Omartian’s The Power of a Praying Wife. I can buy the version for the men from Amazon: The Power of a Praying Husband.”
“No, just buy it from kindle. I like reading from my iPad. Books are too cumbersome to carry.”
“Okay. But you promise me? It’s going to help me a lot, and down the line, help you and the kids, you know.”
“I know.” I smiled. “Happy wife, happy life.”
That evening at the hotel, she nudged me before she went to bed. “I’ve downloaded the book in Kindle. Please read chapter one.”
“Can I do it when we get home?”
“No, you promised. You have to do it tonight. It’s crucial.”
“Why? Is the world ending tomorrow?”
She glared at me. When her almond eyes widened to the size of a walnut, I knew my nut was in trouble of getting kicked. “Alright. Alright. I’ll do it.” I took my Kindle from the bedside and read Chapter 1.
Interesting. Not too bad. “I set my alarm at six,” I said before turning off the bedside light. I pulled Kate close to me and fell asleep.
For the first time in years, I had a restful night. I dreamt that I was cocooned in my mother’s arms. I woke up. It was Kate’s arms around me. When I checked my watch it was a minute before six.
“I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike.” The late 70s song blared from my iPhone.
Kate stirred and turned.
“Good morning,” I said.
Her eyes widened and she bolted up. “What time is it?”
“Relax, we’ve got time. Sunrise won’t be until 6:42 a.m.”
“Whew, I thought we’d miss it again.” She slipped off the bed and went to the desk where her camera batteries were charging. As soon as she packed her camera gear she said. “I’m ready.”
“In your pajamas?”
“In five minutes.” The sparkle in her eyes reminded me of the time I gave her a present wrapped in a matchbox. She had wanted to know what was my favorite toy as a young boy. And I said it was inside the tiny box. When she pushed the case, she jumped at the sight of three tiny spiders crawling out of their “houses.” She had since been wary of my presents, especially when I gave her another matchbox three years after, which housed the engagement ring.
“Why are you staring at me in that weird way?” Kate said. “Something happened to you yesterday and you’re hiding it from me.” Kate, the psychic was awake. She gave me a couple of curious glances while she changed into sweater and jeans and donned her coat.
“I’ll tell you later. Let’s get going,” I said. “I’ll spare you the mind-reading.”
No more secrets from her. If I had opened up to Tony yesterday, a complete stranger, about my life, Kate deserved so much more. The woman I married and pledged to stick it out for better or for worse should know the worse part of my life. I had tried so hard to hide my dark past for fear she’d change her mind about me and leave. In the process, I had buried them in my memory and it had haunted me in my sleep and crept to my reality in the form of phobias, obsessions, and compulsions. These past years, she had dealt with the worse part of me. And she stuck it out. I knew now that even if she’d have trouble believing me at first, maybe hate me initially, but her strong convictions about the marriage covenant would make her hang to even a tiny string to keep us together.
We drove to the Desert Tower but I still couldn’t decide where to begin my grand confession.
“Hey.” Kate waved her hand in front of my face. “You’ve been unusually silent since last night. Spit it out.”
So I did, about what happened yesterday. I held nothing back and told Kate everything from the time I ditched them and Tony maneuvered me to his shuttle bus, to the time he waved me off, where they found me. She didn’t say much save for the occasional “uh-huh,” which spurred me to recount every detail.
“So what do you think?” I said as I wheeled to the empty parking lot and turned off the engine.
“Um…huh?” She cleared her throat. “Let’s head to the rim before people start flocking in.” Just like that, she got off the car and sprinted away.
I scratched my head. I expected something more than that, like “You’re pulling my leg again,” or “Here goes the boy who cried wolf and I’m smarter this time.” I hurried after her through the paved walk, inhaling the crisp cool air. It must be 50F. I warmed my hands inside my coat pockets.
The tower stood bright with its coral pinkish brick against the clear blue sky. As I approached the look-out, four young men turned to leave.
Kate had started taking pictures of the blast of colors painting the mountain walls. I leaned on the iron railing and basked on the grandeur in silence.
After a long while, Kate let go of her camera and just stared at the scenery with a gleam in her eyes. “Oh, Jeff this is so beautiful. Thank you for bringing me here,” she whispered.
I gathered her in my arms and she leaned on me. “Tony recommended it.”
“So, what have you decided? Are you taking the package and pursue your dream?”
“I wish it was that easy Kate. But I’m afraid. There’s no security in writing. That package, though seemingly generous, would easily vanish in a year or two. I don’t want you worrying about money like my mother, Kate. She was beautiful, yet she aged fast. I bet she welcomed death when it came early. She must have wished for cancer to relieve her of her pains.”
“But I’m not your mother.”
“And I don’t wish you to be, but you may end up like her if I pursue the writing path blindly. Some genius once said, ‘insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result,’ or something along that line. I don’t want to be that crazy person. Perhaps when Annie has graduated from college, I can take more writing courses, but not now.”
“But you’ve done that already! You just need to get your story out there. Write shorter stories. Do something different. Perhaps experience life in a deeper way, suck the present moment and turn it into a riveting novella.”
“I don’t know, Kate. I’ll think about it. Maybe soon.” It was a tempting idea.
“But why do you think you got recruited for the Dream Maker prototype?” She faced me.
“It’s an experiment. Must be some random selection, and I just happened to be the 10th passenger or something.”
“You know there’s no such thing as random coincidence, Jeff.”
“Now you’re talking like Tony. Are you sure you’ve never met him?”
She evaded my gaze and said, “No.”
“Don’t hide something from me, Kate. You’re a bad liar.”
“Don’t ask me to tell you something you may not be prepared to know.” When she gazed at me, her eyes held a mysterious look like Tony’s.
Was I prepared to hear more about this mystical realm of the Dream Maker Prototype? “Try me,” I said.
Kate smiled and shook her head. “I will, when you’re ready. But right now, something’s telling me you’re not. And revealing the truth prematurely will just harm you. It may even delay your coming into understanding of this realm.”
“What would indicate that I’m ready?”
“When you read the invisible writing on the wall.”
“What writing on the wall?” What was she talking about?
“See,” she gestured at me, “you can’t even decrypt a simple code. You’re still in the fringes of the realm, Jeff, afraid to delve deeper.”
“I may get lost in the maze.”
“There.” She smiled, showing her dimples. “I can hear you talking in the veiled language now. Just keep at it, and you should eventually know without knowing.”
She took out her camera and zoomed the lens. “When the voice calls, you have to let go of everything. But someone whose trust is broken by undependable men would find it hard to trust and let go.”
“It would be totally irresponsible of me if I dropped everything to pursue my passion just like that. I have no choice at this point in time.”
“You have choices,” she said, “if you care to explore, but you narrow yourself to only one choice. So there’s no freedom to choose. Like I said, don’t scrape your raw skin. It’ll just bleed. Let time tell you.”
My gaze landed on the Colorado River flowing between the crevices of the gigantic canyon. Time had worked in its favor to carve this beauty.
“Let’s go. The girls may be awake now. At 10 am we must hit the road.” She picked up her camera bag and tripod.
“I want to pass by National Geographic store on our way back to the hotel.” I walked beside her towards the parking lot.
“Just to look around. See what they sell.”
“Is the spirit leading you there?” She kicked a twig away from the path.
“Did Tony ever tell you how to listen to the voice of the spirit? You know, the one that whispers to your heart?” she said. “Have you even looked at the app he installed on your phone?”
“Okay, let’s just say, I’m familiar with the Dream Maker prototype and the app. Don’t ask me why because I won’t tell you.” She crossed her arms and a strange glint passed her eyes.
Suddenly, Kate held an air of mystery I had never witnessed before. This was a side of her I had not seen outside of poker. I squinted and said, “So the app tells you how to listen to the voice of the spirit? Like some navigating instructions?”
“Of course! Oh dear, that app will prove useless on you. Give me your phone. What’s your log in and password?
“The usual.” I handed my phone to her.
She punched it in, and the app opened to the home page. “Now read the fine print and hit agree so it’ll open to the navigating page.”
I scrolled up without reading, and clicked yes while she fumbled in her bag and took out her earphones, handed me the ear buds, and plugged the end to the phone. “You listen to that. I’ll drive. Give me the keys.”
I handed her the car keys, my eyes on the phone screen.