“Keep pushing, honey,” Bruce said. “We’re almost there.”
They were near where they needed to be. Bruce cursed taking a deserted highway, which he thought would help them on their journey. But could Maggie continue to manage this detour?
Maggie had gotten them this far because she had taken the classes. She had the strength and fortitude that Bruce sometimes lacked. He was a good husband, but he occasionally did things that befuddled her.
She kept pushing. What else was there to do?
Bruce gripped the wheel tighter and tighter—so tight that he began to drift the car to the right, kicking up little pebbles on the shoulder, causing him to jerk too much to correct his error, thrusting the car toward the left and aggravating Maggie.
“Watch what you’re doing,” she said, leaning down to regain feeling in her hands and feet. But she felt little aside from a severe strain throughout her core. What makes women go through things like this, she wondered. Love is a powerful drug, but we need to make sure we temper it with logic.
“I can’t believe you got us into this situation,” she said, adding fuel to an already bad situation. He glanced at her but kept his hands steady despite an internal sickness that kicked his confidence in the teeth. That look was enough to make her realize she had played her own part and hadn’t taken the right precautions either.
They just weren’t ready for this. But they were in it now and needed to make the best of it.
She kept pushing. He tried to stay steady and stronger than he had ever been. He needed to keep encouraging her without making her feel disgusted with him for doing that.
“I can see the lights from here,” he said. “You’re doing great. I’m proud of you. You know if I could, I’d be doing this.”
That earned him a look he was never going to forget. It was stern and yet loving and maybe even admirable. He understood her pain and sacrifice, and she believed she understood his. They had had many ups and downs during their three-year marriage. This journey was a big one for them, and they understood all the changes that would take place and that other circumstances like this would force them to strengthen their resolve and their love for each other.
That’s what love is. It’s not all about loving each other. It’s about learning how to work together to overcome minor problems and to handle big challenges that could spiral out of control and begin to destroy them a little bit at a time, leading toward a moment when they would crash into each other and explode with fury and inextinguishable flames that would burn their love down to an unstable foundation. They fell in love by lying to each other, and although they forgave each other for that, they were determined to make this marriage work.
“I could honk the horn now and someone might rush out to help us. Should I do that?” he said, unable to bring himself to look at her now that they were so close to where they needed to be.
“No. I’m good. I want to see this through to the end. I can make it. Let’s keep going,” she said, trying to find his eyes so he would know she wasn’t going to falter under any weight. She acknowledged and accepted his limitations.
That was love too. Some flaws are never able to be healed. You know they’re there. Accept and move forward.
That was her attitude. She knew that was how he felt about her scars too.
Bruce clutched his cane on the seat next to him, he turned the wheel one more time, and Maggie pushed the baby-blue Cadillac toward the gas station.
Christopher Stolle’s writing has appeared most recently in Tipton Poetry Journal, Flying Island, Edify Fiction, Contour, The New Southern Fugitives, The Gambler, Gravel, The Light Ekphrastic, Sheepshead Review, and Plath Poetry Project. He works as an acquisitions and development editor for Penguin Random House, and he lives in Richmond, Indiana.