Breakfast and a Cigarette: A Novella in Four Directions
(page 4 of 16)
Ray saw her northern eyes fill with light. He thought he was beginning to understand, maybe not completely, not yet, but he was starting to see a world take shape, a world he had never suspected. She pulled a futon from the closet for him and he laid there on the floor amid a carpet of pot shards and porcelain chips. Across the room, she curled up on the old thrift store couch. Lying there in the dark quiet of the studio, in the shadow of the Great Smoky mountains, it seemed to him that her “good night” was sweeter, her hug truer, her kiss more tender, than any he could remember.
The next morning, Fiona and Ray walked to a small cafe downtown for breakfast. Ray had his usual. Fiona started with oatmeal but then became hungry watching Ray. They finished by splitting an order of French toast topped with strawberries and honey.
Fiona took Ray to her favorite thrift shop. Ray bought an extra shirt, a small day pack, and a wool poncho. The poncho, made in Mexico, was old and faded but of obvious quality. It had caught Fiona's eye because of its Earth colors: red sandstone and the muted blue of Mayan corn.
They spent the rest of the day poking around used book stores. At Fiona's insistence, Ray bought a tattered copy of Walden. They stopped by the Greyhound terminal where Ray bought a ticket for the night bus. Just before handing the money to the agent, Ray hesitated for a second, though unsure why. Finally, he pushed the cash under the window. Outside, Fiona held his hand as they walked back to her apartment.
“So, where to?”
“South. Key West.”
“Why Key West?”
“I don't know really. I've never been. I don't really care where I go so long as it's warm. I've never escaped winter before. Maybe I can get a job on a charter boat or do some bartending. I don't know. I just gotta move. I can't explain it. See, you have a purpose. I don't. You probably think it's pretty selfish, right? I mean just going somewhere because its warm.”
“No, I don't. You're just beginning, Ray. You'll figure it out. Just follow your instincts. Don't think about it too much. Just go.”
Back at her apartment, Fiona gathered a few things for Ray to take on the road. She gave him a brush for his hair and some peppermint soap. From an old cigar box she took out a glossy agate. The orange rock, no bigger than a fingertip, was rippled with thin waves of cream and rust under a pearly patina.
“For good luck,” she said.
Near midnight, they walked once again to the terminal. They said good-bye as the cars on the highway rushed past, oblivious to the bittersweet parting of two travelers. Ray looked back at Fiona as he put his foot on the first step. He stopped, sensing something unsaid, something undone. Fiona smiled, her eyes overflowing with the light.
“Remember, Ray, one door closes and another opens.”
Ray gave his ticket to the driver then slipped into a window seat, his new pack beside him. He watched as Fiona smiled sweetly, her hands clasped behind her back. She disappeared as the bus joined the stream of traffic. Slightly numb, he continued to stare out the window as Asheville, then the lumbering skyline of the Great Smoky mountains, then finally North Carolina itself, faded from his view into the black October sky.
Breakfast and a Cigarette, Part II continues...