With her checklist in one hand and car keys in the other, Carrie glanced about her foyer to see if she was forgetting anything. A nagging sensation like an invisible chord pulling at her brain was keeping her from leaving.
Carrie spotted what it was. She needed to return Keila’s school uniform. It ended up being too small, even though she had given the store the right measurements. School was going to start in a week, Carrie was glad she caught it on her way out. As she got into her SUV her cell rang. It was her mother.
“Hi, mom. How’s Keila and Antony?” Carrie asked as she synced her phone to the car.
“Hi, honey. They’re doing fine. Today they’re heading to the lake with your father. He’s put it in his mind that he’s going to teach them how to fish.”
Carrie laughed as she turned out of the cul-de-sac. “Dad would be lucky if he even gets them near the lake. Keila and Antony are in that age that all they care about is their phones and tablets. Most of the time they don’t hear me.” She said.
“Yes, I’ve noticed that. Don’t you just miss those days when they read books and played in the park?” Her mother said.
“I do, I really do.”
“Well, I just called to let you know that we’ll be coming by the day after tomorrow.”
“Alright, sounds good. Thanks for taking the kids for the week. It helps not to worry about juggling chores and the kids.” Carrie said.
“Honey, don’t forget to give yourself some free time. You know, like a massage or a nice manicure.”
Carrie thought about all the errands she had to do today. “I’ll think about it.” She said.
“Well, alright honey. See you soon. Love you.” Carrie’s mother said.
“Love you, mom. Bye.”
Carrie fiddled with the AM selections on her dash, she had a long drive ahead of her. She decided to do the furthest stop first. Her friend Miriam had asked her to stop by her home in Santa Barbara. She wanted Carrie to help decorate her living room for her husband’s work party. Carrie almost said no to her, but realized that Miriam was going to bring up that Carrie owed her a favor. It wasn’t a surprise to Carrie when Miriam called her the previous week casually reminding her of it. She liked Miriam, but not to the point that she would consider her a friend.
Carrie felt her nerves fraying as she thought about wasting time going to Santa Barbara, she continued to search the radio until she found a soothing voice. Her curiosity piqued, Carrie raised the volume, the voice filling the car cabin. Lately, she found herself gravitating towards spiritualism, meditative sources to calm her down whenever she had stress or worries. Her husband, Keith, would laugh when he noticed Carrie listening to mantras or doing breathing exercises. He would tell her that those things didn’t work. She had thought about going to a therapist, but was afraid of what Keith would say.
Sighing, Carrie realized she had to call Keith to see what he wanted for dinner. She failed to plan a menu for the week and knew that Keith can be fussy about what she cooked. Carrie spoke to the car as she exited the expressway onto another, she found herself on the scenic route along the coastline. Keith picked up after the third ring.
“Hello.” He said, Carrie noticed his tone.
“Hi, Keith.” Carrie said.
There was a pause. He was waiting for her to speak.
“I was just calling to see what you would like for dinner.”
“Um…I don’t know. Whatever you do is fine.” Keith said
“I was thinking of baked salmon, but I wanted to check with you because you sometimes have issues with salmon.” Carrie said, choosing her words.
There was a giggle, a woman’s giggle. “Yeah, that’s fine.” Keith said.
“Oh, I’m sorry, there’s someone there. I guess you’re having a meeting?” Carrie asked.
“Yeah, I’m in the middle of something. Look, I’ll see you tonight. Salmon is fine for dinner. Bye.” The car beeped twice.
Carrie glanced at the dashboard. Keith had hung up. Carrie bit her lower lip. He hung up without saying I love you and who was the giggling woman? She thought. Her doubts resurfaced. Carrie began to notice Keith’s behavior and body language for the past few months. There would be late nights at the office, secret texts, mood swings and lack of intimacy. Carrie found herself working harder to keep things between them stable. Yet, it was awkward and infuriating. She wiped at her cheeks fiercely and focused on the road.
The voice from the radio was of a man. He had a smooth, buttery sound. As she listened, Carrie sensed something creeping into her ear, as if a bug had landed and crawled in. For a moment her body went rigid and then melted. It took extra effort for her to hold onto the steering wheel. The voice was interrupted by a phone call. This time from Miriam.
“Carrie! Are you on your way?” Miriam asked, her voice shrill.
“Yes, I’m almost there.” Carrie said, annoyed.
“Oh, good. I can’t wait to show you my ideas. Tonight has to be perfect. There’s a possibility that Gary might get a promotion if he does some brown-nosing. If you know what I mean.”
“Yes. I know.”
“What’s wrong, hon. You sound like somethings bothering you.” Miriam said.
Carrie hesitated. She wanted to tell her everything that’s been bothering her. She needed that release, someone to talk to. But not with Miriam.
“No, nothing is wrong. It’s just the traffic. It’s bad.” Carrie said.
“Oh, yeah. It’s a pain. Well, I’ll let you go. See you soon.” Miriam said and the car beeped again.
Carrie gripped the steering wheel tight. Breathing deeply, she turned to the voice. She knew that she should be alarmed by what had happened before Miriam called, yet she couldn’t help but welcome the feeling of calm. She relished it. It was as if she was sinking into the ocean nearby. Carrie glanced at the water and smiled. She didn’t care that she didn’t understand what the voice was telling her as long as the feeling stayed.
A motorcycle raced by, it’s engine noise rattling Carrie. She peered at the rider and had to slam on the brakes when they cut in front of her. Carrie was pulled forward from the momentum. She cursed under her breath. Having been taken out of her dream state; she was able to hear what the voice was saying:
“You are not happy with your life. It has become quite difficult to juggle everything— your spouse, your children, friends and family. Your life has no purpose, other than to serve others. It has become monotonous. What is the point? You know this to be true… Carrie.”
Carrie stared at the radio, forgetting that she was driving, that she was going to meet Miriam, that she had chores to do, that she had children, and that she had a spouse. Carrie’s mind felt fuzzy as if ants were darting around inside. She closed her eyes, her foot released the acceleration pedal and she glided. There was a crunch of heavy plastic as the car hit the back end of another. Carrie’s head snapped forward.
For a moment she saw darkness, then she realized her face was buried in the air bag. Pulling away she saw blood on it, her nose was bleeding. Carrie glanced through the windshield and noticed the driver from the car get out. Slowly, she opened her door.
The wind whipped her hair, the scent of car fumes and sea salt mingled together. In the distance she heard the waves crashing. Carrie turned towards the sound. A person called out to her, but she didn’t hear them. The voice from the radio continued.
“… make it all go away.” The voice went silent abruptly as if someone had switched it off.
At the same instant that someone touched her arm, Carrie began to walk. She didn’t know how or what was compelling her to go. All she knew was that she had to get away from the spot. The waves grew louder and the wind whipped harder. Before she even thought to stop, Carrie’s foot lingered in empty space and then her body followed.