Time was running out, but as rushed as she was, Kim had to take a last check through her house. Countless other trips hadn’t caused her this much anxiety. She couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling something was wrong. She ran up the stairs to check on her children. Because of the early hour, both Gaby and Jason were still sleeping, and it’d be a couple of hours before they got up for school. She quietly opened Gaby’s door and walked across the room to peek at her daughter. Enough light shone into the room from the hallway that she could see Gaby’s face.
When she leaned over to kiss her forehead, Gaby opened her eyes and yawned. “I’m sorry,” Kim said. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”
Gaby smiled. “I’m glad you did. I’ll miss you. Don’t forget about looking for my graduation dress.”
“I’ll look for a dress, but I’m not making any promises I’ll find one. You might already have something in your closet to wear.”
“I don’t want to wear something old.”
Kim kissed Gaby on the cheek. “Spend some time with Jason while I’m gone. And I need to get going. I love you.”
She walked down the hallway and entered Jason’s room with its collections of things boys like: model cars and airplanes, Harry Potter books, soccer trophies and pictures of Chicago Bulls players in matching frames. She glanced at his stack of video games. She didn’t want him playing alone too much while she was gone. Maybe he could invite his friend Max over, although Jason said Max didn’t like their housekeeper Janice’s cooking. He wanted Max over when Kim was home.
She shivered. His room was always too cool in the winter. She pulled the basketball bedspread over his body. Jason flung his arm out from under the cover, but he slept on. Although disappointed she wouldn’t get to talk to him before she left, she was glad he could sleep a little longer before school. When Jason was four years old, he’d been afraid to sleep in his room, so she’d drawn him a guardian angel. Her drawing was still tacked up over his bed. Although he no longer had trouble sleeping, he refused to take it down, even when Gaby told him how stupid the picture looked among his other stuff.
She tenderly pushed a lock of his black hair away from his face and felt a twinge of guilt. Ten-year-old Jason hated her shopping trips. He was so unlike Gaby. She always wanted Kim to bring her some exclusive item from her travels, but Jason never asked her to buy him an expensive present. All he ever wanted was for her to come back as soon as possible.
“I love you, Jason,” she whispered. “I promise to hurry home.”
She might as well take a few more minutes to check her bedroom. Maybe she’d forgotten something. She walked through the doorway and saw her inhaler on the top of the dresser. Even though she probably wouldn’t use it on this trip, she definitely needed to take it.
Steve slid his arms into his suit jacket. “Are you ready?”
She nodded. “Just checking to make sure I have everything.”
“I’ll go get the car.”
In the foyer, Kim stopped to put on her winter coat.
Janice, a trim woman in her early fifties, poked her head through the doorway. “Steve took your luggage out.”
“Thanks. I appreciate you coming early,” Kim said. “The omelet was delicious.” She and Steve never could have managed all these years without dependable Janice. And she was more than a housekeeper to them; she was a dear friend.
“I couldn’t let you go without eating,” Janice said. “I know the airlines have cut out food on their flights.”
At the front door, Kim smiled. “You take a nap while the children are at school. Oh, how’s Patti?” Janice’s daughter, Patti, was expecting a baby in three weeks, and Janice had asked to take two weeks off to help her after the birth.
“She’s miserable and can’t sleep. The doctor told her the baby’s big.”
“Let’s hope the remaining time goes fast for her. I’ll call you when I get to New York. Bye.”
Before opening the car door of Steve’s black Lexus, she noticed dark, formidable clouds. Great, looks like I can’t avoid the rain.
“You ready to go, babe?” Steve asked.
“I don’t feel ready.” Kim put on her seat belt. “You know how sometimes when you’re leaving, you feel like you’ve left something undone, but you haven’t?”
“You never forget anything.”
“I’m just jumpy today. Like something is about to happen.”
“Maybe you drank too much coffee.”
As he drove around the circular driveway, Kim stared at their two-story brick house. “You know, honey, we’re blessed. We have a great family, good jobs, a beautiful house. I don’t know. Maybe we have too much.”
“I never thought I’d hear you say something like that. Too much.” He shook his head. “You always said you wanted it all after the way you grew up.”
The way she grew up. An old house that needed paint, cold, drafty rooms, hand-me-down clothes, an unhappy mother, an inattentive father, a painfully shy sister and twin baby brothers crying for their mother but getting a sister’s care instead.
“I know.” She nodded. “I wanted everything to be perfect for Gaby and Jason and us. We have a lot of things I never had, but we don’t have time for each other. We both work too much.”
Steve took his attention off the road and looked at her. “Hon, your schedule doesn’t allow for family time.”
“You’re right. I’m been thinking of cutting down so I’ll be home more.”
“You’ve said that before, but it’s never happened.”
“I want to start delegating more work to Allison.” A few months ago she’d hired Allison to be her assistant so her workload could gradually be reduced. “She’s doing a good job and we work great together.”
“Is she going on this trip with you?”
“She’s already there. She went yesterday to be with her boyfriend in New York.”
He grinned. “I remember Allison’s boyfriend at the store’s Christmas party. He was all over her and she loved every minute of it.”
Mentioning the hot couple made her remember her performance in bed. She picked a piece of lint off her coat and cleared her throat. “Sorry about last night. I know you were disappointed I didn’t get excited.”
“You always want to make love the night before a big shopping trip. I think your list must read, Do it with Steve tonight.” He winked. “Babe, I always wonder when you’re not into it emotionally and just there physically if you’re already thinking about jumping out of bed to check me off your list.”
“You make it sound like I think of you as a chore, but I just wanted to feel close to you before we parted. I guess I needed for us to spend some quality time together.” Sadness crept into her voice. “I miss the closeness we had.”
He took his hand off the steering wheel and squeezed her knee. “Do we have time to pull over and make love in our backseat?”
She giggled in surprise. “Crazy, but tempting.”
Rain pelted against the windshield. He turned on the wipers. “Great, the weather forecast had to be right this once. Maybe that’s why you’ve been jumpy this morning.”
She shook her head. “Actually, I’m worried about Jason. Last night he begged me to cancel my trip.”
“He always misses you a lot.”
“I know you’re busy with that new account, but could you take Jason to a Bulls game?”
Although the streets weren’t slick yet, Steve drove carefully. Kim looked out the window at the nasty weather, glad he’d missed his usual morning workout at the fitness club to drive her. “Thanks for driving me.”
“That’s okay. You hate to drive in this.”
She coughed. She couldn’t get sick now. The last week of January was important with this buying trip, and February would be a busy month for her.
“I hope you have your inhaler.” Steve turned to look at her. “Your asthma might flare up on the plane.”
“I have it in my purse, but I won’t need it. I won’t have time to exercise and flying isn’t stressful to me.”
“What if something on the plane sets off your allergies?”
Here we go again. Steve never gave her credit for taking care of herself and always blamed her rare asthma attacks on her frequent trips.
“I’ll be sure to use my inhaler. This isn’t life or death. I’m not a diabetic who needs insulin.” She wouldn’t give in to her one weakness and allow her asthma to control the way she lived. Besides, she did try to prevent the asthma attacks.
“And what about last winter?” he asked sharply. “You had your inhaler and I still had to rush you to the hospital emergency room.”
“I’ll be fine, and that was the only time I had to go to the hospital.” She touched her chest. “No tightening here.”
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