Fly Away Page 35

I fumble with the Xanax container and take two. I need two because I’m going out, and just the idea of it sends me into a panic.

I should take a shower, but I am feeling so shaky and weak, I can’t do it.

I gather the presents I bought weeks ago. Before.

I put them in a big gray Nordstrom bag and walk to the door.

I stop, unable suddenly to breathe. Pain spikes in my chest.

This is pathetic. I am pathetic. I haven’t left my condo in almost two weeks. That’s no time at all. When did I become unable to open a door?

I ignore my rising panic and reach for the doorknob. It feels ember-hot in my sweaty hand and I make a little sound—a yelp—and let go. Then I try again, more slowly. I open the door and step out into the hallway. When the door closes I fight an urge to turn around.

This is ridiculous. I know it’s ridiculous. I just can’t get ahold of myself. Still, I have made a plan. Today is Christmas Eve. A day of family and forgiveness.

I release my breath—how long have I been holding it in?—and walk resolutely toward the elevator. All the way there—fifteen feet of marble floor—my heart is skipping beats in my chest, stopping and starting.

The elevator ride to the parking garage is a test of my will. It feels heroic to make it to my car, to get in the driver’s seat, to start the engine.

Outside, the streets of Seattle are dusted white with snow. Holiday decorations fill the windows on either side of the street. It is four o’clock on Christmas Eve. The only shoppers I see out are men in heavy coats, their faces hunched into flipped-up collars, shopping at the last possible moment.

I turn right on Columbia. It feels canyonlike in the snow, this hidden street, huddled as it is beneath the aging concrete viaduct overhead. Here, there are no people out and about in the falling snow. It is like driving through a black-and-white painting; my headlights are the only color I see.

I drive onto the ferry and park, deciding to stay in my car for the crossing. The movement of the ferry, the idle chugging, the occasional blaring of the foghorn, lull me into a kind of trance. I stare through the boat’s open end at the snow falling in front of us; flakes disappear into the flat gray Sound.

I am going to apologize. I will throw myself to my knees if I have to, beg Johnny to forgive me.

“I’m sorry, Johnny,” I say aloud, hearing the way my voice trembles. I want this so much. Need it. I can’t go on the way I’ve been. The loneliness is unbearable, as is the guilt.

Kate would not forgive you.

On Bainbridge Island, I drive slowly off the ferry. The few blocks of downtown Winslow are dressed up for the holiday; white lights flicker in storefronts and wind up streetlamps. A red neon star hangs above Main Street. It looks like a Norman Rockwell painting, especially with the snow falling, sticking.

I drive down a road that is as familiar as my own hand but feels exotic in the snow. The nearer I get to their driveway, the looser my hold on panic becomes. At the last turn, my heart starts skipping beats again. I turn into the driveway and stop.

I take another Xanax. When did I take the last one? I can’t remember.

I see a white Ford sedan in the driveway. That must be Bud and Margie’s rental car.

I put the car in drive and inch forward. Through the curtain of falling snow, I see the Christmas lights strung along the eaves and the rectangular golden glow of the windows. Inside, the tree is lit up; shadowy people are gathered around it.

I park, turn off my lights and imagine it. I will go to the house, knock on the door and Johnny will answer.

I am so sorry, I will say. Forgive me.


It hits me like a slap, so hard I snap back. He will not forgive me. Why should he? His daughter is gone. Gone. She has run away with a dangerous young man and disappeared because of me.

He will leave me standing there with my presents.

I can’t do it, can’t reach out and be smacked down again. I am barely holding myself together as it is.

I back out of the driveway, go back down to the ferry. In less than an hour, I am downtown again. Now the streets are really quiet; no one is walking on the slick sidewalks. The stores are closed. The roads are icy, and I slow down, just to be extra careful.

Then I am crying. I don’t feel it coming on, this sadness, don’t see it circling me, but suddenly I am sobbing even as my heart is racing and a hot flash sweeps through me in pins and needles. I try to wipe my eyes and to calm down, but I can’t. My body is heavy, lethargic.

How many Xanax did I take?

This is the thing on my mind when the red lights flash behind me.


I put on my turn signal and pull off to the side of the road.

The police cruiser pulls up behind me. That damn red light blinks and flares and then stills.

The officer comes to my window and taps on the glass. It occurs to me a second too late that I should have lowered the window.

Smiling too brightly, I hit the button and the window slides soundlessly downward. “Hello, Officer,” I say, waiting for recognition. Oh, Ms. Hart. My wife-sister-daughter-mother loves your show.

“License and registration, please,” he says.

Oh. Right. Those days are over. I bolster my smile. “You sure you need my ID, Officer? I’m Tully Hart.”

“License and registration, please.”

I lean over to my purse and fish my license out of my wallet and retrieve the registration documents from my visor. I can see that my hand is trembling as I offer him what he’s asked for.

He shines a flashlight onto my license, and then turns the light on me. I can’t imagine I look good in that harsh light and it worries me. He stares into my eyes.

“Have you been drinking, Ms. Hart?”

“No. None,” I say, and I think it’s true. Isn’t it? Have I had any wine tonight?

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“Step out of the vehicle, please.”

He takes a few steps back, moves to the rear of my car.

Now my hands are really shaking. My heart starts that wild samba beat again and my mouth goes dry. Stay calm.

I get out of my car and stand on the side of the road with my hands clasped tightly together.

“I’d like you to walk forty feet along this line, Ms. Hart. Heel to toe.”

I want to do as he asks, quickly and easily, but I can’t keep my balance. I keep taking too big a step and laughing nervously. “I’ve never been very coordinate … d,” I say. Is that the right word? I’m so nervous I can’t think straight, and I wish I hadn’t taken those last two Xanax. My movements and thoughts are sluggish.

“Okay. You can stop. Stand here, in front of me. Tilt your head back and spread your arms out and touch your nose with one finger.”

I fling my arms out and immediately lose my balance and stumble sideways. He catches me before I fall off the sidewalk. I try again, with all my will pulled in.

I poke myself in the eye.

He shoves a Breathalyzer at me and says, “Blow.”

I am pretty sure I haven’t been drinking, but honestly, I don’t trust myself. My thoughts are too fuzzy, and I know I shouldn’t blow into this thing if I have been drinking. “No,” I say quietly, staring up at him. “I’m not drunk. I have panic attacks. I have a prescription—”

He pulls my arms together and puts me in handcuffs.


“Wait a second,” I cry out, trying to think how I might explain this, but he isn’t listening to me. He maneuvers me back to his cruiser.

“I have a prescription,” I say in a small, scared voice. “For panic attacks.”

He reads me my rights and tells me I’m under arrest and then pulls out my driver’s license and punches a hole in it and forces me into the backseat of the cruiser.

“Come on,” I plead when he slides into the driver’s seat. “Don’t do this. Please. It’s Christmas Eve.”

He doesn’t say a word as we drive away.

At the police station, he helps me out of the cruiser and leads me by the elbow into the building.

There aren’t a lot of people here on this snowy holiday night, and I’m glad of that. My shame is blossoming, widening. How could I have been so stupid? A woman built like a brick takes me into a room and searches me from head to toe, patting me down as if I am a terrorist.

They take my jewelry and all my belongings and then book and fingerprint me. Then they take my picture.

I feel the start of tears, and I know they’re useless—raindrops on the desert floor—gone almost before they fall.

* * *

Christmas Eve in a jail cell. A new low.

I sit on the painted concrete bench in some holding area, alone, huddled beneath a single glaring light fixture. Anything is better than looking at the bars. In the office on the other side of my cell, a few tired-looking men and women in uniform are seated at desks dotted with Styrofoam coffee cups and family photos and Christmas decorations, doing paperwork and talking to one another.

It is nearing eleven o’clock—these are the longest few hours of my life—when the brick-shaped woman comes to the cell door and unlocks it. “We’ve impounded your car. You can go if someone will pick you up.”

“Can I take a cab?”

“Sorry, no. We haven’t got your tox report back yet. We can’t simply release you. There must be someone you can call.”

Suddenly the floor I have been standing on gives way, and I realize that this whole thing has just gotten worse.

I will sit in jail overnight before I will call Margie on Christmas Eve and ask her to bail me out of jail.

I look up into the woman’s lined, tired face. I can tell that she is a kind woman, but it is Christmas Eve and she is here and there is somewhere she’d rather be. “Do you have a family?” I ask.

She looks surprised by my question. “Yes,” she says, after clearing her throat.

“It must be hard, to work tonight.”

“I’m lucky to have a job.”

“Yeah,” I say with a sigh.

I can only think of one person to call, and I don’t even know why his name comes to me. “Desmond Grant,” I say. “He’s an emergency room doctor at Sacred Heart. He might come. I have his number in my purse.”

The woman nods. “Come on, then.”

I get up slowly, feeling as worn down and dull as a piece of old chalk. We walk down the medicinal-green-painted hallway to a room full of empty desks.

The woman hands me my purse. I dig through it, ignoring the shaking in my hands (I could really use a Xanax now), and find both the phone number and my phone.

Under the woman’s watchful eye, I punch in the number and wait, my breath held.


“Desmond?” I can barely get any volume in my voice. I am already regretting this call. He won’t help me; why should he?


I don’t want to say anything.

“Tully?” he says again, sounding concerned. “Are you okay?”

Tears gather in my eyes, sting. “I’m in the King County jail,” I say softly. “DUI. But I didn’t drink anything. It’s a misunderstanding. They won’t let me leave unless someone will be responsible for me. I know it’s Christmas Eve and—”

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