The Doctor stops by Dax’s room a few hours later. He agrees with the psychologist that a less stressful environment would be helpful, but it would have to be somewhere close. Dax’s Mom immediately gets to work on finding a rental only a few miles from the hospital.
Dax doesn’t need a second opinion. He’s dressed and ready to get out of there. The doctor gives him his meds and release paperwork. Dax looks at Sarah. “I’m guessing my car was trashed. You have yours?”
Sarah hesitates and looks at his parents. I guess it only makes sense that she goes with them. But she hadn’t really thought about it. They all wait for her answer. “Yes.”
Dax smiles. “Good. I’m riding with you.”
Dax sits on the passenger side while Sarah starts the engine. He moves the camera bag that once occupied his seat, to the back. “At least some things look familiar. But I don’t remember this car at all.”
Conversational French leaps from the speakers when the car roars to life. Dax laughs. “French? Are we going to France.”
Sarah is quick to hit the eject button. “Nope. Just learning French in my spare time.”
Dax grabs the disc first. He opens the console to put it in when he notices a collection of language CD’s in there. Italian, German, Japanese, Spanish, French, Russian, and Mandarin Chinese. He fingers through them. “Wow, that’s a lot of languages.”
Sarah closes the console and smiles meekly. “It’s a hobby I picked up the last few years.” She nervously puts the car in gear and backs out of the space.
Dax is intrigued. He doesn’t remember any of it, but he likes when she fills in the blanks. “All of them?”
Sarah nods awkwardly and follows his parent’s car. They ride most of the short distance in silence.
Dax looks at her from time to time and smiles. He places his hand over hers on the gear shift. It’s so great to touch her again and not in the confinement of the hospital bed. He looks out all of the windows as they cross a bridge over the intercoastal. “Where are we anyway?”
Sarah smiles. “North Carolina.”
Dax struggles with the fact that he doesn’t know. “We live here?”
Sarah is slow to answer. She doesn’t want to lie but she feels that she needs to give him some information. So she selects her words wisely. “No, we don’t. The accident happened here.”
He seems content with that info for now.
They follow his parent’s car into a driveway of a craftsman house on the beach. The sun is high in the sky. It would be a perfect location for a family vacation, under any circumstances… even this one.
They all settle inside, a large open family room and adjoining kitchen-dining room, that leads to an enormous deck through multiple French doors. It’s light and inviting and a perfect spot for recuperating. They drop their sparse belongings as they enter.
Dax sits on a porch swing and motions for Sarah to sit next to him.
Dax’s Mom pops her head onto the deck. “Your Dad and I are going to get some supplies in town. Will the two of you be okay while we’re gone?”’
Dax and Sarah continue to sit on the swing and watch the waves in comfortable silence. They’d always been this way with one another. They are each other’s home, always have been, and their bodies just naturally ease back into it.
A smile slowly grows on Dax’s face. “Do you remember the first time we went to the beach?”
Sarah laughs. “You were so sunburnt, you couldn’t lean down to kiss me good night.”
Dax chuckles. “Yup. That’s not all I wanted to do that night, but failed miserably.”
Sarah blushes while she smiles. “If I remember correctly, you didn’t fail for too long after that.” Their eyes connect for a brief moment before her phone rings and interrupts the moment.
She glances at the caller ID. “I should take this.”
Dax nods then turns his attention toward the ocean.
Sarah gets up and walks down the porch steps to the beach. Once she’s clear of earshot, she answers the phone. “Hello.”
Tom’s voice comes through the receiver. “I’m leaving.”
Sarah’s shoulders drop and she exhales slowly. She never meant to hurt him. “I can’t do this right now.”
Tom hesitates before he reluctantly responds. “I know.”
Sarah turns to see Dax still on the porch looking out at the sea. She speaks into her phone again. “It never really was fair to you.”
Tom’s voice cracks. “I’m walking away Sarah. I can’t wrap my head around this.”
A tear rolls down Sarah’s cheek. “I’m sorry.” But her voice is only met with a dial tone. Tom has already hung up.
Sarah looks at the porch again. This time Dax looks down and meets her gaze.
Later that night, Sarah and Dax sit on one side of the dinner table with partially emptied plates. His parents sit on the other. Sarah can already feel her belly confined by the waist of her jeans.
They all easily fall into the easy rhythm that was the norm so many years ago. It’s so easy to smile. So easy to laugh. Dax’s Dad is a natural storyteller and will willingly entertain for hours.
Dax is no stranger to his dad’s talents and starts a story of his own. “Do you remember how stinky my feet used to be?”
Dax’s mom nods.
Sarah bursts into laughter. She knows where this is going.
Dax continues, “Well this one time, when Sarah and I were on the road, she insisted that I put my sneakers outside the van when we were sleeping.”
Sarah interjects amidst her laughter. “We would have suffocated otherwise.”
Dax’s mom laughs.
Dax shoots his mom a look of mock disgust, then continues. “Well we woke up in the morning. I can’t remember where we were.”
Sarah finishes his thought. “Savannah.”
“Right.” Dax snickers. “And I had this hankering for pancakes. So we got up and drove to the nearest IHOP.”
Sarah laughs harder expectantly.
“So we get all the way there and I realize I don’t have my sneakers.” Dax stands for dramatic emphasis and looks around. “Where were they. Then it hits me. I left my sneakers where we had parked that night.”
Dax’s mom and dad laugh.
Dax points at them. “It’s not funny. They were my only pair. So we rushed all the way back there.”
Sarah is bursting at the seams. She can’t wait for Dax, so she finishes for him. “And some bum is putting them on his feet as we pull up.
Dax smiles admiringly at the way she stole his punch line.
Dax’s Dad lets out a guffaw. “So what did you do?”
Sarah beams at Dax with pride. “He gave the guy his sneakers and wore. sandals for the next six months, even in New Mexico in the winter.”
Sarah and Dax hold each other’s gaze for a moment.
Dax’s mom gets up to clear some dishes and kisses Dax on the head. “Do you still have stinky feet?”
Dax smiles, “I’ve matured, Mom.”
Dax’s mom laughs as she walks toward the kitchen. “That hasn’t helped your father.”
Under the table, Dax secretly slips a bare foot onto Sarah’s, his toe touches her tattooed ankle. He doesn’t look at her, nor does she look at him, but she smiles to herself. She feels like this is a dream… but if it is, she doesn’t want to wake.
Dax walks Sarah down the hall to the bedrooms. They walk slowly and silently most of the way.
Sarah can sense the nerves from both of them. While the ease of their comfort is evident, they both know there is much unsaid. So Sarah looks to fill the void. “Dinner was nice.”
Dax wraps his finger around her pinky. “Yeah. It felt good. I remember that feeling.”
Sarah nods. “Me too.”
They reach one bedroom door. They stop and look at one another for a moment. Dax steps closer to her. “I sense that we should take it slow. Am I right?”
Sarah nods and swallows nervously.
He kisses her forehead. “Okay. Good night.”
She looks at him but doesn’t step away yet. “But where will you sleep?”
“I spied an extra bedroom down the hall.”
Sarah smiles apologetically as she opens her bedroom door and then closes it slowly behind her.