The Way - excerpt
The phone rang much too early.
Martin's arm tightened around me as he stirred in his sleep. I reached out from beneath the blankets and silenced the ringer, then blinked sleepily at the tiny screen.
"Who is it?" Martin mumbled into my shoulder.
"Um." I squinted at the image on my phone. Without my glasses I had no hope of reading numbers, so all my regular callers had a picture attached. The smear of color on the screen could only be my sister Donna's ginger frizz. I answered with a grunt.
"David, it's me," she said. She sounded like she'd been crying; I woke up quickly. "I need you to come out. You and Li."
"It's Mom and Dad. They're gone."
Martin was still in bed when I finally got off the phone. He turned over as I crawled in beside him and opened one sleepy green eye.
"Don't they know it's our day off?"
"Yeah, I think they do." I brushed my fingers across his stubbled chin. "I need to go to Boston for a few days."
"Hmph," he snorted. "When?"
"Hmph," he said again.
"Family stuff," I sighed. "Sometimes I envy you."
"Aw. They're not that bad, are they?"
"I guess not. I'd just rather stay home. We haven't had a day off together in a while."
He propped himself up on one elbow. "Tell you what. I'll pick up some extra shifts while you're gone. Then we can take that ski weekend we've been talking about."
"Mm. Sounds lovely."
"As a bonus, I won't have time to miss you."
"What about me? I'll still miss you."
He leaned down and kissed my nose. "Your family," he said. "Your problem."
The phone rang again as I was packing. "What's the weather like out there?" I asked.
"I can't reach Li," she said. "I need you to go get her."
"What? In Seattle?"
"I've changed your flight and reserved a rental car, and I emailed you the last three addresses I have for her. If you don't find her, call me, and we'll make a new plan."
"Donna, it's not exactly on my way."
"I don't know what else to do. She trusts you, she listens to you. You can try calling, but all the numbers I have are disconnected."
"Fine. I'll find her. Anything else?"
"Thanks, David," she said, and hung up. I put down the phone with a sigh.
"You all right?" said Martin. He stood in the doorway, pink and damp from the shower, with a towel hanging loosely around his waist.
"Fine. It's just Li."
He came up behind me and wrapped his arms around me. "Just love her like she is. She'll be okay."
"I know," I sighed. "She scares me though. I never know what I'm going to get with her."
"I know what that's like," he said. "Still, she loves you. That's worth something."
He held me a minute longer, and I leaned back against his broad chest. Martin's Bible-thumping family had cut him off a long time ago; it was rare for him to speak of them, even obliquely.
"Do you need help with that?" he asked me, nodding toward my overnight bag.
"Oh, all I can get." I picked up my phone and clicked on a weather app. "Boston is almost as cold as here, but Seattle is warm and rainy. Of course I won't be there long."
Martin began laying out clothes on the bed. "You'll need a bigger bag," he said. "Layers are your friend. Wear your Doc Martins and I'll throw in a pair of dress shoes. You never know." He swept up the overnight bag and replaced it with a good-sized duffel. "Your lined raincoat should be warm enough for Boston and dry enough for Seattle. All right?"
I kissed his dimpled cheek. "What would I do without you?"
"You would live in chaos," he said, grinning. "Did you call for a sub already?"
"I did, thanks. Took the whole week just in case. Lucky for them I did my lesson plans on Friday."
"Want a ride to the airport?"
"Sure, but you'd better put on pants."
"It's seventeen degrees out."
He winced. "Okay, pants. I'll be ready in three minutes."