GETAWAY

by Kevin Lenihan
art by Patrick Ijima Washburn

You can’t get there from here.

            She leaned over and hugged his arm.  Impulsively he turned his head and kissed her.  They smiled at each other, smiles that were truer than any they had shared for a very long time.  Her eyes sparkled, his shone.

          "This was a perfect trip," he said.

          "Yes," she said dreamily.  "I wish it could go on forever."

          They were standing at the side of the road, on the edge of a vast sloping field.  About a mile away stood a large gray castle with towers and rounded domes and turrets.  Further down the grade nestled a small village of earth-colored dwellings.

          Since arriving in Ireland, a new world had opened up for them, and an old one had fallen away.  Not only had they discovered things about themselves, but they had realized things about each other that surprised them, and in that discovery they found delight.

          Not only was this something of a rebirth in their individual lives, it was the resurrection of their marriage.  During the trip not a single word had been spoken about the troubles they knew before this little getaway, but both knew they had been headed straight for a separation.

          "It's a shame it has to end now," Joann said.

          "Cheer up, Joann," he said.  "We'll come back some day."

          She turned to him.  "We will, Mike?  We can come back?"

          He nodded.  "Yes.  I promise.  One day we'll come back.  And who knows, maybe we'll just stay forever."

          Joann's smile grew wider and she laughed delightedly.  "Oh, Mike, I love you so much.  I really do.  I never stopped loving you.  Really."

          That was a lie, but he let it go.  Why resurrect old hurts now.  It would be much too painful and destructive, and it would certainly jinx the great fortune they had been granted.

          "I love you too," he said, and leaned over and hugged her.

          They turned and looked across the rolling green land toward the distant castle, savoring the moment.

          Tomorrow it was back home to a pile of bills and a run down house and noisy neighbors and jobs in two different cities with barely any time to spend together.  But for now they had something special.  The overseas trip they always dreamed about and struggled toward had finally come true.  It took all their savings and a loan that would keep them in debt for another year.  But now it was almost at an end.

          Behind them voices approached.

          "The bus is leaving soon," the tour guide announced. "Everyone please step aboard."

         He spoke English well, but had a heavy brogue that reminded Mike of his father’s accent.  As he walked by, Joann pointed down the hill.  A couple of hundred yards away, halfway between the road and the castle, a white patch stood out clearly among the shades of green.  It was roughly the shape of an overstuffed sofa, but much larger.

          "What's that?" Joann asked, pointing.

          "That would be Brigit's chair, sometimes known as the Celtic Couch."  The tour guide said it with a note of pride in his knowledge of local lore.  "It's a little known mark, t'is said to have stood for over six hundred years.  A strange myth goes with it."

          "What myth?" Joann asked.

          The guide smiled and said, "Ahhh" instantly warming to the tale.  "The myth of Brigit, the Lady of fire and sunlight.  She brings spring to the land each year.  But legend has it she was unhappy.  Brigit fell in love with a human.  She carved that couch from a boulder, so that she could have a place where she could always be with him.  But this was not to be, as he was human and confined to this world, and she was a spiritual creature, and unable to remain in physical form.  The first spring rain every year, they say, is Brigit's tears.  Even in her grief, she blesses and awakens the land for a new harvest. Anyone that sits there is consumed by his or her greatest passion.  Anyone that sits there with his true love is guaranteed a life of perfect happiness.  I've known many to go down there, sit in the couch, and they all swear it's true.  The couch is magical.  A surefire benediction for lovers."

          Joann smiled.  "What a beautiful tale."

          "Of course," the tour guide said gravely, "No bit of folklore is complete without its dark side."

          "Dark side?" Mike said.  "What do you mean?"

          The tour guide pursed his lips.  "Brigit's passion happened to be love, but as there is love, there is hatred.  Armies have clashed over that piece of land.  In one instance, a single soldier remained standing after a battle, and he later remarked that during the fighting a thirst for violence arose in him, completely took him over.  The killing became ecstasy for him, he said."

          Joann and Mike looked at each other.

          "You wouldn't know it to look down there," the guide went on, "but that can be a treacherous piece of land.  Many pitfalls.  If it works for you, they say a perfect golden circle appears, like a ring of sunlight.  It is said that the hordes who fought over this land sought gold that many people claimed they saw from a distance.  Feuds lasted through generations of families to dominate that land.  But no gold was ever found on the property.  It was just the lure of the magic."

          "Can we go down there?" Joann asked suddenly, turning to Mike.  "Please.  This is our last day.  I want to do something special.  It would be the perfect end to our trip."

          Mike struggled to find an excuse not to go.  He was tired, and it would be so nice to just hop on the bus and stare out the window as it took them back to the hotel.  It would be so nice to spend the last day there relaxing at the pool, going to an early dinner, then turning in early so they'd be rested for their flight.  But Joann would never let him forget it if he said no.

          "The bus isn't going to wait for us," he told her.  “And we don’t even have our phones with us.  You made us leave them back at the hotel.

          Joann turned to the tour guide.  "Is there another way to get back to Cork?"

          "A rental car would do nicely for the two of you," he said.  "What you do is follow this road for about two miles, and a fellow by the name of James Malone has a car rental facility.  He can set you up with what you need.  You can't miss the place.  Just stay on the road."

          Joann turned to Mike and took his hands.  "This was meant to happen," she said.  "Can't you feel it?  This place was meant just for us."

          "Passion, my friends," the guide said sagely.  "It cannot be contained when mixed with the magic of that couch."  Then he turned to walk away as if he already knew their decision.

          "Let's go," Joann said excitedly.

          "Alright," Mike laughed, and followed Joann over the metal guard rail separating the road from the embankment, stepping carefully.  He stopped after a few feet, turned back to the road, and called out to the guide, "You said it was treacherous ground.  Is there anything we need to be careful of walking down that way?"

          "Of course not," Joann said, already pulling him down the slightly sloping field.  "There's nothing to worry about."

          The tour guide turned back to answer, but they were already too far away to hear.

          They made their way down carefully, and the only treacherous part they saw was a deep crevice that crossed their path, but it was narrow, only about a foot wide.  The rest of the way was over soft, unbroken ground, the grade barely steep enough to cause concern.

          "Nothing so bad about that," Mike said as they arrived at the couch.  "Nary a pebble to trip over and scrape yer knees," he added in a fair imitation of a brogue.

          Then he turned and looked back at the path they had taken.  From here it looked like the field stretched up at a steep angle to the road hundreds of feet above.  Did we just walk down that grade?  Was it really that steep?  It had to be some kind of optical illusion.  There was no way they could have made that without falling.  The longer he stared, the more this position seemed to gain the perspective of standing at the bottom of a valley, looking up at the side of a mountain.  How did we navigate that without falling on our heads? he wondered.

          "Look at this," Joann said, calling his attention back.  "It's beautiful."  She ran her hand over the white stone.

          Brigit's chair was about eight feet high at the back, the seat about four feet off the ground.  It was pure white, the surface perfectly smooth but slightly rippled to imitate fabric. There was ornate scroll on the arms, and four thick clawed animal feet rested in a bed of wild flowers.

          "Help me, would you?" Joann requested, but by the time Mike reached out a helping hand she had slipped up onto the chest-high platform with amazing ease; she then leaned back as if stretching out in a leather recliner.  "Join me," she said, and reached out a hand.

          Mike climbed up and sat down next to her, and began to wonder if this were such a good idea.  What if we can't find our way back?  He hadn’t seen a single pay phone on the entire tour.  Was anyone else stupid enough to travel a foreign country without a cell phone?  What if we get lost and miss our flight tomorrow?  We don't have enough money to stay another day.

          Joann said, "Three weeks just isn't long enough.  It should have been three months, or three years."

          "I hate to leave, too," Mike said.  "But remember we promised we'd come back someday.  Who knows.  Maybe we'll spend the rest of our lives here."

          Joann whirled around.  "You mean it?  Do you think we could?"  Her eyes were glowing with fierce determination.  "Yeah," she went on, calculating.  "We could do that.  We could buy one of those small farms.  We could grow our own food, get our water from a well."

          "And eat dirt and snow in the winter," Mike said.

          "You could fix cars over here as well as at home.  I'm sure there's a need for it.  We'll live off the money from your successful service station."

          It had really just been a throwaway thought, but Joann was already forging a frame from a random idea

          "And if that doesn't work," she went on, "if there are no cars to fix, you could fall back on those old sewing skills from when you worked in your father's shop.  Also I could get a job.  If I can’t find a dental assistant job I could get a job giving horse riding lessons."

          Mike tried to interrupt but she just steamrolled his attempt.

          "Or I could work as a stable hand.  They probably have a need for that over here.  We could take the money from our retirement fund, probably buy a place outright.  No mortgage.  No rent payments.  What do you think?"

          "Well..." was all he had to offer.  He shifted, though not in discomfort.  The surface of the stone was as comfortable as a goose-down cushion.

          "Well, what do you say?" she asked.

          "Just give up everything back home?"

          "Yes, exactly."

          Mike shifted again and the castle in the distance caught his eye.  It was a huge structure of stone, maybe five stories high and as wide as a city block at the base.  It was perfectly symmetrical and still standing straight.  He briefly marveled how they had been built hundreds of years ago, without heavy machinery, without any computers or sophisticated technology.  Yet somehow they had managed.  Somehow they had figured out--

          "Maybe we could buy that castle," Joann said, cutting into his reverie.  "The tour guide said it was for sale."

          "Live in a castle?" Mike asked. "I think that's a little--"

          "No, not live there," she said.  "We buy the castle and turn it into a tourist attraction.  The guide said it was very popular when it was open.  We could open it up, charge admission, give tours, sell souvenirs.  We'd be the keepers of our very own castle. Doesn't that blow your mind?"

          Mike did not say no right away, which was extraordinary in itself.  Was he really considering siding with her on this absurd idea?  "How much would a castle cost?" he asked.

          "Who knows," Joann said.  "But we borrow the money against future income on the attraction.  Just like taking a mortgage out on a house."

          "A castle?" Mike said.

          "I hear that in some cases, they actually offer castles at a very cheap price.  Something like a dollar as long as the buyer agrees to make all repairs, restore it to its former glory.  We could do that.  Open up, charge admission for tours, and pay for it that way."

          "A castle."

          "Wouldn't you like to own your own castle.  You'd be like the king.  I'd be the queen.  We could fix it up like a royal palace."  She sidled up to him.  "Think about it.  Can you imagine what it would be like to screw in the royal chambers.  Or we could do it in the dungeon.  They probably already have all the chains and handcuffs there."

          Mike blushed and moved away from her.  "Alright, stop.  We'd have to look into it.  There’s a lot to consider first."

          "Of course there’s a lot to consider.  I'm not talking about walking up to a real estate agent and handing them a dollar bill and then calling a mover.  We'd have to check out a lot of things.  But it's doable."

          "Yes, it's doable," Mike agreed.  "But it sounds risky."

          "Yes, it's risky," Joann almost shouted.  "Of course it will be risky.  But we've never taken a risk in our lives.  We've always played it so safe and we've never been really hurt, but we've never won big either.  This is our chance to win big.  It would take a lot of hard work, but we'd be working for ourselves.  For the first time we'd be doing something worthwhile.  Besides, what do we have to lose?"

          What do we have to lose? she asks, Mike thought.  Everything for starters.  Then after we've lost everything....

          Mike looked at the castle again.  It looked so storybook, enchanted.  Magical.  Could it really make money for them?  They had gone on several tours of castles and there had always been a lot of people.  People willing to shell out big bucks to walk through a stone shell of a building.  But none had been as spectacular as this one.  This was by far the biggest, the most elaborate.  People would pay to see this one.

          "We could do it," he said tentatively.  "We can afford a dollar.  Then all we have to do is patch a few cracks, spread a little paint around.  It's not like there's plumbing or electricity to worry about."

          "Yes, yes.  We could do all the work ourselves.  Live on our savings in the meantime, and then once we open up, people will line up for miles to see it."

          Besides, Mike thought, if it goes bust, we haven't lost much.  We could always move back home, stay with some friends or, if worse came to worst (and it would be the absolute worst) they could move in with her parents until they got back on their feet.  But on the positive side, there were no other castles for miles.  This area might need an attraction like this.  It seemed very likely they would make money.

          "I can almost see this working," he said, and smiled.

          Joann cheered and jumped off the chair, eager to be on the way.  "Let's go," she said.  "Let's see what we can find out about buying a castle."

          Mike carefully stepped down from the chair, not sure whether to trust the ground.  "I guess we could talk to a Realtor.  I don't know if they can help us, but they could probably point us to the right people."

          Joann grabbed his hand and tried pulling him faster than he wanted to walk.  As they walked up the grade toward the road, Joann said, "You know, I don't feel so bad about leaving anymore.  I feel great, like there'll never be another problem for us.  Maybe that couch is magic."

          Mike wiped sweat from his face.  "I don't know about that, but while I was sitting there...."

          "What?  Tell me," Joann urged.  She stopped walking, took his hand and pulled herself against him.  "What did you feel?  Tell me."

          "I felt sort of... uninhibited.  Free.  Like I could do anything I wanted... and get away with it."

          "Yes, that's exactly how I felt," Joann cried out.  She skipped ahead of him like a giddy little girl, then suddenly stopped and turned back.  "Did you see a gold ring?"

          "A what?"

          "The golden ring.  The guide said if you find your true passion, you're supposed to see a golden ring to mark the occasion."

          "No, I didn't see a gold ring," Mike said.

          Joann frowned.  "Neither did I.  But that's alright.  I know it worked.  I can feel it.  Nothing's going to stop us ever again."

          "Yeah, I think you're right," Mike said.

          "Of course I'm right.  We'll buy that castle, we'll become the tourist site of Europe.  It will make us rich, and we'll live happily ever after.  Just like a fairy tale."

          They continued back up the hill, holding hands.  Crossing back over the small crevice, Joann stumbled.  Mike, in an attempt to help her, lost his balance.  He fell into the hole feet first, wedging himself tightly.  When he tried to wiggle out he slipped a little deeper, pinning his hands to his sides.

          Joann giggled.  Mike scowled.

          "I'm sorry," she said, but you look like a cork stuck in a bottle."  With that, she burst out laughing.

          Mike felt his anger melt away, and he laughed too.  Nothing was going to ruin this moment, or the vacation.

          "Help me out," he asked, and she did.

          Back at the road they headed West, as the guide had instructed.  The sun was bright in a dazzling blue sky.

*   *   *

          After an hour they were still on the same road, sucking in dust with every breath.

          "Are you sure he said it was this way?" Mike asked.

          "Yes, I'm sure.  He pointed this way.  I just think he made a slight error in distance."

          "Slight?  We must've walked five miles already."

          "Well, we'll just keep walking.  We'll find it sooner or later."

          Joann wiped sweat from her forehead, then unbuttoned and removed her shirt, hooking it onto her waistband.

          "What are you doing?" Mike asked.

          "What?" she asked, turning.

          "That's not a bathing suit you're wearing.  It's a bra.  And it's completely see-through."

          "Oh, so what?" Joann said, turning to continue walking.  "There's no one around.  Who's going to see?"

          "Anyone could.  Anyone passing by."

          "No one is going to see," she said.  "Besides, so what?"  There was a gleam in her eyes.  "Even if they do, I don't care."

          "I think you should put your shirt back on."  He looked around, but no one was in sight.  "Come on, put it back on."

          She turned back, smiling coyly.  “No.”

         “Joanne, come on.”

         "One more word and the bra comes off too."

          "Joanne, stop fooling around," he said.

          "That's the word," Joann said, and reached behind her and unsnapped her bra.  She hesitated a moment, then let the pink lacy bra drop to the ground.  She stood there, in the middle of the road, topless, staring at him.

          Mike watched a moment in fascination, then looked around, expecting a bus load of tourists to drive by at that moment.

          "Alright, that's enough.  Get dressed," he told her, and took a step toward her.

          "No," she said, taking a step back.  "This is very comfortable.  Now I know why guys don't wear shirts when it's hot.  It's feels nice."

          "Get dressed," he said, trying to sound stern.  He never thought he'd have to tell his wife to get dressed in the middle of a road.  He felt a stir of excitement.  "Get dressed now."

          "No," she said, and took another step back.  "Come any closer and the pants go too.  I promise."

          Mike didn't look around to see if anyone could possibly be watching.  It didn’t matter anymore.  So what if someone saw his wife completely naked.  He stared at her, calculating, then took a purposeful step forward.

          Without ceremony, Joann undid the buckle at her waist and pulled her pants down two inches.  She hesitated, blushed, then pulled them down to her ankles.  Mike took another step forward.  Her underwear came off as well.  A few seconds later, she kicked them away.

          Mike strode slowly toward her, but she didn't back up.  She simply waited for him, and spread her legs when he touched her.

*   *   *

          "That was the best I ever had," he told her, trying to sound sincere.  By far it was the best, before or since they got married.  Time literally seemed to cease, and the final moments were pure ecstasy.  "I mean it, that was the best."

          Joann smiled.  "For me too," she said.

          They were walking down the road again.  Mike had dressed completely again, but Joann had left her shirt off.

          "I mean... that was incredible."  Mike had to stop himself.  Anything more would be gushing.  "I love you," he said.

          "I love you too," she said.  Then her eyes lit up.  "Did you see the rings?  The gold rings?"

          Mike had to think back.  "No.  But I did see stars.  And I felt heaven."

          "That's okay," Joann said.  "We'll see them.  I know we will.  We'll see them sooner or later."

*   *   *

          Another half hour of walking, and two more miles behind them.

         "Maybe we passed the place," Mike suggested, uselessly pulling his drenched shirt away from his skin.  "Maybe it was somewhere back in the bushes."

          "There would've been signs pointing to it," Joann reasoned.

          "We haven't even passed a single phone.  And no one on the road will stop for us."

          "We'll find it," Joann said.

          "It's so damn hot out here.  My throat is killing me."

          "Will you please stop," Joann blurted out.  "Why are you so impatient?  We'll get to the hotel eventually.  Why can't you just enjoy it."

          "Well, because it's pretty hard--"  He started to say, then they rounded a bend and saw gas station pumps, a lot full of cars and a sign that said: Malone's Car Rental.  No advance notice.  No down payment required.

          Mike smiled.  "I hope that's not a mirage.  It looks fake," he said amiably, and they laughed.  They stopped walking a moment and locked hands.

          "See, things are going to work out," Joann said without a trace of humor.

          "I know.  It's just...  I'm just....  Never mind."

          "I'll race you," Joann said, and took off down the road without a moment's notice.  Mike took off after her, and though he ran as fast as he could, he was not able to catch her as he usually did.  It was as if she had grown wings.

*   *   *

          Joann watched the countryside roll by through the side window.

          "This is great." she said.  "I told you it would be fine.  Don't forget to stay on the left side of the road."

          Mike was sitting behind the wheel, smiling.  "I won't," he said, and reached over and put a hand on her knee.

          It had worked out better than he had expected, better than he would have hoped.  Malone's had been running a special, and the rental had only cost him twenty dollars for the entire day.  In addition they could take the car to the airport and drop it off there for no extra cost.  Best of all, the car had air conditioning, which Joann had cranked on full as soon as they'd gotten into the car.  Unfortunately she had put her shirt back on because of the cold.

          Joann said, "This whole country is so beautiful.  It's just like I imagined, only better."

          "We'll be back one day," Mike said.

          "I know," Joann said with calm confidence.  "I just know that's true.  We're going to spend the rest of our lives here."  She paused, then said, "Do you realize what that means?"

          "No.  What?"

          "That means we've come full circle.  All four of your grandparents were born here, and they went to America.  All four of my grandparents were born here.  Both of your parents and both of my parents are only children, and we have no siblings.  We're the end of the line for both of our families, and we're going to move back to Ireland.  I think that's really interesting.  We've come full circle in two generations."

          "That is interesting," Mike agreed.  He squinted and shielded his eyes.  "Man, that sun is bright.  It's hard to--"

          "Look out," Joann suddenly shouted.  Automatically Mike swerved to the right and slammed on the brakes, landing him squarely in the other lane.  Had there been an oncoming car....

          Mike turned and looked back at the small animal, still sitting in the middle of the road.

          "I guess the rabbits here don't know which side of the road to drive on," he said, and looked at Joann for a smile.

          "Just watch where you're going," she replied tersely.

          "I am watching," he snapped.

          "Get going, we're sitting on the wrong side of the street.  Start driving," Joann demanded.

          "Alright, I'm going," Mike growled.  "That wasn't my fault.  It was... I couldn't see because of the sun."

          Joann didn't respond.  Nothing was said for a long time.

          They passed a sign that read: CORK Ten miles straight ahead.

          Mike felt his shoulders loosen.

          "I think I'm going home a little happier," he said.  "I guess that Celtic Couch--"

          "Please stop saying that," Joann said, exasperated.

          "What?  Saying what?"

          "Stop reminding me that we're going home tomorrow.  I'm trying to forget about it if you don't mind."

          "I'm just saying--"

          "Just don't say anything," Joann ordered.

          Instantly his hands began to shake as all his muscles bunched into knots.  His stomach began to burn.

          "Yep, the party's over," he said, staring through the windshield at a country road that suddenly looked desolate rather than quaint.  "Back to the tragic real lives of Mike and Joann McGee, where every happy moment is offset by three miserable--"

          He stopped himself as soon as he saw the look of shock in her eyes, but it was too late.  She started to cry, and the sound touched him.

          "I'm really sorry.  I promise not to be so high strung.  I promise to try to be better."  Even when they were together, he was constantly worried about money, how they were going to pay their bills, how they could afford to go out to dinner more than once every two months.  It had taken Joann over a year to convince him to go on this trip.  And he had brought along his checkbook to track every cent they spent.  "I promise--"

          "Look, don't promise me any more," Joann cut in.  "You always promise.  Change what you want to change, but don't keep making the same promise anymore."

          Mike stared at her in disbelief, then turned back to look at the road.  "I thought we... I thought it was going to be better."

          "I want it to be better," Joann said.

          The setting sun dropped lower, and they had to squint against the glare.

          "Back at the couch," Mike said slowly, cautiously, "Everything looked great.  All that talk about passions being intensified rejuvenated me.  It made me think that love could endure anything, and I believe it can.  I love you Joann.  I really do, and I promise--"  Mike stopped himself, slammed his hand on the steering wheel.  "Dammit, what the hell do you want from me?  At least I try to change.  You just nag.  Do this.  Do that.  Stop this.  Nothing's ever good enough for you.  What do you want from me?"

          For a moment Joann looked hurt, but then that poison crept into her stare.  "Well that tone is nice for starters--"

          "Don't," he shouted.  "Don't start with that sarcasm. You always have a retort for everything.  Did it ever occur to you that you need to change too in stead of finding fault in everyone else?"

          Joann muttered something.

          "What?" Mike snapped.  "What did you say?"

          "I said you don't give a shit about us," Joann hissed.  "You only care about yourself.  You didn't even want to come on this trip.  I had to beg you."

          "So, I didn't want to come on the trip.  That makes me a horrible person?  That makes me so bad?  We came and we had a great time and now you're ruining it for both of us."

          "You're just too involved with yourself.  I need someone who's not so selfish."

          Now Mike said something too low to be heard.

          "What?  Say it out, Cowboy."

          "I said I should never have marr--"

         He had stopped the words, but the thought had gotten through.  Nothing could erase it.  Joann's face drained of color, and she began to blink so fast her eyes watered.

          "What did you say?" she asked. "Say it again.  Please say it again."  She spoke in an eerily calm voice.

          Mike sighed but said nothing.

          "You shouldn't have.... married me," Joann said.  "There it is.  You don't have to say it.  Let me out.  Let me out now."

          Mike started to go to the brake but then switched back to the accelerator.  The car was doing about 80 kilometers per hour now.

          "Let me out right now," she shouted, and the sound sliced through his head like a jagged piece of glass.  He had to grit his teeth against the pain.  He raised his hand to her.

          "Go ahead," she said in that icy voice.  "Go ahead and do it.  Hit me."

          Mike lowered his hand and grasped the steering wheel.  Where had that come from?  He had never done that before, had never wanted to.  Just a reflex, he told himself.  It was alright now.  He had control again.

          "Let me out, God damn you.  Just let me out of the car you son of a bitch and you never have to see my face again."

          "No.  I'm going back to the hotel, and then you can do whatever the hell you want."  He sped up slightly.

          "Let me out now," she demanded.  "Better yet, you get out and walk.  I'll drive.  Oh, but that would be the gentlemanly thing to do, so I guess that's out of the question."

          "Shut up," he shouted, once again raising his hand.

          Joann stared unflinchingly at his fist as it trembled in the air above her.

          "See, you're too much of a coward to follow through with anything," she said.  "Anything that requires guts--"

          He slapped her.  He did it without warning, without regret.

          That's it, it's all over, Mike realized.  Whatever chance of reconciliation was over.  But he wasn't going to apologize, no way in hell would he do that.  She deserved it.  Maybe now she would show him some respect--

          Joann struck back.  The blow came out of nowhere, a right-hand roundhouse, rocking his head back and splitting his lip.  Crazy bitch hit me while I'm driving a car, he marveled.  She's nuts, absolutely insane.  He couldn’t wait to get away—

         She struck him again, clipping him in the nose, blacking out his vision for a few seconds.  Pain radiated through his entire head, pulsing hotly.  His foot pressed harder on the accelerator.

          "You crazy cunt--"

          He saw the next shot coming and grabbed her wrist.  He tried to restrain her, but she lunged in, slapped him across the face, and then struck him three more times with her free hand.  The next shot came straight for his eye, but Mike blocked that and shoved her against the door, wondering about the best way to hurt her.  He punched her in the chest.

          Joann shrieked and kicked him in the hip, throwing his entire body sideways.  He regained control of the car and set it back in the correct lane, then immediately took both hands off the wheel and lunged at her, pinning her legs and holding her arms, squeezing until he thought the flesh would split.

          The car was doing about 120 kilometers per hour now.

          Joann cried out in pain, and Mike smiled at the sweet sound.  Now she would respect him.  Now he would have at least some fucking control--

          She bit his ear, and he retaliated by crushing her nose with a head butt.  All the while his foot remained pressed on the accelerator.

          The anger flowed freely, a tidal wave of destructive passion that nothing could have dammed.  They were both blinded by rage, as well as the golden fairy lights that kept popping before their eyes like tiny starbursts.

          Joann spit in his face, and Mike climbed on top of her, shaking her, pounding her against the seat.  In the struggle that followed, her foot struck the steering wheel, knocking it askew.

          The car, travelling over 150 KPH now, jigged left, then darted right, barreled across the road, and plunged sideways over an embankment.  It rolled over and over across the field for almost 200 yards, like a toy tossed by an angry child.  The occupants were battered and tossed about inside the car, but each never gave up trying to pummel the other.

          After the car stopped flipping over it skidded another twenty feet, and came to rest on its crumpled hood.

          Several people had witnessed the accident, and hurried to the scene, though they knew there could not possibly be any survivors.

CONTENTS