This story is by Stacey Minion and was part of our 2017 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The nausea was a far harsher greeting than the 4:30 AM alarm. Dashing through the obstacle course of mostly-packed suitcases and their remaining contents, Robin made it to the toilet just in time to retch.
From behind the shower curtain, Jason called out, “You’re still not over that? How long does food poisoning last anyway?”
Robin moaned, flushed the toilet, and rinsed her mouth before drudging back to bed. Not under the cover more than two minutes, Jason came into the room fresh from the shower, wrapped in a towel.
“No, no no, you can’t go back to bed. I scheduled the Uber for 5:15, we’ve gotta finish packing.”
Robin exhaled heavily from under the blanket, “Two minutes,” she replied lifting up the blanket just enough for her words to not be muffled.
“C’mon, get up, we’ve got to finish, take another Dramamine or whatever it was you were taking yesterday,” he suggested leaving the room partially dressed.
Robin grabbed her cell phone and checked the messages. One unread message.
MICAH: please Rob, don’t go with him. Call me when you’re at the airport and I’ll come get you, just…don’t get on the plane.
Blinking hard, she wiped away a loose tear, failing to wipe away her fears with it.
“Just checked in for the flight, looks like it’s still on time,” Jason called out from the living room repacking his suitcase for the third time.
She read the message again and deleted it.
“Okay,” she sighed.
Slowly she got out of bed, pausing at each step of the process to make sure she wouldn’t vomit again. So far so good, she thought to herself making her way to the kitchen for water and Dramamine.
Sitting on the counter in the empty kitchen and staring blankly, Robin slowly sipped water from her water bottle, the only container left in the apartment since shipping the last of the boxes out yesterday. All of their belongings were waiting in San Diego for Jason and Robin to join them. All besides the four suitcases and the bed, which a friend would pick up this afternoon, after they were gone. They. She was going to go with Jason, right? That’s the plan. Could she really abandon him? Would she be brave enough to say no, like she hadn’t been so many times before? Before she could think too much about how fast her decision was coming, she felt sick again and was back in the bathroom.
“Jay,” she sighed weakly, “I can’t go today. I’ll never make it.”
“You’ll make it,” he said, passing the bathroom door pulling a shirt over his head. “It’s only four hours. You can sleep most of the way, and the tickets are non-refundable at this point.” Robin picked up on the not-so-subtle hint of annoyance in his voice. “Besides,” Jason continued, “yesterday the worst of it didn’t last very long – you didn’t throw up after the first few hours. I told you, though! I told you not to get the ramen. People always get sick from that place and you knew we were flying out today. You’ve gotta get your stuff packed, c’mon. The car’s going to be here in twenty-five minutes!”
Robin made her way over to her suitcase and sat working to finish packing. She wondered if any of this would even make it on the plane, wondered if she would make it on the plane. She felt sick again, but she wasn’t going to throw up, yet. Her head spun as she tried to crisply fold the shirts. I can’t go, I just can’t, she thought. The combination of her head, her stomach, and her racing heart beckoned her to the toilet one more time. She knew she’d get no sympathy from Jason; his earlier reaction was too familiar of a warning for her to keep her suffering to herself. How could he not care about her pain still? She pulled out a few of the plastic grocery bags kept in her suitcase and put them in her carry-on.
“Hey, how’s it going?” The college-aged Uber driver greeted as he opened up the hatch on his vehicle for the luggage. “Going to the airport today?” he asked, making casual conversation.
“Yep,” Jason replied, a warmth in his voice that Robin hadn’t heard in over a year.
As the two carried on the small talk while loading the hatch, Robin crawled into the back seat and rested her head on the cold window. Her phone buzzed.
MICAH: must be getting close to head to the airport. I’m ready to come get you. Let me help you, Robin, I –
Robin jumped at the sound of the car doors opening. She fumbled to delete the text before she finished reading it, and opened up her Instagram app.
“Who are you talking to?” Jason asked accusingly.
“Micah just said good morning and to have a good flight,” Robin lied, trying to sound casual. She imagined Jason could hear her heart pounding. Her mind wanted to process all of the outcomes, but it was too overwhelming right then. She was driving seventy miles per hour toward a decision she wasn’t ready to make. She rested her head against the window again, closing her eyes, and concentrating equally as hard on not getting sick in this guy’s car as avoiding her thoughts.
Do it now. Now or never. You’ll be gone before he’ll even land. Her thoughts were so loud, she was glad she was in the restroom because she was convinced Jason would be able to hear them.
She pulled out her phone.
MICAH: 30 seconds of intense courage, that’s it. You can do it. You’re in public; he can’t make a scene.
She stared at the text until a tear splashed on the screen. Times up, she had to decide. Wiping her face and her phone, she sighed and responded.
ROBIN: okay, come get me.
The reply came instantaneously.
MICAH: already parked and waiting for you down by baggage claim. Be brave.
Robin took a few moments trying to collect herself in front of the mirror, wiping her eyes, fixing the smudged eyeliner. She rinsed out her mouth and deleted the texts from Micah. “30 seconds of intense courage,” she whispered to her reflection and walked out of the bathroom.
From over the loudspeaker, “Final call for flight 1336 to San Diego.”
Jason was pacing as she walked back toward the gate. “What took you so long?” Picking up her backpack and grabbing her wrist he said, “C’mon, everyone else has boarded.”
“Jason, I’m not flying.” Robin said, praying he wouldn’t call out the waves of nervousness pulsing through her voice. “I just got sick again, I won’t make it, and I’m not going to try.”
Dropping her wrist and the carry-ons from his shoulder, he answered, almost whispering, “You’ve got to be kidding me! You’re telling me this now? I knew you were going to do this.” Scratching his eyebrow, a look of disgust ran across his face, another familiar expression. A beat of silence passed as he stood shaking his head. “Well I’m going – no sense in wasting both tickets. You can figure out your own way, and you can pay for it, too. This is ridiculous, Robin, I know you can be dense sometimes, but really? Really?”
Robin stood looking at his shoes, mostly. Checks flush, blinking repetitively and hard, she was doing all she could to hold off the inevitable tears until he was gone. It’s almost over, he’s going to leave, she thought, ten more seconds.
Picking up his bag again, he walked toward the jet bridge. Without looking back, he said, “I’ll call you when I land. You can take a flight out tomorrow, or Sunday. Whenever, I don’t care. Call Micah, I’m sure you can stay with him till you come; your brother’s got no life.” He finished, waving his hand dismissively behind him.
Standing there, she watched him disappear into the jet bridge. She typed out a text, trying not to think too much about the words, lest she completely break down at gate B12.
ROBIN: Jay. I’m not coming to San Diego. I can’t be with you anymore. Don’t call, I won’t answer. Goodbye, for good this time.
To get a better view of the airplane door, she moved closer the window and hit send on the text after it closed. It wasn’t the bravest way to tell him, but it was all she could muster. Tears fell as she ran back to the restroom to be sick once more.
Sitting on the bathroom floor, Robin gently rested her hand on her stomach. She thought, he’ll never treat her the way he treated me; he won’t be able to. She’ll never feel unwanted or unloved.
“You’re okay,” she whispered as she flushed the toilet, “you’re going to be okay.”