More Greener Grass. The first part of the story is over there in the right sidebar, under I Like To Write.
Tamara hadn't been in the bus station since just after college when she went to visit a girlfriend in Detroit. She either hadn't noticed or hadn't cared about the toothless vagrants, the random toilet paper wads and the odor of too many unshowered bodies. If the kids were with her, she'd be dousing them in Purell.
She bought her ticket. It cost almost half the money the woman had given her.
The trip to New York was 976 miles. One transfer in Chicago.
Her black clothes, along with a tuna sandwich, a bottle of water, a baggie of Oreos and an old driver's license that had belonged to the woman's daughter were in a Kohl's shopping bag at Tamara's side as she waited to board her Greyhound. She hoped she didn't have to sit next to someone who smelled like anything other than Ivory soap.
By the time she took her seat (toward the back, next to a young guy with no discernable stench), she was starving. She took out her tuna sandwich studded with chunks of dill pickle and prepared to bite into it. Her stomach flipped. She rewrapped it and shoved it to the bottom of her bag.
What had she been thinking? Fucking tuna? She could never eat fish when she was pregnant.
She devoured the Oreos instead, badly wanting a strong, black coffee to go with them.
The guy next to her peered around the hood of his sweatshirt, through reddish scruff. He raised his lidded paper cup and jacked his eyebrows.
Tamara grinned crookedly, took the cup and sipped. The coffee was watery but warm.
"Thanks," she said. "How'd you know?"
"Coffee and Oreos go together. I'm tryin' NOT to use the phrase 'Breakfast of Champions'. So hackneyed." He held out his hand. "Paul."
His fingers were stubby, his nails bitten down.
"Where you headed, Tamara?" He emphasized the middle syllable of her name. TamARa.
"Oh yeah? Goin' all the way through, huh?"
"I think all the way through would be into the Atlantic. Which might not be a bad idea."
Paul laughed–a loud, deep rumble that made Tamara smile. He said, "I'm headed to the big apple myself." He wedged his coffee cup between his thigh and the armrest. He snapped his fingers and palmed his fist. Over and over. "It's a cool city," he finally said. "My girlfriend's waitin' on me."
Tamara nodded. She didn't have the energy, just then, to delve into his story. She'd slept badly in the woman's daughter's bed. The mattress and the pillow had been comfortable, but her mind never settled. She wasn't sure if it was the faded color photo she could see of the woman as a younger version of herself and a girl, who Tamara guessed to be the daughter, smiling up from a beach towel, a blue-green horizon behind them, sun in their eyes. Or if it was because her family was a half mile away, with no idea where she was. No idea she wasn't coming back soon.
She gazed out the window at Milwaukee's few tall buildings, pink in the morning sun. They shrunk as the bus moved toward the perimeter of the city. Merging onto 94 South, heading toward Chicago, the drone of the engine was oddly comforting.
"More coffee?" Paul offered.
Tamara shook her head and tipped it against the back of the seat. She needed to call Dave during her transfer and had no earthly idea what the fuck to say to him.
The woman had coached her a little that morning. Tell him you need a little time to regroup. To think about what you want. That you deserve it.
What she deserved was a blow to the damn skull. But, whatever. She reviewed her justifications: 6 years raising their children. No time away, not even a girls' weekend to Door County. Being taken for granted. Lack of romance and fun in the marriage. Feeling like a sad sack of shit with no cute clothes or a cute belly anymore. Wanting to find her other life, the one she knew was out there somewhere.
She closed her eyes. Yeah, that last one would not fly. None of it would. Dave was going to be pissed. Probably already was, storming around the house yelling at the Caitlyn, Josh and Eli. And the kids. God, they'd be so confused.
What kind of mother was she, anyway? She never claimed to be the world's best, but she'd at least been there to kiss bumps and bandage scrapes, to cook oatmeal and read bedtime stories. She'd always considered herself a better mom than Dave was a dad. Not anymore, she supposed.