Jenny raced out of her house, car keys in her hand, and dressed as if embarking on an adventure in the tundra. Before getting into her Prius, she noticed a tiny, shivering boy sitting alone by the side of the road.
“Nicky, did you miss the bus again?”
“I’m sorry, Aunt Jenny. I was making snow angels out back and didn’t hear the bus until it pulled away.”
“They why didn’t you come in and tell me?” He opened his mouth to answer, but she held up her hand. “Never mind. I don’t have time for this today. Get in the car.”
“Are you taking me to school?”
Jenny looked in his eyes. He was deceptively small for his ten-years. The doctors had assured her sister he was just a late bloomer. “No, but you can’t tell your mom.”
He smiled. “Not a problem.”
Even with the heater on high, they were shivering. She should have worn gloves under her mittens. She promised herself that her next car would have heated seats.
Her shoulders tensed as she peered over the steering wheel, dodging black ice and snow banks. She knew she’d picked the wrong time of year – heck, with Nick in the car, the wrong day – to pull this off but it was too late to change her plans now. Her mind briefly wandered as she fantasized about her destination. It had been a year since she and Drew had been together.
They rode in silence, Nick reading a book he fished out of his backpack while Jenny concentrated on the road. while trying to control her growing anxiety. What had she been thinking? It wasn’t too late to back out. Was it?
Eventually, Nick asked the inevitable. “Where are we going.”
“To meet a friend.”
“Is he a boyfriend?” He asked in the innocent, singsong tone children use when teasing you about liking someone.
“But you want him to be?”
“Who is it?”
“What? Mom said he broke your heart.”
“That’s a bit of an exaggeration,” she lied.
“Didn’t he dump you a year ago today? You were going out for five years and he showed up to tell you he was marrying someone else. You were expecting a ring.” Her knuckles whitened on the steering wheel, but he didn’t notice. He snapped his fingers. “It was Valentine’s Day, right?”
“It’s not too late to drop you off at school.” She threatened, not feeling the least bit ashamed of bullying a child.
“I’m not the one who dumped you.” When she didn’t respond, he said, “you’re speeding.”
She looked at the speedometer, saw he was right, and immediately slowed down.
“Can we get ice cream, later?”
“It’s ten degrees out.”
She momentarily looked away from the road to make eye contact with him in the rearview mirror.
Shrugging, she gave in. “Fine.”
After another hour on the road, they turned off into a long, winding driveway that led to a small wooden cabin. The property abutted state land and the nearest town was an hour away. It was the perfect romantic getaway. She and Drew spent many weekends snuggled in the tiny bedroom. She smiled at the memories.
“Wait for me here, Nick. I won’t be long.” She left the car running, grabbed the surprise she brought for Drew, and headed to the cabin.
It was a short walk, but the cold hurt her face. She wondered, not for the first time, why she lived in a place where the cold hurt her face?
She could hear the electric heater going – it was always noisy – and knew it would be toasty inside.
Pushing the door open, she could feel butterflies fluttering in her stomach.
There he was, asleep in the big comfortable armchair by the light. It was picture perfect.
She couldn’t believe it when she ran into him while on a shopping trip to Boulder the on Saturday. The sight of him stirred up all sorts of old feelings. Most of them involved revenge.
Somehow, she managed to control her anger and pretend she was happy to see him.
He invited her to the cabin for a romantic weekend. He thought she would be interested in rekindling the romance. He claimed his marriage was already stale. As if she would jump at the opportunity to play the whore.
She walked across the room and slapped him until he woke up.
“What the? You’re back. Untie me.”
She smiled. It had been so easy to get him to strip down and let her tie him up. All she had to do was tell him she was inspired by an article she read in Cosmo. Unfortunately, it had all happened so fast, she wasn’t prepared. She went home, got a gallon of gasoline on Sunday, and waited for Monday morning to return to finish the job.
She poured gasoline around the room, making sure to sprinkle it on Drew.
He cursed her the entire time.
“You know why this is happening, don’t you?” She asked.
“Go to Hell.” He spat.
She was about to respond, when she Nick said, “Are you done yet?”
She looked at her nephew and frowned. “I said to wait in the car.”
He shrugged. “I got bored.”
“Nick! Thank goodness. Your aunt has lost her mind. You need to call for help.”
“Let’s get out of here.” From inside of her pocket, she pulled out one of those cheap lighters you can buy at any gas station.
“Let me, Aunt Jenny.” He took the lighter, lit it, and tossed it into the cabin. Flames exploded inside. “I never liked him.”
Taking Nick’s hand, she said, “You can’t tell anyone about this. It’s a family secret.”
He rolled his eyes. “I already promised.”
She nodded. He was young, but she knew he could keep a secret. “We need to get back to the car before this place really starts smoking.” They had time, but she wanted to leave while their luck lasted. You never knew when a forest ranger might be on patrol nearby.
“Can we get ice-cream now?” He asked.
“A promise is a promise.”