Different Forms of Freedom: A Short Story
The afternoon sun was unmerciful. Wearing sunglasses and a hat—she, like most redheads, couldn’t tan—Fiona Delvedere met the gaze of Lily Parkins, her lifelong best friend. They were standing in downtown Grand Junction, Colorado looking for a bathroom. Fiona, seven months pregnant with her first child, needed to pee. Again.
“There must be an ice cream shop around here.” Fiona muttered. Her hands, unconsciously more often than not, rested on her bulging belly. She had appeared expectant early on; this habit was, as a result, already well-established.
With her dark curls, inquisitive brown eyes, and shorter statue, Lily didn’t look remotely like Fiona. Despite this, when they were much younger, they’d tried to convince fellow girl scouts that they were twins. Only one girl believed them. Then again, Mary Schaunder would believe almost anything. By the time she moved away, they’d stopped trying to hoodwink others.
“You would think so.” Lily answered while scanning the uncrowded street. Since she’d suggested they explore western Colorado, she was feeling guilty and responsible. Fiona, from the moment they headed west, hadn’t been an agreeable companion. The heat, of course, didn’t help matters.
Twenty minutes later, her bladder temporarily empty and an ice cream cone in hand, Fiona was feeling calmer. Not sanguine per se, but less vexed. This road trip, once which Lily, had suggested when she was two months pregnant, was turning out to be a bust.
“Where are we going tonight?” They loitered inside the ice cream parlor. Behind the counter stood a painfully thin teenage boy with a poor complexion. He looked as if this was the last place he wanted to be, a feeling Fiona could readily empathize with.
“Silverton. They have an amazing Bed and Breakfast. I’ve stayed there before. You’re going to love it.” Lily attempted to sound enthusiastic.
Squinting at their paper map, Fiona patted her belly. “How many hours is that from here?”
“Less than three. It’s a gorgeous drive.”
“I do not doubt that. When were you in Silverton?”
“In 2010—back when I was in graduate school. My friend Tess and I spent a weekend there.”
Biting her tongue, Fiona resisted the urge to ask if that journey had been more successful and sane. She knew Lily was doing her best; she also realized Lily was potentially nervous about how their friendship would change after she became a mother.
“That makes sense. Shouldn’t we head out? We don’t have much left to see here.”
Have you ever visited Grand Junction or Silverton?
“Absolutely. I don’t want to rush this drive; there is too much to see.”
Smiling halfheartedly, Fiona gingerly stood up. “I believe you.”
They walked to Lily’s 2008 Honda Civic. They, like Robert Frost once wrote, had miles to go before they could sleep. If these miles were like the ones immediately behind them, they’d feature silence, comfortable and less so, and the ease of conversation between friends who had, over the last 25 years, spent hundreds, if not thousands, of hours talking about this, that, and the other thing. Now, with a baby on the way, they dialogued about freedom—what it means, what it doesn’t, and how, even if it drastically changes, it often remains. Bolstered by this thought, Fiona surveyed the snow-kissed mountains more appreciatively than before.