Lennon took her first ballsy step in what she would forever consider a start to a new life and a new dimension of her.
She quit her job with two weeks’ notice. The two weeks’ notice in itself was Lennon’s accrued vacation time.
The night before Lennon had to clench down everything in order to remain civil with Etta, Stacey had sent Lennon an email filled with details about her theater troupe and their main stage theater in Landslide, Missouri. Lennon had been unable to stop laughing maniacally at her computer screen, from the relief pouring through her body at finally quitting her awful job. But mostly, she was laughing at the name of the town.
“The town’s called Landslide?” Lennon asked Stacey incredulously.
“Yeah, yeah, I know,” Stacey sighed. “For the record, there hasn’t been a landslide here ever. It’s basically pretty flat. But we’re sort of in between Columbia and KC.”
“Okay.” Len sighed. “Missouri, Stace?”
“Don’t say it like that. I was offered a job in Montana, too, you know, where it’s cold. I know you’re from New York, you have to maintain a snobby attitude toward the rest of the country, but it’s not so bad here. It’s only about a hundred miles to KC, so you can get your city fix.” Stacey paused. “Oh, wait. Did you get your license yet?”
“Uh, no.” Lennon fully intended to be a thirty-five-year-old New Yorker without a driver’s license. She’d tried to drive. Really, she had, but it was hard to distinguish driving from vehicular assault in Queens. Driving was one of those things she hadn’t quite done yet.
“Well, there you go! Something for us to do when you’re out here. You couldn’t possibly hit anything. It’s like my town in New Hampshire…”
“Mostly, yeah. Grass. The occasional wildlife.”
“Wildlife?” Lennon asked anxiously.
“Nothing that can bodily consume you, I swear. It’ll be cool. We’ll hang out for two weeks and you can get a breather or you can stay longer and find a job. Get out of New York for awhile…”
“Discover America,” Len laughed. “Last time I was in the Midwest, I was fifteen and Jack and I were sent to visit some family…”
“I don’t think the heartland has changed very much,” Stacey remarked. “It doesn’t have that frenetic pace to it. People in Landslide have lived here for generations. It’s rural. I think the closest Landslide has seen to an influx is a trickle from KC now and then.”
“And you theater people.”
“They love us here. They find us so entertaining.”
“Do you burst into song on the street?”
Lennon laughed. “Well, that’s why. They think you’re fucking nuts.”
Mom and Dad seemed to accept Lennon flying out to the Midwest, in all apparent spontaneity, which surprised her. Mom was puzzled by it, but Dad actually seemed pleased by it. The McKinneys accepted that their eldest daughter was wired differently from their younger children. Jack had been an exceptionally hyper child who grew into an athletic, if absent-minded teenager. Hikari mirrored him by being high-spirited and in constant motion. Lennon had been a loud baby who turned into an eerily calm but tightly wound adult.
But while her family accepted her upcoming two week vacation, her friends were taken aback of her sudden idea. Lennon kept the possibility of staying longer to herself.
“You’re going on vacation to Missouri?” Madeline asked when Lennon told her. “Well, all righty then.”
“It’s not exactly Cancun, but that’s not the purpose of this vacation.”
“Oh, I know,” Madeline responded. “I want you to be happy, Len. That’s all. And if Missouri makes you happy, then you should go.”
When Lennon reached Alexandra, Alex merely said, “I’m glad you’ll get to see Stacey. Gosh, I wish I could take a break. I’m not sure about this whole office work thing.”
“It’s surprisingly draining.”
“Oh, my God, yeah! And I’m a temp and I don’t know what I’m doing half the time. Ah!” Alex paused. “Anyway, have fun out there. I’ll see you when you get back.”
“Please come back in one piece,” Nadine begged. “Have a good vacation.” After a few beats of silence, she added, “Missouri?”
The morning of Lennon’s flight, she heard her door creak open, then soft footsteps descend toward her bed. The sheets rustled and she felt the mattress dip slightly under Hikari’s added weight. Lennon rolled onto her side and faced her sister. Hikari stared back at her with limpid brown eyes and stretched an arm out to encircle her around the waist.
“You’re going to sleep here while I’m gone, aren’t you?” Len asked.
“You know, it’s a sin to covet thy older sister’s bed.”
Hikari rolled her eyes.
“All right,” Len replied, cuddling her little sister. “You be a good girl while I’m not here, okay? Don’t give Jack a hard time, ne?”
“Only if he doesn’t give me a hard time.”
Lennon pursed her lips, stifling a laugh.
“Why are you leaving?” Hikari asked.
“I, um,” Len bit her lip. How to explain to a twelve-year-old? “You know, sometimes, it’s good to get out of your world and jump into someone else’s. Walk in someone else’s shoes for a bit. It gives you perspective.” Hikari’s eyelids drooped. Len used a phrase that used to drive her crazy when she was twelve: “You’ll understand when you’re older.”