“Do you suppose we took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up in Brigadoon instead of Essex, Connecticut?” Whitney stared out the front window of the BMW with the rapt attention of a moviegoer at an old fashioned drive-in; except the big screen she was watching was the heart of a real small town.
“No idea. Shall we punch Brigadoon into the GPS? It is gorgeous, though. The peace and quiet does have an ‘other-worldly’ effect. Not one car or messy, dirty soul on the street. I’d say it’s heaven alright; even without the GPS.”
Robert inched the car forward so slowly it barely moved down the little village’s main street. No reason to worry about holding up traffic. There wasn’t any. There wasn’t anything moving as a matter of fact. Funny feeling; nothing to worry about. “What can it be like to live in a place like this?” he asked. A private question, not meant for Whitney’s response.
“How should I know? I’ve never lived anywhere but the big apple for more than a few months at a time.” She sat forward in her seat, straining to find some fault with the pastoral scene unfolding around them. “Is there time to stop a minute? Could we still make the ferry?” Her voice dropped a little, the tone unfamiliar and wistful; to Robert, it sounded a little childish, with an anticipation of disappointment. He fulfilled her expectation.
“Better not.” His work had trained him to leave no negotiating room. He hadn’t come to litigation with that finely honed skill, but soon learned it in order to reap the rewards of his law firm’s partnership. “We should get to the ferry early to be on the safe side. Wouldn’t want to be stranded here in Neverland.”
“I would,” Whitney whispered. “Oh come on, let’s just get out for a few minutes and see if the air smells as sweet as the town looks.” She turned to him with her eyes flashing a pleasure he couldn’t even remember; and couldn’t resist.
“Just a few minutes, then. I have to admit, if this place is real it could be paradise. Imagine; no noisy stress, gray pavement, people rushing around, crazy traffic; no density of humanity. I didn’t know there could be such a life.”
“Somebody lives this life,” Whitney said. “Some lucky body.”
“How can you be sure? Maybe there are no people in this heaven.”
“Right there,” she exclaimed, leaning across him to point. “See there! the distinguished-looking older woman with her regal dog. I love those standard poodles; especially when their coat’s not too groomed.”
“Yes, I see them,” Robert nodded. “They look a little like each other, don’t they?”
“Silver and silent; calm and content,” Whitney said quietly, staring out the window. They watched as the woman and her canine companion looked both ways before starting to cross the street together; their serenity could be felt inside the car.
“Just watching them move lowers your blood pressure,” Robert chuckled. They both sat mesmerized by the choreography of two happy lives perfectly in sync. Suddenly Whitney sat forward in her seat to get a better look.
“Robert, I think they’re coming over to us. Quick, put your window down.” He hesitated. Exposing himself to strangers was not a comfortable decision. But it was clear Whitney was right. The lovely silver-haired woman with fine, patrician features was stopping right next to their car. He could see the faded blue of her eyes now, and judged there was no threat in them or the dog’s quiet, easy stance beside her. He lowered the window part way; a compromise he was happy with.
“We love your dog.” He offered the explanation to compensate for their impolite stares. He’d learned the vocabulary of body language coming to New York later in life. Keep your face closed and your eyes down; the rules he’d just obviously broken as he sat like a tourist drinking in the sights around him. “He’s such a beauty; one of our favorite breeds.” He smiled at the dog, assuming a little extra charm would drive the complement home and disarm them both.
“A lovely sight;” Whitney offered the statement with an appreciation in her tone even Robert could judge to be the genuine article. “We were enjoying looking around at this setting.” She often said more than necessary. Oh well, the truth had its value now and then. It could be very attractive if it wasn’t overdone.
Suddenly he could see the lady was about to speak. Damn! He hadn’t counted on any interaction and glanced at the clock on the dashboard. Still plenty of time to make the ferry, but he knew she’d seen his eyes slip to the timepiece. He’d learned that technique at work, too. This time it didn’t have the desired effect.
“Do you live in the city?” she asked, her voice wistful silver threads like the soft wisps of hair around her face.
“Yes,” he and Whitney answered in unison. “But how did you know that?” he asked, assuming he already knew the answer. The quality of his shiny car had given them away.
“Your New York license plates,” the lady answered. “The city,” she breathed again; this time with unmistakable longing. “I miss it so…” She looked at them and through them at the same time.
“But you live in such a pristine place here.” Whitney pushed against Robert’s chest as she leaned over him. “What could you ever miss about the city?”
“The buildings, the doormen, the traffic and energy; the early mornings before everyone’s up and late nights when most are asleep; everything. I miss almost everything.” She straightened up again and her dog stood too, anticipating their departure. Looking at Robert and Whitney with a clearer focus she said, “Enjoy you time there; every minute.” Her smile was sad and resigned as she backed up a little, nodded, and moved around the back of the car to the curb and finally out of sight in the rearview mirror.
Robert looked at Whitney, but found the same expression of surprise on her face he knew he couldn’t hide on his. “You’ve got to watch out for all that fresh air and green grass,” he said to her with a little laugh. “It can warp your sense of reality.”
“Or maybe clarify things you should have seen all along,” she said. They looked at each other for a moment, as if they didn’t know who they were sitting with; then he raised the window again, locking it just to be sure.