TWENTY-SEVEN,2.0

They began the drive at dawn, just as planned. Winds tried to blow the car from the road, but Stella was an expert driver. Tom always made a point to tell her, every few miles or so, but Stella didn’t ask him to remind her.

She just knew.

She constantly checked the rear view mirror, which Tom made note of, and asked her about, but she didn’t like to answer. The answer, to her, was obvious. She wanted to remember.

Tom insisted they were leaving behind a bunch of crap, the past should be forgotten, etc.

But the fires burning, laying waste to everything behind them, why would you want to forget that? There were things worth looking forward to: the seas, the ships, the distant shores that would provide a safe haven from the poisonous air. But there were also things worth remembering, to Stella: the reason for leaving, the reminder of what’s important, the burning engine of why they were driving as far and as fast as they could.

Tom and Stella didn’t blame each other. But since there was no one else to blame, the trip was tough. They fought, they bickered, they traded off driving over the next three days.

Whenever Stella would awaken, she would blame Tom for losing ground. But they made it to the distant shore, and as the ship sailed out to sea, Stella looked back at the shore and the burning land behind them.

Tom insisted they take to the bar for a drink, and Stella watched him knock back beverage after beverage in the crowded room, reveling with other people happy to be leaving. But her attention was drawn to the rear of the ship, watching as the skies behind them blended smoke with blue, fresh air.

That first night on the ship, Stella and Tom argued and argued, he dressed in a new jumpsuit, she still in her rags. He stormed out at one point, when she shouted their son’s name.  She couldn’t blame him for his sudden anger, but she didn’t want to let go just yet.

So she changed, into her jumpsuit, in the hopes of reconciling and starting fresh.

Going forward, she would keep her memories to herself.

But Tom had bought a bottle, kept drinking, and eventually passed out, falling over the railing and splashing down to the waters below.

Stella watched it happen, but didn’t try to shout. Instead, she turned her gaze back to the horizon behind them, and the stars above. She took a deep breath, then turned to face the future.

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