She was languid in the passenger seat, seat back reclined, one leg stretched out and the other bent, knee resting against the door. She could see her still limbs reflected brightly in the windshield, trees on either side of the freeway streaking through the image. When she wasn’t dozing, she passively observed the countryside and sky.
He drove in silence so as not to tax her with conversation. It made him inscrutable; she supposed the reverse was true as well. He had woken early (awake again, at a time when he was more likely to be awake still) so that he could meet her at the airport and bring her home. His home, at least.
It was warm in the car. Drowsily warm. He mostly left her to herself but occasionally he beamed at her and murmured a few words. Sometimes he squeezed her knee – to demonstrate his affection to her; or to reassure himself of her presence. Or both.
She’d been travelling for most of a day. It began when she had checked her luggage and gone through security and, though still in her city, in a way was no longer really there. Then the flight to a larger centre. In and not really in that city. In and not really in her country. Schrodinger’s airports. The interminable flight, the time zones. Just a few hours since takeoff and already it was hard to make sense of the time displayed on her watch. Neither here nor there.
As a seasoned traveller, being on a flight didn’t feel so far outside her normal life. Landing at the far end, she knew to expect that oddly familiar feeling of unfamiliarity: How is it possible that I’m really here? How can this place actually exist outside of a photo?
Passport control, that rite of passage. Then trundling her luggage cart through the double doors of frosted glass…
…And beyond, spotting him almost immediately, closing the distance quickly. Arriving safely, into his arms and care. Fait accompli.
Except… not quite. There was still the drive home. His home, at least.
On the flight, she’d imagined the exchange at the border: Business or pleasure? Oh, pleasure, for sure – sex, actually. She had smirked at herself. But it wasn’t just that. She had come here to see if she could trust him enough to submit to him, if she had the strength to allow herself to do that. Trust as an act of brute will – was that even possible?
She was almost sick with the vulnerability of it.
Something would, probably, change in the atmosphere between them after she arrived at his house. That was a big reason why she was here. They were already lovers. He could have started the game during the drive but he hadn’t and didn’t seem likely to now. But the closer they got to his house, the sooner she would be thrust out of this liminal state into… something else. She was weary and had no desire to prolong the time between herself and a proper bed, but by this point, being in the car was known and therefore comfortable in its way and she regretted just a little bit that it would end soon, because then what? When would it start? Or would it start at all? Would they pass the entirety of her visit in light amusements, without even a glimpse of the depths?
He turned from the freeway onto a city street, and the altered tone of the engine was enough to curdle her vague worries into a knot in her stomach. Six minutes later the tires crunched onto the gravel driveway.