BY ROBYN MORRIS
Copyright is held by the author.
VICTOR TURNED left off Highway 60 onto a narrow unpaved road.
“You’re going the wrong way,” Penny said, poking at the navigation display.
“It’s a short cut.” His voice was terse. He hated a back-seat driver, being directed. He made an exception for the GPS, which was rarely wrong.
Earlier, Penny had switched off the car radio when the static on Radio 1 had become insufferable. He’d asked her to change over to the Bach that lay in the CD player for just these instances – both radio static and grating passengers. But she’d said she had a headache and better that he focus on the road. Like he didn’t know how to drive! He didn’t ask for much in this relationship. If she knew what was good for her, she’d just do as he asked, bloody woman.
Penny dug in the glovebox for a paper map, but he’d long since thrown out that ratty old map of Algonquin Park. Besides, he didn’t need one.
His old Toyota Corolla growled over the gravel road, pinging bits of stone off the side of the car like stray bullets. With every bump and dip, the suspension creaked, and Penny clutched the handrail to keep herself from being thrown out of her seat. Once she’d clocked the rigid set of Victor’s jaw, she’d not said another word.
He knew she had romantic hopes for this anniversary weekend retreat, spotted the Victoria Secret bag she’d hidden amongst her packing. He glanced over at her briefly, pursing his lips as he watched her fingers press into her temples, her top lip pulled down tight between her teeth where she’d gnaw at it until the skin split. She was dead quiet. He turned away quickly, with a sniff.
Victor rammed the car over an exposed rock and the car shuddered. Penny took sharp intake of breath and shot out a hand to grip the dashboard. In spite of the afternoon sunshine they’d left behind on the highway, the tall hemlocks and spruce closed in on them, darkening the pathway ahead. Not much further now, he thought, a calm replacing his earlier fury. He sighed, long and slow, checking the rear-view mirror one last time. Nothing but trees and dappled light reflected back at him. Bitch was lucky to get ten years from me.
The GPS was bleating “Turn around where possible, make a U-turn now,” as the tight track came to a natural end in front of a ramshackle cottage. What was once a cottage. Long ago, people might have described it as charming, whimsical. Now, the shingles were gone and half-rotten wooden boards were stitched over the top of the brown stone-clad dwelling. Dull black paint peeled off a wooden farm door, its large iron hinges secured with shiny metal nails, and across its old-fashioned latch, a brand-new bronze padlock glinted in the last of the day’s sun.
“Happy anniversary, babe,” Victor said and turned off the ignition.