For those following along on Amanda Perkins' story from my forthcoming new novel, Bachelor Number Five, it's that time of the week again! Here's the latest installment:
Her bags were packed and her car loaded. It was just two weeks since Amanda had made the fateful decision to leave Quincy. One might consider it an impulsive decision, though in truth it had been brewing in Amanda’s subconscious for quite some time. It was that little ping in the back of her mind that told her she was not happy here and never would be. That ping had been swirling around in her brain for years. How long exactly she could not even say, but it always seemed to hit her at unexpected times. Her mother, commenting on when Amanda was going to find a man and get married? Ping! Her high school friend Molly posting pictures online of her glamorous life in New York? Ping! A bare-chested Bachelor Number Five staring back at her from a beach in Los Angeles? Ping! Ping! Ping!!! That last one probably wasn’t any worse than the rest of them. It was just the final straw. It was the one that told her once and for all that it was time for Amanda to go. Once she’d come to that realization, she wasted no time.
As Amanda stood on the curb with Whiskers in her arms, she couldn’t help but have a few second thoughts. Maybe Piper was right. Maybe Amanda had completely lost her mind. Then again, she knew Piper was all talk. If anything, she was just jealous. Besides, there was no turning back now. Not after Amanda had told everyone she was leaving. Not after she’d quit her job and sold off all of her belongings that wouldn’t fit into this small car. Not after she’d arranged to rent a room from a total stranger in a small apartment in Hollywood. An apartment that cost more than twice as much as a whole house in Quincy. But still, it was Hollywood! Just the word itself made her whole being shiver with excitement. Amanda was going through with this, period. That didn’t make the prospect of climbing into the passenger seat of her car and driving off down the road any less frightening.
“It’s not too late to change your mind!” said Piper, standing nearby with Lucy and Sheila, Amanda’s mother.
“Shut up, Piper.”
“I’m just saying, none of us will blame you.”
“I’m not going to change my mind.”
“It seems like you’re going to an awful lot of trouble just to stalk number five.”
“I’m not stalking him!”
“Sure, that’s what you say, but we all know the truth, don’t we Lucy?”
“Leave me out of this one!” Lucy put her hands up as if to fend off the question.
“I’m going out there to stalk number nine, if you must know. I’m going to marry him and we’re going to have a bunch of beautiful little babies. We’ll name them Four, Six and Eight.”
“Oh no you don’t!” said Piper. “Hands off number nine, he’s mine!”
“Mom, can you save me from this?” Amanda pleaded as she rubbed a purring Whiskers on the top of his head.
“I’m afraid you’re on your own,” Sheila shook her head.
“I guess I’ll have to just go then…”
“All right, I can understand abandoning the rest of us, but Whiskers? How could you?!” said Piper.
“Don’t make it any harder than it already is!” Amanda complained to Piper and then looked Whiskers in the face. “You take care of yourself, Whiskers. I’m going to miss you the most.” She kissed the cat on the nose and then handed him over to Piper, who took him in her arms.
“Oh, come here, Whiskers. We both know she’ll be back. Maybe she’ll even bring you a pretty Hollywood kitty. Wouldn’t that be nice?”
“Piper, you are a goof ball, you know that?” Amanda almost lost her composure, fighting back her emotions. Piper’s joking around was the only thing that kept Amanda from crying.
“What?!” said Piper. “You better get number nine’s number for me out there or I will never forgive you!”
“What about Donny?”
“Forget Donny! We’re talking number nine here!” Piper held the cat in one hand and smacked herself in the forehead with the other.
“Ok, I’ll do what I can.”
“You better....” Piper seemed satisfied.
Amanda turned to her boss. “Goodbye Lucy. Thanks for everything, and for coming to see me off.”
“Are you kidding? You two are the girls I never had. Of course I’m going to see you off!” Lucy embraced Amanda in a big hug.
“I appreciate that!” Amanda choked as the air was squeezed out of her.
“And don’t worry; you’ve always got a job here if things don’t work out in LA for you.”
“Thanks, really.” Released from Lucy’s grasp, Amanda took a deep breath and then turned toward her mother. “I guess this is it.”
“I always hate goodbyes,” said Sheila. “Especially as big as this one.” It was Sheila’s turn to cry as she wiped her eyes on her sleeve before any tears could dare escape.
“Don’t! You’re going to make me, too!” said Amanda, fighting back the moisture welling in her own eyes.
“I’m sorry,” Sheila sniffled. “You know your dad wanted to be here as well, to say goodbye himself.”
“I understand, he’s busy. Give him a hug for me, ok?”
“First I need one for myself.” Mother and daughter held each other in an embrace. Amanda felt like a little girl all over again, afraid to leave her mother’s side. It was only now that the enormity of the changes she was facing became completely clear. If she thought too much about it she might never bring herself to go. Instead she thought of number five. He or someone like him was out there waiting just for her. It was time to go and find him. Amanda kissed her mother’s cheek and then forced herself to let go. “Goodbye mom.”
“I can’t believe you’re actually doing it!” said Piper.
“Don’t try to stop me!” Amanda opened her car door and climbed in, closing the door behind her with an authoritative thud. She rolled down the window and turned again toward the three women on the curb.
“Say hi to number five,” said Piper.
“Will do,” Amanda answered. She turned the ignition and the engine coughed to life.
“Call us from the hotel tonight to let us know you’re ok!” said her mother.
“I will, mom!”
“Drive safe!” said Lucy.
“Ok!” Amanda forced herself to push on the gas pedal. It was the first step in a journey that was a long time in coming. Her car began moving down the street. In her rearview mirror, Amanda saw the three women waving an enthusiastic farewell. At the corner she turned left onto Main Street, filled with a mix of liberation and sadness. It was the thrill of possibility combined with sorrow over everything she was leaving behind. The only life she’d ever known was finished. A single tear rolled down her cheek and dropped off the end of her chin. “I hope this was a good idea,” she said to herself as she moved out of town and continued on down the highway headed west.