She felt free.
When she first came up with the idea, she had thought of a million reasons why it would never work. Her responsibilities, her commitments, even her rent all burst up in her head as reasons that a woman doesn't just get up and leave her life at age forty. That you don't just abandon everything you know.
And yet here she was. It had been surprisingly easy to walk away. Despite the fact that she knew she would miss her students and even some of her coworkers, despite the fact that she had fallen in love with the tiny midwestern town she had been living in, despite the fact that she had given away more than half of her worldly possessions to a thrift store that helped people in need, it had been, in retrospect, an easy choice.
She had her car, her luggage, and what she considered the basics: good books, a basic set of cookware, and the towels she had bought the week before she decided to give up her life. And her dog, the tiny little mutt she had adopted from a no-kill shelter three years ago and who accompanied her everywhere.
It was more obvious what wasn't with her--a husband, children, and all the conventions that she had imagined she would have. She knew a lot of women in her field, especially those who had achieved as much and as early as she had, sacrificed the white picket fence fantasy. She guessed she was one of them, although it wasn't something she had done on purpose. In fact, she still wanted those things as much as ever. But her time was running out.
When she had awoken that Thursday morning and looked in the mirror, realized her womb was a clock ticking away and she had given her prime years to a job that she wasn't in love with anymore, that had been the moment. The moment she decided to walk away. Fortunately she had just finished the semester and wouldn't be letting her students down. Grades had been turned in, and other than them missing her (and her the same) they had no more expectations from one another.
She kept the dog in a carrier, strapped in the front seat like a child. This might be the closest she ever got, and she didn't want the poor animal to go flying through the glass in an accident.
It had been a long drive--seventeen hours so far--and she was less than five hours out from her destination. She decided to stop and spend the night at a hotel and pick up tomorrow. She was drowsy and didn't want to fall asleep at the wheel.
It was a chain hotel and the front desk clerk hooked her up with a room quickly, then went on to explain about the complimentary breakfast. She found herself nodding, but more to shut him up. She knew she'd be on the road in the morning. She just wanted to get there.
Once inside her room, she unhooked the dog from her leash and set her up with food and water before opening the fast food bag she had picked up before stopping. The dog took a couple bites of kibble before approaching her slowly, jumping on the bed and sniffing at the chicken tenders she was eating.
"Emma," she cooed softly, offering the animal a tiny bit of her biscuit, "this will be good. For both of us. I promise."
She knew she was promising herself, her logical self, since her gut had run rampant on this one, and the need to escape college town life had been furiously intense. But for the first time in a long time, she felt she knew where she was going, although she had no idea what she would do when she got there.
"It's okay," she told Emma, who had settled on the bed, curled up against her. "We'll figure it out."