Authors: Diane Greenwood Muir
One Perfect Honeymoon
Diane Greenwood Muir
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication / use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review.
Cover Design Photography: Maxim M. Muir
Copyright © 2015 Diane Greenwood Muir
All rights reserved.
"Last one in’s a rotten egg," Henry called out as he stowed the last bag behind the driver's seat.
"I’m hurrying, I’m hurrying!" Polly said.
"I'm a little surprised that we're this far into the trip. No tornados, no dead bodies, nobody falling apart."
"We haven't left the house yet," Polly deadpanned.
"I know, but I wasn't sure we'd even make it to this point."
She tossed a satchel onto the seat and climbed in his truck. "It wasn't my fault that the town tried to blow away the last time we planned a honeymoon."
"You're right, honey. Of course you're right. Now, are you sure you haven't forgotten anything?"
"If I have, in about fifteen minutes it will be too late to worry. Let's go."
Jessie ran out with a small tote bag. Polly opened her window. "What's up?"
"Sylvie nearly forgot to send this with you."
"What's in here?"
"Something fun for the trip. Have a good time and I'll keep an eye on the animals. I promise."
Polly patted the girl's hand. "I trust you. Thanks for everything."
"Are we ready now?" Henry asked.
Jessie stepped away and Polly rolled her window back up, then waved and said. "We're ready."
He backed out of the garage and Polly felt her heart lurch into her throat. All of a sudden it hit her that she was going to miss everyone, especially her animals. She'd asked Henry more than once about bringing Obiwan, but he finally convinced her the trip would be easier without worrying about a dog.
She swiped her phone open and flipped through pictures of the dog and her two upstairs cats, then smiled and put the phone away.
"They'll be here when you get back," Henry said. "I promise."
"I know. But I've never been away from them."
He put his hand on the console between them, palm up and Polly placed hers in it. "You'll be fine."
"Get me out of town and I'll be great."
The sun was setting in the west as they left town. Polly had spent a lot of time planning the trip and if they could get just south of Kansas City tonight, they would have all day tomorrow to travel Route 66. When they had originally planned to go, Nate and Joss Mikkels were going to join them and the men had looked forward to traveling the "Mother Road" in their classic cars. Two new babies in Nate and Joss's life changed those plans in a hurry. Without Nate along, Henry wasn't comfortable taking his T-Bird on an extended trip, so they were riding in the comfort of his truck.
"Should we stop in Boone for dinner?" he asked.
"You think that's safe? What if I panic and want to go back home?"
"Maybe starvation has affected my brain. Leaving after work without supper might have been a bad decision."
"Let's see what Sylvie packed." Polly opened the tote and chuckled.
"What?" he asked.
Polly drew out a stuffed donkey and put it on the dashboard. "It looks like I'm taking some of my animals with me anyway." She put her hand back into the bag and discovered a small plush black and white cat. "And one of the cats. This is going to be fun."
"Is there any food in there?"
"Sylvie's as bad as a grandmother," Polly said. "Of course there's food." She took out a container and peeked inside. "Sandwiches made with homemade bread."
"Thank goodness. I'm starving."
"No lunch today?"
"I kept working so we could get out of town tonight. Feed me, woman."
"Just a minute." Polly pulled her phone out and snapped a picture of the stuffed animals on the dashboard and posted it out to social media. "These animals will travel with us so everyone can see where we are."
"You're a weirdo, but I love you," Henry said. "Now really, you opened that container and I can smell the roast beef. Will you feed me or am I going to have to pull over and feed myself?"
She laughed. "Is that how it's going to be the entire trip?"
"Unless you keep me fed, it is. Stop teasing me!"
After they passed through Kansas City, Henry stopped to program his handheld GPS for the hotel. It was getting late and they were both tired. Polly protested a little about using the silly machine, but not much. All they wanted to do was stop for the night and get some sleep.
At about nine o'clock, the GPS told them to exit the interstate.
"This seems odd," Polly said.
"It does. But, let's see what happens."
When they left the main highway for a county road, neither of them were comfortable with the directions they were getting, but it insisted the hotel was just down the road a few more miles. When they passed through a little town and ended up on gravel, both of them were pretty sure the silly machine had sent them on a wild goose chase.
"I only see farms," Polly said. The GPS said the hotel was on the left in just a half mile. "If there's a hotel out here in the middle of nowhere, the people running it probably have axes and shotguns and we'll be dead meat by morning."
"Now you're just being silly." Henry chuckled and drove past the location. He flipped the machine at her when it told him that it was recalculating and he should make an immediate u-turn. "Do you have the actual address?"
Polly swiped her phone open, found the address online and programmed it into the GPS. "We're really not where we should be," she said.
"I'm almost glad for that. I certainly hope this hotel is decent once we get there."
One thing Polly and Henry had decided to do on this trip was avoid major hotel chains and popular restaurants. She'd spent time researching strip motels along the route, looking for small places to stay. They finally pulled into a clean and freshly painted little hotel off the interstate. The man running the front counter came out from his apartment to check them in, his little boy running along behind him. The child looked up at Polly with a bright smile.
They got back in the truck and Polly looked across at Henry. "I didn't expect to find Muslims in the middle of nowhere Missouri. It seems like a long way from a mosque. I can't imagine not having a community around me."
"He wasn't Muslim."
"What do you mean? Sure he was."
Polly turned in her seat to look at Henry. "How do you know this stuff?"
"I read and pay attention. It doesn't make any difference, except to them. But the turban is different for a Sikh. So is their religion."
She shook her head. "There are things about you I'm going to be uncovering for the rest of my life. You have layers and layers of stuff inside that pretty head."
"I'm an onion."
"Oh baby, are you ready for today?" Polly asked, poking Henry in the back.
He rolled over. "I think so. What's on the itinerary?"
"As long as you keep moving, we'll see everything."
"This is supposed to be a vacation," he moaned. "Relaxing. Where is the sunny beach and waves lapping at my feet as I take a nap?"
"You'd hate that. And you'd really hate it because I'd be constantly asking when we could leave and go see the sights."
Henry stretched, his hands bumping the headboard as he reached over her. He slid his arm under Polly's head and pulled her close. "You're right. I could never sit on a beach all day, but I was kind of hoping we could sleep in. There is absolutely no one around to bother us."
At that, Polly's phone buzzed and she started to laugh.
"It's seven thirty in the morning," he complained. "Who in the world is bothering us today?"
Polly extracted herself from his arms and sat up, then swiped her phone open. "It's a text from Aaron."
"Is everything okay?"
She put the phone back on the bedside table. "He just wanted me to know that there were no dead bodies and he was looking forward to a week of peace and quiet while I was out of town."
"You aren't going to let him get away with that, are you?"
"No, but I'm going to have to figure out how to stage a murder or something." Polly gave her husband an evil grin. "Tonight, we're going to need ketchup and one of your old t-shirts. You're going to die."
"I like it," he flipped back at her. "Text that to him about midnight and wake him up."
"Who's in the shower first?" she asked. "I'm ready to get going. There is so much to see today."
"I think you can wait just a little while longer," Henry said, pulling her back down to the bed. "And if we really have to make up the time, we'll take a shower together."
"We're coming to Carthage," Henry said, pointing at the road sign. "The Precious Moments Chapel is there. Is it on your itinerary?"
Polly grinned at him. "I know it should be. If Lydia were with us, she'd love to see it, but I have a million things I want to see today and they're all sillier than that. So ... no. Does that upset you?"
He laughed out loud. "No, I wouldn't say that it upsets me at all."
"But there's a really cool drive-in theater on the edge of town that we are going to stop and see. It's a classic Route 66 site."
"Is it open?"
Polly dropped her head. "No, it's closed for the season. But I really want a picture of it. Do you mind?"
"Oh honey, I love you. No visit to the Precious Moments Chapel, but instead, you want pictures of a closed up drive-in. Did I corrupt you by asking for a trip on Route 66?"
"Well, maybe. While I was researching and planning, I got caught up in the glory days of driving. There are so many cool things along the road to see."
They pulled into the drive-in and Henry took a deep breath. "Did you see that car?"
She turned around. "Oh, it kind of looks like Nate's."
"Good for you! That's right. It was a beauty. I should have gotten a picture."
Another couple of cars pulled in behind them and people got out to wander around the empty drive-in theater. Polly took the stuffed donkey and plush cat with her and posed them at the ticket window for pictures. The sun was shining. It was a beautiful day.
"Okay," she said. "I'm ready to get back on the road. There's plenty more to see."
"How long do we get to actually drive on Route 66?"
"Until you get tired of it," she said. "There are places along the route that we'll have to drive on Interstate 40, but we should be able to travel along a good portion of the original road.
They drove through Missouri into Kansas, and stopped in front of a beautifully restored gas station - Cars on the Route. Polly took a quick picture of a tow truck that had been dressed up to look just like Tow-Mater from the animated movie, "Cars." Then she remembered the donkey and cat and took a few with them posed on its hood. They went inside and found plenty of kitsch to buy and discovered that the tow truck outside had been the original inspiration for the character. Four women had purchased the old gas station and restored it. The original pumps weren't functional, but looked pretty cool outside after being re-painted. Across the street was an old home that everyone proudly told Polly and Henry had been owned by Ma Staffleback, a convicted murderer and madam.
Polly chuckled as she read through the information. Not everyone agreed with the claim, but at least the home had been restored and turned into a fun place for tourists. After seeing deterioration of great old buildings along the highway, she was glad to see a little life. Part of her wanted to rescue every abandoned gas station and diner out there.
They drove into Oklahoma and pulled into the world's largest McDonald's ... mostly for a potty break, but Polly figured that when in Rome, her tummy needed to be re-filled.
She guided Henry on down the highway and they pulled off in Foyil, Oklahoma, to see the world's largest concrete totem pole. The Indians from the area had nothing to do with it, but the park was filled with one man's totem sculptures, created in the forties and fifties.
The first time Henry looked at Polly like she was absolutely nuts was when they stopped in Catoosa to see the Blue Whale. "You really are taking me to exciting places today," he said.
"I thought I'd surprise you with a few of these, but isn't this fun? Can't you just imagine Route 66's heyday? Families driving up and down the highway. Vacations were a little slower and they enjoyed the trip as much as the destination. I figure that if we're going to see crazy stuff, we might as well do it right, don't you think?"
They wandered through the park toward the immense blue whale and walked into its open mouth, back to the tail.
"I wonder if people today know how much fun this is," she asked, snapping a picture of Henry posed at the mouth of the whale. "Mom and Dad used to talk about seeing crazy things by the highway when they traveled. We just don't take time any more. We're in such a hurry."
The blue whale was a huge concrete structure in a tiny pond with big slides into the water. Polly wondered out loud if people really did swim there in the summertime?
"I have no idea," Henry said. He backed her up against an inside wall, looked around surreptitiously and when he saw no one, kissed her soundly.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"I'm thanking you for making this trip so much fun. I'd much rather be doing these crazy things with you than sitting on a beach somewhere. I truly never imagined I'd do anything like this. You're amazing."
"We should probably keep moving if we're going to see everything today."
"I'd rather stay here and make out with you in the blue whale."
Polly kissed him again and pushed him back. "It's going to get dark. We should go."
He slumped, "You're no fun."
"I'll be fun later. I promise."
They got back on the road and watched the sun set as he drove further into Oklahoma.
"There!" Polly said. "Do you see it?"
"What in the world? It looks like a giant pop bottle."
"Isn't it cool that they're building new places along the highway? Pull off."
"I need gas anyway. Are you hungry?"
"I could eat. This place looks fantastic."
They pulled into Pops. Polly was glad they were there after dark. LED lights changed colors as they ran up and down the immense pop bottle and the building looked like an alien space ship.
Instead of pork tenderloins, Polly realized they were close enough to Texas that this was home to the chicken fried steak. There were six hundred choices of bottled soda pop and though she desperately wanted a Diet Dew, she stood in front of the soda selections and finally just shut her eyes and pointed.
"What are you doing?" Henry asked.
"I have no idea which one to try."
"I'm going to have a sarsaparilla. That seems safe."
"I'm having ..." She opened her eyes. "Capone Strawberry."
"Do you even like strawberry soda?"
Polly giggled. "It's one of my secret favorites. I never drink it, because I never remember."
They laughed through dinner and were back on the road by eight thirty.
"You haven't told me whether or not we're going," Henry said.
"If I go, I'm going to cry."
"What does that mean?"
She pointed to the exit sign and said, "You want to see it, don't you?"
"I'd really like to. I think we should."
He pulled off Route 66 and headed south into Oklahoma City. As they drove up to the entrance to the National Memorial, Polly felt her throat constrict. She read the words overhead and thought about the number of lives that were changed that day, and the way the country changed in 1995. Tears threatened and both of them were silent as Henry looked for a place to park. The museum was closed, but the grounds were open and quite a few people were walking, quietly talking to each other as they faced the grief they'd felt the day it happened.
Polly sat on a bench in front of the reflecting pool, trying to understand her own feelings. The immense gates at each end marked the time before and after that moment, the empty chairs on the other side of the pool signified lives that were lost.
"Are you okay?" Henry whispered as he sat down beside her.
"I knew this would be emotional, but I don't have words to describe my feelings. It's so peaceful here right now, but I remember watching the chaos unfold. All of that noise, the wailing, the crying, the screams, the fear. And with this, the healing continues. I can't imagine what this city has gone through to come to this point."
He wrapped his arm around her shoulder. "I love you, Polly Giller."
"I love you too." She leaned into him and they sat quietly, listening to the city buzz around the memorial.