As the plane’s wheels left the tarmac, Stephanie felt something inside her ease. She hadn’t thought her dad would actually let her go this year; something had conveniently “come up” the last two times she was supposed to see her mom. It was never her dad’s fault, of course, but it always just managed to happen that way. Of course, there wasn’t always that much to look forward to in New York, but at least it was a break in her routine. The last time Stephanie had actually been able to come to New York, it had been when her mom was super busy, and she had been left to her own devices half the time.
Stephanie had no way of knowing, but she suspected that her dad had only let her go because he knew that her mom would be so busy. She had no idea how he knew her mom’s plans in New York, but it was the kind of thing her dad would do. Just like he had delayed the Judge’s hearing until after the school year started so he could insist that she stay in Boston. Or when he had conveniently arranged for her to go to see her mom the first week after school let out, but snow delays during the year led to it running two weeks into the summer, cancelling that plan.
This time around, her mom had promised to clear her schedule, and Stephanie had feared that her dad would then change his mind, right up until the wheels were up and it was impossible for him to stop her. Maybe her mom had wised up and told her dad that she would be too busy for Stephanie, instead of that she was clearling her schedule, so he would let Stephanie go out of spite.
Of course, in her mom’s world, ‘clearing her schedule’ only meant a handful of commitments, time with Charles, and of course she would drag Stephanie off to see a stupid musical, like Annie or Cats. Stephanie hated musicals, but Charles had some “connection” and was able to get tickets, so Stephanie’s mom always took her to see at least one when she came. It wasn’t exactly Stephanie’s ideal Christmas, but she could probably escape to a museum for a little while. And it would be nice to get away from her dad.
Stephanie loved going to art museums, and New York had some of the best! She loved to look at the paintings and imagine she was off in those worlds, meeting those odd people, having some kind of adventure amidst brightly colored Mondrian squares or Pollack splatters. She listened to music (with no words, thank you, unlike a musical) and let it carry her away into the world of the painting. Of course, she could only stand about fifteen minutes of that before she felt too depressed to continue, most days. Eating helped, and then she would go back and find a different world for fifteen more minutes.
If Stephanie believed in Santa, she would ask for an adventure, like the ones she imagined in the paintings. It didn’t have to be a big one, and it didn’t even have to involve her mom. Just a little adventure; something to break up the monotony of her life. Something to tide her over until she turned 18 and could leave both of her parents behind.
When she was little, visiting her Aunt in New York, Stephanie had thought that just getting on a plane was an adventure, but she had long since gotten over that notion. Even taking the trains around the city by herself had lost its shine. Stephanie just didn’t think she would get her adventure any time soon.
As her own mother had long since departed for their party or whatever, Stephanie found herself now home, alone, with her part played. She could open her presents early, but since Stephanie had been with her mom when most of them were purchased, there was no adventure to be found beneath the tree. She could watch the Christmas special on TV, or listen to music, but those options held no appeal either. The best part of her vacation had been the last three days, embroiled in Ethan’s crazy plan, and watching Charlie Brown or listening to Bing Crosby just couldn’t compare. No, the small part she had played in Operation Desert Island was too much fun, and though she had nothing left to do, Stephanie didn’t want this feeling to end.
She knew that Ethan would be stuck outside his dad’s diner, and part of Stephanie wanted to go to his side and see if he needed any more help. She hoped for his sake that nothing did come up, and that his parents would just get back together. But, for her own sake, Stephanie kind of wanted there to be more steps to his plan.
Mind made up, Stephanie dashed to her closet to get her jacket and hat. It wasn’t too late for her to catch a train that would get her most of the way, and then it would just be a short walk to reach Ethan.
Stephanie bundled up warmly and then slipped out of her mom and Charles’ apartment. The snow wasn’t perfectly white like in the movies, but it still looked perfect to her. Sneaking out at night like this was almost as good as the first part of the plan, and Stephanie found herself skipping like a little kid on her way to the station!
This was better than imagining herself inside a Metzinger!
Her timing with the trains was perfect, and Stephanie made it to the diner in no time. Hearing Ethan’s voice as she approached the corner, she quickened her pace.
“I’m Catherine. Something’s come up; it’s an Emergency.” Stephanie handed the driver some cash. It looked like the adventure was still on!