Chapter Sixteen Sunday morning came far too soon. Today she would be forced to face reality. She would have to leave this quiet, little cottage by the sea and return to the land of the living. Donna had only made two phone calls since arriving. One to Dr. Sue and one to Sally. She had called to check on Bosco. He was fine, she was told, but missing her. He wouldn't be there much longer, she told the vet. Someone would come and get him. Anyone but Philip. She also spoke to Sally, explaining what had happened. Philip had been looking for her. He was frantic, out of his mind with worry. Where was she? No where special, just away, Donna told Sally. When was she coming back? Never. Could she be a pal and keep Bosco for her? Sure, anything. "After all, you're just about my best friend, Donna." That was three days ago. She slowly came awake, not wanting to break away from her dream state. A place where everything was perfect. No marriage trouble. No small cottage a million miles away from her friends. Perfection. She had dreamed nearly every night. Some nights were worse than others, but she always dreamed. And she always woke at least once a night from those dreams. At least the last one had been pleasant. She had spent her time in Davenport doing things she hadn't done for a very long time. Visiting small nearby towns, like Bonny Doon, Felton and Scott's Valley, window shopping. Walking the beach in solitude. She even took Jake's wife, Doris, into Santa Cruz with her on Friday. For the first time in a long time, she had been free to do whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted. And she had revelled in it. Gulls screeching on the beach told her that Jake was already up, taking his morning walk. She had seen him on her first morning strolling along the beach. At first she thought he was looking for buried treasures that lay just under the sand. He would walk with his head down, slowly, methodically making his way along the shoreline. Occasionally he would stop and pick something up from the sand, clean it off and place it in his pocket. When she spoke to him later than day, he laughed. No, he wasn't scavenging, at least not for gold. He was looking for the small pieces to the Christmas toys his grandchildren had taken to the beach, then promptly lost in the sand. She stretched =FE arms above her head touching the wall, toes pushing beyond the end of the bed =FE then flung the covers back. The bright red number on her digital alarm clock told her it was just after eight in the morning. Plopping both feet on the cool wooden floor, she pulled on the socks she had left next to the bed, then reached for her housecoat, wrapping it loosely around her. She shuffled her way to the kitchen, plugged in the kettle and grabbed the teapot. Looking out the window over the sink, she watched Jake. This morning, however, he wasn't looking down, but was walking at a quicker pace. "I guess he's done looking for toys," she said. The kettle whistled as she reached for a teabag. Leaving the tea to steep, she walked through the livingroom to the front door. Jake had been leaving the day's paper on her front stoop all week, and this morning was no different. However, today's delivery included a fresh baked muffin. It was still oven-warm she noted, as she scooped up both the paper and her surprise breakfast treat. Making her way back to the kitchen, she poured herself a large mug of tea, then stepped out onto the porch facing the ocean. She had being having her meals out here all week. This morning was unusually warm for the end of the year. It has been above normal temperatures all week, which had allowed her outdoor meals. The view was wonderful, peaceful, and it gave her the freedom to think about just what she was going to do. Head east. That's what I'll do. See if Gushie and Tina need any help. Maybe stop by and visit Verbeena. Al, if I can find him. Go back to school. Maybe I'll even teach a course myself. The options coming to her were numerous. She didn't know where to begin, but she knew she would head east. "Mornin'. Beautiful day." Jake was on his way back to the main house. He stopped and leaned on the railing of the deck. "Good morning, Jake. Yes, it is a beautiful day. I just wish I didn't have to leave this lovely place." She torn the muffin in half. "Thank you for the newspapers all week. And please, thank Doris for the muffin. It smells wonderful." "No problem. She's grown kinda fond of you these past few days." "What time should I vacate the cottage?" "Oh, no rush. The next renter won't be here until nearly suppertime. Anytime before four o'clock should be fine. Doris'll come by and give the place a quick cleanin', leave fresh linens, that kinda stuff after your gone. Don't expect she'll have much cleanin' to do though. You seem like the type not to make too much of a mess of things." I only make a mess of my personal life. "I'll come to the office in a few hours. I've decided to visit friends back east, and I want to get as far as possible today." "Well, I best get back to the house. Never know what Doris has got planned for me to do until I get back. Take care." "You too. I'll see you shortly." The length and vitality of Jake's strides belied his age as he turned and headed back to his home. Biting into the muffin, Donna opened the newspaper. The small local edition contained mostly regional gossip and events with the odd bit of news from San Francisco or as far away as Los Angeles. She turned the pages without actually reading them. Something caught her eye. An article in the bottom corner of one of pages devoted to news beyond the local borders. Eugene Brecknall, 69, father of prominent San Bernardino lawyer Philip Brecknall, of the law firm D'Arby Pendelton, was charged with assault causing bodily injury today. Bonnie Brecknall, 69, was admitted to hospital after the senior Brecknall allegedly attacked her in their San Bernardino home. Mrs. Brecknall called 911 to report the incident after her husband had left their home. She required over fifty stitches to close numerous cuts caused by broken glass, and will require reconstructive surgery for broken facial bones. Eugene Brecknall is currently being held at the San Bernardino Detention Centre without bail. Philip Brecknall was unavailable for comment. Donna forgot about her breakfast. "Oh, god. Bonnie." She wanted to go to her mother-in-law, but knew she couldn't. Philip would be there. She had escaped the abusive cycle, and hoped that Bonnie, too, would have the strength to do the same. "Maybe that's why she called for help. Maybe she followed my lead, and finally ended the cycle herself." She could only hope that Bonnie had the perseverance to follow through what she had the courage to start. By 9:30, Donna had packed the car and was on the road. She had left the cottage spotless, not that she had made much of a mess to begin with. When she had gone to the office to pay the bill, Jake and Doris both came out to say good-bye. They'd miss her, they said, and she was welcome back anytime. She would miss them, too. They reminded her of her own parents. She didn't realize how much she missed them until recently. Within an hour, she was on Hwy. 101, heading south. By dinnertime, she expected to be in Los Angeles. Maybe she should fly east? That would be much easier on her than driving, wouldn't it? But no, something in her said she should drive. Must drive. The trip was uneventful, and she only made one stop, at a money machine. She didn't want anyone tracking her once she left California, so she thought it best to gather as much cash now as possible. She would contact the bank later and have them transfer her private account funds to wherever she decided to settle. She was thankful that she hadn't spent very much of the money she had received when the Project had shut down. Or from Sam's life insurance policies. Considering who he was, the government had insisted that he have extensive coverage, both to provide for her, and so they could recoup as much of the money they had put into the Project as possible. He had also wanted to provide for Donna, just incase something happened. As she past through Los Angeles, getting closer to San Bernardino, her heart started to pound harder. She wouldn't actually have to go into the city, but just passing by it caused her senses to jump to attention. She reached for her sunglasses, even though the sun was near to setting behind her. She didn't want another driver to recognize her. It wasn't until she had driven another thirty miles past San Bernardino that she felt safe. She removed her sunglasses and put them away. She stopped for gas only once, and grabbed something to eat from the convenience store located at the service station. There was still a little bit of food left from her stay in Davenport, but she had packed in first, not thinking she may need it on the road. It was nearly eleven o'clock when she reached the outskirts of Blythe, on the California/Arizona border. The day's drive was wearing on her, more so than she realized. She had been driving almost non-stop for over twelve hours. Not eating properly, coupled with the tension she felt passing San Bernardino, made her even more exhausted than she cared to admit. Pulling off the road, she turned into the first motel whose parking lot was not entirely full of transports. Sleep was almost instantaneous as her head found the pillow. She didn't dream that night. No Philip. No Sam. Nothing. The first undisturbed slumber she had had in over a week.