Belize Survivor, part 41

The rolling mountains of North Carolina were covered in pine forests as the old VW van struggled up one incline after another through the steep passes. The top-heavy vehicle swayed badly on abrupt curves, chugging and sputtering. Something was wrong with the timing, no doubt. Damn stupid air-cooled engines, Alexis thought. Damn! Listen to me. I sound like Max, she thought, criticizing herself even more. She shifted her leg to the right of the accelerator and used the cane to hold down the pedal. Her leg ached from the hours of continuous driving, but it didn't matter. At last she'd escaped from what had become an intolerable situation. She had left Max and was going back to Key West.

Poor Mom and Dad, she thought. They deserved more than that spaced-out note I left them. But what could I say? How much worse would they feel if they knew what had been going on from the start? What if they advised me to go back to Max?

Angry, yet saddened, she was hopelessly torn. In good faith, she had married Max and had hoped to stay with him, raise children, and grow old together. Yet they had also said that if it didn't work out, they could always get divorced and part friends. But somehow it wasn't like that. Marriage did something to people that was hard to untangle. They came together as two human beings, and ended up as one-and-a-half. In merging their lives, something changed, and honorable intentions became lost in obsession and avarice. Now Alexis felt grief but no remorse. The decision was made. The only way was straight ahead and south. Back to mother ocean and the call of the sea, back to the days before Max and cold northern winters.
By the time she reached South Carolina, she finally got up enough nerve to call her parents from a gas station.

"Hello, Dad?"

"Honey! It's you! Thank God you called. Are you all right? We've been so worried about you. Wait a minute so I can get your mother on the other line..."

Before Alexis could say anything more, she heard Frank calling out, and her mother replying with relief. "Hi, honey," Liz said, when she got on the phone. "Are you all right?"

"I'm okay. I'm sorry I scared you. I didn't know what to do, or what to say."

“We figured you'd call eventually,” Liz continued. “I'm just glad you didn't wait any longer. Where are you? We won’t tell Max unless you want us to."

"No. Don't tell him, at least not yet. I'm in South Carolina."

"How are you managing to drive with your bad leg?” Liz interjected. “You only just got the cast off a few weeks ago."

"It hasn't been easy. It still hurts a lot, but I’m managing."

"So what are you going to do? Are you leaving Max, or was this just something that will pass?" Frank asked.

"No,” said Alexis, controlling the slight quiver in her voice. “I wouldn't have left over something trivial. Maybe I just made a mistake when I married him – a big mistake. You were right all along, Dad. Max is different from when I first met him. Or maybe it's just his cultural background."

"Do you still love him?" asked Liz, taking over the conversation.

"I don't know, I'm all confused. I don't want to call it quits; I just want him to be the way he used to be. How did he react when I left?"

"He's been a mess, like a lost child,” Liz said emphatically. “At first he spent a lot of time over here at our house; he was drinking heavily. It wasn't easy for us. Things are falling apart on the ranch. Owen has been very upset."

"Mom, please. I feel like a fool as it is, but Max was being totally impossible. I just couldn't take it anymore."

“He's remorseful now.”

"You mean he's actually sorry?"

“Well, he says he is. He says he's been stupid and only wants you back so he can prove how much he loves you. He says he'll treat you like a queen if you'll only give him a second chance.

We talked to him last night on the phone. He called us from somewhere. Sounded like a party going on in the background."

"How depressed can he be if he’s out partying?"

"I don't know, dear," said Liz, tenderly. "We're not passing judgment one way or the other at this point. All I can say is he sounded very sincere and very unhappy."

"Do you think I ought to take him back? Is it worth what I've already put into the relationship? I mean, if it's not meant to be, it would be better to end it now, rather than later."

"Only you can be the true judge of that, honey. You'll have to do what's right in your own heart. If you still love him, then maybe it's worth another try. If not, then you still need to say what needs to be said, face to face."

"I'm going to Key West,” she said petulantly. “I've got to get away from the cold; the winter is so gloomy and depressing. Once I get to the sunshine again maybe I'll be able to think. Nothing is clear right now. I need space and time."

"What about the farm meanwhile?" said Frank. "The job with Owen?"

“I'm sorry. There's no way I can go back to that house. Not with Max."

No one said anything for a minute.

"Honey?" her father said finally. “Promise us that you'll stay in touch. Just don't cut us out of your life. We're here to help you, even though we're far away. Promise us you won't do anything rash."

"Don't worry. I'll stay in touch. I love you both. I'm sorry I left the way I did."

"It's all right, dear,” Liz added. “You just get yourself sorted out. We love you too. Call us again soon."

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