Title: Coevolution, Part I of II
Pairings/Characters: Kara/Lee, Karl, mentions Karl/Sharon, Kacey
Summary: Real World AU. Kara's a single mother living in the conservative Texas town of which Lee's the mayor.
Word Count: 9500
Warnings: Mentions of drug abuse, depression, PTSD. Lee being an angstbear.
Disclaimer: I do not own the BSG universe. I think you lot know that.
This is my first fic written for the_applecart, and somehow it came out sort of huge. Very thankful for the prompt left there, as it ended up being a powerful spark.
This was lovingly and brilliantly betaed by wicked_sassy. Any remaining mistakes are mine alone.
Your comments after reading are always cherished.
There are nights Lee wishes he had a gun and a single bullet.
Tonight’s not one of those nights, he’s relieved to say. Still, sleep proves elusive, his head aching and his eyes dry and stinging. Lying on his bed, arms splayed out wide in a gesture of surrender, he asks himself the question no one seems able to answer to his satisfaction: what is the point? It’s stupid and cliché and has been asked a billion times before, but after 50,000 years of human history, what question hasn’t been? Everything’s happened before; everything will happen again.
Why this, though? His disease is a curious one from an evolutionary perspective. Unlike cancer or Plague or e. coli, maladies that kill as a means of self-perpetuation, what Lee has is a part of him, is him. There is no virus or bacterial infection working insidiously through his body, fouling up his brain.
Depression is a brokenness cavemen would’ve had no use for, so why has it outlasted small pox and cholera? Why does he even exist, his kind no doubt not built for surviving?
The ceiling fan spins above Lee, driven by invisible sparks of electricity. That must be nice, he thinks, to be powered up and moved with no effort on one’s own part.
He grabs his cell off the nightstand, scrolls through the contacts. One hundred names whiz by in a blur as he thumbs the touchscreen. He eventually lands on Zak, then clicks the name.
His thumb hovers over the call button, less than a centimeter away. But Lee never presses down, instead setting his phone back on the stand. Zak’s awake, there’s no question of that, ever the night owl. But what could his brother say to Lee to make it better?
Maybe it’s one of those nights after all.
It’s the witching hour, and Kara is jonesing like she hasn’t jonesed in years, the sounds of her snoring kid her only lifeline. She hasn’t felt this on edge in ages, not since over a half decade ago when she’d first given up the junk, the day a doctor told her she’d be having a child. She’d been twenty-one and scared out of her goddamn mind, but she’d known enough to realize she couldn’t keep self-medicating, no matter how much she wanted to stave off the dreams.
The tea Kara makes herself doesn’t help, neither do any of her other old tricks. At three in the morning, when the shakes still haven’t subsided, she gives in and calls Karl, hesitating for several moments with the phone in her hand before making up her mind to dial.
It’s Sharon, and Kara thinks about hanging up.
“Kara? Is that you?” the woman asks. “You okay? Hold on. Lemme get Karl.”
“No—never mind, it’s okay,” Kara says. “Sorry for waking you.” Then she hears rustling on the other end of the line, some muttered curses.
“I’m on my way to your house now,” Karl says, having taken the phone from his wife.
“Don’t. I’m fine,” says Kara, picking at a tiny scab on her hand.
“If you were fine, you wouldn’t be calling me at this hour. You never call anymore.”
“I’m going to hang up,” Kara says, nearly clicking end, but Karl is adamant.
“Don’t you dare.”
Kara can hear the mixed chastisement and concern in his voice, and she hates herself for making him worry.
“Kara, you still with me?”
“Yeah,” she says.
“I’m grabbing my keys now. Stay on the line with me until I get there, okay?”
“Okay,” she says, nodding her head.
“You know what triggered this?” he asks.
“Not really, I don’t know. Maybe. Been worried about Kacey a lot. She’s still getting bullied, you know? Doesn’t matter how many times I talk to the principle and her teacher. Part of me thinks they’re endorsing it. Doesn’t help that she’s acting out, which has got everybody all up in arms. She gets knocked around and called all kinds of names, and no one cares. But she stands up for herself, and suddenly it’s an issue and everyone wants to talk about what’s going on in my home. Is anybody asking Caleb Riley’s mom what’s happening in her house, how her kid got turned into a little homophobic sociopath? I don’t want her having to grow up thinking she’s anything less than beautiful the way she is, and maybe this shit town isn’t great for that.”
She’s talking a mile a minute, she knows, unable to settle her anxiety.
“She’s got you as a mom. I think that’s more than most kids could ask for, regardless of where they live.”
Kara pauses before telling Karl the real reason for all this. “A social worker came by yesterday.”
“And? Everything okay?” he asks.
“You’re a good mother, Kara,” Karl assures her, “and Kacey’s a great kid.”
“I don’t know. What if they take her away?” she asks, fingers fumbling with anything she can grab.
“They won’t take her away. You think I’d let that happen? Hell, do you think you’d let that happen?”
Kara throws some milk into the microwave, sips on it.
“Tell me ten things you love,” says Karl. “Don’t think about it, just go.”
“Kacey,” she says immediately, “you, Hera, cornbread, wild horses, fighter jets, cold fronts, sunflowers, bullet shells, old Latin textbooks, fresh tubes of oil paint, the smell of turpentine, Kacey’s face when she’s got chocolate smeared all over it, V8 engines, E-minor.” She lets herself blather on and on, even though she’s long passed ten things.
“Five things you’re most looking forward to,” he asks.
“The Rangers game you’re taking me and Kacey to in a couple of weeks. Going back to school in the fall—”
“What was that?” Karl asks. “You got into the program?”
She smiles quietly, biting her lip, forgetting the tremor in her hands for a few seconds. “Yeah.”
“And when were you going to tell me that?”
“When it came up,” she shrugs, “are you almost here?”
“Pulling onto your block now. You’re lucky I live so close.”
“I know,” she says, hoping he can hear how much she loves and appreciates him.
Kara ends the call when she hears him pulling up outside, goes to wait for him on the porch. He’s still in his PJs, nothing but gym shorts—hadn’t even bothered to throw on a t-shirt.
“Hey,” she says, as he walks up the path.
He holds out his arms, swoops her into a bear hug. “Congratulations, Kara. This is a big fucking deal. I can’t believe you didn’t tell me. Soon you’re gonna be Professor Thrace.”
She savors the feel of his arms wrapped around her, her head on his shoulder, not ready to let go. “I don’t know about that. But the PhD is a first step, yes.” She pulls back, sits down on the porch swing, Karl joining her.
“Any word on finances?”
“Tuition remission. A TAship. An extra 5k fellowship on top of that. And—wait for it, wait for it—health insurance.”
“Shit, woman!” he says, “you’ll be drowning in lobster and caviar.”
“I was thinking I might buy myself a Porsche,” says Kara. “Thoughts?”
“I’d go with a Jag, myself. Much more practical.”
Kara smiles, enjoying their banter. “It’ll still be tricky making ends meet, but anything’s got to be better than what I’m doing now. This is for real, Karl, something I actually want to be doing. I don’t even remember what that feels like.”
Karl nods. “I’m proud of you,” he says, throwing his arm around her shoulder to pull her close. “How’s the other stuff going?”
Leaning into him, she rests her head on his shoulder, warm and solid. “You mean nightmares? Haven’t had any too bad recently,” she says, “or episodes. But honestly, I’m sleeping so little, who could tell?”
“You should really consider going to that veteran support—”
“It’s a good group. Might help, is all I’m saying. It’s helped me.”
“I don’t need that shit,” Kara says, standing up, crossing her arms over her chest.
“Right,” says Karl, “only weaklings like me need support groups.”
“Karl. That’s not what I meant.”
“Then what did you mean?”
Kara paces along the porch, feeling antsy again. “I don’t know. I hate people, why would I want to be surrounded by them in a creepy coven circle thing? With stale coffee and donuts?” She collapses back onto the swing, curling her legs up onto the seat, taking Karl’s arm and pulling it around herself.
“Because it’s nice to know you’re not alone.”
“I do know I’m not alone. Got you. Got Kacey.”
“And that’s enough?”
“All I need,” she says.
It is. Half an hour with Karl, and she’s already feeling better. She falls asleep tucked into his arms. When she wakes up Saturday morning feeling immensely better, she’s in her bed, Karl having carried her there.
Lee twists off the cap of the amber bottle and shakes a small, white pill into his mouth, the tablet bitter and powdery on his tongue. He should eat something, to stave off the nausea the bupropion always brings, but he doesn’t much feel like it. Later, when his stomach recoils and palsies dully, he’ll regret it, of course; but that’s at least a half an hour away, and all he can focus on right now is getting through this minute.
He blinks his eyes open and closed several times. Once he gets moving, it’ll be easier. An object in motion stays in motion. There are a hundred and one errands to do, and that’s just what he needs.
His phone buzzes on his nightstand, and he picks it up.
“Mayor Adama,” he answers, not bothering to check who’s number it is.
“Yes, this is D’Anna Biers from the Johnsburg Tribune. I was wondering, Mr. Mayor, if you’d be interested in being a part of a feature on Texas’s recent establishment of—”
“I am always available for an interview, Ms. Biers, but I must ask that you go through my assistant. Thank you for understanding.” He hangs up quickly, reminds himself that he needs to change the number yet again.
This day, he’s really not interested in doing it.
Kacey’s already up when Kara gets out of bed, her daughter curled in a ball on the couch under a quilt, reading Harry Potter. Again.
“Aren’t you tired of that yet, butternut?” Kara asks from the kitchen, turning on the pot for coffee.”
“Yeah, I kind of had an idea but I wanted to check all the details to see how it would work out. See—what if instead of growing up with the Dursleys, Harry grew up with the Malfoys—and like, Narcissa and Lucius still keep him in the cupboard and all that, but Draco likes him and is nice to him, and they’re best mates. Then when Harry gets to Hogwarts, he wants to be in Slytherin instead of Gryffindor, so the Sorting Hat lets him be, and that changes everything. And maybe he and Draco would kiss, and everyone would laugh at them about it, especially at Harry because he’s the Boy Who Lived, but Malfoy would just hex all the haters. Then he and Harry would kiss some more, just a little bit, not enough to get in trouble, on the cheek. I don’t know. I just wish there was a way you could write it out how it should’ve happened, instead of how it actually happened.”
The fact that Kacey’s reworking of the series mirrors so closely a recent incident at the girl’s school isn’t lost upon her. She and Hera had to sit out recess for a week after pecking each other on the lips at lunch. Caleb Riley had called Hera a carpet muncher—God knows where he learned that term—and Kacey had retaliated by spitting in his macaroni and cheese, which in Kara’s opinion, was a rather dignified and tame response considering. Karl had been right. Kacey’s doing just fine. She’s already learned how to make her own happiness where she can get it, and Kara has to think maybe that’s something the kid learned from her.
Smiling, Kara searches the fridge, looks for anything edible she can whip up for breakfast, finds nothing.
“I like your version of events much better, but where would Hermione fit into all of this?” Kara asks, knowing she’s Kacey’s favorite character.
“Oh, you know, she’d be off saving everybody from everything.”
“Naturally,” says Kara, shutting the refrigerator door. “Alright, I need you to hop into the bath, okay? It’s breakfast time and we’ve got no grub. Hut two, soldier. No dawdling.”
She’s being forcibly escorted out of a supermarket for who knows what when Lee first catches sight of her—a woman who makes his breath snag in his throat. She is stunning and unnerving, spitting out curses at one of the store managers.
Without so much as a sideways glance, she’s undone him. He should go inside. He should rush so that he can head to the cleaners, then to the gym, then to a meeting at the University. Momentum and all that. But he’s not.
It’s unfair, Lee thinks, and it’s not right. He doesn’t know anything about her, and he already wants to tell her all of his secrets.
“Keep your hands off me if you have any interest in keeping them,” the woman says, her voice a little deeper than Lee expected, raspier. There’s no trace of a Southern accent in her words, and he wonders if, like him, she’s a transplant to this pisspot town. It’s been ages since he’s met someone in Johnsburg who wasn’t born and raised here—wailing ‘Deep in the Heart of Texas’ at birth, their first words something like, ‘God bless the Confederacy’ or ‘barbecue’.
“Hey,” Lee says, letting go of his cart, walking toward the commotion. “Is everything okay here?”
The woman looks at him when she hears his voice, and there’s—something, a snap, a shock, a crack in the cosmos. He’d thought he felt a connection before, but when their eyes meet, he finds himself warming like hasn’t in years, thawing.
Her eyebrows crinkle then raise up. She’s as startled as he is.
She’s wearing dark blue jeans that hug her legs like latex all the way down to her ankles. Toned arms show in her sleeveless shirt, low cut. Her ins and outs, curves and swells, are painfully apparent in the outfit.
Lee takes a breath.
“Stay out of it,” the woman says, hardening, turning her head, strands of shoulder-length blonde hair obscuring the side of her face. He wants to stay out of it. He really does. Yet somehow, he’s still here, and definitely not staying out of it.
“Momma, can we please just go?” Lee hears, noticing a young girl standing off to the side. He knows from a brief appraisal that she’s the woman’s daughter. The kid’s got the same rebellious eyes and insolent expression, their faces sharing a similar magnetism. The child’s skin and bones, her elbows sharp and pointed, years away from filling out—seven or eight, Lee guesses. “Please, Momma, come on,” the kid repeats, hands digging into the pockets of her hoodie.
“What’s going on?” Lee asks.
The shop manager looks at him, recognizes Lee, then smiles hesitantly. “Mayor Adama?”
Lee nods, notices that the woman’s glare has now turned skeptical.
“Great, a politician,” she says, rolling her eyes, the look of disdain on her face familiar. He sees it in this town quite a bit.
“Leave us alone,” the kid says to Lee, obviously having inherited her mother’s distaste for political types.
“Let’s go, Kacey,” says the woman, taking her child’s hand, pulling her into the parking lot away from the shop front.
“I’m really sorry,” the manager calls, shaking his head as she stalks off.
She snaps her head around. “No, you’re not. You’re an asswipe and a coward, Billy,” she says. “Why don’t you tell your new boss he can choke to death on Satan’s dick, then maybe I’ll believe you’re sorry.”
Then the woman turns to Lee, “And I’m not voting for you.” That’s when she leaves, for real this time, the little kid trying to keep up after her.
“Well, fuck me then,” Lee says under his breath, wondering what the hell has just happened.
The manager laughs, rubbing a palm in his sweaty, curly hair. “She kind of has that effect on people. I don’t blame her, honestly.”
“What happened?” Lee says.
In this town, it’s a question he’s always asking. Johnsburg, Texas is like a crossword puzzle he can never quite finish. He’s lived here for nearly seven years now, and people have only just stopped calling him ‘that half Mexican kid’ generally modified with ‘but one of the good ones, not lazy or nothing, and he’s got blue eyes, too. Didn’t even know he was a beaner til I learned his last name.’
Winning the mayoral election had been a challenge, to say the least, even with Johnsburg University bringing in a bit of political progressivism to the area. The fact that he’s leading in the polls for re-election, even if only barely, is another clever bit of alchemy, his unabashedly liberal stances unwelcome in this hick town. His campaign manager, Tory Foster, says his lead has something to do with his charm, his relative youth. At thirty-three, he’s one of Johnsburg’s youngest ever mayors. You definitely appeal to the straight female demographic – Tory’d said – and if there are any gay men who haven’t fled to Austin, I’m sure you’ve got their vote, too. But just to be safe, let’s keep the Mexican thing as quiet as we can, okay? It’s already going to cost you having me as your campaign manager. Lee had looked up from his paperwork. You’re kidding, right? – he asked. Mm – Tory’d replied, noncommittally. We’re in fucking Johnsburg, Texas, Lee. There’s a Confederate flag on the court building. Do you think I’m kidding? You’re damned lucky some people think your last name is Italian—and luckier still I was able to squash that rumor that ‘Adama’ was a branch of al-Qaeda.
Between Tory’s political savvy and J.U.’s liberal students, he’ll hopefully be able to scrape by in his next election.
“Mayor? You listening?” the shop manager asks.
“Yes, of course,” says Lee, no stranger to white lies, directing his attention back to Billy.
“Well,” the man says, “Franklin—the new owner—he won’t take food stamps anymore. Kara had her cart all full of food, ready to pay, and Cally—Cally’s that teenager with the blue hair who’s all into devil worship and whatnot—anyway, Cally was telling her we no longer take EBT. Now believe me, I like Kara, I like her a lot, but you can’t start a scene like that without consequences, not when other customers are around.”
“Kara?” Lee asks.
“Yeah, that’s her name.”
It’s a pretty name. A simple, pretty name. He doesn’t know what he’d expected her to be called, maybe something rougher like Frankie or Jo or Buck. But no. She’s Kara. Kara, Kara, Kara.
Lee grabs his cart and enters the supermarket, tries to think about tomatoes and olive oil and nectarines rather than her name, her face.
Kara holds Kacey’s hand tight, pulls her through the lot.
“Mom, are you okay?” Kacey asks. “Slow down.”
Kara moves even more quickly. “Keep up, butternut,” she says.
That, back there, whatever just happened between her in the Mayor, it cannot happen again. The way he’d been looking at her—the way she’d looked at him.
“What is it, Momma?”
“Nothing. Let’s go.”
He knows the universe is out to get him when he sees her again when he’s loading his groceries into the back of his Prius. She’s sitting on a bench with the kid—Kacey, was it? Lee realizes they’re waiting for a bus, the altercation probably having made them miss the eleven o’clock. On Saturdays, the main line only runs every two hours.
Lee shuts the door to the back seat, hesitates briefly before walking over to the pair. He should turn around, hop into his car and drive home. How many scandals start just like this? A beautiful woman sitting on a bench, in need of a ride. But his legs are still moving, one step then another, and even as he’s telling himself to back off, his body has its own, admittedly less sane agenda.
Kara glances up when he’s a few feet away, looking like she’s about to pull a gun on him.
“Whatever you want, the answer’s no,” she says. Kara wraps her arm around the shoulders of the little girl, whose ears are covered with headphones.
“Please,” he starts, not completely sure where he’s going with this. He finally decides on—“let me take you home,” against his better judgment, because the last thing he needs is to be seen driving around town with a woman who looks like her, no doubt a few years younger than him—with a kid.
“There’s room in my car,” he says, gesturing to his Toyota.
Seeing it, she snorts. “No, thanks.”
“Then let me call you a cab? The next bus is at least 45 minutes off, if it’s on time, which is unlikely, because it never is.”
“You think I couldn’t call myself a cab if I wanted to?” she asks.” Then, to prove her point, she whips a cell pone out of her bag, waving it.
The little girl slides her headphones onto her neck, observing the conversation with interest.
“That’s not what I meant,” Lee says. “Look—”
“Not to dash your white knight dreams, but I’m waiting for someone, actually,” says Kara.
Lee’s got the good sense to look a bit bashful. “Your husband?” he asks, not really sure how that particular question managed to get past his brain filter.
“Momma doesn’t have a husband,” Kacey volunteers, looking at him with a concerned expression. She’s examining him, figuring out if he’s to be trusted.
It tears him for a moment back to his own childhood, when he’d had to puzzle out how long the men in his mother’s life were going to stay, and how much, if at all, he’d need to protect his mother and younger brother from them.
Kacey keeps talking, in that blathering way kids have. “She doesn’t have a boyfriend either. Or a girlfriend. Or a partner, or anything like that.”
Kara closes her eyes, biting her lip hard. “Thanks a lot, bonehead,” she says, lips pinched, shoving her daughter gently with her shoulder.
Kacey shrugs, her smile barely perceptible. “Didn’t think it was a secret.”
“I’m Lee,” he says, holding out his hand to the child. Kacey looks at it, one eyebrow cocked, biting back a smirk.
Lee lets the hand fall to his side.
“Don’t take it too personally,” Kara says, a grin breaking through her stoic glare. “She refuses to shake anybody’s hand. I raised a little heathen.” Kara rubs her fingers through the girl’s hair, messing up the already-wild strands.
“I’ll try not to lose any sleep over your rejection,” he tells Kacey. That gets a real smile out of her, and just like her mother’s, it’s absolutely brilliant.
Kara stands up and so does Kacey. Lee turns to see a pickup truck approaching, old and beat-up. “That’s our ride,” Kara says, looking at Lee, her face a little bit softer than before. She holds out her hand. “I’m Kara.”
Lee takes her outstretched palm, isn’t surprised at the heat of her touch. “I know,” he says. “And I’m Lee.”
She nods. “Billy tell you who I was?”
“He told you everything else?”
“Yeah,” Lee says quietly, trying to send psychic signals that he’s on her side on this matter, wishes there were something he could do. This is why he’d gotten into politics, some stupid notion that the system works. Every day is more proof how not true that is. He does his best; it’s never enough.
“I hope you’re not feeling sorry for me,” Kara says.
Lee runs a hand through his hair, smiling, “I felt much more sorry for Billy, actually.”
She laughs, openly and riotously, and it’s completely unexpected. “Don’t worry about Billy. He can take it. Has a lot more back bone than you’d think.”
“Yeah, okay. But—I thought it looked for a bit like he might shit his drawers. I don’t know if you realize the effect you have on people.”
Smiling widely, Kara shrugs her shoulders. “Everyone’s got a skill.”
“Right,” he says, “So if, if you’re ever around, or, I don’t know anything about what your schedule’s like, but if you’re free ever, you should let me take you out sometime, Kara.”
He realizes, as he’s asking it, that he doesn’t recall the last time he’d invited a woman onto a date. The words feel strange on his tongue, and even though he’s looking Kara directly in the eye, his bravery’s left him.
“Look,” she starts, “you seem really nice.”
“Not nice,” she corrects herself. “I meant that you seem really mean. Awful. Terrible. Cruel. That’s right. You seem like a terrible, awful, cruel, bad boy, just how we crazy, bad-at-judging-character women like ‘em. But, just, it’s more trouble than it’s worth.”
“You seem like you’re worth a lot of trouble,” says Lee.
He’s blushing, because what the hell. And she’s blushing, too.
Then, the driver honks the pickup truck loudly, several bursts of noise one after the other, and everything goes to hell.
Lee’s not sure what’s happening. Suddenly, he’s being pushed to the side, stumbling from the force of it, as Kara lunges for her daughter, pulling Kacey down behind the waiting bench, holding the child tight.
He’s rubbing his now-sore shoulder, trying to find his bearings.
“Mom,” says Kacey.
“Quiet,” Kara snaps.
“Momma,” the child repeats, pleading. “It’s okay. Everything’s okay. We’re in stupid Johnsburg, in stupid Texas, at the stupid supermarket. You hear me? Stupid Johnsburg. Stupid Texas. Stupid supermarket.”
She holds her mother’s cheeks in her palms, their foreheads touching, the intimacy of it so intense that Lee aches—because he’s never been that close to anyone in his life, not his father, not his mother, not even his brother, certainly never a girlfriend.
His attention is diverted briefly when he sees a tall man with short, cropped hair sliding out of the pickup. He limps heavily, rushes past Lee over to Kara and the girl. “Shit, fuck, I’m sorry for honking,” he says, crouching down. “I wasn’t thinking.”
Kara seems to bring herself out of whatever temper she’d been in. “Forget it. It’s my fault,” she says, shaking her head, beginning to stand up, dusting herself off. “It” was just honking.
“No, it’s not,” says the man, gripping Kara’s shoulders. “Look at me, Kara,” he says, and Lee guesses him to be her brother. “It’s not your fault. Okay? Say it.”
“Okay,” she says, whispering, then looks over to Lee, who’s still not sure what he’s just witnessed.
Kara averts her gaze, grabs Kacey’s hand, then goes to the pickup, climbing inside, without so much as a goodbye.
The limping man lingers a bit longer. “She didn’t hurt you too bad, pretty boy, did she?” he says, slapping Lee’s back hard enough to sting. “I’m Karl.”
“No need to introduce yourself, Mr. Mayor,” the man smiles. “I do watch television, and occasionally even read the newspaper, though the big words hurt my brain a bit. We hick folks do every once in a while climb out from under our rocks built of trailer park remnants and squirrel bones.”
Lee’s sure he looks as awkward as he feels.
“Jesus, lighten up,” says Karl, his laugh loud and friendly. “I’m only kidding. Out-of-towners are so easy sometimes.”
“I’m still a little…” and Lee tries to find the right word, “perplexed. Is everything all right?”
“Everything’s fine,” Karl says. “Some days are just harder than others, you know?”
He claps Lee on the back once again, then heads for the truck, pulling away loudly down the street. It’s only when Lee sees the back of the pickup, plastered with stickers, that everything comes together. Smack in the center of the dilapidated Ford’s bumper: Veterans Against War.
Doesn’t take much to figure out he likely just witnessed an episode of Kara’s post traumatic stress, or something similar. He feels like an ass, but doesn’t know why. While she’d been trying to pull herself together, he’d stared at her like she was a circus freak, even though he knows all about what it feels like to have your brain betray you.
He sighs, staring after the truck. The city’s big enough that he worries he’ll never see her again. Then he notices it—a little card that must’ve slipped out of her bag when she dove to the ground. He picks it up off the brown grass. Salt Boat it says, with an address. He puts it in his pocket and heads back to the car.