Jackie smiled as she pulled into the space for Cabin No. 2 and turned the ignition off. In front of her, the ground sloped downward about a quarter mile, dropping into a sleepy hollow covered with a blanket of trees before it turned up to the ridge across the way. Stepping out of the Jeep, the caliche drive crunched under her feet, and the sweet fragrance of pine filled the air around her. Hummingbirds, their wings chirping like crickets, buzzed along the line of cabins where feeders filled with nectar, put in place by the owners, waited. Inside, her smile grew as the cabin’s rustic atmosphere—the wood paneling, the stone fireplace, the scenic landscaped pictures and wall sconces—added to the feeling that now overwhelmed her: such a beautiful place for a vacation.
This year, Jackie knew it was time to go to the mountains. She had visited the coast last year, spent her evenings walking along the shoreline, the waves lapping against her bare feet. A silly thing to do, really, what with all the warnings she had read and heard about jelly fish being washed ashore, but she couldn’t help herself; she had been drawn to it. As if South Padre had called to her—like the Caribbean Islands had called the year before, the Everglades the year before that—like it had all been planned and there was nothing else to do but to listen and obey. It was predestined.
She had first heard about predestination in church. Of all places, come to think of it. At four years of age, sitting in a wooden pew, the ceiling fans humming and swaying above, she listened as the minister hammered the lectern, ranting on about what the Scriptures said regarding the strange belief. The only thing predestined, he told them, was where people would go when they died. But of course, she had been too young to dispute him then. That was before her sixth birthday, before her father took her on a special getaway to London and there introduced her to the family diary.
Standing at a window now, her bags on the bed behind her, Jackie looked out across the valley and felt the energy flow through her body. Every nerve sparked—every muscle on edge. Contrary to what that old preacher in the sweat-soaked black suit had said so many years ago, being here was indeed where she needed to be. The San Jacinto Mountains had waited long enough for her bloodline to arrive. This was their year. Their turn.
It took only minutes to unpack her things and step into a bathtub filled with steaming hot water and bubbles. One leg shaved, she lifted the other up and rested her foot on the faucet, feeling the excitement grow with each careful pull of the straight razor along her skin. No more waiting now. At the end of each vacation, while gratifying, she always felt a slight loss, like it had wrapped up too soon, and she looked forward to the next time she could do it all again. Sometimes, the wait turned out to be too much, and she would make opportunities for mini-vacations. Like the few days she spent in Seattle last winter attending the Issues on Women’s Health seminar. It wasn’t her specialty really, but CME was CME regardless of what you took and where you took it. Besides, Seattle had beckoned her then just like the mountains did now.
One of the things she liked about vacations, whether the annual event or the little ones in between, was how much she learned at each stop. Like how the dank smell of the Everglades shrouded over everything or how, like a sponge, the sand along the South Padre shore could absorb much more than water. Those little things were like iced flowers on a cake, delicious morsels that she could write into the family diary, which would one day pass along when the time…
A small ache stirred inside. Eventually the vacations would come to an end as she in turn would settle down, find an actual mate, and begin a new chapter in history. Having kids would change everything, she knew. That is, until one of them turned old enough for another special getaway, this time with mother and child.
She shook her head, pushed the thoughts aside and quickly turned on the faucet to wash her hair, letting the water rinse the shampoo and everything else down the drain. Now was not the time to consider children. Now was her time. To live. To be. To fulfill her destiny.
The bath over, Jackie stepped out of the tub and into the bedroom. The chill of the air raised goose bumps along her arms. She toweled dry, patted some powder over her bare skin, and selected a nice evening dress with spaghetti straps. Looking in the mirror, she nodded. This was the right image. It wasn’t much, but it showed enough and teased plenty. What red-blooded single man would possibly turn her away?
She picked out a change of clothes, stuffed them into a duffle bag, and then stepped into the bathroom to grab the straight razor, which she slipped into a small purse. The lights out, the duffle bag in hand, and the cabin door closed, she walked back to the Jeep, once again taking in the cool air, the smell of pine. If everything went well, she would find her first man tonight; and like her father before her, his father before him and so on, she would carry on the tradition that has lived for years, crossing the Atlantic in the process. And while those men had chosen to slice through the necks of prostitutes, her selections were just as equal. After all, men can be sluts, too.
Turning the key in the ignition, she smiled. This was going to be a great vacation.
I'm going on vacation soon, which reminds me that my definition of vacation—quiet days with a book in hand—is not the same definition my family holds—running around, doing as much as possible. Knowing how the world works and how people define things differently, I decided to observe how somebody else might define vacation differently.