Melanie pulled onto the highway and drove in silence for a moment. "I did leave before noon," she finally said. "I had to stop on the way to get a turtle out of the road. And then I had to upload the video to my YouTube channel."
Olivia bit her tongue. While she had been waiting, Melanie had been uploading a video of herself saving a turtle?
"It's already got a bunch of comments," Melanie continued.
And that was why she had taken so long inside the gas station. She'd been checking to see how many people liked her.
It didn't matter, Olivia told herself. What's done is done and can't be undone- the phrase her mother used to say any time Melanie broke one of her toys or ruined one of her books or tore one of her shirts. The phrase Olivia repeated to herself whenever she thought of what happened to her parents. What's done is done and can't be undone.
"I'm glad the turtle is okay," she said.
Melanie smiled. "Me too."
Melanie's heart quickened when the first tower of the Mackinac Bridge came into view. This would be her seventh time over the bridge, a significant number. Seven days of the week. Seven notes in the diatonic scale. Seven letters in the Roman numeral system. The seven in the Tarot deck was the card of the chariot- the symbol of overcoming conflict and moving forward in a positive direction. Lucky number seven. She'd need luck on this trip if she hoped to move forward in a positive direction with Olivia.
She hit her sister's upper arm with the back of her hand. "There's the bridge!"
To her surprise, Olivia smiled. A good sign. Maybe it would all work out. It had to. Because they couldn't go on as they had for the past ten years. Something had to change. Only time together would do it. Time with no distractions. Time in the forest. Time for Melanie to explain herself. She had seven days to make it work. Seven days was enough. Her seven- day spiritual detox program was her most popular offering on Meditations with Melanie. And nothing needed detoxing like her relationship with her sister.
"I know a bailiff who refuses to cross big bridges," Olivia said. "He'll drive miles out of his way to avoid it. If he were going to the UP, he'd have to drive all the way around Lake Michigan and come in through Wisconsin."
"Why doesn't he just use the assistance program?" Melanie said. "Someone who works for the bridge authority will drive your car across for you if you're uncomfortable with it."
"I guess he's too afraid for even that. It's weird. He can't remember anything bad that ever happened to him on a bridge, he's just always been scared of going over them."
"I wonder if he's tried hypnosis to cope with his fears."
Olivia laughed. "No, I don't think he's tried hypnosis."
"It works for a lot of people."
"I'm sure it does." Olivia shifted in her seat. "Man, my hip is killing me."
"What's wrong with it?"
"Nothing. Just sore from sitting so long. It'll be fine."
Melanie slowed to forty-five miles per hour and pulled into the left lane. She would have preferred to drive in the right lane closer to the breathtaking expanse of blue water beneath her, but with big trucks required to go no faster than twenty and with Olivia already touchy about the time, she decided it was better to be fast than fascinated. If she got stuck behind a semi for five miles at twenty miles per hour, Olivia would probably have a stroke.
"You know, bridges are an important symbol in a lot of different belief systems," Melanie said. "They can be about crossing over from life to death. They can be about finding connection with one another. In a Tarot deck they can symbolize spanning the gap between misery and harmony. And they work either way. So if bridge cards start showing up in readings, it doesn't necessarily mean something bad or something good. It all depends on where your life is moving. Either we are moving toward misery or toward harmony in our lives."
"Yeah," Olivia said, "or they can be about the fact that we need one piece of land to connect to another piece of land so we can get a car across it."
Melanie bit the inside of her cheek. "How about some music?"
Olivia punched the button for the CD player. After a moment of silence, the sound of a solo acoustic guitar rang out, joined a moment later by a cello. Then a powerful female voice singing about rain and wind and absence and regret. Mel glanced over at her sister. Olivia's eyes were closed, just the way their father's had always been when he listened to loud music in the living room after a hectic day at work. But the face Mel saw was their mother's. Broad forehead, sensible nose, strong jawline. Olivia had their mother's straight brown hair and solid build. She had her no-nonsense attitude and her drive. She was in all ways fierce and formidable. The ultimate big sister.
Well, almost. The ultimate big sister wouldn't have left when Melanie needed her most.