"So....what are we gonna do now babe?" Bruce asked, looking from his wife to the road and back again.
Liza didn't answer, only stared straight ahead. Bruce wondered what she was thinking, after that story, she told about her mom leaving when she was a kid he was worried about her.
But he didn't say anything, not wanting to set her off again. These days it seemed that's all he did, make her angry; he wished he could make her happy again, like when they were young and first married.
He remembered how on their honeymoon she had convinced him to help her steal basically everything from the hotel room they were staying in.
They had gotten a call from the hotel a few days later and had been asked never to return.
That had been his favorite hotel.
But the way she laughed and said "I love you," when they had been speeding away made it all worth it.
Now they were on the run from the fish and wildlife police, and she wasn't talking to him.
He wondered how it had gotten like this. So...out of control.
But then again, she had always been a little crazy. A little out of control.
That's why he'd married her.
And, he supposed, that's why she had married him.
He was the calm one. The one who brought her back down to earth when she was off in the clouds with her crazy plans.
But nowadays, whenever he tried to bring her back down, she just got mad at him.
He hated it when she was mad at him.
That's why, in the end, he always gave in to her. Always gave her what she wanted.
He knew he shouldn't, knew she was more trouble than she was worth, but...he loved her. And that was just that.
"We can't go home," she finally said.
"What? Why not?"
She turned toward him in the seat, a crazy look in her eyes, "when I was at work yesterday, you know, before...everything happened, there was a cop asking around about Nan's lemur. He was talking to me about it and I think he suspects me or somethin. And last night...well, I'm just sayin we didn't exactly tiptoe outta there, someone might've seen our license plate."
"Aw fudge! Why didn't you tell me this earlier?" Bruce raised his voice, flicking on the turning signal so they could pull over on the side of the road.
"Well if you must know, I didn't think it was too important until now," she crossed her arms over her chest.
"NOT-not important??" Bruce asked incredulously. He pulled onto the edge of the road and yanked the keys out of the ignition.
"Babe, I can't believe-" he stopped. She was giving him that look that meant she was getting annoyed with him. Sighing he leaned back in his seat and swiped his hand over his eyes. "Sorry. I'm sorry, I just...I just need some time to process this."
They sat in silence for a few minutes, cars whizzing past on the highway.
"What about the kids?" Bruce asked. "We have to go home, we can't leave them alone."
"They're not alone, they're with the babysitter," she answered.
"We can't leave them with the babysitter! Vicky has to go home sometime!"
"Don't get mad at me Bruce, you chose to come in with me. I could've gone by myself, but you insisted on coming."
"Of course I did! What would I have done if something had happened to you? I had to make sure you were safe!"
"Well no one asked you to," she snapped.
"And no one asked you to steal a lemur from a bunch of gangsters!"
"They stole the lemur from me first!" She shouted, throwing herself against the chair, her arms crossed against her chest, she was scowling and Bruce could feel her anger radiating off of her.
They were silent again.
After a few minutes that felt like an eternity, Bruce sighed, "look, I'm sorry ok? I'm just...I don't know what to do babe. Everywhere we turn we're fudged!"
After a few more seconds of silence, she sighed too, rubbing her temples, "I know. We just need to figure out a plan of attack. A course of action yea?"
Bruce snorted, "yea."
The payphone was disgusting.
There was gum plastered everywhere, dried blobs of hard pink and blue and white were stuck under the payphone, in the corners of the metal booth, someone even pasted it on one of the glass panes. Not even trying to hide it.
And it smelled like urine.
Bruce tried to hold his breath as the phone rang their house.
He turned and waved to Liza, who watched him from the car.
Finally, someone answered, "hello?"
"Vicky? Hi, it's Mr. M, I was just calling to tell you that we won't be able to come home tonight."
"Oh...is...is everything ok?"
Bruce winced, he could hear the confusion and worry in her voice. Always the people-pleaser he wished he could explain to put her mind at ease, but knew he couldn't.
"Yea, yea, everything's ok, don't worry about it. I'm sorry if we're putting you at an inconvenience or somethin. Is your mom ok if you stay one more night?"
"Yea, I think she will be. And don't worry about it, Mr. M."
"Thanks so much, Vicky, have a good night then. We should be back tomorrow night at the latest."
"Ok, great. Bye bye then."
Hanging up the phone Bruce clumsily shoved his way out of the small booth, trying his best not to touch any of the dried gum.
"Oh, Brucie pull over here," Liza said, pointing a press on nail at the McDonald's sign a few feet in front of them, "I'm hungry."
Bruce nodded and flicked on the turning signal.
When he parked Liza grabbed her purse and hopped out of the car but he stayed inside.
He rubbed his eyes. They had been driving around all day, trying to find a place that would take Wendy.
So far they hadn't had much luck.
And since Liza didn't have a driver's license, he had been driving all day.
His eyes drooped and he slumped at the wheel, only to be jerked awake by sharp tapping at the passenger window.
"Come on, I don't wanna wait in the line for too long," Liza shouted through the closed window.
Bruce nodded and, rubbing his eyes again, climbed out of the car and slammed the door behind him.
He winced at the fluorescent lights inside, they were giving him an even worse headache.
"Whadya want Brucie," Liza asked, she was already looking at the menu posted on boards above them.
Bruce only grunted and headed toward one of the booths to their right.
Liza watched him go sit down, then, with one last glance at the glowing menu above, she walked over to him.
He was sitting with his arms propped on the table and his head buried in his arms.
"Come on, let's go," she said softly.
He lifted his head and looked at her with his soft brown eyes.
Puppy dog eyes, she always called them.
That was one of the things that had first made her fall in love with him, those soft brown eyes that always looked a little hurt.
It had made her want to protect him.
"But you said you were hungry," confusion and tiredness mixed in his voice.
"I know what I said, I changed my mind," she motioned toward the door with her head, "now come on."
He sighed and pushed up from the table. They walked out and, when back in the car, she asked where the closest motel was.
Bruce frowned, "babe, we can't stay in a motel, we can't leave the lemur alone."
Liza frowned, "Did I say we were gonna leave the lemur alone? No, I didn't, just drive to the closest hotel ok?"
Sighing Bruce did what she said.
The motel they found was one of those joints located right off the highway, where you parked your car in front of your room and got your key from the office at the end of the row.
Bruce held the door open while Liza rushed the lemur inside and, setting the cage by the door, they took a look around.
The walls were bright orange. That was the first thing Bruce noticed.
The bed had a few springs poking out of the mattress, ripping holes in the sheets and the blanket.
There were two heavy wooden bedside tables with lamps positioned on both of them.
Across from the bed was a small TV that looked like it was from the 1960's.
And in the back of the room, there sat a small bookcase full of old books.
"Hey Liza look, it's your favorite book," he said sleepily, pointing toward an old copy of Don Quixote sitting on one of the shelves.
She looked to where he was pointing, "I never said it was my favorite."
"Yea well, you're readin it all the time so..."
"That's because I read it to the patients-" she sighed, "never mind, let's get you into bed huh?"
Bruce only nodded and fell into the bed, the springs creaked as he pulled the covers over himself and closed his eyes.
He heard Liza moving around the room, checking if the lemur was ok, making sure the door was locked, etc.
He heard her come around to his side of the bed, felt her lift the covers and take his shoes off.
When she finally got into bed he heard her yell "ouch!" as a broken spring caught her in the leg.
Muttering under her breath she eased herself the rest of the way into bed and pulled the covers up around them both.
Bruce turned over in bed and put his arms around her, just like they used to sleep when they were first married.
"I love you," he whispered as he buried his face in her bleach blond curls.
She didn't say anything for a long time, the silence seemed to wrap around them, drawing them closer together yet splitting them farther apart.
Right before he drifted off to sleep he thought he heard her whisper, "I love you too Brucie."
They left early the next morning, taking a few books for the road and slipping the key to the room under the office door.
It was Liza's idea to take the books, Bruce's idea to leave a few $20 bills in their place.
Liza pointed out that the next people to stay in that room would just steal the $20, or the cleaning lady might take it on her rounds.
Bruce knew she was right, but said it made him feel better about taking the books in the first place.
Liza rolled her eyes at that but didn't say anything.
At this point they had been all over Long Island, trying to find someplace that would take Wendy. They had even tried a few zoos in Manhattan and the Bronx.
But no one would take her without gathering personal information, and, seeing as they were, in a way, on the run from the cops, they couldn't trust anyone with their personal info.
Suddenly, as they were speeding down the highway, Liza sat up, a wild look in her eye.
"I know what we have to do," she exclaimed.
Bruce looked from her to the road, trying to split his attention, "whaddya mean babe? Whadda we gotta do?"
She shifted in her seat to face him, a wicked smile cracking her face in half, "we gotta drop Wendy off at the Bureau for Fish and Wildlife Services."
"Uuuuh, correct me if I'm wrong Liza, but haven't we been running all day from those guys? Are you sayin we should turn ourselves in?" he asked incredulously.
"No. No. That's not what I'm sayin at all Bruce-think about it-we've been tryin to find a place to take her all day with no luck; and when we get back home, those cops are probably gonna be waitin for us-"
"We don't know that," Bruce interrupted.
"Will you let me finish?" She didn't wait for him to answer before she kept talking, "the cops will probably be waiting for us when we get back. Which means we can't have Wendy with us then. Soooo?" She motioned for him to finish her thought.
"...We have to...drop her off somewhere?"
"Exactly. We have to drop her off somewhere. But where? When they don't find her with us they're probably gonna go around to all the zoo's askin about her until they find her, and then they'll just ask what the people who dropped her off looked like, and wham! We're done for. But, the last place they would look was in their own turf! While they're out searchin for Wendy at all the local zoo's, we plop her right down under their noses and leave without anyone bein the wiser to our ever bein there."
Bruce thought about it for a few seconds, "I dunno Liza, it seems a bit risky..."
"Nothin ever happens to ya if ya don't take risks Brucie," she argued.
Bruce sighed, "alright."
"Really?" Liza perked up.
"Yea, let's do it. Lemme just put the car in sports mode and we'll be there in no time."
The kids were at school when they pulled in the driveway.
Vicky was sitting on the couch reading a magazine when they walked in through the door.
She jumped up when they walked in, throwing the magazine onto the coffee table, "oh hi Mr. and Mrs. M! I'm so glad you guys are back safe! Is everything ok?"
"Yea, yea Vicky, don't worry about it. Everything is fine now," Bruce answered, pulling out his wallet and, taking $70 out, handed it to Vicky. "We just had to go visit Liza's sister. She was havin some car troubles and needed us to drive her around yesterday."
"Ooh, that makes sense," Vicky nodded while grabbing her purse from the couch, "is her car fixed now?"
"Yea, everything is fine now. Thanks again, Vicky. You should head home, your mom probably misses you."
Vicky nodded and headed for the front door, "Thanks Mr. M, I'll see ya."
"Bye Vicky," he listened to the door shut behind him, then let out the breath he had been holding and leaned against the entryway to the living room.
While Bruce and Vicky had been talking, Liza had gone into the kitchen and downed a V8.
Now she had kicked off her tennis shoes and was lounging on the couch.
"We did it Brucie," she let out a sigh of relief, "we did it."
"Yea," he chuckled to himself, "never a dull moment with you huh Liza?"
She smiled but didn't say anything.
And for a moment everything was peaceful.
BAM "NOBODY MOVE! EVERYONE STAY WHERE YOU ARE! THIS IS THE FISH AND WILDLIFE POLICE!" 4-5 cops stormed their living room, guns cocked and ready to fire, the man from the hospital leading the whole group.
Liza was sitting up on the couch now, and Bruce had his hands in the air, slowly backing up until he was standing next to his wife.
"Where is the lemur?" the cop asked.
Liza put on her 'innocent face' which Bruce had to admit looked more smug than innocent.
"I don't know what you're talking about," she said.
The cop frowned and, lowering his gun nodded to his companions, "search the house."
"Hey wait! You can't do that! You have no right!" Liza shouted after them as they started rummaging through all the rooms.
"We have every right," the cop said, "last night there was a break in at Furs by Sebastian. They were in possession of an illegal lemur, but when we tried to retrieve it, turns out it had been stolen. While we were there, a car left the parking lot in quite a hurry, that car had the same license plate as yours; and since you," he looked at Liza, "were the last person who saw the owner of the lemur before she died. It seems rather suspicious that it was your car seen driving away from the store that was holding said lemur only a few hours before. And at so late at night." The cop stared down at Liza.
Liza stared right back.
"First of all-"
"Babe," Bruce interrupted. She turned angrily toward him and he gave her a meaningful look, "tell the nice policeman-"
"I'm a captain," the cop corrected.
"Fine, tell the captain how you don't know about any lemur because we were at your sister's house for the past few days."
She huffed and faced the cop again, "yea. I was at my sister's house, her car broke down and we had to drive her around all day. We weren't even in these parts, we don't have your precious lemur."
He pulled out a black notepad and pencil and started jotting some notes down, muttering to himself as he did so.
"We will be looking into this story of yours," he said sharply. "And if we find anything in this house so help me I'll-"
Liza opened her mouth to say something but before she could, one of the cops who had been searching the house came back. "Captain, we didn't find anything."
"Hah, see? Whadid I tell ya. We don't have your lemur."
The captain glowered at Liza.
Just then the walky-talky he wore on his belt let out a beep and a voice like crackling tinfoil was broadcasted through the speaker, "captain we just found the lemur."
He grabbed the walky-talky from his belt and eagerly shouted into it, "where? Where did you find it?"
"Someone dropped it off at the back of the building on top of an employee's car. They found it when they were taking their lunch break and brought it in."
The policeman was silent for a while. Then, with a defeated sigh he said into the walky-talky, "roger. We're heading back, make sure it's well taken care of until we get there. Over."
Liza smiled triumphantly, not even trying to hide her smugness this time, "Well, you know what they say captain: all's well that ends well." She stood and marched toward him, "now if you don't mind, take your goons and get out of my house."
The captain scowled at her but did as she said. Taking a silver whistle from his pocket he blew it, and soon all the cops were back in the living room. With one final nod, the captain led the men out of the house. Bruce and Liza listened as the cop cars peeled down the street.
Only then did they let themselves relax.
It started out as a chuckle, then a laugh, soon both of them were guffawing.
"We fudgin did it!" Bruce shouted. Liza was laughing so hard she almost tripped, but Bruce caught her in his arms.
"We fudgin did it Brucie," she repeated, smiling up at him.
Their laughter subsided as they stared into each other's eyes.
"I love you," Liza said into the quiet.
Bruce beamed at her, "I love you too babe."
She rested her head on his chest and they just stood there, in the middle of the living room, holding each other.
And for the first time in a long time, both of them were happy.