At 9:47 Monday morning, I receive the call. The display on the phone tells me he's still in Castlegar. As I put the receiver to my ear, I hear the end of his laugh.
"You haven't left yet?" I ask.
How's that for starting? No, "Hello." No, "How's my sweetheart?" I'd expected his call almost two hours earlier. He should be on the road by now, stopped for coffee.
"No, not yet," Chris says, in his casual way.
"How long will it take to drive back?" I wait for him to say nine hours or so, all the more reason why he should have gotten an earlier start. My waiting is done now. I'm anxious to have him safely back home.
"Oh, about seven hours," he answers.
I think he's underestimating. That's much shorter than I thought. Just how fast will he have to drive to get from Castlegar, in the southern interior of BC, to the coast near Vancouver? I picture him in the car, cruise control on, AC DC blaring, large coffee cup in hand, only somewhat aware of the speed he's driving and the road in front of him.
"So what time do you think you'll be back home?"
"Oh--" he thinks, "--six, six-thirty."
"Will you stop for dinner somewhere?" I picture the two of us sitting at the island in the kitchen, having dinner together again. I can't wait.
"I'll have to decide depending on where I am and at what time." I make a mental note to eat without him, as though that's my usual routine. It's not. "Dad and Lil say hi."
"Say hi back." He does.
"Okay, sweetheart, I guess you better get on the road."
"You drive safely, all right?" He hates when I say that, or offer similar advice. I sound too much like his mom. No, worse. His mom would never tell him that. They're so alike. Everything will be fine. You worry too much. Relax.
"I'll see you when you get here then."
"Drive safely," I yell into the phone again, to make sure he heard. I can't help myself. Maybe I just need to hear his voice again, in case....
"I will." This time he sounds reassuring.
"Bye, my dude."
"See you later."
He doesn't know I had trouble sleeping last night, thinking about him on the road most of today. He doesn't know how much depends on his safe return.
And, so, I take another deep breath--
Safe travels, my sweetheart. I love you so much.
Postscript: For those of you who are interested, Chris arrived home safely just after 6:00 p.m. When I saw the car pull up, I finally exhaled. I'm most grateful to be back together with him.