I've taken a few days off from this project, and the heat of the afternoon made writing sound so appealing. I've been doing my share of wondering where to go next with these gals - here's a bit of an update on the calm after the storm of Burlington. I'm assuming both of our ladies are wearing their seat belts....
"Where should I put the money?" Maisie held onto the ten crisp $100 bills with a tight grasp of tentative excitement, as if she were a contestant on her favorite game show, The Price is Right.
"Just put them where no one will find them." Stella sometimes felt Maisie would be lost without her. But as she drove, Stella also reflected to herself that she probably needed Maisie as much as Maisie needed her.
Maisie folded the bills in half and tucked the them into the warm cleavage of her bra, where they rested like a thin volume of poetry in a crowded bookshelf.
"No one will find them there," Stella chuckled.
Maisie took the subtle insult in stride. She was too tired to respond, so she simply turned her head to the right and looked out into the Wyoming darkness as they drove to Powell. The heat and excitement of the day had cooled, and the breeze from the open car window put Maisie in a quiet, contemplative mood.
Not unlike the windows of time Maisie spent ironing her husband's shirts, trousers and pocket squares decades ago, driving at night was a time when she let her mind wander.
There was a time, she thought, when she was seen differently than she was seen now. Back then, there were men who felt as passionately about her as Earl felt about Claudia.
But time changes many things.
The passage of time slowly molded Maisie into a woman who was taken less seriously. Decades created a distinct disconnection from the woman she used to be. She understood that she was no longer seen as the spirited, attractive, intelligent vixen she once was.
Now, she was seen by others for what she was: An absent-minded, endearing, gray-haired, 72-year-old pillow of a woman.
But that's not how Maisie felt in her head.
And she was sure, even though they'd never talked about it, Stella felt the same way.
Stella had a harder edge. Maisie didn't think Stella thought about how things had changed from when they were younger to where they were now. Stella lived in the present.
Maybe, Maisie thought, thinking about the past was too much for Stella to bear.
As they burned through the miles from Burlington to Powell, Maisie thought about the money tucked in her cleavage, and how innocently they tripped into this episode of their lives.
Maisie thought this funeral-chasing game she and Stella were playing seemed simple enough, in theory.
Her vibrant, daring, younger self - the person she saw before she looked in a mirror - thought what they'd created was the perfect crime.
Two old ladies paying their respects, sampling regional delicacies borne of bereavement, seeing the country, meeting new people.
What could be more innocent, and more duplicitous.
Maisie felt at twang of guilt as Stella steered the Dart into the gravel parking lot of the Best Choice Motel in Powell, Wyoming.
"This is where we're going to camp tonight," Stella said. "This Best Choice place looks like the price is right. Peel me off one of those bills."