This is Part 5 of the AtoZ story I'm telling, using a letter for the theme for each day. See Part1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4. Conclusion is tomorrow. Thanks everyone for reading.
Jodie watched her boys out the corner of her eyes. They were both groggy in the early morning, but soon they would be excited, once they made it to the Spire. It had been an eventful night. She told Kyler everything. Well, almost everything. She didn't tell him about Darrel, but he didn't need to know that. All things considered, that was unimportant. She hated it, but Darrel wanted peace, so she let him find it. After everything he had put them through, he deserved it.
They pulled out of the drive and hit the roads. Traffic was still a nightmare--it had been since the announcement earlier in the week--but at least the roads were navigable. Abandoned vehicles littered much of the streets, out of gas and out of drivers. She drove a circuitous route, taking her near the spot that she had met Darrel at again last night. Jodie wasn't sure what birthed the idea, to call him and ask for another meeting, claiming that she'd had a change of heart. He was already deeply intoxicated when she called.
Being Cabinet Officiant to the President, Jodie had a lot of privileges. She went to the armory within the Compound and took out a shotgun. There were no guards on duty, after all. Almost everyone had left the day President Hombs gave her speech. Jodie only stayed out of necessity and loyalty. She walked the gun to her vehicle, loaded it, and set it in the back seat. At seven o'clock she picked Darrel up at a bar and drove him to the hinterlands, near the Mississippi River.
"You still want forgiveness, Darrel?" They were staring out at the water. The mammoth stadium of the St. Louis Nationals loomed behind them. Darrel reeked of alcohol. "You want to make it right to me and Kyler and Ronnie for what you did to us? Do you really want that?"
Darrel nodded, slightly lackadaisical, slightly with the vigor of a sinner being offered atonement. "You know I do," he said, turning to look at her. She nodded and threw her cigarette down.
"Okay then." Jodie walked around the car and opened her back door. She picked up the gun and came back around, aiming it at her ex-husband. Darrel's eyes widened as she pulled the trigger. The blast struck him in the chest. Blood splattered everywhere, thick, hot, and full of life. "I forgive you," she said, standing above him. He was wheezing. Jodie cocked the gun and put another shell in. Darrel convulsed. He was trying to talk, but her ears were ringing from the blast. She placed the bead above what was left of his heart and squeezed the trigger again. "I forgive you."
"Where are we going?" Ronnie asked, breaking her out of her memory.
Jodie caught his eyes in the rear view mirror. "We're going to the Spire, sweetie." She looked at Kyler. He had taken the news remarkably well. At thirteen, she figured, you're able to believe things a little easier. She was forty, had read the proof, and still had trouble believing it. The fact that it was all just going to end was too far-fetched to fully embrace.
It took several hours to get out of the city proper and across the river. Jodie had filled up the night before at the private pumps at the Compound. The Spire was located in the White Mountains of West Kentucky, close enough to make a day trip if desired, but far enough away from the city to fully enjoy nature. Its peak was the highest elevation in the United States, and its near vertical walls were a favorite for extreme climbers. The boys marveled at its size the first time they saw it, and she knew they would react the same way this time, too. It had that effect.
It was early afternoon as they pulled into the park. As she expected, it was mostly deserted. There were a few vehicles, families probably doing the same thing she was, spending their last days together, having fun, enjoying life. She'd read theories on how it would end, filled with vague guesses and hypothetical equations, but Jodie didn't much care as to the how. As long as she had Kyler and Ronnie, she could face it head on.