Aleatory by Xavier Neal



Chapter 1



Sloan





What kind of half-baked ditz decides to just up and abandon her too-hot-for-fucking-fall Texas temperatures for the-middle-of-nowhere Michigan on a random whim suggested by the very person whose guest bed gave her a god forsaken crick in her neck she should probably see a chiropractor about?

This one.

And, after spending the last two hours at a local car rental place where I now know the woman behind the desk’s favorite flower, favorite breakfast, and that she caught her husband in quite the compromising position with the male postal clerk last Tuesday, one thing is for certain. My habitually supportive mother, who is happily having a staycation on and off at my luxury mansion from yesterday until I get my shit together, is absolutely fucking right.

I must be out of my goddamn mind to be doing this shit.

What responsible, respectful, refined – fuck, I hate that word, why don’t people just say uppity, which is what they clearly mean – woman decides on a random Monday night she can no longer handle the pressure and bullshit she helped build?

I’m not “old enough” for a mid-life crisis according to every article ever written by a middle-aged man who believes he gets to decide when it is and isn’t a good time to ditch the family life dream to chase a girl fresh to college that he met at the fucking gym the one day of the year he decided to go. According to that asshole, I’ve got at least another four years, because every woman melts down at forty.

Another lie.

My mom says forty was her favorite year of all.

That’s when her and my dad started doing wilder and more random shit, like white water rafting and partying ‘til four a.m. with a Kool & the Gang cover band.

Now that they’re retired, they go on random walking tours around small historical cities, occasionally sleep all day on the couch, and often host weekly block parties – that they swear aren’t swingers’ parties – for them and their neighbors.

I think they’re lying about the not swinging part to preserve some level of child-parent boundaries that actually stopped existing over two decades ago when I was given a phallic-shaped toothbrush holder on a random Tuesday afternoon.

Oh, shit.

Probably should call her and tell them no partner swapping parties at my place!

Eh.

They wouldn’t listen anyway.

Selective hearing is in full effect when it’s most convenient for them.

Swinging shindigs aside, can we fucking say life goals?!

New adventures. World traveling. Waking up and falling asleep with the one person who still sets your soul on fire after all those years…

That’s the shit romance dreams are made of.

Oddly enough, the reason my mother thinks I’m going through an insanity spell isn’t because I’ve begun to build up a resentment to the idea of love, romance, and all the storybook lies that I, at times, am left with no choice but to perpetuate as having perfected, but because I decided to come a million states away to get the “breath of fresh air” I feel I need.

And, I do need it.

I need it about as bad as I need a good night’s sleep right about now, something I haven’t had since I did an interview with a very popular women’s magazine and couldn’t give a noncomputer programmed response to the question, “What does love look like to you?”.

Awkward laughing, apparently, is not the right response.

Cora Wagner joyfully taps her pale index finger on my driver’s side window to knock me out of the daze I had started to drift into. She motions her hand for me to abandon the one random Audi they had for rent to join her in the crisp fall morning.

Cora also has loved life after forty.

She’s knocking on fifty’s door and claims age doesn’t define the level of joy or discovery a person is allowed to have.

Her energy from the moment we met five years ago has always been this magical thing. This unicorn of calm and crazy all rolled up into one short, wavy-haired, redhead.

If I’m being honest, it’s what drew me here.

Needing that powerful peace.

Craving her sometimes poorly worded clarity.

Change.

I desperately need a change.

Or maybe just a vacation?

Maybe just a vacation where I won’t run into someone who knows someone who knows someone who wants to be in a movie or TV show if there are any openings.

Or, at least, less likely to cross paths with someone who has been waiting for almost two years for a follow up novel to a series I clearly stated was over, hence why it made a more ideal television show candidate than some of my other works.