Leigh, Penny, and Kemena were an hour into their two hour drive back to Portland International Airport and all was quiet. Penny had taken some Dramamine before leaving the hotel to help with motion sickness, which Leigh said she might encounter due to having not written in the car for seven years, but despite the precautions she felt fine. She was, however, happy that today was cloudy, and figured she was going to need some time acclimating to all the sunlight she’d encounter back home in Albuquerque.
As Oregon State Highway 6 crossed the Wilson River for the third time Penny slightly turned in her passenger seat so she could see both her mother driving and Kemena behind her. “When are you going to return to the pod?”
Leigh kept her eyes on the road. “I don’t know that I can, Honey.”
Penny shot a skeptical look at her mother. “Why’s that?”
“You know why. There is you—”
Penny held up her left arm and shook her hand back and forth to show off her Age of Attainment bracelet. “Remember this? I can take care of myself. Also, you should wear yours now. There’s no need to hide it from me.”
Leigh shot a sideways glance at her daughter before turning back to the road. “I also have the business. It’s impossible for me to walk away from that.” She half turned this time to look at Penny. “It’s that business that keeps us fed and gives us a home.”
“Okay, I can see that.” Penny stretched her legs. “What would it take for you to hand over the business someone else?”
“Hummph.” Leigh seemed almost aloof as she negotiated the turns of the winding highway. “And to whom in my supposed to hand my business and let them run it in my place?”
Penny softly cleared her throat. “Me.”
This time Leigh shot an unbelieving sideways glance at Penny. “You?”
“Well, Kemena and me. Before you say anything, hear me out.” This time she scooted around her seat, with her left leg folded under her right, so she can look at both her mom and Kemena without having to turn her head. “I know how to get fake school transcripts for the time I was supposed be away at private school: Swirling Maelstrom told me how it’s done. Once I get those, I’m going to take online courses so that I can get a degree. I haven’t decided what I’m going to get yet, but I will finish college.”
She nodded towards her friend in the back. “Kemena’s going to attend UNM starting in the fall and she’s going to major in business administration with an emphasis on accounting. So whatever I don’t pick up from my classes, should be able to help me later.”
Leigh’s voice was soft as if she knew where Penny was going. “Help you with what?”
“With running the business.” Penny wiggled her foot for a few moments as she looked at her mother. “Why I’m taking classes at night for college, let me go to work with you. Show me everything there is to know about running the business, and I mean everything. If you want me to lay out landscaping, I will. If you want me to work typing up manifest or cleaning up stuff, I will. But show me everything that you did to make the business successful.
“Then when Kemena gets out of school, let heard me start running things day-to-day. You can still be there, but let us take care of the business. If after a year we’ve proven were not going to bankrupt the place, you sign over the business to me, I’ll make Kemena a partner, and you—” She shrugged. “You can go back to the pod for a while.”
Leigh was uncertain as to what she should say. It wasn’t that she was uncertain of Penny’s ability to do what she wanted to do—she was uncertain as to her motives. “Honey, I—”
“Mom, people in the pod miss you.” Penny’s tone was soft and comforting, with a bit of sadness apparent as well. “Swirling Maelstrom and Breaking Waves miss you; your binding grandmothers miss you; your sisters miss you; your nieces want to see you. I left the picture of you and me with the pod, because your binding mothers have nothing else to remember you by.
“In five years you going to be sixty-one, almost sixty-two. You will have been away from the pod for over fifty years and there are so many people to whom you are either a memory or a tale. So many people wanted me to tell them of everything I knew of you ‘cause they had no recollections of their own of what you were like when you were a member of the pod.
“I’m not trying to do this to prove I can run things better than you, or because I’ve got an ego, or because I have to prove myself. Doing this for you, Mom.” Penny looked down inside. “I know you want to go back. I’m giving you the chance.”
Leigh watch the road unwind before her. She understood what Penny wanted to do and why she was doing this. And though Leigh wasn’t ready to admit that her daughter was right, she knew Penny would keypad her until she finally agreed to the terms of her challenge.
And she was certain she knew how this was going to affect Penny in the coming years.
The road was straight giving Leigh the opportunity to fully turn her head and look at her daughter. “Five years, huh?”
Penny looked up and nodded slowly. “Yeah, five years.”