The inadequacy of the phrase stilled the swiftly scrawling pencil, but only for a moment. Jodi Reeve pressed the pencil firmly back onto the page. There had to be a note, then people wouldn't worry.
"I had to leave. J."
Discarded, the pencil lay at a 33 degree angle on the white notepad. Jodi closed the front door. She shook the door handle once, listening for the click of the lock. Her key was inside, beside the note, in the dustless hallway.
She caught a neighbourhood bus and rode its meandering path to the town centre. The train south was calling final boarding. She ran.
The doors of the train closed and people turned inward to their mobile phones.
Did they feel hooked to an enormous hospital drip, bleeding time into the network? Did they care? And how much of her soul had Jodi surrendered? Always available.
She stood as the train slowed for its final stop. She had to get off, get out.
There was a coffee shop a block away, open to the park sprawling behind it. She would buy a coffee, unpack her bag, sit in freedom.
The new pencil felt comfortable in her hand. It sketched the blur and swirl of steam from the styrofoam cup, played patterns into the form of leaves. Memory added detail. Rose leaves, thorns. The flowers bloomed, filled the page.
Flick the paper over. A new sheet to capture a passing dog, the old man walking it, the toddler entranced.
Draw the toddler's mother, stooped in love.
"Is it friendly?"
And the dog, wriggling all over. Yes.
The coffee was cold, the pencil blunt. She couldn't borrow these people's lives. The old man had smiled at her, proud of his dog. She hadn't smiled back.
She was sixty four, her husband's full-time carer. People said she was devoted, capable, kind. Her children stayed away, burnt by the demands of their father's condition. She was alone, and never alone. A day of hospital tests had given her this chance to run.
She hadn't run far enough
"It's a good thing you gave me your spare key." Jodi's neighbour was chatty. "What's this, the fourth time this year? Still, you've a lot on your mind, caring for your husband. Here we are, dear."
The front door opened.
"Thank you." Three steps, and Jodi crumpled the note. Her smile forced back the tears. Even her running was a sham. "I've just time to drive to the hospital and collect George."