“YOU SURE about this?” Bette’s pointed glance packed a world of meaning as she maneuvered the car through the DC traffic and Union Station came into view.

Cody shifted, touching the door handle to ready his escape. “Yes, I’m sure. Didn’t we go over this?” In excruciating detail, he added silently but didn’t dare say aloud. Not with the mood Bette was in.

“I’m giving you one more chance to come to your senses.” Bette pulled up outside the train station, frowning, and turned off the engine.

She looked so unhappy, Cody wanted to change his mind. I can’t, he thought.

Won’t, you mean, said the Bette in his head. He reached over and laid his hand on top of hers. “You’ll get along fine without me.”

“That’s not the point.” She nailed him with a baleful scowl. “We don’t want to get along without you. Dang you, Cody Bellstrom, you have no idea who you are to us.” At his puzzled expression, she turned away and stared stonily through the windshield.

“Well… I guess this is it.” Cody waited, but she didn’t respond. “I love you, girl, you know that, right? You and Aurora.” He meant it. He, Bette, and Aurora had been friends since they were college freshmen ten and a half years ago. Cody sometimes found it hard to believe that he’d known them since before Bette and Aurora had become a couple. It seemed like they’d been together forever.

A barely perceptible nod.

“Come on, Bette, don’t be mad. I’ll be back. I swear.”

“Sure you will.” She sighed and turned a softer face toward him. “Goddammit, you better. We love you. If you gotta do this, of course we can’t stop you. All we want is for you to be happy.”

A car honked behind them, and a uniformed officer motioned them to get moving.

“Shoot,” Bette muttered. “All right, babe. Get outta here.”

Cody leaned over and planted a kiss on her cheek. “I’ll text. And call. And Skype.”

“Okay. Send us a postcard from every stop, and take a picture of yourself in Powell’s Books when you get to Portland.”

“Will do.”

Cody opened the door and unfurled himself from the passenger seat, then hauled out his luggage, such as it was. He traveled light; always had. A knapsack, one rolling suitcase, and his guitar, and he was good to go.

He stood on the curb and waved as Bette pulled away, then strode into the station, his spirits lifting, while Willie Nelson’s “On The Road Again” played on a loop in his mind.