So Maribelle had a mate, after all. The fact did not bother Adam very much. He would kill this man the first chance he got.
Adam was enjoying the ride. He had never ridden in a motor vehicle by choice before. The back seat of this vehicle, this SUV, had lowered, flattened, so that Adam could lie down. He did not have enough room to stretch out, but he didn’t mind. Maribelle was there with him, beside him.
He knew she had done this to help keep him calm, and to allow the man, Blaine, to sit up front with Judith, who was driving. The man did not like the fact of Maribelle riding in the back of the vehicle next to Adam. But Maribelle had not listened to the man.
They had waited until night so that there would be less chance of them being spotted. Of him being spotted. He lay in the rear of the vehicle under a dark green blanket. Only his head poked out.
He could not talk to Maribelle. They did not use the keyboard because its screen gave off light. “Some trucker might pass by and get an eyeful,” Maribelle had said. Neither could she see Adam making the signs for words, nor would she have understood most of them if she had. Maribelle did not yet know sign language. Maribelle talked to him, though. More than to Judith or to the man. She told him about her father, and about the place where she had grown up, about the place where they were taking him. She talked about many things. Adam knew she talked just to keep him calm. It was not necessary, but he did not mind. He loved to hear her talk, loved the sound of her voice.
The world had shrunk. He lived now in a small world of darkness, just he and Maribelle and Judith and the man. He wished the man were not there; otherwise it was a perfect world. The sound of the tires, the feel of them humming against the highway. Lights from passing vehicles lit up the side windows and then faded away like the shooting stars Adam had watched in the night skies over Kenya. The wind whistled outside the SUV. A calm little world. A peaceful, nighttime world.
Best of all, Maribelle was here, talking to him, touching him. He could feel the heat from her body through the blanket as she lay beside him. Her scent filled his nostrils, her hair, the fruity smell of shampoo, her deodorant, her skin. His world was dark, but he could see her. He stared at her face. She had folded up a jacket for a pillow and lay on her side facing him. He knew she could not see him well, just his eyes shining in the closeness of the SUV.
Adam wished this world would never change. He wished the trip would never end. If he could get rid of the man, and have it be Moe sitting up in the front with Judith, this world would be perfect. His belly was full and he was not too hot, not cold. He felt safe and he was with his friends. And Joseph. He would like to have Joseph back, also sitting up front with Judith. It would be a tight fit, the three of them up there, Judith and Moe and Joseph.
Most of all he liked having Maribelle next to him.
Adam hoped the swamp would be as nice as the little world inside Judith’s SUV.
“Not too far now,” Maribelle said. “We’re almost home.”
Adam reached out and laid his paw—his hand—on top of hers. She didn’t pull it away. The feel of her hand, her soft skin against his palm caused his heartbeat to quicken. He sighed with contentment. All was right in the world.