For a moment, she was adrift. Not that she had lost her bearings. Amy had lost her place in time. Emerging from within, she did not know for one bizarre instant whether it was morning or afternoon, weekend or weekday, like a baby not yet grasping the reality of its birth. Once back in the present, she could not recall what had prompted the episode. Only the mood lingered -- tranquil, almost divine.

Amy looked about. Tranquility left. She hated taking the bus. The collection of unshowered travellers, the bumpy ride -- it all made her slightly carsick. Only people spoiled with a whatever-you-want-dear upbringing couldn't stand the bus, so she kept her complaints to herself.

Carl always said that Amy went along with the flow and encouraged her to be more assertive. He was probably right. She tended not to take the initiative. Carl told her that she should start by doing something new, like traveling somewhere on her own. "It might be fun," she told herself, or were those Carl's words?

Amy loved Carl, at least, she never felt about anyone else the way she felt about him. Certainly no one had ever cared for her like Carl did. He took an interest in her; tried to improve her. She had to admit she was flattered by the attention, and a bit surprised.

Amy looked out the window, watching the last vestiges of the city surrender reluctantly to farmland. Each year it took longer to get out of the city. The fields knew their days were numbered. 'The fields should make hay while they can,' she laughed quietly to herself. Amy knew not to inflict a joke like that on her family. She would be softly reminded that puns are the lowest form of humour.

Going away might be nice. Away from home she had no one to please but herself. She could revel in lowly puns. And no one would comment if she wore her hair up or back or loose. Amy sat up in her seat. She felt exhilarated, like when she drove down a tree-canopied road alone in the afternoon. These moments of bliss too, she shared with no one.

Reaching into her bag for an apple, Amy came across the pamphlets she had gathered for her trip; one on Niagara-on-the-Lake, one on its Shaw festival, and one on the Falls. Her father said it would be crazy to be 15 minutes away from Niagara Falls and not to visit. Carl agreed. Amy had been to the Falls twice. She was aware that she was supposed to be left breathless, but the fact was that the Falls did not awe her. She realised that, for once, there would be no one to make her go. Not that she had ever been forced exactly. Yes, she could skip the Falls. She could do what she pleased. Maybe Carl had been right. She always went along with the flow.

She looked a long while for a destination, until she caught an advertisement for the Shaw Festival. Amy loved the immediacy of the theatre. She read any plays she could find: Albee, Ibsen, Pinter, but she rarely saw a performance. Whose fault was that? She never suggested buying tickets and her friends never brought it up. "Self-inflicted injury," Carl would say. It was an expression he liked to insert into their conversations.

Amy watched the interchangeable small towns go by. A blue jay in flight caught her eye. Was the sky often so striking? Hadn't she noticed? What else had she overlooked?

The bus rolled into town. The main street was overrun with flowers. Amy walked the few blocks to Heron House where she would be staying. "Each romantic bedroom is fitted with antique linen, en-suite baths, and wicker," the brochure promised. It was even better than she had imagined. An expansive farmhouse, with rustic, plywood floors, delicate handmade curtains and a great, comforting oversized bed. This was just the sort of place she would love to live in year-round.

Amy was scheduled to move in with Carl to the 17th floor of the new Mercury Tower building. Carl would be moving his things from his meticulously decorated minimalistic studio apartment -- and what would she be bringing?

The apartment would be beautiful, so everyone would say -- metal, white upholstery, straight lines. When she said that she preferred to live somewhere with a more homey atmosphere, her opinion seemed to evaporate. Her desires were as effervescent as a dream that one tries to remember in the morning. Had she not expressed them?

Amy removed her clothes and lay on top of the antique linen bedspread. She saw the filtered orange light of the afternoon sun through her closed eyes. She felt more at ease with herself than she had for a long time. Her home life seemed distant now. Amy remembered the blank canvas, brushes and oils sitting unpacked in her bag. A vision of a painting appeared in her mind, complete; wide slashes of burnt sienna and ochre. If she tried she could finish the canvas in time to hang it in their apartment when they moved in.

Amy was right. The journey had been a good idea.

About the author:

Ruth Almon is living precariously with her two kids and evil cat in a building on the verge of collapse. When not working on her fiction, Ruth writes educational material and gives computer lessons to grannies.