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I’m not too sure what made us think that this road trip was a good idea, but regardless of the brain lapses we had, Jess and I were now on our way across the country. Two 18 year olds and an orange Volkswagen van. What could possibly go wrong?
“We have everything, right?” I asked, pulling onto the thruway.
Silence answered me and I glanced at Jess rummaging through her bag most likely searching for a cigarette.
“Check behind your ear dumba**.” I yelled to her, changing into the fast lane. Through the corner of my eye I watched her hand slowly glide up the side of her head and pull the white cancer stick out from behind her ear and through her hair.
“What would I do without you?” She asked, lighting it up and inhaling. She took a long drag and blew it directly out the window as to not get it in my face.
“Die faster than you’re already killing yourself with those things.” I replied with a sly smile. She flipped me off with her free hand and I blew her a kiss. “Put some music on, you’re boring me.”
“So demanding.” She said, shaking her head as she flipped the radio on.
“I wouldn’t be so demanding if someone had a license and someone could help me drive this cross country road trip but someone is an a**hole.” I emphasized, holding back laughter.
“You know what…” she trailed off, focusing back on the music. She flipped through a few stations until she finally landed on a station that was bearable enough for the both of us. “Where are we stopping first?”
“Wherever the car breaks down.” I said, speeding up. My plan was to get to California by Thursday and stop for absolute emergencies only.
“F***.” Jess yelled, throwing the contents of her bag all around my car.
“Way to scare the driver, genius.” I said gripping the steering wheel in shock.
“Pull over as soon as possible.” She said in a panic. So, like a good friend, I pulled over that second.
“Breathe. What’s going on?” I asked, trying to calm her down.
“No what are you doing keep driving to the next gas station!” she yelled almost jumping into my seat to turn the car back on.
“Do you need a tampon or something, because we packed enough for an army!” I said reaching into the back of the car attempting to pull one of our many bags out.
“No, seriously Riley, this is serious.” She said with a look of panic in her eyes.
“It’s seriously serious?” I asked, eyeing the contents of her bag that were now sprawled all over the front of my car. “Like you’re dying? Do I need to find a hospital?”
“Worse.” She said sternly. “I forgot all of my cigarettes.”
“Are you ****ing kidding me? You made me pull over and almost crash because you can’t have your rolled up cancer?!” that really pissed me off. This was gonna be a long trip.
“Just pull into the next gas station, I’ve got cash.” She said as if it were no big deal.
“I hate you so much.” I said, restarting the car. Or attempting to restart the car.
I put the key back in the ignition and turned it fully. It would rev, make a loud clicking noise three times and then the revving would stop and it was silent.
“S***.” I said resting my head on the wheel. It was about time this car got taken off the road. The problem was that I didn’t want to be in it and using it when that day came. “Well, looks like we’re walking to California.”
“My lungs can barely carry me from my house to yours. We live down the street from each other.” Jess replied with a scared look on her face. “Plus our bags.”
“Relax princess, I’m just kidding.” I said as I got out of the car.
I walked around front and lifted the hood of the car like they do in movies, pretending I knew what I was doing. As the hood creaked open and I heard a low sizzling sound, I knew we were in trouble.
“Jess…” I yelled, poking around my smoking engine. “We’ve got a problem.”
She joined me in front of the car and I watched her eyes widen when she saw the mess that was the inside of our car.
“S***.” She said simply.
“My thoughts exactly.” I said, rubbing my temples. “Okay, time to get help.”
I walked to the side of the road waiting for someone to see us in distress and pull over. The summer sun was getting higher in the sky and the temperature was rising by the minute. I started contemplating ways to kill Jess and get away with it considering this predicament we were in was 100% her fault.
“Do we call triple A or something?” Jess asked.
“What other choice do we have?” I asked bitterly. I picked up my phone and dialed the number that was thankfully saved after many other less serious car issues.
I waited on the phone for fifteen minutes and then we were stuck waiting for the tow truck for another half hour. Jess and I didn’t speak much because she knew how pissed I was. She offered me food and drinks but other than that, I kept to myself, thinking about how the best part of summer might be ruined.
“Truck’s here.” Jess said with a little bit of enthusiasm as a large tow truck and a white van pulled up behind us. Two young guys around our age jumped out of the van, followed by a burly old man who, after struggling out of the truck, started waddling towards us.
“Riley?” he asked in a low growl. This man reminded me of my childhood interpretations of Satan. Short and fat with a permanent angered look on his face, sun burnt red from long days of dealing with idiots like me.
“Yeah, that’s me.” I replied in a slightly happier tone as to try to get on this guy’s good side.
He questioned me for a little while longer and Jess watched the two younger guys stare in confusion at the mess we had gotten ourselves into. After about 10 minutes of all three men toying around, it seemed as if we had all reached the general conclusion that my car was ****ed.
“Well, there’s not much we can do besides tow it.” The man said. “You can throw your bags in the van and the boys will take you to where you need to go.”
“Just take it to the junk yard.” I said, rolling my eyes. “What’s the most I can get for it? A dollar and a pack of cigarettes?”
“Maybe two bucks.” One of the boys laughed.
“I’ll tell you what.” The man said, reaching his blackened hands into the back pockets of his jeans. “I’ll give you a thousand bucks for the car because I can use the parts.”
“Do we still get the free ride to wherever we want to go?” I asked looking at the boys who were clearly entertained by this deal making.
“And the cigarettes?” Jess chimed in, backing away as I shot her a death glare. Satan man laughed.
“Yes girly, I’ll give you a pack.” He said, counting crisp hundred dollar bills.
“Deal.” I said, shaking his hand. “Thanks…” I trailed off, looking for a nametag as to properly thank him.
“Sam.” He said. “And these are my boys, Brendon and Martin.” They walked over for the proper introduction and both had nametags so it was easier to tell who was who.
They were both about the same height, about six foot, but that was the only similarity. Brendon was very skinny, and not the most muscular. His hair was black and looked like he took care of it more than I took care of my own. His eyes were dark and he had a very big mouth. I assumed he was a musician given the plaid shirt that stuck out from under his uniform and the guitar pick that hung from the silver chain on his neck. Martin was very opposite.
He too stood at a little over six foot, but was much more muscularly built. He had short blonde hair that looked like he had just rolled out of bed, but it worked. He had bright blue eyes and a crisp white smile. His uniform was zipped down to reveal a deep v-neck and very prominent collarbones. His lightly tanned skin made me think that he spent every waking hour of the day in the sun.
“I’m Riley.” I said, flashing a smile to both of them. Brendon reached out to shake my hand while returning the smile. Martin ran his hands through his hair while giving me a once over as if her were doing to me what I had just done to him and his brother.
“Pleasure.” He replied softly, with a smile. I couldn’t tell if he was just shy or insanely tired.
“Alright. Help them with their bags and you guys are done for the day.” Sam growled as he looked at his cell phone, most likely backed up with other auto-emergencies. “I’ll see you at home.”
“You girls got bags?” Brendon asked, looking through the front windshield of our broken car.
“A few.” I laughed to myself. We were two girls on a cross country roadtrip. Clearly, we had more than a few bags.
“Well let’s get to it.” Martin said, eyes still on me. “We’ve gotta get you girls…wait, where are you going?” Jess and I shared a glance.
“Do you want the truth or what you want to hear?” I asked with a smile.
“I want to hear that you live on the next exit, but I think the truth is that you’re going someplace far, far away.” Martin said, leaning against the hunk of orange metal.
“California.” I said as I watched both of their eyes widen.
“How the f*** are we supposed to get you guys to California?” Brendon asked, as he started unloading our bags.
“No way.” Martin shook his head. “Not happening.”
“Well it’s not like we were going to ask you to take us!” I said defensively but upset.
We couldn’t really go back home either though, since both of our parents were away for the two weeks that we were supposed to be gone.
“So what’s the plan?” Brendon asked, still unloading.
“I’ve got a plan.” Martin said, a spark lighting in his eyes.
I tilted my head and he flashed me a smile, walking over to his brother. Jess slid to my side and we stared at them as they stole glances at us amidst their whispering.
“What if they kill us?” She asked, lighting one of Sam’s cigarettes.
“I hope they kill you first so I can watch, since this is entirely your fault.” I replied, still wondering what was going on.
”Fair enough.” She said, inhaling again.
“So when did you girls plan on going home?” Martin asked, trying to hide a smile.
“Home?” I asked, getting nervous. I didn’t want this little trip back home to turn into an episode of CSI or 60 Minutes.
“We’re not going to kill you.” Brendon said, also hiding a smile. “Do you guys want to hang around with us for a little?”
“A little being…” I trailed off.
“We can hang out for the day, and we’ll take it from there.” Martin said, lifting one of our last bags into the back of the van. His muscles flexed with his every movement and I was convinced that his body possessed absolutely no fat.
“Give us a minute.” I said, grabbing Jess’s wrist as if we were going to debate over what we were going to do.
The reality was that we had absolutely no choice, and even if we did, we’d do what I wanted since Jess was on my s*** list until we reached California. IF that ever happened.
“I say we go with them.” She said looking over at the two boys. I saw her eyes rest on Brendon and I rolled my eyes.
“Is that you, or your sex drive talking?” I asked sarcastically.
“They’re both hot, come on Riles.” She said with a small smile. “I know that he’s your type.”
“Who?” I asked, hiding my smile. “Martin? No. Not at all!”
“What’s the harm in hanging out for one day?” she asked, her big brown eyes begging me to say yes.
“One day.” I said, rubbing my temples. “But I’m sacrificing you if they turn out to be serial killers.”
“Deal.” She said, nearly sprinting over to Brendon to strike up a conversation.
“Little sister?” Martin asked, laughing to himself.
“Older best friend, actually.” I replied, helping with the last bags.
“I could see that too.” He replied, looking at me, his blue eyes almost studying me.
I became conscious of how I looked, and tried to see myself through his eyes. Looking down, I saw a short and slim eighteen year old girl, just barely over five feet tall. She had long brown hair that was tied back in a braid, with some bangs hanging in her dark brown eyes. I saw a nose ring, lots of ear piercings and part of one of my tattoos sticking out from behind my left ear. I wore a loose tank top over ripped shorts, and black Toms. I couldn’t pinpoint anything wrong with how I looked, but suddenly I cared a lot more than I did this morning.
“Are you and him really brothers?” I asked, purely out of curiosity due to their lack of physical resemblance.
“Step.” He said shortly. I could tell I hit a nerve and that this was not a conversation he wanted to have with a random girl that he was literally picking up off of the side of the highway.
“Oh.” I said, looking at Jess and Brendon laughing and seeming like five year olds in a candy store. Anything to avoid the almost pained look on Martin’s face.
“I’ll tell you some other time.” He replied, patting my back. “Are you ready to go?”
“I am, yeah.” I said, my heartbeat quickening for some reason. “Yeah let’s go.”