Kasey Hill – Author & Poet
Larissa had scooted over to John, and he put his arm around her. Duke still sat on the other side of the car breaking into the 12 pack he had bought where they filled the car up. Michala sat staring out the window. It had been a long time since she had been on a road trip, but she had never been cross country before.
John stole glances at her through the rear view mirror watching her peer out the window. He was jolted from one of his glances when he felt a hand go between his legs.
“What are you doing?” he asked Larissa annoyed.
“I thought you would like a treat as we drove,” she said removing her hand.
“It would be too hard to focus on driving,’ he said laughing. She scooted back over to her seat scowling at him.
“Michala wanna switch seats with me. I’m getting tired,” Larissa said turning around in her seat to face Michala.
Michala shrugged her shoulders, “I don’t mind,” she said climbing over the front seat and switching places with Larissa.
Larissa made a pillow with her jacket against the door and started to doze. Duke murmured something under his breath and threw the empty beer bottle out the window. He took a cue from Larissa, pulled his hat down low, and adjusted himself to sleep as well.
Michala scooted closer to John and leaned her head on his shoulder. He wrapped his arm around her. The other two didn’t care what or how they expressed their friendship. They knew coming into the relationship how close of friends they were and never bothered speaking up against their actions.
“So what were you back there thinking about while admiring the tumbleweeds?” John chided.
She elbowed him in the ribs chuckling, “Everything, what my next steps are, how I’m going to get to those next steps, just everything,” she said swiping a fallen piece of hair out of her face.
“You know what’s best for you,” he said tickling her side.
She laughed smacking his hand away.
“Ok, I couldn’t resist, I’m sorry,” he said wrapping his arm back around her.
She sunk into his side deeper breathing in the smell of his cologne. She loved the smell of his cologne. She felt a pluck on her forehead and opened her eyes, as John laughed putting his hand back on the wheel.
“You’re such an ass,” she said laughing flicking him back.
“Oh, it’s on. The flick war has started,” he said preparing to flick her again.
“I call truce,” she said leaning away throwing her hands up in front of her face.
“Ok, ok truce,” he said and she flicked him again.
They both laughed. They watched the sign as they drove by “Leaving California, entering Nevada.”
“One state down and like 20 more to go,” she said joking.
They both got quiet for a minute or two.
“Thank you for my rose, you were the only one who gave me flowers on graduation,” she said looking up to his face.
“I have no clue what you’re talking about. Delusional, delusional. Where’s the asylum?” he said laughing and looking around as she punched him in the arm.
“Ha ha, funny,” she said sarcastically.
“You’re welcome,” he said smiling looking down at her.
“I haven’t read the letter yet, what’s it say?” she asked reaching around to grab her purse from the back seat.
“Read it and find out. If I wanted to say it out loud, I wouldn’t have written it,” he said back grinning.
“You’re such an ass!” she said punching him in the arm again.
“Seriously, though, can you wait til were not in a car full of people to read it. I do have my reputation to uphold you know,” he said laughing.
Before she could throw another punch he yelled, “Truce!”
She fished the letter from her purse and he grew silent and stared at the road. She flipped open the flap of the envelope and saw something shiny in the bottom of the envelope. It was a ring. She didn’t know what to do next.
“Anybody hungry?” John yelled out waking the two in the back seat.
“I could eat a human!” Duke yelled back.
John pulled into the parking lot of a Swiss Burger joint. Everyone hopped out besides Michala.
“I’ll catch up with yall in a minute. I’m going to change clothes,” she said hoping the distraction was excuse enough.
“Ok,” everyone said.
John watched her walk to the trunk and get some clothes from her bag.
“Be careful out here by yourself,” he said following the other two inside.
“I will,” she said slipping back in the car to change.
She waited until everyone was out of sight and reopened the letter. The ring fell out into her purse and she picked it up and looked at it. It was a simple gold ring with a small diamond on top of it. She was nervous to read the letter, but she unfolded the pages and began to read.
Seeing you today walk across that stage and deliver that speech made me realize how short life is. We’ve been through everything together as friends. Friends. We’ve been friends for so long, I can hardly remember a moment without you in my life. I don’t want to go another minute without you still in my life. I’m breaking up with Larissa tonight. I know you and Duke are on the ropes. This is my one chance to have what I’ve wanted for years. You. I love you. I always have. This ring is my promise to you. I will be right here when you get back from whatever adventures you go off to have. My heart is your heart from now until eternity. I got the ring size from your mom, so its sized to fit. Now bring the ring inside the restaurant we’re stopped at because I know you made some excuse to stay outside and read this letter. Get to moving punk I’m waiting for you.
She was speechless. She hurriedly put the dress on she fished out of her suitcase. She put some makeup on and was brushing her hair when she heard a tap at the window. She looked out and saw a strange man standing there.
“Excuse me, can you tell me how to get to Stewart, we’re lost and can’t find a map,” he said. She looked him over and his mannerisms as well as his dressing style was fairly unusual. He had on a black suit with his hair slicked back. She glanced over to his vehicle which was a nice Jaguar. She assumed the woman in the seat was his wife. Both of them had pale complexions.
“I’m sorry, I’m not from around here and my driver is the one with the directions. He programs it in his head,” she said smiling.
The man did not smile back, and he didn’t find her joke amusing in the least.
“Thank you for your time,” he said and walked back to his vehicle, got in, and pulled away from the diner. The woman stared at her as they drove past the vehicle.
Her concentration was broken when she heard yelling, “You’re such a slime ball!”
It was Larissa. She could guess that they just broke up. She got out of the car and walked toward the burger joint, “You okay?” she asked.
“Did you know he was going to break up with me? Well, of course you did, you two are probably screwing around behind my back aren’t ya?” Larissa said with her eyes squinted in hate.
“No, I didn’t-“ Michala began.
“Whatever, I’ll be waiting in the car!” she yelled as she jumped in the backseat.
Michala was hesitant to walk inside now. She looked through the window and saw John with his fingers pursed over his eyes. Duke stood from his seat and walked to the door running into Michala.
“Did you know they were busting up?” he asked her through a glare.
“No,” she said quietly.
“Sure, sure you didn’t because you two aren’t the closest of friends I’ve ever seen between a guy and a girl. Just admit it, you knew he was breaking up with her. That’s why you ended it with me,” he said angrily.
“No, I ended it with you because you’re a two-bit cheating man whore!” she yelled at him pushing past him to go inside.
He grabbed her forearm and saw John stand up from the table. “This isn’t over,” he said throwing her arm back down.
She didn’t know how to act now. She was embarrassed by the actions of the two towards her. She knew once she read the letter how they would react to John breaking up with Larissa. She pushed the door open to the burger joint and walked over to John and sat down across from him. He had his hand over his eyes in aggravation.
“You okay,” she asked grabbing his hand on the table.
He pulled his hand away from hers, “Yea, I’m fine,” he said in a monotonous tone.
She didn’t know how to react to him pulling his hand away.
“We’re finished eating. If you want to eat take your time. I’m going to the car to sit,” he said standing up with their trays of trash.
“Oh, well I’m…I’m not hungry,” she said standing up and putting the ring she held in her one palm back into the purse.
She didn’t understand the reason he was acting the way he was to her. She walked in front of him out of the diner and back to the car. She got in the car but didn’t scoot back close to him. Instead, she curled her legs up underneath her and lay her head against the window. John started the car, and they drove away from the diner in silence.
It was about an hour later when John broke the silence.
“Who was that man that was talking to you in the parking lot at that burger joint?” he asked looking over to Michala.
“Just someone asking for directions,” she replied and returned her attention back to a book she had brought along for the trip. Her mother had bought her a reading light so she could read on car trips when they visited her grandmother in Washington.
“They looked strange,” he said trying to continue conversation.
“Yup,” she replied keeping to herself and the book.
He didn’t like them not talking to one another. It was making him antsy, and he really wanted to pull over and talk but knew he couldn’t because of the other two disgruntled passengers.
“What are you reading?” he asked.
“A book,” she replied.
“What’s it about smart ass?” he said annoyed.
“This girl’s best friend professed his love to her through a letter and gave her a ring and then totally blew her off when she came to him over it,” she retorted while flipping a page.
It sank in. He knew she was going to read it, but Larissa exploding the way she did made him forget completely about writing the letter.
“Michala,” he started.
“Save it. It doesn’t matter,” she said closing her book and lying her head against the car door.
Great, he thought to himself, now everyone is mad at me.
It was around 3 am when he woke Duke up.
“Hey man, you care to drive?” he asked yawning.
“Not at all,” Duke replied while stretching.
John pulled the car over and the two switched spots.
“Just stay on this highway until you hit Colorado. Wake me up, and I’ll tell you which highway to take,” he said jumping in the back.
He had been driving for 12 hours and needed the break. He pulled his hoody hood over his head and stuffed his hands in the pocket of it. He leaned his head against the window but not to look outside. He fell asleep staring at Michala in the front seat.