Kasey Hill – Author & Poet
“How the hell could you mess up this bad!”
John awoke to the sun beaming in his eyes and the arguing outside the car. He sat up in the seat and looked around to see where they were. They were back at the diner they had left last night.
“I did exactly what John said. He said to stay on the highway and wake him when we hit Colorado. I made no turns, no turn arounds, nothing,” Duke yelled back at Larissa.
“Hey, hey! It’s okay. We’ll get something to eat and then just start back on the road. It’s no big deal. There was probably an exit and this was a bypass highway that looped around,” John said pulling his hoody off.
“Whatever,” Larissa said walking to the burger joint.
“I’m sorry man, I-“ Duke began.
“It’s ok, no worries,” John said popping the trunk and changing his shirt.
He glanced through the window at Michala still reading in the front seat.
“You coming in?” he asked.
“Not hungry,” she replied turning the page.
“It might be the last stop for a while,” he said trying to urge her out of the car.
“Not hungry,” she replied yet again.
“I’ll bring you something back,” he said standing up from the window.
She was pissed at him and had good reason to be. He walked inside with the other two and ordered his meal and something for Michala. Instead of sitting inside with Larissa and Duke, he walked back outside to eat in the car.
The same car that had stopped last night beside theirs was stopped there again. Instead of the man this time, it was the woman underneath of an umbrella talking to Michala.
“Are you sure you don’t have directions,” she asked Michala.
“We got lost ourselves last night and ended up back here,” Michala said sympathetically.
She noticed John walking out of the diner, “John, maybe you can give them directions. They’re looking for…what was it…Stewart?” Michala asked the woman.
“Yes,” replied the woman.
“You past it about 50 miles back south,” John replied. “Head south on this road and take the first exit you see. That’ll put you on your way to Stewart,” he said stopping in front of the woman.
She had sunglasses on. Her hair was dark nearly black in color and she wore the most peculiar dress that looked like a Latin dancing dress. She was the palest person he had ever met before.
“Thank you, young man,” she said walking back to the car. In the sunlight, the tint was so dark, you couldn’t see inside like you could last night.
“You’re welcome,” he said waving his hand.
He climbed in the driver door and looked over at Michala who was watching them pull away.
“What is it?” he asked.
“I don’t know. Whenever they talk to me, it’s like, like I can’t ignore them. Like I HAVE to talk to them. I can’t explain it,” she said still slightly mystified after their departure.
“I got ya some grub,” John said handing the bag of food over to her.
“Thanks, I’m hungry all of a sudden,” she said opening the bag to see what he got her.
She pulled out the fries and started going to town eating. It was unusual behavior for her, but then again she didn’t eat last night neither, which was John’s fault.
“Here’s your drink too,” he said handing her the cup that the diner offered for drink.
She gulped it down and ate the hamburger that was in the bag. She had everything ate in under five minutes.
“I’d say you were hungry,” John said slowly chewing the food in his mouth.
She looked over at his food and then to his face. He smiled. He got the hint and handed the burger over to her along with his fries.
“Thank you,” she said taking a bite of his burger.
“No problem,” he said laughing while chewing his bite of food.
She had slowed down eating and was chewing at a normal pace. He watched her start to nitpick at the food, her tell-tale sign that she was full but didn’t want people knowing she was.
“Give it back,” he laughed taking the burger and fries back.
She continued chewing the mouthful of food as the quiet proceeded to settle in between the two of them.
“Look, about last night,” John began.
“Don’t worry about,” she said looking out the window.
“No, I truly am sorry. Things slipped my mind once I broke it off with Larissa then got the eighth degree from Duke. Apparently, they both think we were screwing around behind their backs,” he said balling the burger wrapper up and tossing it in the bag. “Everything I said in that letter, I meant every word of it,” he said pulling the ring from his pocket.
“Hey, how’d you get that? It was in my-“
“Purse,” he said smiling.
“You little sneak,” she scoffed.
“Michala, I wanted to do this last night, but better late than never,” he said holding the ring up in between them. “I’ve loved you since the day you moved in next door. No matter who I have dated, I couldn’t take my mind off of you. We spent so much time together just being ourselves, we never really did pay much mind to dating each other,” he said taking her hand in his. “I’m not asking you to marry me, I’m asking you to promise to be mine forever,” he said putting the promise ring on her finger.
She couldn’t say anything back, but didn’t get the chance to. He ran his hand up her cheek and pulled her in for their very first kiss with each other. His hands slid from her face to her hair, and she put her arms around his neck. He pulled her across the bench seat of the car closer to him. He kissed her and pulled back numerous times to look at her face. He brushed her hair back from her face and trailed his finger down her cheek.
“I’m sooo ready for the beach,” she said smiling at him.
He smiled back and kissed her one more time. She sat back down in her seat that had gotten hot due to the sun beaming on it. So, she scooted to the middle of the bench seat. Duke and Larissa made their way from the diner and climbed in the backseat.
“Everyone ready to go?” John asked.
Everyone chimed an answer of yes, and once again, they started off in the direction of Colorado.
Duke started in on the remaining beer left from his 12 pack and offered one to everyone in the car. Larissa accepted while Michala and John declined.
“You know that stuff makes me car sick,” Michala said looking at the beer disgusted.
“I’m driving,” John said laughing.
“You both lost your cool when you graduated school,” Duke laughed and chugged his beer.
John turned the radio on and everyone sang along to the radio. Michala scooted closer to him but he dared not put his arm around her in front of Larissa. He wanted a peaceful trip. The two knew mutually not to let the cat out of the bag about themselves. As John glanced in the rearview, he saw Larissa and Duke quietly talking in the backseat. She was already putting the moves on him, and he was openly flirting back. He hadn’t known that Michala and Duke had called it quits already, unless Duke was trying to make her jealous with his actions.
They had been driving for hours and nightfall was hitting when they came upon lights to the right.
“How in the hell….” John muttered and pulled over in the parking lot.
The diner they were at earlier was the final resting spot.
“See, I told yall,” Duke said leaning over toward the passenger window.
“There were no exits or anything. How is this possible?” Michala asked looking over to John.
“I don’t know,” he said putting the car in park. “Let me go ask them for directions,” he said jumping out and heading in the diner.
“This is way too creepy,” Larissa chimed in the backseat.
It hadn’t been but a few seconds that John had entered the diner that the Jaguar rolled up beside them.
“Well, I see we are all having the same experience,” the gentleman said getting out of his car.
A panic flew through Michala. A gut feeling was telling her somehow they were the ones responsible for this but she couldn’t say it out loud.
“Are yall lost too?” Larissa asked climbing out of the car.
Duke was about to do the same when Michala turned around and shook her head no.
“We have been trying to get to Stewart and followed the other young lad’s advice and still ended up right back here,” he said motioning to the car.
The woman then got out of the car and walked over beside the gentleman. Her eyes burned into Michala’s and she had to look away.
“Our friend is inside getting directions from the diner,” Larissa replied back to the gentleman.
“It won’t be any good. They couldn’t give us directions,” he replied back.
Michala pulled her cell phone out of her purse, and to her dismay, there was no signal. She felt uneasy with the strangers and there was a lull to them that made her look back to them. The woman was still watching her. She withdrew her gaze from the woman to the diner but couldn’t help peaking at her.
John walked from the diner’s doors muttering and cussing.
“So, what they say?” Michala asked glancing uneasily over at their guests.
“They couldn’t tell me anything. Useless!” he replied angrily.
He then noticed the guests at the car and slowed his steps. He looked over at Michala. Her face was white as a ghost, and she slightly shook her head relaying an unspoken message. Hearing John’s voice, the man and woman turned their gaze toward him.
“Ah, there’s the young lad. I see you’re having the same problem as we are,” he said walking toward John.
“Yea, it’s weird we drove four hours away from the diner and still ended up right back where we started,” he replied making his way over to the driver’s door. “Larissa, get back in the car. We’re going to head back towards the house and reroute,” John said jumping in the driver’s seat.
“It was nice meeting yall,” Larissa said turning around and getting back in the car.
“The pleasure is ours,” the woman said following suit.
John started the car, turned around on the highway, and drove back the way they had initially started from. It wasn’t until the lights of the diner disappeared that Michala spoke up.
“Did you feel it too?” she asked looking over at John.
“Yea, I did,” he replied.
“What are yall talking about?” Duke asked leaning up to hear them.
“The last two times we were there, they were too. I just got a creepy feeling about them. I mean how odd is it we’re heading in two different directions and are both getting lost ending up back in the same spot we started?” Michala asked looking from John to Duke.
“Well, I think they’re nice people,” Larissa said scornfully.
“That’s only your first time meeting them. I mean they’re looking for a place less than 50 miles away, driving a Jaguar, and dressed like the Addams’s family. Come on now?” Michala said irritated. “You don’t feel what I do when they come around. It’s like I can’t talk unless spoken too. I can’t think or anything. I’m just drawn into them. I can’t explain it,” Michala said sitting back right in her seat.
Everyone was silent. Michala never talked like this before and it was odd.
“Maybe we should just head home,” Duke offered. “Maybe this trip wasn’t meant to be.”
“Bull! I did not leave the state of California just to be rushed back to it because we’re lost on a highway. We’re going to the beach!” Larissa exclaimed.
“Larissa is right. We should just continue on to the beach,” Michala said solemnly.
John looked over at her. She was just staring straight ahead expressionless.
“Michala, are you okay,” John asked.
She just kept staring straight ahead without responding.
“Michala!” he yelled a bit too loud.
She jumped from being startled and looked over at him. The look on her face terrified him.
“Are you okay?” he asked pulling over on the side of the road.
She trembled and couldn’t speak. She looked into the rear view mirror as headlights appeared.
“Go,” she whispered. “Go! Its them!” she yelled as John saw the headlights in the mirror as well.
He put the car in drive and hit the gas speeding off. He was gaining speed and the headlights were being lost in the space between the two vehicles. He saw a side road and veered off onto it hoping to lose their followers. The road led to an abandoned cabin where he turned the engine and lights off. They heard a car fly by the road in the direction they had been heading. All was quiet.
The four of them climbed out of the car and gathered in front of the house.
“Now this is what creepy looks like,” Larissa said snidely.
“It’s not that bad,” John said walking up the front steps. One of the boards began to creak and bow under his weight and he jumped to the next. “Be careful walking up.”
They each took the steps carefully one by one so the steps didn’t give away to all of their weight. John pushed the cabin door open and walked inside. It was completely bare inside.
“Hello?” he called out.
There was no answer.
“It’s safe to say its empty,” he said walking further into the house.
The rest of the group followed in uneasy. The windows had been busted out and boarded up haphazardly. The curtains were shredded and barely clung to the rods above the windows. There were spider webs everywhere and newspaper littered the floor. It looked as if homeless people crashed here every once in a while.
“Let’s crash here tonight so we know we’re driving the right way tomorrow,” John said turning around to everyone.
“Are you nuts?” Larissa asked.
“I’d rather stay here than have some lunatic searching the roads for us,” John retorted.
Larissa didn’t say anything back.
“Okay, its settled. Duke, help me get the stuff out the car. I have some camping gear packed in case we broke down somewhere,” John said walking to the door.
Duke turned around and made his way carefully down the steps. The two guys unloaded the car and brought everyone’s stuff inside. John broke open one of the bags and pulled out his camping gear. He turned on a camping lamp for everyone to see inside the room.
“I have one more if anyone wants to sleep in another room tonight,” he said setting it over to the side.
He unpacked four sleeping bags, some pillows, and blankets. He pulled out a case of waters and a case of sodas and loaded the cooler packed with ice with drinks.
“I have some bread and peanut butter also,” he said holding up the loaf of bread and peanut butter for everyone to see.
Everyone grabbed a sleeping bag. Michala unrolled hers in the middle of the floor and put a pillow and blanket on it. John unrolled his a few feet away from her and followed the same steps. Larissa and Duke hesitated.
“Duke and I…are going to sleep in a different room. I just don’t like the idea anyone can open that front door and walk in here with us,” she said picking up the sleeping bag, blanket, and pillow for her.
Everyone was quiet.
“Why don’t yall really tell us the reason why,” Michala said looking at the two of them.
Duke and Larissa exchanged glanced with one another.
“You know?” Duke asked.
“I’m not stupid, Duke. We were breaking up before this trip, and you showed up at my door with her. Come on now, I’m not naïve,” she said shaking her head.
“And both of you are okay with this?” Larissa asked looking from Michala to John.
“We’re all friends. It’s cool,” John said.
“Well, ok then. Goodnight you two,” Larissa said smirking.
She and Duke walked up the stairs to one of the rooms and shut the door. John and Michala could hear giggling.
“Well, those two are going to get drunk tonight,” John said smirking.
“Huh?” Michala asked.
“He took his other 12 pack with him upstairs,” John said pointing to where the 12 pack had sat.
“Oh,” Michala said.
“You look distracted. Are you okay with those two…being together?” John asked scooting his sleeping bag closer to her.
“Of course, why wouldn’t I be? They didn’t admit to sneaking around behind our backs with each other at all,” she said flopping down on her sleeping bag. “You have no idea what it’s like to be cheated on over and over,” she said tying her hair up in a ponytail.
“Yes, I do. It’s one reason it was so easy ending it with Larissa. They have been sneaking around a lot longer than you knew,” he said setting down on his sleeping bag.
She looked over at him, “You knew this whole time and didn’t tell me?”
He looked down to the floor, “I caught them once together in her dad’s car. They swore it was the first and last time…I didn’t want to break your heart being the one who told you,” he said looking up at her.
She sighed, “Well, they got the cue from us. Even though we weren’t dating we acted like we were,” she said situating herself under her blanket.
John took his shirt off. He scooted closer to her and lay back on his pillow with his one arm under his head and the other outstretched for her. She lay down on his arm and curled up beside of him pulling her blanket up over her shoulder. He wrapped his arm around her and kissed her forehead, an age old gesture the two shared. She let out a sign and traced her finger on his chest. She looked up to his eyes and saw them looking right back at her.
“It was obvious how you felt about me,” she said smiling.
“Oh, how so?” he asked flirtatiously.
“You were always staring at me in your rearview mirror, duh,” she said laughing.
He laughed with her, then it grew quiet.
“John, I have something to tell you,” she said biting her bottom lip.
“What’s that?” he asked looking down at her again.
“It’s about college,” she said timidly.
“What about it?” he asked.
“I’m thinking of going to school on the east coast,” she said.
She waited for his response. He was silent.
“There’s this really great program that I’m interested, and I got accepted,” she said.
He still didn’t respond.
“John?” she asked trying to get him to talk.
“Why didn’t you tell me this before?” he asked in irritation.
“Because I didn’t want you getting upset. I was going to tell you when we got to the beach,” she said wishing she hadn’t brought it up.
He sat up and folded his hands together in front of him while resting them on his knees.
“You can’t go that far!” he yelled.
It startled her. She had never seen him this upset before.
“I thought you would be happy for me,” she said sitting up beside him.
“How can I visit you if your 3,000 miles away?” he asked looking at her.
“The decision was made long before your plans came into motion,” she said crossing her arms.
“Please don’t go…” he begged.
“I have no fall back schools. This is the only chance I have. They have an awesome scholarship that I was given to even go,” she said.
“I will pay for your college tuition anywhere else in California,” he said looking at her. “Please, don’t go. Don’t leave me behind.”
“Why don’t you come with me?” she asked.
“I don’t belong on the east coast,” he replied.
They were both silent.
“You promised that no matter where I went, you would be here waiting for my return. Did you mean that?” she asked.
He sighed, “Of course I did,” he said wrapping his arm around her. “It’s just the same day we decide to have a relationship; you drop this on me.”
“I know, but would you have rather me wait til the day of?” she asked.
He pulled her closer to him. He didn’t want her to go and she was too stubborn to change her mind in not going. He was getting ready to reply when there was a loud noise outside.