A car? Why am I not getting a car? I question after I hang up. Oliver has his driver’s license, and he's older than me by almost four months, but his driving skills are horrendous. I glance over at the clock on my nightstand. 5:40 AM. I’m gonna go out and get some breakfast.
I change out of my pajamas, throw on a pair of sneakers, an old purple sweatshirt with an obsolete band logo, and dark grey joggers. I grab my phone, my charger, and my wallet, stuffing them into the primary-colored mini-backpack by my closet door.
As I exit my room, both straps of the backpack slung over one shoulder, I can hear the ceramic clanking of dishes in the kitchen. “Crap, she’s awake,” I whisper to myself.
I tiptoe quietly down the dark hardwood hallway, hoping not to make my presence known—
“RORY! YOU’RE UP! COME WASH THE DISHES!” My mom shouts, and I hear a chorus of exhausted grumbles from everyone else in the house.
“Coming, mom.” I sigh, sauntering through the living room and into the kitchen. I drop my bag on the island and grab a plate and the bottle of blue dish soap.
“Why are you up so early?” She is furiously scrubbing a blue bowl, suds filling the water around her hands.
“Just talking to my friends, what else would I be doing?” I scoff.
“Well, I'm glad you are staying in touch with people.” She smiles a lukewarm smile, a mix between fake and genuine. She only smiles like that when something's up.
“What's wrong, mom?”
“Nothing, Rory. Just… nothing.” She puts the bowl on the drying rack next to her.
“Alright.” I'm not gonna push it. She’ll spill eventually. “And why do I have to wash dishes? I mean, can't you ask Lawrence or something? Like, he never does anything.” I put a hand on my hip and face her.
“Your grandmother wouldn't have liked that attitude, young man.”
As she says that, I unknowingly I let go of the plate in my hand, and it shatters on the tile floor.
“Rory!” She sinks to her knees and starts quickly picking up shards of ceramic, “That was a wedding gift...”
I furrow my brows in anger, “And that was unnecessary. Really unnecessary.” I want to say so much worse, but my lips are pursed. I put down the dish soap and put my bag over my shoulder. I walk away quickly, more than ready to leave.
“I'm sorry, honey. I didn't mean it.” She says right as I reach out my hand to open the front door.
I think for a moment, the few seconds of silence ringing in my ears. “I know.”
“I miss her too,” she admits, standing back up and placing the pieces of plate on the island.
I look back through the corridor at her standing there in the kitchen, a tired mess. I don't acknowledge it, though. Even from thirty feet away, I can see her deep amber eyes making small motions, looking me over and wondering what to say.
“I'm gonna go camping with Oliver now, kay?” I blurt out after what feels like ages, breaking the ever growing awkward silence.
She sighs exasperatedly and throws her head back, “God, Rory. Why are you telling me this now?”
“I-I told you last week. Monday. Remember?” I lie. I know it's terrible to take advantage of your family, even when they have terrible memories, but I can't think of any other way to convince my mom to let me spend the entirety of next week away from home.
“When was this?” She inquires, putting two fingers to her left temple as if trying to stifle a headache.
“Uh… it was when… when you picked me and Lawrence and Kenna up from school. I told you that Oliver wanted me to spend spring break with him and go camping. Remember that? You said I could...”
“I...think I do. You're gonna need to pack yourself some extra clothes and bug spray, though,” she states.
Oh, shoot. I nearly forgot! I think, almost laughing at myself.
I go back to my room, dump everything out of my tiny backpack (which includes, but is not limited to: a 32 pack of cinnamon gum, a box of assorted Band-Aids, half a sheet of BOGO Burger King coupons, and three black-ink pens) and stuff it all into an old, oversized, black messenger bag, along with a few changes of clothes (and a bottle of bug spray, just in case she checks).
“Okay, mom. I'll see you next Saturday.” I wave goodbye to her as I walk out.
“Don't get eaten by bears!” She waves back, blowing me a quick kiss as the door shuts, totally unaware that I just lied to her face.
It's still cold enough outside to be considered winter, even though it's supposed to be the middle of spring. I walk down the old, cracked sidewalk of Asher Street, my street, and take a right, arriving at the oddly placed Starbucks at the corner of Whitlan Avenue and Magnificent Lake Huron Drive. A lot of streets in the town of Karmsworth have stupid names like the latter. It's purely cause nobody wants to waste their time going and naming and numbering streets after prissy white men from three hundred years ago and local landmarks. Instead, someone at the town hall draws a random name from a hat or points to a word or phrase in a book to name another one. Literally.
The doorbell jingles when I push it open, and the familiar smell of overly-Instagrammed coffee envelops me. I take a seat at one of the beige lounge chairs with the tablet arm in the far corner and call up Oliver.
“I'm home free, Ollie!” I announce when the call connects.
“Don't call me that,” he replies, annoyed. I know he hates it, but I love messing with him.
“Hah. Sorry. It’s just my mom actually let me go away from home for once without making me drag my siblings along. But hey, did your car or whatever get here yet?”
“Nope, but I guess it's liability free, whatever it's gonna be. I do hope it has seat belts, though.”
“Is it part of the game? The car, I mean?”
“Yeah, I guess so. I was assigned team leader at random or something, and so they're giving me all this stuff—”
“Not really… I'm not very good at all this leadership stuff, as you know. And whoever our next teammate is, I hope they’ll understand that.”
“Well, we have like, an hour and a half until we find out who that is, so I suggest you brush up on your skills or figure out a way to divvy up the power between everyone.” I try and reassure him.
“Triumvirates are better than absolute monarchies, I suppose.”
“And speaking of an hour and a half, that's also how much time you have to make sure your parents are okay with you spending the rest of break away from them.”
“Shi— ugh, yeah. I'll have to call in sick from work and everything too.”
“Just tell your boss you have Strep throat and tell your parents that you’re gonna go camping with me and that they let you but they just forgot. That's what I did... minus the Strep part.”
“I'll try.” He says with a hint of uncertainty. “I'll try to call you back once I know how it goes. Bye.”
I end the call and walk over to the counter. I order a chocolate croissant and a hot tea, which is a way healthier (and cheaper) option than the seven mocha lattes that I am possibly starting to regret right now. The sleep-deprived cashier, who is also serving as the sole barista today, rubs her eyes exhaustedly and punches in my order. I hand her the exact amount of money so she won’t have to count change, and stand back and wait. It’s weird to think someone who works in a coffee shop can be so tired.
A couple of minutes later, she passes me my cup with my name spelled wrong, again, and hands me my croissant in one of the little pastry bags. I don't blame her for the name thing, though. She’s one of the two or three people in town that work here and probably hasn't slept in three days. I take a picture of the cup regardless, like a basic white girl does (even though I am none of those three things), and put it on my Twitter.
My name isn’t Roaree but hey I don’t blame the barista. She’s basically dead tired rn I feel you sis. #sheneedsanapASAP #helpheromg
I concentrate on bouncing one foot up and down on the floor in front of me . A couple of college students, I assume from the community college in our neighboring town, Falder, walk in and sit down to study before their classes. I look up after a couple of minutes and see them both staring intensely at the screens of their laptops and typing fast enough that it looks like they’re enraged. One of the students has a sticker on their laptop of Michael from The Office with the quote “Occasionally I’ll hit someone with my car. So sue me”.
Without breaking eye contact with the sticker, I pull my phone’s charger out of my bag and fumble to plug it into the outlet next to the chair. I plug in my phone, which is teetering on the edge of six percent battery life since I am too lazy to remember to charge it while I’m sleeping. But hey, I had to have something to do while I both willingly (on my part) and unwillingly (The caffeine’s part) stayed up all of last night. I slide my phone into my bag’s water bottle pocket and sit back in the chair.
After a little while, I open my bag and search for my gum. When I find it, I unwrap two pieces and pop them into my mouth. Everyone I know and have ever met except my older cousins and my gym teacher think I'm insane for liking cinnamon gum—even Oliver.
“It's just got an interesting flavor,” I tell them, but nobody listens to me. I can see where Oliver’s coming from being diabetic, so he isn't supposed to have lots of sugar, but as for everyone else, it's just cinnamon. And I mean, yeah, it's got a bit of a kick to it, but it's not that bad.
I inadvertently start to people-watch out of the window next to me and see Mrs. Marris is on her daily walk with her little Yorkie terrier, Beans.
Beans is a rather shy dog until you get to know him, but by then then you’ll have already learned that he's a huge brat. I've been to Ms. Marris’ house a couple of times, and it's not pretty after that dog had begun wreaking some mass havoc (let's just say that bright yellow pee stains don't look very nice on white suede couches).
Yvette and Martha, a couple more college students, come around the corner once Ms. Marris is out of my line of sight. Martha, as per usual, is being led by her service dog: a big, fluffy, Bernese Mountain dog named Georgia.
They come into Starbucks, which is just now starting its morning rush of teenagers and cranky business people, and order their coffees. Yvette likes a cream and four sugars in hers, and Martha likes it straight black, no exceptions.
Then, they wait for exactly seven seconds after ordering their drinks to ask for a free shot of whipped cream for Georgia, to which she eats faster than I can blink and has to have the tiny, plastic cup yanked out of her mouth, but not before she is able to chew some small holes through the sides. It sounds crazy that I’m being that specific, but I come in here often enough to know at least that much.
I scroll through the old pictures and videos on my phone, trying to occupy my time while I wait for Oliver to call me back. The remainder of my tea has gone cold, but I still drink it anyway. Come on, Oliver. We're burnin’ daylight here, buddy.
I decide to text him just to check.
Rory: Hey Oliver
Rory: Did you ask your parents yet?
Rory: If you did and they said yeah then come pick me up @ the Starbucks.
It elicits no immediate response, but that's okay. I can wait.
I throw away the cup and the bag from earlier and decide to go and loiter around outside. I take a seat under one of the metal tables with the big umbrellas out front, the cool breeze making me shiver. I continue to watch all of the people on their morning commutes and strolls around the block as I slowly slip into the utmost level of boredom.
Just as I decide to try and trace the familiar outline of the mermaid logo on the umbrella with my eyes, a dark blue Ford Focus pulls into the parking lot. I don't even have half a second to look up before the driver shouts, “Rory, get in!”
It's Oliver, and he somehow hasn't crashed into a light pole yet.
“So what's in the box?” I ask, looking at the little cardboard cube in the back seat. We've parked in the high school parking lot, which is surprisingly not completely vacant.
“The voice thing said that it's just a box of supplies and that there's an official list of the team members and some instructions in here somewhere.” Oliver restates, running a hand through his wavy, strawberry blond hair.
He's a pretty good looking kid, with evenly tanned skin and a long face, giving his large features room. His eyes, resting underneath wide eyebrows, are a pale green and set a bit far apart. His nose has evidence of being broken at least once, and he has the subtlest hint of a cleft chin.
There is a thin, jagged scar through his right eyebrow up to the middle of his forehead from the time when we went riding our bikes down a gravel path. He hit a bump, flew off his bike, and landed flat on his face. The scar's usually covered by his bangs, but I know it's still there.
I look back at the box again. “Should we open it now?” I ask.
Oliver nods, so I reach back and grab it. We unfold the flaps and find inside the box a paper road map of Germany from 1963 (???), a GPS device, a tri-folded piece of printer paper, and a large wad of cash.
“By scavenger hunt they literally meant good old fashioned go out and find stuff, huh?” Oliver states, unfolding the piece of paper and reading it to himself silently. I start counting the money, surprised that it's all in 20s, and that there's at least two grand.
“Our third and final teammate is someone named Avril Something-I-can’t-pronounce-Peterson. It says that they live like, six blocks from my place. 286 Flickers Boulevard.” Oliver informs me.
“Avril something-Peterson… isn’t that that one girl who busted a huge hole in the bleachers last year during a basketball game by jumping too hard?”
“No, that was Aubrey Juarez-Patterson. I think she got expelled for throat punching a teacher.”
I swallow, imagining what being punched in the throat feels like. “Well, thank god it isn’t her, then.” I buckle my seatbelt and grab onto the weird window handle thing. “But, anyway, what are we just sitting around and waiting for? We're nearly fifteen minutes in, so let's go get them!”
At that, he nods and pulls out of the lot, swerving a bit and trying really hard not to ram into trees or parked cars. This is gonna be the most terrifying five minutes of my life.