Day 2

It was an ungodly seven AM when I heard them honking outside my house.

I shouldn’t have even been up  that early on the Fourth of July, yet I was already dressed and made-up, a clutch in my hand and my overnight bag hung on my shoulder. I gave my slightly damp hair a twist and pinned it up in a bun, then took a big box of powdered Donettes and a cooler full of sodas out the screen door, letting it slam behind me noisily. There was no use in keeping quiet at that point, since the honking must have woken up my  whole family.

“There she is! Are you ready to hit the asphalt?”

“The Interstate isn’t paved with asphalt, it’s cement,” I responded dumbly. “Sorry, I’m still pretty groggy… Hey, let me back there.”

The boy sitting in the passenger’s seat of the big silver pickup truck jumped out and opened the back door of the cab. He threw my duffel bag in the bed while I buckled my lap-belt.

“Are you excited for this weekend?” asked Maurieta from the driver’s seat. Her hair was a violent shade of violet, contrasting brilliantly against her dark skin. Her eyes were surrounded in thick gold eyeliner, making her resemble a metallic raccoon.

“Hell yes!” replied the boy sitting next to me in the back seat. “This is going to be the highlight of my summer, hands down!”

I smiled at him. “What are you looking forward to most, Paul, the fireworks tonight of the Jack White concert?”

“How can I choose? Shooting off illegal fireworks in the middle of the desert has been a lifelong goal of mine, but Jack White is my freaking hero! Everything about this weekend is going to be amazing!” he said emotionally.

“So, where’s Beth? Is she coming?” I inquired regarding Paul’s girlfriend.

There was a silence that lasted a little longer than was comfortable. Paul finally said, “Well, Beth. Uh. She can’t really make it–“

“She thinks it’s stupid,” Stefan cut in curtly. “Just like she thinks everything is stupid, and everyone is stupid. Because she’s a crazy controlling bitch.”

“Dude, shut up, she’s my girlfriend! Don’t say that crap about her!” said Paul, his face reddening in the way it always has, since I first met him in middle school.

“I hate to be the break it to you,” Maurieta cut in with her usual cool Jamaican clip, “but that girl is bad news if I ever saw it. She’s trouble, y’hear me?”

“Oh, shut up! You guys don’t know what you’re talking about! C’mon… Abby, you agree with me, don’t you?” He looked into my eyes pleadingly.

“Uh… Decline to state?” I said weakly. He looked crestfallen. “Oh, come on, Paul! She barely let you come with us on this trip! I can’t honestly say that I’m too hot about her.”

“Whatever.”

“Hey, come on now!” cried Maurieta. “We are not going on this trip to skulk and argue! The girl’s not here, so let’s not worry about her! Jesus.” For a few minutes, there was silence except for the sound of the old engine and the tires rolling over pebbles. Maurieta sighed heavily. “Alright, we’re gonna lay out some ground rules now. First of all, no fighting.” I thought I saw her shoot a glance at Stefan, but he was scowling out his window. “Second, no being a bitch. Stefan.”

“What?! I’m not being a bitch! I’m just–“

“Third, passenger seat controls radio!”

“Oh!” This seemed to cheer him right up, and he immediately turned on something loud and twangy.

I rolled my eyes and smiled at Paul. He half-smiled back, like, Oh, aren’t those people crazy? and I had to laugh. Even though I knew that Beth had ruined a lot of things, she wasn’t about to ruin this, because dammit, I’d woken up early for this road trip and that wasn’t about to be taken away from me.

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