The Rift

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Chapter 5

“Left here,” directed Liam from the back seat.

“Yeah, I know,” said Judah.

Mac bounced up and down in the seat behind Bethie, clutching at her head rest as he swiveled his head around to keep his eyes on the little Vermont restaurant turned micro-brewery. He was the first one out of the vehicle before Judah even shut off the engine and engaged the parking brake.

“Let’s go, bitches,” he hollered as he walked backwards across the city street, his arms outstretched inviting them all to follow. “My mouth’s a waterin’ for wings and beer, baby.”

The remaining group couldn’t help but smile at his enthusiasm. It was contagious, and it felt good to be back on their old, familiar stomping grounds. Bethie stretched her cramped legs and patted the back window of the SUV, before closing up the gap between the rest as she did.

The establishment hadn’t changed in all the years they had been making the trip into Vermont, be it summer or winter. Their traditional table was open, at which Mac shot his fist in the air and let out a loud whoop that echoed throughout the bar. They ordered hot wings and their first round of pints. Bethie watched the blueberries in the bottom of her pint glass swirl around with each tip of the handcrafted beer. They were all feeling comfortable. Mac ordered a second round before any of the others finished their first.

“Not me,” bowed out Bethie. “I’ll DD, you boys enjoy.” She lifted her half empty glass to them in a deal binding toast. There was no push back.

“So, Judah, how’s the suit job?” asked Mac, after his third beer.

Judah visibly bristled. “Great. Really easy people to work with.”

“As opposed to me?”

Liam stood up and collected empty glasses. “We should think about heading out if we want to get to camp before midnight.”

Judah cleared his throat and looked directly at Mac, with a sarcastic expression and tilt of his head. “Exactly.”

Mac downed the first half of his fourth drink before he continued. “Ya know, I never pegged you for a milksop, craven, dropout.”

Bethie saw the muscle in Judah’s upper lip twitch. She laid her hand on the crook of his elbow. “Jude, he’s drunk,” she whispered.

“Can’t fight for your dream? Is that it, Judah? We had a deal, man. You snagged a stumbling block and you quit.”

“Mac-”

“Judah, don’t.” Bethie’s dark eyes pleaded with him.

Judah moved to the same side of the table as Mac, standing nose to nose with him. Mac puffed out his chest. Liam returned from dropping the glasses at the bar and moved in. He wedged his body between the two of them. Judah stretch his neck over Liam’s shoulder, hissing into Mac’s slack features. “As much as I’d like to do this here and now, Mac... it’s not the place.”

“Don’t hold back when it is, bro,” he spat. “Can you stick to that promise?” Mac leaned back against the wall for support. His eyes were heavy with the effects of the alcohol.

“Mac, go sleep it off in the car,” ordered Liam. “Judah, let’s go take a breath of air. Go start the car.” He gave Bethie an understanding look.

Judah stood his ground, with daggers for eyes, watching Mac as he passed by him and tried to put his arm around Bethie’s shoulder. She shrugged him off and turned back to give a pleading look to her brother. Liam had his fingers wrapped around Judah’s flexed bicep. “It’s nothing, Judah. Let ’em get settled and you and I can cool down before we get back on the road. Come on.”

A heavy breath of frustration escaped Judah’s lungs, and he followed Liam out onto the restaurant’s back patio. Several diners sat having drinks and food. Liam pulled out a chair at a table for two, allowing Judah to sit before he moved to the opposite seat. He leaned back and stretched his long legs out across the weather-beaten deck boards. With a sigh, he scrubbed at his face and then sat back up, folding his hands in front of him on the table. “I know this sucks.”

Judah looked up at him with a smirk. “You think?”

“I know, I know. Judah we all need this, all of us. You haven’t been around to see how much we need it.”

“You think I don’t understand this, Liam?” Judah shook his head.

“No, I do,” Liam interjected, “but I don’t think you have seen the full scope of how much.”

“What?”

Liam lifted his eyes and looked at Judah without a word.

“Beth?”

Liam nodded. “She’s not okay.”

Judah’s face showed his deep concern. “I’m not responsible.”

“I know, Bethie made her bed.”

Judah frowned.

“Sorry, bad choice of words. I know she made choices, but I don’t think she had any control at first, Judah. None of us did.”

“Liam,” Judah sighed.

“Just talk with her.”

Judah threw his hands in the air, defeated. “I’ll try.”

Liam got up and laid his hand on his friend’s shoulder. “That’s all I ask. Ready?”

By the time they reached the packed vehicle, Bethie was behind the wheel and Mac was sleeping in the seat behind her with a bottle of water cupped in his hand. Liam climbed in beside him while Judah got in the passenger seat up front.

“Everything okay in here?” asked Liam.

Bethie nodded. “Yeah, I imagine he will sleep for a while now.”

“I apologize for my behavior, Beth,” said Judah as he dialed in a new radio station.

“It’s fine. Not your fault.” She gave him a sincere smile.

“I didn’t say it was. I was simply apologizing for making a scene.”

Bethie’s smile wilted. Her fingers turned up the music, and she shut the pack of boys out of her brain while she drove. Her thoughts drifted to camp. The idea of a comfortable bed to stretch out on was soothing. She planned to take full advantage of the few luxuries the camp held knowing the next few days would be roughing it. Not that she wasn’t used to it, they had made this trip for years, but this time was different. They were older, their bones ached more often and wasn’t it Liam that complained about his knees already? She wondered how many more times they could do this.

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