Chapter 8: Death Of Me
We were almost there! Themountains were right in front of us! I could feel my body's fatigue from sixteen hours of just sitting in a moving vehicle. I was ready to stretch my legs out and to sprawl out on a comfortable bed. I just hoped that I could make the hour long trip up the mountain without getting sick. The road would be very windy.
It was amazing to me how we were going from over a hundred degree heat to about twenty degrees in the matter of an hour. The three of us brought our own winter coats. I wasn't sure if the cold would be an improvement from the heat of the Sea of Sand. I preferred hot over cold, and my skin responded well to it, too, considering a day at the beach would make me two to three shades darker by the time night fell. It was rare when I would be in a climate like Jamanakai Village was in. Usually the coldest I ever got was sitting inside of a restaurant that had the air conditioning on.
Trent was itching to start the trip up the mountain. I understood why, though. This would be the first time in a year and a half since he'd seen his family. I've never met his parents before, only his sister and nephew, but they sounded like nice people. I hoped my looks didn't give them a bad first impression about me. I wasn't a mean spirited or rude person by nature. I only appeared that way for the media.
It was entertaining having a hardcore dubstep beat playing in my ears and feeling how anxious Trent was as he drove around the bend of the mountain to get to the start of the trail of the long ascend. Jen watched me intently from atop the meager amount of food. Her sanity was suffering from no emotions. When I looked at her, her neck was twitching, as if she had Tourette's. She was getting weaker every hour. I was still preparing to kick her out of my life. Things were looking promising at the moment. I could taste freedom.
The start of the trail was beneath the wheels of the truck now. The trail was rock solid, so there wasn't a chance of sliding down. Trent put the truck in four-wheel drive just to be safe. The road had turned into dirt a little ways back. I waited for my ears to adjust due to the change in air pressure from the ascent. I would have to equalize them so my hearing would remain the same.
About thirty minutes in the ascent, I got involved in the conversation.
"Why are you so quiet, Mac?" Trent asked me.
I met his gaze in the rear view mirror. I took my headphones off. "What?" I asked.
"Why are you so quiet?" he repeated.
"Oh, I'm just tired," I replied.
"But you're always just a bouncing ball of energy. Usually you're laughing."
"Because I laugh at my own jokes and stories," I said, avoiding a smile.
"Then tell us a story. A funny story," he encouraged.
I tried thinking of something from my childhood. Growing up in foster care had its ups and downs. I was surrounded by many foster siblings and protected under the care of my foster parents, who ended up adopting me as their own. There were always little rivalries between us siblings. It was both fun and frustrating. It was fun to pick on the younger generations when they tried to pick fights. It was frustrating growing up and being bullied and annoyed by the older generations. Every year was different because of the kids that would come and go. I stayed in touch with a handful of my siblings, but that was only because we actually got along. Whenever we would get together, we talked about things from the past, a lot of it being funny stories. I tried to think of a story I've told over and over again; a story that I wouldn't laugh or smile about when I told it if I concentrated enough.
"One time my foster brother, Greg, made me so mad just from something stupid," I began. My lips didn't curve upwards. "I was so mad that I went up to his bedroom door and punched a hole through it."
Linus blew air from in between his lips, which resulted in a belly laugh. He slapped his knee and increased the volume just a tad. My concentration became challenged. From beside me, Jen's neck twitched and she focused her attention on me. I stood my ground, being still as a statue. I showed no emotion through my face.
"You just punched straight through it?!" Linus asked, still laughing.
"It wasn't hard," I replied, keeping concentration. "But I got in big trouble after I did it."
"Nah, you just got away with it," Trent jokily said.
I looked out my window to look at the expansive desert. Back when I was in school, I learned about how the whole desert was once nothing but a massive ocean. A sea that consisted with a fascinating pirate history that had been sucked dry along with it. The Endless Ocean. To me it was strange how something so big could just disappear. It was also strange to think that the Sea of Sand didn't exist at some point in time.
While I was randomly thinking, I was asked to tell another story so I could talk more.
Our conversations didn't really involve me. I wasn't really paying attention, anyway. I mostly just looked out my window and watched the Sea of Sand switch to the nearby mountain range called the Mountains of Impossible Height. All I could say was that the name said it all. Those mountains were the highest things I'd ever seen in my entire life.
"Hey guys, guess what?" Trent said.
"What?" Linus and I both asked.
"Finally," I groaned, slumping into my seat. I looked at the trail underneath us. I completely missed the snow earlier. We were finally at the top of the mountain. The temperature was perfect for nighttime snowfall. It appeared that that was what happened overnight here. It was a fresh layer of snow on the sides of the trail.
"How cold is it, Trent?" Linus asked, also looking out his window.
"I would say around fifteen degrees Fahrenheit. Maybe less," Trent answered. "I'll get the coats out from the trunk when we get up there."
I sighed to myself. I wasn't ready to face the cold, even under a heavy winter coat.
I was happy to see the small identical buildings on the sides of the trail now. With their peach-colored walls and round red lanterns that had little golden dragons painted on them, I knew Trent must've felt that was back home. If only I felt that way about the foster home…I'll just pretend my apartment back in Ninjago City is the place that keeps my years of happiness stored inside its walls.
The slope was steady and smooth. I could see a few of the villagers watch us come along,wearing their standard work attires. From the looks they were giving, I could tell we weren't the first from the tournament to arrive. I wondered how packed and crowded the Jamanakai Village Inn was by now. I wasn't sure how many contestants in the tournament had family up here. Trent was probably part of the minority. We were lucky. Not many people from villages like this had the choice to move to Ninjago City and go to college to earn a degree. That was how Trent ended up there, along with Kathryn, but it was pure fate that brought our team together. I wouldn't take that for granted.
Trent unexpectedly slowed the truck down and pulled over in a more open area.
"Why are we stopping?" Linus asked.
"The trunk can't go up to the very top," Trent replied, opening his door and allowing cold air to enter. "We're going to have to carry everything up on foot."
I groaned aloud. "How far up is your parents' home?"
"All the way up to the courtyard."
I groaned again and pressed the side of my face to the window. I had to carry my heavy bags up a mountain?! But I was already tired! This was the worst day ever…
"Aw, poor Macca," Linus teased. Trent closed the door. He was going to get our coats for us. I assumed his thick skin could withstand the freezing temperatures. He must've been born with it because of his many generations before him had to work outside no matter what season it was. It wouldn't surprise me if that were the case.
He opened the door back up and handed Linus the coats. I spotted my black coat with light blue accents within the bunched up stack. After we prepared ourselves for the full blast of cold air (I pulled my hood over my head to protect my ears), we got out to start carrying bags up the incline. I didn't have a problem with the weight in my two bags, it was the hike that nearly killed me. I was panting the whole way up. Linus and Trent were ahead of me as they tried to race each other without falling over.
On the way up, Trent confronted a couple villagers who also recognized him. I would guess he had a lot of visiting to do before we left in three days. He stopped to talk to one of them. Linus and I passed him up. He slowed his pace for me so we could go up together. Half of me was happy to have company, the other half dreaded it because that would result in conversation. I didn't want to talk right now. I just wanted to sleep and be done for the day.
And the conversation came.
"Are you glad we finally made it here?" Linus asked.
Jen came up by my side to wait. "Of course I'm glad," I replied, ignoring her as her neck twitched every six seconds. "It's good to walk around for once. My knees are hurting."
"I'm ready for that bed Trent promised me," I said after a few seconds of silence. The incline was beginning to curve a bit.
"Hey, at least you get a bed. I get a couch."
"Oh, I thought you were going to sleep on the floor in the guest bedroom."
"The floor?" he laughed. "No, if I slept in the same room as you, I would end up sneaking in the bed next to you."
I stopped walking.
He noticed a couple steps later and stopped as well. He looked back at me.
"What did you just say?" I asked him, bewildered and stunned at his words.
He about said something, but stopped himself. He suddenly realized what I was thinking. "Macca, no, that's not what I meant," he said, anxiously trying to fix his words. "I'm not a pervert."
I continued to just look at him. I couldn't believe he said what he said. I felt uncomfortable now. That officially ended our conversation. I started walking again, passing him up with a faster pace than before.
"Macca! I'm sorry! That wasn't what I meant!"
I looked over at Jen and realized she was having trouble keeping up with me. I began to run. I could possibly get away from her. Well, it was worth a shot at least.
"I meant that I would be too uncomfortable to stay on the floor! The bed would've been better!"
I kept my eyes on the archway up ahead. As I got closer, I saw the reason why the truck wouldn't make it to the top of the mountain. It was crowded with people. Lots of people. Many of them were carrying baskets full of native crops that grew on the fertile parts of the mountain. I spotted most of the customers to be women, some with daughters tagging along to help. I knew I was approaching the village's marketplace.
I had to stop in front of the archway. From here, I didn't know where to go. The courtyard was at the very top of the mountain, but there were too people in the marketplace to see where to go. Trent would know where to go, of course. I just hoped he was done talking to the man down the incline.
Linus was still hiking up, but he wasn't trying to catch up to me. I tried to look down past him to see Trent, but I couldn't see him.
"Excuse me, Miss," someone said behind me.
I turned toward the villager. He held a basket that contained dark red berries and wore a kasa rice hat on his head. "Yes?"
"I can see you're visiting," he said. "Are you here for the tournament?"
"Okay. Do you need directions to Jamanakai Village Inn?"
"Oh, no thank you, sir. My friend's parents live–"
"Hey! Are you a friend of Trent's?"
I looked under the archway and saw another man. His face seemed familiar for some reason…
"Y-yes," I said to him. "I'm Macca."
"Oh, yes! He talks about you a lot. Are you sure you're not his girlfriend?"
"No, we're just friends. I'm sorry to ask you this, but who are you exactly?"
"I'm Bill, Trent's father."
That was why he looked so familiar! I could see the similarities between Trent
Bill looked past me. I could hear Linus's footsteps as he approached. "Where is my son?" he asked.
"Some guy started talking to him. He should be coming up soon," I explained.
He chuckled. "Probably Jerry. Well, my wife and I have the whole house ready. I'm sure Trent remembers the rest of the way up." Bill beckoned me towards him as he turned to the swarming marketplace. The man I first spoke to had already returned inside the bustling area.
I looked back at Linus, who was concentrating on the ground beneath his feet. "Hurry up," I said to him.
He glanced up at me.
"Trent will find us."
He nodded. I went up to Bill and followed him through the crowd, while making sure Linus was keeping up, too. I accidentally bumped into some people with my bags. I apologized each time and tried to adjust the bags' positions.
Eventually we made it through the long bendy strip of the marketplace. The incline finally stopped, and I could feel the burn in my knees for sure. Linus was by my side now. We both looked around at the beautiful courtyard. The ground was covered with well packed dirt from years and years of being treaded on by hundreds of villagers who have lived here. Through the center of the bare area was a narrow trench that was boarded by flat stones. My eyes followed the trench to the opposite side of the courtyard. There was a beautiful fountain that had three tiers like a wedding cake. Small figurine dragon heads stuck out evenly from every tier. The very top had jade statues of dragons mounted on top.
"Macca, you coming?" Linus asked me.
I directed my attention to him. He was now ahead of me, still following Bill, who was opening a front door to a home for us. A woman with a silky blue apron around her waist appeared in the doorway. I almost gasped at the sight of her face. She wasn't ugly or anything, but now I could see the better resemblance between Trent and his mother. They both looked exactly alike, from the curve of their lips to the color and texture of their hair. It was so weird. I felt like I was looking at the female version of my friend.
"Oh! You're Trent's friends!" Trent's mother happily exclaimed, running out to greet us. She took Linus's hand in both of hers and shook it, a big caring smile on her face. She eagerly greeted him.
Her gaze shifted to me. Her jaw dropped, along with her hold on Linus's arm. I put my bags down. She slowly approached me with a curious gleam in her eye. "A-are…are you Macca?" she asked.
I looked up at her and nodded. "Trent talks a lot about me, I know."
"You are much more gorgeous in person! I can't believe my son found a woman as gorgeous as you! Has he proposed yet?"
My face flushed with embarrassment, both from her compliments and the thought of Trent proposing marriage to me.
"Um…I'm sorry, but Trent and I aren't in a relationship together. We're just friends," I explained.
Her excitement faded away. "Oh…" her voice disappointedly trailed. "But you seem so nice and sweet like a jar of freshly baked cookies." She took my hand and patted the side of my arm. "Please, call me Charlotte. Come inside so we can get you out of this cold and into the warmth of our home."
I picked up one of my bags and brought it into the home after Charlotte. Bill came in behind us with my other bag.
"Bill, show Macca to the guest room, please. I'll get dinner started and Linus settled in."
I followed Bill past the kitchen and living room to a hallway. The very last room had its door wide open. Inside was a spotless room with a queen sized bed. It had tall posts that connected in a square near the ceiling. I saw three curtains against three of the posts.
Bill put my bag down at the foot of the bed. "I hope it's clean enough for you," he politely said. "Charlotte spent most of the day getting everything ready for you. Dinner will be ready in an hour."
"Okay. Thank you," I replied, putting my bag down and slipping my coat off.
He closed the door behind him as he left.
I laid my coat on a chair that was in a corner. I found that there was a connecting bathroom to this room, which was good. It had a nice shower in it and everything a girl needed. Then I finally did what I had been waiting to all day: I hopped face first onto the bed and kicked my shoes off. The white comforter felt like a cloud along with the mattress. I made it. I made it to the destination. Now I got to finally relax until the battle tomorrow, where we would pull through in victory, and take that victory with us all the way home.