This was absolutely the perfect thing to ruin the trip: Ava’s gray Toyota Corolla stopped in the middle of a narrow trunk road with nothing but trees around. Of all places, why did it have to be where there didn’t seem to be any form of life around except the forest around them?
Ava tied her honey blonde hair in a rough bun with a scrunchie, got down from the car, and headed for the hood to check what had caused the car to halt. After realizing that the battery was dead, she shut the hood and went back to the driver’s seat.
Just then the teenage redhead who was sleeping on the passenger’s seat stirred before opening her eyes. Anna rubbed her eyes. “Have we reached?”
“No,” Ava answered, staring at her sister and frowning. She was sure they should have reached Raleigh by that time but they hadn’t.
Anna turned to look out the window. She faced Ava again. “Where are we?”
Ava huffed as she rested her back on the seat. “Lost,” she exasperatedly replied.
“I don’t understand.”
She raised her hands up in a frustrated manner. “We’re in the middle of nowhere, Anna.”
“Did you miss the route?”
“Apparently we did.” She exhaled loudly. “The car stopped; the battery’s dead.”
From the corner of her right eye, Ava could see Anna lean to look at the dashboard. “There’s no gas too,” Anna said as she rested her back on the seat.
Ava looked up, fixing her gaze on the ceiling of the car. This day was obviously going well for her and her baby sister. Couldn’t they have a perfect day without obstacles on their path?
First of all, when they left home, the police stopped them and asked them several questions as if they didn’t know Ava to be a responsible person in their little town of Knightdale—even if Anna wasn’t.
Next, they got caught up in traffic. Wasn’t a journey meant to be smooth and adventurous?
Now, the car stopped because the battery decided to take a break. The battery was perfectly fine before they embarked on their journey so how could it need charging now? Also, the gas in the car disappeared into thin air, whereas she filled the tank before leaving Knightdale; how they had used up the gas Ava had no idea.
And worse, she missed the route they were meant to follow. How did that happen? She knew the route so well that she didn’t need a map. She, Anna, Bruce their brother, and their parents usually followed this path every summer, so how on earth did she make a wrong turn? The G.P.S. wasn’t even functioning anymore. What on earth was the reason why? Was the universe against her or was it something similar to that?
Her gaze was still fixed on the ceiling of the car before she huffed. “Could things get any worse?”
Just as those words were uttered, nimbuses appeared out of nowhere in the sky, thunder roared, and the sky cried really hard.
“Of course it had to get worse,” Ava muttered. She glanced at Anna. “Roll up the glass.”
The redhead did as she was told as the blonde did the same.
Ava rested her head on the headrest and closed her eyes. This day was officially ruined for her and Anna.
“So what are we going to do now, Ava?” the redhead said.
She opened her eyes. “We wait till the storm is over. Then we’ll figure out what to do.”
Ava heard Anna breathe out a sigh before she (Ava) closed her eyes again. She thought back to when Bruce had warned her to let her and Anna go with their phones. She had disagreed with him saying that he knew it wasn’t in their tradition to go to Charlotte with any gadgets. She convinced him that they were going to be fine without them.
Now, she thought she should have listened to him. At least, in situations like this one they would need gadgets for help. If they had gotten to Raleigh, they would have contacted him somehow to come over to help them back home. She took a deep breath, hoping that this dilemma was going to pass over soon.
Thirty minutes later and the rain still poured heavily.
Not only did the noise caused by the rain and thunder enhanced Ava’s inability to sleep, she also couldn’t find the most comfortable position for her to sleep as she kept turning and turning in her seat.
Out of nowhere, she heard rumbling; it wasn’t the rumbling of thunder but something else that spelt hunger. She opened her eyes and quizzically looked at Anna.
“Ava, I’m hungry.”
Ava glowered at her. “Can’t you see it’s still pouring heavily, stupid?”
Anna whimpered as a guilty look soon displayed in her eyes.
Ava closed her eyes and exhaled loudly when she realized she scared her little sister. She opened them. “I’m sorry. I’m just stressed out.”
Both of them were quiet for a long time.
Throughout that time, Ava kept cursing the universe for allowing everything that took place that day. What did she or Anna do to deserve this maltreatment? Okay, so maybe Anna was not so much of a goody two shoes, still whatever she did couldn’t have resulted into this massive injustice.
Ava grunted and punched the steering wheel. “This trip was supposed to be fun. And now, we’re lost and miles away from any source of human life.”
The ginger-haired teen placed her hand on her sister’s shoulder. “Don’t worry, Ava; it’ll be alright; we’ll find a way out of this mess.”
Ava pressed her head to the steering wheel. “All I wanted was for you to have the best holiday ever. What’s the crime in that?”
Ava expected to hear an answer from her sister. However, what she heard wasn’t expected: there was a knock on her window.
She raised her head to glance at her window. One look at the window and she jumped at the sight in front of her, a sharp short scream escaping her mouth.
The wet long dark beard of the person was enough for Ava to conclude it was a male. At first, she thought it was a bear, but when she thought it wasn’t possible for a bear to be out in the rain or even around here she thought it to be an unhygienic man who didn’t care about his looks.
The man knocked again as he pinned his forehead to the window. She could see how bushy his eyebrows were, which almost formed a unibrow. She tried to make out the color of his eyes nevertheless couldn’t because there wasn’t much sunlight.
Ava sat upright, looked at Anna, and nodded her head towards the bear. “What would a guy like him be doing in the rain?”
The teen shrugged. “I don’t know. Perhaps you should answer him.”
Ava was agape. She couldn’t believe her sister wanted her to talk to a stranger who scared her to death.
She shook her head and told Anna, “Not in this life, Anna, would I talk to a stranger.” She leaned closer to her. “Can’t you see how he looks?” she whispered. “What if he’s a murderer?”
Anna rolled her eyes. Ava believed her sister thought, already, that she was crazy. One shouldn’t blame Ava; all she was doing was listen to what her parents taught her, which has kept her safe all her life.
Anna had a deadpan expression. “Just answer the door, Ava. Then, we would know if he’s a murderer or not.”
Ava gulped as she faced the window and winded it down. She winced just as raindrops came in contact with her body.
When her eyes settled on the man, she noticed he had really long dark hair. His jacket which looked dark brown as it was wet seemed unpleasant in her eyes. She crinkled her nose and felt like looking away as she commented inwardly how unhygienic he was, his wetness enhancing his repelling look.
Before opening her mouth to talk, she swallowed the lump in her throat. “Um . . . H—how may—may I h—help y—y—you?”
The man had a questioning look. “What are you doing out here?”
Ava looked at Anna before looking at the man again. “Something’s wrong with the car. And as you can see, it’s showering heavily.”
He narrowed his eyes at Ava and lightly nodded.
She nodded towards him. “What about you: what are you doing under the rain?”
“I was hunting before the rain unexpectedly started to fall.”
She raised an eyebrow. “You were hunting?”
“Yes.” He tilted his head to the side. “You seem surprised.”
She shrugged. “Maybe I am.”
Lightning sparked and thunder roared before he said, “You girls shouldn’t be out here. It’s dangerous.”
“But you’re out here.”
“I’m a man”—he raised a shotgun to Ava’s face—“with a gun too. I know how to handle myself, especially because I’m familiar with this environment.” He looked at Anna then at Ava. “You girls need to get out of here right away. It’s for your own good.”
“I don’t think—”
“You know,” Anna interrupted Ava, “I’ve been thinking about where we’ll be staying once the rain stops until we can fix our problem. Do you have any place in mind?”
Ava glanced at Anna and frowned at her.
“Yes,” the dark-haired man answered. “My place would be okay. But given the rain, it’ll be a bit of a journey to get there.”
“Oh! I’m sure we can manage,” Anna said. She looked at Ava. “Right, Ava?”
She glared at Anna then glanced at the man, smiling sarcastically at him. “We’re fine here. Thank you.”
“Ava!” Anna whined. “You heard the man: he said it’s dangerous out here.” She looked to her window. “The place is beginning to give me the creeps.” She shuddered.
“Anna,” Ava complained, “when are you going to see that he’s a stranger?
“I may be a stranger,” the stranger put in, “but I don’t want to have at the back of my mind that I could have saved two people.”
Ava looked at the man. “What do you mean by”—she raised her hand to form an air quote—“‘saved two people’?” She brought her hands down.
He gave a sarcastic smile. “I would love to explain to you but I don’t want to catch a cold. Are you coming with me or not?”
“Ava, please,” Anna pleaded.
Ava looked at her sister.
“He might help us with our current situation,” Anna added.
There was silence for about ten seconds as Ava stared at Anna who was pouting. Throughout that time, Ava was contemplating whether or not she and her kid sister should go with him.
“I would love to say,” the man stated, “take all the time you need to decide howbeit I know I’ll be lying to you.”
The girls glanced at him.
“It’s almost nightfall and we have to get out of here soonest. Also, I don’t think I can stay much longer under the rain.”
Ava sighed. Her sister and the man were right: she and Anna couldn’t stay in the car forever. “Fine,” she conceded. “But we’ll have to come back for my car later.”