Mandy felt excited and relieved at the same time. She needed this, a break. A break from work, from family and a break from... life.
Her window was open and as they drove the wind swept her long, blond hair in her face. She tucked it behind her ear and searched for an elastic to tie it up.
“What are you looking for?” Sarah was her best friend. It was her idea to get away for a bit, to get in a car and just drive.
“An elastic for my hair,” Mandy said opening the glove compartment, “Mine is in my bag at the back.”
“I think I have one in my bag, here,” Sarah said, handing Mandy her bag.
The road snaked grey between the hills and the bright sunlight made almost everything seem greener. Mandy couldn’t remember when last she left the city. As a child they spent so much time outdoors as a family, going fishing, riding bikes, having picnics. Her parents loved nature. She remembered this one place where they used to go camping. It was right next to a river, no electricity, no proper facilities. You had to bath in the river, and for a child, that was awesome! She remembered how she and her dad use to go down the river rapids on inflatables until you reached this calm stretch of water. They used to just float there for a while in silence, listening to the waterfall in the distance.
She longed for that calm now...
But the day her parents passed away, her whole life changed. She had to go live with her aunt and uncle who didn’t even have a pot plant in their home. They had an apartment right in the city center, not a tree in sight. For them, work and money and power were everything. And that’s how they raised her.
She lost herself in their world, became driven just like them. The twelve-year-old, free spirited girl that came to them almost fourteen years ago, was forgotten. It was all about climbing the corporate ladder, getting the higher title that came with the bigger office.
She sometimes wondered how Sarah could be her best friend. Spur-of-the-moment Sarah, with her ten different jobs, still living with her parents, do whatever she wants, whenever she wants. Complete opposite from herself, with her life planned ahead weeks in advance, working most of the time. But what did all her planning, all her nights spent at the office help her now? Since that Monday three weeks ago, everything she believed to be important these last ten years seemed so insignificant. A tear rolled down her cheek and she tried to wipe it with her sleeve without Sarah noticing.
She didn’t tell anyone about that afternoon, only Sarah. Not even her family. At the office she just handed in her leave of absence with immediate effect.
Lately, she started to think that maybe she saw her twelve-year-old self in Sarah. Sarah was the balance in her life. She was always the one that lightened any situation, didn’t matter how serious. She was glad Sarah was with her. She knew she wouldn’t be able to face the next couple of months on her own.
“I’m starving! What do you say we have lunch in the next town?” Sarah’s words startled her back to the present.
“Yes, I can eat something.”
They pulled into the next town and stopped at a fuel station with a small restaurant. The smell of burgers sizzling on a grill made Sarah’s stomach cry out for a hamburger and she turned to Mandy, “I’ll go order us some burgers, or do you want something else?” Mandy didn’t have much of an appetite lately and Sarah almost had to force her to eat something every time.
“Burgers are fine,” Mandy answered and they sat down at a small table looking out over a children’s play area. A couple kids were playing and Mandy couldn’t help envying them their free-spirited nature and turned her head away.
Sarah saw the momentary sign of anguish. “Mandy,” she hesitated, “maybe it will help if you talk about it.” Sarah didn’t say anything else, she didn’t want to push Mandy, but she also knew that Mandy would have to talk about it some or other time.
When Mandy didn’t say anything, Sarah tried again, “Mandy…” but Mandy interrupted.
Barely audible, Mandy said, “Sarah don’t,” she paused for a moment, staring at the red and white checker table cloth. Then her eyes found her friend’s and she said with a sigh, “I just want to relax these next couple of days and not think or talk about, stuff.” Her eyes pleaded with Sarah, “Can’t we just forget about everything until we go back?”
It broke Sarah’s heart. Mandy had always been so strong, so independent. She never showed her emotions, she learned to build up her walls so high that nobody had been able to break them down or even take a peek over them, but these last three weeks made Mandy face many things. She wanted to help her friend and if what Mandy needed was to forget about everything for a while, she would try her best to make that possible and she would make it the best couple of days in Mandy’s life! Sarah suddenly gave Mandy the biggest smile, held out her hand and said, “It’s a deal!”
After they ate, Sarah filled up the car while Mandy went to the bathroom, they then popped into the station shop to buy refreshments for the road.
“So, where to next? Do you want to go east or west?” Sarah asked, looking from left to right, full of animation.
Mandy smiled. She appreciated the change in mood, knowing Sarah was a true friend, “What will I do without you!” She laughed, “I’ll probably have an itinerary planned right down to the minute.”
“Nope, you’ll probably still be in the city, hiding away in your apartment.” Sarah replied and they both laughed, but Mandy knew Sarah’s words wasn’t far from the truth.
At that moment, Mandy noticed a small advertisement printed on a home printer in the shop window. “How about here? Mountain cabin for rent,” she read. ” What do you think?” and pointed with her finger towards the ad.
Sarah looked at the ad and smiled, “Sounds perfect! And look, no WIFI! That is exactly what you need for the next couple of days!”
“Okay, west it is then!” Mandy said, turning towards the car and the two of them hit the road.
Holding on to the basin, David looked at himself in the bathroom mirror. If he could do it all over again, would he make the same choices? Would he want to follow the same path? He was so tired of it all! Tired of reporters shoving their cameras in his face every time he set his foot out the door. Tired of having no privacy and having the people you really care about being put under a microscope just because they know you.
He knew his family didn’t mind. They’ve always supported him from day one. His mom and dad were living a comfortable life in the country and his sister had been by his side, accompanying him on every tour for the last six years, keeping him grounded. He smiled. He knew that he wasn’t the One who chose this path for him. He has always put his trust in God and God knew what He was doing when He made him a famous singer, God knew he would never keep his fortune for himself.
He was thankful that he was able to help so many people doing what he loves, making music, but lately something else was pressing on his heart. He wanted more for himself, he needed to be selfish.
Stroking his beard, he thought maybe if he shaved his beard people wouldn’t recognize him and he’ll be able to slip away for a couple of days. The bathroom door opened, but it was only a cleaner. David looked around and thought to himself it was pretty clean for a public restroom. Then he laughed at himself, hiding away in a small, fuel station bathroom must be the pinnacle of trying to get away from it all! He took his phone out of his jean pocket and looked for Brin’s number.
“Hi sis. No, I’m at the fuel station on Plein street. Can I ask you a favour?”
About fifteen minutes passed when David’s phone rang. It was Brin. She was standing outside the men’s room.
“Feels weird being in a men’s bathroom, are you sure no-one else is in here?” Brin said, coming inside. She was holding a guitar case in the one hand and a tog bag in the other.
“I’m sure, you can relax, but let’s make it quick before someone does come in.
“Okay, well, here is the stuff you wanted”, she handed him the bag, put down the guitar case on the floor and lifted herself onto the basin counter. David rummaged in the tog bag looking for his electric shaver. Finding it in the side pocket, he started shaving.
“You’ll be so glad you weren’t at the hotel now! Seems like word officially got out about you staying there.” Brin took out her phone. “I really don’t blame you for wanting to take a break before the concert. You deserve it you know, and I’m not saying it just because you’re my big brother!” She hit him playfully on the shoulder, but she had been worried about David lately. He was restless, as if something was missing in his life.
David sighed, “I need to get away.”
“So where are you going to stay?” Brin asked, looking at accommodation options on her phone. “Suppose you can’t go to far.”
“There’s a place in the mountains, saw an ad in the shop. Already phoned and they said it’s available. It’s about thirty minutes’ drive from here and guess what, no cell phone reception!” David answered. The mountains with only one road in and one road out was exactly what he needed. Just him, his guitar and God. No distractions.
When he was done shaving, Brin jumped off the basin counter and said, “Well, I’m off. There’s a car outside, here’s the keys,” she handed him the keys and gave her brother a kiss on the cheek, “I’ll see you in a couple days, be safe.” She lingered for a second, hoping that he will find what he was looking for and then left.